§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now Adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
A month has passed since Herr Hitler turned his rage and malice on to the civil population of our great cities and particularly of London. He declared in his speech of 4th September that he would raze our cities to the ground, and since then he has been trying to carry out his fell purpose. Naturally, the first question we should ask is to what extent the full strength of the German bombing force has been deployed. I will give the House the best opinion I have been able to form on what is necessarily to some extent a matter of speculation. After their very severe mauling on 15th August, the German short-range dive bombers, of which there are several hundred, have been kept carefully out of the air fighting. This may be, of course, because they are being held in reserve so that they may play their part in a general plan of invasion or re-appear in some other theatre of war. We have, therefore, had to deal with the long-range German bombers alone.
It would seem that, taking day and night together, nearly 400 of these machines have, on the average, visited our shores every 24 hours. We are doubtful whether this rate of sustained attack could be greatly exceeded; no doubt a concentrated effort could be made for a few days at a time, but this would not sensibly affect the monthly average. Certainly there has been a considerable tailing off in the last 10 days, and all through the month that has passed since the heavy raids began on 7th September, we have had a steady decline in casualties and damage to so-called vulnerable points. We know, of course, exactly what we are doing in reply, and the size of our own bombing force, and from the many sources which are open to us we believe that the German heavy bomber pilots are being worked at least as hard as, and may be a great deal harder than, our own. The strain upon them is, therefore, very considerable. The bulk of them do not seem capable of anything beyond blind bombing.
290 I always hesitate to say anything of an optimistic nature, because our people do not mind being told the worst. They resent anything in the nature of soothing statements which are not borne out by later events, and, after all, war is full of unpleasant surprises. On the whole, however, we may, I think, under all reserve reach, provisionally, the conclusion that the German average effort against this country absorbs a very considerable part of their potential strength. I should not like to say that we have the measure of their power, but we feel more confident about it than we have ever done before.
Let us now proceed to examine the effect of this ruthless and indiscriminate attack upon the easiest of all targets, namely, the great built-up areas of this land. The Germans have recently volunteered some statements of a boastful nature about the weight of explosives which they have discharged upon us during the whole war, and also on some particular occasions. These statements are not necessarily untrue, and they do not appear unreasonable to us. We were told on 23rd September that 22,000 tons of explosives had been discharged upon Great Britain since the beginning of the war. No doubt this included the mines on the coast. We were told also, on last Thursday week, that 251 tons were thrown upon London in a single night, that is to say, only a few tons less than the total dropped on the whole country throughout the last war. Now, we know exactly what our casualties have been. On that particular Thursday night 180 persons were killed in London as a result of 251 tons of bombs. That is to say, it took 1 ton of bombs to kill threequarters of a person. We know, of course, exactly the ratio of loss in the last war, because all the facts were ascertained after it was over. In that war the small bombs of early patterns which were used killed 10 persons for every ton discharged in the built-up areas. Therefore, the deadliness of the attack in this war appears to be only one-thirteenth of that of 1914–1918. Let us say "less than one-tenth," so as to be on the safe side. That is, the mortality is less than one-tenth of the mortality attaching to the German bombing attacks in the last war. This is a very remarkable fact, deserving of profound consideration. I adduce it, because 291 it is the foundation of some further statements, which I propose to make later on.
What is the explanation? There can only be one, namely, the vastly improved methods of shelter which have been adopted. In the last war there were hardly any air-raid shelters, and very few basements had been strengthened. Now we have this ever-growing system of shelters, among which the Anderson shelter justly deserves its fame, and the mortality has been reduced to one-thirteenth, or, say, at least one-tenth. This appears, as I say, not only to be remarkable, but also reassuring. It has altered, of course, the whole of the estimates we had made of the severity of the attacks to which we should be exposed. Whereas, when we entered the war at the call of duty and honour we expected to sustain losses which might amount to 3,000 killed in a single night and 12,000 wounded, night after night, and made hospital arrangements on the basis of a quarter of a million casualties merely as a first provision—whereas that is what we did at the beginning of the war, we have actually had since it began, up to last Saturday, as a result of air bombing, about 8,500 killed and 13,000 wounded. This shows that things do not always turn out as badly as one expects. Also, it shows that one should never hesitate, as a nation or as an individual, to face dangers because they appear to the imagination to be so formidable. Since the heavy raiding began on 7th September, the figures of killed and seriously wounded have declined steadily week by week, from over 6,000 in the first week to just under 5,000 in the second, and from about 4,000 in the third week to under 3,000 in the last of the four weeks.
The destruction of property has, however, been very considerable. Most painful is the number of small houses inhabited by working folk which has been destroyed, but the loss has also fallen heavily upon the West End, and all classes have suffered evenly, as they would desire to do. I do not propose to give exact figures of the houses which have been destroyed or seriously damaged. That is our affair. We will rebuild them, more to our credit than some of them were before. London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham may have much more to suffer, but they will rise from their ruins, more healthy and, 292 I hope, more beautiful. We must not exaggerate the material damage which has been done. The papers are full of pictures of demolished houses, but naturally they do not fill their restricted space with the numbers that are left standing. If you go, I am told, to the top of Primrose Hill or any of the other eminences of London and look round, you would not know that any harm had been done to our city.
Statisticians may amuse themselves by calculating that after making allowance for the working of the law of diminishing returns, through the same house being struck twice or three times over, it would take 10 years at the present rate, for half the houses of London to be demolished. After that, of course, progress would be much slower. Quite a lot of things are going to happen to Herr Hitler and the Nazi regime before 10 years are up, and even Signor Mussolini has some experiences ahead of him which he had not foreseen at the time when he thought it safe and profitable to stab the stricken and prostrate French Republic in the back. Neither by material damage nor by slaughter will the people of the British Empire be turned from their solemn and inexorable purpose. It is the practice and in some cases the duty of many of my colleagues and many Members of the House to visit the scenes of destruction as promptly as possible, and I go myself from time to time. In all my life, I have never been treated with so much kindness as by the people who have suffered most. One would think one had brought some great benefit to them, instead of the blood and tears, the toil and sweat which is all I have ever promised. On every side, there is the cry, "We can take it." but with it, there is also the cry, "Give it 'em back."
The question of reprisals is being discussed in some quarters as if it were a moral issue. What are reprisals? What we are doing now is to batter continuously, with forces which steadily increase in power, each one of those points in Germany which we believe will do the Germans most injury and will most speedily lessen their power to strike at us. Is that a reprisal? It seems to me very like one. At any rate, it is all we have time for now. We should be foolish to shift off those military targets which the skill of our navigators enables us to find with a very great measure of success, 293 to any other targets at the present stage. Although the bombing force that we are able as yet to employ is, as I have told the House on several occasions, much less numerous than that of which the enemy disposes, I believe it to be true that we have done a great deal more harm to the war-making capacity of Germany than they have done to us. Do not let us get into a sterile controversy as to what are and. what are not reprisals. Our object must be to inflict the maximum harm on her war-making capacity. That is the only object that we shall pursue.
It must not be thought that the mists and storms which enshroud our Island in the winter months will by themselves prevent the German bombers from the crude, indiscriminate bombing by night of our built-up areas into which they have relapsed. No one must look forward to any relief merely from the winter weather. We have, however, been thinking about the subject for some time, and it may be that new methods will be devised to make the wholesale bombing of the civilian population by night and in fog more exciting to the enemy than it is at present. The House will not expect me to indicate or foreshadow any of these methods. It would be much better for us to allow our visitors to find them out for themselves in due course by practical experience. I think that is much the best way to handle that particular matter.
Meanwhile upon the basis that this will continue and that our methods will also be improving, we have to organise our lives and the life of our cities on the basis of dwelling tinder fire and of having always this additional chance—not a very serious chance—of death, added to the ordinary precarious character of human existence. This great sphere of domestic organisation becomes the counterpart of our military war effort. The utmost drive and capacity of which we are capable as a Government and as a people will be thrown into this task. Nothing but the needs of the Fighting Services can stand in the way. We must try to have shelters with sleeping hunks for everyone in the areas which are liable to constant attack, and this must he achieved in the shortest possible time. As soon as it is accomplished, and in proportion as it is accomplished, people will have to go to their proper places, and, above all, we must prevent large gatherings of people in any shelters which only 294 give illusory protection against a direct hit. People must be taught not to despise the small shelter. Dispersal is the sovereign remedy against heavy casualties. In my right hon. Friend the new Minister of Home Security we have a man of warm sympathy, of resource and energy, who is well known to Londoners and has their confidence, and who will equally look after the other cities which are assailed. But do not let it be thought that the work of his predecessor, now Lord President of the Council, has not been of a very high order. There is no better war horse in the Government. I am ashamed of the attacks which are made upon him in ignorant and spiteful quarters. Every one of his colleagues knows that he is a tower of strength and good sense, fearless and unflinching in storm and action. With my many burdens, I rely greatly upon him to take a part of the civil and domestic load from off my shoulders, setting me free for the more direct waging of the war. Large schemes are already on foot for providing food and hot drinks for those who sleep in shelters, and also for entertainment during the winter evenings. Far-reaching measures are being taken to safeguard the health of the people under these novel and primordial conditions. Widespread organisation and relief to those whose homes are smitten is already in being and is expanding and improving every day. All these matters will be unfolded at length, some in public, some in private Session, by the Ministers responsible for the various branches of action.
