§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
Almost a year has passed since the war began, and it is natural for us, I think, to pause on our journey at this milestone and survey the dark, wide field. It is also useful to compare the first year of this second war against German aggression with its forerunner a quarter of a century ago. Although this war is in fact only a continuation of the last, very great differences in its character are apparent. In the last war millions of men fought by hurling enormous masses of steel at one another. "Men and shells" was the cry, and prodigious slaughter was the consequence. In this war nothing of this kind has yet appeared. It is a conflict of strategy, of organisation, of technical apparatus, of science, mechanics and morale. The British casualties in the first 12 months of the Great War amounted to 365,000. In this war, I am thankful to say, British killed, wounded, prisoners and missing, including civilians, do not exceed 92,000, and of these a large proportion are alive as prisoners of war. Looking more widely around, one may say that throughout all Europe for one man killed or wounded in the first year perhaps five were killed or wounded in 1914–15.
The slaughter is but a fraction, but the consequences to the belligerents have been even more deadly. We have seen great countries with powerful armies dashed out of coherent existence in a few weeks. We have seen the French Republic and the renowned French Army beaten into complete and total submission with less than the casualties which they suffered in any one of half-a-dozen of the battles of 1914–18. The entire body—it might almost seem at times the soul—of France has succumbed to physical effects incomparably less terrible than those which were sustained with fortitude and undaunted will power 25 years ago. Although up to the present the loss of life has been mercifully diminished; the decisions reached in the course of the struggle are even more profound upon the fate of nations than anything that has ever happened since barbaric times. Moves are 1160 made upon the scientific and strategic boards, advantages are gained by mechanical means, as a result of which scores of millions of men become incapable of further resistance, or judge themselves incapable of further resistance, and a fearful game of chess proceeds from check to mate by which the unhappy players seem to be inexorably bound.
There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage. These are great and distinctive changes from what many of us saw in the struggle of a quarter of a century ago. There seems to be every reason to believe that this new kind of war is well suited to the genius and the resources of the British nation and the British Empire and that, once we get properly equipped and properly started, a war of this kind will be more favourable to us than the sombre mass slaughters of the Somme and Passchendaele. If it is a case of the whole nation fighting and suffering together, that ought to suit us, because we are the most united of all the nations, because we entered the war upon the national will and with our eyes open, and because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity but of tolerance and variety. If all these qualities are turned, as they are being turned, to the arts of war, we may he able to show the enemy quite a lot of things that they have not thought of yet. Since the Germans drove the Jews out and lowered their technical standards, our science is definitely ahead of theirs. Our geographical position, the command of the sea, and the friendship of the United States enable us to draw resources from the whole world and to manufacture weapons of war of every kind, but especially of the superfine kinds, on a scale hitherto practised only by Nazi Germany.
Hitler is now sprawled over Europe. Our offensive springs are being slowly compressed, and we must resolutely and methodically prepare ourselves for the campaigns of 1941 and 1942. Two or 1161 three years are not a long time, even in our short, precarious lives. They are nothing in the history of the nation, and when we are doing the finest thing in the world, and have the honour to be the sole champion of the liberties of all Europe, we must not grudge these years or weary as we toil and struggle through them. It does not follow that our energies in future years will be exclusively confined to defending ourselves and our possessions. Many opportunities may lie open to amphibious power, and we must be ready to take advantage of them. One of the ways to bring this war to a speedy end is to convince the enemy, not by words but by deeds, that we have both the will and the means, not only to go on indefinitely but to strike heavy and unexpected blows. The road to victory may not be so long as we expect. But we have no right to count upon this. Be it long or short, rough or smooth, we mean to reach our journey's end.
It is our intention to maintain and enforce a strict blockade not only of Germany but of Italy, France and all the other countries that have fallen into the German power. I read in the papers that Herr Hitler has also proclaimed a strict blockade of the British Islands. No one can complain of that. I remember the Kaiser doing it in the last war. What indeed would be a matter of general complaint would be if we were to prolong the agony of all Europe by allowing food to come in to nourish the Nazis and aid their war effort, or to allow food to go in to the subjugated peoples, which certainly would be pillaged off them by their Nazi conquerors.
There have been many proposals, founded on the highest motives, that food should be allowed to pass the blockade for the relief of these populations. I regret that we must refuse these requests. The Nazis declare that they have created a new unified economy in Europe. They have repeatedly stated that they possess ample reserves of food and that they can feed their captive peoples. In a German broadcast of 27th June it was said that while Mr. Hoover's plan for relieving France, Belgium and Holland deserved commendation, the German forces had already taken the necessary steps. We know that in Norway when the German troops went in, there were food supplies to last for a year. We know that Poland though not a rich 1162 country usually produces sufficient food for her people. Moreover, the other countries which Herr Hitler has invaded all held considerable stocks when the Germans entered and are themselves, in many cases, very substantial food producers. If all this food is not available now, it can only be because it has been removed to feed the people of Germany and to give them increased rations—for a change—during the last few months. At this season of the year and for some months to come, there is the least chance of scarcity as the harvest has just been gathered in. The only agencies which can create famine in any part of Europe now and during the coming winter, will be German exactions or German failure to distribute the supplies which they command.
There is another aspect. Many of the most valuable foods are essential to the manufacture of vital war material. Fats are used to make explosives. Potatoes make the alcohol for motor spirit. The plastic materials now so largely used in the construction of aircraft are made of milk. If the Germans used these commodities to help them to bomb our women and children, rather than to feed the populations who produce them, we may be sure that imported foods would go the same way, directly or indirectly, or be employed to relieve the enemy of the responsibilities he has so wantonly assumed. Let Hitler bear his responsibilities to the full and let the peoples of Europe who groan beneath his yoke aid in every way the coming of the day when that yoke will be broken. Meanwhile, we can and we will arrange in advance for the speedy entry of food into any part of the enslaved area, when this part has been wholly cleared of German forces, and has genuinely regained its freedom. We shall do our best to encourage the building up of reserves of food all over the world, so that there will always be held up before the eyes of the peoples of Europe, including—I say it deliberately—the German and Austrian peoples, the certainty that the shattering of the Nazi power will bring to them all immediate food, freedom and peace.
Rather more than a quarter of a year has passed since the new Government came into power in this country. What a cataract of disaster has poured out upon us since then. The trustful Dutch over- 1163 whelmed; their beloved and respected Sovereign driven into exile; the peaceful city of Rotterdam the scene of a massacre as hideous and brutal as anything in the Thirty Years' War. Belgium invaded and beaten down; our own fine Expeditionary Force, which King Leopold called to his rescue, cut off and almost captured, escaping as it seemed only by a miracle and with the loss of all its equipment; our Ally, France, out; Italy in against us; all France in the power of the enemy, all its arsenals and vast masses of military material converted or convertible to the enemy's use; a puppet Government set up at Vichy which may at any moment be forced to become our foe; the whole Western seaboard of Europe from the North Cape to the Spanish frontier in German hands; all the ports, all the airfields on this immense front, employed against us as potential springboards of invasion. Moreover, the German air power, numerically so far outstripping ours, has been brought so close to our Island that what we used to dread greatly has come to pass and the hostile bombers not only reach our shores in a few minutes and from many directions, but can be escorted by their fighting aircraft. Why Sir, if we had been confronted at the beginning of May with such a prospect, it would have seemed incredible that at the end of a period of horror and disaster, or at this point in a period of horror and disaster, we should stand erect, sure of ourselves, masters of our fate and with the conviction of final victory burning unquenchable in our hearts. Few would have believed we could survive; none would have believed that we should to-day not only feel stronger but should actually be stronger than we have ever been before.
Let us see what has happened on the other side of the scales. The British nation and the British Empire finding themselves alone, stood undismayed against disaster. No one flinched or wavered; nay, some who formerly thought of peace, now think only of war. Our people are united and resolved, as they have never been before. Death and ruin have become small things compared with the shame of defeat or failure in duty. We cannot tell what lies ahead. It may be that even greater ordeals lie before us. We shall face whatever is coming to us. We are sure of ourselves and of our cause 1164 and here then is the supreme fact which has emerged in these months of trial.
Meanwhile, we have not only fortified our hearts but our Island. We have rearmed and rebuilt our armies in a degree which would have been deemed impossible a few months ago. We have ferried across the Atlantic, in the month of July, thanks to our friends over there, an immense mass of munitions of all kinds, cannon, rifles, machine-guns, cartridges and shell, all safely landed without the loss of a gun or a round. The output of our own factories, working as they have never worked before, has poured forth to the troops. The whole British Army is at home. More than 2,000,000 determined men have rifles and bayonets in their hands to-night and three-quarters of them are in regular military formations. We have never had armies like this in our Island in time of war. The whole Island bristles against invaders, from the sea or from the air. As I explained to the House in the middle of June, the stronger our Army at home, the larger must the invading expedition be, and the larger the invading expedition, the less difficult will be the task of the Navy in detecting its assembly and in intercepting and destroying it on passage; and the greater also would be the difficulty of feeding and supplying the invaders if ever they landed, in the teeth of continuous naval and air attack on their communications. All this is classical and venerable doctrine. As in Nelson's day, the maxim holds, "Our first line of defence is the enemy's ports." Now air reconnaissance and photography have brought to an old principle a new and potent aid.
Our Navy is far stronger than it was at the beginning of the war. The great flow of new construction set on foot at the outbreak, is now beginning to come in. We hope our friends across the ocean will send us a timely reinforcement to bridge the gap between the peace flotillas of 1939 and the war flotillas of 1941. There is no difficulty in sending such aid. The seas and oceans are open. The U-boats are contained. The magnetic mine is, up to the present time, effectively mastered. The merchant tonnage under the British flag, after a year of unlimited U-boat war, after eight months of intensive mining attack, is larger than when we began. We have, in addition, under 1165 our control at least 4,000,000 tons of shipping from the captive countries which has taken refuge here or in the harbours of the Empire. Our stocks of food of all kinds are far more abundant than in the days of peace and a large and growing programme of food production is on foot.
Why do I say all this? Not assuredly to boast; not assuredly to give the slightest countenance to complacency. The dangers we face are still enormous, but so are our advantages and resources. I recount them because the people have a right to know that there are solid grounds for the confidence which we feel, and that we have good reason to believe ourselves capable, as I said in a very dark hour two months ago, of continuing the war "if necessary alone, if necessary for years." I say it also because the fact that the British Empire stands invincible, and that Nazidom is still being resisted, will kindle again the spark of hope in the breasts of hundreds of millions of down-trodden or despairing men and women throughout Europe, and far beyond its bounds, and that from these sparks there will presently come a cleansing and devouring flame.
The great air battle which has been in progress over this Island for the last few weeks has recently attained a high intensity. It is too soon to attempt to assign limits either to its scale or to its duration. We must certainly expect that greater efforts will be made by the enemy than any he has so far put forth. Hostile air fields are still being developed in. France and the Low Countries, and the movement of squadrons and material for attacking us is still proceeding. It is quite plain that Herr Hitler could not admit defeat in his air attack on Great Britain without sustaining most serious injury. If, after all his boastings and blood-curdling threats and lurid accounts trumpeted round the world of the damage he has inflicted, of the vast numbers of our Air Force he has shot down, so he says, with so little loss to himself; if after tales of the panic-stricken British crouched in their holes cursing the plutocratic Parliament which has led them to such a plight; if after all this his whole air onslaught were forced after a while tamely to peter out, the Führer's reputation for veracity of statement might be seriously impugned. We may be sure, therefore, that he will continue as long 1166 as he has the strength to do so, and as long as any preoccupations he may have in respect of the Russian Air Force allow him to do so.
On the other hand, the conditions and course of the fighting have so far been favourable to us. I told the House two months ago that whereas in France our fighter aircraft were wont to inflict a loss of two or three to one upon the Germans, and in the fighting at Dunkirk, which was a kind of no man's land, a loss of about three or four to one, we expected that in an attack on this Island we should achieve a larger ratio. This has certainly come true. It must also be remembered that all the enemy machines and pilots which are shot down over our Island, or over the seas which surround it, are either destroyed or captured; whereas a considerable proportion of our machines, and also of our pilots, are saved, and soon again in many cases come into action.
A vast and admirable system of salvage, directed by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, ensures the speediest return to the fighting line of damaged machines, and the most provident and speedy use of all the spare parts and material. At the same time the splendid, nay, astounding increase in the output and repair of British aircraft and engines which Lord Beaverbrook has achieved by a genius of organisation and drive, which looks like magic, has given us overflowing reserves of every type of aircraft, and an ever mounting stream of production both in quantity and quality. The enemy is, of course, far more numerous than we are. But our new production already, as I am advised, largely exceeds his, and the American production is only just beginning to flow in. It is a fact, as I see from my daily returns, that our bomber and fighter strengths now, after all this fighting, are larger than they have ever been. We hope, we believe that we shall be able to continue the air struggle indefinitely and as long as the enemy pleases, and the longer it continues the more rapid will be our approach, first towards that parity, and then into that superiority in the air, upon which in a large measure the decision of the war depends.
The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the 1167 British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain.
We are able to verify the results of bombing military targets in Germany, not only by reports which reach us through many sources, but also, of course, by photography. I have no hesitation in saying that this process of bombing the military industries and communications of Germany and the air bases and storage depots from which we are attacked, which process will continue upon an ever-increasing scale until the end of the war, and may in another year attain dimensions hitherto undreamed of, affords one at least of the most certain, if not the shortest of all the roads to victory. Even if the Nazi legions stood triumphant on the Black Sea, or indeed upon the Caspian, even if Hitler was at the gates of India, it would profit him nothing if at the same time the entire economic and scientific apparatus of German war power lay shattered and pulverised at home.
The fact that the invasion of this Island upon a large scale has become a far more difficult operation with every week that has passed since we saved our Army at Dunkirk, and our very great preponderance of sea power, enable us to turn our eyes and to turn our strength increasingly towards the Mediterranean and against that other enemy who, with- 1168 out the slightest provocation, coldly and deliberately, for greed and gain, stabbed France in the back in the moment of her agony, and is now marching against us in Africa. The defection of France has, of course, been deeply damaging to our position in what is called, somewhat oddly, the Middle East. In the defence of Somaliland, for instance, we had counted upon strong French forces attacking the Italians from Jibuti. We had counted also upon the use of the French naval and air bases in the Mediterranean, and particularly upon the North African shore. We had counted upon the French Fleet. Even though metropolitan France was temporarily overrun, there was no reason why the French Navy, substantial parts of the French Army, the French Air Force and the French Empire overseas should not have continued the struggle at our side.
Shielded by overwhelming sea-power, possessed of invaluable strategic bases and of ample funds, France might have remained one of the great combatants in the struggle. By so doing, France would have preserved the continuity of her life, and the French Empire might have advanced with the British Empire to the rescue of the independence and integrity of the French Motherland. In our own case, if we had been put in the terrible position of France, a contingency now happily impossible, although, of course, it would have been the duty of all war leaders to fight on here to the end, it would also have been their duty, as I indicated in my speech of 4th June, to provide as far as possible for the Naval security of Canada and our Dominions and to make sure they had the means to carry on the struggle from beyond the oceans. Most of the other countries that have been overrun by Germany for the time being have persevered valiantly and faithfully. The Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Belgians are still in the field, sword in hand, recognised by Great Britain and the United States as the sole representative authorities and lawful Governments of their respective States.
That France alone should lie prostrate at this moment, is the crime, not of a great and noble nation, but of what are called "the men of Vichy." We have profound sympathy with the French people. Our old comradeship with France is not dead. In General de Gaulle and 1169 his gallant band, that comradeship takes an effective form. These free Frenchmen have been condemned to death by Vichy, but the day will come, as surely as the sun will rise to-morrow, when their names will be held in honour, and their names will be graven in stone in the streets and villages of a France restored in a liberated Europe to its full freedom and its ancient fame. But this conviction which I feel of the future cannot affect the immediate problems which confront us in the Mediterranean and in Africa. It had been decided some time before the beginning of the war not to defend the Protectorate of Somaliland, and when our small forces there, a few battalions, a few guns, were attacked by all the Italian troops, nearly two divisions, which had formerly faced the French at Jibuti, it was right to withdraw our detachments, virtually intact, for action elsewhere. Far larger operations no doubt impend in the Middle East theatre, and I shall certainly not attempt to discuss or prophesy about their probable course. We have large armies and many means of reinforcing them. We have the complete sea command of the Eastern Mediterranean. We intend to do our best to give a good account of ourselves, and to discharge faithfully and resolutely all our obligations and duties in that quarter of the world. More than that I do not think the House would wish me to say at the present time.
A good many people have written to me to ask me to make on this occasion a fuller statement of our war aims, and of the kind of peace we wish to make after the war, than is contained in the very considerable declaration which was made early in the Autumn. Since then we have made common cause with Norway, Holland and Belgium. We have recognised the Czech Government of Dr. Benes, and we have told General de Gaulle that our success will carry with it the restoration of France. I do not think it would be wise at this moment, while the battle rages and the war is still perhaps only in its earlier stage, to embark upon elaborate speculations about the future shape which should be given to Europe or the new securities which must be arranged to spare mankind the miseries of a third World War. The ground is not new, it has been frequently traversed and explored, and many ideas are held about it in common by all good men, 1170 and all free men. But before we can undertake the task of rebuilding we have not only to be convinced ourselves, but we have to convince all other countries that the Nazi tyranny is going to be finally broken. The right to guide the course of world history is the noblest prize of victory. We are still toiling up the hill, we have not yet reached the crest-line of it, we cannot survey the landscape or even imagine what its condition will be when that longed-for morning comes. The task which lies before us immediately is at once more practical, more simple and more stern. I hope—indeed I pray—that we shall not be found unworthy of our victory if after toil and tribulation it is granted to us. For the rest, we have to gain the victory. That is our task.
There is, however, one direction in which we can see a little more clearly ahead. We have to think not only for ourselves but for the lasting security of the cause and principles for which we are fighting and of the long future of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Some months ago we came to the conclusion that the interests of the United States and of the British Empire both required that the United States should have facilities for the naval and air defence of the Western hemisphere against the attack of a Nazi power which might have acquired temporary but lengthy control of a large part of Western Europe and its formidable resources. We had therefore decided spontaneously, and without being asked or offered any inducement, to inform the Government of the United States that we would be glad to place such defence facilities at their disposal by leasing suitable sites in our Transatlantic possessions for their greater security against the unmeasured dangers of the future. The principle of association of interests for common purposes between Great Britain and the United States had developed even before the war. Various agreements had been reached about certain small islands in the Pacific Ocean which had become important as air fuelling points. In all this line of thought we found ourselves in very close harmony with the Government of Canada.
Presently we learned that anxiety was also felt in the United States about the air and naval defence of their Atlantic seaboard, and President Roosevelt has recently made it clear that he would like 1171 to discuss with us, and with the Dominion of Canada and with Newfoundland, the development of American naval and air facilities in Newfoundland and in the West Indies. There is, of course, no question of any transference of sovereignty—that has never been suggested—or of any action being taken, without the consent or against the wishes of the various Colonies concerned, but for our part, His Majesty's Government are entirely willing to accord defence facilities to the United States on a 99 years' leasehold basis, and we feel sure that our interests no less than theirs, and the interests of the Colonies themselves and of Canada and Newfoundland will be served thereby. These are important steps. Undoubtedly this process means that these two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage. For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
The speech of the Prime Minister is apt to turn the rest of the Debate into an anticlimax. He has spoken for a united nation, and he has spoken in the name of free men in every country in the world. He has announced two very far reaching decisions which I merely mention, because it is not necessary, in view of the spirit of the House, to enter into any discussion in regard to them. He has announced the decision that we shall not flinch in exercising the full strength of our blockade, and he has announced the decision that we shall afford to the United States full facilities for acquiring the bases she needs for the security of her nation. Both these decisions represent decisions of a united nation, and public debate in the House of Commons gives an opportunity to state that fact. Some Of the most stirring and, I think, moving parts of the Prime Minister's speech dealt with the large general issues of the war—its past and future. I shall, I think, most 1172 fittingly confine myself to a limited number of quite specific points, and the first to which I should like to call the attention of the House arises out of the great air battle, which, after all, is at the present moment more predominantly before men's eyes and minds than anything else which is happening in any other theatre of war.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has given certain figures with regard to the comparative results to the enemy and to ourselves, but I should like to give the House some other figures which in some ways are even more reassuring as to the future. It is a comparison which is quite well known, and one which I have made for my own comfort. Before the war the Prime Minister used to take part in the Debates on the Air Estimates, as did others, and I remember that at that time it was always estimated that if there were air attacks on this country, and the enemy squadrons steadily lost each time they came over, some said 5 per cent., and the most careful said 10 per cent., the air attacks could no longer be sustained. They would gradually peter out, to use the phrase of the Prime Minister. What are the results of the eight days' air battles that have taken place as from last Sunday week, applying that test? Since that time, at the beginning, the average of enemy losses amounted to 10 per cent., and last Sunday and the day before they rose to 18 per cent. and 20 per cent.—these are the percentages of the machines coming over, as estimated by the Air Ministry. The average up to the present is nearly 15 per cent., or three times the rate of losses which was generally admitted in this House to be one which no Air Force could long sustain. That is a figure which is most reassuring, and the percentage has risen as the days have gone by.
The Prime Minister uttered one sentence which I should like to use as a text bearing on certain results appearing from this air battle. He said that this war is a conflict between totalitarian uniformity on one side and tolerance and variety on the other. I think what has happened in the last eight days is a very good test of the different military results of the two systems. About eight or nine days ago I listened to a broadcast by an airman which gave a dramatised account of what 1173 takes place in an air squadron just before it is about to proceed abroad. It gave the instructions of the squadron leader, the conversations between pilots, their arrangements to protect each other's tails, and so on. It made it clear that an air squadron goes abroad like a well-seasoned football team, bound together by a corporate spirit almost stronger, I suppose, than anything else upon this earth to-day. What is the Nazi system? There, in order, I presume, that they may conceal their losses from their own pilots, they pick out one or two machines from different squadrons, collect them together just before the squadron starts, and then send them over. Where is the backbone to a squadron like that? What are the consequences? I think this is a test, and the result has shown the immense loss in military efficiency which the Nazis have to pay as the price for imposing upon their pilots the system they impose upon the whole country—that they must not be told the facts.
I should like to draw another lesson suggested by a remark made by the Prime Minister, a remark which I think we may take to the credit of this House as a whole. Every now and then I listen to broadcasts from German stations, and a few nights ago their claim was this, that the size of their Air Force is so many multiples greater than the size of ours that, if they go on and on—and as the Prime Minister said, it is the German temperament to press things to the end: they will not stop, that is not their method of warfare—then finally, whatever their losses they will be able to destroy our Air Force and have some surplus at the end, and that even though it were a small surplus it would give them the mastery of the air. That was the prospect, but, as the Prime Minister has pointed cut, that prospect has been, I presume, completely falsified, all their calculations have been falsified, by, as he said, the astounding increase in our machines during the new Administration which was brought into being as the result of the last public debate in this House upon the war. That indicates to me that this House is not only the most civilised body in times of peace but the most formidable engine of war, far more formidable than the Nazi system; and this House will see this war through as, for hundreds of years, it has seen the wars of this country through to success.
