§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Churchill)
I am sure I shall receive the indulgence of the House if by any chance there should be some minor error in fact or detail in the statement I am going to make, or if it has not received that thorough and prolonged preparation which I have always endeavoured to give to any observations I have had to offer to the House. We are working under very sharp pressure in these times, and I have been most anxious to give the House the fullest possible information agreeable with the public interest, that being the strongly expressed direction and desire which I have received from the Prime Minister and my colleagues in the Cabinet.
The strange and unnatural calm of the last few weeks was violently broken on Monday morning by the German invasion of Norway and Denmark. This crime had, of course, been long and elaborately prepared, and it was actually set in motion in the last week of March. For several 734 months past we have received information of large numbers of German merchant ships being fitted as transports and of numerous small vessels being assembled in various Baltic ports and, also, in the river mouths of the Elbe. But no one could tell when they would be used or against what peaceful country they would be used. Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden were, as it seemed, all equally liable to a sudden, brutal, capricious and, in any case, unprovoked attack. Which would be selected as the first victim or when the blow would be struck remained, inevitably, a matter of pure speculation.
The Nazi German Government is accustomed to spreading through its channels a continuous flow of threats and rumours. These are put forth by all their agents in neutral countries, by the "hangers-on" of their legations and by their sympathisers and backers, wherever they may be found. [Interruption.] I am sure my remarks have no personal aspect. All these countries have been threatened, and as the German Government are not restrained by law or scruple, and as they have an obvious preference for striking at the weak rather than the strong, all the small countries on their borders were, and still are, in a high state of alarm. Even those neutrals who have done the most to placate Germany, and have been the greatest aid to her, could not feel any sense of security that they would not be attacked without any reason or without any warning, swiftly overrun, reduced to bondage and pillaged of all their property, especially all eatables. Fear was, therefore, general in all these unfortunate countries, and none of them could tell, and none of us could tell, which one of them would be the next to be devoured.
In the small hours of Monday morning we learned that Norway and Denmark had drawn the unlucky numbers in this sinister lottery. Denmark, of course, had special reason for apprehension, not only because she was the nearest and the weakest of Germany's neighbours, but because she had a recent treaty with Germany guaranteeing her from all molestation and because she was engaged in active commerce both with Germany and Great Britain, the continuance of which in time of war had been foreseen by Germany, and was guaranteed by special trade arrangements between the German and Danish Governments. This, ob- 735 viously, placed her in a position of peculiar danger. The extraordinary configuration of the Norwegian western coast provides a kind of corridor, or covered way, as everyone knows, through which neutral trade and German ships of all kinds, warships and others, could be moved to and fro through the Allied blockade, within the territorial waters of Norway and Sweden, until they were under the effective protection of the German home Air Force in North Germany. They could go to and fro along this route without molestation.
The existence of this geographical and legal covered way has been the greatest disadvantage which we have suffered and the greatest advantage which Germany has possessed in her efforts to frustrate the British and Allied blockade. Warships moved up and down it as they thought it convenient. U-boats used it as they thought fit. Stray German liners and merchant ships, trying to get back to Germany from outer seas, followed this route, which is over 800 miles long, and can be entered or quitted at any convenient point. There has been no greater impediment to the blockade of Germany than this Norwegian corridor. It was so in the last war, and it has been so in this war. Therefore, the British Navy has been forced to watch an endless procession of German and neutral ships carrying contraband of all kinds to Germany, which at any moment they could have stopped, but which they were forbidden to touch by those very same conventions of international law which Germany, in this war, as in the last, has treated with the utmost perfect contempt. During the last war, when we were associated with the United States, the Allies felt themselves so deeply injured by this covered way, then being used specially for U-boats setting out on their marauding expeditions, that the British, French and United States Governments together induced the Norwegians to lay a minefield in their territorial waters, across the covered way, in order to prevent the abuse by U-boats of this channel. It was only natural that the Admiralty, since this war began, should have brought this precedent—although it is not exactly on all fours, and there are some differences—this modern and highly respectable precedent, to the notice of His Majesty's Gov- 736 ernment and should have urged that we should be allowed to lay a minefield of our own in Norwegian territorial waters in order to compel this traffic which was passing in and out to Germany to come out into the open sea and take a chance of being brought into the contraband control, or being captured as enemy prize by our blockading squadrons and flotillas. It was only natural and it was only right that His Majesty's Government should have been long reluctant to incur the reproach of even a technical violation of international law. After all, we are seeking to establish the reign of international law, and anyone can see the dilemma upon which those who have to consider these matters are liable to be impaled in such a situation as that. It is intolerable that the good cause should suffer by respecting the conventions which those who champion the bad cause have profited by tearing to pieces. But gradually, as this cruel, deadly war has deepened and darkened, the feeling grew that it was placing an undue burden upon the Allies to allow this traffic to continue and that it was intolerable to watch, week after week, the ships passing down this corridor carrying the iron ore to make the shells which will strike down the young men of France and Britain in the campaign of 1941.
It was, therefore, decided at last—and the scruples caused us injury at the same time as they did us honour—to interrupt this traffic and make it come out into the open seas. Every precaution was taken to avoid the slightest danger to neutral ships or any loss of life, even to enemy merchant ships, by the minefields which were laid and declared on Monday last at dawn, and British patrolling craft were actually stationed around them in order to warn all ships off these dangerous areas. The Nazi Government, the Nazi German Government—I do not know how you can distinguish them; they seem all to be mixed up together, Nazis and Germans, Germans and Nazis—have sought to make out that their invasion of Norway and of Denmark was a consequence of our action in closing the Norwegian corridor. It can, however, undoubtedly be proved that not only had their preparations been made nearly a month before, but that their actual movements of troops and ships had begun before the British and French minefields were laid. No doubt they suspected they 737 were going to be laid. It must indeed have appeared incomprehensible to them that they had not been laid long before. They therefore decided in the last week of March to use the Norwegian corridor to send empty ore ships northward, filled with military stores and German soldiers, concealed below decks, in order at the given moment to seize the various ports on the Norwegian seaboard which they considered to have military value. They also set in motion the invading forces which they had long prepared against the innocent neutral countries—or against two of the innocent neutral countries, because there are others not yet affected—who had helped them in so many ways.
