§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden
(in Naval uniform): I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 10 in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.It is many years since the Parliamentary representative of the Chertsey Division moved an Address to His Majesty, and my constituents will fully realise the honour to them in my being selected to do so. The Royal Navy will also appreciate that a serving naval officer has been called upon. In wartime the Navy always gets first into action, and I know that what I am about to say will only prepare the way for what I am sure will be a brilliant success for the Army by my hon. and gallant Friend who is to second this Motion.
Many important people will speak this afternoon at greater length than I propose to do, and with greater fluency and eloquence than I am capable of, on matters of policy, so I will confine myself to recounting my own experience of how the prosecution of war is being carried out in the area in which I work and also upon the high seas. In the last war I commanded one of His Majesty's ships in the Grand Fleet. Now I am back in the Navy, serving ashore in Newcastle. My particular duty is the fitting of defensive armament to merchant ships and the training of the guns' crews, and well indeed have these men acquitted themselves. In the yards ships are built, repaired and fitted out in a way which would satisfy even the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). The Tynesider was new to me and appeared at first sight to disdain the outward observances of refined society, but on closer contact I found he had every quality of a kindly man and a good citizen. Although much has been done by the Tyne Improvement Commission, the conditions under which he lives are not always pleasant. Housewives in the reception areas are astounded at the lack of knowledge of hygiene and household education, and generally at the ideas of life, of many of their evacuee guests. Yet from these sources are bred the men who work so well in our shipyards, man our ships, and provide some of the finest regiments in the British Army. When the war is over, one of our first duties must be a close investigation as to how the domestic and cultural lives of these fine people can be improved.
11 In the Tyne we do not see much of the big ships of the Fleet, but we are in close touch with the smaller craft, such as the destroyers, in from their endless patrols, for repairs to the ships and rest for their men. But mostly we see the auxiliary forces of the Navy, the minesweepers and the anti-submarine craft; and no one, ashore or afloat, will have a harder time than the crews of these ships in the coming months. These men are drawn not only from the Tyne area but from numerous places in the North. They know little of the Navy, and sometimes they find naval methods irksome and disciplinary methods onerous; but they have a great and indispensable knowledge of the sea, such as is acquired only by those who go down to the great waters in small ships. With the continual demand for men to man these vessels and also our Merchant Navy, despite the wonderful response to the call for volunteers, it would be foolish to blind one's eyes to the fact that it is increasingly hard to find experienced seamen. It must be another of our post-war duties to see that seagoing life is made more attractive to the youth of our race. The Merchant Navy and fishing fleet, undeterred by the perils to which they are subjected, are nobly playing their part in bringing food and supplies to this country. I wish that time permitted me to speak of the Air Force, of their loyal co-operation with the other services and of their dashing exploits, which are having their effect of doing that which is most important in war—that is, lowering the morale of their opponents and establishing a superiority complex.
The main fleets of the Navy, even in peace-time, are ready and prepared to fight. But the Navy's real strength lies in its long and careful training for war, in its well-constructed ships and the manner in which they are maintained, in its organisation built up with centuries of experience to prove the right methods, in its civilian officers, such as constructors, naval store officers, armament supply officers, gun-mounting officers, victualling officers, electrical officers, dockyard officials, and many others—calm, competent men, ready at every naval port to effect any repair, foresee any deficiency, and meet any demand. It is this soundness in equipment, supply and training which makes the Navy the 12 powerful force it is. Naval officers know well their duty, which is to keep free our sea communications the world over, and to deny the use of the sea to the enemy. Naval officers know what is before them, and that they are fighting a strong, relentless, unscrupulous, yet brave and enterprising, foe, and they expect many hard knocks, which they will receive in the same gallant manner as did Captain Kennedy and the crew of the "Rawalpindi."
But, although the Navy desires most ardently to meet the enemy on the High Seas, they also know that war is not necessarily won by spectacular Fleet or single ship actions. Details of sea warfare may change, as the weapons of war change; but the principles of war remain, and our Navy has already established a stranglehold that they will maintain, with steady, patient endurance, until the enemy comes to them, either to ask for peace or, as they did 21 years ago, in abject and complete surrender. By "enemy" I mean the German Fleet, and not necessarily the Nazis, or even Herr Hitler and the troupe of horrible men who are around him. Who really bothers about Dr. Goebbels? His propaganda may go down in Germany, but in every other country it is but a joke for the music halls. That propaganda even insisted that one of our Cabinet Ministers had planned the torpedoing of the "Athenia" and the bomb outrage at Munich. I was rather surprised that my right hon. Friend was not held responsible, or rather partly responsible, for the latest arrival in the family of Field-Marshal Goering.
In 1914, the Germans, under the leadership of their Emperor, not a dictator but a man of great personality and power, violated their written word by their invasion of Belgium. In 1939, under a leader who was once a non-commissioned officer, a house-painter by profession, they repeated their crime by the invasion of Poland. Thus the Germans, in successive wars, followed two men from opposite extremes of the social scale and at the head of different types of government. In both cases they have shown that they are blatant bullies who cannot consider the arguments or the views of the other side, but believe only that might is right.
What will be the terms of peace? We must think deeply, but cannot speak in detail on this matter yet. I asked a 13 Norwegian sea captain a few days ago whether the Versailles Treaty was too drastic, and he replied, "Certainly not. You won the war didn't you? What do You think the terms would have been if you had lost? "The whole outlook of the German race must change before the people of Europe can feel that peace and security are assured to them. To set out the terms that will ensure such a peace may be even harder than winning the war. But our first task is to win the war. My duties will not permit me to be here often, but, remembering the ultimate—and who shall say it is not the most importint? —paragraph of the Gracious Speech, I shall at all times pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest on Members of this House and on their labours.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ The House may be interested to know that the constituency of East Norfolk, which is being honoured to-day, was similarly honoured upon this very same Occasion 25 years ago, when the then Member, the late Sir Robert Price, had the honour of proposing this Motion. This, I understand, is one of the rare occasions upon which one is allowed to speak openly one's secret belief that one's own constituency is the best in the British Isles. East Norfolk has other claims to that distinction. Those smooth, even flowing waters, the Norfolk Broads, are characteristic of much that is valuable in the British temperament. Along the coast of Norfolk the people carry on a never-ceasing battle with the North Sea in its encroachment. The pounding of the waves of the North Sea upon the coast of Norfolk is equalled only by the intensity with which the farmers of Norfolk pound upon the Minister of Agriculture.
In the Gracious Speech reference was made to the attainment of the purpose upon which all our efforts are set. What is that purpose? I venture to suggest that it is to maintain freedom for ourselves and to regain it for others. It has sometimes been said since the outbreak of this war that the sacrifices of 1914 were in vain, through our finding ourselves so soon at war again. I suggest that nothing could be further from the truth. Freedom is not something which can be bought and paid for, like a plot of land,
and securely held for ever. It cannot be bought, even at so great a price as was paid 25 years ago. The struggle is an incessant one, and I think we can well say that but for the sacrifices of those who fought from 1914 to 1918, Europe to-day might have been in the chains of German militarism. In the Gracious Speech it is said:
The prosecution of the war commands the energies of all My subjects.
How true that is. From all parts of the Empire, as from all parts of these islands, has come a flow of manhood and womanhood, a flow so rapid as to be almost embarrassing to His Majesty's Government in their desire to make the best use of these services. This flow has been passing into all the channels of National Defence. The Navy has already been spoken of, in a very well-informed speech, if I may say so. The Air Force is doing wonderful work. Even as I speak, there are thousands of pilots risking their lives, facing the perils of the skies in the defence of this country. As to the Army, I have had the privilege of associating with more than one type of serving man, and it is almost a platitude to say that the spirits of the troops are high—that is a sober truth. As a result of the almost bewilderingly speedy promotion which has thrown me into the higher ranks, I have had the privilege in my work lately of associating with some of the highest officers in the Army; and I have been deeply impressed, not only by their knowledge but by the consideration they show for the welfare of the humblest soldiers under their command.
§ In the realm of Civil Defence, millions of our fellow-citizens have been training themselves, at great cost to their leisure, to fit themselves to do what they are now doing, that is, standing at their posts ready to help in our defence. Finally, in this realm of national endeavour, the humble taxpayer is doing his part, and the resignation with which the recent Budget was received makes one feel that the popularity of the Chancellor increases with every shilling that he puts on the Income Tax. I understand that there have been even more than usual of those suggestions from citizens of further ingenious methods of raising additional taxes—from other people.
§ I must not commit the cardinal offence of detaining the House too long, but I should like to make one or two brief 15 observations on what constitutes the background of the Gracious Speech, that is, the international situation. German propaganda has, with monotonous reiteration, tried to convince the world that the focal point of modern European history is the Treaty of Versailles. It is a fortunate criminal who has the luxury of framing his own indictment, especially when he is allowed to fix the date from which his record is to be examined, and I venture to suggest we must peer through this smoke cloud of propaganda and realise that the vital date in modern European history is not the date of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but the date of the invasion of Belgium in 1914.
§ Our aim must be to defeat Germany. But that is not our sole aim. There is a desire in the hearts of all right-minded men that we shall build a world in which these recurrent international conflicts shall come to an end. It is too early to say what form our effort shall take. All that we can say is that there is an ocean of goodwill in all parts of this House and in all parts of the country that some system of international co-operation shall be devised which shall make these wars impossible, and all that one should say now is to hope and to pray that we may be so guided and led that we in this country will attain that measure of agreement which is necessary among ourselves if we are to give firm advice and counsel in the consultations which will follow our inevitable victory.
§ In conclusion, it is stated in the Gracious Speech that the resolution of the nation is important at this juncture. We are resolved, as I said at the opening, to maintain our freedom and to regain the freedom which has been lost in other parts of Europe. I venture to sum it up by saying that our determination in this country and in all the other countries of the British Commonwealth, and in that of our Ally, France, is to use our utmost endeavours so that we may hasten the hour when those nations and communities and individuals who live now under the shadow of an intolerant and intolerable oppression shall emerge to share with us the light and freedom of a new day.
§ 3.34 P.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I desire to congratulate the two hon. Members who have so ably dis- 16 charged what is always a very difficult task. It was rendered more difficult this afternoon by the fact that there were only two points in the Gracious Speech upon which they could fasten their remarks. The hon. and gallant representative of the Navy showed all the resource of that great Service in telling us not about what the Government were going to do, but about what he himself was doing. The hon. and gallant Seconder representing the Army took a bolder course and dealt, I think admirably, with the fact that we are fighting for freedom, and that we are fighting to establish lasting world peace. The other Service—the Royal Air Force—has on this occasion to be the silent Service.
There were two points that struck me in those speeches upon which I would like to say something. The first was that which was alluded to by the Seconder in the course of his very witty remarks, that we are fighting for something more than to win this war: we are fighting to ensure that we shall have no more wars in the future. I was struck by what the Mover of the Motion said with regard to the problems that will arise when the war is ended, when he spoke of the splendid qualities of the men and women on Tyneside, and how we must see that they are not visited by the same afflictions that came after the last Great War. These are the two points upon which I want to say something this afternoon. The Gracious Speech from the Throne says that we will hereexpress the resolution of the Nation.There is no doubt that we resolved to stop aggression and to end the state of international anarchy which threatens to destroy civilisation. It is for this reason that we have been forced to take our stand. But the attack upon Poland was not an isolated event; it was a symptom of a deep-seated evil. The aggression of Hitler is an evil in itself, but it arises out of the general condition of the world, and just as an outbreak of crime is not ended with the apprehension of the criminal unless the conditions that produced that criminal are dealt with, so in the international sphere we have not merely to stop this aggressor, but we have to prevent any future aggressor. We must, in fact, end the armed anarchy which enables the aggressor to hold us all in a continual anxiety, and, therefore, it is im- 17 portant that we should look beyond the immediate victory of our cause.
The Prime Minister the other night, in his broadcast, drew, I think, a useful distinction between war aims and peace aims. He defined the first as the defeat of the enemy, not merely militarily, but in the sense of that aggressive, bullying spirit which seeks continually to dominate other peoples by force, which finds brutal satisfaction in the persecution and the torture of inoffensive citizens, and in the name of the State justifies its repudiation of its own pledged word whenever it finds it convenient. That is right. That is the spirit that has to be defeated, but that aggressive spirit is not confined either in geography or in time to Germany. There have been aggressive wars before, and there will be again unless the human race decides to make the necessary changes in its organisation. Hence it is important now that we should think of our peace aims, that we should have a picture in our minds of the kind of world we want, that we should consider the principles under which we want that new world to be built, and, not less important, that we should consider what are the practicable steps that must be taken to realise that new world.
A few days ago I stated what, in the view of the Labour party, were the principles upon which a new Europe and a new world ought to be established, and I say a new world as well as a new Europe advisedly, because the problem of peace is a world problem and not merely a continental problem. There is aggression going on in other parts of the world. Least of all can we in this country look at matters from a narrowly European angle. We have to consider the general state of the world. Those principles, put shortly, are these: First of all, that a peace settlement must be made by the cooperation of victors, vanquished and neutrals alike. It is not a matter of a dictated peace; it is not a matter of a peace between one or two Powers. We want to establish, after the war, something in which all the nations will join and something in which all the nations will be able to rest. Secondly, the recognition of the rights of all nations, small as well as great, to have the right to live. I should put that shortly as international democracy. The anti-democrats deny the rights of the Czech, the Pole and the Jew and other nationals to have as full a life 18 as they claim for themselves. We demand equality of opportunity for all nations. Thirdly, the abandonment of aggression and of the use of force as an instrument of policy, and the acceptance of disinterested arbitration. Fourthly, the recognition of the rights of racial, cultural and religious minorities. Fifthly, the abandonment of the concept of absolute sovereignty and the recognition of an international authority with power to enforce its decisions. And, sixthly— and not the least important—the abandonment of Imperialism, the extension of freedom all over the world, and equal access to all nations and all peoples of the good things of the world. We believe that these principles are vital to the establishment of a new world order.
But it is not only to lay down principles. One must begin to work out the machinery necessary for that new world. If you want to get disarmament you must consider how you are going to deal with an unarmed world. You must believe, if you are to get disarmament, not something which will lead people to cast their arms aside. One is driven therefore to collective security. There is something more than that. You must have provision made not merely for dealing with wars, but for increasing peace and prosperity. It is essential, in my view, that there should be world economic planning, and that involves some conception of international, economic and social justice for all. That requires the building up of machinery something on the lines again of the League of Nations, but we must build a better and a greater League. I remember very well Lord Baldwin saying in this House, that if the League failed and was destroyed, we must at once begin to build it again. We should at once begin to work to see what kind of international machinery we can build up, because there will be no peace if you merely go back to international anarchy.
The Prime Minister, in his broadcast speech, dealt with peace aims. He might have said that the time is not ripe to speak of peace aims, but, as a matter of fact, he laid down certain principles. He said that we must have a new Europe. With that we agree. He laid down certain broad principles. He said that there must be goodwill and mutual confidence, a full and constant flow of trade, the right of each country to choose its own form of internal government, and the gradual 19 dropping of armaments. He rather spoke of that new Europe as something distant, something Utopian, something that could be realised only after a long period of years. He suggested that some kind of machinery would be necessary, but he did not even indicate the outlines of that machinery. I confess that I was disappointed. I do not think that speech seemed to realise the magnitude of the crisis which we are facing. We are facing a crisis for civilisation—the breakdown of the old Europe. We are up against an anarchy, that denies everything for which civilisation has stood—the denial of any law in the dealings between nation and nation. If the danger is great, as it is great, then the remedy must be drastic. I suggest that the Prime Minister when he spoke of a new Europe did not really face up to the inevitable and necessary conditions for its achievement. He was Utopian, because he envisaged the end without indicating the means. He indicated a desirable end but did not indicate the principles required for its attainment.
A statesman must not merely see visions but must satisfy himself of the practical steps to realise those visions. I want to stress that point, because it is essential at the present time that we should not only think of our immediate action in carrying on this war but we should be preparing now for peace. Peace may come at any time, and the sooner the better, if we can get what we want, and we have to work out now what kind of peace we want and what kind of an organisation we are to have. It is not enough just to visualise something that is desirable. Let me give two instances from our own domestic history. A hundred years ago London and other great cities were anarchic and full of crime. Many people thought they would like to see a better London and better conditions in other cities, but it was Sir Robert Peel who devised the immediate machinery necessary, a police force, with power to enforce the law. Seventy years ago many citizens of Birmingham were no doubt discontented with the squalor of their city and inefficiency of its public services. It was Joseph Chamberlain who put his hand to the work of applying principles which changed the whole centre of that city, and set up great 20 public services. It is not enough to have the vision: you must have the action.