There is one scheme, however, upon which I must say a word to-day. The diminution of the damage done by blind bombing from what we had expected before the war, in the figures that I gave the House in the opening passage of my speech, enables us to take an enormous step forward in spreading the risk over the property of all classes, rich and poor. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I indicated a month ago, is preparing, and in fact has virtually completed the preparation of, a Bill for nation-wide compulsory insurance against damage to property from the enemy's fire. Immediate needs of food and shelter are already provided for, so is loss of life and limb as far as it is possible for human beings to be compensated for such calamities, but why should we have the whole value of the buildings of the country simultaneously and universally 295 discounted and discredited by the shadow of a sporadic sky vulture? Such a course would be financially improvident and also fiscally inane. An appropriate charge levied on the capital value of buildings and structures of all kinds will provide a fund from which, supplemented if need be by a State subvention, everyone can be covered, and covered with retrospective effect; and everyone can be made sure that compensation for his house and home and place of business will be paid to him in one form or another at the end of the war, if not sooner, and that, where necessity arises in the intervening period, means of carrying on will not be withheld. We also propose to provide insurance against the risk of war damage for all forms of moveable property, such as industrial plant, machinery, household effects and other personal possessions which are not at present protected by insurance. This will also be retrospective.
As I see it, we must so arrange that, when any district is smitten by bombs which are flung about at utter random, strong, mobile forces will descend on the scene in power and mercy to conquer the flames, as they have done, to rescue sufferers, provide them with food and shelter, to whisk them away to places of rest and refuge, and to place in their hands leaflets which anyone can understand to reassure them that they have not lost all, because all will share their material loss, and in sharing it, sweep it away. These schemes and measures, pursued on the greatest scale and with fierce energy, will require the concentrated attention of the House in the weeks that lie before us. We have to make a job of this business of living and working under fire, and I have not the slightest doubt that when we have settled down to it we shall establish conditions which will be a credit to our Island society and to the whole British family, and will enable us to maintain the production of those weapons in good time upon which our whole safety and future depend. Thus we shall be able to prove to all our friends and sympathisers in every land, bond or free, that Hitler's act of mass terror against the British nation has failed as conspicuously as his magnetic mine and other attempts to strangle our seaborne trade.
296 Meanwhile, what has happened to the invasion which we have been promised every month and almost every week since the beginning of July? Do not let us be lured into supposing that the danger is past. On the contrary, unwearying vigilance and the swift and steady strengthening of our Forces by land, sea and air which is in progress must be at all costs maintained. Now that we are in October, however, the weather becomes very uncertain, and there are not many lucid intervals of two or three days together in which river barges can cross the narrow seas and land upon our beaches. Still, those intervals may occur. Fogs may aid the foe. Our Armies, which are growing continually in numbers, equipment, mobility and training, must be maintained all through the winter, not only along the beaches but in reserve, as the majority are, like leopards crouching to spring at the invader's throat. The enemy has certainly got prepared enough shipping and barges to throw half a million men in a single night on to salt water—or into it. The Home Guard, which now amounts to 1,700,000 men, must nurse their weapons and sharpen their bayonets. [Interruption.] I have taken the trouble to find out very carefully how many hundred thousands of bayonets are at this time in their possession before I uttered such an adjuration; and for those who have not bayonets at the moment, I have provided for them by the phrase: "They must nurse their weapons." During the winter training must proceed, and the building of a great well-equipped army, not necessarily always to be confined to these islands, must go forward in a hardy and rigorous manner. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will, in the course of the next few weeks, give a further account in Private Session of the tremendous strides which under his guidance our military organisation is ma king in all its branches. He will also announce in public the improvements which we have found it possible to make in the allowances for the dependants of the Fighting Services to meet the increased cost of living and to secure the proper nourishment and care of the wives and children of our fighting men. I shall not anticipate my right hon. Friend this afternoon.
But, after all, the main reason why the invasion has not been attempted up to the present is, of course, the succession of 297 brilliant victories gained by our fighter aircraft, and gained by them over the largely superior numbers which the enemy have launched against us. The three great days of 15th August, 15th September and 27th September have proved to all the world that here at home over our own Island we have the mastery of the air. That is a tremendous fact. It marks the laying down of the office which he has held with so much distinction for the last three years by Sir Cyril Newall, and it enables us to record our admiration to him for the services he has rendered. It also marks the assumption of new and immense responsibilities by Sir Charles Portal, an officer who, I have heard from every source and every side, commands the enthusiastic support and confidence of the Royal Air Force. These victories of our Air Force enable the Navy, which is now receiving very great reinforcements, apart altogether from the American destroyers now coming rapidly into service, to assert, on the basis of the air victories, its sure and well-tried power.
It is satisfactory for me to be able to announce that both in fighters and in bombers we are at this moment and after all these months of battle substantially stronger actually and relatively than we were in May when the heavy fighting began, and also to announce that the pilot situation is rapidly improving and that in many weeks our repaired aircraft alone, such is the efficiency of this organisation for repair, exceed by themselves or make good the losses which are suffered; so that in many weeks the new construction is ever expanding as a clear gain. No one has ever pretended that we should overtake the Germans, with their immense lead, in the first year or so of war. We have a long lap to make up. We must give ourselves a chance. Perhaps it will be possible to make a more satisfactory statement on this subject this time next year. But do not forget that the resources of the enemy will also be substantially increased by their exploitation of the wealth, of the plants and to some extent of the skilled labour of captive countries[...] If it were not for the resources of the New World, which are becoming increasingly available, it would be a long time before we should be able to do much more than hold our own.
Although we have had to face this continual, imminent threat of invasion by a military Power which has stationed 80 298 of its best divisions in Northern France, we have not failed to reinforce our Armies in the Middle East and elsewhere. All the while the great convoys have been passing steadily and safely on their course through the unknown wastes of the oceans, drawing from all parts of the Empire the forces which will, I trust, enable us to fill in time the terrible gap in our defences which was opened by the Vichy French desertion. I shall certainly not make any prophecies about what will happen when British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and Egyptian troops come to close grips with the Italian invaders who are now making their way across the deserts towards them. All I will say is that we are doing our best and that there as here we feel a good deal better than we did some time ago.
I do not propose to give the House a detailed account of the episode at Dakar. I could easily do so in private, but it would be out of proportion to the scale of events. Moreover, I do not relish laying bare to the enemy all our internal processes. This operation was primarily French, and, although we were ready to give it a measure of support which in certain circumstances might have been decisive, we were no more anxious than was General de Gaulle to get involved in a lengthy or sanguinary conflict with the Vichy French. That General de Gaulle was right in believing that the majority of Frenchmen in Dakar was favourable to the Free French movement, I have no doubt; indeed, I think his judgment has been found extremely sure-footed, and our opinion of him has been enhanced by everything we have seen of his conduct in circumstances of peculiar and perplexing difficulty. His Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of abandoning the cause of General de Gaulle until it is merged, as merged it will be, in the larger cause of France.
There is, however, one part of this story on which I should like to reassure the House, as it concerns His Majesty's Government alone and does not affect those with whom we have been working. The whole situation at Dakar was transformed in a most unfavourable manner by the arrival there of three French cruisers and three destroyers which carried with them a number of Vichy partisans, evidently of a most bitter type. These partisans were sent to overawe the population, to grip the defences and to 299 see to the efficient manning of the powerful shore batteries. The policy which His Majesty's Government had been pursuing towards the Vichy French warships was not to interfere with them unless they appeared to be proceeding to enemy-controlled ports. Obviously, however, while General de Gaulle's enterprise was proceeding it was specially important to prevent any of them reaching Dakar. By a series of accidents, and some errors which have been made the subject of disciplinary action or are now subject to formal inquiry, neither the First Sea Lord nor the Cabinet was informed of the approach of these ships to the Straits of Gibraltar until it was too late to stop them passing through. Orders were instantly given to stop them at Casa Blanca, or if that failed, to prevent them entering Dakar. If we could not cork them in, we could, at least, we hoped, have corked them out, but, although every effort was made to execute these orders, these efforts failed. The Vichy cruisers were, however, prevented from carrying out their further purpose of attacking the Free French Colony of Duala, and of the four French vessels concerned, two succeeded in regaining Dakar, while two were overtaken by our cruisers and were induced, persuaded, to return to Casa Blanca without any actual violence.