I here must say a word about Norway. We have the most profound sympathy with the Norwegian people. We have understood the terrible dilemma in which they have been placed. Their sentiments, like those of every other small country, were with the Allies. They writhed in helpless anger while scores of their ships were wantonly sunk and many hundreds of their sailors cruelly drowned. They realise fully that their future independence and freedom are bound up with the victory of the Allies. But the feeling of powerlessness in the ruthless grip of Nazi wrath made them hope against hope until the last moment that at least their soil and their cities would not be polluted by the trampling of German marching columns or their liberties and their livelihood stolen away by foreign tyrants. But this hope has been in vain. Another violent outrage has been perpetrated by Nazi Germany against a small and friendly Power, and the Norwegian Government and people are to-day in arms to defend their hearths and homes. We shall aid them to the best of our ability, we shall conduct the war in common with them, and we shall make peace only when their rights and freedom are restored. In their very large, wild, mountainous country—freedom, it is said, dwells in the mountains—in their very large country, sparsely populated, but rugged and full of positions where free men can shelter and can fight, they should be able to maintain vigorous and prolonged resistance, costing enormous labour to those who wish to subjugate them to tyranny.
But what an example this Norwegian episode is to other neutral countries. What an example it is of the danger of 738 supposing that friendly relations with Germany, or friendly assurances from Germany, or treaties of any kind, or friendly offices rendered to Germany, or advantages given to Germany—what a danger to suppose that any of these are the slightest protection against a murderous onslaught the moment it is thought by Germany that any advantage can be gained by such action. If the Norwegian Government had not been so very strict and severe in enforcing their neutrality against us and in leaving their corridor open to German operations and machinations, and if they had entered into confidential relations with us, it would have been very easy to give them more timely and more opportune support than is now possible. It is not the slightest use blaming the Allies for not being able to give substantial help and protection to neutral countries if they are held at arm's length by the neutral countries until those countries are actually attacked on a scientifically prepared plan by Germany, and I trust that the fact that the strict observance of neutrality by Norway has been a contributory cause of the sufferings to which she is now exposed and in the limits of aid which we can give her will be meditated upon by other countries who may to-morrow, or a week hence, or a month hence find themselves the victims of an equally elaborately worked out staff plan for their destruction and enslavement.
I now address myself to the question which I believe has been asked in some quarters, What is the Navy doing? And I will endeavour to answer it to the best of my ability so far as relates to the past and to the present, but the House would not expect me to lift the veil which should properly and discreetly cover the future operations or operations which are in progress at this moment. As I told the House in the Debate upon the Navy Estimates, we were deprived during all the long winter months of the great strategic advantages of Scapa Flow, but during all that time we laboured might and main to make that base a safe and sure home for the Fleet. About five weeks ago the Home Fleet returned to Scapa Flow and has been resting there or operating from there ever since. We have been exposed to continual air-raid alarms and numerous air raids, but we have now very powerful 739 anti-aircraft batteries in action, together with various other methods of defence, and very good arrangements have been made with the Royal Air Force and with our home squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, so that an adequate number of squadrons are disposed within striking distance.
In all, there have been five raids on Scapa Flow—many alarms, but five raids. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who paid a visit to that spot, was, I gather, by accident, so unfortunate as just to miss one of those exhilarating experiences. In all, five raids. In the first a cruiser was hit aft, which necessitated several weeks of repair but no more than that. Otherwise, up to the time I am speaking—there was an air-raid warning this morning, and I do not wish at all, remembering the hon. Lady's fear, to make anything in the nature of prophecy, but we must discard superstition in these days—up to the time of speaking there has been no vessel hit or damaged in Scapa Flow, no objective of the slightest military importance has been hit on shore, and very few people have been hurt. The enemy has shown himself increasingly gun-shy in his attacks on Scapa, and this is hardly to be wondered at, since the batteries, especially when reinforced by the powerful batteries of the Fleet, can deliver what is probably far the heaviest concentration of anti-aircraft fire in the world. It is a tremendous fire, and in the latest raid, which took place last night, at dusk, 60 aircraft attacked in successive waves without doing the slightest damage, although they themselves suffered the loss of at least six aircraft, the credit for which is divided between—I might almost say disputed between—the batteries and the very excellently combined and skilfully used air squadrons. We are ready to fight this matter out at Scapa Flow. It is of the utmost importance to the Fleet to make themselves comfortable there, and the repeated attacks give a practice to the batteries against high-speed aircraft which no towed target which we have been able to devise can possibly supply. It is most necessary to have further encounters between the batteries and enemy aircraft and between the Fleet and enemy aircraft if our gunnery is to develop its full efficiency, and, of course, we must 740 always be prepared when we run risks for occasional losses.
The Fleet was, therefore, in instant readiness at Scapa Flow when, on Sunday night, news was received from the air reconnaissance—our air reconnaissance ranges over the whole of the North Sea—that German battle cruisers, with a number of other cruisers and vessels and destroyers, were out at sea and moving very swiftly northwards. The Commander-in-Chief immediately put to sea to find them and bring them to action. At the same time, independently of this, a strong British naval force was approaching Narvik in order to lay a minefield off the Norwegian coast for the purposes which I described to the House a few moments ago. The minefield was laid according to plan at daylight on Monday morning. The task of the minelayers accomplished, they withdrew to the westward in order to avoid the risk of any collision with Norwegian war vessels maintaining their neutrality, which they had been specially enjoined to respect and take every precaution against infringing.
One of the destroyers of this northern force which went to lay mines lost a man overboard on Sunday afternoon and stayed behind some time to pick him up. This destroyer, the "Glowworm," was proceeding northwards to rejoin its force when, at 8 o'clock on Monday morning, she saw first one and then two enemy destroyers, which she engaged. She then reported an unknown enemy ship before her to the northward. These incidents came to us one by one at a few minute intervals as they occurred, but the last message ended abruptly, and we can only conclude that the "Glowworm" has been sunk by the greatly superior forces of the enemy which she had to encounter. The "Glowworm's" light has been quenched, but there is no reason why a large proportion of her crew should not have been saved if the ordinary humanity of fighting men, which is a different thing from the humanity of some Governments, has been practised by the enemy. This chance encounter showed that major elements of the enemy navy were at sea and that considerable events were in train.