The Prime Minister wants reduction of armaments, but does he face up to the necessity of collective security and an international force? He wants peaceable living together. Can you get peaceable living together without the rule of law? He wants the unfettered right of nations to choose their own form of Government. Yes, but is that to apply to Europe alone? Shall we apply that to India, Africa and our Colonial Empire? If we are to lay down principles for a new world order, we must be prepared to apply them to ourselves as well as to ask others to accept them. There is a further point which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman left out. He spoke of an increase of goods and services as an excellent thing, but we must see that they get to the right people. You cannot get that without a better distribution of wealth.
It is important that to-day we should consider this matter of our peace aims because people are asking a very vital question. Men are asking: "Will my children 25 years hence have to face this ordeal which I am facing, and which my father faced 25 years ago?" The morale of our people requires a clear answer to that question. There is a lot of counter-propaganda from outside and some from inside this country representing this war as directed by selfish motives. We want a clear statement of peace aims to counter that. We want to rally world opinion to our support, and we want to bring home to the German people what kind of a world it is we are asking them to live in when they cease their aggression. We ought to have a practical working out of that now.
There is something else equally important, and that is a consideration of the question, what kind of Britain is going to emerge from this war. That is necessary if we want to win the war. I remember very well in the autumn of 1918 having many discussions in the lines in France with officers and men as to what kind of a world it would be after the Great War. I remember a Regular officer saying to me: "There is one thing you will never see again. You will never see men with war medals on their breast, who served in this war, going about hungry and looking for work. There will be so many of us 21 who served in this war that we shall see that does not happen again." I said: "I am afraid you will see in two or three years after the war, what we have seen after other wars." Unfortunately, that proved to be true. The Parliament that was elected in 1918 dashed the hopes of the men who had fought.
This struggle involves us all, and it is going to have the most profound effect on the social structure of this country. It is a very complicated task to organise a nation for war and to organise a nation for peace. We have to think all the time of the organisation of the country for war, but we have also to organise it for the transition to peace. That is why I welcome the words of the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Address in regard to Tyneside. We have to utilise in this war all our personnel. We have still a mass of unemployment in this country. We ought not to have unemployment now. It is all very well to say, "This thing takes time." It is going too slowly. We ought to be able to utilise our manpower, because every man not used is a loss to the country. We have to utilise all our material resources. There, again, while planning for war we have to plan for peace. We remember what happened at the end of the last war—derelict areas, derelict industries, derelict human beings.
We have to consider how we are to maintain all our people in this struggle. Upon that the morale of the country will depend. In Debate recently, and we shall do so again this week, we have laid stress, and so have other hon. Members in other parts of the House, on the need for seeing that the soldiers' dependants get a fair deal. We have also pleaded for the widows, the old age pensioners, the men on workmen's compensation, the men on unemployment benefit, the men under the Unemployment Assistance Board and the men on public assistance. Those people who live on very little are affected by the slightest rise in the cost of living. I have said that we must all make sacrifices in this war, but the sacrifice of the superfluities of the well-to-do must come before there is any attack on the necessities of the poor. If the Government do their duty in this respect it is abundantly clear that we shall be moving towards a more equalitarian state of society. That, again, depends very much on what we do in planning for the future.
22 The war has wide repercussions. The alteration in the distribution of wealth in this country is affecting very many of our institutions. Let me take two instances. There is what is called the public school. I wonder how long the public school will be able to last under war conditions. How long will people be able to give expensive education to their children? There may have to be a recasting of our educational system. Then there is the question of the houses people live in. There will be great changes which will affect both individuals and local government authorities. There ought to be machinery at work now dealing with these problems of reconstruction. These problems come to us now, but they will come more acutely at the end of the war.
Again, the needs of the war are bringing and will bring more and more State intervention. Collectivism is being forced on the Government by the logic of events. Irritation and dislocation are the greatest where this is considered only a temporary interference with what is normal. I suggest that we should begin now to plan as national services some of those parts of the nation's activities which have hitherto been the subject of private enterprise, and which are now under control. Take, for instance, transport. In war time transport essentially must be controlled. Why not do it with a good heart and let us have a national transport service, unified and made ready as part of our new economic structure?
Take the question of mines. We are depending on our mines for maintaining our fighting Services, our industries and for buying that which we require from overseas. The mines must be treated as a single unit for our home needs and for buying from abroad. Why not now make the mines a national service? We have already undertaken collective arrangements for the purchase of our requirements from overseas in regard to food and other necessities. We did that in the last war, but we scrapped it in the end, most unfortunately, because we had a Parliament which was more interested in private profit than in the national interests. Why not make this collective system a permanent part of our national machinery? There is need now for considering both regional and industrial planning. The fact is that if you want to win this war you will have to have a 23 great deal of practical Socialism. Go into it with a good heart, and not grudgingly. It would be best if it were done by Socialists.
I have stressed the two points of peace aims and reconstruction because they are of vital importance in the winning of the war. Peace aims and reconstruction cannot be postponed till the end of the war. Whenever peace comes, we shall have immense world problems. There may come another world slump. In any case, we must have some effective machinery for the turnover. This is most important from the point of view of the national morale. Our people are asking: "For what are we fighting? What kind of world, what kind of Britain will emerge from this war?" We are resolved to do our utmost to win the war and to provide all the weapons that our men need for fighting the war. There is one weapon with which we are specially concerned. It is a master weapon. It is beyond the grasp of Herr Hitler. It can be wielded only by a free people. It is the sword of the spirit. Our people will always keep that weapon bright and keen if they know that they are fighting for a world of peace, for freedom and for social justice.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), I have always felt that the task of those who have to move and second the Motion for the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech is one of great difficulty, not so much because of its intrinsic difficulty, but perhaps because of the very high tradition which has been set by a long succession of speakers who have maintained a standard of eloquence, of clarity and of appropriate humour on these occasions which it is extremely difficult to live up to. On this occasion, as the right hon. Gentleman observed, the matter of the Gracious Speech is not such as to afford a great deal of ground on which to base appropriate remarks. In these difficult circumstances I think we can all congratulate the two hon. and gallant Members upon the way in which they have performed their duty. We heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) an interesting and inspiriting account of a side of merchant naval activity with 24 which many of us are not too familiar. We all welcome the constructive ideas which have occurred to him in the course of his experience. The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion covered a somewhat wider field and once again reminded us when recalling the hopes with which we were all filled at the end of the war, of the truth of that famous saying that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Before I make a few observations upon the situation and comment upon what the right hon. Gentleman has said I must say a few words on business. The general Debate on the Address will be continued to-morrow and on Thursday, and will be brought to a conclusion next week. The Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and a Bill to suspend the operation of certain Acts of Parliament will be required before the end of the year. The Motion to set up a Select Committee on National Expenditure will be proposed at an early date, and any other necessary business will be brought forward as and when required.
I must also inform the House of the Government's intention to propose a Motion to-morrow to give precedence to Government business, to provide for the presentation of Government Bills only, and to stop the Ballot for private Members' Bills, following the precedents of the last war. I hope that these proposals will receive the general assent of the House. I am sure it will be appreciated that in the present circumstances our deliberations must be confined, first and foremost, to those matters of business which are urgently necessary for the effective prosecution of the war. As far as opportunities of debate are concerned, it will be within the recollection of the House that towards the end of the last Session there were occasions every week for raising matters of general interest, and I see no reason why similar facilities should not be continued during the present Session. These opportunities are not confined to the Opposition; it is open to any hon. Member to raise matters on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House. On Thursday, the usual Motion empowering Mr. Speaker to call the House together during an Adjournment, however short, will be proposed; the most expeditious machinery will then be available should an emergency meeting be required at any time.
25 The war as it is now being carried on has been described as a siege war, and, as far as land operations are concerned, that is not an inappropriate term. But on the sea a very different state of affairs prevails. There the fight is being carried on in deadly earnest, and if up to now there have been no fleet actions there have been a number of individual combats of very considerable severity. No one, I think, can have read the account this morning of that heroic action in the North Sea by those Naval reservists and Naval pensioners who manned the "Rawalpindi" against overwhelming odds without deep emotion. Those men must have known as soon as they sighted their enemy that there was no chance for them, but they had no thought of surrender. They fought their guns until they could be fought no more, and many of them went to their deaths, thereby carrying on the great traditions of the Royal Navy. Their example will be an inspiration to others who come after them.
That action, although it was one-sided, was not one in which we can say that the enemy was breaking the generally recognised rules of naval warfare. But that has not been the case in other respects. Of course, we cannot expect in time of war that the highways of the oceans will be as safe as they are in time of peace but, nevertheless, certain rules have been laid down for the conduct of war at sea in international law and in international conventions. Those rules have been laid down and designed in the interests of general humanity. Unfortunately, we are to-day fighting an enemy who seems to have no code of honour and who breaks every convention on the flimsiest pretext if he thinks it will serve his purpose.
As a result of numerous indefensible acts of Germany in contravention of agreements and conventions to which she herself has subscribed, the Allies have been compelled to take measures which are indicated in an Order-in-Council which will he published to-day. We recognise that these measures which involve the seizure of German exports may cause inconvenience and, perhaps, loss to neutrals. Yet, in defence of neutrals' own interests, their own shipping and the lives of their own citizens, who are grievously injured by German action, 26 these measures, if they help to bring our efforts to a successful issue, may well be worth some sacrifice on the part of neutrals in the present circumstances. All the same, we intend to do our best to cause the least possible injury to neutrals, with whom we have no quarrel, always consistent with our purpose of stopping German exports. We have in the Order-in-Council placed a date for it to come into operation, which is purposely fixed at the 4th December in order to give ample time for them to make preparations for it.
At the present there are no special events for me to record in the operations on land or in the air, but I welcome the tribute paid by the Seconder of the Motion to the constant vigilance on the part of the Air Force which is day and night carrying on reconnaissance, very often at great risks to the pilots, and thereby doing most valuable service to the cause of the Allies. Hon. Members will also welcome the announcement that agreement has been reached in Ottawa upon the main principles and methods by which the great inter-Dominion scheme for the training of pilots is to be carried out, a scheme which we regard as of the utmost value and importance to our mastery in the air.
I would like to say a few words about the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lime-house. He is concerned that we should not be content merely with our determination to defeat the enemy and thereby accomplish our war aim, but that we should at once get to work on the definition of our peace aims, that we should undertake what he has described as planning beforehand for a new and better world. I was sorry to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was disappointed with what I said on this topic last Sunday evening, but I am relieved to think that his disappointment was not universally felt throughout the world. It has occurred to a number of people, though not to the right hon. Gentleman, that the peace aims which are to be achieved when the war is over cannot be laid down by this country alone, but that there will be others to be consulted. There will be the Dominions and our Allies, and it may be that the vanquished will also be taken into consultation before we can decide how this new and better world is to be laid out.
27 There is one observation I would like to make on the subject of peace aims which I do not think has been made before. It is this. This idea of building a better world does not require a war to bring it into men's minds. Every statesman who has any right to such a name has been hoping and trying to improve the general condition of the world whenever he had any opportunity of doing so, but the condition in which Europe has been kept for such a long period by the policy of Germany has made it absolutely impossible to make any progress in this task of improving world conditions on the scale which we should have liked to see. It is because they have forced us to the conclusion that, until this policy is abandoned, it will continue to be impossible, with any confidence and with any certainty, to carry out those schemes of improvement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—it is because of the conviction that until that policy is abandoned it will be impossible to do that, that we and our Allies have been forced to take up arms.
When I spoke on this subject on Sunday, I said that the Conditions in which peace aims could be achieved could not at present be foreseen. I did not say that they were remote. I do not know. I said that they could not be foreseen, and I say now that none of us knows how long this war will last, none of us knows in what directions it will develop, none of us knows, when it is ended, who will be standing by our side and who will be against us; and in those circumstances, it would be absolutely futile—indeed, it would be worse than futile, it would be mischievous—if we were to attempt to lay down to-day the conditions in which the new world is to be created.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member asks whether we cannot lay down the principles. I endeavoured to do so the other day, but evidently those principles did not commend themselves to the hon. Member. If he intends to speak during the Debate, he can say how he would amend the principles which I ventured to suggest. What I assert is that, while you may lay down general principles of that kind, it is no use at this moment to state that such and such machinery shall be 28 set up in order to carry them out, because you do not know whether that will be possible in the conditions which then prevail.
We have not entered this war with any vindictive purpose, and therefore, we do not intend to impose a vindictive peace. What we say is that, first of all, we must put an end to this menace under which Europe has lain for so many years. If we can really do that, confidence will be established throughout Europe, and while I am not excluding the necessity for dealing with other parts of the world as well, I feel that Europe is the key to the situation, and that if Europe could be settled, the rest of the world would not prove so difficult a problem. If we can establish that confidence, then many things which have seemed difficult or impossible in the past might prove to be, if not easy, at any rate attainable.
The right hon. Gentleman said that Imperialism must be abandoned. He did not define Imperialism, nor did he say what country he had in mind as practising Imperialism to-day. I really do not know what he meant, but if Imperialism means the assertion of racial superiority, if it means the suppression of the political and economic freedom of other peoples, if it means the exploitation of the resources of other countries for the benefit of the Imperialist country, then I say that those are not characteristics of this country, but that they are characteristics of the present administration in Germany.
§ The Prime Minister
In this country, whatever may have been the case in the past, we have no thought of treating the British Empire on the lines which I have described. For years now it has been the generally accepted dogma, not confined to any Party in this House, that the administration of a Colonial Empire is a trust which is to be conducted primarily in the interests of the peoples of the countries concerned, and we have by international arrangements already undertaken to give free access to the markets and to the materials in many of our most important Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman did not to-day touch specifically upon the Colonial question, but he did say that in the future, after the war is 29 ended, economic and social questions ought to have a most important place in any reconstruction that may be considered. I agree with him, and when he quoted Lord Baldwin as saying that if the League were to come to an end, the first thing you would have to do would be to build it again, he was following up a line of thought which, I think, must be present to the minds of many people who are familiar with what the League is doing to-day.
As an international instrument for preserving peace, the League has been a failure. But in other directions, in the study of economic and social questions, in international co-operation and collaboration, in matters of health and morality, and in other directions, the League has done and is doing invaluable work, the scope of which, I think, has not been sufficiently recognised. Only recently there has been published a report of a Committee of the League, presided over by a very distinguished representative of one of our Dominions, Mr. Bruce, on the question of social and economic collaboration. I venture to commend to hon. Members a study of that report which not only shows what has been done already, but makes a series of very practical recommendations for the further extension of the work of the League in the same direction. In that sphere it is impossible for real progress to be made in isolation by any country. It is a sphere which requires the mutual assistance of many countries, and in this case the assistance has not been confined to the actual States members of the League, but the League has enjoyed the help of countries which are not members of it. I would like to see that side of the League developed and extended very considerably beyond anything that has been done so far, and I believe that, when the war is ended, they may perform a valuable service to the world as a whole by putting at our disposal the information which they, and they alone, are in the position to collect.
Coming nearer home, the right hon. Gentleman made a number of observations which I might summarise by saying that he suggested that the war was a good time to introduce Socialism and that the best way in which we could win it would be by ourselves all turning into Socialists.I will not say that I was deeply dis- 30 appointed, because I am not surprised at that introduction of the special tenets of the right hon. Gentleman's own party into this discussion; but while I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope to him that those who support the Government will be converted by his persuasion to the theoretical notions of Socialism which he would desire us to hold, I may say at once that we on this side are not so rigid in our views that we never consent to adapt our methods to changing conditions, for indeed the whole history of this country since 1931 has shown how we have advanced in social matters and have introduced social reforms of far greater scope than any that were ever contemplated by any of the most advanced Members of this House even 30 or 40 years ago.
§ The Prime Minister
We were not the first to introduce the means test, as the hon. Member knows well from his study of the history of trade unionism.