The House may therefore rest assured—indeed it is the only point I am seeking to make to-day—that the mischievous arrival of these ships, and the men they carried, at Dakar arose in no way from any infirmity of purpose on the part of the Government; it was one of those mis-chances which often arise in war and especially in war at sea. The fighting which ensued between the shore batteries at Dakar, reinforced by the 16-inch guns of the damaged Richelieu, and the British squadron was pretty stiff. Two Vichy submarines which attacked the Fleet were sunk, the crew of one happily being saved. Two of the Vichy French destroyers were set on fire, one of the cruisers was heavily hit and the Richelieu herself suffered further damage. On our part we had two ships, one a battleship and the other a large cruiser, which suffered damage—damage which, although it does not prevent their steaming and fighting, will require considerable attention when convenient.
300 What an irony of fate it is that this fine French Navy, which Admiral Darlan shaped for so many years to fight in the common cause against German aggression, should now be the principal obstacle to the liberation of France and her Empire from the German yoke, and should be employed as the tool of German and Italian masters whose policy contemplates not merely the defeat and mutilation of France, but her final destruction as a great nation. The Dakar incident reminds us of what often happens when a drowning man casts his arms around the strong swimmer who comes to his rescue and seeks in his agony to drag him down into the depths. Force in these circumstances has to be used to save life as well as to take life. But we never thought that what happened or might happen at Dakar was likely to lead to a declaration of war by the Vichy Government, although evidently such a step might be imposed upon them at any time by their masters. Whatever happens it is the tide and not mere eddies of events which will dominate the French people. Nothing can prevent the increasing abhorrence with which they will regard their German conquerors or the growth of the new-born hope that Great Britain will be victorious, and that the British victory will carry with it, as it must, the deliverance and restoration of France and all other captive peoples.
That is all I think it is useful to say at the present time, either about the Dakar affair or our relations with the Vichy Government, except this. We must be very careful not to allow a failure of this kind to weaken or hamper our efforts to take positive action and regain the initiative. On the contrary, we must improve our methods and redouble our efforts. We must be baffled to fight better and not baffled to fight less. Here let me say that criticism which is well meant and well informed and searching is often helpful, but there is a tone in certain organs of the Press, happily not numerous, a tone not only upon the Dakar episode but in other and more important issues, that is so vicious and malignant that it would be almost indecent if applied to the enemy. I know that some people's nerves are frayed by the stresses of the war, and they should be especially on their guard lest in giving vent to their own feelings they weaken 301 the national resistance and blunt our sword.
I must now ask the House to extend its view more widely and to follow me, if it can find the patience, to the other side of the globe. Three months ago we were asked by the Japanese Government to close the Burma Road to certain supplies which might reach the Republic of China in its valiant struggle. We acceded to this demand because, as we told both Houses of Parliament, we wished to give an opportunity to the Governments of Japan and China to reach what is called in diplomatic language "a just and equitable settlement" of their long and deadly quarrel—there were no doubt some other reasons, but that one is enough for my argument. Unhappily this "just and equitable settlement" has not been reached. On the contrary, the protracted struggle of Japan to subjugate the Chinese race is still proceeding with all its attendant miseries. We much regret that the opportunity has been lost. In the circumstances His Majesty's Government propose to allow the agreement about closing the Burma Road to run its course until 17th October, but they do not see their way to renew it after that.
Instead of reaching an agreement with China, the Japanese Government have entered into a Three-Power Pact with Germany and Italy, a pact which, in many respects, is a revival of the Anti-Comintern Pact of a few years ago, but which binds Japan to attack the United States should the United States intervene in the war now proceeding between Great Britain and the two European dictators. This bargain appears so unfavourable to Japan that we wonder whether there are not some secret clauses. It is not easy now to see in what way Germany and Italy could come to the aid of Japan while the British and United States Navies remain in being, as they certainly do and as they certainly will. However, that is for the Japanese—with whom we have never wished to quarrel and to whom we have rendered great service in the past—to judge for themselves. Great services have been rendered to them by the peoples of the United States and Great Britain since their rise in the 19th century. We have never had a desire to quarrel with them. This is a matter on which they must judge for themselves. This 302 Three-Power Pact is, of course, aimed primarily at the United States, but also in a secondary degree it is pointed against Russia. Neither of the branches of the English-speaking race is accustomed to react to threats of violence by submission, and certainly the reception of this strange, ill-balanced declaration in the United States has not been at all encouraging to those who are its authors. We hope, however, that all such dangers—and the dangers can plainly be seen—will be averted by the prudence and patience that Japan has so often shown in the gravest situations.
There is another country much nearer home which has for some months past seemed to hang in the balance between peace and war. We have always wished well to the Spanish people, and in a glorious period of our history we stood between the Spaniards and foreign domination. There is no country in Europe that has more need of peace and food and the opportunities of prosperous trade than Spain, which has been torn and tormented by the devastation of a civil war, into which the Spanish nation was drawn by a series of hideous accidents and misunderstandings, and from the ruins of which they must now rebuild their united national life of dignity, in mercy and in honour. Far be it from us to lap Spain and her own economic needs in the wide compass of our blockade. All we seek is that Spain will not become a channel of supply to our mortal foes. Subject to this essential condition, there is no problem of blockade that we will not study in the earnest desire to meet Spain's needs and aid her revival. Even less do we presume to intrude on the internal affairs or Spain or to stir the embers of what so lately were devouring fires. As in the days of the Peninsular war, British interests and policy are based on the independence and unity of Spain, and we look forward to seeing her take her rightful place both as a great Mediterranean Power and as a leading and famous member of the family of Europe and of Christendom, which, though now sundered by fearful quarrels and under the obsession of grievous tyrannies, constitutes the goal towards which we are marching and will march across the battlefields of the land, the sea and the air.
Because we feel easier in ourselves and see our way more clearly through our difficulties and dangers than we did some 303 months ago, because foreign countries, friends or foes, recognise the giant, enduring, resilient strength of Britain and the British Empire, do not let us dull for one moment the sense of the awful hazards in which we stand. Do not let us lose the conviction that it is only by supreme and superb exertions, unwearying and indomitable, that we shall save our souls alive. No one can predict, no one can even imagine, how this terrible war against German and Nazi aggression will run its course or how far it will spread or how long it will last. Long, dark months of trials and tribulations lie before us. Not only great dangers, but many more misfortunes, many shortcomings, many mistakes, many disappointments will surely be our lot. Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valour our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible. Our qualities and deeds must burn and glow through the gloom of Europe until they become the veritable beacon of its salvation.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
The Prime Minister concluded his speech with an appeal to the nation which will meet with a response which will be universal. I think the House will have noticed that although he closed with that very solemn warning to us as to what we must be prepared to face, his speech in its total effect was of an encouraging nature, especially that part of it in which he dealt with what has been the central danger, the invasion of Britain. With regard to that, we have even greater confidence to-day than even at our last Secret Session. Since then we have won one of the greatest victories in the war, the victory in the air of 27th September. I shall come in a moment to the general situation with regard to the war which the Prime Minister has explained. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with two more specific areas of events on which I will say a few words. He dealt with the Burma Road and with Dakar. The statement that the Burma Road will be opened on the expiry of the Agreement is one which the House welcomes and which will not need further debate.
I come to the important statement he made about Dakar. I think he was right in leaving that statement at a general survey, because, after an episode like that, the country may, for a moment, lose 304 its sense of proportion, and not realise that victory in the Battle of Britain is, in its final effect, more important than anything which happens elsewhere, even at Dakar. I respect the Prime Minister's statement that he cannot enter into details, except in Secret Session, but no doubt he will expect the House to make some comment. The general verdict about the Dakar expedition will be, after listening to his explanation, that it was a very fine conception which was lost in the process of carrying it out. The Prime Minister has explained the mistake about the ships, and I do not think anything more can be usefully added in this Debate.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
We must know who was responsible. I suppose it was the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
There is another question, on which I do not ask for an answer, about another mistake made in the Dakar expedition. It requires comment. The Prime Minister explained that General de Gaulle was right in believing that French feeling was favourable, when the expedition was initiated. Therefore the project and the expedition were no doubt good, but for the fact that, between the initiation of the expedition and its arrival at Dakar, and even while it was on the sea, the entire situation changed. We were, in fact, forestalled, before the expedition reached Dakar. The impression I received from reading the episode was that another major misfortune of the adventure was that it was persisted in after the conditions of success had disappeared. Clearly, when General de Gaulle reached the port under the new conditions he had no chance of success, even with British ships behind him. Dakar is a very heavily defended port. I am told that it is the second most heavily defended port in the world. Remembering all the circumstances, it is clear that, even if the British ships had engaged, it would have been impossible for the attack to be successful, unless much larger forces had been brought in. The major error, apart from the ships, was that of continuing the expedition when it must have been very well known that success would have been impossible.
That brings me to one of the lessons of this exploit. I have once mentioned the matter before, and I wish to draw attention to it again. It is very surprising 305 that the Intelligence Services were not fully informed of the situation in Dakar long before General de Gaulle arrived, and well in time to prevent the final fiasco which took place. It is clear that the German Intelligence Service has been very much more efficient than our own. Dakar is a very favourable place for our Intelligence Service. There are plenty of British residents, and British traders have been there for a long time. It is puzzling to understand why our Intelligence Services were not better informed than they appear to have been.