Since then fighting has been continuous night and day, without stopping, and is 741 going on now—a widely dispersed but none the less a general action between large numbers of German ships and aircraft and such forces as we are able to bring into action. A great deal has been reported in the newspapers, a great deal of what has taken place and even more than has taken place, because, of course, we have not reoccupied the ports on the Norwegian coast. These are rumours which come from neutral sources and are naturally given currency. But the House has read a great deal of the truth and a great deal more than the truth in the last few days. I shall merely try to summarise the principal naval incidents. During Monday morning it looked as though the enemy forces which had sunk the "Glowworm," and which contained German battle cruisers and other enemy ships, would be caught between our forces in the North and the main Home Fleet, both of which were superior. However, they got away, and here I must make a digression about the conditions of sea war.
You may look at the map and see flags stuck in at different points and consider that the result will be certain, but when you get out on the sea, with its vast distances, its storms and mists, and with night coming on and all the uncertainties which exist, you cannot possibly expect that the kind of conditions which would be appropriate to consider in respect of the movements of armies have any application to the chance and haphazard conditions of collisions by ships of war at sea. On Tuesday the Fleet was cruising to the southward about the level of Bergen, when, during the afternoon, it was attacked continuously by German aircraft. The usual tales were put out by the German wireless of several battleships and cruisers being sunk or seriously damaged. I know that some of my friends were concerned at these blatant exaggerations. Actually, two cruisers were slightly damaged by splinters, but this did not at all interfere with their work, and they are still with the Fleet at their stations. One very heavy bomb hit the flagship, the "Rodney," but her very strong deck arm our resisted the impact, and she was not affected in any way by the explosion except that three officers and seven men were injured. As far as the structure of our ships of war is concerned, this incident must be regarded as satisfactory. The cruiser 742 "Aurora," which had joined the Fleet, was subjected to five successive bombing attacks, all of which were pressed home with courage and all of which failed, but a destroyer, the "Gurkha," which was accompanying her and to some extent escorting her, was hard hit and listed heavily and sank after four and a-half hours, during which the crew or almost all of the crew were rescued. The same afternoon the destroyer "Zulu" sank a German U-boat off the Orkneys.
Meanwhile, far to the north off Narvik, on this Tuesday morning, at daybreak, the "Renown," one of our battle cruisers, perceived the "Scharnhorst" and a 10,000 ton "Hipper" class cruiser, which had evidently come up with the force the day before, in the distance dimly. Amid snowstorms, a tempestuous day, sea running high, gales blowing furiously, our battle cruiser opened fire at 18,000 yards. After three minutes the enemy replied, but almost immediately turned away. After nine minutes the "Renown" observed hits on the forward structure of the German battle cruiser, and thereafter her whole armament stopped firing. Thereafter her after turret began firing under local control. The speed the battle cruiser maintained was very great, and the "Renown" had to push to 24 knots through very heavy seas breaking over her forward turrets and guns. After a further two minutes of firing a vertical column of smoke from what they call a possible second hit was observed on the "Scharnhorst," which then turned away and directly retired at a high speed without further firing. During this period a shell had passed through our vessel about the water line without bursting. We had something like that in the case of the "Exeter," and it seems to show that Nazi workmanship is not all of a piece. A second shell went through the foremast, carrying away the main aerial. There were no casualties on board the "Renown." The destroyers which were with her were unable to keep up in the heavy seas at the speed at which she was going.
The 10,000 ton cruiser "Hipper" now drew across the battleship "Scharnhorst." The two ships of this class, the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau," are of 25,000 tons and most formidable vessels. The "Hipper" threw a smoke screen across her to cover her retreat. 743 The "Renown" opened fire on the "Hipper," which turned away. Both ships now retired at high speed, the "Hipper" swinging to fire a broadside from time to time, and also dodging. Firing was intermittent, as all the time snowstorms were sweeping across and closing the view, and the sea was running very high, but in the end we much regret to say that they succeeded in leaving us. Firing finally ceased at 29,000 yards, when they became quite invisible. Someone will say, "If you had all this news on Tuesday morning, why have you been saving it up for the House of Commons?" All I can say is that I have been most anxious to obtain this information, because the "Renown" signals broke off when they became interesting, and we never heard another word from her until a few hours ago upon that subject. Although she made various signals, she did not think it necessary to tell us what had happened. I must emphasise this, that when sailors are fighting they busy themselves so much upon that, and take so much interest in that, that they quite forget for a long time to tell us what they are doing, which causes some embarrassment to the Admiralty sometimes and even more to the Minister of Information.
I am still on Tuesday. On Tuesday night we gave orders to our destroyers to blockade the West Fjord, that great stretch of water 50 or 60 miles long leading up to Narvik. Our orders to those destroyers were to attack the enemy who had got in there and especially to destroy the store ships in which they had smuggled their soldiers up the Norwegian corridor, and on which they must depend for working up the efficiency of their defences. There were six destroyers and a U-boat reported, and, moreover, it was to be expected that they had landed a certain number of guns in the 24 hours they had been there. The Germans are very quick in landing and making themselves fortified; they are very nimble about these things. From what we heard at the Admiralty late on Tuesday night, we thought the operation so hazardous that at one o'clock in the morning we told the captain of the destroyer flotilla that he must be the sole judge of whether to attack or not, and we would support him, whatever he did and whatever happened. In 744 these circumstances, Captain Warburton-Lee entered with five destroyers and attacked the enemy destroyers, and such guns as they could have landed in the interval. In the beginning, all that they reported to us was what they had lost—nothing more—and I let it go out, because I do not think we ought to have a kind of mealy-mouthed attitude towards these matters. We have embarked on this war, and we must take our blows. Therefore, I put the report out, although there was nothing to relieve it, as it were. We are not children to be kept in the dark, and we can take what is coming to us as well as any other country.
As soon as the further report was received at about one o'clock, I prepared it for the Prime Minister, who immediately gave it to the House of Commons and to the country, through the Press, at the same time. The moment we get any news, be it bad or good, once we can rely on it, we shall present it to Parliament, the broadcast and the Press. I am all for propaganda and publicity, but the best propaganda is results, and I must say that I think these are coming to hand in no unsatisfactory manner. The result of this hard, fierce fight in the Narvik Fjord—half the combatant vessels were knocked out on each side—is worthy of any of the records which are preserved with such respect in the long history of the Navy. What was gained was the destruction of these store ships, as well as the crippling of the force, and on the way back the two destroyers, who were escorting their wounded comrade out of the Fjord, unpursued by the enemy, who had received an equal battering, got the "Rauenfels,"full of reserve ammunition with which, I suppose, it was intended to turn Narvik into a kind of Sebastopol or Gibraltar. This ship was blown up, and we must regard that as simplifying the task which obviously might be among those which lie ahead of us.