But when it is suggested that even in this country it is possible now to plan what changes, what reforms will be appropriate at the end of the war, again I am obliged to say that we do not yet know enough about the conditions which will prevail at the end of the war; we do not know enough about the changes which will inevitably have taken place before the end of the war, to give us confidence that it is possible to-day to make a plan which will be useful then. I remember how in the last war similar ideas were advocated, although I think not so early in the war. I remember how a Minister of Reconstruction was appointed. I remember all the pamphlets, all the essays that were written upon the subject of reconstruction, all the fancy plans which were developed by students to give us a new world, a sort of demi-paradise after the war was over; and I remember the disillusionment that came afterwards. It was not good intentions that were wanting, for everybody had good intentions, but conditions did not turn out to be what they had been expected to be, and, although I think that no one who looks at what has happened in the last 20 years could fairly say that we have learned no lessons, nevertheless one lesson that I think we may learn is that we had better win the war first.
31 While not forgetting what is to come after, let us not try to tangle ourselves by going too closely into schemes which it may be quite impossible to put into operation when the time comes. We shall need all our courage, all our tenacity, all our patriotism to achieve our war aim, for let us not make the mistake of under-rating the strength of our enemy. When we have achieved that aim, then indeed we may find that we require an even greater vision, an even stronger will to Win the peace than it has taken to win the war. I do not doubt that when that time comes there will be those who will have that vision, who will have that will, and I only trust that they may have greater fortune in fulfilling their own ideals than those had who were left to win the peace after the war of 1914.
§ 4.37 P.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I would ask to be allowed in the first place to associate my hon. Friends and myself with the compliments which have been paid by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. With a few swift but eloquent strokes the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) painted for us a fascinating picture of the organisation, the efficiency and the spirit of the Royal Navy and its auxiliaries; and perhaps I may be allowed, as a representative of a great many Scottish fishermen in this House, to emphasise the importance of the hon. and gallant Member's references to the need of ensuring the welfare in peace as well as in war of the men who go down to the sea in ships and of the industries by which they live. Nor was the Army less fortunate in its representative on this occasion. The hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Norfolk (Captain Medlicott), who seconded the Address, gave us ample evidence of those qualities which justify that meteoric advancement in his professional career which we have all followed with so much admiration and delight from month to month and almost from week to week since the outbreak of the war. It is in accordance with old and honourable Parliamentary traditions that serving officers should take an active part in our Debates, and my hon. Friends and I 32 rejoice to see them so worthily and brilliantly maintained by the hon. and gallant Members who moved and seconded the Address.
I listened with interest to the account which the Prime Minister gave us of the business with which we are confronted, and as one who has for 18 months or more urged the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into expenditure upon national Defence, I would like to say to him, on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, how grateful we are to the Government for acceding to our request for a Select Committee to inquire into expenditure arising out of the war. We are glad to know that action is to he taken so promptly. I would like also to associate myself with the tribute which the Prime Minister paid to the gallant men who went down in the "Rawalpindi" That action revived memories of another gallant action which was fought at the beginning of the last war, when Admiral Cradock and his men were faced by odds almost as hopeless as those by which the men of the "Rawalpindi" were confronted, and possibly the same parallel has occurred to the commander of the "Deutschland."
My hon. Friends and I do not cavil at the Gracious Speech because it makes no promise of constructive measures of social reform in the present circumstances, and that for one reason only, because all our efforts, in our opinion, must now be concentrated upon the vigorous prosecution of the war. The greater that concentration of war effort the sooner the trials and sufferings of the country will be over and the quicker we can return to the constructive work of peace. I fully realise the importance of the subject of peace aims, with which the Leader of the Opposition dealt in his speech. I am not going to follow him to-day. I have spoken on that subject in this House in the past, and in the country last week, and I understand that there is to be a Debate on it on Thursday. But our first and most urgent aim now is victory, and to that we must bend all our energies. There are indeed many domestic questions which are of vital importance to the cohesion and strength of the home front. The Leader of the Opposition referred to old age pensions, to war pensions and allowances, and I hope and believe that 33 we shall have discussions on those subjects, which we know are now under the consideration of the Government and which must not be allowed to go unheeded.
There is, moreover, another question to which my hon. Friends and I attach very great importance at his stage of the war, and one with the handling of which by the Government we are not satisfied, and that is the question of war economy, and in particular the export trade. We shall take the earliest opportunity of asking the House to debate that subject. Then there is another subject which I know is certainly exercising the minds of my hon. Friends and myself and I have reason to know is exercising the mind of many other hon. Members, and that is the work of the Ministry of Supply. Indeed only last week the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to that question and indicated that he was going to ask that the matter be discussed in secret Session. I do not know why he made no reference to that to-day.
It was about a month or six weeks ago that I first asked for a secret Session, partly to discuss this question and certainly to discuss other questions which were then in my mind, but even then I think the Ministry of Supply was one of the most urgent. That demand which I made was supported by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), though he wished at that time to discuss mainly foreign affairs. The Prime Minister answered him in the course of the Debate. As far as I could understand from that speech and from subsequent declarations which have been made on behalf of the Government the Government have three reasons for disliking the proposals.
The first reason is that it would not be secret. Indeed the Prime Minister went so far as to say that in his opinion the character and ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Press had so far developed within the last 25 years that Members of Parliament were no longer immune from their inquisitive attentions. I must say that I do not hold that view. I believe that Members of Parliament, realising the importance of the subjects discussed, may be trusted not to betray the confidence which the House as a whole would put in each individual Member. If, indeed, one Member were so incautious, so indiscreet, 34 as to say some little thing, or if you like some larger thing, which he was not authorised to say, I cannot see that it would very much assist the enemy. I am not for one moment supposing that the Government are going to give away any vital secret. I have always said that has never been one of the reasons why I have asked for a secret Session. I do not think that we can resolve ourselves into an enlarged Cabinet here and that the Government can treat us with absolute frankness and tell us of their plans and secrets. Certainly not. But what I say is that Members will be able to speak with greater freedom at such a Session, and I do not believe for a moment, that if some private Member said something outside that was a little indiscreet, it would very greatly help the enemy, or be a particularly valuable weapon in the hands of that resourceful propagandist, Dr. Goebbels.
The second reason against it in the Prime Minister's view was that it was unnecessary because Members could so easily approach Ministers and discuss confidential matters with them. It is not really as easy as all that for individual Members to make any impressicn upon busy Ministers. Ministers have not time for endless discussions with Members in all parts of the House. No doubt they would, and they do, receive most courteously representations made by individual Members, but it is not at all the same thing for an individual Member to go to a Minister with information which has come into his possession and which is almost certainly incomplete, and to secure adequate consideration for the case which he is able to bring, as it is to have a Debate in the House of Commons in which, if something is going wrong, Members will get up in various parts of the House and contribute to building up a case, and to exposing whatever is going wrong and bringing it home to the Government forcibly in a way that no individual Member can hope to do.
The third and last reason given against it is that it is not yet necessary to have a secret Session. It is said: "There might come a time when a secret Session would be very useful, but let us leave it until that time comes." I think it would have been much better if we had had the secret Session when I asked for it six weeks ago. We would have had a Debate on a 35 number of vital matters which I believe would have done good, and would have yielded fruit even in the six weeks that have passed. But I should have thought that it was the very worst policy to leave it until there is some serious crisis. Then, indeed, Dr. Goebbels would be able to say that the representatives of the Commons of England were in a panic, and that they had had to meet behind closed doors because the matters which they were discussing were so alarming that they dare not discuss them publicly. If we could have a secret Session next week or the week after, nobody could say that. Nobody would believe Dr. Goebbels if he did say that. But they might have some ground for saying that if in fact there was something which was well known to be causing grave disquiet all over the country and if the Government said, "We cannot tell you what it is all about, but we will hold a secret Session and tell the Members of Parliament." Then people would believe Dr. Goebbels because he would be right and that would be a serious situation.
Therefore, let us have the secret Session now before they is any ground for such a statement. When it has become the normal practice in this House to have secret Sessions from time to time, as it was in the last war, a secret Session will not cause public disquiet as it would if we reserve it until there is some serious crisis. I hope, then, that we shall have a secret Session and I should like it to be at least a two-day Session—one day to discuss the Ministry of Supply, and another day or days on which Members in all parts of the House would have the opportunity of raising other questions which cannot be discussed with complete frankness in open debate.
One reason why I say this is that from some of the utterances of Ministers it has appeared to many of us that there is a kind of feeling that we have declared that we are going to have a three years' war and that we are going to plan to produce in three years time armaments so overwhelmingly strong that we shall then win our victory. We are not yet convinced that at the Ministry of Supply and in other Departments, they realise the necessity of vigorously prosecuting the war day by day from now onwards so as to get a victorious result as quickly as we can. 36 If we have to go on for three years, we shall go on for three years, but if, by any vigour in administration, we can shorten it, then, I say let us exert the pressure of Parliament on the Government and on the Departments so that we shall shorten it to the greatest possible extent.
The outward signs by which the public can judge the actions of the Government are not too encouraging. Take for example a piece of news which appeared in this morning's "Times" to the effect that the South African newspapers are being driven to neutral sources for their news by the inadequacy of British news. After all the exposures of the inadequacy of the Ministry of Information, after all the alterations of the censorship arrangements, after all their promises of amendment, the Government have still so far failed to grip this problem of news, that a great loyal Dominion like South Africa is driven to neutral sources for its news supply. Of course the most serious evidence, which cannot escape the public's attention, of the failure to make the most effective use of our resources, is the fact that we have 1,500,000 unemployed, three months after the start of the war, and the failure of the Government to put those 1,500,000 into useful work.
Then there is one other thing which occurred to me after I listened to the Prime Minister's broadcast on Sunday night. I listened to that broadcast with an hon. Friend of mine in his house and if the Prime Minister will allow me to say so we listened to it with admiration. Two hours later, we happened to turn on to the German wireless and we heard the German criticism of the speech. Nobody will suppose for a moment that because the Germans criticised the Prime Minister's speech, I thought there was some weakness in it. On the contrary, if the Germans had approved it, I should have been much more inclined to revise my first impressions of it. The House must not think that because I quote a few sentences of this German criticism, I associate myself with the merits of the criticism. I quote it to show the House the sort of thing which was put out from the German wireless within two hours of the Prime Minister's speech:Chamberlain spoke only to, for and about Britain. The Allies were only mentioned in a few perfunctory remarks. Chamberlain made use of many words to say as little as possible. He ventured on very thin ice when he talked 37 about Queen Elizabeth. She would turn in her grave if she knew what had become of Britain's domination of the seas and Chamberlain's responsibility for British war policy.And at that point was inserted a clever little passage which is not included in the version of the broadcast which I hold in my hand about the little navy of Drake which had so successfully challenged the Armada of Spain on the seas. As I say, I do not associate myself with those criticisms, but I say that they show punch and fighting spirit and it is something on which the German wireless can pride itself that it was able to produce, in two hours, an answer to the Prime Minister's speech which at any rate will make English people all over the world say, "Well, there is fight and punch in those fellows, and they can come up very quickly and give the return blow" I hope that we may organise something of the same kind so that we too may be able to give quick, sharp, prompt answers to the propaganda which comes from the German wireless and to the speeches made by German leaders. A great number of simple people in this country listen to the German wireless. There is a great deal to laugh at in it, but there is sometimes a great deal which make people wonder whether there is not some truth in what is being said. I am not blaming the B.B.C. The B.B.C. is only a machine which is functioning very efficiently. But there should be a Department under the control of some Minister, presumably under the control of the Foreign Office, which would give prompt fighting answers to German propaganda and expose German misrepresentations to the people of the world.
Let me say just this in conclusion. Our main functions it seems to me in this Session must be to support, and to drive, the Government on to the speediest and the most vigorous possible prosecution of the war. Our message to the Government must be, "Speed up and drive on as hard as you can to the final victory."
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ronald Ross
It is with surprise, not unmixed with some pleasure, that I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is a rare occasion, but I think that in the speech we have just heard we have had an expression of that spirit of keenness to get on with the war, 38 which is, above all things, I believe, present in the minds of most of us. The right hon. Gentleman's speech had in it a spark from the historic recollections of the great Whig Governments which faithfully maintained the glory of Britain in the past. I must say that I did not expect to find such a flash in that particular quarter of the House, and I apologise to it for the great injustice I have evidently done it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a speech which was as interesting from the academic point of view, as it was, if I may express an honest and a frank opinion about it, futile from the practical point of view. It was a nebula of good intentions. It seemed to envisage that if a programme framed by the Labour party were proclaimed as Britain's objective, the world would at once be attracted. I should not be quite certain of that. I think the results might be very different from those which the right hon. Gentleman anticipates. As for this country being attracted to Socialism by the Socialism which is necessary in war legislation, I would remind hon. Gentlemen that after the last war it was with pæans of joy that the country welcomed the removal of this and that control by the Government. I do not think the people have changed in that respect. If anything is likely to impress on the individual the inconvenience and the tediousness of Socialist doctrine, it is the experience of it which we are obliged to suffer as a consequence of the war. I think we must all try to concentrate, first of all, not on theoretical preparations for a state which is still a good way round the corner, but on finishing the task to which we have set our hands.
I cannot agree with those who wish to have a secret Session, because I think it would have many grave disadvantages. In particular, the fact of a Member not being able frankly to tell his constituents who have sent him here what is going on and what he has done or said would strike at the whole root of Parliamentary representation. I think the machinery of complaint provided by speeches across the Floor and, in cases where more discretion is necessary, by approach to Ministers, is adequate. As regards the machinery of complaint, I propose to avail myself of it now, because I am looking at this matter from the point of view of Northern Ireland, and we have 39 had many speakers from Great Britain, but you do not often have the experience of listening to one from Northern Ireland.
There is one anomaly which is very marked and which must be recognised. We have to pay war risks insurance on the same scale as over here. We want to be treated on exactly the same footing as everyone else. Our risks in that respect are infinitely less, but in addition we have to insure risks on cargoes going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland—and we are by far the best customer that Great Britain has—that we have to pay for without any assistance at all. I have written to the President of the Board of Trade and have had a sympathetic answer, but I think that where the poorer community has to join in paying premiums on a risk which they only suffer to a very limited extent and get no assistance at all as regards risks for which they have to pay, unaided, heavy premiums, that is not justified, and that is a thing which should be set right by whatever machinery the Government may think proper.
As regards the war effort which we are all making, although there was not a single Ulster Member who voted in favour of Northern Ireland not having conscription applied to it, we did not have it applied. The men are recruiting well on the voluntary basis, but the recruit who is called up on the basis of being a militiaman under the Act has certain privileges. Whether it would be possible to maintain the privilege of reinstatement in his occupation, I do not know, but this I do say, that any man in Northern Ireland who could not be called up compulsorily, but who is of the same age as those who would have been called up if they had lived in this country, ought to have the same privileges as men of the same age who have been called up under the Acts which have been passed by this House. It is grossly unfair that a man in all respects the same except that he has accepted voluntarily an obligation which his comrade in England or Scotland has taken on under the authority of Parliament should not be equally well treated.
As regards rationing, which is coming into force, as we hear, in January, the situation in Northern Ireland is rather peculiar, because there are many places there where the country people have bacon as their only meat. The fats which 40 everybody requires they get from bacon, and in many places they do not eat any other type of meat at all. They buy their fat bacon, and you do not see beef or mutton in their houses at all. I think they will be hit very hard by a rationing system which is designed for people who will from time to time buy other types of meat. No doubt that is a burden which will have to be borne, but it will perhaps be a little irritating for people who live in a country where a great quantity of bacon is produced, which will be rationed for the first time in history, and the surplus will go to help those who are, in this island of Great Britain, engaged in the same struggle, but who will be able to get other meat.
There is another point. At the present time many people who do not agree with me politically have refused or neglected to register. It is taken as one of those ways of showing their independent-mindedness and their spirit, but when rationing comes in, if they have not registered, I do not see how they will be provided for. That is a very serious matter, because if they do not, through their own lack of care, get the rations which they should get, of course, political capital will be made out of it, and we shall be told, probably, that the Government of Northern Ireland are persecuting those who do not agree with them in politics and religion. I am, however, glad to think that the more responsible leaders of thought on that side have set their minds against this, and although, when the returns should have been completed, there were over 50,000 in Belfast who had not completed them, I hope that, now that rationing is in sight, they will realise that in order to get their fair share of the rations, which everyone wants them to have, they should complete their registration.