1174 I gather that Herr Hitler's time for conquering this country by invading it is getting short. I have been discussing matters with officers and others, and for some time a certain date has been given to me, and that date is the equinox. I am told that after the equinox, owing to the gales and the rough weather, the possibilities of invasion will very greatly diminish. I find that the equinox is on 21st September, so my impression is that the time of danger is in the next month, and within that month probably the attempt to defeat this country by invasion will either succeed or fail.
This leads me to an aspect of the present attack upon this country which I do not think is so satisfactory and which I think it is necessary for us to discuss. If Herr Hitler does not beat us by physical invasion in the next month there is no doubt he will turn to the other alternative, which to many people has always seemed a good deal more dangerous, the alternative of trying to defeat us by his blockade, trying to defeat us by sinking our merchant ships. The figures there are not as satisfactory as the figures of the air war. I take the communiqués of the Ministry of Shipping. I admit that in the one o'clock broadcast to-day a rather better figure was given for last week, but up to then the average sinkings of our merchant shipping had been about 67,000 tons a week. That is half what they were in the worst week of the last war. I see that calculations have been made, and I think it is fair to assume that we cannot be rebuilding at anything like that rate. That is potentially serious. By the way, I was not entirely satisfied by a certain calculation which the Prime Minister put before the House. He said that if we took British merchant tonnage at the beginning of the war and compared it with the tonnage under the British flag to-day we should see that there had been an increase, but, of course, in that phrase "tonnage under the British flag" he has taken in Allied and neutral tonnage—
§ The Prime Minister
No, only the tonnage we have got by purchase or by transfer—not the other large body of tonnage.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I am very glad that that has been made clear, because I had not quite understood it, and it did not seem to tally with what I had read else- 1175 where. However, there is the point that we are losing tonnage at the rate of some 67,000 tons every week, and I think it is worth while, in a Debate like this, to let the world realise where it is fairly evident that our difficulty lies. We overcame the submarine menace some months ago, but at that time ports like Plymouth and Portland, opposite the coast of France, were to the west of the German bases, and we could meet their submarines as they came out. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, the ports of France are now at the disposal of Germany. Brest and others lie to the west of Plymouth, and we cannot meet the submarines from those ports as they go out. They can go out to the west of the Irish Coast where, I imagine, most of these sinkings must be taking place. I think it is worth while pointing out to neutral nations what we are paying for our principles. Why cannot we deal with those sinkings off the Coast of Ireland? Because we cannot use the territorial waters of Southern Ireland. The ports in Southern Ireland were handed over by us just a little time before the war. If we could use, say, Berehaven not only for our ships but for our patrolling flying-boats, I believe those sinkings would be reduced to so small a figure that they would cease to be a major problem at all. I think the world should realise what we are paying for our principles. There is no doubt of what Herr Hitler would do under those conditions, and the world can now see the spectacle of this country watching every month scores of ocean-merchant ships being sunk and thousands of British seamen being drowned, because the Navy cannot use ports within our own Commonwealth, the ports of Ireland, which but for the Navy would be where Belgium, Holland and Denmark are now.
The Prime Minister spoke about Somaliland and made a statement of great gravity, which probably will have a good many ultimate repercussions. About that war in Somaliland there is one point I should like to make. This morning a communiqué was issued by the War Office which made it clear that as soon as France capitulated it became inevitable that Somaliland would have to be abandoned. I presume there is some sort of liaison between the Service Departments and the newspapers and the B.B.C., and it is most unfortunate and 1176 most misleading that both the B.B.C. and the newspapers, even very responsible papers like the "Times"—its Cairo correspondent—should have put out statements practically saying that the Italians have undertaken a task of immense difficulty and that their difficulties would increase every time they advanced towards the coast.
§ The Prime Minister
If you do intend not to use more than a certain amount of force in delaying the enemy it would be most important not to let him know beforehand what you were going to do.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I doubt, in fact, whether the B.B.C. and the "Times" Cairo correspondent were a part of our British diplomatic methods, but if that is so we are going to be in great difficulties, because it means that the public can be at any moment misled as to an issue.
§ The Prime Minister
If the enemy had not advanced in great strength we should not have gone, but when he did advance in great strength it was not to our interest to remain there and to expend a great deal of our strength in doing so.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
To go back to the point, what led me into this discussion was the communiqué from the War Office this morning, which indicates that the prospect of abandoning Somaliland became inevitable as soon as the French capitulated.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
That was not very clear. I did not think that that was made part of the admission at all. The Prime Minister spoke of the Mediterranean, and the Eastern Mediterranean in particular. It is clear that that is a vital theatre of war. Alexandria is our base in the Mediterranean, and therefore is a vital key to the future of this war. I do not think we can go into the details of this matter in public and I shall not do so. I therefore say that I welcomed the Prime Minister's statement that large armies and means of reinforcement are at present in the Eastern Mediterranean and that we intend to discharge our obligations. It is obvious that one of the great prizes of the war waits either for the Axis Powers or for ourselves.
1177 There are two features relating to our machinery to which I take this opportunity of calling the attention of the Prime Minister. He appointed a committee to inquire into certain aspects of our Secret Service and Intelligence Departments. It would be well if he probed more deeply into the Secret Service and the Intelligence Departments than merely into the subject of their overlapping and under-lapping, which he mentioned last week. In the last war, our Secret Service was the best in the world, but in this war it has been singularly unsuccessful. One of the reasons was indicated in a remark by the Prime Minister last week, but it cannot be discussed. My general opinion is that any Government Department which cannot be discussed or criticised in this House has behind it no guarantee of efficiency. My impression is that the Secret Service goes up and down according to the personalities who happen to be in control. I do not understand why it is essential that the Secret Service should be attached to the Foreign Office, the traditions of which are not suited for dealing with the particular methods which have to be adopted when one is confronted wth a régime of the Nazi type. It was not successful in times of peace, when the Secret Service under the Foreign Office failed. Nobody made it more clear than the Prime Minister. In time of peace he had his own Secret Service which proved to be right, when the official Secret Service proved to be wrong, and it is no more successful in war. Those who have the opportunity to know, staff officers and others, regard the Secret Service as the weakest of the arms with which we are fighting this war. It is well worth considering whether the Secret Service should not be handed over to another Minister. Lord Beaverbrook has been mentioned. There is a Member of this House sitting on an opposite bench now who, I think, would be better attuned to meet Nazi methods than Lord Halifax or Lord Swinton. I make that suggestion.
I have one other suggestion to make. I am getting the view that we have no machinery for what I would call long-distance strategy and planning, as distinct from the task of grappling with the immediate difficulties of the war. The chiefs of staff, and the Cabinet, have no time for this long-distance work. I believe that, from time to time, certain officers are appointed and told to concentrate 1178 upon something, but I am told also that, after a short time, they are roped in, owing to the urgency of the general problems of the day, and then there is no machinery for the purpose for which they were appointed. We are now talking of the war continuing until 1941 or 1942, and we must form some picture of what the course of it is likely to be. Preparations for the future involve commitments, and preparations for months and perhaps for a year ahead. There is this defect in our machinery, and I should like to see it closely considered.
The Prime Minister entered into certain generalisations as to the war; may I venture to do the same? It appears to me that the great advantage which Herr Hitler has had has been in machines in the air and on the land. The Prime Minister has explained that we shall gradually catch up with that advantage, but the chief problem seems to be not only to prevent Herr Hitler using that advantage in the intervening period but to dislodge him from his position when the time comes. If we can do that, it seems to me that the end is in sight. Men who have come back from France all agree that if you take the modern German soldier out of his machine he is not as good a man as his father was in 1914. The Germans are certainly no better on the sea or in the air. One of the great lessons of the last week which, I think, is of vital significance, is that our young men, in this new element of warfare, have a genius for the air as strong as is our genius for the sea. The Germans will not even tell their own pilots of the losses which they have incurred, and therefore, the fact is clear that, when the time comes that we have an equality of machines, and can meet the Nazi products on level terms, the end of the war will be in sight.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I wish to pay a tribute to the magnificent speech of the Prime Minister. I should like to see it translated into the languages of those countries now under the heel of the Nazi Government, and scattered broadcast, to give inspiration and hope because of the words uttered by the Prime Minister in the British House of Commons. Nothing would give more heart to those people in these difficult times. I should assure the Prime Minister, if he were here, that not 1179 only the House of Commons, but the country as a whole, stands four-square behind him. It is always a mystery and a marvel to me that, in spite of his manifold duties, he has time to prepare his great, classical orations which are, in form and character, a model of what such speeches should be. It is good that from time to time, and in open Session, we should have these speeches, especially when they are made by the Prime Minister, with his great gifts of oratory.
No Prime Minister has had greater responsibilities or more difficult problems to solve than he. Not even Chatham, the younger Pitt, or Palmerston, or the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had such great difficulties and responsbiilities. In previous wars, except perhaps in 1806, we had always our Allies to look to. Even in the darkest hours of the last war we looked to France to collaborate in the battles of the Continent. Now we have to face the enemy in Europe more or less single-handed, and the Prime Minister is entitled to know whether he has behind him, as I believe he has, the nation, serious and united and determined to see this war through to the bitter end.
I think we should exploit to a greater extent the degree of help which we are receiving from our Allies in Europe and in the New World, and particularly from our own Dominions. They have come to our aid from all parts of the globe. We remember what happened in the Battle of the River Plate and again in the Mediterranean, where the cruiser "Sydney" did wonderful things to show Mussolini that the Mediterranean is not an Italian lake. Airmen have come in their hundreds—I think I should be right in saying thousands—to this country at a critical time from Canada, Australia and New Zealand and South Africa, and they have done splendid work. They have given us, too, from their supplies of food and raw materials, and they still have immense productive power which has not yet been fully exploited. That applies equally to India, which has vast resources in men and war materials yet to be fully used in a war in which India has a material interest.
In the last war the help given by the Dominions was expressed in the existence 1180 of the Imperial War Council. I expected that something of that kind would be brought into being in the early months of this war. It will be remembered that General Smuts was a member of the Inner War Cabinet. Those who have studied the records and have read the literature will know the great service he was able to render in every way. It may be that, owing to the special calls on his time and the fact that he has his own problems and difficulties in South Africa, he may not be available, but I think it would be a good thing if the Prime Minister could at the present time not only call upon representatives of the Dominions to sit as an Advisory Council in the same way as during the last war, but if some recognised leader of Dominion opinion could be brought into the inner Cabinet. There is, for instance, Mr. McKenzie King, a wise and experienced politician, who has the confidence of his own country. But it is not for me to say who the man should be. It would be a symbol to the world that we are not fighting the war single-handed, but that we have powerful allies—free peoples—who are coming to our aid. I do not suggest that the absence of such representation in any way weakens the efforts of the Dominions. Recently, I came across a very remarkable statement by a member of the New Zealand Government which I think is worth repeating to the House. He said:We can do nothing else but help Britain, and we are going to help her to the maximum. If she goes under. God help usThey realise that our battle is their battle, and that the war we are fighting calls for the full effort which they are able and ready to give. It is clear to anybody who has made a study of these problems overseas that sometimes the Dominions have a different angle of approach from our own. For instance, they are more conscious of the vital importance of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to their political and economic interests. Perhaps, too, they realise the significance of Somaliland, and of some of the battlefields in various parts of Africa. Certainly, this applies to South Africa. I believe it would be an encouragement to the Dominions to, perhaps, an even greater effort and an even greater sacrifice than they are at present making if it were brought home to them in a practical way that they are equal partners with us in the direction of the 1181 war. I know that the Dominions appreciate that their safety depends upon the strength of the defence of this country.
The ordinary New Zealander, Australian, and Canadian, only too often speak of this country as old. In talking to Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers whom I have taken round the House, I have noticed that they appreciate perhaps even more than many people in this country the true significance of the ideals and inspirations behind the war. When they come to the House and see some of the ancient traditions which the House embodies, they realise perhaps more than many of the people of this country what we are fighting for—the ideals of democracy and liberty. We want every help, material, men and organisation, from every part of the British Commonwealth, and I believe it would be an encouragement if the Prime Minister would consider more intimately associating Dominions statesmen with some of the direction of our war policy. I want to conclude by thanking the Prime Minister for his statement. I hope he will continue to make such statements from time to time. I am satisfied that at this critical time in the war his speech will be an inspiration to our countrymen, and that if it is translated into foreign languages and scattered abroad, it will bring hope to the sorely tried people on the Continent of Europe who are under the Nazi heel.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Profumo (Kettering)
It is with great temerity and humility that I rise to make my maiden speech on this occasion. I would not presume upon the House were it not for the fact that I wish to focus attention for a minute or two upon an aspect of our present outlook which I believe, in conjunction with our united war effort, will be a decisive element towards the final crushing of Nazi Germany and all that for which it stands. It has been made very plain by the Government—and indeed the Prime Minister's statement to-day was a strong endorsement of this—that it is not our policy merely to defend the shores of this Empire, our homes and this Island, but that we intend once and for all to rid the world of this Satanic power which, at the present moment, is menacing the whole of civilisation.
There are, in my humble opinion, three things which together with the 1182 Armed Forces and our economic warfare, will make it possible for us to bring this about. They are unity—unity of purpose and spirit; courage—courage with which to strive; and faith—faith that our cause is right. The qualities of unity and courage are those qualities which in the past have made Britain Great Britain, and they are to-day very evident and very present in the Fighting Forces. Day after day and hour after hour indescribable acts of gallantry and valour are being performed. By no means all of these come to public attention, but they are noticed and appreciated by the fellow men of those who perform them, and they serve to strengthen their determination. At the present time, the Royal Air Force is in the battlefront of the battle for Britain. Three days ago, I was standing outside my air-raid trench watching British fighters chasing two German bombers which had realised that they had met their mark, and were, as usual, making back for their base. I took my eyes for a moment off the air and they chanced to alight on a private soldier standing next to me. He came to the salute, and there was more in that salute than any general could have got out of him. The spirit which exists in the Services to-day is "Let's get at it." Throughout the Services there reigns a calm and confident spirit that if we stand united no one can break us.
But we must not forget that we are up against a vile, venomous and vicious enemy, an enemy with whom we have got to deal. Herr Hitler has not only his armed forces, on land and in the air, but he has something much stronger with which to fight—the blind faith of Nazism, that faith which has poisoned, doped, and drugged millions and millions of human minds, and made out of them war machines to do the work of destruction of one mad mind. But there is one setback to all that, and it is that that faith which has been injected into the German people from the moment that National-Socialism started to write its first chapter is of necessity faith in a man, a man who, despite his immense possibilities and his immense opportunities, has proved himself to be a wrecker, a mass murderer and a baby killer. Has Herr Hitler forgotten that we, too, in this country have a faith, and that our faith is not in a man? I do not pretend for one moment 1183 that we can win battles and wars by faith alone, but the reverse is equally true. Here we have these magnificent forces of men prepared to do anything they are asked, and behind them is a far greater army. I refer to the army of the civilian population. They have to meet sadness, anxiety and sacrifice just as much as do the front-line troops, but they are not armed with steel helmets or machine-guns. In the dark days that assuredly lie ahead of us, they will need all their courage and perseverance in order to enable them to carry through to final victory. To this end, faith in our cause will be of inestimable value. I do not for one moment seek to sponsor any group or any society—the very word embraces only a section of our population—but I do most earnestly ask for a national effort to strengthen faith and belief at this time. I believe that it matters not if a man is a Jew, a Roman Catholic, or, as I happen to be, a member of the Church of England, as long as that faith is alive. An American contemporary writer has written:It is no good having a faith if you are going to lock it up in a drawer, because when you open the drawer and look for that faith, it will not be there.There is one thing faith cannot stand. It is neglect. Here, surely, is something that every man and every woman, whatever their age or infirmity may be, can do to contribute towards our war effort, not only in this country but throughout the vast new world, and indeed, wherever freedom is held sacred. I will detain the House no longer, except to say that we have been compelled to take up arms against force, mad brutality and Nazi tyranny. Nor will we rest before right has been proved stronger than might, before the refugee can smile again, before God rules once more in the hearts of men; and just as every day, as the Prime Minister told us, our bombing aeroplanes go out over enemy territory and with sure precision drop their bombs on military objectives, thereby crushing the future initiative of the war machine of the Nazis, so must our message, with one heart and one mind, go out day after day to the Nazi leaders, so squashing their initiative and their morale; and that message should and must be—while we breathe, we live! 1184 while we live, we fight! and when we fight, we win.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
In accordance with the custom of the House, I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Profumo) on the maiden speech which he has just made. He has made an enlightened contribution to the Debate, and he has spoken with first-hand experience. I hope, as I am sure the House will hope, that we shall hear him on many subsequent occasions.
In all the great succession of speeches which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made, I feel that he has made none greater than that which he delivered this afternoon. He expressed our cause and our purpose in fitting language, and we may be proud to have a leader of that stamp at this time. It is, however, not only for my right hon. Friend's speech that we need be grateful this afternoon. We can depart for this brief Recess enheartened by the knowledge that in one important respect the fortunes of war have been decisively turned in our favour. No more formidable challenge has been offered to us, in this or in any other war, than that which we are now meeting. By repelling, so frequently and so intrepidly, superior numbers, our fighter pilots have indeed placed us in their gratitude. They have definitely checked the unbroken sequence of Hitlerian victories, and have disproved the legend of Hitler's invincibility. At the same time, our bomber pilots have been doing most effective work over a widespread area; and we have learned this afternoon that our production is such as to entitle us to the hope that, within a measurable time, we shall enjoy command of the air. Throughout this war, by endurance and sacrifice, our Navy has maintained command of the seas. Will it be sufficient, for us, however, when we have supremacy in both these elements? I think not.
My right hon. Friend spoke so encouragingly of the future that one was almost compelled to forget the slight reverse which we have had in British Somaliland. It is as well to face the position candidly. The Italian victory is part of a great design. It brings to our enemy certain advantages, although one must not exaggerate them. It cuts 1185 off Jibuti from us on the landward side—and we might need at some future date to advance up the railway to Addis Ababa. It removes to a greater region of improbability the long-awaited Abyssinian revolt, and blunts the sword which we held into one of the Italian flanks. It enables the enemy to concentrate the better on his great purpose. However, for my part, I am entirely satisfied with what my right hon. Friend said in regard to what is erroneously called the Middle East; that we intend to discharge, faithfully and resolutely, our obligations in that part of the world. It would be most distressing if the Italians were able to get a footing in the Middle East proper, because if they did so they would effectively break our blockade. Quite apart from any damage to our prestige, they would obtain access to the one commodity which our enemies show a tendency to lack—they have made good their deficiency of iron ore—they would obtain access to supplies of oil. Undoubtedly, the defection of the French has placed us in a difficult position. The difficulty of that position arises chiefly on land. Therefore, I hope that the Government are planning to create a large army—very much larger than we should have found adequate if the French had remained in the conflict. We must have a striking force not only to recover what we have lost but to hit the enemy at a convenient time on European territory. That army must be equipped in a way which embodies all the lessons of our recent experience. In particular, it ought to have its own air arm. I am sure my right hon. Friend at the War Office would concur with me that a commander in the field must control all his supporting arms. He must control his air arm in exactly the same way as he does his artillery and his tanks.
The creation of an army depends upon supply. We cannot hope to defeat the authoritarian powers, who are waging total war and who have the whole of their populations mobilised, unless we rapidly mobilise ourselves. They have great armies, they have great air forces, and they have expanding fleets. In addition, they have kept their industrial organisation concentrated on the war effort. We are not doing that. There is no time to lose. You cannot win a war with 1186 800,000 unemployed. The winning of a war is a conscious process. You must reduce the manufacture of goods which are not necessary, and turn over your production to the war effort. It is no use relying on appeals. You have to do that as a deliberate act. People speak as if you could maintain an export trade in an unlimited manner. Surely, your export trade must be kept at as low a level as is compatible—in addition to your other resources—with paying for the goods you must import. The whole of your industrial machine must be concentrated primarily on the war effort. This must be done speedily. We have to remember that the Nazis dominate Europe, and that the situation is not stationary. They are applying their propaganda every day in the conquered areas, educating the youth in those araes in accordance with their own ideas; and unless we act promptly, we may not be able to fan this spark of hope into a flame, as my right hon. Friend suggested. We must act quickly, and we must obtain as many friends as we can by our diplomacy. Diplomacy is as essential a part of war as are armies, navies and air forces. We cannot claim in this war to have won many friends. However, what my right hon. Friend has said about our new relations with America atones for many diplomatic omissions. If that should lead to the same kind of relationship as we hoped for in the case of France, and to eventual common citizenship, the evils of this war will have been almost worth while. The purposes I had in rising were to congratulate my right hon. Friend, and to beg the Government to create, as speedily as possible, a large army, to mobilise the whole of our industrial production, to remove now this scourge of unemployment—which in any event it must be one of our war aims to remove, because we can never tolerate it in our civilisation again—and, in short, to wage total war.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I desire to reinforce the appeal which my right hon. Friend has just made, not in a spirit, as I understood, of criticism of the Government, but in order to raise a point which it is desirable should be raised at the earliest possible opportunity in this House. A distinguished diplomatist, a representative of a friendly neutral country, whom I 1187 had the pleasure of meeting on a social occasion recently, said to me, "There are four things which ought to be burned into the mind of every member of His Majesty's Government and of every Member of the House of Commons. You have in the British Empire four strong points, which you must in all circumstances defend. Those strong points are the British Isles, Gibraltar, the Suez Canal and Aden." He proceeded to give his reasons, and I entirely agreed with them. Incidentally, he said—and I do not necessarily support this criticism—that it was unfortunate, from the point of view of neutral opinion, that we had given an indication that we did not believe in the strength of one of those strong points, the territory known as the British Isles, because we had hurried away the children of the rich and poor alike. I do not necessarily support him in that view, but it is just as well that we should have the view of a neutral stated here. He went on—and I entirely agreed—to speak of what might be done by propaganda and blockade.
The other point that I want to make is this. We have to visualise at some time land operations on a great scale. Unless we can knock out Italy in the next few months, it is impossible to conceive that Signor Mussolini can refrain from throwing in the weight of his army against us somewhere. He has been talking for years about what the Italian Army was going to do—even more than about what the Italian Air Force was going to do. I should like to mention some facts which ought to be understood. There are, as I understand, something like 68,000,000 persons of European descent in Britain and the Dominions. There are in Germany 75,000,000 to 80,000,000 people who can be reasonably relied upon to support the war. That is to say, in Germany there is a larger population than the whole of the European resources of the British Empire, and, in addition, they have the 40,000,000 of Italy. I do not want to anticipate a Debate which I have been pressing for very strongly, and which, I understand from a member of the War Cabinet—I do not think that this is breaking any confidence—is likely to take place in September. But, sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, we shall have to develop to the fullest possible degree the almost illimitable re- 1188 sources in men and material of Africa and India. I hope that when we get that Debate we shall consider this matter in this House.