Now I come to Wednesday. On that day a very determined attack was made by two waves of 12 each of the Royal Air Force—whose flying in every direction, as it were, for the reconnaissance and protection of the Royal Navy has been unceasing, and to whom, on behalf of their naval comrades, I tender a most sincere expression of recognition—on two German cruisers sheltering in the Bergen Fjord and covering German troops that 745 had been landed there. One of these light cruisers was hit, and we have not seen anything of her since. She may be at the bottom or hiding in some fjord, but subsequent reconnaissance has not revealed her presence. At dusk on Wednesday, the Fleet Air Arm came on to the scene for the first time in this war. They have been very anxious to come into action with their Skuas, which are perhaps not the latest pattern of aircraft. They have a long range, and they flew from the Orkneys and attacked the remaining German cruiser at Bergen, which was moored alongside. Sixteen of them attacked in successions of three's, all making low bombing dives and casting their 500-pound bombs at the lowest point. They secured three hits, and out of the 16, 15 returned. Then a little later, when a reconnaissance aircraft was sent over, no cruiser was seen where this one had been lying—only a streak of oil about a mile long smearing the surface of the harbour. It looks as if a result has been obtained.
To-day, Thursday, at daybreak, the torpedo-carrying aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, 18 in number, have attacked enemy shipping in the harbour of Trondheim. We had hoped to get a "Hipper" class cruiser which was reported certainly to be there. She had, however, vanished in the night, and all we got was a destroyer, which was hit by a torpedo. This form of attack by torpedo from the air is very old. I saw it when I was First Lord before the last war and was deeply interested in it. It was used once at the Dardanelles. It carries with it great hopes and possibilities, which have never been fully developed, but we must have more practice and experience in the use of this novel, although not new, and unaccustomed weapon. This we hope to obtain as the fighting proceeds during the summer.
In my task of answering the question, "What is the Navy doing?" I am getting too near the range of current and pending operations to be able to make any further report to the House, but I hope I have to some extent answered the question which has been asked, and shown that the Navy has not been idle or negligent, and that it is actively proceeding on the tasks confided to it by Parliament. I shall look forward to making a further statement to Parliament 746 a little later on. I will, however, venture to make a few general observations and attempt to survey the results up to date. When we speak of the command of the seas, that does not mean that the Royal Navy and its French Ally command every part of the seas at the same moment or at every moment. It only means that we can make our will prevail ultimately in any part of the seas which may be selected for operations, and thus indirectly we can make our will prevail in every part of the seas. That is what command of the seas means. Anything more foolish than to suppose that the life and strength of the Royal Navy—which, allow me to remind the House, is engaged in bringing in through the U-boats the immense traffics of this country, now bounding up in their fullness as the U-boat is gradually brought under control, for that is what we are doing all the time while this is going on on the other side of the Island—anything, I say, more foolish than to suppose that the life and strength of the Royal Navy should have been expended in ceaselessly patrolling up and down the Norwegian and Danish coasts, a target for the U-boats, wearing out their crews and machinery on the chance that Hitler would launch a blow like this—anything more foolish than that nobody can imagine. I say with great respect that a man who makes such a suggestion is hardly qualified to offer advice to the nation in these serious times.
In my view, which is shared by my skilled advisers, Herr Hitler has committed a grave strategic error in spreading the war so far to the North and in forcing the Scandinavian people, or peoples, out of their attitude of neutrality. We have suffered from nothing in our blockade policy so much as the denial of the Norwegian coast, and that cursed corridor is now closed for ever. Hitler has effected with his Germans lodgments of various strengths at many points of the Norwegian coasts, and he has felled with a single hammer blow the inoffensive Kingdom of Denmark, but we shall take all we want off this Norwegian coast now, with an enormous increase in the facility and in the efficiency of our blockade. We are also at this moment occupying the Faroe Islands, which belong to Denmark and which are a strategic point of high importance, and whose people showed every disposition to receive us with warm regard. We shall shield the Faroe 747 Islands from all the severities of war and establish ourselves there conveniently by sea and air until the moment comes when they will be handed back to the Crown and people of a Denmark liberated from the foul thraldom in which they have been plunged by the German aggression. The question of Iceland needs further consideration, because Iceland is, as it were, a dominion of the Danish Kingdom. What I can say about Iceland at the moment is that no German will be allowed to set foot there with impunity.
In the upshot, it is the considered view of the Admiralty that we have greatly gained by what has occurred in Scandinavia and in Northern waters in a strategic and military sense. For myself, I consider that Hitler's action in invading Scandinavia is as great a strategic and political error as that which was committed by Napoleon in 1807 or 1808, when he invaded Spain. Hitler has violated the independence and soil of virile peoples dwelling in very large and expansive countries capable of maintaining, with British and French aid, prolonged resistance to his soldiers and his Gestapo. He has almost doubled the efficiency of the Allied blockade. He has made a whole series of commitments upon the Norwegian coast for which he will now have to fight, if necessary, during the whole summer, against Powers possessing vastly superior naval forces and able to transport them to the scenes of action more easily than he can. I cannot see any counter-advantage which he has gained except the satisfaction of another exercise of the brutal lust of unbridled power. I cannot see any satisfaction which he has gained which is any adequate offset to these substantial and enduring facts. Grieved as we all are at the suffering and misery which are now extended to wider areas, I must declare to the House that I feel that we are greatly advantaged by what has occurred, provided we act with unceasing and increasing vigour to turn to the utmost profit the strategic blunder into which our mortal enemy has been provoked.
I have two things more to say before I sit down. The first is a very serious thought. Everyone must recognise the extraordinary precision and the reckless gambling which have flung the whole German Fleet out upon the savage seas of war as if it were a mere counter, to 748 be cast away for a particular operation. We and the French are far stronger than the German Navy. We have enough to maintain control of the Mediterranean, and, at the same time, we can carry on all our operations in the North Sea. But out of the very much smaller forces of the German Navy, most grievous losses have been already sustained. Four German cruisers—the Norwegian batteries have taken their toll—that is to say, nearly half their total pre-war strength and much more than their existing strength in cruisers, have been sunk, and a number of German destroyers together with several more U-boats have been destroyed, all since Sunday.