There are various other points which are current and of great interest to my constituents and to other people in my part of the country, but I do not propose to discuss them or to complain about them at length now, because most of them are the subject of conversations and approaches to Ministers, and in particular the numerous and complicated problems in relation to farming. I will only say that, as regards flax and the price of flax, I have had very many resolutions from all over the country, and I am quite sure that the situation as at present 41 envisaged should be improved from their point of view, but I do not propose to elaborate that matter at this stage. There are also many important questions in connection with livestock control, but I think they are matters which had better be left for discussion, not across the Floor of the House, but at some time when greater elaboration is possible and when greater detail can be gone into. We also have unemployment, and we can bear a very much larger share of work in connection with the war, and are eager to do it. We have one object, and that is to stand side by side with this country in the determination to win the war as soon as we can, and we will spare no effort to bring about that result with the least possible delay.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I did not disagree with the latter part of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross), but I did disagree with his earlier remarks, when he criticised the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. We are putting forward propositions from these benches in the hope that at the end of the war a better world will be created, and I trust that hon. Members opposite will not always put forward the gloomy forecast that nothing better can take the place of the present system. After all, the present system has brought us to a very difficult pass, and even in the latter part of his speech the hon. and gallant Member could not get away from the point that they have grave unemployment in Northern Ireland. That is due to our present system. We have unemployment with us always, and the present system cannot cope with it, and yet, whenever we talk about a better world, which means the removal of unemployment, we are met with the gloomy forecasts of hon. Members opposite.
§ Sir R. Ross
The hon. Member should remember that his party's solutions are not always the best and that when there was a Labour Government in office, we had more unemployment than at any other time.
§ Mr. Tinker
We had not a majority. We were hampered all the time by the Liberal party, who would give us their support only on conditions which many times we felt it very hard indeed to 42 accept. However, I hope that when we do put forward these points, hon. Members opposite will not always treat them with such a gloomy outlook. I was disappointed also with the Prime Minister's speech. I thought he might have envisaged a better world at the conclusion of the war. I want to say to hon. Members opposite that we are whole-hearted in the prosecution of the war in the hope that we shall win it, but not, at the end of it, be driven back to the position indicated by the phrase, "The devil take the hindmost," and that the poor people will have nothing at the end of the war. We want to remove that and to do what we can to get better things for our people. With regard to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, I always feel a lot of sympathy with them, and I often wonder how I should feel if I were in their position. I must say that to-day I think they carried out their task with efficiency and credit.
Dealing with the Gracious Speech itself, it is one of the shortest King's Speeches on record. I have counted the words, and they number 194. I also timed Mr. Speaker and found that it occupied him about one and a half minutes, so that one can realise that there is very little in it, but they are pregnant words. The opening sentence, "The prosecution of the war commands the energies of all My subjects," practically covers everything, and it is on that statement that I want to base my speech to-day. First of all, it means the fighting Forces, who must be provided for and given all the help possible to carry on this war, but when we have left the fighting Forces, there is a second very important point that has to be borne in mind, and that is what we term the home front. I do not want us to forget that in our deliberations, because if we are to be successful in the war—and it appears now that it will be a long war—we must give to those people at home the feeling that they are recognised and regarded as an essential part in the task of carrying the war to a successful finish.
Those who have to carry on the industry of the country will have to be provided with all the means that can give them a decent standard of living. The organised workers will see to it that they get a standard of living commensurate with the cost of living. They will demand it, and we shall be bound to give it, so that they 43 will look after themselves, but there is a lot of people whom this House will have to do all that it can to protect. First of all, there are the unemployed, and it will not be sufficient for us to say that the unemployed are not doing anything at all. We have to recognise that they have to bear the increased cost of living, and if the organised workers come here demanding a higher standard of living, or one equal to the increased cost of living, so we shall have to recognise that the unemployed have not got the force of organised labour behind them, and we who hold the balance of power here must see that they get something which will give them a standard equal to the increased cost of living. That will be our duty in the House of Commons if we want that unity of purpose and endurance which we expect from every citizen.
I come next to the case of the injured workman. We on this side have for some time been trying to get a better Workmen's Compensation Act. The matter was being examined by a Royal Commission but it was suspended owing to war exigencies. We cannot get away from the fact that the people who have been injured in industry will look to the House of Commons to do something for them. I will try to bring home the great need for some action by dealing with what happens in the mining industry, because there are more injured in that industry than in any other. I will cite the case of the coal getter, the highest paid worker in the industry. His wages, on the average, are 11s. a day, and he works an average of four and a half days a week, giving him a wage £2 of 1os. If he is badly injured and makes a claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act, he gets 25s. a week. That is all he has to exist upon unless he belongs to a few clubs, when he gets a shilling or two more. His legal claim is only 25s. a week.
The time comes when he is called fit for light work. Generally he is not fit for underground work, and he has to take a job on the surface. We recognise that the partially incapacitated man cannot claim the full rate of wages, and in Lancashire we have arranged with the employers that the injured workman shall be entitled to five-sixths of his weekly wage. At the present time that is about 7s. 6d. a day. I will do a sum to show 44 the hardship that falls on such a man. Working five days a week brings him in £1 17s. 6d. Under the law he is entitled only to partial compensation, which brings his income up to £2 3s. 9d. That is not the worst feature of the case. Recently we have concluded an agreement with the employers that men in the underground shift should have an increase of 8d. a day to meet the increased cost of living. The injured man who is working is entitled to it but the law will not allow him to have it. He gets the 8d. a day added to his 7s. 6d., but a deduction is made from his compensation, so that he actually gets only 4d. a day more, and instead of getting 3s. 4d. a week extra he gets only 1s. 8d. That is where we say the whole system of workmen's compensation is wrong. This man has to meet the cost of living like everyone else. We won that 8d. for him by organised labour, yet the legal position prevents his getting it in full.
The time has come when there should be some redress so that the injured workman will get the full benefit that is won for him by organised labour, without having something taken off his partial compensation. We have not been able to persuade the employers to agree. They say it is the legal position and they cannot give it. I want to give a word of warning to the House and to the country. In the next agreement that we make for an advance in wages for the miners we shall accept nothing until we are satisfied that the full benefit will go to the injured workman as well. Whatever may be the consequences of that, I declare for myself and others with whom I am associated that we will agree to no settlement unless the injured workman can get the full amount without deduction. It is not fair to an injured workman who has suffered a bad injury, and perhaps has lost an eye or a hand or a leg, that when he returns to what is called light work, he has to have shillings a day less because of his injury. That is why I urge that, when we talk about every citizen giving his help to the prosecution of the war, it should be recognised that every citizen is entitled to justice in the form of a proper standard of life.
My next reference is to the old age pension. An occasion like this ought not to pass without the need for an increase being stressed once more. When the Chancellor launched his loan appeal he 45 talked about a limit of 500 Savings Certificates for each individual as if he expected that all citizens would come forward and get their 500. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) made an interjection which was very true. He said, "Five hundred fifteen and sixpences! There are many of our men who have not 500 pence." There are hundreds and thousands of our people who have not 500 pence, and among them are the old age pensioners. I hope it will not be long before the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces what is to be done. The war is costing £6,000,000 a day. For 365 days it will be £2,190,000,000. We are asking, even with that big sum of money to find, that some addition should be given to the old age pension. I claim that the old people ought to have a minimum increase of 5s.; they are entitled to it. With the enormous sum of money that is being placed on the shoulders of the country will anybody grumble at another £30,000,000 a year being put on to meet a just claim? If the Government want to get the good will of the people it is not too much to ask that another £30,000,000 should be put on to the annual Budget to give an increased pension. The matter seems to be shelved once more, however. In the latter part of the Gracious Speech there is reference to measures to be submitted:The measures which will be submitted to you are such as seem necessary to My Advisers for the welfare of My people and the attainment of the purpose upon which all our efforts are set.I do not know whether that means that one of the measures to be brought forward will be an increase in the old age pension. I hope that it does. In July we were promised by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that the question would be examined, and we were given the promise again on 1st November, after pressure from this side of the House. Although the vote went against us by a big majority, everyone who voted against us was of opinion that something ought to be done. I hope that the Chancellor will let us know before the end of the Debate when the Government intend to make a statement on the matter. A strong feeling prevails throughout the country on this question. A fortnight ago I received a letter from the old age pensioners of Bolton, who said they had a petition with 47,000 signatures. It was presented to the House 46 last week. A resolution has been sent from my constituency and sent to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister urging the need for an increased pension. There is a strong under-current of feeling that, even though it is war-time and we are all anxious for the war to be carried on successfully, something should be done for the aged people. I hope that our appeal will not fall on deaf cars this time.
Last night I was in conversation with a man from New Zealand. He had come here for a holiday and was anxious to get back, but his return had been delayed by the war. He said, "I am wondering what you are going to do about the old age pensions. Where I come from we have had a Labour Government for over three years and we have increased the pension to £3 a week for a man and wife. It has had a wonderful effect on the people." He added that the recipients were urged to spend the money and make good use of it. I thought what a grand gesture it would be if we could only say to our aged people, "Here is a little bit more for you; spend it because the country will always see that you will have enough to live upon." At this moment we cannot say that. The old people are in fear and trembling, wondering what they will get next week. I want to remove that kind of feeling from our aged people. They are entitled to a better standard of life and we can give it to them. It is not beyond our resources to do it. If the words of the Gracious Speech mean anything, they mean provision for all sections of the community—the unemployed, the injured workmen and the aged people. When we do that we shall indeed have behind us the will of the people.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
I should like to add my voice to those who have paid a tribute to the way in which the Mover and Seconder of the Address, in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, have done their task, and I am all the more glad to do so since it gives me the opportunity of paying a special tribute to the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Commander Marsden) who moved the Address. I suppose that never before in the history of this House has the Address been moved by a serving sailor, and I am certain that it has never before been moved by one 47 better qualified to speak of the work going on to-day in the seaports round the North Sea. The hon. and gallant Member is at any rate entitled to speak of the North Sea. I suppose he is the only Member of this House who has spent a whole night swimming in it. He is the only survivor of the ship which he had the honour to command during the battle of Jutland, and on the day when we are mourning the loss of the officers and men of the "Rawalpindi" it is perhaps more than a coincidence that the Address should have been so ably moved by one whose ship was sunk by gunfire in the destroyer action which followed the battle of Jutland and who was the sole survivor left afloat in the morning. We can congratulate ourselves and him on the fact that he was picked up then, and so is here to make the eloquent speech which we heard this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon as I, and I suppose the whole House, expected he would, to the question of peace aims, and hoped, no doubt, for some further expression of them by the Prime Minister. I think the broadcast by the Prime Minister to which we listened a few evenings ago met with the unstinted approval of the vast majority of the people of this country. It was a model of what such a broadcast should be. It preserved the dignity of a Member of the British Cabinet and every attribute of statesmanship which we have learned to expect from the Prime Minister of this country. Unfortunately not all the broadcasts we hear fulfil those traditions, but this was one which met with the approval not only of the right hon. Gentleman's fellow-countrymen, but I should imagine, of the great majority of the peoples of the world. That broadcast, taken in conjunction with previous speeches by the Prime Minister, and with what he said this afternoon, should, I think, really satisfy those who desire to know where this country stands with regard to the peace which must come at the end of this war. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to desire that the minutiae, almost, of its terms should be discussed at this time, but I agree entirely with the Prime Minister that you cannot define more closely what you desire to do when peace comes than he has defined it. I once heard a golfer say that it is no use 48 choosing your golf club until you get to the ball; and until the war is over—and we hope and pray that that will be at no very distant date—it would not only be futile but it would be dangerous, as the Prime Minister said, to particularise too closely as to the terms of peace.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to talk of the Empire and Colonies. I have said before in this House, and I continue to say, that unless the peace we make at the end of this war is a juster peace than that of the Treaty of Versailles it will not last any longer than did that peace. But one thing the people of the British Empire will not tolerate, and that is any dismemberment or abatement of the British Empire. The Empire has stood for liberty and for justice in the past. It stands to-day as the main rock upon which the hopes of democracy throughout the world are built, and it will continue to stand, I believe, for liberty and justice and for the protection of all its peoples. Therefore, we are entitled to say clearly that whatever may be the decision with regard to those portions of the world's territory which did not belong to us at the beginning of the last war we will not allow any dismemberment of the British Empire, which we and our forefathers have built.
Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke of disarmament. Looking back over the last 20 years there can be hardly anybody who does not admit that it was the precipitate disarmament which took place after the last war which has led us into the position in which we find ourselves to-day. The hon. Member opposite may scoff, but that is my belief. I believe that it is wrong for peace-loving peoples to disarm until they are certain that the minds of the bandits are turned from their course and until the means of doing evil have been removed from them. Our disarmament was precipitate because in the world the desire for aggression had not been killed. We have heard mention of the League of Nations this afternoon. I think we expected too much of the League. After the last war there was too much desire to rely upon other people for our preservation and not a sufficient realisation of the fact that we should rely upon ourselves primarily, and only afterwards upon the help of others. The League will have to be rebuilt, and I believe that it will become a realistic 49 League, not one in which so much attention is paid to high-sounding phrases and hopes which circumstances prove incapable of fulfilment—a League which is not asked to do more than it is possible for to perform.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the redistribution of wealth. My right hon. Friend and constituent the Chancellor of the Exchequer is seeing to it that the redistribution of wealth goes on apace. If he is satisfied, I think the hon. Member opposite who has interrupted can be satisfied, because the Chancellor knows more about the "application of the screw" than does the hon. Member. The Leader of the Opposition referred to those who are "well-to-do." I would remind the House that a man is only well-to-do if there is a margin between his income and his commitments. The cutting down of commitments so often entails hardships on those whose livelihood is earned by reason of their being a commitment of the man with the large income. There will be great changes in the financial position of many people in this country, but we must realise that any reduction in their financial standing will inevitable bring great hardship upon those who depend upon people with large incomes.
It is not often that I find myself in agreement, even partially, with the right hon. baronet the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, but when he talks about a secret Session, and puts his plea for it in the language in which he put it to-day, I find much with which I am in accord. If the secret Session were to be one in which we listened to grave secrets from members of the Cabinet, probably it would fail in its purpose. It would not be in the interests of the country that those secrets should be disclosed, even to hon. and right hon. Members of this House. But I believe there would be a useful purpose in a secret Session if it enabled hon. Members to give voice to many of the rumours they hear of things not being as they should be. If it could dispel some of the criticisms, which are no doubt ill founded, and if it could give an opportunity for voicing those criticisms which are well founded as regards, for example, the supply of equipment for the Army—about which much is being said in conversation between individuals—criticisms of the conduct of the war, criticisms of rationing, I believe a secret 50 Session would serve a useful purpose. If we are to have a secret Session I think, speaking as a back bencher, that ample opportunity ought to be given for back benchers to be heard. If it is to be a secret Session in which we are only to listen—as we do with pleasure—to the instruction given to us by right hon. Gentlemen who are members of the Privy Council and others who speak frequently in these debates, the Session would lose much of its value; I believe there is underground criticism going on which it would be a good thing to have focused in this House, where either it could be disproved if it were ill founded or if were found to be substantiated, then steps could be taken to put matters right.
Next I should like to say a short word on the conduct of the naval side of the war. First, I should like to pay a tribute to the officers and men who went down in the "Rawalpindi." I had the honour of being a shipmate of Captain Kennedy, and knew him very well, and, therefore, it is perhaps fitting that I should pay a tribute to a brave man who always did his duty and who, I am sure, on this occasion maintained the very best traditions of the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve. The loss of the "Rawalpindi" was one of the ordinary fortunes or misfortunes of war. There was nothing in it for which we can criticise or blame the enemy. It was a legitimate action, in which superior force met inferior force and blew it out of the water. However much we may regret the loss of those gallant men there is nothing in their passing which could give us any reason for criticism of the enemy who attacked them. That is not the case, however, with regard to the use, or the misuse, of the submarine and the mine by the Germans. It was left to Germany to make the name "submarine" stink in the nostrils of the people of the world. A weapon with extreme limitations was put to a purpose for which it was not designed and thereby was made into an instrument of piratical beastliness which has shocked and horrified the world. At the end of the last war we hoped that such a weapon would never be used for such a purpose again.