I do not want to press for any premature statement, and I resent the suggestion which has been made in some papers that we should enter upon a period such as the Government's predecessors in the 18th century entered upon, when they sent small expeditions all over the Continent, one after the other. But we should get into a frame of mind of thinking upon that line. I do not think that even the Prime Minister, with his great knowledge and experience, can say whether this is to be a land war or not, but we should be prepared for immense land operations. I wish therefore to reinforce everything that the right hon. Gentleman said, and I hope that the Government as well as the Secretaries of State for the Colonies and India will set their minds to raising the greatest land armies that this world has ever seen.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Almost invariably when the Prime Minister makes a statement nowadays it takes the wind out of the sails of most of the speakers who follow him, and there seems to be some unwritten law that after the Prime Minister has spoken there should be very little criticism of what he has said [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Whether it is an unwritten law or not, I have noticed that coincidence on many occasions after the Prime Minister has spoken. I do not think that it would be a breach of confidence if I said that it has sometimes been hinted by Members of one's own party that one should be extremely careful what one says after the Prime Minister has had his say. I do not want to give voice to any carping or destructive criticisms at all, but I want to recall the attention of the House to the actual state of affairs in which we are situated to-day, and to some of the mistakes that we have made in the past which have precipitated these unfortunate events which we are now experiencing.
I entirely agree with the optimistic note of the Prime Minister about the exploits of our Air Force. They are magnificent, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has just said, they, in themselves alone, will not win this war. Those of 1189 us who have seen the German Air Force at work overseas know that they alone did not bring those great victories—and they are great—which the German forces have accomplished, but they helped very considerably, in co-operation with their land forces, to drive a splendid, a wonderfully equipped and a valiant Expeditionary Force out of Northern France in double quick time. I think that most hon. Members who know anything about those forces know that they are smarting under what they think was really an unjust defeat. Those who took part in that campaign know that they were not given a fair chance and a fair opportunity.
I want to emphasise here that those mistakes which occurred in the past and which resulted in the defeat of those forces must not occur again. I refer to them particularly now as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is here. I say without fear of contradiction that the forces that we had in this country up to the time when the campaign was started in May were not adequately trained. The amount of training which was done in this country during the eight months preceding the campaign in May was ludicrously small compared with the forces that were mobilised. We are approaching another winter, and it would he a tremendous mistake if we allowed our Army, which has reached considerable numbers, to slip back into the apathy which was widespread—let the House mark this—among commanding officers, high commanders and men during the last winter. Whatever the Prime Minister says about a long war—and he has given expression to views to-day which we heard at the beginning of this war—the people in this country, and the people in enemy countries, do not want extended wars. Hon. Members may smile at that remark, but there is a great deal of truth in it. The Germans have keyed-up their young men to march into battle by the promise of a speedy victory, and I am certain that if their troops had thought that this was going to be a long war they would not have marched as they did through France. They have been buoyed up by these promises. When the people in Germany realise that their Führer's promises are not going to come true, we may see a lowering of the morale in Germany which may precipitate, as it did in the last war, the overwhelming defeat of the enemy.
1190 But let us make no mistake. The peoples everywhere do not want long wars. It may be that we cannot avoid them, but do not let us get into the habit of talking, as Lord Kitchener did at the beginning of the last war, of "three years or the duration." We want to finish this war as quickly as possible and are therefore prepared to make all sorts of sacrifices, even to the extent of great casualties, which, I think, we shall have to face when we start our offensive, as long as we can see in the near future a chance of winning this war totally and completely. We can do that only if we train our Armies on a much better system than that upon which we have hitherto trained them. The German armies were trained and keyed-up to a remarkable pitch, and our Armies were not. I certainly hope that the Secretary of State for War, upon whom devolves the main responsibility for the training of our Armies, will see to it that the conditions existing during last winter do not prevail again.
If I might make a suggestion to him, I would say that it is not possible to train armies and to incorporate in them the understanding and the drill and the tactics that they must know and thoroughly understand if they are to march into battle properly equipped, if they are constantly in civilian billets at home. I know the argument will be put up that you should house the Army as comfortably as possible, and I know that every soldier likes to have the best billet he can possibly get, but I experienced, while with a unit at the outbreak of the war, the extreme difficulty of training troops, when at night-time they went home to civilian billets and there was no bugle sounded in the morning calling them from their slumbers. The German army were not trained on that model, and we should learn from the German army in that respect. The motor-cycle combinations, with Bren guns, which I have seen going about our country lanes, would have been invaluable when the German army were over-running us in France. I would welcome any attempt to copy any good military methods which the German army produced in France.
I do not want to criticise the speech of the Prime Minister, because I believe that in the Prime Minister we have the only possible leader in the present circumstances, but I am not prepared to place 1191 my future and the future of my children entirely in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, because he is not infallible. As I say, he is the best man in the circumstances, but I cannot forget the mistakes of the past, and although I am prepared to pay tribute to the valiant efforts of some of his Government—and I will not name them—since the Government have been reformed, the fact remains that it may take a long time to get out of those lethargic methods which existed in the eight months which followed the outbreak of war. If there are any suggestions I and others can offer, and those who have seen the war at close quarters can offer suggestions which may be of value, we shall be only too pleased to do so. I am glad to hear from the Secretary of State for War that he is utilising the experiences of junior officers who have come close to the enemy and have experienced enemy tactics and have even countered enemy tactics with homemade methods. I am glad that he is utilising their services, and I only wish that he could utilise them more. We cannot entirely rely upon the professional soldier to win the war for us. It is a civilian Army in the main that we have now mobilised, and why should not more of the good brains which were very successful in peace time in various businesses be utilised in the higher circles of command? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War knows very well the difficulty of men of that calibre rising even to the rank of a battalion commander. Every hon. Member of this House will know that it is on the battalion commanders that the Army really depends. If you have bad battalion commanders, any amount of brilliant Staff work will not bring victory. We want a combination of the two—good Staff work and good regimental commanders. If you can get them—and I believe you can, if you search for them in a much wider field than has hitherto been done—I believe that we shall have some chance of victory.
But do not let us minimise the struggle we are facing. Let us, if anything, overestimate the German forces. We know what they have accomplished so far, and we know, with much sorrow and regret in our hearts, that so far we are not able to retain the British Empire in its entirety. You may give any reason you 1192 like for the evacuation of Somaliland, but the fact remains that it is another evacuation, and we do not like it. How can we avoid it? I suggest, by some of the methods that I have indicated to the House this afternoon. Our spirits have to be raised and to a much higher pitch than they have been so far. We saw it particularly in the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon. The people are sound. We can get the production, I believe. We can certainly get the fighting men, but they are of no use unless they are organised and directed properly.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lieutenant - Colonel Moore - Brabazon (Wallasey)
A Debate like this presents very grave difficulties to private Members, and yet this afternoon we have had a collection of the shortest and most inspiriting speeches that I have heard for a long time, and I would like to pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Profumo), who has now left the House, who made a maiden speech, without any notes, from the back benches. It was quite an astonishing performance, and I only hope that we shall hear him again. I am not Scotch, and I do not know how to pronounce the Scottish language, but I feel towards the Government, rather as the great poet Burns felt towards the mouse when he said to him, as I say to the Government:The present only toucheth thee:But oh! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear!An' forward, though I cannot see I guess an' fear.That is very suitable as a just criticism of the Government. Nobody who would dig up the past would enjoy it, but of the future we are told nothing, and so all that troubleth the Government is the present. I pointed out before that the position during war between the executive and the country and more especially the executive and the House of Commons is bound to create a gap which will get bigger and bigger. The prosecution of war is a secret affair. One cannot give away things to the enemy and consequently the House knows less and less about what is going on and less and less about plans for the future. Everybody accepts that one cannot be given even in Secret Session general hints and indications of what the Government have in mind as to the future from the point of view of 1193 military operations. But I think the speech from the Prime Minister this afternoon will give to the whole country great encouragement because there were hints lying in that speech of future initiative and enterprise abroad. You have to remember this, that as we stand to-day we are facing a winter with the biggest Army we have ever seen in the United Kingdom. I do not think that even my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War would say that the civilian Army of the present day is the disciplined force that the old Regular Army was. Complaints of lack of discipline throughout the whole country, although of a trivial nature, are not so pleasant to contemplate for the whole winter. I would not like to blame any particular person except the inventor of the battle dress. I am perfectly certain that few soldiers feel smart in battle dress, and that has, I believe, a very serious effect on discipline. But whether this great Army is to remain here for an entire winter or not is a Government secret which we cannot expect to be told anything about to-day.
There is, of course, a bright spot—the doings of the Royal Air Force. They are busy doing their job as an Air Force, and we must remember that we were the first country to visualise the all importance of an Air Force qua Air Force. Even in America, Germany and France the Air Force has always been split into two parts—one for the Army and one for the Navy. Our conception was, I think, a sound one. I have always backed it and I think that what we are seeing to-day proves that to be sound policy. Long-range bombing is having its effect to-day; it is the most efficient seen since the war started, and the defence of the country by our fighters has earned the admiration of the whole world. But when all that is said, that is not the end of air power. When we saw the Germany Army advancing to great successes, without the great casualties of the last war, we saw that they were clue to the striking power of the Air Force linked with the Army. What have we done to get a similar thing? If we advance across Europe, our Air Force will be doing its job, and its job is not close co-operation. The former Secretary of State for War pleaded for further co-operation of the Army, and I made a speech some weeks ago upon that line, saying that I hoped that sort of thing would be brought about 1194 But the powers-that-be showed no interest; nobody asked me a question about it. It seemed that the complacency and self-satisfaction of some of our Ministers know no bounds. There may still be time, however, to put this right before our vigorous offensive takes place.
I wanted to say a word about Lord Beaverbrook. I have some knowledge of the difficulties inside the Air Ministry and supply therein, and I think he deserves the greatest praise from this House and the whole country. The way he has cut through red tape and "got a hustle on" is really quite extraordinary. There is no doubt about it that when you hurry to the future by long-range planning you have to pay for it, but still the defence of this country was of paramount importance, and he has played a valiant part in that. We have to remember that we now have split the Air Department into two parts. There are the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production. How are they getting on together? We are told that the production of the aircraft is to be stupendous in the near future and even more so in the New Year. How is training getting on? I hear that in the early spring personnel will be behind production, and there is this point that I want to press upon the Secretary of State for Air. I ask him not to think it is possible to train in this country the vast number of pilots we must get. It is absolutely impossible. I have no doubt that some aerodromes have been chosen outside this country, but all initial training must take place outside Great Britain. We heard last year of training schools which for two months did not have one hour's flying training, whereas if they had been situated in other parts of the world, they would have trained many pilots. Only the other day we saw that one of our flying instructors in an Anson machine met an enemy aircraft over his aerodrome. He was unarmed, and he rammed the enemy—one of the most gallant things ever done. But my point is that he should never have been put into the position where he had to do that. Soon every available aerodrome in this country will be wanted for aircraft, either for defensive or offensive purposes, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that training is going ahead by leaps and bounds on other soils than this country.
1195 May I say a word about the close cooperation and equipment of our Army with our Air Force, not the Air Force as we know it, but by machines of the type of flying infantrymen which will help an army to advance in tactical movement? These machines would not be used at any other time than when such a movement was contemplated. Think of the responsibility and the great work we have to do in the future. There is no doubt about it: we must have armies in France, in North Africa, the Near East and possibly the Far East. However many aeroplanes Lord Beaverbrook may be able to manufacture, there will never be enough for that close co-operation with the Army. That question must be given the consideration and drive it deserves.
There is another point on which some explanation is wanted. Here is Lord Beaverbrook in one of the key positions of the war, and the Prime Minister has put him into the War Cabinet. Was it not laid down that people busy with great Departments of State had not the time to be in the War Cabinet? Was that not generally accepted? Somebody may quote the fact that Lord Halifax, who is Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is also in the War Cabinet. That, I think, would be a most unfortunate comparison, because it entirely proves my point. I know perfectly well that we must not discuss the personalities of the Government. We have learned lately that leopards can change their spots when they join the Churchill troop, and as I look at the row of gentlemen on the Front Bench, there is not one member of the Government there who appears to me to possess anything but a "schoolgirl complexion." However, I need not pursue that point.
The Prime Minister said some words to-day about America which, I must say, stirred my heart. They were significant, and they were moving, and I think people with imagination can conjure up some of the vast post-war problems which this nation will have to solve. I think that the idea of the English-speaking races policing the world is one of great attraction. It may be that our great Prime Minister, with his great English ancestor—and we must remember that he has American blood in his veins—may, in conjunction with us, put right some of the follies of the past and 1196 that these two great countries will work together in the near future for the peace and prosperity of the whole world.
Here I want to say that we have had an expensive organisation under the Ministry of Information to tell the Government what the people are thinking. Well, I can do some of this "on the cheap" this afternoon. They first of all hope and are rather optimistic that the invasion scare is over and that the defence of this country can be left to the Home Guard. They are, in general, pining for planning. They are pining to be told something and have the curtain lifted up just a little. There is growing up in this country a tremendous power against the enemy, and it goes further than just defeating Germany. It is based on the good sense of the English people and the knowledge that aggression must be stopped. They saw it born in the Japanese affront on China and saw it followed by Italian aggression against Abyssinia and later by German aggression against other countries. We intend to deal with all of this, though perhaps in reversed order. Down in the hearts of the English people there is decency, and they object to bullying. As our Lord said:Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me.It is that which the British people mean to see put right. They looked around for a leader to represent this great country, and they found the Prime Minister. I maintain that they found the right man, but the position of the Prime Minister is one of tremendous responsibility. The people of this country honestly do not care about anybody else on the Front Bench; all they think of is the Prime Minister, and I say to him from the bottom of my heart, Lead and be strong.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down made a speech which we all enjoyed, and with which many of us agree, and during it paid a well deserved tribute to the work which Lord Beaverbrook has been doing as Minister of Aircraft Production. I would like to support that, and I hope the Government have succeeded in obtaining a man with his dynamic personality and organising powers to take charge of the production of tanks, which is almost 1197 as important. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) said in his speech that we could not win the war so long as we had 800,000 unemployed. He pleaded for the mobilisation of the nation so as to produce an immense striking power, adequately equipped. I heartily support him in that suggestion. He also said he hoped we should endeavour to gain friends to support us by diplomatic methods. About that I propose to say a word presently.
This is the first time since the invasion of Holland and Belgium, and the fall of France, that the House has been given an opportunity to take a survey of the war situation. I welcome that opportunity. I am glad the Government have given it to us, because surely to-day more than ever, far more than when the words were first written, we are "the one voice in Europe, and we must speak." We must speak freely and frankly to the world. We must speak to France, to Spain, to Russia, to Japan and to America. To Germany we shall only speak with guns. To the people of France we speak with sorrow and sympathy. They have been broken by treachery and betrayed by corrupt and faithless leaders. But the soul of France is not dead and can never die. The French people, who once showed "a light to all men" and "preach'd a gospel all men's good," will one day with our help, and perhaps before long, rise against their persecutors and betrayers and proclaim again to the world the triumphant principles of the French Revolution. To the Government of Vichy we speak only with scorn and contempt. For the third time in French history a Marshal of France has proved false to his rank and his dignity. Marshal Marmont betrayed his Emperor: Marshal Bazaine surrendered Metz. There has been left to Marshal Petain the supreme disgrace of betraying and surrendering France.
Let us leave this aged defeatist and reactionary to the pitying contempt of posterity. As for M. Laval, he has followed the crooked course that he has always pursued. In private life his standards have not been high. In public life they have been even less elevated. May he meet, with his colleagues, their just fate, amidst the execrations of the French people where better men than he have met it, under the guillotine. Now this camarilla of 1198 dastards and usurpers, slobbering over the jack-boots of the Nazis in the vain hope of saving their property, are placing on trial for their lives men whose only crime is that they have sought to defend their country. Save perhaps in the case of Marshal Ney, it would be difficult to find a parallel to this in the pages of French history. It is to be hoped that, for the honour of the French nation and the French name, the people of France will rise in their masses and rescue these patriots from the hands of the modern Bourbons of Vichy, who, without the dignity which marked the old regime, have like that old regime preferred class to their country.
In the meantime German anti-British propaganda is being carried out effectively amongst the French people. Every effort is being made to turn the French people against Britain, and with some success. I do not think that up to now that propaganda has been effectively countered by the Ministry of Information and by the British Foreign Office. The Foreign Office has not had many successes to its credit in recent years, and I hope that no tenderness in that quarter for Marshal Pétain or General Weygand or any fear of the possible consequences of a popular rising in France will deter the Government from appealing to the democratic instincts of the French people and supporting General de Gaulle in his efforts to place the real responsibility for the surrender and collapse of France on the shoulders of the valetudinarians of Vichy.
Now I will say a word about Italy. I view with some concern the attitude which has been adopted, since the war started, by the Foreign Office towards Italy. One of the greatest mistakes of the war, in my view, is the fact that we did not send an ultimatum to Mussolini to tell him that, unless he gave us concrete pledges that he would remain neutral, he would be subject to immediate attack I believe that if this had been done, and he had chosen the second alternative, Italy would have been knocked out long ago, France might still have been fighting and Somaliland would still be ours; and why are we dithering about Abyssinia? A successful revolt in Abyssinia might disconcert the Italian designs—and they are formidable designs—in the Middle East. Why do we not 1199 promise the Abyssinians their independence and help them to rebel? The Government have been asked to do this, and this is their reply:His Majesty's Government have let it be known that, in view of Italy's act of deliberate aggression in resorting to war against this country, they feel entitled to reserve complete liberty of action in regard to any commitments entered into in the past with the Italian Government relating to the North and East African and Mediterranean areas. This declaration covered the de jure recognition under the Anglo-Italian Agreement of 1938 of Italy's conquest of Abyssinia.We ask for a clarion call to the Abyssinian people, and all we get is the muffled muttering of mealy-mouthed mediocrity. It is quite certain that that dismal formula was not drafted by the Prime Minister. We can tell that from internal evidence. Let the Prime Minister utter a few clear and plangent sentences telling the Abyssinian people that we want them to be free, that we will help them to be free, and that we ask them to fight for their freedom and for the world. That is what I hope he will do. On this point let me ask one question. The British Government have stated that they will resist any attempt on the part of the enemy to occupy Syria. Does that apply also to Jibuti? I hope so. I hope that, if the Italians attempt to occupy that port, we shall immediately blast them out.
Now I should like to turn to Spain. Here again is a delicate situation which I will endeavour to deal with delicately. Here the Prime Minister is reaping the tares sown by past politics, an agricultural proceeding of which he himself had considerable doubt at the time. Spain at present under Nazi influence has ceased to be neutral and has become non-belligerent, as Italy did a few months ago. The pressure of the Axis upon General Franco's Government is increasing. Anti-British propaganda in Spain has been increased, and it is said that General Franco has voiced the desire for the return of Gibraltar. It is rumoured, it was stated in the "Times" yesterday, that Spain may enter the war on the opposite side to us. In these circumstances I hope that no futile policy of attempted appeasement will be pursued by our Ambassador. His Excellency the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has been to closely associated with M. Laval 1200 and with the mischievous Anglo-German Naval Agreement, to which the Prime Minister and others objected at the time, for us to have any excessive confidence in his judgment. I hope that, if General Franco demands the cession of Gibraltar, we shall return an uncompromising negative. If Gibraltar is attacked, another Elliot will be found to defend it, and, if the Falangists want another Peninsula War, let us tell them they can have it, and that 2,000,000 gallant Spaniards who are in exile or in prison will help us to victory. It was the Spanish ulcer that ate into the vitals of Napoleon. It may yet prove the cancer which Hitler so much dreads.
No great success has yet been attained in the Balkans by our diplomacy. Before the war I suggested to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs that we should send a special envoy to the Balkans, with headquarters at Sofia, with the special object of promoting Balkan unity. One of his aims would have been to persuade Rumania, in return for the guarantee which we had given her, to make territorial concessions in the Dobrudja to Bulgaria. If that had been accomplished, a Balkan bloc might have been formed under British and Turkish auspices capable of affording effective resistance to Nazi aggression. What might have been done under British leadership is now being done under Nazi leadership. Germany, very anxious not to impede the flow of food and raw materials from the Balkans to the Reich by any conflict in that area, has used her influence to try to bring about a Hungarian-Bulgarian-Rumanian agreement. Negotiations are now proceeding, and certain concessions are to be made by Rumania both to Hungary and Bulgaria. The effect of that agreement will be to weaken very considerably the position of Yugo-Slavia and Greece. It goes without saying that, if Greece is attacked by Italy, we shall come to her assistance, and I hope Turkey will do the same, because an Italian conquest of Greece would make the position in the Near East one of extreme danger.
I have no illusions about Russian policy. I have not any delusions either. Russian policy is dictated entirely by self-interest, and she is not the only country of which that can be said. The Russian Government have no love for us, 1201 and they have no love for Germany either. Germany has a powerful military machine and has land frontiers coterminous with that of Russia. If she came into conflict with Russia, she would damage Russia very considerably, and might almost destroy her. We are not in a position to defend the Soviet Union to any appreciable extent in those circumstances; therefore any hope that we can bring Russia upon our side at present is entirely futile. At the same time, Russia has no wish to see a German victory, because, if Germany won this war and we were defeated, nothing on earth would prevent Germany turning upon Russia, seizing the Ukraine and the shores of the Baltic and the Black Seas. Once the tide begins to turn and it is seen that we are getting the upper hand, there will be some hope of the Soviet Union coming into the conflict and helping us to bring the war to a swifter conclusion. In the meantime there is no need to antagonise Russia unnecessarily. I hope that the question of the gold balances of the Baltic States will be speedily settled. The last time a thing of that kind occurred the Bank of England handed them over to Germany, and I hope they will not do the same thing this time. I trust that the negotiations for a trade agreement will be pressed forward as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, we ought to cultivate the most amicable relations possible with Russia although I doubt whether Lord Halifax, who has visited Hitler and Goering—and it has been noted in Russia—but has never been to Moscow, is the man to acomplish this.
I want now to go further East, to Japan. Here again the Prime Minister is the unfortunate inheritor of a policy which he never supported and never approved. If the amiable and ineffective gentleman who now adorns the Woolsack had been promoted to that high position eight years ago, we would not be faced with the present grave situation. But the position is very grave, and every consideration must be given to the Government in this matter. As the Prime Minister has told us, we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and the world does not end to-day. The result in the West will determine in the long run the result in the East, and our attitude towards Japan in future will be largely influenced by her attitude towards us today. Considering our commitments— 1202 and I will not go into them in detail, for obvious reasons—I think the Prime Minister has been acting wisely and prudently in endeavouring to stave off a further conflict in the Far East. We have already seen that his policy is bearing fruit. Tension seems to be less, and anti-British demonstrations in Japan have ceased, according to to-day's newspapers. The exchange of diplomatic Ministers between Australia and Japan is an excellent augury for the future. I see no reason why the Rising Sun and the Southern Cross should not both have their places in the Pacific sky.