Up to the time I speak those losses have been sustained by the German Navy. After all, a navy is an integral organisation, with its battleships, cruisers and its destroyers, and that navy must be regarded as deeply mutilated in respect of this extraordinarily important and indeed indispensable cruiser element. Our submarines, which, I can assure the House, were by no means asleep, have taken heavy toll from the German transports and store ships now crossing into Scandinavia. We have given them the fullest liberty of action in all cases where humanity does not impose restraints. All German ships in the Skaggerak and the Kattegat will be sunk, and by night all ships will be sunk, as opportunity serves. We are not going to allow the enemy to supply their armies across these waters with impunity. They have already ordered all merchant vessels out of this area, and in this respect our advice coincides with theirs. We hope to take unceasing toll. Up to the present nearly a dozen ships, some of large tonnage, have been sunk or captured, either in the Skaggerak and the Kattegat, or in other parts of the North Sea, or in attempting to bring supplies to the forces which were landed at Narvik. The Norwegian batteries have had their successes, and I must consider the German Fleet crippled in important respects.
But, Mr. Speaker—and this is the gravity of the thought which I venture to submit to the House—the very recklessness with which Hitler and his advisers have cast the interests of the German Navy upon the wild waters to meet all that moves thereon—this very recklessness makes me feel that these audacious, costly operations may be only the pre- 749 lude to far larger events which impend on land. We have probably arrived now at the first main crunch of the war. But we certainly find no reason in the fact of what has just happened, and still less in our own hearts, to deter us from entering upon any further trials that may lie before us. While we will not prophesy or boast about battles still to be fought, we feel ourselves ready to encounter the utmost malice of the enemy and to devote all our life strength to achieve the victory in what is a world cause.
One word more. There never was a time when the Navy was treated more kindly by the British nation or by the House or when it was regarded with more admiration, nay, I will say affection. It is worthy of your confidence. But showing confidence in the Navy does not only mean applauding it in good days when some glittering success may be proclaimed. It means that those, and they are legion, who repose their faith in our sailormen and their leaders will not falter or become distressed if, for three or four days at a time, silence and darkness and dubious news lie over the sea or come from the sea and that each one who has that confidence and faith will make it his duty to sustain those who are of lesser faith. Each of them will have their part in the great drama of human progress, now so vividly unfolded before us.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I hope the House will forgive me for intervening and that hon. Members will give me their attention. I do not wish to have to shout at the top of my voice all the way through what, I hope, will not be a long address. I feel sure that, on whatever side of the House we may sit, in view of the circumstances of the present week and the conflict which is being waged at this moment in more than one spot by the gallant officers and men of the Royal Navy, with the support of the Royal Air Force, we must recognise that this is not the time or the place for an inquest upon their technical operations. Least of all is it a moment for people posing as skilled sea leaders or Air Force commanders and engaging in amateur strategy on the basis of a very small-scale map. It seems to me that what we have to say to-day can be said in a comparatively short space. The 750 First Lord has, I think, with considerable courage, in view of the stories which have appeared in the Press, laid the position before us, as far as he is able to do so having regard to the general public interest and the proper safeguarding of any operations which may be in progress. In those circumstances, I hope that we shall not—any of us—require to go into a long Debate on the operations now in progress. I feel at the same time that the First Lord has been wise in warning us, as he did towards the end of his speech, that the operations in which we are engaged, arising out of the wanton, unprovoked, and brutal attack upon Norway and Denmark, mark a crucial point in the great war in which we are engaged. Our comments, short as they may be, must, therefore, be governed by a sense of the crucial nature of those operations at the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman has, rightly, paid a tribute to the Norwegian nation. What was said from below the Gangway the other day is, I think, quite true—that the Norwegians are among the mosthighly-civilised people in the world. They had yearned for peace, they had organised for peace. They had left perhaps too late their attempts to keep complete neutrality, in the hope that that peace might come to them. I am sure the whole House extends sympathy to them to-day and hopes that the Allies will be able to render them early and effective assistance. I may be excused for saying a word about Denmark, because of the difficulty of the situation in which the Danish people are placed and the friendships which many of my hon. Friends on these Benches so greatly value in that country. We would like the Prime Minister of Denmark and his colleagues—many of whom, indeed, I think all of whom, up to a couple of days ago were very largely drawn from the same class as that represented on this side of the House, and who are filled with our general social inspiration and have the same general social objectives—to know how much we feel for them in the position in which they find themselves to-day. I hope that what has been said by the First Lord will be an encouragement to them. I hope that what he said with regard to the Faroe Islands and Iceland, in relation to the Kingdom and people of Denmark will be carried out and that 751 our comrades in Denmark will feel convinced that, once we have finished this fight, we shall see to it that their independence and their rights are restored.
In view of the crucial point which we have reached in the war, I should like next to make reference to some of the elements with which we have to deal in this country—small, perhaps, in relation to the total population, but very vocal. I suggest that they might reflect on the fate of Norway and Denmark. They might realise not only what has been said by speakers on the other side of the House, but what we have always said in our endeavours to deal with this question from this side of the House—that what has happened in Norway and Denmark is only prevented at this moment from happening to this great free people here by our own determination to defend our liberty, and by the action of our Forces and those of our Allies, effectively to do so, by sea, air, and land. I would say this to all my colleagues in the working-class organisations with which I am connected. I feel that we have now been brought right up against the facts of the fight in which this country is engaged. I say that we are fighting at this moment, not only the naval actions recounted by the First Lord as the first step in the relief from oppression of the Norwegian people, but we are fighting for our liberty, for our independence, and, at this crucial moment of the war, for our lives. I am convinced, by my daily contact with my own people, that the ruthless and callous attacks which Hitler has once more displayed, in breach of his treaties and promises, do not react upon the workers of this country as he perhaps thinks they will or as his expert propagandist on the wireless hopes they will. I am convinced that when we look at the situation to-day, we may speak for the working class of this country much more in the spirit of those lines of Sir Walter Scott in the "Lady of the Lake":I thank thee, Roderick, for the word!It nerves my heart, it steels my sword.That, I believe, is the general feeling we have to-day. At the same time I should like to take this opportunity, because of the picture the First Lord of the Admiralty has put to us in relation to what have been constant rumours in the 752 last few days, of warning all our people to beware of rumours. I would much rather exercise a little patience and have the real vetted truth when it is available. There were different pictures perhaps in our minds, dark and light, in the course of the last three days, but I am content at this moment to know that the officers and men of the Royal Navy are already, under their orders, carrying out insistent and effective attacks upon the enemy with a view to lightening the position in Norway and bringing the most confusion and destruction possible on the operations of the enemy. In that we shall support them to the full.