I do not pursue this point in detail, but will turn to general remarks which I have made before about our Secret Service. This Service was undoubtedly the best in the whole world during the last war, but every Service man that you meet who has had any opportunity of testing the work of the Intelligence Service by his own experience tells me that, in this war, the Service has been a complete disappointment and, in fact, that it has been no good at all. In this matter, we are in a difficulty. In the case of any other Department of State we can ask questions, when this kind of criticism has to be made, and we can bring out the facts in this House and guarantee some sort of efficiency. In the case of the Secret Service, there is no guarantee of efficiency except by the determined supervision of the Government. My impression is that that efficiency goes up and down according to one or two personalities who happen to be at the top for the time.
I therefore ask once again, as I did in the last Debate, whether this Service could not be removed from the Foreign Office. I am speaking of the Secret Service itself, and not of the Intelligence Departments of the three Fighting Services. I understand that these Departments obtain their facts and information from the Secret Service of the Foreign Office, so that if the Service fails, the Intelligence Departments share its inefficiency. I am convinced that the Foreign Office are not adapted for dealing with Secret Service methods of the type necessary to grapple with Herr Hitler, and I therefore ask once again for a ruthless grappling with this problem of the Secret Service. Never in the last war had the Secret Service such an opportunity as in this war, because there are tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of 306 people in Europe anxious to take every risk and make sacrifices in order to beat down their present masters. Each time I make these remarks about our Secret Service I feel I am more justified in repeating them to the House.
In dealing with the Battle of Britain, the Prime Minister told us not to be lured into supposing that all our danger of invasion has passed. That is so. The equinoctial gales have begun, but I am told by naval men that invasion is stilt possible. There may be a day or two when there are no risks, and a smooth sea passage across the Channel may be practicable, although nobody knows when it is coming and nobody knows how long it will last. I therefore take it that the hazards of invasion are, on the sea, three or four times as great as they were a month or two ago. I cannot see any prospect of a successful invasion so long as we have an undefeated Air Force in the sky, and that is why the figures of the results of the contests of the R.A.F. with the German invading squadrons determine not only the future of the war but the actual, immediate issue of invasion.
Every morning the papers give us an analysis of the number of machines and pilots we lose in comparison with the number of machines and pilots which the Germans lose. Those figures are very interesting and vital, but I have always attached equal importance to another way of looking at the same subject, and that is in trying to calculate what percentage of the German machines are brought down every time they attack this country, because in all our discussions before the war we were told that if we brought down more than a certain percentage each time the raids could not, under any circumstances, continue. For the first five weeks of the war, the percentage brought down was between 15 and 20 per cent., and it was said that air raids could not continue for a long period of time at that rate of wasting. In the great battle of 15th September, to which the Prime Minister referred, the percentage rose to 33 per cent., according to official figures, and 50 per cent., according to the additional figures given by Air Marshal Barratt. On 27th September the results were as good as those of 15th September. It is clear that our anticipations are being fulfilled. Germany, as a matter of fact, has abandoned daylight bombing as a serious effort 307 to defeat this country. She has abandoned daylight bombing on the scale with which she conducted it up till these defeats from 15th September onwards. She has taken to night bombing. In my view, the very fact that Germany has adopted night bombing is itself a confession of failure, because before the war the Luftwaffe always claimed as one of its doctrines that night bombing could have no military effect. They did not believe in it, they did not train their pilots for it, and they always argued that as it could not be precision bombing, it could not hit military objectives, and that therefore from the point of view of hitting military objectives it was of no use. I regard this substitution of night bombing for day bombing as a confession that the Air Force has mastered the Luftwaffe.
There are two subjects to which I wish to call attention. The Prime Minister said that he was sending reinforcements to Egypt. On this point I have a suggestion to make. It is clear that when the danger of invasion ceases the centre of gravity of this war will be, as it practically is now, the Eastern Mediterranean. The prize for both sides on the Eastern Mediterranean is immeasurable. If Mussolini, assisted perhaps by a German armoured division, succeeds in taking Alexandria, we shall have lost our only base for a Fleet in the Mediterranean. That sea would become untenable for us, and the result would be a prolongation of the war for an indefinite time. On the other hand, if we now succeed in defeating the offensive of Italy, or of Italy and Germany combined, and following it up by a counter-offensive which establishes us on the shores of North Africa, then I think Italy's whole position in the war will become so precarious that the war will be shortened by an equally indefinite length of time. The prizes are immeasurable as a result of this campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the moment the campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean overshadows anything that can happen in Europe itself. Of course, I cannot deal with the question of the actual balance of military and naval forces, but I do suggest that when we are considering aerial bombardment for the immediate future, Italy may be a more profitable target for us than Germany itself. The final issue of this war is between the will-power of the people of 308 Britain and the will-power of the people of Germany, but in the war which matters in the immediate future, which is the war in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is Italy with whom we have to deal, and Italy at present has fought a war and won territory without knowing that there is a war on. We know that all Italian military production is concentrated in quite a few factories in a small area. A fraction of the effort necessary in Germany would wipe them out. We know that their antiaircraft defences are very weak. The spirit of her people is not out and out in this war. Therefore, if we could devote to Italy in actual aerial bombardment anything approaching the attack which we have devoted to Germany, mentioned in that description published by the Ministry of Information, the results would be very far-reaching. That is one of the most effective ways in which we can help General Wavell in dealing with the Italian attack upon Egypt.
I am coming to one other subject in relation to which I wish to bring up to date certain figures which I gave to the House, because they again strengthen certain views which I have expressed. With regard to the Battle of Britain, it is clear that when Hitler makes up his mind that he will not defeat us by invasion, he will turn to the other alternative which many people have always thought more dangerous to us; that is, defeating us by sinking our merchant ships at sea. When I last mentioned this point about six weeks ago, the loss of tonnage of our own and neutral ships amounted to 67,000 tons a week. I assumed that that was about double the amount which we could rebuild, and it was equal to half the worst week in the last war. Now we have the last published figures, which are for the week 16th to 23rd September. The merchant shipping tonnage sunk had risen to 150,000 tons—worse than the worst week in the last war. That cannot possibly continue for any length of time. I know that the American destroyers are helping, but they are old destroyers. They have not much fuel capacity. They were not built to work 1,000 miles from their bases. We can easily exaggerate the amount of help that these destroyers can afford.
I say this because I want to bring the House back to a difficulty which confronts 309 us. We overcame the submarine menace last year because our ports were to the West of the German bases. We could catch the submarines as they came out and as they came back. Now, the Germans have French ports, such as Brest and Lazaire. They are to the West of our bases, Plymouth and Portsmouth. From those French ports, they are sending their submarines to the West of Ireland, where, as is generally known, most of the sinkings are now taking place. Our problem would be solved if we could have ports to the West of the French ports. Where are such ports? On the West Coast of Ireland—in our own Commonwealth. If we could have Berehaven and Lough Swilly—Lough Swilly is only 10 miles from Northern Ireland—the whole problem would be solved. Take the case of the "City of Benares," the ship in which hundreds of passengers, including children, were drowned. If we could have used Lough Swilly, I venture to say, that sinking probably would not have happened at all. We have to come out from Plymouth, and, therefore, our patrolling distance is doubled. If we had the Irish ports, that would have the effect of doubling the number of our patrolling vessels. Because of the Irish Treaty, we are refused access to those ports, or even to Irish territorial waters.
I would like the world to see what is the price that we are prepared to pay for the principles for which we stand. There is no doubt what Hitler, in such circumstances, would do. Look at what he has done to Rumania, a foreign country; what would he have done to a country in his own Commonwealth? Let the world realise the significance of the spectacle that it witnesses. Our children have been drowned, thousands of tons of British merchant shipping have been sunk, and hundreds of British sailors are drowned every week because the Navy is refused access to the ports of part of our own Commonwealth—which, but for the Navy, would be in the position that Denmark, Norway and Holland are in to-day. I mention that because there is no doubt that the Irish attitude on this matter will be influenced by public opinion in the United States. When these facts are made clear, I have very little doubt what public opinion in the United States will be.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I would like to congratulate the Govern- 310 ment very warmly, if I may, on having decided to open the Burma Road. We understand the difficult circumstances that arose three months ago, but I think that the decision that they have now reached will give very great satisfaction throughout the Allied world. The original decision was really inconsistent with the principles for which we are fighting. I hope the Government will go still further, and get into touch with the Chinese Government and do all they can to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with China, to make her one of our allies in this struggle. We are fighting for the same principles, and we have the same enemies. The more we can make such an alliance a reality on both sides, the better it will be. There is no reason to pretend that by a policy of appeasement of any kind we can conciliate the Japanese, and now they have openly joined our enemies. I hope that in all these matters the Government are keeping in touch with the Soviet Government, who, I imagine, like to be kept informed and consulted on any decisions reached with regard to the Far East. The position of Soviet Russia is obviously very important to us. I have no doubt that our Ambassador in Moscow will do all he can, and I hope that the Foreign Office are placing no obstacles in the way of such collaboration with the Russian Government as may be practicable in existing circumstances.