We all welcomed the words of the Prime Minister about America. We are glad to know that our relations with America are growing closer every day. We have welcomed the agreement between the United States and Canada for a joint board for mutual defence. There will be widespread approval for the suggestion that certain places in our Dominions and Crown Colonies might be leased to the United States for a term of years for the construction of naval and air bases. All these proposals, signs of the voluntary coming together of free peoples, like the offer of unity which was made to France, are in striking contrast to the designs of Nazi Germany. We all know what those designs are. In Europe France is to be broken up and turned into an agricultural State and is to cease to be an industrial State. All non-German races in Poland, Holland, Scandinavia, everywhere, are to become the slaves of their Nazi conquerors. In pursuance of that policy the British Empire is to be destroyed as a step towards the conquest of the world.
Hitler has made great territorial gains very rapidly. They are comparable to the conquests of Alexander the Great, and they have been made by much the same methods, by the use of a new machine and new tactics. Hitler is now facing the problem which would have faced Alexander the Great if he had lived to turn westward and encountered the legions of Rome. It has often been a controversy among some historians as to what would have happened then. Hitler is facing Rome to-day because the British people, I have always believed, are the true inheritors of the civilisation of Rome and Greece. We are awaiting his onslaught with courage and confidence. There are 1203 reasons for our confidence in the deathless deeds of the Royal Air Force and in the valour of our soldiers, sailors and Home Guard, keeping ceaseless watch on our seas, on the cliffs and the coasts, and on our countryside. We have reason for confidence, too, in the calm fortitude of our civilian population. Most of all, we have confidence because we are now standing with our Allies as the sole champions in Europe of freedom, that freedom whose banner,torn yet flying, streams like a thunder cloud against the wind"—the fiery blast that blows from Nazi Germany. But freedom cannot die, and amidst the thunder of British guns and the lightning of British steel, freedom will triumph over the most evil forces that have ever threatened civilisation with death.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
We have just listened to a stark, interesting and amusing speech from the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). He will forgive me if I do not follow him right round the world, but I would like to say a few words about one or two of the countries he has mentioned. With regard to Abyssinia, it seemed to me all right that the British Government should announce officially that Haile Selassie had reached Khartoum, but they lacked imagination when they left him there and said nothing since officially or unofficially of his movements. If we are to run a propaganda war—and we should, whether through the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Information I do not mind—let us run it in a thoroughly Machiavellian manner. In future, if further operations are undertaken, we ought to have rumours, not official Foreign Office statements, about Haile Selasse and his army leaders, popping up all over the place in Kenya, or South-West Abyssinia, or perhaps in Kassala—in disguise, if necessary—so as to keep the Italians on the qui vive never knowing where some Abyssinian revolt might take place.
My first suggestion to the Government is that not only in Abyssinia, but in many other parts of the world, they should get rid of pre-war Foreign Office methods, and while being strictly correct and truthful in their official statements, should propagate any amount of rumour 1204 which will be to the detriment of the enemy. America is an entirely different proposition. If there is to be propaganda in America, it should be done in such a way that not one American notices it. If it cannot be done in that way, it is better not done. I do not agree with the criticisms in the Press about the lack of information about last Thursday's air battle, which was apparently retailed minute by minute by the German wireless to the American Press. Our official attitude was correct, in giving the truth as soon as it was known. The effect, as seen in Saturday's American Press, was bitter disillusionment among the American people about being misled by the German broadcasts. The reaction has set in so strongly that I think the result will be that the American people will distrust for ever German wireless relays.
What I say about the German wireless and Press reports does not apply to photographs. My information is that the Germans are flooding America with up-to-date and efficient photographs of the war and that the British censorship authorities—in this case the Service Departments—are refusing to release for publication abroad up-to-date military photographs of value to the American Press. It is often said that a photograph cannot lie. It does not really matter whether that be true or not, but the American people, just as much as the British people, want photographs. I hope that the Service Departments will release far more photographs for publication than they have done. They have a great many of them, but they are blocked by the censorships of the Service Departments. I hope that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information will use their influence with the Service Departments to see that far more interesting up-to-date military photographs are sent abroad, and to the United States in particular.
Following the hon. Member for Broxtowe round the world, I would like to mention a country which he did not mention, namely, Syria. I do not know the position of Syria at the present moment, but I imagine that it is not a very happy one. If events occur, which may lead to a desirable change in the status of Syria, I hope the claims of Turkey will be remembered. We have a stalwart friend in Turkey, which governed 1205 that country before the last war. It is generally agreed that we have our hands full, and do not want to take on further obligations. I hope that if there is a change, however, it will go in favour of Turkey. In passing, may I say a word to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger)? He talked about using the military junior officers with their recent experience of the war in training the modern Army. His old corps, with which I am now associated, will be sorry to hear that he has left the Army, and that his knowledge will not be available to the War Office in future.
§ Captain Duncan
I hope that that will soon be changed. The only other subject I wish to discuss is one raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). A stage has been reached in the war this week in which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we now know that we can stand up to the Germans in the air. That stage having been reached I think we can say that the time has arrived to consider a counter-offensive. I am not one of those who urge that a counter-offensive should take place at once, but the winter is coming on, and we may be in a position to have a great counter-offensive next year. The time for the preparation of that offensive is now. What are the Government doing about it? There are a large number of troops in this country, and some of them are being trained for offensive warfare, but I do not know what that proportion is, although I imagine that the larger proportion are still on static defence, and static defence is the very opposite of offensive warfare.
I add my plea to that of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw that all the troops possible should be trained before the winter starts in offensive mobile operation. I am, however, inclined to disagree with what was said by the hon. Member as regards the coming winter. It is far more difficult with short days, black-out, difficulties of billeting, and a hundred and one other things to have effective training for mobile operations. None the less something can be done, but the next two months are the months when mobile offensive operations can be taught, and I hope that every opportunity will be taken to get as large a body of troops 1206 as possible trained now, and arrangements made for the early spring and next year. I am delighted to know that our bombing forces have done such excellent work. Here, again, is the offensive side of the Royal Air Force, and I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister say that these bombing operations, night by night, and sometimes day by day, will continue. I am delighted to know also that the Royal Navy commands the seas and is conducting offensive operations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Let us be offensive-minded and let us train our people to expect to be offensive-minded. Let us get out of our heads what ruined France—the Maginot mentality.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I should like to begin by saying how much I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan). This Debate has been remarkable because from the Prime Minister's speech onwards we have had the first evidences of an offensive spirit. Although for the first time the people of this country are beginning to feel the effects of German aggression, none the less they are getting impatient and anxious that we should reach the offensive stage as soon as we can. The effect of apparently small incidents such as the evacuation of the Channel Islands and Somaliland go very deeply home to the people of this country. These incidents ought not to have happened. The Somaliland evacuation does suggest that, somewhere, some one has blundered very severely. Indeed, we were assured not so long ago that we should be able to hold that territory. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War shakes his head, but I would suggest that he should get after the people who speak on his behalf at the Ministry of Information. Although the colonel who speaks on behalf of the War Office in connection with the Ministry of Information is one of the best Intelligence Officers I have ever met, I think the world Press had been given the impression that we were going to hold on to that territory. We were assured that the Italians could not rapidly advance along the coast and then we were told they could, and so on. But I do not want to enter into any criticism at the present time.
The Prime Minister's speech seems to me to have been the best speech he has 1207 made. It gave us the first indication that we would adopt offensive tactics. Although it is obvious that we cannot yet carry out an offensive on a large scale, we are in a position, and have been in a position for some time, to carry out the most important offensive tactics of guerrilla warfare. Why should we leave it to Hitler to carry on this war of nerves? We have at least half the population under Hitler hating his control, and there is a great deal we could do in a small and quiet way, to increase the anxieties of the Gestapo and increase their feeling that, underground, there is working a ferment of revolution against them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) warned us against the danger of a premature offensive. There is, I think, a great deal in that, but I would suggest one or two things we could be doing now without involving ourselves in great commitments. We could be carrying a war of nerves into the enemy's camp much more than we are doing at the present time. I do not mean by dropping parachutes with no one attached to them, although I did suggest such a measure towards the Germans several months ago. But I did not suggest that we should drop them over wooded territories or unopened.
I do not see why, with the tremendous coastline of territory under Germany, we should not be organising small raiding parties. We should have an enormous number of young men volunteering to take part in this work. Not only would young men volunteer, but there are some of us in this House who would ask for nothing better than to take part in one of these small raids in Norway, or in France, or other parts of the large territory now open to us. We might have 10, 20 or even 100 men forming landing parties, and even if they did no other damage than to blow up a railway station, or sink one or two ships, they would compel the enemy to distribute their troops over a wider hostile territory. These raiding parties would increase the nervousness and uneasiness of the enemy. I do not see why we should not draw up a list at once of men with the right sort of qualifications—a knowledge of languages, the right sort of initiative, and the desire to serve their country in that way.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Why knowledge of languages?
§ Mr. Bartlett
I think that the knowledge of languages would be very useful. There are quite a number of people in this country who have sufficient knowledge of languages to be able to stay in one or other of the enemy-controlled countries for several days without being "caught out." In that period they might be able to do a considerable amount of damage. We should do our best to develop this spirit of initiative out of which we have built up the largest Empire the world has ever seen. I am sure that that spirit is still here, and that it is not being appealed to as it ought to be. For example, I see no reason why we should not adopt the suggestion adumbrated by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). He suggested that there are many civilian ideas which have not been properly utilised. For my part, I should like to see a central organisation, or bureau, set up to which people would be encouraged to send ideas for the carrying on of this war with greater vigour and effect. Many of these people may not write the best English and may not have influence, but there are a number with useful ideas who do not know how to put them on paper. Many Members of this House receive suggestions, some of them good and some of them bad, and know how difficult it is to send them to the right Department where there is some overworked official who cannot be expected to welcome them.
We should appeal to all the aliens in this country, and ask for volunteers who would be willing to be dropped by parachute over Germany or over German-occupied territory. I believe that a great many would volunteer, and that a great many are desperately anxious to serve our country and our cause. It might be argued that there was a certain amount of risk, and that some of these aliens might be Nazi agents. But what does that matter? Supposing 40 German subjects were dropped over German territory and ten of them were Nazi agents—and such a percentage I believe would be an extraordinary exaggeration of probability. Supposing that these ten Nazi agents went to a local police station and reported that they had been dropped upon German territory by the British Government to create trouble. How much worry that 1209 would cause the Gestago agents. There is no reason why, with this potential manpower for carrying on the war of nerves, we should not use it.
A few days ago I obtained from the Lord Privy Seal an illuminating reply to a question about war aims. He stated that the appropriate moment for stating our aims would be a moment which was appropriate. I venture to think that that is an insufficient reply. The Prime Minister explained very convincingly why you could not lay down your war aims in any great detail. But in London at the present time we have a considerable number of Allied Governments. They are here in this city, and they are the beginnings of a federated Europe. But we have not yet a proper Inter-Allied Council, as far as I know, between these different Governments. I see no reason why such a council should not be set up to talk about what sort of Europe is to come out of this war. As far as propaganda in Europe is concerned the Germans have won a tremendous asset—the asset of the empty stomach. They will use the hunger of the people of Europe to generate a hatred against this country such as it has never known, and we must do everything we can to counteract it. I suggest that if we had an Inter-Allied Council to discuss the future of Europe, we could let it be known, as quickly and as widely as possible, to the many peoples in occupied territory in Europe that the moment they turned Hitler out we would rush in food supplies. More than that, why should we not make it clear that an Inter-Allied Council is to be the beginning of the new international government? Hitler is developing the whole of occupied Europe along certain lines, but not in the interests of the people concerned. We have to suggest to them the development of an economic unity in which each people will have its place, each people will have its hopes, and the belief that its ideals can be realised. We should be doing that. I think we should go even further and have a wider European committee in which all the neutral States should be invited to take part. I do not see why, because Hitler claims that he is carrying out a total blockade of the British Empire, we should not reply to him by building up as quickly as we can total Government in London of the countries of Europe.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
I believe that if each one of us here, and for that matter every English man and every English woman, examines his or her feelings to-day we shall all admit that our whole outlook on life has been profoundly affected by the recent exploits of the Royal Air Force. Although we have always had confidence in victory, that confidence was not until very recently supported by much more than faith; but during the last seven or eight days it has been supported both by faith and by facts, which is a very comforting change. I think it is fair that we should endeavour to measure the success of the Royal Air Force and to see what that success should teach us. Those who have studied air strategy for many years have fairly uniformly come to the conclusion that a strong air force raiding this country might expect to lose, if our ground and fighter defence were thoroughly efficient, some 15 to 20 per cent. of the numerical strength of each raid upon the Metropolis. Actually, hon. Members will recall, even in the raids on the coast, where there was no advantage from the time-lag of the enemy aircraft going up to the Metropolis and then our control summoning the fighter squadrons to intercept them on the way back—even without that immense advantage, we have frequently exceeded the 20 per cent. in attacks on places like Dover, only a stone's throw from the enemy bases. We may therefore say that the whole strategy of interception and the method by which our controls operate have been thoroughly justified in the last week or so; and when we come to the raids on the Metropolis it is comforting to note that of those aircraft which raided Croydon, not one single enemy plane, we are informed, returned to its base.
But the crux of the whole air situation from now onwards is going to be not machines, because, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister declared, the problem of machines is fortunately tending to be behind us, but men, and above all pilots. I should like to examine the achievements of the last week in relation to strength in pilots. I will not give all the figures, but these are the significant factors which I wish to emphasise. The rate of wastage of German pilots compared to our own fighter pilots was as 1211 follows:—On Sunday, 11th August, they lost 2.8 times the number we lost. On Monday the figure had gone up to the extraordinary one of 5.2 times as many, and every one of us felt elated. By Thursday 5.2 had gone up to 10.6, and by Sunday, with the loss of 144 enemy pilots to the loss of only 10 pilots of the Royal Air Force, the figure had gone up to the extraordinary and significant one of 14.4. From 2.8 it had risen by consistant advances during the week to 14.4.
§ Mr. Simmonds
No, I am talking about pilots. The crews are important, but crews can be trained much more quickly than the pilots, and the crux of the whole situation in 1941 will be pilots. Therefore, I think we may say, not only as every speaker who has referred to this matter has said, that we owe an immense debt of gratitude to the gallantry, the intrepidity and the fearlessness of our pilots, but that a great meed of congratulation is due to the Air Staff, over the last years, for the training which they have determined these pilots shall have. If I may say so, our Air Force is not the same Air Force as it was a week ago. It is an Air Force which is now consecrated by its immense victories over the enemy; and who would like to say whether the significant figure of 14.4 enemy pilots to one fighter pilot of our own may not be bound up equally with the growing confidence and growing experience of our own pilots and the growing dislike of the enemy to face our Royal Air Force?
Therefore, we can say that our system of training has stood the test. But, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) mentioned, we must not think only in terms of fighters and fighter pilots. The Prime Minister's promise that we are going to hit the enemy harder and harder by our bomber squadrons is exactly what the House and the country wanted to hear. There is, as has been mentioned, more than one type of bomber. There is the normal long-distance bomber and there is the dive-bomber which accompanies the troops. I believe the House would like to hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air of an energetic movement towards creating a strong, virile, experienced, dive-bomber 1212 force to accompany the expeditionary forces which must, as Members in all parts of the House seem to agree, play their part in our efforts in 1941 and 1942. It was suggested that there is plenty of time to organise these dive-bomber forces. There may be plenty of time to organise them, but now is the time when the powers-that-be, those who appreciate the importance of military efforts as opposed to naval and air efforts, must insist that an adequate air arm is evolved for the Army. I do not know that I want to embark upon discussing whether there should be a separate air arm for the Army, but I am confident of this, that our military leaders have not been sufficiently air-minded in the sense that they have not sufficiently insisted upon a fair quota of aircraft and of military-trained pilots. That matter has to be attended to. I trust that the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Aircraft Production will unitedly give their thought to this problem. It is useless for us to devote great effort to tank production if we are not making an equal effort in the production of dive bombers and the training of pilots who can use these machines.
Praise has been given to Lord Beaver-brook for what he has done. Whenever I have put forward some revolutionary proposal from my part of the aircraft industry, I have found that if the proposal was technically sound, I could get it through in as many weeks to-day as it would have taken years previously. That change will be of inestimable value in the quantity of aircraft which we can produce, and in the cost of those aircraft, which is another matter that most profoundly exercises the House of Commons from time to time. While we are all mindful and grateful about what the Royal Air Force has done, we should not forget the great service which was rendered to the country by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Secretary of State for Air. I saw something, if not from the inside, at any rate from the fringe, of what he was achieving in our air power. After Dunkirk, when one or two hon. Members of this House were indulging in head hunting, he was on the list, and I shame to think that a man who has built up a flying force which now has to its credit the achievements of last week should have been in- 1213 cluded in that list. I hope that public opinion will see from that circumstance that we cannot judge yet who has done his duty and who has failed. We are all too much on top of events.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made what a very large number of people thought was a profoundly sincere and important broadcast upon the moral and ethical aspect of the war. It was quite a different type of broadcast from that which has been made on several occasions by the Minister of Information. I have not listened to many of these broadcasts, but I am told that they are always permeated with his intense hatred of the enemy and, secondly, that they do not seem entirely lacking fromSuch boastings as the heathen useAnd lesser breeds without the law.I believe that the British people are thinking in terms of what the Foreign Secretary said rather than what the Minister of Information has said in his many broadcasts. Let us be frank about this matter. Who knows whether, last week, we have not once again passed through the Red Sea? Who can say to what extent a miracle has been wrought to save the right and to save those powers who support the right? It is a profound mistake for Ministers or even for Members of this House to address the nation in terms which seem inconsistent with the highest conception of Christianity.
In a copy of the New York "Sunday Times," sent to me a few days ago, I saw a rather wonderful cartoon. I believe it was copied by the New York paper from "The Christian Science Monitor." The cartoon depicted "The Real Gibraltar." There was a drawing of the Rock of Gibraltar and, in lettering across the Rock of Gibraltar, these American papers had written the word "British Character." I believe there is something fundamental and important in that cartoon, and that if, when public men address us on the moral and ethical aspects of the war, we could have uplifting and Christian thoughts, the whole of this people would respond.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan (Doncaster)
We feel that the Prime Minister was more happy this afternoon, in a moment that coincided with such a heroic week, than he hitherto has been. The precision with 1214 which he announced certain major decisions was welcomed in this House. And in particular I rise to amplify, by inquiry and comment, his references to the food situation. Evidently he, and the Government with him, regard it as a situation that needs dealing with firmly and yet with an indication of a policy that can be operated to face any change that may arise from the attitude of the Nazi-occupied countries concerned.
I felt from the Prime Minister's attitude that he was aware that a situation was developing that might put us in an awkward light towards the rest of the world, and which might become an effective basis of propaganda against us in America and in the occupied territories, if it were not handled firmly and definitely at an early stage. It is an attitude on the part of members of the Government and, in particular, of the Prime Minister, which we welcome in this House, because it suggests that other awkward situations which may develop will be handled in time. The food predicament of Europe is in that category, and the statement indicated that the Government must have proceeded fairly far along that road of having a policy ready to meet it. Otherwise, on the face of it, it might have merely looked like a half promise to behave ourselves and to fulfil any obligations in the future, with regard to food supply. One could not help feeling that the Prime Minister was the one person in this House entitled to be trusted to handle such a situation. After the last war, and the collapse of Germany from this very difficulty, the Prime Minister himself suggested that food and grain ships should be put into the harbours of Germany forthwith. Had that suggestion been adopted, we might have had the premise of a better understanding with that country. Unfortunately, the French mind dominated. I was glad to see the recurrence of that impulse in the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, because it indicated that he has a hopeful conception of the treatment of the situation after the war is over. A man with a mind like that can be trusted to handle the situation that might confront us then.
It also indicated surely that we must be meeting the situation arising in South America, where there are Nazi contacts and an embarrassing accumulation of supplies of food. It seemed to me that 1215 perhaps we had already begun arrangements in the United States for the financing of such an operation, which indicates closer co-operation with them in that financial field as well as the other directions mentioned earlier to-day. I think also it will be noted to-morrow that we received from the Prime Minister the first overt reference to Soviet Russia's positive influence on the war situation. We have received an indication to-day from the Prime Minister that, just as in the old days this country had to accept as a basis of its authority a two-Power naval standard, so Hitler to-day has to face as a basis of his permanence, or impermanence, in the world, a two-Power air standard. Hitler to-day must think in terms of the Soviet Russian air force and our own. And consequently the position that confronts him is an impossible one. We got from the Prime Minister this afternoon an indication that Hitler's dilemma is that the moment he embarks upon a major operation in any quarter, particularly one directed against this country, Soviet Russia will try further to advance her interests in all probability. Although we cannot expect any close collaboration with Soviet Russia, yet it was interesting to note that the Prime Minister felt it worth while to indicate recognition that this factor was beginning to operate, and to operate satisfactorily so far as we are concerned.
I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) make a plea that we should take an early step in the direction of getting an inter-Allied Council functioning in this country. When I think of the courage of the Governments of small countries operating here, and of the Committee for free Frenchmen, and when we know that Germany has been putting pressure on Norwegians themselves to get the Storthing called together but has found it impossible to get such co-operation, I do hope that the Government are taking every step to bring the Governments of these countries together and give them a full sense of our support and a sense that they are participating in policy in relation to war policy and peace terms.
I felt that the House was not quite satisfied that we had been told all we would have liked to be told about Somaliland. It has been said before in this House that we do not want more of this 1216 type of evacuation. This Government has secured confidence based largely on the personality of the Prime Minister, but there seemed some contradiction in the right hon. Gentleman's speech when he indicated that although we were withdrawing from Somaliland because we were faced by superior forces, we were quite ready to reinforce the Middle East from several directions. It left a feeling that the question might well be asked, why in that case we did not attempt to reinforce Somaliland, particularly in view of the fact that it is known that the Governor of French Somaliland had indicated in a friendly way that he would not be able to resist British demands if they were put to him. We might have been in Jibuti ourselves by this time if we had taken the initiative. However, there may be considerations of higher strategy in this matter, and we have to leave it there, hoping there that there are larger aims in view, and that we have not left Somaliland merely because we were not ready or could not face that particular enemy. We are beginning to feel that this sort of thing has a moral effect upon minds that are easily susceptible. We are inclined to talk rather sentimentally, for instance, about free Abyssinia. But Abyssinian assistance will have to be paid for, and we shall have to make it worth the chieftains' while to espouse our cause. The possibility of finding themselves on the wrong side may weigh with that type of mind. I think the House had a feeling that we were being asked to accept the situation becauses the Cabinet had wider strategic considerations in mind. Yet that kind of argument was used about Norway, and in the end we found there was nothing much to it. We hope that that will not turn out to be the case in Somaliland.