There is, however, another point to which I should like to refer. I cannot hope to refer to the position of the neutrals to-day, either with the language or with the authority which the First Lord is able to exercise, but I think we are entitled to say to the neutrals what has been uttered by a Turkish source this morning. That is, that the events of this week prove, perhaps more conclusively than has yet been the case, that there are only two choices to-day before any neutral countries anywhere in the danger zone. Either they must now make up their minds that they will have to accept domination, which may be permanent domination, from the Germany of the new and developing type of the Nazi régime, or they must march with the Allies. If they march with the Allies, at the end of the conflict those who fight with us now, and those who have been already subjugated, can be certain of the retention and of the restoration of their independence and freedom; for they have no such prospect of enjoyment of coming happiness and independence to look forward to if they are to be the next victims of the kind of aggression we have seen this week.
This evening I would say no more than this. The First Lord, if he hits hard, has never been afraid of just criticism, and he will not misunderstand us in the course of this very serious thing that is going on to-day and when the Royal Navy is puting up such a brave show, if we say to him that we are glad he gave the note to his colleagues in the House of Commons at the end of his speech—that in this battle we have to be insistent and increasing all the time in the vigour with which we prosecute this fight. I think I am speaking for the whole House when I say that, 753 if the note he put into that part of the end of his speech is to indicate the real type of action of the Government in the future, then they can look to support for that type of action and vigour in prosecuting the war from all Members of the House. What we are most afraid of is lest the vigour and the intentions expressed by the First Lord should not be continuous day by day, in season and out of season, because of any lack of heart or spirit in other elements in the Government. And so, as in the Royal Navy, in the air, and on the home front, we ask the Government, while we give credit for what is being done, to put into this fight every ounce of vigour and to put into their preparations for the fight more intensive and more skilled organisation than perhaps we have yet seen. We believe that if we are to go through this great fight and retain our independence and our liberty, and restore conditions under which that liberty can flourish in Europe, all and not part of our effort has to go in.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair (Caithness and Sutherland)
First, let me express my agreement with the concluding passages of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). It is when the Government's actions have been weak and hesitating that we feel bound to criticise them but when they show strength and vigour and give us assurance of firmness in their policy, then indeed we feel called upon to support them. I would wish, in the first place, to congratulate the First Lord upon his statement to the House this afternoon and express to him our gratitude for it. It was grave and measured, and on account of those very qualities it was reassuring to Members in all parts of the House. Since the Prime Minister made his statement to the House two days ago it has been made abundantly clear that the plain, ordinary, law-abiding people all over the world are at one with us in condemning the brutal and audacious aggression of Nazi Germany against Denmark and Norway. To-day we do well to rejoice, and we shall not be alone in our rejoicing, at the castigation which the German aggressor is receiving at the hands of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. We deeply regret the loss of gallant lives, and our sympathy goes out to those who mourn them, but we are proud and grateful for 754 the courage, fighting spirit, and skill in action which have been so brilliantly displayed by officers and men of all ranks of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Air Force.
Let us welcome, too, our new Ally in the defence of the common cause of civilised Europe—our Norwegian Ally. Their spirit is shown in the achievements of the brave Norse gunners in the forts of Christians and and Oslo Fjord and the admiration we all feel for the people of Norway on account of their mastery of the arts of peace and civilisation is deepened by the firmness with which they have met the onslaught of invasion by an enemy of overwhelming strength and by the coolness of their gunners, who, cut off from their base, surrounded by the enemy, and attacked by some of the most powerful units of the German fleet, fought back until they sank the German ships.
Now there rests on the Government the heavy responsibility of ensuring that help is sent in time and in sufficient force to be effective. The German strategy may well prove to have been audacious to the point of recklessness. In a Debate on Finland the other day I referred to the impression made by many recent events on the minds of neutrals that while the Germans are evil, they are swift, terrible and efficient, and that while we are good, we are slow, vacillating, and ineffective. Now is the time, by prompt and vigorous action, to efface that impression once and for all.
I would ask the House to consider for one moment what will be the effect on public opinion of the impact of these events. There are two possible and opposite dangers, the danger of defeatism and war-weariness on the one hand and the danger of over-confidence and complacency on the other. I have never hidden from the House that in my opinion the second danger is infinitely greater than the first. I do not believe that people yet sufficiently realise how tremendous is our task and how formidable and real are the dangers by which we are encompassed. Ministers have not sufficiently played their part—I am sorry to say this to the First Lord of the Admiralty, because he is one who has played his part, but some of his colleagues are not playing their part—in bringing these realities home 755 to the public. It is no service to the people of this country or to the common cause to minimise the effect of Germany's latest coup. Not only iron ore but ferromanganese molybdenum, and other products of Norway are indispensable to us for the manufacture of munitions and to sustain our industry and export trade. These operations in Norway are not a side show. Tremendous issues turn on the results of the fight during the next few days, and the public ought to know that.
Denmark will give to Germany bacon and butter and, I see it stated in the newspapers this morning, nearly 250,000 tons of oil. I am sure it must have passed through the minds of many hon. Members who read that statement that it was an astonishing risk to run to allow this vast stock of oil to accumulate in the country of so small and weak a neutral neighbour of Germany as Denmark. Now it may be quite true—in the long run I think it will prove to be true—that the occupation of Denmark will on balance be a positive disadvantage to Germany from the economic standpoint although the strategic advantage is indisputable. On the other hand, it is certainly going to be very inconvenient for us, and in these circumstances to tell the public that all will go on as before and that we can draw from Canada, New Zealand, and the Balkans as much bacon and butter as we used to receive from Denmark and that we can eat just as much of everything as before must be the wrong policy. Surely it would be much better to tell the public that the loss of Danish supplies means that we must make greater sacrifices and cut down our rations still further. To import the same quantities from Canada and New Zealand would be a misuse of our limited resources of shipping. His Majesty's Government ought now to think out afresh what rations we can afford and adapt the policies of the Ministries of Agriculture and Food accordingly. It ought to be done promptly before the plans of the Ministry of Agriculture for next year are settled.