In the first speech made from that Box by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty I detected what I felt to be a too easy optimism. He told 51 us that we had the submarine menace by the throat, that our trade was flowing with reasonable security along the trade routes of the world. As one who had some experience in the last war I feel that it is not wise to be too certain until you are quite sure that you are in a position to boast. Although I believe that the submarine menace has been countered to a very large extent we must expect to see continued sinkings. It may be that as larger and better-equipped vessels are built by the German Government the submarine menace may increase in its intensity, but we have the means of countering the submarine menace in the end, or at any rate of keeping it within control. In the resort by Germany to the use of the new and completely illegal method of mine-laying, which is contrary to every international undertaking, I detect an admission that the submarine campaign has, to a large extent, failed. This present system of mining the waterways of the world is something which one expected Germany to do, but I think it has shocked opinion throughout the world. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that if you do something which is deliberately wrong you do not in the end gain by it. The mere fact that they have shocked public opinion in neutral countries will in the end tell against the German Government. But do not let us underrate the efficiency of this system of mine-laying, which is bound to take a very heavy toll of our shipping. That a means will be found to counteract this new type of mine I have not the slightest doubt, but do not let us delude ourselves into thinking that it can be countered in a minute. Nobody knows where those mines are laid, how they are laid or how long it is before they become innocuous, and the difficulty of sweeping them is almost insurmountable. Therefore, we may have to face continued losses, but in the end, as in the last war, we shall find a way of saving our trade and our shipping from this particularly foul form of sea warfare.
There is one point upon which the minds of many people inside and outside this House, those who are laymen not less than those who have particular knowledge of naval matters are exercised, and it concerns the continued raids upon the Orkneys and Shetlands. It is very difficult during war-time to say much in this House, because much that one might 52 say might be injurious to the interests of this country. I should, however, like to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty—I am sorry that he is not in his place—whether he is satisfied with the measures which are being taken to safeguard the Orkneys and Shetlands from aerial reconnaissance and aerial attack. I do not want to do anything to reopen an old controversy, but I am bound to say that the too-long-delayed restoration to the Navy of its own Air Arm may have had a good deal to do with the present lack of aerial defence in the Orkneys and Shetlands. It is essential that the Fleet should have bases which are reasonably immune from attack. We had a Debate upon the subject of Scapa Flow and that deplorable incident, the loss of the "Royal Oak." It is no good rehashing the matter again, but there are reasonable grounds for thinking that all is not quite as it should be. It should not be possible for an enemy submarine to enter the main Fleet base. It should not be possible for the main Fleet base to have reconnaissances over it or attacks upon it dozens of times within a few weeks. These are matters to which the Admiralty will have to pay attention, because there is undoubtedly a growing feeling among the public that something is not quite right.
I could not help thinking, when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) was speaking, that one of the tragedies resulting from the partition of Ireland is that we have lost what would to-day be an invaluable base, namely, Lough Swilly, which was used in the last war. It is sufficiently remote to make aerial attack difficult and sufficiently close to the scene of operations in the upper part of the North Sea to make it a jumping-off ground for heavy ships. So far as it has gone the war at sea has only served to show how wrong we have been since the last war in cutting down our Navy. It takes a long time to train a sailor. I understand that you can make a soldier in about six months—a reasonably good soldier. You cannot, of course, give him all those attributes which we know the old soldier possesses, including comparative immortality. With the complexity of equipment on board a modern ship you cannot make a sailor under a period under five or six years. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chertsey pointed out only 53 too truly that it will be very difficult to get trained seamen to do the necessary work at sea at the present time. We are short of cruisers. We have been short of cruisers in almost every war of our history, certainly almost back to Drake's day. Perhaps not quite so far back as that, but in the Napoleonic wars we certainly never had enough frigates. We are short of cruisers because of the senseless cutting down of cruisers in the London Naval Treaty.
§ Sir A. Southby
That has been of great advantage, because it kept Germany to a definite proportion Vis-a-vis ourselves at a very vital time.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
As the hon. and gallant Member is speaking as an expert on these matters, perhaps he will tell me whether it is not a fact that the British Navy has been relatively stronger rather than weaker since the last war? Is not that the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty?
§ Sir A. Southby
I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite apprehends the position. Relatively it may have been stronger, but so far as cruisers are concerned, it has, unfortunately, been short of the number required by reason of the length of our trade routes and their vulnerability. So long as there remains in existence one enemy cruiser or one enemy merchant ship capable of being transformed into a cruiser, you have to defend, not one trade route, but every trade route lest the one you do not defend is that which is singled out for attack. Oddly enough, even going back to Cromwell's days, the need for cruisers has remained about the same, in actual fact some 45 ships for service on all the trade routes. The weakness due to the naval reductions lies not so much in capital ships but arises from the fact that ships essential for the defence of our trade routes were unduly reduced. The present difficulty is that Germany has built three exceedingly able ships of the "Deutschland" type which can be countered only by battle cruisers. I hope and believe that it will not be long before the battle cruiser squadron has squared the account for the "Rawalpindi," but I beg the House not to indulge in too facile an optimism. The work being done now at sea is excellent and is beyond all praise. 54 Upon the Navy has fallen the first and greatest brunt of this war and right well officers, men and material have stood up to the strain. We possess in our sea power the weapon which will ultimately win the war. It is the traditional weapon which this country has always maintained, so that we might in the end apply that last inexorable pressure of blockade.
I welcome the extension of economic warfare, but I would remind hon. Members who may perhaps have forgotten that when we entered the last war in 1914 we had almost, but thank God not quite, ratified the Declaration of London which practically did away with contraband. Had that declaration been ratified just before 1914, copper, cotton and rubber would not have been contraband at all. As it was for months and almost for years in the Grand Fleet we saw cargoes of cotton and copper going across to Germany or to neutral countries for shipment to Germany. The cotton was pouring into Germany to be turned into cordite with which our own men on the Western Front were to be killed. It is not common sense to allow shipments to go on in that way. We have not only to apply the stranglehold of the blockade directly to Germany in order to shorten the war, but, if necessary, we must also strictly ration the neutrals so that they may not import goods in order to transmit what they import to Germany to enable her to continue the war. The greatest service we can render to ourselves, to mankind and to the German people themselves is to bring the war to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible moment. Therefore, I welcome the extension of economic warfare. In the end, in this war, as in the last, that will be the deciding factor. We shall have protests and difficulties to contend with, and we must see to it that neutral countries get a square deal. In the interests of our own people, those for whom we in this House are responsible, let us see to it that there is no slackening in the application of the one great weapon which British sea power gives to us, the weapon which in the end makes impossible the successful carrying on of war by a continental nation—blockade.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Barr
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) save in one regard. In the early part of his 55 Speech—and it was echoed somewhat in a later part—he deplored the fact that this country after the last war had proceeded to disarm. There is a good deal of exaggeration in that statement, which began as a legend and has after prolonged repetition come to be accepted as a matter of fact. Actually in 1913, a year before the last war, when there was considerable naval building and when there was a vast excessive expenditure, we spent £77,000,000 on war materials, and in the early twenties—I make full allowance for the difference in the value of money, but on the other hand there is mechanisation and the superior equipment provided for the money—it was £120,000,000. There was a steady though slow rise in expenditure, and not that disarmament which is constantly claimed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to think that if we had armed more, we might have prevented this war coming. I would remind the House that even in the middle of the war, on 26th September, 1917, Mr. Asquith, afterwards Lord Oxford and Asquith, said:We must banish once for all from our catalogue of maxims the time-worn fallacy that if you wish for peace you must make ready for war.Turning to the Gracious Speech, as was fitting it was couched in serious language, and all the speakers to-day have spoken with a sense of solemnity of the colossal struggle which may be looming ahead. That I believe is the reason why there is still a deep and widespread anxiety and desire that, even at this twelfth hour, if it were possible, that colossal tragedy might in some way be averted and might not run to its full conclusion. On the 1oth November last, in the city of Glasgow, General Sir Ian Hamilton gave utterance to these words—only 18 days ago:We might possibly even yet come to some understanding with the Germans, and join with them instead of fighting with them to try to put the world straight.I was not surprised that he used that language because when he gave an address at the Cenotaph in George Square in Glasgow on the 5th September, 1926, he used these words:There is still no sign either from Heaven or in our own hearts that these rivers of blood, these mountains of corpses, these millions of mutilated men have purchased by their agonies any atom of good to anyone.56 I trust the Government will still, if possible, welcome anything that would lead to the calling of a world conference or to some aversion of the full colossal weight of this great calamity, and that in the appropriate ways they would seek peace and ensue it.
Now I turn to another matter—that referred to by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). I trust we shall have a comprehensive measure from the Government which will cover all forms of pension, which will do something to remove some of the glaring anomalies, and that in the scheme the case of the spinsters of whom many are suffering great need and hardship will not be forgotten. On the 1st November last when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was dealing with this subject he took the sum of £40,000,000 which had been mentioned, and he said that it was not a small sum but it was a big sum. He showed that it was a big sum in this way: if you capitalised it, it would equal £1,000,000,000 provided for in the whole Budget. You could equally capitalise the present sum given for pensions. The present sum on the part of the Government for both kinds of pensions is £69,000,000; but if you include the contributions that come in other ways it is £95,000,000. In July last the Chancellor of the Exchequer came forward and said that the expenditure he would call for for National Defence would be £750,000,000. It would not be fair to capitalise that, but if you take it for three years you might equally argue that that would be more than twice the sum provided in the annual Budget. All I have to say in regard to that question is that, if the Government have a willing mind they can easily find the sum needed for pensions. I have often quoted the words of Immanuel Kant, the great philosopher whose work on "Perpetual Peace" is one of the greatest classics on that subject. When people brought forward excuses of that kind for not doing this or that, he said:Thou oughtest, therefore thou canst.
§ Mr. Barr
I would say that Immanuel Kant espoused a nobler philosophy than that which unfortunately prevails at the present time in the country to which he belonged. Nothing would please me more than to see his country return to 57 the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, both in his "Pure Reason," and in his "Practical Reason."
I come now to the subject of early closing and the black-out. I wish to bring before the House a decision arrived at by the Emergency Committee of the United Free Church of Scotland to which I belong:The Committee respectfully urges His Majesty's Government to enact some drastic curtailment of the hours of sale of intoxicating liquors, and particularly that such sales be prohibited from an early hour at night.I am not sure whether I can carry the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) with me on this, but I feel sure that he will recognise that it is only right that I should state this position. The Secretary of State for Scotland is not present, but it may be recalled that I put a question to him on 20th September, when the hours of sale in Glasgow were shortened so that public houses closed at eight o'clock instead of ten. The Lord Provost of Glasgow testified that, as a consequence, reduction of drunkenness amounted to 5o per cent., and that there was a corresponding reduction in accidents. That experiment lasted only five weeks. It was a voluntary agreement, entered into by the trade and the magistrates, and the trade resiled from it. What happened then was equally significant. In the five weeks during which the reduced hours were in operation—from 18th September to 22nd October—the number of arrests for drunkenness averaged 218 a week; and for the four weeks after they reverted again to the 10 o'clock closing—from 23rd October to 19th November—the average rose from 218 to 299, while there was a corresponding increase in the number of accidents. It is not surprising that the Scottish Safety First Council, on 7th November last, passed a resolution urging that licensed premises should be closed at eight o'clock until the end of April. At that meeting Lord Provost Dollan used these words—
§ Mr. Barr
I do not object to a man, if he does not go the whole way with us, going so far. I remember once, when I was speaking on this subject, I quoted Gladstone, and some one in the audience said: "But was Gladstone a teetotaller?" "I was relieved from the necessity of answering, for a man in the 58 front row of the gallery cried out: "He's yin noo onyway." I hope Lord Provost Dollan will, either in this world or the next, become all I wish him to be. But I was going to say what he had stated. He said that they in Glasgow had examined the whole problem carefully, and had come to the conclusion that one of the first factors towards reducing the number of accidents on the streets was the closing of public houses earlier than at the present time. Some of us were a little disconcerted when a question was put in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Parker) on 31st October:whether officers in uniform will he allowed to obtain alcoholic refreshment in other premises than hotels, in view of the fact that they are frequently quartered in districts where there are no hotels?The answer by the Minister of War was:Yes, Sir, provided they observe the standard of conduct required by their profession." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1939; col. 1726, Vol. 352.]I read long ago that "priests profane the Sabbath, and are blameless," but I am not sure that if officers give a lead of this kind, they will be quite blameless. There is only one other remark I wish to make on this aspect of the matter. It is well known to hon. Members that already, under a new movement in India, 21,000,000 native subjects are under prohibition laws, and that by the end of next year there will be a population equal to that of the United Kingdom under these laws in India. Also, on the Gold Coast in the last ten years there has been by legal enactment a reduction of ten per cent. Per annum in the amount of gin imported, with the view of eliminating its consumption altogether by next year. I wish to testify that that policy has been well observed, and that year by year the quantities consumed have been well within the requisite proportion. I should like an assurance that the Government will protect these natives, who may be serving with us in the war, whether from India or the Gold Coast, from European spirits. I am encouraged by the answer which the Financial Secretary to the War Office gave to a deputation on the subject of the wet and dry canteens—which might not go so far as we would have wished—to think that he and those with him will be responsive to a plea of this kind.
59 There is considerable disturbance in the churches in Scotland at the present time over a proposal that, by Order-in-Council, it should be provided that, on request of the military, cinemas should be opened on Sundays. I do not myself take any extreme attitude on this question, as those who know me well will agree; but hon. Members should understand why this action has been taken. Many churches, including my own, have protested strongly. On 15th November, only a fortnight ago, the Church of Scotland, in its Commission of Assembly, on the motion of the Reverend Matthew Stewart, Convener of the Church and Nation Committee, passed this resolution:The commission record their opinion that the opening of cinemas on Sundays, by means of Order-in-Council, would be ill-advised and unacceptable.They give their reasons, and then they show that they are not adopting a merely negative attitude, because they ask their ministers, office-bearers and members, to open up their churches, and provide rest and recreation wherever troops are stationed. Their main objection is that this is to be thrust upon them, and that no offer of consultation has been given to Scotland. We speak much of self-government for India as a war aim, but we have a constant aim, in peace and in war, that there should be self-government for Scotland. You are fighting a war for democracy; but this is no real democracy here, because if the military ask a local authority to open the cinemas, no local authority is going to incur the odium of having it said that it is taking an unpatriotic line by refusing. This is a war for freedom, but here we are dealing a blow at the civil and religious liberty of Scotland.
I know what is behind it. There is this prevalent idea of the "gloomy Scottish Sunday." I remember a day in this House when speaker after speaker referred to the "gloomy Sunday" of Scotland—English Members, some of whom had never crossed the Scottish border. There are some men who have dwelt so long in the dark dungeons of Doubting Castle and in the grip of Giant Despair, that they have no idea of the sunshine and the joy that there is outside for those who walk on the King's highway. There are spiritual joys as well as material, and I 60 will quote here not a divine who might be counted narrow or antiquated; but Robert Burns, in one of his last letters to Mrs. Dunlop, written in January, 1795, speaking of spiritual pleasures and religious joy, said:These are no idle pleasures, they are real delights; and I ask what delights among the sons of men are superior, not to say equal to them? And they have this precious vast addition that conscious virtue stamps them for her own, and lays hold of them to bring herself into the presence of a witnessing and approving God.I was brought up myself in that "gloomy Sunday." There is only one main recollection that I have about it, namely, that you had only to read "a good book" on Sunday, that is, it must be sacred literature. I can say at least that I was true to that tradition in that respect when I was at Glasgow University and competing keenly—like the poet: "ambitious of no second place." You may call it narrowness or antiquated; but although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) will remember, the examinations were, as in Natural Philosophy, on Monday mornings, it mattered not. I gave my mind a complete rest every Sabbath, and, as my hon. Friend can also bear me out, the records of Glasgow University, I can say with pride, will show I did not suffer for observing that day of rest. The Secretary of State for Scotland is not in his place. He was brought up in such a home. I knew it well. His father was an honoured Member of this House. The strictest Sabbath law was observed. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman shows any of the gloominess that would come from such a Sabbath as is portrayed. Indeed, I sometimes wish that he was more gloomy when he considers the gloom that settles on Scotland in many regards; but at any rate, he is a very good refutation of the idea that the Scottish Sunday was always gloomy. Certain people say that it is narrow, but where our rivers run narrowest, there they commonly run deepest.