There was no reference made to-day from the Government Bench to the position of Turkey, but one feels confident that Turkey is standing pat, and that we must be supporting Turkey at this moment in any way she feels necessary in regard to Greece. We have been through a week of the kind that must impress the Turkish mind, and therefore one retains a feeling of confidence in regard to Turkey. But it would be helpful if the Minister in his reply made some friendly reference to Turkey, be- 1217 cause we feel it in our bones that Turkey is capable of being a firm and permanent friend of this country, not only during the war, but long after it. We hope that we shall continue in friendship with that great and developing country.
As I believe the Secretary of State for Air is to reply to the Debate, I would like to ask him whether it is the case that it was the Service Departments which put difficulties in the way of American newspaper correspondents getting their despatches out of the country last week. I do not mean actual reports on the results of the actions that were taking place, but the kind of stuff that American correspondents like to put over—the background of the picture, the reactions from the civilian side and so on. The Secretary of State may feel that the Service Departments are not primarily responsible for this, and that Goebbels was really antedating the whole affair, but the fact remains that the principal American newspapers were allowed to go to press several hours after it was known that reports were being issued by Germany and that we could have allowed American correspondents to send over material much sooner in the day. Whether it was the Ministry of Information or the Service Departments or the censorship department that was responsible, I hope that it will be realised that we ought to give the American newspaper correspondents every facility. We have excellent correspondents in this country—the newspapers have paid us the compliment of sending first-class men here—and we ought to trust them in regard to the material they send across. We have nothing to hide.
The Government know that this country is in remarkably fine fettle. At no stage have our people been in doubt. Tributes have been paid to the Royal Air Force, not only to the men who go out in the fighter squadrons, but also to those who go out in the bombers. I have seen them going out, and I have felt that in them we have exactly the stuff that will bring us victory. But it cannot be overlooked that every time that one talks to these men, about the material on the ground or the aeroplanes they use, they always testify to its quality. They feel that they have fine material at their disposal. And there must have been some good work 1218 done in the workshops to give them that class of material to take into the air. Airmen have told me that they have seen in the very flying of their opponents that momentary indecision which has given them the feeling that their opponents were not sure of their craft, whereas they themselves have not a moment's doubt. They knew that their machines would respond to their enterprise in every possible way. I am confident that the workpeople in the aircraft industry, who take an intense pride in their work, feel too that the quality of the work they have done has been justified by the magnificent and heroic feats in the air of the last week. In fact, the whole country is in fine fettle, and the Prime Minister, sensing that, has made a fine speech to-day.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
The House has listened to a series of exceptionally attractive and brilliant speeches on numerous topics, but one of the first things which must interest the House is its control over the Executive of this country, and I believe that, excellent as the first wind of this Government has been, there is some evidence available that there is a danger of its losing its first wind and not getting a second. I want to examine that evidence calmly, and I hope reasonably discreetly, for a few minutes. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), in a speech to which we listened with sympathy, said that there seemed to be a convention that one did not criticise the Prime Minister. I think the hon. Member wrongly stated the case. There is no such convention. The fact of the matter is that the House and the country follow the Prime Minister because he is a first-class leader, and if there is no criticism of him, it is not because there is any convention that he should not be criticised, but because no real criticism is felt of the way in which he has done his work. But I do not believe that quite the same can be said of all the other Members of the Executive.
It has to be admitted that, historically speaking, the present administration found its origin in political necessity. At a time when it was obviously necessary to create national unity without dissension, the Prime Minister formed an Administration in which he took in the leading Members of the leading parties in the House. He wanted the support of the Conservative 1219 party, so he took in the leaders of the Conservative party as such. He wanted the support of the Labour party, so he took in the leaders of the Labour party as such. He wanted the support of the Liberal party, so the Liberal party leaders were taken in as such. No one will quarrel with that having been done. It was at the time a political necessity that it should be done. I think it is interesting and right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that it was, historically speaking, precisely the thing which happened in the first place in the last war. An administration commanding the support of only part of the House gave way to a first Coalition which found its origin in political necessity. But I find myself bound to say, with humility but with conviction, that it is not the right way to choose a War Cabinet to win a war. You ought not to choose your leaders simply because they are the leaders of the parties in the House of Commons. You ought to choose them because they are the most efficient men to do the job. I am bound to say, again with respect, that that has not been done, because politically speaking at the time it could not be done; but before we go away on our short Recess, I think it is time we began to think of the future politically. It is not sufficient that we should go on with an administration the membership of which is based in origin upon political necessity and not primarily upon efficiency at the particular job.
Let us, to begin with, look at the War Cabinet, that body for which hon. Members struggled in the months that many of us remember. It was to be a small, efficient body composed only of our most brilliant statesmen, who were not to be troubled with the details of administration, but who were to determine the great broad decisions of policy upon which the conduct of the war was to depend. Have we got such a Cabinet? I believe that my right hon. Friend opposite was right when he said that the people cared for nobody but the Prime Minister. There are notable and brilliant exceptions, no doubt; but can any of us honestly say that the War Cabinet has no passengers in it at the present time? I do not believe there is anybody who can say that honestly, and, in my humble submission, it is time that that fact is faced, because in the War Cabinet we cannot afford to 1220 carry one passenger. In a private conversation, I put that to somebody connected with the Government quite recently, and he began to say, "But the War Cabinet is not so important now." The War Cabinet is the spring of policy. The Prime Minister cannot be expected, brilliant and great as his leadership has been, to give us leadership on every point of major policy that exists at present. He must have support from four or five absolutely first-class people. It cannot be said at the present time that there are no passengers in the War Cabinet, or that it has been selected on grounds of efficiency rather than on grounds of necessity. I believe it to be true that this defect in personnel has already shown some reflection in defects of policy. There have, again, been most brilliant and notable exceptions. The achievement of the Minister for Aircraft Production has been noted again and again in this Debate. The achievement of the Minister of Labour is, I believe, little less remarkable, and the Minister of Supply has justly earned great praise; but there are other matters in which there has begun to appear again the same element of absence of positiveness, the same element of indecision, which led to some of us voting against the last Administration in a critical Debate; and it is right that this should be said at the end of a week when we rightly think that we have won a great victory against our enemies abroad.
Let us take the question of finance. We listened to a Budget announcement of great length and great ability, but on both sides of the House a note of criticism came from the Front Bench opposite and from the speakers on this side who supported the Government. There did seem to be in the mind of some of us a complete conviction that the fundamental problem was not being dealt with at all; that the Budget was not a Budget designed to meet the long-range problems which we had to confront at a time when it was very important that we should do so. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition side said at the time that there was no sacrifice which this people was not prepared to face and that it was gratifying to notice that the Chancellor had realised it. For my part, I very much regret that I did not think that either the right hon. Gentleman or the Chancellor realised the depth and great- 1221 ness of the sacrifice which is coming to this people, and which will be all the greater if it is much longer deferred. The problem which the Chancellor had to face was not one of revenue but one of economics, and, in my submission, he treated it simply as a question of revenue on the old lines, which will suffice no doubt to carry the situation along until it remains no longer tolerable.
The question of foreign policy has been very ably dealt with by my hon. Friend opposite, so I do not want to say much about that. But in spite of the attitude of the Noble Viscount who directs our foreign policy for the Government, and in spite of his broadcast, which I greatly and sincerely admired when I heard it, can we say in all sincerity that there has been no sign of the old indecision in the past few weeks and months? Have we learned our lesson about Italy yet? Is there not in all our minds an analogy in present policy which should teach us to mind our step again? Are we quite sure that the same mistakes are not being repeated? I wish I could find myself wholly easy upon those points.
Then I come to a more delicate matter, as to which I must tread even more warily—the question of the Army. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has appointed a Committee to go into the organisation of the War Office. A great deal has been said about the Army. One thing demands to be said at the outset. The men are splendid, and the officers are determined to do their duty; any criticism levelled either at the men, the N.C.O.'s or the officers, at any rate in my experience, has not been justified. But again things are not all that they should be. In the first place, it is an undoubted fact that if you compare the morale of the Air Force, the Navy and the Army at the moment, the morale of the Army is not as high as that of the other two. I am not saying it is bad, I am not saying it is indifferent, but it is not as high as that of the other two. The Army ought to go about saying, whether it is true or false, "We are the best of the three. We are the chaps who are going to win the war. It is grand to be a soldier. I would not for the world be anything else." Now that is not what they are saying, and one has to admit, in spite of all the circulars the War Office has directed to be sent 1222 round, that the basis of that difference lies to some extent in justified criticism of what is going on in the organisation. That criticism is all the more real and dangerous because it is to some extent unspoken, but people have felt that things are not just quite right.
§ Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
May I interrupt? Would the hon. Gentleman consider that at a time when the Army was engaged in active operations in the same way as the Navy and the Air Force are now there was any difference of that kind in their morale?
§ Mr. Owen Evans (Cardigan)
On what grounds does the hon. Gentleman say that the morale of the Army is not as high as that of the Air Force?
§ Mr. Hogg
No, but I have my ears and eyes open, and I know what my brother officers say. I am not grumbling at all, but I am saying what the House had better know, because it is true. Now that is not as it should be, and it is something which could be put right easily. I believe you only need a little courage and a little faith. There are one or two things which ought to be done. I remember during last winter the unit I was then with was in billets, with the rain coming through the roof. We had in the unit, as it happened, a number of people who were quite capable of putting it right, but we were foolish enough to ask authority whether we should let them do it. Oh no, they must not touch it. Well, could we go to a man round the corner and spend £2 on it? No, we must not allow that to happen either; we must send for the Royal Engineers. We sent for the Royal Engineers, and in 10 days 1223 we asked them what was being done about it, and they sent round a civilian inspector, who looked at the roof and said, "The rain is coming through the roof." We said, "Yes, what are you going to do about it?" He said, "I am going to report to authority." We said, "Very well." And a fortnight later—more or less; at any rate, the whole period was a month—the Royal Engineers instructed us to employ the very same man round the corner whom we had been forbidden to employ before, but by this time we had long since gone somewhere else.
Let me give another example, as my statement seems to be questioned. Recently, at the time that the invasion scare was on, but before we were as adequately prepared as we are now, the unit I was with had a civilian motor car, and that civilian motor car had four disused flat tyres that burst every time you took the motor car out. So we wanted some new tyres, and we were informed when we asked for them that although the battalion commander was entrusted with the lives of hundreds of men under him, he was not allowed to spend more than £10 at a time on his troops, and, as a new set of tyres cost more than that, he was very sorry but he could not let us have what we wanted. So we adopted the following device: We sent for two new tyres and got then, and then we sent for another two tyres the following week and got them. But it is not the way to win wars, and it is no use hon. Members getting indignant with me for saying that morale is not always as high in the Army as it is in the other two Services, because these things do not happen in the other two Services to the same extent.
§ Mr. J. Morgan
Does the hon. Member see any hope that the Committee whose appointment we heard of a little time ago will cut through a little of this?
§ Mr. Hogg
It is a pity that the Committee is to deal entirely with the War Office, and not with the Army as a whole. But I do not believe the appointment of committees is the best way to put things of that kind right. I think there are two or three things wrong with the Army organisation which any serving officer knows about and admits, and it only requires a little courage to say they will be altered. I do not think it is a difficult 1224 problem, but I do not think the Committee will do so. There was also a small matter of drawing pins. One Department of State required the other day two boxes of drawing pins, and a young officer who wanted the drawing pins was at pains to know how he could get them without cost to himself. The method by which you get drawing pins is this: You write a letter to a building which is not the main building, and you get a chit from the man who lives there and is a great authority. You get the chit sent back to the main building, and the drawing pins are then issued from the store. But, unfortunately, they were not issued; and, after a delay of some days, an inquiry was put through as to what had become of the order for drawing pins. The reply was, "We are very sorry; the messenger is not allowed to leave the building; we do not know who is entitled to give the authority." Another method was adopted, and again there was delay. An inquiry was made, and the answer came, "You should have addressed the letter to me personally; otherwise, it must wait its turn." The end of the story is a happy one, because the young officer, being public-spirited, put his hand into his pocket, and bought the drawing pins.
Wars are not won in this way. It is no use complaining about my saying these things. The serving officer and the serving man have a grievance. There is no delegation of authority where there should be delegation of authority. There is no trusting them with money, when they should be trusted with money. These things clog up the machine, and when they happen the best men in the world will not get a move on. It is time that these things were said by someone who does not care a farthing what happens to him personally.
§ Colonel A. Evans
When the hon. Member challenges the morale of a Force, the suggestion is that he challenges the fighting morale of that Force. The hon. Member challenges that morale, and then he introduces arguments about drawing pins and motor cars to substantiate his case.
§ Mr. Hogg
I never challenged the fighting morale of the Force. What I said was that the officers and N.C.Os. and men were splendid, and all did their duty. It is a complete misrepresentation of my 1225 remarks to say that I had suggested anything of the kind which the hon. and gallant Member alleges. One is always accused of vile, unwarrantable things when one says such things as I have said. Then it is complained that I have talked about drawing pins and motor cars and roofs. What would you have me talk about?
§ Mr. Hogg
Would you have me talk about rifles and things of that sort? Are those proper things to be spoken about here? Has not the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) the sense to see that the reason why I talked about motor cars and drawing pins and roofs is that these are not secret weapons. As for the hon. and gallant Member behind me, he said something which I did not entirely catch.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I would ask the hon. and gallant Member how he has arrived at the rank of captain after nine months' service.
§ Mr. Hogg
Happily, it was not I who promoted myself and if someone else wants to demote me, it is well within his power to do so. I do not care what rank I hold if I can serve my country in the sphere in which it is thought that I should serve. That sort of suggestion ought not to be made when we are discussing serious matters. I want to put the matter simply, plainly, in a few words. The Prime Minister commands my undivided loyalty, but there are signs that this Government are losing their first wind, that many of their supporters are people of such complacency that they cannot allow criticism to be uttered. That must not go on. There is one great and significant division in this country at the moment. It is the division between youth and age. For my part, I would rather stand with those who are my contemporaries as well as my compatriots.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I should like to support all those who have expressed their very great admiration for the marvellous performances of the Air Force, both of the bomber and the fighter commands. The Air Minister is not here, but perhaps I may be vain enough to hope that he will read what I have to say when I express my hope that he will 1226 search his heart and make sure that he has a headquarters worthy of the marvellous young men. I will not make any implication against any particular person in authority, but I remember how in the last war we would have been ready to behead a lot of those who were in charge. We have listened to an air officer, the hon. and gallant Member for Kettering (Mr. Profumo); and, as the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) said, it was a most inspiring speech, especially as it was made without any notes—a feat which I rarely succeed in achieving. A thing which struck me about this speech was the hon. Member's appeal to the faith of the young men. It is in order that that faith may not be let down, as the faith of our generation was let down after the last war, that I wish to speak to-night. I hope that when the young men come back they will play skittles with the old ones, and see that we get a better state of affairs in the world.
I must ask the House to bear with me while I spend one or two minutes on a matter of personal explanation. At the commencement of this war I was one of a minority who urged that the earliest opportunity should be taken to attempt some form of negotiation. I persisted in that idea until the invasion of Denmark. I firmly believed that, while it might be possible to arrive at some sort of compromise before the guns went off, once other countries were invaded and general loss of life started it would not be possible. I realised after the invasion of Denmark that it would be impossible to enter upon negotiations and I preface my remarks with that explanation in the hope that I may not be misunderstood—and I am always optimistic enough to believe that one day I may be not only understood, but agreed with. While I accept that it is impossible to talk about peace until the Germans have been shown that they are not invincible, I cannot understand why it is considered not a propitious time to make a widely-drawn declaration of our aims. I remember during the last war—and I was out there three years, fighting, not a back-line wallah—sitting up at Passchendaele, and saying that I wished someone in the House of Commons had the sense to stand up and suggest a reasonable statement of the aims that we were fighting for, because then the German people would be 1227 sensible enough to agree with us, and to stop the awful slaughter.
I really am distressed with the Prime Minister. While, as a soldier, I agreed with what he said, I thought that his speech might have had a good deal more that was constructive and on that account it lacked statesmanship. He swept aside the appeals which, he said, had been made to him to take this opportunity to make a broad declaration of our aims. It might have given the House the impression that there was nothing behind that appeal and that people did not want such a declaration. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member here takes that view, but I propose, if the House will be patient with me, to quote one or two authorities, much greater than I, in support of the proposal that it is time some broad and constructive statement on war aims should be made. The "Times," on 5th August this year, stated in a leading article:No British Government can afford indefinitely to have a war policy and nothing else.They went on, in what was a remarkable article for this paper, to say:The first step towards the creation of a new European order will be to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to house the homeless. No frontiers and no national rivalries can be allowed to impede this essential task. The old motto 'to each according to his needs' is the only criterion which can be applied.I felt like writing to the Editor and completing the quotation with the words:From each according to his ability.The "Daily Herald" said, on 12th August:A definition of our conception of a peace settlement and an indication of our policy in post-war reconstruction are badly overdue. It would be a standard around which the forces of anti-Hitlerism not only in the conquered countries but in Germany itself would rally.I maintain that a proper, constructive statement would rally in Germany all the elements who dislike Nazidom. At present we only hear breathed the kind of pagan hatred which the Minister of Information pours over the wireless. Again the "Daily Herald," on 14th August, said in an article headed "Declaration of Aims:"The object would be to mobilise in our cause the ardent sympathies of all free men and of all men who want to be free throughout the earth. To win their hearts and conquer their minds.1228 The House might think that is enough but I would like to add just two more quotations, because we on these benches are surely entitled to have our views represented, even from the Government Benches as well. On 28th November the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Lord Privy Seal said in this House:It is important to-day that 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 I am facing and which my father faced 25 years ago?' The morale of our people requires a clear answer to that question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 20, Vol. 355.]If my postbag is any evidence, and I take it that it is some expression of opinion throughout the country, there is a clear demand that there should be a wide declaration of our peace aims. Surely you can hold out some hope to our own friends in Europe who, according to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, will suffer the most appalling privation of famine and plague during this coming winter. Surely it is possible to hold out something more constructive than has hitherto been offered by any leading member of the Government. Without wishing to embarrass anybody, I think we could say something that would not do harm to anybody, and which would be a real fillip to our cause and to constructive opinion throughout the world. What possible harm would there be if we said that when the war is over we propose to throw the whole weight of the British Empire towards the removal of trade barriers? Many people in this House and throughout the country accept the dictum that unless you allow goods to cross frontiers, sooner or later armies will. What conceivable harm can it do to our cause to say we are agreed that the old monetary system is broken and gone for ever and that we will work when the war is over towards a different system which will not put us at the mercy of the antediluvian gold standard? The sooner America realises that the £5,000,000,000 in gold in their vaults is utterly worthless, the better. It is not even any use for stopping teeth; dentists find high-class steel so much better.
Why not support the remarkable statement made by the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), who is now Ambassador to Madrid? He said that raw materials should be made available 1229 for the people who need them, but nothing more has been said about that since he made that statement in 1935. Surely it is time we said that we would place the whole resources of the British Empire towards economic security for the Continent and America.
§ Mr. Radford (Manchester, Rusholme)
Surely all the nations of the world during the period before the war were able to buy raw materials in the same manner that we could buy them here.
§ Mr. Stokes
That is a matter of opinion. We chose to make the British Empire a closed trading corporation and made exchange dependent on gold, which itself is absolute nonsense. We prevented the producers of Europe from indulging in their natural desire to exchange goods for raw materials. Why should we not make it clear that when the war is over we will go to the limit in disarmament and that when disarmament is discussed it shall be discussed by civilians, without the humbug of the experts who went to Geneva on the last occasion and saw to it that arms should, in fact, be maintained? Why should it not be possible for us to make it clear to the German people that we mean what we say when we say we do not want another Versailles? I have the conviction that Germany expects that we will endeavour to restore in Central Europe the fortress-ringed tariff barriers which were in existence before the war. Why should we not say that we are genuinely going in for freedom of exchange and abolition of arms? I want to urge the Prime Minister to make the Germans understand that the kind of peace we want is really the kind of peace which suits them. Then they will begin to wonder why Hitler makes them fight.
I am reminded of something in a pamphlet entitled "Labour's Peace Aims" which ought not to be forgotten by anybody on this side of the House or by our members of the Government. It was printed early this year and was headed "Principles of Peace." It states:We have no desire to humiliate, to crush or to divide the German nation. There must be restitution made to the victims of aggression but all ideas of revenge and punishment must be excluded. If peace is to be lasting it must result from the agreement of all and not from the dictation of a few nations.If we mean that, why not broadcast it to the German people and let them know 1230 that it is what the people of this country really desire?
I want to turn now to a different subject and say something about the home front. The Lord Privy Seal, the other day, answered a Question about a declaration of our peace aims in a rather feeble fashion, and when we pressed him whether anything had been done about reconstruction at home, we got an equally unsatisfactory reply. It appears that no one at present is planning what is to happen after the war is over. Surely that is disgraceful. It is about time that the Government took on competent people—there are lots of people of intelligence outside the Government who could tackle the job—to deal with some of the main points—that we want to get rid of the 800,000 unemployed, that we should restore to the people their infringed right to the use of land, that we should rebuild the slums—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
These are matters that would require legislation, and they are out of Order on the Adjournment.
§ Mr. Stokes
Surely under the present control that the Government have they can do practically anything without any legislation. Does not that put me in Order?
§ Mr. Stokes
All I can hope is that without any new legislation we should, in our internal economy at home, come back to a state of things where it is not any longer necessary to have this vast mass of unemployment, and we shall never get rid of it so long as the Government have as advisers the people they now have, who believe it is necessary for our economy that there should be three-quarters of a million unemployed. It is quite wrong, and it is about time that the Advisory Committee was changed and we had a few people with more progressive minds and constructive ideas to take on the job of producing a really constructive plan for after the war. Surely what the "Daily Herald" said the other day was right, that this declaration of aims should be as a creed to the worshipper and a banner to the crusader, and that we should show that we are resolved to build a better world than that on which we turned our backs 1231 last September. It is surely in the hearts and minds of all right-thinking people that all men have an equal right to live. If they have an equal right to live, they have an equal right to the gifts which the Creator gave them wherewith to maintain that life, namely, air, sunshine, land and water. If we could only put forward our declaration built upon that Christian basis, should we not have some chance of obtaining three things which we badly need—a diplomatic victory, regain the moral leadership of the world, and earn the blessings rather than possibly incur the hatred of all mankind by failing to do so?
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Rathbone (Bodmin)
It is very seldom that I impose myself upon the patience of the House, but on this occasion there are a few remarks that I should like to make. The first is that recently I had what is known as the privilege of seven days' leave, five of which I spent in my constituency, and I am appalled that no one so far in this Debate should have made any considerable reference to the Home Front—as if it were only the Army, the Navy and the Air Force which would win the war. The morale of the Home Front will, I think, count for more than anything else during the weeks and months ahead when we are waiting, it may be for some signs of resuscitation in France, some re-animation in those countries which are at present under the heel of Germany, some rekindling of the fire which will enhearten these downtrodden nations to fight for themselves again. Not until they get that rekindling of spirit can we do very much to help them, and during this period of waiting it is the Home Front which is suffering. It is this period which is causing boredom and depreciation of morale—I use the same expression advisedly as the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) because I know exactly what he was driving at, and how right he is. There is a feeling that there is still much red tape to cut through, and that it should not really be necessary to fill up a form in triplicate, before you can get a broken window pane repaired.