I would say, Do not prophesy smooth things to the people. Keep a firm grip on reality. Tell them the truth, however hard it is, for it will only stiffen their determination to see this thing through to the end. Indeed, the tremendous and dramatic events off the coast of Norway 756 are only the prelude to events which will be still more formidable and decisive. We cannot rule out the possibility that the attack on Norway is only a feint and that when our attention is distracted there the main German blow will fall elsewhere. Already the newspapers are warning us to watch German troop movements on the frontiers of the Balkans. I hope that His Majesty's Government will not allow their attention to be distracted from the Western Front, which is and will continue to be the main, if not necessarily the most active, theatre of the war. Here again I should have thought that it would have been a good plan to lift a corner of the veil and give the public some idea of the colossal forces and the immense stores of war material of which Germany disposes on the frontiers of Holland, Belgium, and France. When I hear responsible Ministers and public servants saying that Hitler has "missed the bus"and that we have turned the corner, I am not impressed. I would far rather listen to an intelligent appreciation of the enemy's formidable strength and to assurances, as definite and precise as in the public interest they can be made, that we are doing our utmost to match it. The people of this country have a well-founded faith in the power of France and Britain to win the war. They know that we must win the war if we are to save not only Europe but Britain itself from destruction, and to that end there is no sacrifice they are not prepared to make.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
I would not have risen on this occasion except that during the opening chapters of the First Lord's remarks I, perhaps in a moment of youthful ebullience, used the word "Rot."The right hon. Gentleman heard it. It was concerning a statement which the right hon. Gentleman made to the effect that many people were asking what the Navy was doing. I say that for anybody outside the Navy and the responsibility of action to ask that question is impertinence, and I characterised the statement that people are asking it by the word "Rot," because I believe, with the rest of my countrymen, that the Navy is sound, loyal and efficient and will carry out to the letter any orders that are given and everything that is expected of it.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I would not have risen but for a feeling I have that there is a growing impatience in the House with any Member of Parliament who may ask questions which one or two people think ought not to be asked. I listened carefully to the First Lord, and I felt that he was replying to something that had taken place previously in the House. When the Prime Minister made his statement giving the House up-to-date facts as far as he could, certain questions were asked by hon. Members. I hope that the representatives of the Government and my right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench will realise that some Members, at least, believe that having been returned here they have a right to ask questions if they do so with a full sense of responsibility. Therefore, if the First Lord's speech to-day was generally a reply to questions that have been asked by Members about the Navy and the Armed Forces, I trust that we will remember that no one was more assiduous in asking questions about the Service Departments than the First Lord himself before he took office. As a consequence of his advice given in the House, and always listened to with the greatest respect, and as a consequence of the many parts he has played in Service Debates, the First Lord is now in an important position in the drive for the successful termination of the war. When I listened to my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench saying that he was prepared to wait two, three or more days in order to obtain satisfactory information, I would ask him to remember the humble position which many back benchers occupy. We are not in close touch with the Departments, and we are not invited to various centres in the theatres of war. If, therefore, we ask questions, I trust that both my right hon. Friend and the Government will recognise that they are asked with a keen desire to obtain the greatest and most effective efficiency within the Forces in order to destroy the German menace.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think that my hon. Friend has misunderstood the passage to which he referred. I was dealing with rumours, and I said that I would much rather wait two or three days for the truth than be led away by the kind of rumours we have seen in the Press.
§ Mr. Davidson
I would point out to my right hon. Friend that the questions we asked arose from rumours, and those questions were treated by Members on the back bench above the Gangway, who previously were greater friends to Germany than we have ever been, with great impatience.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I should like to take this opportunity to say a word by way of explanation of certain remarks I made the other day. I want to make it clear that no one has a more profound admiration for the Navy and for the work it is doing and greater pride in it than I have, and I would be the last to criticise the men who are facing danger every day and every night. The only criticism I would ever make—some time, but not to-day—would be the control exercised by the War Cabinet in the use of the Navy. It might well be argued that it would have been better to lay the mines a month or so ago. That would be a legitimate line of argument, and that was what I had in mind. Everybody in the House and the country was puzzled about the position, and I am delighted to-day that my right hon. Friend the First Lord was able to give such up-to-date, satisfactory and hopeful accounts of the gallant efforts of our Navy at sea.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Even when operations are going on I do not think any harm is done, if hon. Members exercise a due sense of responsibility, if on an occasion of this kind one or two hon. Members express their views. I gather that there is a feeling in the House that nobody ought to be allowed to speak. I want to say only two things. In spite of what the FirstLord said, I still think that the methods by which the news was given out yesterday, and particularly to the B.B.C., was disastrous. I listened to the one o'clock news yesterday, and what did we hear? We heard about two destroyers being sunk. Then we waited to hear the next news. That consisted of the displacements and guns of the two boats, but not a word about any other operation. The next we heard was that our force had been withdrawn. What was the final observation? It was that the next-of-kin of those killed would be informed by telegram at the earliest possible opportunity.
759 On that the radio closed down. Nobody can tell me that that is the way bulletins should be issued; it was given undiluted and left at that, and, as it turned out, it was untrue. It only spread in every quarter alarm and despondency which proved to be totally unnecessary.