What concerns me in this matter is not the question of worship, or of competition with the Church. The Church must look after itself. It is the conserving as long as you can of the rest of the Sabbath, one day in seven, rest for the workers. The Assembly Resolution to 61 which I referred of the Church of Scotland Commission on 15th November said:It would deprive the employés of the cinema trade of the Sunday rest to which they were entitled.That is a point I wish to emphasise, and I close with this. The greatest poem on the Sabbath is that by James Grahame; but I wonder often whether more to admire that magnificent poem, or the prose introduction with which he sent it forward to the world. This introduction says:He who has lived three score and ten years has lived ten years of Sabbaths. The Sabbath is the grand bulwark of poverty against the encroachments of capital. The labouring classes sell their time; the rich are the buyers. Six days of the week are thus disposed of already. If Sunday were in the market, it would find purchasers too. The abolition of the Sabbath would, in truth, be equivalent to a sentence adjudging to the rich the services of the poor for life.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
There have been moments in this Debate when it has been increasingly difficult to recall that we are at war. The delightful tone of the last speaker took us very far from the belligerent atmosphere with which one might expect this House to be concerned. The contrasts between the opening stages of this war and the last are in many respects striking, and perhaps the contrast in the temper of this House on the two occasions is as striking as any. In the last war there were doubts, and considerable intolerance of public discussion, and it was very difficult to speak freely what was in one's mind, but in this war this House is continuing to function in almost peace-time conditions with an excellence of temper and a broad unanimity of outlook.
§ Mr. Denman
If the hon. Member will look back to 1914, and if he had been here and knew the experience of those who were members of the Union of Democratic Control, he would know what I mean by broad unanimity in contrast to the very bitter feelings of 1914. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was not in the House at the time. He has no idea of the feeling there was about it. I hope that the present atmosphere of calm reason and discussion will continue to prevail. I propose to refer to two 62 subjects which have been discussed this afternoon, one slightly trivial and the other of major importance. The trivial subject was brought up with some vigour, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition—the demand for a secret Session. I hope in this matter the Government will resist, because I believe that a secret Session at the present time on the subject proposed is both unnecessary and injurious. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, was not present here the other day when some of us had the pleasure of listening to that very remarkable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn), who gave us a delightful and inspiring picture of the power and authority of this House resting on centuries of tradition. It is a power which we must all have felt grew fundamentally out of free and open expression of opinion in this House. Once you adopt the habit of secret Sessions you deprive the House of the strength that comes from our openness of debate and the fresh air of our discussions. It will have other disadvantages. Inevitably, people outside, in this country, in the Dominions and among our Allies, will think that there must be something very seriously amiss because we need to go into secret Session to discuss what we have discussed with frequency, openly, namely, some of the failings of the governmental machine. We have discussed those matters, and the Front Opposition Bench has led in the discussion, with a frankness that would not have been possible in the last war. We have all felt that the openness of debate has been extremely valuable to the temper of the country.
There is a further disadvantage of a secret Session, and that is that inevitably the German propaganda machine will say just what it likes to say about what happens at that secret Session. They will produce any lie they choose, and the difficulty will be that we cannot effectively contradict it. At the present time we can meet all their blantant lies with plain facts, but if they say that such and such a person said such and such a thing in secret Session, or that such and such a policy was advocated, and they string together all sorts of illusory facts, no one will be able to contradict them.
§ Mr. Denman
Even he would not be able to convince them. There is a case in certain circumstances for a secret Session. We had them during the last war. I was not present at the early ones but I was at one or two of the later ones. The real case for a secret Session is when you want to formulate opinion, or when you have reached a stage in the war in which there are widespread doubts as to Government policy and as to the direction that policy should take. For the sake of the Government as well as for the sake of the House and the country those matters must be thrashed out in debate and the strength of various views displayed; and, of course, the major problems of the policy to be followed in respect of the war cannot be discussed in the face of the enemy. Do not let us waste our secret sessions in these early stages of the war, but let us reserve them as a method that may be needed later to stabilise opinion and to inform the Government of what are the different forces of public opinion then showing in the country.
I believe the House would resent very much if the Liberal Opposition thought that they could enjoy all the fruits of publicity whenever they want and at the same time have the melodramatic satisfaction of a Parliamentary black-out if it suits their purpose. If they want to make certain representations, there are well recognised methods of doing so. They can go on a deputation to the Government, they can reveal all the facts within their knowledge, no doubt if the position is so serious that no ordinary methods suffice they can urge on the Government the demand for a secret Session. No one can really say that the position is so grave now that the demand is reasonable.
One final point. I hope the Government and the Opposition will not think that a secret Session is the prerogative of either of them. The right to spy strangers is a right common to all Members. Any of us can spy strangers, but I think we should feel considerable grievance if we were subjected to secrecy without general agreement. My second point is that of our war aims. I trust the Government will continue to resist the pressure to elaborate and expand our war aims. I observe with some unhappiness that there is an attempt to create a distinction between war aims and peace aims. I believe that to be bad in 64 principle. The defect of that division is that you tend to make war something by itself, in the nature of a horrible and tragic game which must be won by one side and lost by the other. It can never be drawn. Essentially, it is something which must be won or lost. That is an untrue way of looking at war. War is one of various instruments of policy. It must be conducted with other instruments of policy, as, for instance, at the present time, with the instruments of diplomacy and of economic pressure. I wish there had been one other remaining instrument, the League of Nations. Unfortunately, that instrument is denied to us for this purpose. One finds that quite good friends of the League instead of seeking to impose economic sanctions against the aggressor are even inclined to resent any economic sanctions at all being imposed. The League of Nations is, therefore, an instrument outside and beyond use at the present time.
But do not let us segregate war as something that must be used apart from other instruments, and come to think that the war must be won or lost for its own sake. This war is being fought for ends of policy and for a kind of peace on which we are broadly agreed. When people try to elaborate our peace aims by adding a great many delightful ideals and objectives, when for example I hear them saying that we are fighting for universal democracy or for a federated Europe, my reply is simply that I would not expand the duration of the war by one week to attain any end of that kind. Those are not war aims. Those aims, noble in themselves, are essentially things to be lived for but not to kill and be killed for. When I heard the list of five objectives, all admirable objectives, coming from the Leader of the Opposition, I said to myself that those are not objectives for which I would expand the war. If we have to fight a war extending for three or four years I believe that our peace aims will be unattainable. We shall have a Europe so shattered and in such chaos that we shall not be able to build upon it the stable structure of an enduring peace. The problem of this war will be to know at what moment the maximum policy at which we aim is attainable. We shall not attain our maximum policy in a long war.
I pray that at some time, let us hope next year, there may be reached a stage 65 at which we shall have shown that aggression does not pay and that peace will be possible by accepting that as a basis; and that we shall have a situation in which the European nations will come together and begin to work towards the further aims which were referred to by the right hon. Member. But to lay out in advance so vast a plan of what are the aims which we shall pursue by force of arms, and to say that we shall not sheathe the sword until they are attained, is to extend this war indefinitely. The date, who can say? Obviously, we may be compelled to fight this war to a finish. If we cannot attain a peace which would satisfy the condition that aggression has been shown not to pay, then we shall have to go on to the finish, but if there is a time before that in which this condition can be satisfied, let us then stop the killing and begin again to live for the better world.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
I would remind the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) that the Prime Minister has, in my view, and in the view of very many hon. Members, very wisely already separated what we term our war aim from our peace aims. I have always understood that if you were in a war the one thing you have to do is to win it or to get into such a position that you can make peace. Our peace aims are widely different from our war aim, and I think that the Leader of the Opposition stated very well what it is that we want. I do not see any objection at all to declaring what our peace aims are. The hon. Member for Central Leeds makes the mistake of thinking that my right hon. Friend was stating what our objectives were and that we should fight until we had got them. Nothing of the sort. He was stating in general terms what our peace aims should be. The hon. Member also objects to a secret Session. I have no objection whatever to a secret Session. It gives everyone an opportunity of saying exactly what they think without any fear of giving any assistance to the enemy. If what is said is of no importance so much the better, because the Minister of Propaganda on the other side would make much of it whether anything important is said in a secret Session or not. The Leader of the Liberal party said that he wanted a secret Session not so much to hear secrets from the Government as to be able to state fearlessly, and without any fear of doing anything 66 disloyal, exactly what is felt about the present situation and about the Government, and any other matter which arises to our minds.
The hon. Member for Central Leeds spoke of war as an instrument of policy. It was a cold-blooded reference, and I as an old soldier felt rather shocked. I spent three years as a fighting soldier, and I was driven to this conclusion, that war is a thing to be abhorred and to talk of it as an instrument of policy is absolutely abhorrent to my mind. It is only the incompetence of the governments of the world which has brought us to the present situation.
§ Mr. Denman
I agree that war is a horrible thing. My point is that if the instrument is used at all it should only be used as a method of obtaining a certain policy. To fight simply for fighting's sake is mere folly and madness. If you are fighting you must have a policy for which you fight.
§ Mr. Stokes
I accept the explanation. It was the cold-blooded way in which the hon. Member referred to war that got my goat. I want to refer to three main points which, I think, have not been sufficiently dealt with in the Debate. The first has to do with neutrals, the second the point of view of the German people, and the third the general situation on the home front. The Prime Minister seemed to be quite truthful, on the face of it, when he said that it does not require a war to bring about the kind of Europe we desire. I agree, but, unfortunately, it is now 20 years since the last war, and we are only now beginning to talk about the kind of revision we should make in Europe to prevent wars in the future. I agree that it should not be necesary to have a war to remind us of the necessity of revision, but, unfortunately, it is the fact that we are now at war. While mentioning the kind of Utopia which we all want, it is not out of place to remind the Prime Minister that 20 years have passed, and that instead of the Utopia we desire we have 1,500,000 able-bodied unemployed.
The Prime Minister said that he was unable to understand what the right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr Atlee) said with regard to Imperialism ceasing. Let me give him one example. Take India. We take the view that the time has long 67 since arrived when the Indian people ought to be given the right of self-determination. It is really absolute humbug for hon. Members on the other side to say that we are governing India for the sake of the Indians. If people have forgotten what has been said by supporters of the Conservative party in the past, may I remind them of what Lord Brentford said On 17th October, 1925:We did not conquer India for the benefit of the Indians. I know in missionary meetings it is said that we conquered India to raise the level of the Indians. That is cant. We conquered India as an outlet for the goods of Great Britain.I hope that the Government will see fit to give to the Indian people that opportunity which they all desire, the right of self-determination. Like the Prime Minister, I declare myself as a man of peace. It is certainly my conviction that a peace after a victory by either side is more likely to be an unjust peace than a peace negotiated before the guns go off and the slaughter begins. In listening to the Prime Minister on the wireless the other night I was glad that he seemed to take a more progressive line than he has done in the past, but he did not go far enough. I have talked in the past few weeks with people who have been to Germany since the war started; traders from other countries, who have been to the east and the south-east of Europe, and all of them have the same thing in mind, that a general economic reform is what is wanted throughout the Continent.
I should have much preferred it if the Prime Minister had gone on to say, in general terms, that in such a Europe the power of the international moneylender would be ended, and that we would not allow the vileness of international finance to hold the sway which it does now. It is my conviction that the Governor of the Bank of England and his satellites will, metaphorically speaking at least, have to be hung from the lamp posts before we get the kind of economic situation that we require. I should have liked the Prime Minister to have gone on to say that in such a Europe the monopolists would not hold sway. I have a nasty feeling that we are fighting this war for the London Tin Corporation, and the monopolists of the British Empire, and I should like to see that situation declared to be at an end now, as I am sure the 68 people of Europe as a whole would like to see it. I remember that at Geneva, in September, 1935, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord Privy Seal said that the raw materials of the world must be made available to the people who needed them. That was the first and the last we heard of that from the Government, and the situation we are now facing would have been a very different one had we followed a course of that sort, and chucked the Ottawa Agreements as well, instead of pursuing this ridiculous business of tariffs and trade restrictions.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
Will the hon. Gentleman say what raw materials the British Empire have been withholding from any country in the world?
§ Mr. Stokes
I did not say that any raw materials were withheld. Surely, the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that difficulties of trading are due to exchange difficulties. There are certain raw materials within the British Empire which, for example, Germany has not got, and the only way in which Germany can purchase them is by producing manufactured goods and selling the goods to those countries, or equivalent countries, and getting in return the necessary foreign exchange with which to buy raw materials. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman has had even the limited experience which I have of German economists, he will know that when one talks to them about colonies, they say, "We do not want our colonies back—that is not our idea—we want some sort of colonies from which we can get the kind of materials which we now cannot get because you have shut up the whole of the British Empire as a closed trading corporation, and we cannot trade with you." A wise man has said that you cannot have the British Empire as a closed trading corporation and have peace. That is one of the reasons we have war.
I should like to say a few words about the position of the neutral countries. A few weeks ago suggestions were made by the Queen of Holland and the King of the Belgians that mediation should take place between the belligerents. I am not so foolish as to think that if some other reply, or even a more comprehensive reply than the one which we did send, had been made, necessarily Herr Hitler would have accepted it. From the nature of his 69 refusal, my own view is that probably whatever had been put forward would have been turned down; but undoubtedly there was great disappointment here among a great number of people that that offer was so flatly disregarded. I should like here to refer to an effort made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)—who, unfortunately, is not here to-day to speak for himself, as he is unwell—in order to find out what were the feelings in the country. My right hon. Friend wrote a letter suggesting that those people who supported the view that the Government should accept that offer of mediation should send him a postcard to that effect. That letter was sent to 138 newspapers in this country. Only 10 of them published it, of which only three were national newspapers, and in two of those one had to use a microscope in order to find it. In spite of this very poor publication there were some 14,00o replies by postcard within the first three days. Such is freedom of the Press!
The observation I want to make about the neutrals is that, surely, they have a right to be considered, for, although it is true they are outside the fray at the present time, some of their countries may become the cockpit if the war goes on, and all of them are now affected economically, and will become more and more depressed economically as time goes on. If the war goes on, I hope sincerely that the neutrals will get together in a conference and thoroughly examine what are the economic difficulties of Europe so as to be able at the earliest possible date to put forward proposals which will bring about a better state of affairs than that to which we have been accustomed in the past.
I want also to deal with the question of the attitude of mind of the German people. I make these observations after having talked to three or four people who have been in Germany recently. I think every hon. Member will agree with me that it is quite useless at this stage to argue about who started the war. We had arguments of that sort from 1914 to 1918, and we never came to a really satisfactory conclusion, except that we should hang the Kaiser, and we never succeeded in doing that. What I am more concerned to do, as I think we ought to do, is to inquire into the question of who is stopping the peace. It seems to me to be utterly useless to tell Germans 70 that we are fighting only Hitler, because that merely rallies all patriotic Germans behind him and they will not believe a word of what we say, unless it be explained exactly what we mean when we say that we do not want another Versailles. I understand that the Prime Minister made that statement, although I have not been able to trace the actual reference, but certainly in this House, on 12th October, he rightly said:We seek no material advantage for ourselves; we desire nothing from the German people which should offend their self-respect." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th October, 1939; col. 564, Vol. 352.]We know perfectly well that if there were to be another Versailles, their self-respect certainly would be offended. The point I want to make is that that statement has to be explained, for undoubtedly what Germans fear at the moment, gathering from what we are told, is that there will be another Versailles if they lose the war. In my view, what we want to reconcile is the abolition of the Versailles Treaty with the rights of the Czechs and the Poles. I suggest that what we want is that the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Poles should all of them have their own autonomy and that they should be reconstituted within boundaries which are ethnographical rather than military and within the German Customs Union. I think that if that were made plain to the German people, it would be understood by them that if peace did not follow at once, Hitler alone would be to blame, for it would then become obvious to them that we are not seeking to reconstitute a Versailles situation round Germany, and for the first time they would realise that we are not fighting in order to obtain anything which is detrimental to the permanent interests of Germany.
I want now to refer to the home front. The other day, we listened to the Minister of Labour talking about unemployment, and he made the extraordinary statement, which happens to be true, that from one point of view unemployment at this time is an asset. What I want to point out to the House is that it is a most paradoxical situation that we have about 75 per cent. of the employed people of this country engaged in making things of a nature which nobody wants, which are utterly useless except for the purpose of blowing out other people's brains, and that for some extraordinary reason there is plenty 71 of money with which to finance this, whereas at the same time, at the other end of the scale, there are 1,500,000 able-bodied unemployed who are dying to get to work, who would gladly go to work to-morrow if they were given the opportunity, and the opportunity apparently is not available. If these unemployed people were put to work, they could be creating just that sort of wealth against which we could raise new credit for the purpose of financing the war.