I made a point of talking to as many people as possible in my constituency and I came across two outstanding and very widespread feelings. The first was on the 1232 question of reserved occupations. I was asked time and again why some young farmers who worked their farms alone, were called up, while farm labourers, on the day before they were due to register, became members of a reserved occupation and from then on, spent their evenings playing tennis and going round on motor bicycles. Round the coast I talked to people who had been fishermen and boat-builders all their lives. They asked me how it was that one Saturday at noon they were told that their services were no longer required because there was not enough work for them to do, while on the next Monday morning they watched a crowd of 20 or 30, who had never handled a chisel in their lives, being taken on by the shipyards for boat-making—a reserved occupation. We heard a lot before the war broke out about square pegs in round holes. Some of us pressed for some kind of National Register, whereby the qualification of each person could be known so that their services could be called upon or not, as circumstances required. I think probably a good many of those who pressed for a National Register then, are wondering whether it would not have made some difference now if such a National Register existed. That is my first point. Is the register of reserved occupations, and is this question of qualifications for reserved occupations, being constantly reviewed? A lot of ill-feeling is being caused. A lot of people are being called up who are really needed on the land, and a lot of people are kept on the land who are not needed there at all and who would be a great deal better off for a year or two years of training and discipline. Perhaps that is one of the great troubles from which we have been suffering since the war—a lack of discipline which has left us without due appreciation of our freedom.
The second point which crops up, time and again, is the disparity between the rates of pay of men and officers and those of civilians. I travelled in the train the other day with an hon. Member whom I am proud to call my friend. He said it had made him sick to see a man in civilian dress earning £3 10s. or £4, or £4 10s. a week or more, not under military law, working in an establishment next door to a fellow doing exactly the same job, but in khaki, earning only 1s. 6d. a day. The fellow who is in khaki goes back to his barracks and has 1233 a job to pay for his extra packet of fags, while the fellow in civilian dress goes to the pub and lets out there every manner of military secret, and nothing whatever can be done about it.
We hear a lot about equality of sacrifice, about mobilising the nation and getting right down to the job. A good deal more mobilising could be done. One sees some of the civilian contractors all over the country doing their jobs as slowly as possible because they know perfectly well they are getting percentage above costs, and paying their men extra wages because they know they will get an extra percentage on top of those wages, whereas the wretched sergeant-pilot gets ten bob. It is a poor comparison. That is the next major item, which, in my opinion, the Cabinet as a whole will have to tackle. It is the question of equality of sacrifice. I heard it said, in joking—but, my goodness, there is some serious truth to it—after the last Budget, that it would be better far if, instead of the Government saying how much they were going to take from everybody in Income Tax, they required everybody to send in a list of their financial commitments, and then allowed each one an equal amount. You would then have equality. That is a very radical suggestion to come from one who calls himself a Conservative, but in these days, when parties, quite rightly, do not exist, there are many people yearning and pining for something that should call itself the centre party, to take the place of this comparatively empty Bench. The position at which I am trying to arrive is that there should be no party. It should be the same with everything else—equality of sacrifice all through.
I propose to take up the remark of the hon. Member who is no longer in his seat and who had a crack at the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) about promotion. I rejoice to see, and I congratulate, the hon. Member for Oxford on his promotion, whenever it took place, to the rank of captain, but, alas and alack, it is not everybody who deserves promotion as he does, who gets it. Personally, I pride myself upon being an amateur military man. I have no desire for a military career. I am merely in this by force of circumstances, but there are those who are really keen on the job. I want to tell the serious story of two sergeants. One sergeant had been so 1234 utterly useless as a corporal that he was sent out to a satellite aerodrome to peel the bad plaster from the walls in order that some clean whitewash could be put on. He was sent out to do any work which was utterly and completely unskilled and in which no brain work was required. That man was put there for upwards of a month, after which, apparently, by the pure expiration of time, he became a sergeant. That led to all sorts of complications because there was no establishment in that satellite aerodrome for sergeants. He had to be brought back to the main aerodrome and no one knew what on earth to do with him.
Compared with that, is the case of another man, who is an acting-sergeant. He was a pilot-observer and was exceptional. As soon as he finished his course as an instructor, he was recommended for a commission, and when it went through to the higher authorities they said, "Good gracious, this man has just been appointed and he cannot conceivably have a commission. Reject him." Therefore he continued to serve at the same station as an instructor for a month or so, and his name was at the top of the list of recommendations for commissions. People at the station knew his work. He was rejected. On what grounds? Because he was only an acting-sergeant and acting-sergeants were not given commissions. Only full sergeants were given commissions. It took about three months before he was made a full sergeant, and his papers recommending him for a commission were sent in again. They went through about four weeks ago but he is still a sergeant. When I think of some of the people who wear stripes and pips and get their promotion by various ways and means, through friends and so on, it makes me wonder whether, not only in the fighting Services but in the Civil Service and in every other walk of life, promotion is given, not for birth or money, nor yet for age, but purely for efficiency. This war will not have been worth fighting if we do not at least establish that principle. Promotion in any walk of life, in the Civil Service or in politics, should not be for the length of time a person has served but for the efficiency with which he has served. Promotion should be given on these grounds alone.
1235 There is only one other question that I want to ask and I am glad that the Secretary of State for Air is here so that I can put it to him. It concerns the Empire air training scheme. In 1936 I quivered as I made my maiden speech on the Air Estimates. I did not think it much of an effort at the time, yet when I re-read it the other day I was not ashamed of it. I drew attention then to the importance of training. What about this Empire air training scheme which we heard about so long ago? When are we to have the first pilot trained by that scheme? We heard to-day about a wretched fellow at a training centre, who finding it impossible either to defend himself or to attack, charged an enemy aircraft on his own, because he had no gun. The situation will obviously grow worse as time goes on. It will become increasingly impossible for training to go on in this country at all. It must be carried on elsewhere, because pilots and observers we must have, and the same must be said with regard to gunners. How is this training scheme getting on? I ask this question rhetorically because I shall not be here when whoever is to wind up this Debate replies. I must be away. But I think the House is entitled to know how much interest is being taken in the training centres. The people there have none of the honour and glory, either of bombing Berlin, or of shooting down Messerschmits, Heinkels or Dorniers. They do a lot of work, and, as one who has recently been a pupil, I know how they work for long hours, and when people are occasionally sent to act as instructors there, thinking they are going to get a rest cure, they are very soon disillusioned. They are working under great and under increasing difficulties as these raids continue. Long practice flights have to be made around the countryside, and whoever is instructing never knows what he is going to run up against. I hope that every encouragement will be given, and some means found, where some training centre does particularly well, of giving them a little modicum of praise
I have no great peroration to make, nor fine, high-sounding phrases. I am asking only that these suggestions should be taken for what they are worth, and that they should not simply be pigeon-holed as were those very excellent sug- 1236 gestions that I made in my maiden speech. Heaven knows, that as a result, we are greatly suffering now. Equality of sacrifice, equality of rates of pay, the reasonableness of reserved occupations, and the Empire training scheme—if these things are done, we shall have accomplished something, and we shall be better off to fight this war. The Home Front will be all the stronger, and all the more united, because, after all, united we survive, and if we are divided in any way, politically, through any form of class, horizontally or vertically, we fail. We started well with our tails up, and even the B.E.F. feel not the slightest bit defeated. With the Navy all three active Forces are doing well and if you give the Home Front a chance to do well too, we shall come up to scratch.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Captain Plugge (Chatham)
I wish to confine my few remarks to observations on propaganda. I have often wondered why it is frequently said, and it has been said in this House, that propaganda is not British. I submit to the House that propaganda embodies the fundamental British spirit, since it consists in trying to induce people to do the right thing merely by talking to them and persuading them to do it, against the other method, which is to apply force and inflict bodily injury to make people fall in with your ways. I do not wish, however, to base my remarks on propaganda as such. Our propaganda has often been criticised in this House, but I wish to limit my criticisms to the means, or absence of means, employed in transporting propaganda. If we review the various results which have occurred since the advent of the Government, and correlate them to propaganda, we can see what effect propaganda has had. Broadcasting has been the principal means. Broadcasting is a new weapon with which we were not faced in the last war. I believe that very few hon. Members in this House realise how weak we are in this respect. I do not wish to weary the House with figures, but I feel that it would be of interest if I gave at least one or two.
Before the war started, Great Britain had 16 broadcasting stations, of which two were high-powered—I refer to high-powered as being stations of 100 kilowatts or more—operating on 12 wave lengths, of which seven were clear channels, and 1237 these included one long wave. I am only referring to medium and long-wave stations, because there are received on all the receivers of Europe. Before the war Germany had 40 stations, 10 of which were high-powered, operating on 31 wave lengths, of which 17 were clear channels, and included one long wave length. I might explain that a clear channel is a channel allotted to a country to itself alone, unshared with anyone, and therefor it is possible for that country to construct a very high-powered station on that channel. That was the situation before the war started. When war broke out, Germany maintained all her wave lengths and stations in operation, whereas we scuttled 10 of our 12 wave lengths, and therefore we had at the beginning of the war 16 stations operating on two wave lengths with one programme only as against Germany's 40 stations on 31 wave lengths. After the occupation of Poland the forces of the enemy in the aether world increased to 50 stations, of which 11 were high-powered operating on 40 wave lengths, 21 of which were clear channels and two were long wave. Long wave lengths are very important in Europe, because they carry very far in daylight, and there are very few to allot. Never has a country been granted more than one long wave (except Russia) at international conferences. Several countries, such as Italy and Switzerland, have never succeeded in even obtaining one. Alter the conquest of Norway and Denmark Germany increased her aether strength to 68 stations 11 of which were high-powered stations, operating 52 channels 26 of which were clear channels and four were long wave.
After the conquest of Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg the number of stations operated by Germany further increased to 84, 13 of which were high-powered operating 62 wave lengths with 29 clear wave lengths. She also increased her long wave channels to six. Up to now the increase of aether power by Germany was at the expense of neutral channels. By that time we had reopened three of our scuttled wave lengths, and we were operating on five wave lengths. When Germany started to occupy France she further increased her aether power but now at the expense of Allies' channels and after the capture of Paris and the French surrender her aether power had increased to 112 stations, of which 24 1238 were high-powered, operating on 82 wave lengths of which 37 were clear channels and seven were long wave. At this moment came the entry of Italy into the war, and a further 50 stations on some 20 wave lengths joined the anti-British brigade.
That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day. How is it possible, however good may be our propaganda—and I am making no criticism of our type of propaganda—for us to compete with Germany? It is the same thing as trying to carry on business with 16 cargo boats when your enemy possesses 162, most of which are faster, larger, have a bigger cruising range, and cover ten times more routes than your own. We simply do not possess the cargo space to transport our propaganda, however good it may be.
Now quite apart from the greater advantage which Germany possessed and has now vastly increased in the aether field, we must remember that geographically apart from the war England is at a natural disadvantage from an international radio point of view. Great Britain is situated at the end of a Continent and, therefore, 180 degrees of its stations' radiation falls into the Atlantic and only one-half falls on fertile soil. Germany, on the other hand, is situated in the middle of Europe, and all the 360 degrees of her broadcasting waves fall on fertile soil in all directions. Another advantage of being central from an international radio point of view is that a central country is granted more clear channels, for she is not in a position so easily to share channels with other countries. The shared channels, which are not so good, are naturally allotted to the countries situated at the extremities of a Continent. All our divided channels are shared with Rumania, Russia, etc., whereas Germany has been allotted a far greater number of clear channels.
The fact that a country can hear a British station is in itself propaganda, because inhabitants of all countries have got into the habit of judging the power, importance and efficiency of a country by the manner in which they receive that country's broadcasting stations. That is why we are possessed with a very bad area in the Mediterranean. There it is practically impossible to receive clearly or 1239 with ease any of the British medium-wave channels. Short waves are received, but there are few instruments in Europe that receive short waves. I estimate that in France about one in every 100,000 sets is capable of receiving short waves. It is worrying sometimes to see the confusion that exists as to the different bands of wave lengths. The Minister of Information, as he stated in this House, does not consider himself an expert on broadcasting, and I remember that, when replying to Questions about the bad reception of our medium waves in France, he said it was true that medium waves faded but that short waves were well received. That is true, but there are no short wave receivers. Where you get an audience of 100,000 listening to medium waves you get an audience of only two or three listening to short waves.
This matter is very well understood in the United States. When in America last week, I had the opportunity of talking to many of our friends there. One of them, Senator Pepper, to whom I spoke for over six hours, was particularly anxious about our broadcasting situation. He said that broadcasting was of the utmost value because it showed to the masses the degree of a country's efficiency. American people could not come over here to see where our guns were or exactly what we were doing, but they could tune in on their radio sets and see for themselves each and everyone that we were completely neglecting the most modern and one of the most efficient war weapons. On this score alone United States output could be vastly increased. The Senator said that if we could only influence public opinion through the radio to a greater extent it would be possible for America to grant many of the things we are now denied. You may guess what I meant. It assists the President to do more and justifies what he has already done.
I have mentioned the Mediterranean. That sea is far from the United Kingdom, but we possess Colonies in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, and we are allied to Egypt. There is no reason why the whole of the Mediterranean should not be covered by British wave-lengths and stations operating thereon. Personally, some ten years ago, I was instrumental in obtaining a British wave-length for Malta, but that wavelength was never utilised, and eventually 1240 Germany occupied it, as the station was never built. The same thing applies to the United States. Around the American Continent we have Bermuda, Jamaica and many other Colonies where medium wave-length stations could be established. Some might not reach over the distance in daylight, but at night great areas would be covered. Long hours can be fruitful transmitting after dark, especially to a country like the United States, where there are four standards of time. America understand this position so very well that they have 800 stations operating on the medium wave length, 30 alternative programmes in New York alone.
I do not know whether hon. Members have realised what would have had to be done to reproduce in the last war what is now happening in this war, in the international radio world. In order to reproduce the position of Germany, with their ascendancy in the ether field of propaganda, it would have been necessary to allow 10,000,000 Germans to come over and live in England as lodgers in 10,000,000 homes and for them all to have spoken English as well as the best and to have had each a private telephone line. In order to be continuously informed all that would have been necessary then to reproduce the conditions that are prevailing to-day with the great number of stations at the disposal of Germany. This state of affairs is equally well understood in Canada, where I had long talks with the Canadian Minister for Broadcasting and the Canadian Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. Even in Canada there are 91 broadcasting stations, and they both asked me with dismay how it was possible that we allowed the Germans to conquer the whole ether world of Europe without taking the obvious steps.
The aether is a colonial world where channels are the Colonies. When Clive was reproached for his interest in India it was because in those days England did not understand the importance of India. We smile when we think of it. But today England does not understand the value of the aether colonial world. There are still Colonies to occupy. England rules the waves but Germany rules the aether waves.
The technique which has been used by Germany in invading the various conquered countries is by advance occupation by radio. In war radio has become 1241 the advanced cavalry of occupation. A great scientist said that to explain something unknown it is necessary to bring it within the compass of something already known and already explained. What is broadcasting? It is the latest and most modern method of travel. It is the travel of the mind without the transport of the body. It is the forerunner of the physical occupation of a country. The technique used by Germany has always been the occupation of a country by radio. The conquest by Germany of Austria and Czecho-Slovakia was greatly helped by the fact that German was understood in those countries. This applied in a lesser degree also to Poland and the Scandinavian countries and Holland where German is spoken. It does not apply to France and England where conquest by radio is more difficult. I would point out that Hitler has never bombed a radio station because the most important thing when occupying a country, is to seize the broadcasting station. The moment you possess the principal broadcasting station you have greater control of the country than if you were on good terms with the Government itself because you can instruct all the inhabitants what to do and what not to do, accompanied by the necessary threats. If you were to destroy the broadcasting station it would take six months to build a new one.
In the case of the surrenders of the Dutch Army, the Belgian Army and the French Army, they all happened some 48 hours after the principal broadcasting stations had been occupied by Germany. The influence that can be exercised through a broadcasting station is immense, apart from the fact that while fighting is going on appeals can be made to the soldiers through numerous channels to surrender. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke of attempts that were made by the enemy in the invaded countries on the continent to cause the soldiers to think they could not fight. That is absolutely the key of the situation. Broadcasting was the method of making them think that they could not continue the fight usefully. We cannot conceive of the power which can be exercised through broadcasting; it is like a person whispering in the ear of all the people all the time.
1242 What is the remedy to be applied in a situation like this? The value of broadcasting is naturally greater at the beginning of a campaign than it is when events such as those we have witnessed have taken place. A man is told by his doctor not to do this or that, but he does it and loses an arm, and then he may lose another arm, and also two legs, but ail the same the doctor is called in again to see what can be done. There are two or three things which can be done and should be done. We should create in Great Britain a great number of freedom stations. That is a term which I will explain. When a country is conquered and its broadcasting stations are conquered there is no reason why another broadcasting station should not be established across the Channel, manned preferably by the nationals of the conquered country, and if possible with the actual operators of the old stations.
It is most important to give moral support to the people who are still in the conquered country and it is not nearly so expensive to give moral support as to give physical support. Broadcasting is very cheap; it does not cost much more than about £60 an hour and it does not risk the life of one man. In America we can purchase a great number of transmitters and they are immediately available, and in addition to that the B.B.C. have had the foresight to construct a certain number of stations in case anything might happen to those they already possess. No channel should be allowed to remain silent. Freedom stations should be broadcasting during the whole 24 hours of the day. Two of them should be allotted to Norway, two to Denmark, two to Holland, two for Belgium and probably four or five to France. Our present broadcasts of 15 minutes a time to the inhabitants of the occupied countries are not good enough. It is important to create an audience. I have had a certain amount of experience in creating audiences from one country to another and it is impossible to create a large audience to a broadcasting station unless you broadcast for at least three or four hours in the language of the country concerned. Supposing I were to tell hon. Members that to-morrow the Norwegian station at Oslo would broadcast every day for 15 minutes in English. Is there anyone here who would tune in regularly to that particular 15 minutes? Could they even find it 1243 once? But if that station were giving out continuous broadcasts in English over six hours daily then it is very likely that at certain times many more people would hear them and in that way a large audience might be built up. To some overseas stations I have built up audiences of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000, but it took a year to do so and it was necessary to broadcast for many hours at a stretch.
It is a feature of broadcasting that the nationality of a broadcasting station has nothing to do with its geographical position, but only with the language it speaks and where is is received. What we have allowed the Germans to do is practically the same as if we had allowed them to set up stations in London, Birmingham, Glasgow and elsewhere. If we had a Dutch station somewhere in the north, the result would be just the same to the Dutch listeners as if the station were at Hilversum, its old situation. The listeners would not be able to tell that it was in a different position.
I was talking just now about the value to an enemy of occupying the broadcasting station. We talk about the possible invasion of this country. What would be the first thing for the enemy to do? It would be to capture our principal broadcasting stations. We should have either to blow them up and have none ourselves or let the enemy take them. The way to overcome that is to build up all over England some 500 broadcasting stations of very small power, something like 100 to 150 watts, in nearly all the smaller towns and large villages. Such broadcasting stations would not cost much more than £2,000 each. The sets are available in U.S.A. We could put in 500 operators and they could use all the wave-lengths of Europe because such broadcasting stations are not interfered with by the distance stations over their small coverage though they on their part would interfere with the reception over here of broadcasts from distant stations, and in that way would spoil efforts of subversive propaganda. Even if some of the stations had to be destroyed we should retain control of the remaining ones. We have a Minister of Air and a Minister of Aircraft Production and in the aether field we should have a Minister of Broadcasting as well as the Minister of Information. The Minister of Broadcasting would have 1244 the duty of establishing and organising the freedom stations, and these small stations, and acquiring the necessary wave-lengths, and all the channels could be then used for propaganda by the Minister of Propaganda. At present he has not got sufficient channels through which to send out his propaganda.
Broadcasting has turned out to be one of the most powerful modern war weapons, and for every additional hour of broadcasting we save thousands of lives. If we do not assist the efforts of our Fighting Forces by a powerful broadcast system we place them in the position of men fighting with one arm tied behind their back. It is said that we should pass to the offensive. We cannot stage an offensive on the sea because the Italians stay in harbour. We cannot stage an offensive in the air because we have not sufficient aeroplanes, and we cannot yet stage an offensive on the land. But we could certainly stage at once an offensive on the aether platform. We have the means of doing it and we could establish the necessary stations. If the position were reversed, if we disposed of 170 stations and the Germans had only 16 stations, think of the superiority we could possess over them, with their internal dissension, their occupied countries, their various races. I hope the Minister will review the recommendation made in 1932 by the Ullswater Committee that there should be a Minister of Broadcasting in this House in the same way as we now have a Minister of Aircraft Production.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Dr. Little (Down)
My first word must be one of appreciation of the great and statesmanlike speech of our Prime Minister. It was the bold, courageous, uncompromising speech of a strong man who feels that victory is assured, a man who is sure of himself and certain that our country is on the way, steadily and surely, to victory. That striking speech was a clear, convincing statement; it was a speech that will give confidence and a bright hope, not only to the people of the United Kingdom, but the people of our whole Empire. As the Prime Minister spoke I said to myself, "The old spirit that made Britain great still lives, and, by the help of God, will once again conquer in the strife." To the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg)—I am sorry he is out of the House at the moment—I would 1245 say that we have chosen the leader of our team. The Prime Minister has the confidence of this House in a most remarkable degree and he has the absolute right to choose his own team. He has done so. To be candid, I do not think the Government, as at present constituted, will see the close of the war, but I have no confidence in the kind of talk that goes on in certain quarters. I see no point in it. It serves no purpose but to weaken ourselves and to strengthen the hands of the enemy. I have no doubt that changes in the Government will come in due course, just as changes come in the Membership of this House, but I would like to see any change in the personnel of the Government come along the line of evolution and not by the pathway of revolution.
§ Dr. Little
Now I want to say a word about Northern Ireland, which is heart and soul with Britain in the war. If you want an earnest of that statement you have it in the fact that, a week or two ago, the Northern Ireland Parliament voted £6,000,000 from that small State, towards the cost of the war. In your wisdom or folly, I do not know which, you refused us conscription, against the wishes of the representatives from Ulster in this House, but a great many of our men have responded to the call of King and country. We have many men engaged in war work and many more who would like to enter upon war work, if they only had the opportunity. I was glad to hear the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon that the men in the fighting line and the men in the home line use different weapons, but have the same courage. I can assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that our men in the fighting line and in the home line, whether doing war work, or on Home Defence or as Special Constables, wherever they may be, are full of courage and determination to do their duty to the utmost.