There is the other side of the picture as well. During the last 24 hours the public through the newspapers and the radio have been deluged with stories that Narvik, Bergen and Trondheim have been occupied by British troops. Even to the most amateur strategist it would appear to have been impossible to have achieved that in so short a time. I suggest that the Government ought to take some steps to secure that rumours of this kind, which naturally lift up hopes unjustifiably in the minds of the public—which will be a little dashed by the First Lord's statement this afternoon—should not be broadcast without at least a warning or a denial from the British Government. It is not necessary in these times to raise or to dash the hopes of the people, and both these things have been done during the last 48 hours.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison (Tottenham, North)
I want to endorse what the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has said. I listened to the wireless at seven and eight o'clock yesterday morning, and the impression made on my mind was that the Norwegian Government were engaged in negotiations with Germany with a view to not putting up a fight, that the negotiations had been going on all night, and that there was a meeting in the early hours of the morning. The impression that I got—and my neighbours got it too—was that Norway was to be in the same position as Denmark and would not put up a fight. The Government ought to do something to try and prevent these incorrect impressions from being given in the news. We want to get all the information we can, but it ought not to be information which gives a wrong impression to the public. A vast multitude of people listen in at seven and eight o'clock in the morning while they are getting ready to go to work, and I think that more than anything else the news yesterday morning was responsible for the feeling of depression among the public.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I want to make a protest against the appalling news that went out yesterday. One has only to know a Service town to realise the dreadful effect on it of the news we have been getting from the B.B.C. I want to put this to the Prime Minister. Nobody knows what is going on in the Ministry of Information. Is the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the news that goes to the papers? That Ministry has had a bad record and it has been one long line of calamity. The first person appointed was not, some of us thought, closely enough in touch with public opinion, but one could not say a word in criticism, because that was regarded as disloyal. Everybody knows that now we have a good Minister of Information, but has he got the power? If he has not got the requisite power, surely he ought to have it. What went on yesterday and even this morning has filled the whole country with gloom, and people are really beginning to lose confidence in the Government on that point—and on many other points, but on that point in particular; not because they distrust the Prime Minister, but because they feel that he is not a wise selector of men.
I am one of those who criticise the Prime Minister to his face and not behind his back. Sometimes I feel it would be almost better politically to talk against Ministers behind their backs rather than just to say, "Yes, yes" to their faces, but I cannot join that group, dead or alive. What I would ask the Prime Minister to remember is that the people mistrust the papers but do not mistrust the B.B.C. They say, "We cannot tell what is going on from the papers, because they may be wrong," but the B.B.C. is gospel to them at this time. Therefore, I feel there ought to be some co-ordination between the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. There ought to be one person in control. I beg the Prime Minister to believe that we who criticise are criticising because we want to help, and we do not feel it is of any help to get up and say, "Hear, hear." Our job as Members of Parliament and as citizens is to do what is disagreeable if it will help the country—no matter how disagreeable it may be. I am tired of people saying, "You must not hurt anybody's feelings." In war-time we should have no feelings about persons, it is prin- 761 ciples which matter. We want the best person for the job.
One of the tragic things about being a Prime Minister is that you have to do very disagreeable things, because if you do not do them you will never win the war. You have to get rid of your "duds," whether they are your dearest friends or not. I do not envy a man in that position, but we have to remember what happened in the last war in the case of the Asquith Government. It was not very pleasant to do some of the things which had to be done then, but it was realised that unless there were changes we should not win the war. We do not want a change of Government, but we do want to feel that when there is a sweep there will be a clean sweep, that it will not be a case of shuffling Ministers round, what you call "musical chairs." Particularly during the war, if there is a Minister who has not been a great success, why give him another job? That is what I do not understand. I can understand it in peace-time, because the party has to be kept together, but in war what the country wants is the best man for the job. People do not mind to what party he belongs.
I hope the Prime Minister will realise that, great as is the confidence we have in him, we feel that the case of the Ministry of Information alone is enough to make him see that there is something in this question of the selection of Ministers. Things must not go out as they did yesterday. Hon. Members should have seen these mothers of sailors as I saw them yesterday to realise that this putting out of bad news, false news, is criminal, really criminal in war-time. It has happened too often. I beg the House to urge upon the Prime Minister to see that there is one person in charge, that that one person has real responsibility, and that there is not someone else tucked away in another part of the country, as I know, who is not responsible to the House, but is putting out a good deal of information which is going to Germany, which is perfectly useless. I am told that our leaflets are worse than useless, that they have done more harm than good. That is what the experts say who come back from Germany. I have not found a single person who thought our leaflets were any good, and I wonder how much we are paying for them, and I wonder whether the man responsible 762 for them is under the Ministry of Information or is under the Foreign Office. We in the House of Commons know very little about it. We do not want to know everything, but if there is a certain branch of the Ministry of Information which has been a crashing failure we ought to know a little more about it, and if the person concerned is to blame we should get rid of him.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Until a few minutes ago I had not the slightest intention of rising, and I do so only because I feel that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) has struck a note which needed to be struck, and which could perhaps be best struck by those who are not personally concerned. I want to say how much many of us feel the danger that changes in the Ministry are influenced too much by the likes and dislikes of the Prime Minister. It is very difficult for anyone who is conceivably an aspirant for office to say that kind of thing, and therefore it is left to those like myself who cannot possibly be regarded as seeking office. I sometimes wonder whether the Prime Minister realises how often among those who are his personal admirers there is the complete conviction that appointments to the Ministry are too much influenced by his personal dislikes and likes and by his determination—and a very large share in this is attributed to the Chief Whip—not to allow anyone to come into the Ministry who has ever opposed or criticised, especially on the question of the Munich Pact.
I ask hon. Members who resent hearing that kind of thing to ask themselves this question. Suppose that a year ago any of their constituents had asked them to make a list of those who are the coming men in the Conservative party, the coming young men, the men who have shown energy, courage, initiative originality of thought, and distinction in expression. Suppose anyone had made such a list. Would there be one person in that list who has recently been put into the Ministry? I shall not mention names, because that would be invidious and for obvious reasons objectionable. I shall not say whom we would regard as supposedly weak junior members of the Government and whom we think are the abler men who might have taken 763 their places. Those who have taken a deep interest in international affairs and questions connected with home defence during the last few years cannot help being struck by the fact that those who have shown courage in opposition and independence of mind, who have criticised where they thought criticism was needed, even when they have done it without any suspicion of malice, and taking risks of their future career, have been blackballed. Not one of them has been put into the Ministry. I am speaking entirely of the Members of parties which support the Government. [Hon. Members: "Churchill."] Oh, of course, there are two exceptions—the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for the Dominions. Why were those exceptions made? Because the Government could not have dared not to make those two exceptions. It was because public opinion demanded it, and demanded it with such an insistent voice that it could not be ignored. That 764 is why I am speaking to-day and why, I suppose, the Noble Lady opposite spoke. The public has got to know of these things—the public who know that we are fighting for our lives and who know that national unity is important, but who feel that it ought not to bar out criticism and reasoned opposition when there are grounds for those things. We feel that here is something which is the canker at the root. There is a fear that the Prime Minister, and the Chief Whip, and perhaps some of his colleagues are influenced by old grudges and personal affections, and do not obey that prayer which we make every day to be delivered from all private interests, prejudices and partial affections.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty Minutes before Six o'Clock, until Tuesday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.