To me it is a complete paradox. I cannot understand why the Government do not take hold of the situation and put it right in the shortest possible time. In my view, it would be the easiest possible thing to do if two measures were adopted. First, stop the ridiculous restrictions on the issue of credit, which is controlled by some mysterious people whose names the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not tell us, and, secondly, once and for all do away with the private control of land and the restrictions that go therewith, by introducing a thorough-going tax on site values. An hon. Member near me asks why the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not tell us those names to which I referred. I cannot answer him. I am sure the Chancellor knows the names, and the only answer is that he does not want to tell us, which seems to be a very common answer for a Minister to give when he is ashamed.
There are three other things which I would ask the Government to do immediately. The first is to remove all restrictions on the production of foodstuffs—and there are such restrictions still in existence. The second is that milk should no longer be allowed to go to the factories at 6d. a gallon, while the unemployed and the old-age pensioners have to pay 2s. 8d. a gallon for it. That situation seems fantastic. The Government have taken the special measure of not publishing the milk returns showing the amount which goes into the factories, because, they say, it would give dangerous information to the enemy, but one suspects that it is for entirely different reasons. Thirdly, I would ask the Government to see that no more fish is thrown back into the sea until everybody in this country has had enough. It is always a source of astonishment to me that Tory Governments never seem to realise that 72 the first responsibility of any Government in any circumstances, is to see that the people are properly fed.
Finally, I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) in urging the Government to seek every chance of getting peace. All people here—and I do not exclude hon. Members opposite—want peace and as a soldier who served in the last war I would say this—that the millions who died in the last war will consider their sacrifices well worth while, if that catastrophe is averted now, before the guns really go off, but utterly wasted if it is not.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) referred to the fact that fish had been thrown back into the sea. There is little prospect of that happening again, because, owing to the war, there is a sad shortage of trawlers, and I think it is no longer possible for us to carry on with the slogan, "Eat more fish." That brings me to a consideration of the position of the home front as it affects the East Coast of England. Some of the East Coast ports have been denuded of their trawlers. In the case of one of the greatest ports the unemployment figures have gone up to such a degree, that I only wish the Minister for Home Security were in his place in order that I might draw his attention to the position. It is absolutely necessary that the Government should give attention to the fact that the unemployment figures upon the East Coast are going up by leaps and bounds, as a result of the present situation in regard to the trawlers. My own constituency has begged and implored the Minister for Home Security to take into consideration the parlous state of the industry, but, so far, these representations have been of little avail. I see on the Front Bench at present, a Minister who formerly lived in my constituency. I hope he will ask his colleagues to give due attention to the rising tide of poverty and distress in this area.
There is no reference in the Gracious Speech from the Throne to the condition of the aged poor. Some of us expected that there would be some glimmer of hope for those people who are carrying on at present under the greatest possible difficulties. I well remember that when old age pensions were introduced, a 73 Member of this House, afterwards Lord Chaplin, asked, "What is 5s. a week?" Well, 5s. a week or 10s. a week as it is to-day, may mean a great deal to those who are in need, but the Ministry for Home Security, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour—a trinity of Ministries—all agree that the cost of living has gone up, and I can only emphasise the tact that many of us had hoped that, in existing circumstances, there would have been some mention in the Gracious Speech of relief for the aged poor of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no reference to the subject in the Speech, I hope the Government intend to bring in a Measure to amend the present out-of-date Workmen's Compensation Acts and especially to simplify their administration. The great majority of those who sit on this side are opposed to any carping criticism of His Majesty's Government, but we shall feel it our duty to press on all occasions the necessity for an amendment of the workmen's compensation law and for a consideration of the general conditions of the people.
I could not quite follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich when he said that he had been in touch with the Germans—in a proper way I have no doubt—and that they had told him that they did not want their own colonies back. In that case, what do they want? If my hon. Friend were in his place I would remind him that it was not the British nation which invented the block mark system and made it impossible for legitimate German trade to be carried on with any country in the world. I would also be compelled to remind him that, if the Germans had wanted to trade with this country or any other country, and if they had declared for a greater interchange of goods and more freedom of trade, they would have been in possession of the necessary currency to bring more prosperity to themselves, and incidentally to us. My hon. Friend mentioned the neutrals and the protests which might be raised owing to the increased difficulty of export trade. I think, in all fairness, the House ought to be reminded that it is not Britain which has indiscriminately sown mines upon trade routes. I would say, plainly and straightforwardly, that if protests from neutral countries come to Downing Street or Whitehall, they are being delivered at the wrong address.
74 I would also remind the House that the precedent for what is taking place in these days was actually set by a Prussian. Only to-day I was reading that in the year 1803, when there was another "Public enemy No. I," who had tried to bring into being the Treaty of Tilsit and to blockade the whole of Europe, and who was at war with France, it was a Prussian Minister who laid it down definitely that it was quite legitimate to take the attitude which was taken by the then Allies, because he laid down the doctrine, which still holds good, that the only way to prevent the subjugation, especially of the smaller nations, the neutrals, was, as he put it, the triumph of the British Navy in keeping open the seas for all those who wished to use the seas upon their lawful occasions. I hope it will be borne in mind by the neutrals that, after all, the Allies are more than standing bail for them; they are standing between them and complete subjugation. That is really what is happening and if there are neutrals whose pockets will be poorer, they will find that their spirits will be richer, if they will look at the position in its proper perspective.
I wish to say that in justice to my own country. At the same time, I do not desire that there should be a spirit of undue complacency upon the Treasury Bench. I agree that to-day party divisions have largely been levelled out, so far as the primary object which we have in view is concerned, but I wish to emphasise also that it is the primary object, not only of the Opposition, but of the House itself, if it wishes to call itself a Council of State, to see to it that the home front is kept intact. I started with that, and I close on the same note. The way to win this war in the best and highest sense is to keep the British home front intact, healthy, and strong, and I hope His Majesty's Government will pay attention to that and do their duty in that regard.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Dr. Little
I was greatly struck to-day by a sentence in His Gracious Majesty's Speech from the Throne:Grave responsibilities rest upon you at this time. You will, I am convinced, express the resolution of the nation.That is a very definite and distinct message to both Houses of Parliament, and, so far as I can judge, the resolution of the nation to-day is that we must see 75 this war through. It is not talk and sloppy sentiment that will tide Britain over. We are up against a ruthless enemy, and we must stand up for right and truth as our forefathers stood, lest we should be found unworthy of being Members of this House of Parliament. In this war we, as a nation, are face to face with a very difficult problem. In the strength of God, however, we can solve that problem successfully, not only in the best interests of our own country and Empire, but in the best interests of the world, for we are not simply in this contest for Britain or the British Empire; we are out for the peace and welfare of the world. We have every reason to warrant us to be optimistic as to the result. No weapon that Hitler can invent or use against us but our forces on land and sea and in the air will overcome in due course. I am convinced of that. We have heard a great deal about a secret Session, but to me a secret Session is all moonshine. We are out to accomplish something far more than mere talk, and to hold a secret Session will only be playing into the hands of the enemy. Let us say to those in authority, whom we have chosen and put in possession, "Go forward; God be with you; we are behind you, and we know that you will succeed, by the help of God."
We hear a great deal about our war aims. So far as I can judge, Britain has only one war aim, and that is to crush that foul, wicked, cruel, devilish thing known as Nazism, which defiles, degrades, and dehumanises everything it touches. Germany must be conquered and her present rulers set aside once and for all if civilised conditions are to prevail on the earth. I say that as a Christian minister. They are striking at the roots of Christianity and Christian civilisation, because Nazism stands, not only for the destruction of civilisation as we know it, but also for the overthrow of Christianity, which is dear to us, by bowing God out of His own universe. In Germany the Emperor-worship of pagan Rome has been revived in its worst form by the deification of the State and the worship of its head. "Heil Hitler." Even greater cruelties are being practised to-day under Nazism than were perpetrated under Nero and Domitian, in ancient Rome whose names to-day stink in the nostrils of all right-thinking 76 people, and by Attila, the leader of the Huns. Like the names of these men, in coming generations the name of Hitler will be regarded with contempt and abhorrence. Domitian, in his pride and arrogance, once struck a medal on which he put the inscription:The Christian religion has been destroyed, and the worship of the gods restored.But Christianity still goes on from strength to strength, and, by the help of God, we shall see to it that Hitler never gets the opportunity of issuing his medal setting forth the triumph of Nazism over Christianity and Christian civilisation. That is our war aim, so far as I know it.
As to our peace aims, we are dreaming dreams to-day of the world we should like to see when peace comes. But let us take our time. Two treaties were made after the last war, the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty in Ireland, and they have both failed to bring peace either to the world or to Ireland. Let us not get into a hurry. Let us wait, and let us pray God to give us His guidance. We have far too little of that to-day, because we can do nothing without the guidance of God, and I believe that both those treaties were signed without asking God's guidance and they have both sadly failed to bring peace, good will and brotherliness. The new world must be a world where the spirit of a narrow nationalism, to which we owe much of our tribulation, strife, and warfare to-day, has been cast out for ever and the spirit of Christian brotherhood, good will, and peace maintained in all the dealings of the nations one with another; and that means the submission of individuals all over the world to Jesus Christ, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We hear a great deal of talk to the effect that we have no quarrel with the German people, but only with their rulers. I think that is only talk, which has nothing to justify it. It is nothing more than mere froth. Are not the German people behind their rulers? Who placed the present cruel, callous, wicked rulers in Germany in their positions? I answer, the German people. Who approved of the actions of their leaders again and again when they marched into the territory of other unoffending nations and marched in, too, on the point of the bayonet? The German people. Who to-day are shouting "Heil Hitler" and 77 approving of his savage and insane cruelty and devilry? The German people. I grant that there are exceptions, but they are not numerous. The prophet of Germany to-day is in a concentration camp. He is Martin Niemöller. Germany is full of false prophets urging Hitler forward to an imagined victory, just as the prophets of Baal in Israel urged King Ahab to go to war with the Syrians and win a great victory at Ramoth Gilead. But there was one prophet of the Lord, Micaiah, who said, "Go, but you will perish at Ramoth Gilead and be slain there." Ahab ordered him to be put in prison and fed with the bread and water of affliction until his return in peace, just as is the case with Pastor Niernö11er. When the German announcer, false prophet as he is, said on the radio a few evenings ago that Germany was sure to be victorious because she was led by the Führer, I was reminded of Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah who, "made him horns of iron" and declared to King Ahab. "Thus said the Lord, with these shalt thou push down the Syrians until thou hast consumed them." Yet Ahab was defeated and slain at Ramoth Gilead according to the word of Micaiah.
I am convinced that Germany will be defeated, under the leadership of Hitler, but we shall be victorious because God is our Leader. Since God has always stood for justice, truth, righteousness and honour, we and our Allies will succeed. Six months ago I said in this House, standing on the spot where I now stand, that God would judge and punish Germany for her cruel and wicked treatment of the Jews. The punishment is coming sooner than I expected, for His hand is heavy on that land to-day and, like as God visited and punished other nations in the past which gave themselves over to vindictive, devilish and insane persecution, so Germany as we know it to-day shall perish. I am convinced that when God has fanned and purified Germany and cast aside her present rulers, that nation will rise again with a new spirit and a change of heart to take its place in the comity of nations as a God-fearing, peace-loving nation, seeking the advancement of God's Kingdom of righteousness, truth and brotherhood on earth and the good of all within its borders, irrespective of nationality, creed or class.
It is for the accomplishment of that glorious end and that noble result that we 78 are fighting to-day, and our beloved King has asked us to put our heart into the struggle because he knows that God will defend the righteous cause for which we are fighting, as in the past He has always defended the right. My closing word is a word from that grand old Book which I have been expounding for almost half a century. It is a mine of wealth and its message comes to us in Britain and to our Allies to-day with the same force and meaning as it did to God's people of old. Here it is:Fear thou not for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.No power on earth can overcome a nation that stands for honour and truth, justice, integrity and righteousness, and which has the right hand of God's righteousness upon it.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
I cannot hope to follow the hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) in his eloquent address. He referred to the proposal to hold a secret Session as moonshine, but I can assure him that so far as the Opposition are concerned there will be no demand for it unless we regard it as absolutely necessary, for we value too greatly free discussion. What the hon. Member said about the horrible things in Germany is only too true. We know that we are at war against aggression and the repeated breaking of pacts which are creating a feeling of uncertainty and damaging economic security and the peace of the world. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has declared that peace aims are something for the future and, therefore, ought not to be discussed now. There is, however, one phase of a peace policy which brooks no delay. That is world planning for economic justice.
What is wanted is economic planning on a world scale, and there is no body better fitted for that task than the International Labour Office at Geneva, which has a wealth of information that would be very valuable. When the war ends there will be widespread economic dislocation and the lesson of the Versailles Peace Treaty should not be lost sight of. It created the worst slump in trade which this country has ever seen. Miners, shipwrights, engineers and all engaged in the heavy industries knew it only too well to their cost. Let the German people 79 and the world know that we desire to remove economic and political grievances which imperil peace. In this connection I cannot do better than quote the words of the then Chief Director of the International Labour Office at Geneva, Mr. Butler, who said:Let us, therefore, talk of the abolition of trade restrictions, the distribution of raw materials, the stabilisation of currencies and an international monetary agreement as things required to promote economic recovery and the future stability of the whole political structure.I t is essential that these should be discussed now, and there is no body better fitted to deal with them than the International Labour Office.
I want to turn to home affairs. I read a remarkable speech, said to have been delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I wrote to him stating that I intended referring to it in the House and I hoped he would be present. This is what he said:Some are trying to inflame our people into discontent by suggesting that we can afford any and every increase of allowances and pension. … Yesterday I had an irate letter from a soldier's wife because she only had 36s. 6d a week for herself and her five children. I yield to no one in my desire to see allowances as generous as our lightening purse can afford, but I must ask in what other country in Europe could they dream of paying a wife and children £94 16s. per annum when the man is also being fed and clothed and paid by the State?Never mind what other countries in Europe are doing. Why not quote what our own kith and kin in our Dominions are doing? New Zealand, Australia and Canada set an example to the Mother country in this respect. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth also said:Again I hear of some young married women without children whose allowance is regarded as small. It is small but if such women are fit why cannot they work like soldier's wives in any other country in the world?Is it possible to find work for all those women when 1,500,000 workers are unemployed? Why suggest that to the wife of the private soldier? Are officers' wives to be exempt?
§ Mr. Leslie
Old age pensions have already been mentioned. The Government promised an inquiry last July. We know that the war was used as an excuse 80 for doing nothing. In a recent Debate the Government again promised an inquiry, and I hope that the report will not be delayed. There are more than 300,000 old people at the present time dependent upon public assistance, and industrial areas are carrying the greatest burden. In Durham more than 12,000 old age pensioners have to be paid poor relief, and that is costing the ratepayers 2s. 1d. in the £. Public assistance in Durham is costing 10s. 5d. in the £, while Bourne-mouth escapes with 10½d. in the £. When the cost of living was much lower than it is now Sir John Orr declared that old people required at least 7s. a week for food alone, yet frail and infirm old people are expected to meet rent, rates, clothing, food and other necessities of life on a meagre 10s. a week.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in a recent Debate made much of the fact that employers and workers would have to be consulted about increased contributions before there could be any increase in the contributory pensions at 65. There need be no difficulty about that, because we know that the Trades Union Congress have already declared in its favour, and I cannot believe that employers, making the profits they are out of munitions and other work necessary for the war, will refuse their share. There is, however, no good and sufficient reason why an increase cannot be given at once to those who draw the State pension at 7o years of age. Here, again, the British Dominions present an object lesson to the Mother Country. Pensions in New Zealand have been increased from 20s. to 30s. a week. That is good for the old folks, who have more to spend on food and clothes, it is good for the local shopkeepers, for whom so many people plead in this House, and good for the community in general.