I would like to say something about the Dakar incident. The most important feature of the Prime Minister's speech was that he admitted quite frankly that Dakar had been a complete flop, that there had been regrettable incidents inside the Navy, which had been properly attended to. I do not know whether the country will be quite satisfied with that explanation. There have been various communiques issued about this matter from time to time, and I would like to quote one which came from the general headquarters of the Free French Forces under General de Gaulle. This stated thatthe Dakar operations were never meant to develop into a major battle.I should think that it was a very unwise thing to enter into an engagement which you never intended to go through with. The reason for withdrawing, I understand, was that we did not want to get into conflict with the French Government; but it is admitted in this communique that the Government was a German-controlled 311 French Government. The communique goes on to say:There has been so much German infiltration that this succeeded in frustrating their object—clearly under German control. Then it says:It is now known that under German pressure the Dakar authorities opened fire on the troops ….It is inconsistent to say that you must not go on because you would be fighting the French, when the whole thing was directed by the Germans. The entire case with regard to what happened at Dakar and the circumstances surrounding it were so well set out in a leading article in the "News-Chronicle" the other day that I should like to read from that article:It is very regrettable that firm action against Vichy, when such action is called for, must involve shedding the blood of Frenchmen, but let us be clear why, from our point of view, it is regrettable. Not simply because the blood is French, since a pro-Petain Frenchman is as dangerous to our cause as a pro-Hitler German. It is regrettable because many of the Frenchmen who lose their lives in such circumstances may be greater friends of democracy than they are of Petain. But that is also true of Germans' and Italians' feelings about their own leaders, and as long as armies are conscripted it must remain so. The British Government, in its attitude to Vichy, is still thinking too much in terms of nineteenth century nationalism. It thinks of France as a national unit, recently our ally, and as a unit it desires to respect it and avoid conflict with it. But France is no more a single united nation today than Germany, or Italy, or Spain. It is composed—like almost every country in the world—of those few who believe in dictatorship and force, and those many who believe in democracy and freedom. The dividing line does not thrust down vertically between nations but runs horizontally within each nation.I believe that that is a fair statement of the position, and I hope that it will be borne constantly in mind, and that before long we shall hear that steps are being taken in relation to Dakar which will restore the prestige which we undoubtedly lost there and do something to strengthen the position which we have unquestionably hazarded as the result of having lost the control of that area.
Let me turn to another part of Europe. As we now know, Rumania is definitely, whether she wishes it or not, on the side of our enemies, is entirely at their mercy, and they can draw all the support and resources they like from that country. I 312 hope that the Government are not going to sit down to that. The Germans have now complete and undisputed control of the Rumanian oil wells. They are to all intents and purposes enemy occupied territory. Something ought to be done about those oil wells. Obviously, it ought to be something of a secret nature, and I do not expect any statement to be made about it, but the country will expect the Government to have in mind the importance of seeing that these oil wells are made, as far as they can within their powers, as little available as possible to the enemy.
I hope that the Government are going to pursue a question which has been raised in this House before, namely, the setting-up of an Allied Council. We had something of the kind in the last war. It is true that at the present time we have bilateral conversations between the British Government and the other Allied Governments over here—the Poles, the Czechoslovaks, the Dutch, and the others—but I cannot help thinking that it would be a very useful thing if they could be assembled together in a joint Allied Council for the consideration of any question of mutual interest. It might well be that they would not have a great deal to do of practical importance, but even if that were so, it would be a symbol of the unity of so many States and an expression of the fact that we are not fighting alone and that we have Allies with great possessions who once were, and will be again, great nations. It would be a very useful institution, and I hope that in due course, at the right moment, the Government will think it right to bring such a body into existence.
There has recently been a reconstruction of the Cabinet, and there is only one comment that I want to make about it. Certain right hon. Gentlemen of great ability and prestige have been added to it, and they will no doubt add to its power in the conduct of the war, but I think that we who sit on these benches are entitled to feel regret that so far it has not been found possible to include a Liberal representative in the War Cabinet. As we are a united House of Commons and a united country and this is a matter which affects the interests of a very large number of people throughout the country, I ask that the Prime Minister should, in due course, give consideration to the feelings of his Liberal supporters, who are as fervently 313 and as enthusiastically behind him as anyone in this House, and see to it that there is, at the time that may seem appropriate to him, some person representing the Liberal party in the higher direction of the war itself, which can only take place, after all, from inside the Cabinet.
The only other point I want to make is that I saw a very interesting statement the other day that the Government are busy working out war and peace aims. Some questions have been asked about this for months past, and I have always felt that at the height of the Battle of Britain it was not a very appropriate moment for expecting the Government to come out with a programme of their aims. But I felt, at the same time, that directly that Battle began to flag a little, the country and the world would certainly expect more information on the subject than they have received up to date. It is one of our weapons. The cause for which we are fighting, explained not exactly in detail, but with a certain amount of fullness, certainly would be extremely useful in influencing public opinion abroad. I am sure that the people of this country desire some information, and it appears that the Government are doing something. I have noticed a statement that the Ministry of Information are initiating a campaign. They say that the Government are working out a policy of war aims and post-war plans. That is something quite new. I do not think that they have done that before. The campaign is intended to give the public a definition of those aims and thereby anticipate a demand which is likely to be greatly expressed as soon as the blitzkrieg and any invasion attempts fail. The campaign explaining the war and peace aims of the Government has been going on throughout the country, and it is time that these aims were explained in this House. I hope that an early opportunity will be given to us here to learn what precisely the Ministry of Information are now bringing forward in the name of the Government as regards those aims. Is is an important matter, and it has a real bearing upon our success in the war, and I urge that the veil of secrecy which has been held over this subject should be withdrawn at the earliest possible date, and withdrawn in this House.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I do not want to address myself to-day to more than a part of the speech of 314 the Prime Minister to which I listened, as always, with the greatest interest, as he always has the faculty of arousing enthusiasm, but I want to suggest that the Prime Minister should consider, as my hon. Friend was saying, appealing not only to the audience here and not only to the audiences of the white peoples of the British Empire, but also to all others in Africa, in India and in China who might be rallied by his tremendous eloquence to an even more active sympathy with, and support of, our cause.
I had originally intended to raise the question of Dakar, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) has referred, because I do not think that that question has been seen, and I do not think that even today it has been displayed, in its proper perspective. I believe that what has really happened within recent weeks is that the great theatre of war on Africa as a whole has begun to be opened up, and Dakar is only one very small incident in that operation. With regard to what my right hon. Friend the Minister for Keighley said about the Intelligence Service, there is really nothing, as far as I know, extremely recondite about information with regard to West Africa—either French West Africa or British West Africa—or the operations of the French people there, whether they are Vichy partisans or whether they belong to the Army of the Free Frenchmen. What is really the problem is not our Intelligence Service, but the incompetence of the Colonial Office, who really are extraordinarily lacking in their grip of the problems of Colonial development and singularly lacking in information about the Colonies, especially West Africa. I say that with some justification, having last year paid a visit of study to West Africa and having found there some elementary facts which were well known to everybody, but were apparently unknown to the Department. I regret to say that I feel that some of our Colonial Office officials deserve censure for not having kept the Government in closer touch with the situation as it was developing there. When I was in West Africa it was quite clear that part of the Press there were being subsidised by Germans. I could tell you the exact sum of money paid by German agents, and tell you who they were, to the editors of papers published in English, and no doubt in the French areas, for 315 the purpose of putting forward their propaganda. These facts were well known to the West African Government last year, and I have not the slightest doubt that they are in some pigeon-hole here at the present time. It is really reprehensible that these facts should not have been brought, through the Colonial Office, to the notice of the Government here.
Furthermore, the question of the war developing in the Near East means that it is, of course, part of the battle of Africa, and if we are to envisage the campaign as it is likely to develop, it is necessary to remember that difficulties of distance, desert travel and travel in tropical countries have been altogether revolutionised, so far as Africa is concerned, within the last 15 years. It is now possible to motor in any ordinary motor car which has not been specially adapted either from West to East or North to South. In most seasons of the year in Africa there are good roads, or, at any rate, passable roads; there are emergency landing grounds on which an aeroplane can land, and if the war does, as seems inevitable, extend to Africa on a large scale, it will not be a war confined to the Near East, Dakar or West Africa. It will be a war of Africa, and that is why I mentioned just now the hope that the Prime Minister would extend, as it were, the area to which his speeches reach by making an appeal to the black population of Africa and speaking to them of those war aims of the future which will offer them something they have not got at the present time.