We cannot praise too highly our grand Air Force. Under God's guidance our airmen have done marvellous things. I am convinced that by His help they will achieve still greater things. We are proud of our Air Force, of our Navy and of our Army. When the Army is called on, it will give a good account of itself. We could do very much more in Northern 1246 Ireland for the war if we had the opportunity. We were promised a war factory or factories, and many other things too numerous to mention. In many cases, those promises have not yet reached fruition. We have had some small fragments, but the great outstanding things which we were promised remain still in the air. They cannot come down to earth in Northern Ireland too soon. I urged the former Minister of Supply, from about the spot where I now stand, to take into consideration the flax question. The linen industry is one of our chief industries in Ulster. I foresaw a serious shortage of flax. Months ago, the supply of flax in Belgium fell largely into the hands of the Germans because they were outbidding us and were getting it. I was told in this House that we were getting enough at our own price. Nevertheless, to-day we are faced with a chronic shortage of flax that will not only cause unemployment in Ulster, but will unfortunately, operate seriously against the war effort. We cannot do without Ulster linen for the successful prosecution of the war.
I have great sympathy with the hon. Member on the other side of the House who laid stress on the Home Front. I am convinced that the war will be won or lost on the Home Front. We cannot do too much on the Home Front, not only to cheer the men who stand between us and the enemy but to provide the sinews of war and to strike dismay into the hearts of our enemy. In Ulster we were promised, months ago, additional aerodrome accommodation. We have one aerodrome which is pretty well in the corner of Northern Ireland. I have looked north, south, east and west through Northern Ireland to see some evidence of the provision of this additional aerodrome accommodation, and have failed in my quest. I make a very strong appeal to the Air Minister to go into this matter and to bring to fulfilment the promises that were made months ago.
I appeal very strongly to the present Minister of Supply to sit down and study the promises that we have received, in this House and in Belfast, from his predecessor, and to face the matter like a man. We do not beg for it. We have handed the Government 6,000,000, and we do not ask for any return. We ask 1247 for fulfilment of promises, not as a favour but as our right. I ask the Minister of Supply to examine those promises. They were not made like piecrusts to be broken. We have the promise given to the Minister of Labour in Northern Ireland that men will be placed at work in Britain and another for the establishment of training centres. Those promises have received very small fulfilment, because to-day we have about 70,000 unemployed in Northern Ireland at a time when the country is engaged in a life-and-death struggle and when the great majority of our unemployed men and women want to work and to put their hearts and souls into the enterprise that will bring victory. We hear the cry, north, south, east and west, for scrap iron, and we have to desecrate the tombs of our fathers by taking down those iron railings which surround their resting-places, yet we have the best iron ore in the Kingdom in Northern Ireland at Dromara, Islandmagee, Ballymena and other places. The raising of this iron ore would give employment and the smelting of it would produce iron and steel. In the heart of my own constituency hon. Members would not know themselves in a week, because they would be breathing in an iron atmosphere and they would be almost lifted off their feet in its bracing air.
§ Dr. Little
Because these places have been closed, so far as I know, for no good reason. We are demanding only our rights. In the name of Northern Ireland I demand our rights. When the Minister of Supply sends over an expert, as he promised last week, I hope that the expert will go not only to Dromara, but all over Ulster, to investigate these resources. Why should we desecrate the tombs of our forefathers, when God has sent us this stuff? I have proof from my own constituency that our iron ore is infinitely better than any other iron ore in the Kingdom. Let the Government take the advice of the Minister of Supply and "go to it." In the old days of the horse and trap one judged the ability of a driver by the way in which he held the reins. That is how we can test our Government. I want them to "go to it," and to put their hearts and minds 1248 and strength into this matter. It is no cakewalk. We have trying days before us. As members of the rank and file we will face up to the situation and will do our best, but we look to our leaders to give us a lead and go straight on to victory. We have the men in Northern Ireland standing idle in the market place and the great bulk of them want work. We want to do something to help the conduct of the war. I make the strongest appeal I can to the Government to utilise those resources and to utilise those men. There are 40,000 of them, the bulk of them able for work and ready to work if they only had the opportunity.
Stress has been laid to-night on material resources. I want to lay emphasis on spiritual values. What a miracle happened at Dunkirk following immediately on our first day of National Prayer. We have been praying since, and what a wonderful miracle happened last week when our Air Force met and worsted a force that the Germans believed unbeatable. We can beat them in the strength and power of God. To-night we can say in the words of the Hebrew Psalmist:God has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.I hope that the Day of Prayer appointed by our Gracious Sovereign the King on 8th September will be made not only a day of intercession and supplication that God will overthrow our enemies, but a day of repentance, of confession of sins, of a return to God, a day of dedication of the whole nation, indeed, the whole Empire—and I would include the United States, as it is to be also their Day of Prayer—to the service of God. If God be with us, who can be against us? We have some weak-kneed people among us, like the Ten Spies who returned from viewing what is known as the Promised Land. We remember how Moses sent twelve spies to bring a report of the Promised Land, and they came back carrying the fruits of the land with them. I remember as a boy seeing a picture of two men with a bunch of grapes on a pole on the return journey. But they brought something else. They were faint-hearted. They forgot God. I want this nation never to forget God. Those spies reported that the land was a fruitful land, but they said the cities were 1249 walled and very great, and the inhabitants were so tall and strong that the ten spies seemed to be but grasshoppers in their sight. But there were still two men, Joshua and Caleb, and they have a message for us, a message to Britain and the Empire to-day. They said:Neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us; their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.I say to-night that we need have no fear of the Germans if we return to God because He will be with us, and we need not fear. Joshua and Caleb said, "Do not give heed to these ten weaklings. They can only see the walls, but we can see God high and mighty on his throne." But the Israelites did not heed them, and they wandered for forty years in the wilderness until all the murmurers had died. What a terrible thing it is when we do not heed God. I believe God is leading us to-day, and is humbling us that we may be exalted. I am convinced that Britain has a greater future before her than she has ever had in the past. I believe God has been in the founding of the British Empire, and that that Empire is to stand, despite Hitler and Mussolini, despite all lying, deceit and fraud, because that Empire is based on righteousness, truth and honour. The task that God has for us is to advance His Cause and Kingdom among mankind and promote Christian civilisation and the good of the world. The first thing for us to do is in His strength to liberate Europe from Nazi domination, and bring the world back again to God. May He help us to do it for His glory and the blessing of humanity!
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
May I begin by expressing the feeling I had at the terrific and passionate indignation of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) at what he rightly considered to be a misrepresentation of his own views? Although he is not here just now, I hope that if he notices what I have to say in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will take a lesson to heart and be very careful about his own attitude towards other hon. Members in the future. Before I refer to the speech of the Prime Minister I would like to refer to a speech made by an hon. Member from this side of the House in which he dealt with workers' wages and the pay of soldiers. There never was a 1250 bigger illusion than that which has been deliberately created that there is a great gap between the pay of workers and soldiers. I represent a miners' constituency. Miners have the most dangerous occupation, and their pay is about £2 10s. to £3 a week. Let any hon. Member calculate what a soldier gets in wages, allowances and keep, and compare it with a miner's wages and see whether there is any great difference. Miners do not get enough, and soldiers do not get enough, but the comparison which should be made is between soldiers' pay and the salaries of bank directors, especially directors of the Bank of England, who have had £30,000 added to their income. If you compare the soldier's pay with the salary of a bank director or of the director of a big industrial concern, then you will see some real difference.
Putting that aside, I want to come to what the Prime Minister had to say. The Prime Minister said we were a united nation. When I heard that I had two reflections. One was that the people of this country are united in the hatred of this terrible war, that the people of this country are united in their desire for a lasting peace at the earliest possible moment. I have another reflection. I remember a gentleman by the name of Blum, who was over in this country a few months ago. He made a speech at the Labour Party Conference in which he declared that France was a united nation. A week later we saw what happened. Does anyone ask me to believe in the men of Munich or in the men who betrayed Spain? A Member of this House could get up at that bench and defend the attacks of the German and Italian bombers on the Spanish people, who had no means of defence. He could explain that Guernica was destroyed by the Spaniards themselves in order to cast a reflection on Germany. Perhaps that gentleman, who is now in the House of Lords, will tell the people of this country some stories of that kind about the bombing that is going on here. Men in this House gloated when the Fascists were bombing the defenceless people of Spain. They defended the sinking of British ships and the sacrifice of British seamen. These men would sell out if they had a chance. I have no illusions about that.
1251 It was very significant that the Prime Minister should have said that he had had a large number of letters asking that in this speech he should make a declaration of peace aims. He refused to do so. Why should there be any hesitation about making a declaration of peace aims? There was no declaration of peace aims, but a rigid determination to carry on with a policy of starving the people of the Continent. Of course, my hon. Friend who comes from Ulster, in the name of God and of his peculiar religion, justifies the starving of God's people. But it is politically wrong. The hon. Member, I am sure, will support the blockading of the Continent in such a way that the masses of the people in those countries will be starved.
§ Dr. Little
On a point of Order. I ask the hon. Member to support that by quoting any statement I have made.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member this evening most categorically associated himself with the speech of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, in the hearing of every Member here. He clearly identified himself with the speech of the Prime Minister. Therefore, he must take responsibility for the decisions which the Prime Minister announced. Here is a peculiar position. It is obvious that the people of these countries are to suffer starvation anyhow. The question is, Should we not, in order to gain the support of these people, encourage them by making a demonstration of our readiness to assist them? The Prime Minister said, "We want to start a spark that will burst into a flame, in these countries under Nazi domination."
§ Mr. de Rothschild (Isle of Ely)
I would like to know what the hon. Gentleman is driving at. Is he supporting Berlin or supporting Moscow?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I certainly am not supporting the financiers of this country, any more than I am supporting the financiers of Germany. I am concerned about the people of this country and the people of Europe. Perhaps if the hon. Member will listen he will understand the politics of this question. The Prime Minister says that we want to start a spark that will 1252 burst into flame. How will you start that spark? How will you fan it into a flame? There could be no better slogan for the people of France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark—and, yes, for the people of Nazi Germany—than the slogan, right now, of "Peace and bread." That is how to gain a political victory against the Nazis. Simply to adopt a policy of starving the Continent is not the way to do it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
These are not points of Order. Any hon. Member must be allowed to make his case as best he can. The hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) cannot raise points of Order in this way.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I will answer the hon. Member in a moment. I come now to the question of the relations of this country with the Soviet Government. Before the war, when this question was being discussed, the present Prime Minister, then sitting below the Gangway, objected to the delays and the difficulties in the way of coming to an understanding. He asked, "What is all the boggling about?" I ask him the same question that he asked his predecessor. "What is all the boggling about?" Sir Stafford Cripps is sent to Moscow. He is supposed to work there to get better relations with the Soviet Union. Yet in this country the most filthy, vile and slanderous anti-Soviet propaganda, is being published, some of it under the auspices of the Ministry of Information. Take, for instance, the Polish Press published in this country. In one of the Polish papers, the so-called Foreign Secretary declares that the Polish Government in this country are conducting a war against the Soviet Union. One of these Polish papers is continually filled with anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic propaganda. You could not get anything more Fascist than that propaganda, and it is supported by the Ministry of Information. It is impossible for Sir Stafford Cripps to do the job if there are people in this country deliberately sabotaging what is being done.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must remind the hon. Member that already he has twice mentioned an hon. Member by name, and that that is not allowed.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am very sorry. I mean the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol—our Ambassador in Moscow. It is significant that one of the American journalists who was on the Continent described what happened when there were negotiations before the war. One of the men responsible for the negotiations informed this journalist, who published it in the American Press, that they were advised before they went to see that agreement was not reached. This responsible official said to the journalist, "I did a spot of sabotage, which I was very happy to do."
If we are going to get out of the terrible morass that there is in Europe, there will have to be bigger changes than Members of this House contemplate. It is true that the hon. Member for Oxford and others have said that there is a complete lack of faith in this Government both in the House and in the country, and we have to face the fact that we have Ministers who inspire no confidence whatever. One of the things that are necessary if we are to get out of the morass is a resolute, independent working-class movement, yet the regulations that have been introduced are a destruction of liberty and initiative. We cannot tolerate a Government whose Members represent this big industry and this financial group and the other financial group; we must have a Government composed of people whose one and only concern is the welfare of the people, a Government that would take over everything in this country—the land, land values, everything, for the defence of the people. This people's Government would make a clear declaration of policy that would stimulate the masses of people in France, that would stimulate the people of Belgium, Holland and Denmark—yes, of Germany too—which would fire a spark that would kindle a flame, a revolutionary flame, which would burn Fascism out of Europe. Such a people's Government, acting in friendship and union with the mighty Soviet Union, would end for ever the menace of Fascism and the dread scourge of war, and would bring lasting peace and a high hope to the people of this country and the people of Europe.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Major Braithwaite (Buckrose)
I join with other Members in the tributes paid to the great speech of our Prime Minister this afternoon. I only hope that an 1254 opportunity will occur for the Government to allow the oppressed peoples of Europe to know what is in that speech. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air can arrange for its distribution in France, in Belgium, in Holland, in Norway and in every possible part of Europe, I am sure that the people of those countries will visualise the idealistic aims which animate our Government, and which should have a far-reaching effect in inspiring the people of Great Britain and of the whole Empire as well.
I propose to confine my remarks tonight to an examination of what I consider to be the fundamental things that will help us to win this war. I ask the House to consider whether it is possible for us to have a closer co-operation with the United States of America. Many things stand in the way of complete cooperation. First, there is the question of news. The German news is arriving in America hours ahead of British news, and the American people always like to have news at the earliest opportunity. Is it really impossible for the Minister of Information to avoid being so far behind the Germans that they are allowed to get in with their news and kill everything that we send afterwards? The Americans desire a clear impression of the great stand that this country is making. They want the news earlier and not at second-hand. I hope that the Minister of Information will take such steps as are necessary to see that Dr. Goebbels does not get in before us and to see that the Americans get a proper impression of what has been occurring in Europe.
I want to ask the Government whether, in this connection, they visualise the idea of having a responsible Member of His Majesty's Government in the United States of America, as well as an Ambassador at a time like this. We rely upon them for the production of vast amounts of our armament requirements, and it is essential that the quickest decisions should be made on the great contracts that are being placed. If it is necessary to wait for instructions from London, and if our Purchasing Commission are not given free licence and liberty to go right ahead, I fear that it will conflict with American views of how this essential war business should be conducted. There is a psychological moment in any business negotiation when the best bargain can be made, 1255 and if there are delays, such opportunities may go by. We require the maximum production that the American people can give us, and I am satisfied that they are preared to do everything in their power, if the essential elements of the business are laid before them properly so that they can get on with their job. Certainly, there is no country in the world where there can be such productivity of essential articles, once they set about carrying out contracts. Close cooperation should be fostered in every possible way.
I had the honour during the last war, when I was of no further use in France, of being sent to the United States of America where I helped to train two of the National Guard Divisions and I know something of the American soldiers, airmen and sailors. Therefore, I urge upon this House that, whatever else we do we should keep our relationship so close that nothing will pass without both countries knowing exactly what is taking place. It might make all the difference to us in the next 12 months in the matter of deliveries. I should like to pay my tribute to the warm-hearted, public-spirited and deep humanitarian interest of the American men and women in our country and in receiving our children there during wartime. The response to the appeal which has been made that British children should be taken into American homes during the bombing of this country, has been remarkable, and shows the true spirit of the Americans. We should appreciate that, at least, 150,000 homes for British children have now been scheduled in the United States. I am only sorry that we have not had the shipping available to take a great many more of our children over there, but arrangements are now being made, and everyone will have seen in the paper during the last day or two that the American Senate have passed a Bill under which they are prepared now to send their own ships to fetch our children from this country to the United States. Some people have described this evacuation of our children to the United States as a defeatest policy, but I do not regard it as such. I think it offers a great help to us in difficult times, and every child we get into an American home builds stronger bonds of friendship between our 1256 countries. If these ships come along, I hope the Government will give every facility to get as many children over there as possible.
I think everybody in this country, after the week we have gone through, is showing the greatest resolution and fortitude. I can only express to my own constituents my very great pride at being their representative in this House after the way in which they have stood up to the experiences they have undergone. The fortitude and determination of the ordinary people of this country are unsurpassed in any part of the world. The harassing and devastating experiences which some of them have gone through, show them up in the true sense as loyal and courageous subjects of a great Empire. With the spirit we have in our midst to-day neither Hitler nor a combination of Hitlers can beat this country. I am satisfied that we shall ward off all attacks which may be made upon us and that we shall grow from strength to strength. Unlike the last speaker, I am one of those who have implicit confidence in the Prime Minister and confidence in the senior Ministers of State and others who are doing their job and trying to build up a strength of resistance here, which will ultimately enable Europe to be free. After seeing a good deal of what has been done for the defence of our country, and having had experience in the last war, I am of the opinion that the courage of our people will enable us to beat off any attacks that may come. If Hitler threatens to invade this country, it will probably be the opportunity of doing him the greatest possible harm, both on sea and land.
I would like to say a word of appreciation of the work that is being done in the great factories in our country. I have had some experience, both in England and Scotland, of the way in which our people are working. The way in which production of essential war commodities has been tackled by our working population at this time, is something of which we can be proud. They have shown us that we can produce here aircraft in sufficient quantities to deal with the much superior strength of Germany, and our gun factories have shown us that they are able to produce anti-aircraft defences on such a scale that they have proved to be a very formidable obstacle to any invading force. The fact that part of our new Navy is on the sea, and much of it ready for sea, 1257 shows that we are in a position to keep our sea supremacy and do what is necessary to keep Germany and Italy at a safe distance.
I was rather surprised however, that the Prime Minister, in his speech this afternoon, devoted so little time to the question of East Africa. We certainly expect that the most formidable resistance will be given to any attempted inroads on those possessions. We fully appreciate the fact that the failure of the French to support us constituted a real anxiety to us, but we have a big army which has been developing in the Middle East ever since the war started and I hope it will deal successfully with Italian infiltration into any of our possessions there whenever it may occur.
I pay my tribute, and that of my constituents, to the gallantry of our Air Force during this past week. It is beyond praise, and I think every Member of the House is grateful for the skill that has been displayed in the training and organisation of a force which can deal so successfully with numerical superiority as they have done during the past eight or ten days. They deal with very great numbers, and put them to flight in the most amazing manner. The fact that the foundations of our Air Force have been laid so well, and that their training has been carried out with such meticulous care, is a tribute to the work that the Ministry have done over the past few years. Thoroughness in this matter is of vital importance and the Air Force has rendered a most useful service when put to the test. Our pilots have confidence in their machines, and our machines are coming along with a rapidity which is reassuring, when we hear of it from the lips of the Prime Minister. I am certain that, as long as the same training is carried on and the same skill shown in the production of our machines, we shall be able to deal successfully with any menace that comes to our shores.
One other point in connection with the Home Guard, which I am glad to see is getting into such a fine condition for dealing with any probable invasion. I am pleased that the War Office have taken the view that these men must be fully equipped, and I hope they will not give priorities to other sections of the Army, in the supply of machine-guns, steel helmets and other things, over the Home Guard where the latter are in particularly 1258 vulnerable places. In parts of my own constituency we require for these men—many of whom are skilled ex-servicemen, with a thorough knowledge of mechanical warfare—machine-guns and bombs and that sort of thing. These can be supplied to them, with complete confidence, now in many cases. I hope they will have all the necessary machines of warfare placed at their disposal. Some of them may have to defend very vital positions and I am sure, when the time comes, they will acquit themselves with courage and distinction in handling their particular problems. Their knowledge of locality is of amazing value, and the fact that they are fighting in the areas around their own homes will enable them to use that local knowledge to the very best advantage.
I hope the Government will continue their work. Unlike the last speaker, I think the Government have the confidence of the country. I know that the people of the country feel that they are doing a difficult task and doing it well. The personality of our Prime Minister is an inspiration at this time not only to Great Britain, but to the whole world, which desires to see itself freed from Nazi tyranny.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)
With the main theme of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite), namely, closer co-operation with America, I find myself in such complete agreement that I hope he will excuse me if I do not follow his interesting remarks on that subject. Before making one or two remarks on the progress of the war from an economic point of view, I wish to refer to two points of a military character which seem to me to require consideration. I think the country is very disappointed about the evacuation of Somaliland. That disappointment may be unjustified. We all appreciate the way in which this country feels the loss of the assistance of France, and we appreciate that there is an absence of men; but in view of the fact that we require men in the Near East, I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War why we cannot utilise more the services of the Jews. Why cannot we enlist a Jewish battalion? There are at least 50,000 Jews willing and anxious to serve, and it occurs to me that that is a matter which requires very careful consideration.
1259 The second point of military significance which I would like my right hon. Friend to consider is in relation to tanks. I know that there is now a drive in the production of tanks, which is in every sense praiseworthy, but I would like my right hon. Friend to satisfy himself that we are not concentrating too much on the production of the accepted types of tanks, perhaps to the neglect of the development of tanks. We must look ahead, and the question of the development of tanks is, in my opinion, a matter second to none in importance. Tanks were not accepted by the Army easily. They were rather forced upon the Army through the inventive ability and capacity of engineers and so on. We must bring to the development of this important mechanical weapon new ideas if we are to be effective in the offensive aspect of the war which we expect will be developed later on. I do not want to press the point too much, but I am a little disturbed when I hear of large purchases of tanks in the United States of America, which are to be delivered perhaps in 1942. That may be a very good thing, but it is essential that those tanks should really possess definite advantages over the types of tanks being made in this country now.
I want now to speak on the progress of the war from the economic point of view. It is, of course, a platitude to say that we cannot win this war without a large proportion of our productive capacity being engaged on war work. This has been put in other terms in the phrase, "We cannot win the war with 800,000 people unemployed." It is equally true to say that we must not, if we are to be successful in our economic efforts, cause unemployment in unessential trades before we have provided an opportunity for employment in the essential trades. There is nothing very difficult about stopping production. It can be done quite easily. The difficulty is in the diversion of production to war aims. It seems to me that there are two ways in which our efforts can be diverted to war aims.
The first method is the straightforward way of building new factories—that is being done to a very large extent—which have to be provided with new workers, who have to be trained. The second method, which, to my mind, is 1260 probably the more important way, is that of improvisation and adaptation of existing plants engaged on non-essential work for the production of essential war materials. If the first method of building new factories and training the workers is to be relied upon, then the information which reaches me leads me to believe that, at best, we shall not train this year more than 150,000 new men, and that will be done side by side with the haphazard displacement of labour. It seems to me that it is clear that the magnitude—
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
Where does the hon. Member gets his figure of men trained this year? I understood it was very much higher than that.
§ Mr. Hammersley
I may be wrong and if I am, so much the better. I understood, however, that the figure of trainees was going to be in the neighbourhood of 150,000. Even if it is 250,000, it is not enough.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Eden)
I thought everybody knew it was over 500,000 in the last three months.