I want to touch upon the plight of the unemployed. While the Government are providing work for people abroad, men and women are still queueing up at the Employment Exchanges in this country. Why should miners be out of work at the present time? Why should mines be left flooded and millions of tons of coal lie waste? Why should housing schemes be suspended while men in the building trades are unemployed? In my own division a slum clearance scheme was adopted last year, and was approved by the Minister of Health. It 81 was for clearing 200 houses in one particular area. That is now at a standstill, and so people are being deprived of decent houses. In many industries overtime is prevalent while men and women are walking the streets in vain search of employment. There ought to be no overtime so long as we have an unemployment problem. We hear a good deal about the excessive hours of the German workers, but in this country thousands of shop assistants, men and girls, are working 60 hours a week and more, while thousands are unemployed. The Government could help to provide work by a limitation of the working hours. Crocodile tears have been shed over the alleged hardships imposed upon small traders through the earlier hour of closing. The consuming public have only a certain amount to spend, and when all shops are closed at a given hour no one is the loser. There ought to be no privileged section of traders claiming advantages over the others. Whether opening hours are extended or not there ought to be a limitation of the working hours of the assistants.
In time of war there is a speeding up of legislation in a way that is impossible in time of peace. We quickly pass on to the Statute Book Acts which are regarded as necessary for the prosecution of the war. I think time might have been found for Measures of vital interest to the community, Measures such as the Criminal Justice Bill. Those of us who were on the Committee upstairs know the time and thought that were given to that Bill. We had more than a score of sittings, and it seems a pity that our time has been apparently wasted if the Government have no intention of proceeding with the Measure. Here was a Bill calculated to humanise prison life and to save young people from a life of crime. Such a Measure, if it had become an Act of Parliament, would have set the seal on the valiant efforts of the Lord Privy Seal, who, as Home Secretary, sought to make the Bill one of the greatest Measures of prison reform. I do sincerely hope that the Government will find time to deal with this much-needed Measure.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
The hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) gave us a remarkable speech. He reminded me of an Old Testament prophet, breathing fire and slaughter. I believe that he is a minister 82 of the Gospel, and I wonder whether he has taken any notice of the New Testament doctrine. He seemed to believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth—as vindictive as the Treaty of Versailles. I hold in my hand a copy of His Majesty's Speech. It is extremely brief, not much longer than an ordinary telegram. Brevity has been called the soul of wit. This Speech seems to be the very soul of sombre statement. I believe the Speech is short because it does not directly refer to some of those inequalities and injustices which many people are suffering to-day. Old age pensions, workmen's compensation, and the rewards of ex-servicemen for their work in the last war have already been touched upon. During last week-end the Durham Miners' Association were discussing workmen's compensation. They are highly dissatisfied with the present position, and have been dissatisfied for many years, and the business will brook no waiting, not even in war time. With the price of necessities rising by leaps and bounds, those men with fixed compensation, and, worse still, those women who have to spend that compensation, are in a situation which they ought not to be left in, and they demand that something shall be done as early as possible, especially to remove the 30s. minimum which stands on the Statute Book to-day. They have waited long enough. When I was young I used to sing in Sunday school the hymn:O Paradise, O Paradise, 'tis weary waiting here.Those men and women who are affected by the compensation Act as it stands today are weary of waiting for some improvement. I cannot agree with the very first sentence in the Speech:The prosecution of the war commands the energies of all My subjects.The energies of all the subjects cannot be said to be commanded while nearly 1,500,000 people are standing idle and thousands more working short time. If some recommendation had been made in the King's Speech for setting to work those who are unemployed, the message would have engendered hope in the hearts of a hopeless section of society. Then, in the sentence,You will he asked to make further financial provision for the conduct of the war,83 is the reference only to supply in respect of the Forces? We all realise the importance of the adequate provision of supplies. We have vivid recollections of the shortage in the last war, when men were left to stand in the trenches unable to defend themselves, and we say that that must never occur again and men be left starved of those material necessities.
However, the conduct of the war covers more than munitions. It includes the morale of the fighting Forces and of the people at home. The spirit that has already been shown by the Army, Navy and Air Force must be stimulated by the knowledge that those left behind are not suffering preventible privation. Similarly, those who are at home will be more resolute if they know that their sons and others at the front are adequately attended to. So I ask, will the Measures submitted, which, in the words of the Speech, will besuch as seem necessary to My Advisers for the welfare of My people,include an increase to old age pensioners, to widows and orphans and to ex-Service men, by way of additions to the present pensions which will make the welfare of those people, in the words of the Speech,a real and substantial attainment"?We, as Members of this House, are reminded in the Speech of our grave responsibility. Surely one of our grave responsibilities is caring for those who are out of the battle this time on account of their age or infirmity. Many of those people bore the brunt of the last conflict, but the country has been none too generous with them. Indeed, the real welfare of such people has been neglected. This very morning I received a letter from an ex-Service man. It is dated 27th November, 1939, and he says:I have over 20 years' service. I was in the Army in the Boer War and in the last war. I am willing to give my services in this war, and I have written to three different places to offer my services.Then he goes on to say that he has tried to exist on 10s. a week, half-a-crown of which he pays for his room. It is disgraceful to this nation that he is spending 1s. a week under the hire system to purchase the bed on which he lies. He is, therefore, left with 6s. 6d. per week. He goes on to say:This is what they have done for me. I have worked 61 years, giving the best of my 84 days to the service, and I am willing to give my services again.And that is his reward. It is the reward of a generous country to a man who has served both on the home front and on the military front. If we are to carry out the only work which we are asked to do in the Speech,make further financial provision,we must devote that finance in such a way as to satisfy the needs of the Forces and equally the needs of those left at home. Thus we shall emphasise the resolution referred to in the Speech.
Much has been said in this House and in the country, and even by the Prime Minister, about the better world that is to be the outcome of this war. Another hymn comes to my mind. We used to sing:There is a happy land,but it was alwaysfar, far away.On this side of the House we believe that the happy land could be here now if the will existed to bring it into being here and now. The talk about a better world to come is very much like the assurances that were made during the last war that we were to have a land fit for heroes and that there was to be work for all ex-service men. We heard those things stated during the last war but we know how they failed to be fulfilled. When the end comes to this war the fine ideals may be lost sight of in the savagery aroused during the conflict. Why should we not attempt to establish the better world now, that age of plenty sung of by the bards and prophesied by the seers? Even if this be war time, let this country show its honesty and its belief in a happier world. Let it show its earnest endeavour first of all to establish a better Britain.
The great aim of peace, in my opinion, can be summed up in a phrase which will satisfy me and my colleagues on this side of the House. It is: "The true valuation of every human life. "That is the aim in which hon. Members on this side of the House and of most of the people of the country believe. When such a valuation comes, gone will be the inequalities and injustices, and also gone will be the incentive to war. "Too ideal," you say? What is your alternative? Continuation as at present, a war every 20 years and the eating up of 85 all human effort? We should be better pleased if the King's Speech had been amplified in the details referring to the wellbeing of the people and the real welfare of the mass of the people of this country.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The speech of the Prime Minister was very revealing, and it should be a serious warning to all those who are associated with him in the prosecution of this war. The Prime Minister spoke of peace terms. Our first and imperative aim was to win the war, and that, the Prime Minister said, should be good enough; I would remind him and the House that once the war gets well started, hundreds of thousands, or may be millions, of young lads will have to die, in addition to the thousands of young lads who are already dead. Are we to understand that those lads have to be sent to their death and that they must not know what they are dying for? Are we to say:Theirs not to reason why,Theirs but to do and die.I assert with all the power that I possess that, on the basis of the speech made by the Prime Minister to-day, no young man in this country should be sent to his death.
The Prime Minister told us that he had set out the general principles. We are, he said, for freedom. It reminds me somewhat of the war of 1914, when we were told that it was a war for Democracy. One of our allies in the fight for Democracy was the Czar of all the Russians. Now this is a fight for freedom—and the ruling class of France, our ally, is giving us a very fine exhibition of what it considers freedom means, while here there is a set of regulations that menaces the liberty of every man and woman in the country. I am not going to be taken in by the talk about freedom. What about the fight against the aggressor? Where was the feeling against the aggressor during the war in Spain and the rape of Czecho-Slovakia? Not only was Hitler the aggressor, but the Prime Minister was his associate. Let us not forget that. Right until recently the Prime Minister and others in this House were prepared to give every encouragernent and support to Hitler and the Nazis, never mind how much they were aggressing or persecuting minorities.
86 The hon. Member for one of the North Irish constituencies asked, Who put Hitler in power? and replied, "The German people." He is wrong; let him look at the result of the elections. The main forces behind putting Hitler into power were the monopoly capitalists of Germany and of this country. How was it possible in such a short period of years for Germany in 1933 to have such a terrific army and navy, were it not for the assistance given by the monopoly capitalists and the National Government of this country? The one thing in which Hitler failed them was in the expectations which I have heard expressed here, that when he grew strong and had his army, navy and air force, Hitler would turn his attention to the destruction of the Socialist country. He turned his attention, instead, to another sphere, to the further blackmailing of imperialistic countries. Then you had the talk about aggression. Those who supported, encouraged and helped the aggressor cannot now come out and talk about fighting aggression. No one can persuade me that this Prime Minister or this Government are out to end aggression.
What is all this nonsense about a new world? Is the Prime Minister or any Member on the other side of the House concerned about a new world? Are they going to abolish the profit-making system, or is it to be a new world with the profit makers still robbing, and the masses of the people still ground down in poverty and suffering? All this talk about the new world is so much nonsense: there is nothing serious or genuine about it. Let them get up and say that one of the first acts in the formation of the new world will be the liberation of India and of the Colonial people. They have no intention of allowing any alteration in the system if they can possibly avoid it. Under capitalist exploitation, no matter how you juggle about, you cannot get a new world in place of the old world, and it is the old world which the Government and Members of the other side of the House desire. They are fighting for the preservation of the old world. If they could get a Government in Germany to unite with them against the Soviet Union they would be very happy. The last war was fought to destroy German militarism and to hang the Kaiser. This war is fought to bring 87 back militarism and the Kaiser, according to the desires of many who represent the National Government. In such a war as this the working class have no interest whatever, although the working class will have to pay a very bitter price. More and more as the days go by, the massed forces of the working class people strive towards bringing this war to an end, and changing the conditions in this country. One of the most important contributions towards a new world would be to finish off the capitalist class of this country, who are just a gang of robbers. I would ask my hon. Friend from the North of Ireland to turn his wrath on the robbers of this country, the people who are responsible for the slums and the suffering and the misery in this country and in the North of Ireland, too. There was no question of fighting for Poland, because it was the National Government along with the French and the Polish Government who betrayed Poland. They refused to make any defence; they prevented any possibility of defending Poland, because they did not want Poland defended.
Here is a proposition which I would make to the Prime Minister and to the National Government: Let them publish a White Paper on the negotiations with the Soviet Union. Why are they afraid to do so? The Soviet Union say: "We made a proposal for the defence of Poland. It was rejected." Why do not the Government publish a White Paper? The fact that they do not is clear evidence that they are incapable of refuting the statements that have been made. No defence of Poland was prepared either by this Government, the French Government or the Polish Government. The Polish people fought, certainly, but not the Polish Government, nor the Polish high command. It is, therefore, clear that it is not a war in defence of Poland, or in defence of any of the neutrals. Those who were prepared to participate in the sacrifice of Czecho-Slovakia will not help any other small country.
Instead of supporting this war and providing finance for this war, we should be looking for finance to build up the health and strength of the people at home. We should force the Chancellor of the Ex- 88 chequer to do something about the old age pensioners. Time and time again we have raised this matter, and we have come up against a solid wall of resistance. Is anyone here going to tell me that a Government of this kind which has put up such an enormous and impossible resistance to an increase of pensions to the aged poor of this country is breaking its heart about some small nation in Europe? It is just a lot of humbug and hypocrisy.
§ Dr. Little
I rise on a point of Order. Has the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) any right to say that we on this side of the House are putting aside the question of old age pensions? Have we not had a Committee of the House to consider it? When that Committee reported they all hoped that the old age pensioners would profit by it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member has missed my point. I referred to a Government who put up such impossible obstacles to an increase of pensions. I have on several occasions heard some hon. Members on the other side supporting an increase in old age pensions, but even they had no influence with the Government. After years of agitation, when the old people of the country—men and women of 65, 75 and 80 years of age—were forced into the position where they had to form an organisation to pay a penny a month, we forced the Prime Minister to face the question, and he proposed an inquiry. At the first opportunity he killed that inquiry. Then, as a result of the agitation of hon. Members here, he was forced to take up the inquiry again. But it was only an inquiry. After all these years of fighting all over the country, the old folk are asking whether anything is to be done. A Government which can put up such resistance to proposals for an increase in old age pensions will never convince me that they are concerned about the welfare or freedom of any of the small nations of Europe. They are capable of raising, without trouble, thousands of millions of pounds for war, but they could not raise the money for an increase in pensions. It is a common practice in the mining villages 89 for an old folks' tea to be provided at Christmas. All the old folks of the village are invited to a treat. They are honoured for the service they have given in the building up of the village in the past. Is it too much to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in view of the fact that he agreed to start an inquiry, he should fall into line with the mining communities, and provide a treat for the old folk this Christmas?
The other day it was suggested that there should be an increase in the allowances for the dependants of the soldiers, but that is not enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) quoted from a speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). The hon. and gallant Member was one of the men who gloried in the aggression against Republican Spain. He is entirely divorced from the ordinary life of the toiling masses, and does not understand their problems. Are we going to get a new world from such as he, or from a Prime Minister who speaks in the same language? We want more for the dependants of the soldiers. I put down a question the other day:To ask the Secretary of State for War whether an application for an allowance for the parents or a soldier is decided on the basis of a family means test, or on the basis of the amount contributed to the parents by the soldier before being called up, without reference to the family income?I know many cases of men who are called up as soldiers, and who before being called up were earning, perhaps, £3 a week as miners. Such a man may have contributed a substantial amount to the family income. When he is called up that contribution is taken from the family budget. The young soldier will allow the family 3s. 6d. a week from his pay, and that is sent on by the Government; but the fact that his normal contribution is taken means a substantial reduction in the family income. The reply to the question was as follows:SIR V WARRENDER: The grant of dependants' allowance to the parent of a soldier is governed primarily by the amount which he was contributing towards the support of the parent before being called to the Colours, but such a grant can only be made where the income of the dependant's household is within certain limits, which are set out in the regulations (Army Order 170 of 1939), of which I will send the hon. Member a copy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1939; col. 1423, Vol. 353.]90 That actually means that, under Army Regulations, there is practically no difference between this allowance and what would be allowed as a basis from the public assistance committee. In other words, in every part of the country we are faced with this situation. The parents, no matter what they were getting from the lad, will not get anything from him now if they have sufficient income to maintain themselves, even though their standard of life is reduced. That is a means test. A Government which is so fond of operating a means test should operate one in connection with the Army, by saying that those who have most should go first. They will not institute such a means test, because it would mean that the working class would be left at home. We want better allowances for the dependants, and due consideration for the parents whose sons have been taken away.
Also we have the right to demand an immediate and substantial increase in the allowances for the unemployed. There are 1,500,000 unemployed, who are faced with continued rises in prices, in addition to the difficulties they already have in living at the present time. There must be a never-ceasing fight to ensure that money is spent in this direction. We should be well advised, after the speech of the Prime Minister to-day, to devote ourselves, as the workers of the country will more and more devote themselves, to bringing this war to an end. Believe me, if, instead of these thunders of wrath, there was a strong desire in this country to bring the war to an end, that would be the greatest encouragement that could be given to the German people to put an end to the monopoly capitalists in their country. Hitler and the Nazis represent a class—the monopoly capitalists. The Government tell us that they are going to destroy Hitler but will they destroy the monopoly capitalists? The German workers know that behind Hitler are big monopolies. It is these big monopolies that the people of Germany have to clear out of Germany, but the monopoly capitalists of this country will support their brothers in Germany. If we are to support the working class in Germany, we have to clear out the monopoly class here.
We have to work for the end of the war, for the end of the causes of the war and 91 for the end of capitalism. Let us get a new world in reality, a new world of Socialism and put an end to poverty. [Laughter.] That is something to laugh at. Let us put an end to the system of robbery that makes war possible. Only if we end the system of capitalism can we free the peoples of the earth from the menace of war, only then can we give the people peace and an opportunity to enjoy the abundance which their labour is able to create.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. Montague.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.