We should offer to abolish Colonial status altogether and to bring in the African peoples on the basis of co-operating nationalities. I do not mean, of course, of the standard of the Dominions or along those lines—many of the African people themselves will be the first to realise that that is impossible—but we ought to get away from the old-fashioned English Kiplingesque idea of Colonies and realise that the peoples there, with their very different ideas, have, nevertheless, a civilisation. We must offer them a real share in the new world. In the last few days we have all read in the papers the statements by the Axis Powers that Hitler and Mussolini are undertaking the organisation of a new order in Europe and that the Japanese have had confided to 316 them the task of inaugurating a new order in the East. To us, of course, with our judgment of Hitler and Mussolini, that kind of order appears in its true light as a disaster in the shape of slave-driven peoples, but it does not mean to say that the psychology of that appeal will not have a tremendous effect on the many people to whom it is addressed outside the boundaries of the States concerned, which are at present dominated by those Powers. I would like to see our Prime Minister appeal for a new order in the world on the British lines, speaking not only of freedom, but of breaking the bonds and the shackles of old ways of living as applied to the Colonies, India and China, and sending a message to the whole world which will not be confined to the British and American peoples, but which will rally those peoples to us in spirit even more than they are rallied to us at the present time.
I do not under-estimate the tremendous value of the support we are getting at the present time from those peoples to whom I have referred, but I believe they might be fired with greater enthusiasm and be attracted to help us more and more if the Prime Minister's eloquence could reach them and he could speak of things as they understand them and of a new world which, I believe, with our victory, will dawn for them. Do not let us be so pre-occupied in our own grim struggle in this country—which will not get less grim for some time to come—that we forget the ultimate civilisation for which we are now fighting. We would state quite clearly the war aims and peace aims which should be the answer to what Hitler and Mussolini and the leaders of Japan are stating. It is a world conflict of ideology at the present time; let us put our case before the world, and let it be a case which will rally to our side the black peoples of Africa, the yellow peoples of Asia, and all the peoples of the world who long for freedom and for a greater life.
Mr. Hare-Belisha (Devonport)
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has added to-day to the series of important statements which he has made on the progress of the war. He has delivered no graver speech than that to which we have just listened, and he has opened to us most vividly the diversity and magnitude of the tasks which confront this Empire now fighting alone against the Axis 317 Powers. I shall respond to his appeal not to penetrate too closely into the details of the Dakar episode. Events move so swiftly that what happened three weeks ago already seems a period in history. Dakar partakes of the character of a battle long ago. I would, however, at this stage, ask only one question upon the subject: Have we revised our policy towards the French Fleet? It was once our course of conduct to put French ships out of commission, and we took the most drastic action to that end. At Oran, despite every sentimental consideration, we fired upon the vessels of our former Ally. I gather that it is now our intention to allow a greater latitude to the ships of the Vichy Government. I hope, if I am right, that that policy will be revised and that we shall not hesitate when challenging opportunity offers to put out of commission a Fleet which, if added to those of our enemies, would have the most embarrassing effect upon the conduct of our naval operations.
Like the rest of the House, I welcomed with unaffected relief the statement that we were once again to open the Burma Road. China, with its 500,000,000 of people endeavouring to resist aggression, is in this war on the same side as the British Empire. I thought my right hon. Friend perhaps under-estimated the services which Germany could render to Japan by a simultaneous approach, conjectural though it may be, towards India. From either side each of these Powers can render mutual assistance to the other. We should not forget that it is within our power, and the power of the United States, to deprive Japan of the war material without which it cannot continue its assault upon China. Its oil, its cotton, its coal, its iron ore and certain other supplies come almost entirely from parts of our Empire, from the Dutch Empire, or from the United States. I hope, now that we have seen this matter in perspective and in a realistic light, we shall recognise the difference between our enemies and our friends.
The words which my right hon. Friend uttered about Spain were pre-eminently wise. I doubt, however, whether that nation, more than any of the totalitarian Powers, is inclined to listen to homilies which perhaps they confuse with Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy, as they imagine it to be. They will have an objective regard 318 for their interests, and only our successes can restrain them from advancing their claims in the martial sphere. However, what we are concerned with to-day are the requirements of the present and of the immediate future. It is evident from my right hon. Friend's speech, as it is from the published news, that we are confronted with a new challenge in Europe, in Asia and in Africa. New demands are about to be made upon the British Navy. Following its traditions, it will readily meet them. The Air Force will be called upon for even greater endeavours, and, recalling the imperishable service it has already rendered to us, it will not hesitate to fulfil whatever may be asked. The British Army, which has for so long awaited an occasion to demonstrate its prowess, will at length have its great opportunity.
But we, here at home, have a duty to perform, and that is to provide the requirements of the Fighting Services, without which they cannot defend us. When the Prime Minister took office a new dynamic energy was infused into the national life. A better understanding was observable between employer and employed, which could not have been the case under the previous Government, because it was not, as this Government is, composed of all parties. The trade unions agreed to sacrifice age-long conventions and to work over-time. They even continued their labours into Sunday. Factories continued their operations throughout the 24 hours, and a result, remarkable in its beneficence, was achieved. Within six weeks of the new administration taking office it was possible for the Minister of Supply to announce to the House of Commons that the increase in the output of cruiser and infantry tanks was 115 per cent. With regard to a wide range of guns, the increase varied from round about 50 per cent, to as much as 228 per cent. Small arms production showed an increase ranging between 49 and 186 per cent., while the figures for ammunition of various kinds showed increases ranging between 35 and 420 per cent. There was this new vitality coursing through the veins of the nation, and it should be recognised.
But, since this assault upon us from the air began, the scene has changed, and a different spectacle is presented. The 319 meaning of it can be gauged to some small extent in the Returns published by the Treasury, from which it is deducible that our expenditure upon armaments is no longer mounting. It is falling. You can go round the factories to-day, and what do you find? Some of them are continuing despite every provocation. They are insisting upon giving our sailors, soldiers and airmen what they need. In others, on the other hand, you will find that the hours worked have fallen by a third, with the result that the ouput has declined by two-thirds. You will discover in some places that eight, nine, ten, eleven or twelve hours consecutively have been spent in the shelters. These hours are a present to Hitler. You cannot win this war upon the principle that you are seeking safety from his aircraft. If the production of a certain factory be 50 aircraft in a week, and a week's work is lost, that is equivalent to the destruction in the air of 50 aircraft, but without any effort from the Luftwaffe. Should not we realise this? In some places we are given the explanation that it is the fault of the workers; in others that it is the fault of the employers; but there is only one national interest in this matter, and how, morally, can we call upon our Air Force to go into the air if we are not prepared to carry on in our civil life?
The implication of the statement that we are all in the front line is that we ought to behave as if we were in the front line. Danger is a part of life. No one knows that better than the workers of Britain. Why, even in peace-time we are told of the risks the miners run, the glass-blowers run, the stevedores run, the mercantile marine run. Well, there is some addition to the risk, but it is not much. Let us be clear that we must continue our labours if we are to meet the dangers described by my right hon. Friend this afternoon, dangers which do not diminish but which increase. Dakar, British Somaliland—these are reverses which we can rectify if we have the material with which to do it; but the loss of the production of aircraft, shells and small arms ammunition, these are critical losses and cannot be put right. What is the message that Parliament is sending to the people? If it is the message that was delivered through you, Mr. Speaker, from your Chair this afternoon, it is a wrong and discouraging message. Parliament should not suspend its 320 activities. It is an essential element in the vindication of our cause. No, the message which the House of Commons should send to the whole country this afternoon, and should carry out in its own proceedings, is, "Carry on."
§ Mr. Poole (Lichfield)
I do not propose this afternoon to go into the strategy and tactics of the war because I do not feel competent to do so. I have only one observation to make on the Dakar incident. Either Dakar was worth having or it was not, and if it was vitally necessary for its strategic position, an adequate force ought to have been sent to Dakar to ensure that it was taken. To go there with too small a force, and to leave it to Dakar to give itself to you, showed gross weakness. Incidents such as that at Dakar are incidents which we cannot afford to perpetuate any longer. They are serious blows to our prestige. I wonder whether the Government really realise yet how vital it is that speedily, by a supreme initiative, our prestige should be enhanced in some corners of the world from which we hope to derive support.
I have risen primarily to deal with an aspect of the war situation at home which I have endeavoured to ventilate through orthodox channels and have failed, an aspect of the war problem at home on which I want to utter a word of warning, because I feel that those who are responsible do not realise the serious position which might arise in this branch of our war effort. This afternoon the Prime Minister, in his very excellent speech, gave us to understand that we might reasonably expect that we have seen the maximum air attack upon this country of which the German nation is capable. That may be so, but I do not think we have yet seen the maximum damage which the enemy is capable of inflicting upon vital parts of our war effort. I want to refer to the question of transport. It is completely useless for the industries of this country to do what the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has been asking—to work and produce the necessary arms and equipment for the Fighting Forces or for recruiting an army of 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 men unless you are able to bring the arms, equipment and material which the factories produce to the men who need them. Transport facilities are 321 fundamentally vital on an island as small as this.