§ Mr. Hammersley
I am not talking about people being called up, but people being trained under the Ministry of Labour scheme. I think my right hon. Friend will find my figure errs perhaps on the excessive side rather than being an under-estimate. To give an illustration of my point, in the cotton trade we are restricting production to 37½ per cent. of the amount of production in the standard period last year. That means that a large number of people are to be put out of work, and one does not see the plan put forward by the Government to deal with these large numbers of people. It is important that the country should see a plan before them, and that we should not go in for this policy of putting people out of work before we have provided machinery whereby they can be reemployed. I do not know which mills will be called upon to stop, or what plans are to be put forward to train these people for new work.
The second method which I think is most important is the policy of improvisation and getting people who are already at work on non-essentials turned over to production on essential goods. The Ministry of Supply should bear carefully in mind that manufacturers who en- 1261 deavour to do this kind of improvisation meet with very little encouragement. Indeed, they often meet with obstruction, procrastination and delay, anxious as they are to help the progress of the work, which makes it very difficult for them to do it. I have particularly in my mind the example of the manufacture of webbing equipment. That is a kind of job which can be done by scores and scores of manufacturers throughout the country, and yet the work is not proceeding satisfactorily. There is a lack of continuity and continuity in supplies and giving out orders. One finds that there are hundreds, and I might almost say thousands, of manufacturers in the country with comparatively small plant, who find it almost impossible to get on to effective production. In the important matter of proceeding with the war, I urge that in this regard there is a great scope for improvement. There is scope for an improved organisation at the Ministry of Supply. I hope that what I have said will not appear to be unduly critical, because everybody realises the tremendous progress which the Government are making. It is important, however, that we should make in these Debates such contributions as will bring forward suggestions, and I hope that we shall as the war develops so improve our organisation that every man, every employer and every section will feel that they are bearing their weight.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)
The speech which the hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) has just delivered is characteristic of the whole tone of this most helpful Debate—most helpful to His Majesty's Government, because the representatives of the British people here in Parliament, far from cavilling or carping at the Government, have expressed with force their resolve to persevere in the war until victory is attained. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) observed at the beginning of his speech that this Debate held in public was a difficult one for a private Member to take part in. I would say that it is still more difficult for Ministers, but I will do my best to answer most of the points raised as fully and frankly as I can.
Some criticism has been made of the composition of His Majesty's Government and especially of the War Cabinet. The 1262 hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) did me the honour of quoting a speech of mine in favour of a Government to run a three-shift war instead of a one-shift war. I stand by that, and I say that in so far as we fall short of that standard we shall deserve to be judged, and judged severely, by Parliament. That is exactly the standard which His Majesty's Government have striven to attain. Indeed, as a loyal supporter of the War Cabinet, I was agreeably relieved by the meagreness of the specific evidence with which the hon. Member for Oxford supported his criticism of the War Cabinet's performance.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey praised, as other speakers, and most notably the Prime Minister, have praised, the energy, devotion and drive which Lord Beaverbrook has thrown into his work at the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Rather to my astonishment, my hon. and gallant Friend went on to criticise Lord Beaverbrook's inclusion in the War Cabinet. I should have thought that after the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon and after the high tribute which he paid to the work that Lord Beaverbrook has done at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the House would scarcely be surprised that the Prime Minister should have decided to include him in the War Cabinet; and if he included him in the War Cabinet, would it have been wise and prudent at this critical stage of the war, when he has been in charge of the Ministry of Aircraft Production for only three months, to remove him from that Ministry where the work he has done has yielded such remarkable results? These are questions which the House will be well content to leave to the judgment of the Prime Minister, on whom the responsibility rests for choosing his colleagues in the War Cabinet.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) raised the question of Imperial representation in the War Cabinet. I think it is the wish and judgment of Parliament that so far as possible the size of the War Cabinet should be kept small. How far it is possible to keep down the size of the War Cabinet must be a matter for the Prime Minister's judgment, but I think it would be difficult to include in the War Cabinet representatives of all the Dominions of the Crown. If it be said, "Then choose one," I would point out 1263 that it would be difficult to make the choice.
We have an admirable method of associating, as my right hon. Friend wished us to associate, the Dominions with the decisions and with the framing of policy on which the War Cabinet proceeds. We have here from the Dominions men of standing and influence in their own country, men who are well known here in London, and they are in the closest association with Ministers and hear from the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who is present at nearly all important Cabinet meetings, all that is passing in the War Cabinet. We have also our own High Commissioners in the Dominions. In these ways the closest association is maintained between the Government here in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the various Dominions. My right hon. Friend suggested that the inclusion of an Imperial statesman in the War Cabinet would be a symbol of the unity of the Empire. If I may be allowed to say so, I think there is great force in that argument, but surely the greatest symbol of the unity of the Empire is the contribution which each of the Dominions is making to our war effort. The splendid Canadian and Australian squadrons we have serving in the Royal Air Force, the splendid contribution in the air and on land which South Africa is making to the defence of Africa against Fascist Italy, the great contribution which India is also making—these contributions, with many others, are substantial symbols of the unity of the Empire.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke first for the Opposition—I am sorry, who spoke first from the Opposition Front Bench—criticised our arrangements for long-term military planning. Indeed, he seemed to think that no long-range planning was taking place at all, and to some extent he was supported in that view by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey who particularly applied the criticism to the sphere of air policy. Both seemed to convey to the House that there was an absence of any machinery for long-range thinking on the military problems of the war. I would beg my hon. Friends to believe that that is not the case. I myself have had the opportunity of studying many of the fruits of 1264 this long-range thinking, that is, thinking over the general field of policy which come round to me in the form of Cabinet Memoranda, and as regards the Air Ministry I think the House can see some of the results of the long-range thinking which has been done in the past in the notable successes of our fighter and bomber squadrons. The machinery which exists in the Air Ministry for thinking ahead upon the problems of air warfare is now, and will remain, in active operation.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey, and I think, one or two other Members raised the question of co-operation between the Royal Air Force and the Army. In the Air Ministry, the Air Staff fully realise, as do the War Office and the General Staff, the necessity for profiting from the lessons of the war. For many months now, we have been studying these lessons, and the House may rest assured that we shall apply them in our plans for the future. Let me add that excellent relations now exist between the two Ministries, between the Secretary of State for War and myself and between the General Staff and the Air Ministry. Without hesitation, I can give the House the assurance that, at the present time, those two Departments are working closely together without a shadow of disagreement.
The hon. Member for Oxford, to whose speech I have already made some reference—unfortunately, he is not in the House—made detailed criticisms of the War Office organisation. When he made them, he said that they had no application to the Air Ministry. My hon. Friend saw that there were representatives of the War Office on the bench alongside me, and he can be quite sure that the criticisms which he made, and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Rathbone), will receive careful consideration. Another hon. Member complained about that tiresome necessity of organisation, the filling-up of forms. There is hardly any organisation, civil or military, which is exempt from that process. It may seem tiresome that it should require the filling-up of two forms to procure a window—[An HON. MEMBER: "Three!"] Three. Very well, the matter shall have consideration. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin went on to refer to the system of promotion in the Royal Air Force. He was dealing with 1265 two non-commissioned officers, one of whom, he said, was very inefficient and who received rapid and undeserved promotion, and the other who was extremely competent and well-thought-of and was recommended repeatedly for a commission, and was turned down on more than one occasion. If he will let me have particulars of the cases, I shall gladly have them looked into. Having told the story to the House, he said that, in his opinion, money, birth and influence should not be allowed to have anything to do in the matter of promotion. To that I heartily subscribe, but I could not connect this general proposition with the account which he gave us of the promotion of the non-commissioned officer. His suggestion was that one had been rejected and the other promoted on such grounds as are absolutely abhorrent to the principles of promotion in the Royal Air Force. I can assure the House that they will remain so.
Several speakers, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport and my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), have pleaded for the offensive spirit. They have pleaded, too, for a large Army; they have pleaded for a concentration of industrial resources upon the waging of total war. In making these pleas they are forcing an open door. It has been often announced, and I repeat, that the Government are advancing on those lines. Nobody will suspect anyone who speaks on behalf of the Royal Air Force, at any rate, of being lacking in that offensive spirit which that Force is demonstrating at the present time. At the same time my right hon. and hon. Friends pleaded for the immediate expression of that spirit. I would say that I know perfectly well that the War Office have just as much offensive spirit, but before they translate that spirit into action they must consider that this spirit must find expression in deliberate, concentrated and effective action, and that it must be related to the supply of available equipment. Subject to these considerations, I feel sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will find no Department of State, certainly none of the three Fighting Services, lacking in the offensive spirit.
There was, I was particularly glad to see, a general welcome in all parts of the House to the eloquent passage at the end 1266 of the Prime Minister's speech in which he announced the arrangement we have made with the United States, in which Canada has taken such a large part, for the defence of our mutual interests in that hemisphere. In that policy certainly the whole Government are enthusiastically united, and we are indeed grateful for the whole-hearted support which the House has given us this afternoon.
But I was a little surprised—almost I might say disconcerted—at the mild and almost amiable criticism which the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) directed against me for putting, as he said, difficulties in the way of United States correspondents in getting facilities for seeing the work of the Royal Air Force in this country. We have put no difficulties in the way of United States correspondents. I think that what the hon. Member had mainly in his mind was a failure which occurred a few nights ago to get our news of one of our big air battles to the United States as quickly as the Germans got it there. But that was not a question of denying facilities to American correspondents. There was certainly nothing deliberate in the action that was taken on that occasion. I think I could explain it quite simply to the House, but I think I had better leave it to be explained as it is going to be explained by the Minister of Information himself to-morrow in answer to a Question.
Far from putting difficulties in the way of United States correspondents, I can assure my hon. Friend that we have made arrangements for them to come to our stations to see the work of our fighters and bombers and of our coastal command, and we have always been glad to receive them—as we have on many occasions—and help them in any direction we can in informing American public opinion of the truth about the R.A.F. and the fighting over this country, because it is the truth that we want told; and if the truth is at variance with the story which the Germans are telling, we want to give facilities for getting it to America. From information that has reached me, I think that if the hon. Member makes further inquiries he will find that the American correspondents appreciate the frankness with which they have been treated by the Air Ministry and the facilities that we have extended to them.
1267 My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey, my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin and other Members referred to the importance of training. Certainly I regard that as an absolutely vital function of my Ministry, and one for the efficiency of which I am responsible to this House. As the House knows, I have shown my interest in this by a reorganisation of the Air Ministry, which has resulted in the direct representation, for the first time, of training on the Air Council. I have appointed an officer with a very distinguished record, who is himself an A-plus instructor—which is the highest diploma which an instructor can obtain in the Royal Air Force—who has considerable experience of training, Air Vice-Marshal Garrod, as Director of Training. Through him, a direct thrust, which has hitherto been lacking, goes from the Air Staff and from me, right through the whole field of training. As a result of the work which has been already done—but it is only in its infancy yet—I am glad to say, the figures show a substantial increase in the flow of pilots from our service flying training schools. The hon. Member for Bodmin referred, in particular, to the Empire air training scheme, and asked how it was going. I do not think I ought to give figures, but I will tell the House this, to show that substantial progress is being made. Whereas we were expecting to reach a certain figure of pilot production from Canada in July, or even as late as August, of next year, we shall reach that figure by April. I think that that will convince the House that more rapid progress than we were led to expect is being made with the Empire air training scheme. Let me say how grateful the Government are for the energy, the enterprise and the drive which the Canadian Government and the Canadian Air Staff, with the assistance of Air Vice-Marshal McKean, who represents us there, have thrown into this Empire air training scheme.
Then my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey raised the very important point of training on other soils. I think he must know, and I daresay other Members of the House know, that as a matter of fact that is exactly what the Air Ministry have planned to do. By now we should have had in full operation five schools in France, and very soon after I got there one of the first things I did was to communicate with 1268 the French Air Minister and to make preliminary arrangements for starting schools in North Africa. But all that, of course, has gone by the board. It may be that we shall have to transfer schools abroad. At any rate, I think I have convinced the House that I myself have no prejudice against the idea of transferring schools overseas, and all that I can say at this stage is that the arguments which have been addressed to me this afternoon will be very carefully weighed.
But I must ask the House not to expect me to make any statement on this matter now or at any future time, because if at some future date we did decide to move a number of schools overseas, it might easily be a move of great magnitude, involving the transference of a great amount of material and very substantial numbers of men, and that would have to be protected by sea power. Therefore I would ask the House to believe that we are pressing forward energetically with the acceleration of our training system. I stress the word "acceleration" because I think the high quality of the training system which has been built up in the Royal Air Force, going back to the days of Lord Trenchard, was already apparent to the world before the war, and it has proved itself in war to be the most efficient system of training that exists. Therefore it is not a question of raising standards of training; it is rather a question of maintaining its present high standard and quality, and of accelerating the system so as to get a larger outflow of pilots.
The Prime Minister in his great speech this afternoon gave the House good, sound reasons for confidence in the situation in which the country finds itself now, and for confidence in the future, but he warned us that greater ordeals might well lie ahead of us. I think he said that this was not a time to boast. Since the very beginning of war, since even before the war, I have frequently referred to this war as a gigantic and hazardous undertaking. And it is a hazardous undertaking on which we are engaged. But, looking back over the last three months, it does seem to me that there are sure grounds of confidence in the future. What strikes me, looking back over that period, is, first of all, the power of the British Navy, which is not only unbroken but is 1269 a greater menace to Germany than it was at the beginning of the war. There is the proficiency and the dogged fighting spirit of the British Army, as shown in the epic struggle outside Dunkirk, and there is the superb prowess and audacity of the pilots and fighting crews of the Royal Air Force.
Perhaps the House will bear with me if I say just a word about the work of the Royal Air Force. I would ask the House never to forget the splendid work which is carried out by the highly skilled pilots and crews of the Coastal Command. I think the House knows that it takes over seven months to train a pilot. The pilots of the Coastal Command have to fly great distances over the ocean in every kind of weather, patrolling up and down certain lines in every kind of weather, in storm and fog, in mists and extremely bad visibility. They have to be navigators of a very high order, and it takes 11 months to train them. It is dangerous work; it is monotonous work too. To the work of trained convoy direction, and anti-submarine patrol, is now added the work of anti-invasion reconnaissance. It is dangerous work, dodging in and out of Norwegian fiords, spying out in the Dutch, Belgian and French harbours, watching to see the movements of the enemy in those waters, bombing perhaps oil storage tanks, or bombing, as they did with such notable success on two occasions, great battle cruisers like the "Scharnhorst." All this work demands qualities of the very highest order, qualities of skill, fortitude and courage, and the work of the Coastal Command is indeed beyond all praise.
Then we come to the work of the bombers. I am sure it must have struck hon. Members as curious that our comparatively small forces of heavy bombers should be able to inflict such vastly greater damage upon the war industries of Germany than their vast fleet of bombers has yet been able to inflict upon ours. I believe it to be due, first of all, to the magnificent, glorious spirit of these bomber crews. This is the kind of spirit that exists—that if, when on day bombing, which is the most dangerous of all, they sustain severe casualties, the first thing a squadron which has suffered these casualties does, is to demand to go out the following day and get its own back. The first reason, therefore, for our conspicuous success is this magnificent spirit 1270 of pilots and crews. Then there is the preparation and organisation, the carefully thought-out preparation of these undertakings by the commands and staffs; and there is the training of our pilots, which results in the fact that they are able to navigate to and from Germany almost with certainty, certainly with much greater assurance than the Germans, whereas the Germans are, unfortunately for themselves, incapable of imitating their example in this country.
There are our fighter pilots. Their spirit, too, is magnificent. I will mention some of their exploits and those of the bomber squadrons to the House. Their spirit, too, is magnificent, but I am often asked why it is that they are able to achieve as much as they do in combat against the German Air Force. I think I would put it down to some of these factors. First of all, I would say there is the spirit of these young pilots, which does make all talk about the decadence of British youth seem foolish. Then I would say there is the splendid work of the ground personnel, which, although it is not heroic or spectacular, is vitally important, and work which gives pilots confidence in their machines. Then I would say there is the workmanship which is put into these machines in the aircraft factories. These machines stand up to an immense amount of punishment. I have seen machines shot about in a way which to me, as a layman, makes it almost incredible that it should have been possible for them to have been flown great distances, and landed safely at home. Such workmanship gives wonderful confidence to the pilots who use the machines.
Then I would say we ought to praise the scientists and designers who have conceived these splendid machines, which are the best of their type in the world. We ought, also, to praise the Air Staff, which has adjusted the requirements of active operations to the conceptions of the scientists and, particularly, those who were responsible for that great decision to adopt the 8-gun fighter, which is now master of the skies over Britain. We ought, also, to be grateful to those who have built up the training system to which I referred earlier and which has produced the best trained fighting force in the world. These, I think, are reasonable grounds for the apparently almost in- 1271 credible achievements of our fighters in their combats against the Germans.
I should like to refer again to the substantial and valuable help we are receiving from the countries of the Empire. Individuals have come to us—splendid fighters in considerable numbers—from New Zealand and many other countries of the Empire. Squadrons from Canada and Australia are serving with the Royal Air Force and there is the contribution which South Africa and Southern Rhodesia are making in Africa. I am sure the House would be interested, too, to hear that contingents of our European Allies are fighting splendidly alongside us in the Royal Air Force. We have Frenchmen fighting in our bomber squadrons and these are Frenchmen who have refused to accept defeat and humiliation. I believe it is these Frenchmen who, with General de Gaulle, are now being condemned to death by the men of Vichy, who will save the life and honour of their country. We have several Belgian pilots fighting with us and there is one Belgian pilot who, the other day, certainly destroyed four German aircraft and, probably, five. Then we have Poles fighting with us. They fought splendidly in France and they are fighting well for us here now. There was one Pole who, in a battle over this country a few days ago, shot down three German aircraft himself and then saw the leader of his squadron being attacked by three aircraft sitting on his leader's tail. He drove them off and saved the life of his squadron leader. The Dutch and the Norsemen are fighting with us, too. We have, in addition, a few splendid young men who have come to join our squadrons from the United States. One, a splendid fighter, was shot down in an air battle only a few days ago. We welcome as brothers in arms these choice and chivalrous spirits, men of our own race, who have come to fight for the common cause.
The number of our fighter squadrons in the front line ready for operations against the enemy, in spite of the fighting that has been going on, is higher to-night than it has ever been. Therefore after the weeks' intensive operations our front line is thicker than it was before the operations began. But we are not neglecting the offensive. We are also strengthening 1272 our bomber force, and the weight of our offensive is being felt ever more heavily in Germany. That the much larger German heavy bomber force is unable to inflict damage on this country comparable to the damage which we are inflicting on Germany and Italy, is due to our efficient system of defence, fighter squadrons, guns, balloons, searchlights and, let me add, people who deserve a special meed of gratitude and admiration, the observer corps, who spend their time out there in these lonely posts. It is often monotonous work—it has not been so monotonous lately—and in the winter they will have to look forward to doing it under very arduous conditions, and we have to be grateful for the devoted work they do.
The House may wish to know roughly what the result of the recent fighting has been. Certainly the truth bears no relation to the German claims. I cannot help thinking that this hard lying that Hitler and Goebbels do must defeat its own ends before long. I noticed the other day that they had been giving out an account of the number of warships that we had lost and if the German claims had been true, the British Navy would now have consisted of four submarines, 63 destroyers, minus three aircraft carriers minus 21 cruisers and minus 17 battleships. This ghost Navy certainly puts up a wonderful defence of our coasts and trade. So, if the German claims in the air battles which have been going on over the country had been true, I should have had to tell the House that we had lost no fewer than 878 aircraft. All I can say is that I should not have looked quite so confident and cheerful as I think I do now, if that had been the position of affairs. I certainly could not have made the statement I made just now, that our front line is thicker than before these operations began.
Let me now give the House the true figures. Our gunners and other ground defences, including the machine gunners—and the Royal Air Force are always particularly glad to note the successes of the gunners and the searchlights, because the co-operation between us is very close and we take pride in each other's achievements—have now shot down 55 German aircraft since 8th August. Including the 55 aircraft shot down by the ground defence system, the whole system of defence has, mainly, of course, 1273 through the prowess of our fighter pilots, accounted for 701 German aircraft in attacks upon this country since 8th August. Our losses, in fighters over this country and bombers in our bombing attacks upon Germany and Italy, are 192 fighters and bombers during the same period. Those are the comparable figures for aircraft.
But if one takes the comparable figures for losses of pilots and crews, they are still more remarkable. Taking the fighter pilots alone, casualties in the air over this country and over the sea round our coast have been 90 of our fighter pilots since 8th August, against more than 1,500 of the pilots and crews of the German fighters and bombers. If one includes bomber crews which we have lost over Germany, our figure of losses is much less than 300, and the German figure of losses is, as I have said, a great deal over 1,500. These are conservative figures, because, of course, the figures I have given of our losses are confirmed, whereas the figures I have given of the German losses take no account of the very substantial number which our pilots are convinced they have shot down, but which they have not seen actually break up in the air or crash on the ground or on the sea, and the considerable number of other German aircraft which have gone away in a condition in which our pilots did not think they would be able to get home to their bases.
The fighting has been going on to-day again, but on a lower scale of activity, like yesterday, but I am glad to be able to tell the House that we have shot down 7 German aircraft without any loss to ourselves. As for our bombers, they are now operating on a systematic plan for the destruction of military objectives vital to the enemy's war effort. The Germans apparently believe in mass attacks by day, and their night bombing is not very effective. Our night attack, on the other hand, is much more severe than our day attack, and as the nights grow longer, so also will the arm of our heavy bomber squadrons lengthen until we shall be striking ever deeper into the enemy's vitals. We are striking with a force of heavy bombers that is very much smaller 1274 than the German force, and their success is a remarkable proof of their efficiency.
The Debate was enriched to-day by a very remarkable maiden speech by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Profumo), who spoke of the necessity of courage, unity and faith. Yes, we all have need of those qualities. They have been abundantly shown by the men fighting for us in the air. They have shown courage in facing the enemy, and unity and a team spirit in working together. Crews and fighter pilots, supporting each other and working among themselves, have shown the faith which is the moral energy which the people of this country and all of us require to carry us through the difficult times which lie ahead of us.
We are fighting a conspiracy of two gangsters, governments in Germany and Italy, against the liberties of Europe and the decencies, restraints and moral values of our civilisation. I do not know why the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) thinks that we have any weakness or sensitiveness towards the Italian Fascists. I can assure him that we are hitting them as hard as we can and that we shall continue to do so; but we have no quarrel with the peoples of Germany and Italy. We shall never use our powers in the air as an instrument of mass terrorism. Our blows are, and will continue to be, directed against the enemy's aerodromes, aircraft factories, aero-engine factories and other centres of his military industry and supply. But wherever the instruments of cruelty and oppression are forged, wherever the materials of war are made and converted into munitions, wherever there are factories or oil storage plants, refineries, aircraft factories, air engine factories, there the strong arm of the Royal Air Force will reach out, and is reaching out this very night, and there we shall break the fetters with which Hitler seeks to bind the peoples of Europe.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned, accordingly at Seven Minutes before Eleven o'Clock.