After the fullest consideration and some experience of the matter, I feel that we are trilling still with the transport problems of this country and that the War Office are not even yet alive to the grave danger that may arise to this country unless they endeavour more speedily to assess the possibility of the damage which might be inflicted upon the rail communications of this country. We have been extremely fortunate up to the present. There have been minor interruptions here and there, but a concentrated attack upon some of the key junctions of this country can completely dislocate and disorganise the whole of the rail facilities of the country. Transport is vital and would be fundamentally vital if an invasion ever came. It is vital when we are required to equip men speedily for expeditions overseas. Yet in this essential branch, where it is necessary that the men should be key men, that you should have men who are at any rate to some degree au fait with what is required, there are still being recruited into this branch of our war effort men who have absolutely no knowledge whatever of transport problems and have never been associated even in the most indirect way with transportation.
What is the determining factor in the selection of men and their placing in responsible positions at the present time? I should like to have an analysis placed before me as to the people who are performing important technical functions in the War Office and what relation those functions bear to the whole of their civil experience in the years leading up to the war. I think that would be very revealing. What arrangements have been made, or in whose hands lies the responsibility, for traffic diversions at the present time when sections of rail are put Out of commission? Who is responsible for making those diversions? I will assert definitely that it is no one's responsibility at the present time.
Who is responsible for alternative routing when sections of rail have been destroyed and urgent Government stores have to be sent to a particular unit? I ask that inquiries should be made into that point, because a serious position will arise on the first occasion on which there is heavy bombing of a vital section of 322 railway line. I saw the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air on the front bench recently and am sorry he is not here now, because I should like to have addressed an inquiry to him and I hope it may he conveyed to him. I want to ask him why the Air Ministry desires to remain apart from any control of its movements through the usual movement control channels, why, in effect, the Air Ministry "don't play"? Who is responsible for diverting Air Ministry traffic when it cannot be taken to its correct destination? I do not know how long it is since London suffered the devastating attack upon the docks, but it is illuminating to know that there are Air Ministry stores which were under load to be brought to those docks in London when that attack was made and which could not be brought because it was no longer possible to load it there, for which instructions are still, to-day, awaited from the Air Ministry. It seems to be nobody's concern, nobody's baby, to divert that traffic to an alternative port in order that it may reach its destination. These may perhaps seem trifling things to the House, but when such instances are multiplied time and time again, and that is what is happening, it becomes a vitally important matter.
There is also a criminal waste of transport in this country. The waste of transport facilities in peace time was bad enough, but in war time it is atrocious that we should waste vital road transport as we are doing. What is the position? The four railway groups have been coordinated under the Railway Executive Committee, though they still apparently function as private enterprise. Their responsibility in relation to the movement of war materials comes under the War Office Movement Control, which has its movement control officers. Road transport is under the Royal Army Service Corps, and its utilisation is in the hands of traffic officers in various depots up and down the country. There is no coordinating body between rail and road. We are foolishly wasting thousands of gallons of petrol while at the same time asking the ordinary motorist to do with five, six, seven or eight gallons of petrol a month. We are sending lorries up to the North of Scotland, loaded with camouflage netting for which there is no urgency. I could take Members to a depot into which huge transport lorries are convey- 323 ing what? What urgent Government stores? Conveying empty wooden cases. They are brought in by road transport, by 10-ton lorries with an enormous petrol consumption. Yet if there is one wooden case in that depot there are probably half-a-million cases waiting to be used which have been out in the weather all through last winter and will be out in the weather this winter and will not be of much use for anything but firewood by the spring.
Whose responsibility is it? The Under-Secretary of State for War is here. He will find in his War Office files that I have made a legitimate attempt to bring these matters to the notice of the War Office. When are we to have co-ordination of all forms of transport? Is it not ironical that a movement control officer should have a special train going to Glasgow to-morrow morning on which he could take every article there is from a particular point to another point, a train which could convey every pound of stores which has to go, and yet to find that the Royal Army Service Corps has sent a road transport vehicle all through the filth of a dirty night, 36 hours driving, up to Glasgow because there has been no liaison? Is it nobody's function in war time to see that the best use is made of all the facilities we have? We cannot afford to waste transport. We have no right to send men up to the North of Scotland with a ton or a ton-and-a-half of stores when there are rail facilities. I ask for the fullest co-ordination. Quite frankly, I am prepared to ventilate this matter on the floor of the House until we have co-ordination in transport and there is some cohesion in the transport arrangements.
There is another matter which has a bearing upon what the right hon. Member for Devonport has said on the need for the maintenance of production. I was rather amused when he spoke of the great increase of production after the change of Government. I was in a position in which I experienced it. The Ministry of Supply and their contractors suddenly woke up to life and there was an enormous output of stores—but there was nowhere to put the stores. It was my experience to have hundreds of railway wagons loaded with stores immobilised for weeks and weeks because there was no storage accommodation. After waiting weeks and weeks instructions came to send the stores to B, 324 and B had them for a few days, and then sent them to C, and eventually some of them found their way back to A. That is an instance of the great wastage of transport facilities. It is wasteful in immobilising railway rolling-stock and that is a very serious matter. What steps are being taken to provide additional rolling-stock? If anything is being done it has not been manifest during the past few days, because there has been the greatest difficulty in obtaining rolling-stock.
Next, I wish to draw attention to a matter which I have mentioned in passing. If we are to ask men to work all through the night and all through air raids on the production of Government stores, we ought to see that the best possible use is made of those stores. There are hundreds of thousands of tons of ironware lying in the open, without cover, which will be scrap iron before it can he used. There are hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Government stores for which there is no covered accommodation. That is not fair to the taxpayer, apart from not being fair to the men whom we are asking to produce these things. How is it, if there is a shortage of aluminium, and housewives are asked to give up their saucepans to be made into aeroplanes, that a well-known firm in the City of London should be advertising sets of aluminium saucepans for sale to the public? If there is a shortage of aluminium the Government has its remedy in the commandeering of such stocks. But the whole thing is farcical when one learns that the War Office has thousands upon thousands of tons of aluminium saucepans which it has stocked for 20 years, from which stocks it has never issued a saucepan to the troops. Is there a shortage of aluminium? Let the Minister of Aircraft Production go to the War Office and draw the tons of aluminium in stock there.
§ Mr. Poole
Many housewives were foolish enough to fall for the stunt and sacrificed their saucepans. My last point is to ask how the Departmental Committee of the War Office on the speeding-up of procedure is progressing. It was to try to do away with some of the red tape. I have not noticed any appreciable improvement. It may be useful and interesting for the House to know that the time occupied with documentary work 325 for the issue of any Government stores, I do not care how small the article, whether a blanket or a pot, is equivalent to the length of time it takes to move those stores from the consigning point to the ultimate unit. To me that is an absurd position. And the cost of the work is phenomenal. Yesterday my attention was drawn to a case, the papers being laid before me in an office where I was. It was the case of the demand for and issue of an ordinary tailor's thimble priced at 3d. After making out various forms in quintriplicate and septtriplicate, that one tailor's thimble was estimated to cost in time, and for the 15 forms which had to be made out before it could be issued, no less than 4s. 6d. For me there is only one governing factor, particularly at a time when things are urgently required. If you have the materials and they are needed by the units, the two should be linked together in the shortest possible time. There is far too much time lost in such nonsense as taking off charge and writing off charge. Time and money are wasted, and hosts of men are doing nothing else than this kind of work.
How is it that Germany knows so much about what we propose to do, and knows it so quickly? I appreciate that I must be guarded in what I say in this connection. However, I would urge an immediate inquiry into the labour which is employed in ordnance factories and depots. Many of them were functioning long before the war with skeleton staffs and were located for obvious reasons in out-of-the-way places. When war came they were called upon to find huge numbers of additional workers, and these were often recruited from the Employment Exchanges. With all due respect to those men they were not always of the best type of men for the work and consequently we have in our ordnance factories a vast conglomeration of all types and conditions of men. Every time it is proposed to send a force overseas, whether it be to Finland, Norway, Iceland or the Faroe Isles, the equipment for those units goes through the various factories and depots. I do not think it is a good thing that men loading stores for the Faroe Islands or wherever it may he should be able to go home on a Saturday night or after they finish their work and at their local public house be able to say, "I know there is some- 326 thing in the air; we have packed a devil of a lot of stores to-day for Iceland," or some other place. Yet it is happening, and I do not think it ought to be possible for men engaged on ordinary packing work to know the ultimate destination of the goods. Thousands of men flow out of the particular depot I have in mind and can tell you where every section of the British Expeditionary Force is located and where every force is to go. Is it not possible to introduce some better system of codification so that these things can be done a little more secretly than at present? I believe that we were forestalled in Norway—that may seem a strange thing to say—because it was possible for everyone packing stores to know where they were going. I must apologise for having trespassed on the time of the House, but I hope that some consideration and attention will be brought to bear on the various matters I have raised. I would not have raised these questions had I not had some experience.
§ Major Milner
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Poole) has any need to apologise for anything he has said. I believe that he has made a very valuable contribution to our Debate to-day, and the only question is whether the Government will take note of what he has said and see that some action is taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) spoke a few minutes ago. I am hound to say that I was surprised by his remarks about the alleged loss of production in the factories of this country due to air-raids. Certainly there has been very little if any loss of such production in those parts of the country with which I am more particularly acquainted. I have not myself seen any details, and I must confess that I think the right hon. Gentleman must be either wrongly informed, or more likely that the matters to which he referred are really very small in relation to the whole production of the country. One knows, of course, that a good deal of destruction has been wrought round about London and in the Southern parts of the country, and I hope that, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman said, we may have some clarification of the matter or some reassurance from the Government so that we may know precisely the position in so far as it may properly be disclosed.
327 The right hon. Gentleman said something with which the great majority of the House will agree, namely that it is for this House to set an example to the country, and I imagine that the majority would be somewhat taken aback at the statement which was made, no doubt in his discretion, by Mr. Speaker. It did appear, however, that on a question which we gather is eventually the responsibility of the Government the matter had not been considered in the proper quarter. Now that the Prime Minister has taken the matter up I hope that he will see to it that this House continues its labours whenever and wherever the national interest demands. We should be the last to suspend any of our operations.
The Prime Minister gave us what I thought to be a very heartening account. The country is without doubt grateful to him for his leadership and for the undoubted confidence which that leadership has engendered. I do not think, however, that that gratitude and confidence ought in any way to deter us in this House from expressing our frank and constructive views. Indeed it is not always remembered that it is one of the major objects for which we are fighting. It was, I believe, one of the greatest crimes of the late Government which preceded the present Prime Minister that they sought to check such proper comment and inquiry and thus to make unsure the very foundation upon which our democracy is built. If I draw attention to one or two matters which in my judgment require explanation or consideration, it must not be thought that I am in any way unappreciative of the many directions in which our recent war effort has succeeded and is succeeding day by day.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) made a remark with regard to the desirability of a more aggressive attitude towards Italy. I think that my right hon. Friend was absolutely right in what he said. I have it from very knowledgable quarters that if the efforts of the bombing squadrons of the Royal Air Force could be directed to Italy—and there are considerable military objectives in Southern Italy—very desirable results indeed would be achieved. I hope the Government will give the question their earnest consideration. We have the Fleet Air Arm and command of the Mediterranean, and it 328 should not be impossible to take appropriate action in that quarter.
I want to make an inquiry or two about Dakar. I do not think, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister said, that we ought to allow the matter to be passed over, because it is my hope that the questions which are addressed to the Government to-day and which it may not be desirable to answer to-day, may be answered in some future Secret Session. The Prime Minister made it clear why the French ships were allowed to pass Gibraltar. It was apparently a mistake; the right hon. Gentleman frankly admitted it and said that those responsible would be dealt with. But we should like to know why these ships, having passed Gibraltar, were permitted to go any further. We did at a later stage turn them back from a further journey after they had left Dakar. Why did we not round them up at an earlier stage and prevent them going to Dakar until we were satisfied about their object and were sure that there were no Germans and Italians on board? It seems to the ordinary individual in the street that these ships could only have been going to Dakar for one reason, and that was to reinforce the garrison there at the direction of the Vichy Government and hence of the German Government. How is it that we allowed ourselves to be forestalled? Is it the case, as one or two of my hon. Friends suggested, that information leaked out? Was our intelligence bad, were we too late again, or were we unable to carry out eventually plans which, quite properly in the first instance, had been decided upon?
It was stated in the official communiqué that German influence was spreading in Dakar, but the statement went on to say—and this was the explanation given at the time—that it was no part of our policy to interfere with the movement of French warships if they were not destined for ports under German control. Ex hypothesi, however, German influence was spreading to Dakar. It is, therefore, incomprehensible why the ships should have been permitted to go any further. A further question arises. The ships having been allowed to proceed, General de Gaulle's effort at making a peaceful landing having failed, his emissaries under a white flag having been fired upon, and fire having been directed upon our ships, 329 why did we not proceed at once with any British Force necessary for the purpose to take Dakar if the agreement with General de Gaulle did not permit him to do so? Was our force not strong enough, or did our resolutions fail or, as I think was possible, was there a conflict between those who have to fight and win the war and those who direct our foreign policy? I hope that notwithstanding all our experience of appeasement we are not still seeking to appease those who are our actual or potential enemies. Did we not fall, as so often before, between two stools? I hope that we shall have a precise answer to these questions because they are vital
The Prime Minister's leadership has been inspiring in a great number of directions, but there is still a great uncertainty in the realm of foreign policy. How long are we going to allow Hitler and Mussolini to play a double game with the Petains, the Francos and the Japanese on the one hand, and Stalin on the other? Is there nothing comparable with the dynamic activity of the dictators that we can do? I was glad to hear what the Prime Minister said about the reopening of the Burma Road, but even to-day when the United States are giving us the cue to economic action we show no sign of attempting to use it and to ask our Dominions and the Dutch to do so also. Is there nothing our Foreign Office can do in a situation which calls out, as it does to-day, for stronger diplomacy? What is standing in the way of a closer rapprochement with Russia? Why does the trade agreement on which we were first approached by Russia hang fire? Are we worried about the 5,000,000 or £6,000,000, half a day's cost of the war, said to be owing from the Baltic States? Surely not. Russia must know to-day that she is menaced on two fronts, that her power in the Baltic is being undermined and that Japan is endeavouring to destroy everything for which Russia has stood in the Far East. Where do Greece and Egypt stand? Have we nothing, with American and Turkish support, to offer to these countries? Surely we have. In my submission the truth is that we are still too diffident. In this case they do not also serve who stand and wait. We must show greater courage, resolution and initiative. I read a quotation the other day which seemed to me most 330 appropriate. It was from Sir Francis Drake, who said:Hitherto we have been too much afraid. Henceforth we will fear only God.Surely that ought to be our position today. We have been too much afraid. Henceforth we should fear only God.
§ Sir Walter Smiles
There are only two things I want to put before the House. One is the question of the Colonies, and the other is the leakage of information about our ships through Eire. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) made some remarks about our Colonial Civil Service. I have just read two books written by Americans about our administration in Africa. The Americans who wrote those books would not be likely to be complimentary about us if they had any faults to find. In both those books they were extremely complimentary about our Colonial Service and especially about the way we have administered the mandate in Tanganyika. At the same time, I believe that the Colonial Office here have lost touch with their Civil Service in the Colonies. I do not believe there is sufficient exchange of personnel between the Civil Service in the Colonies and the men who sit at home in the Colonial Office. It would be for the good of the Service if occasionally men home from the Colonial Civil Service spent a year or two keeping the Colonial Secretary actually in touch with conditions as they exist.
What was said by the hon. Member for North Islington about the amount of money being spent by the Germans upon newspapers in the Colonies is certainly borne out by this American book. No doubt any amount of money is being spent by them. A co-operative society was set up for the purpose of taking the output of coffee and tea from the German planters in Kenya. The people on the spot knew all about it, but would the Colonial Office here take any action? No, they would not. A great many people in the Colonies are extremely dissatisfied with the action or inaction of the Colonial Office here at home.
My other point is as to the supposed leakage of information about our ships going from Eire. This is not my own idea, but is the opinion of naval officers and officers of the Mercantile Marine. I know no more than the average man in the street who listens to the wireless and reads the newspapers, but I know that 331 if you go to such places as Lancashire, they will tell you that to get this kind of information you need only turn on the wireless from Ath[...]one. No doubt the Germans are just as able to turn on Athlone as is anybody else. The opinion of officers of the Mercantile Marine is that the reason for the loss of such ships as those which carried our evacuee children is definitely leakage of information from Eire.
What is to prevent a person telephoning to Eire? Are such conversations censored? What has prevented people writing or, failing that, going down by car from Northern Ireland into Eire? There is no difficulty about it. You can even take a bus and go to the nearest post office or telegraph office in Eire, and telegraph. While there are so many Germans and Italians in Eire, and more or less free exchange, over the border, of letters, telegrams and telephone messages, and even of personal travel, how can you expect to see anything but a great loss of tonnage in the Atlantic Ocean? That is the opinion of the officers who have to bear the brunt.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I should not have risen to speak to-day but for the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) calling attention to the loss of production. So many references have been made to Dakar that the House will perhaps allow me to say first a few words about how the matter struck me. I know of nothing which disturbed and disappointed the country so much as the incident of Dakar. It has been talked of not only in London, but in the trains and in the remotest parts of the country. Undoubtedly, it has been a very serious reverse, which has puzzled us very considerably. It is impossible to hold an inquisition into a matter of that kind straight away, but one must express the hope that incidents of that kind shall not be repeated. This is not the first one, even in this war. Many of us have recollections of similar incidents in a past war. Narvik was brought forcibly to our minds when this incident happened at Dakar. As one hon. Gentleman has already said, you must either make quite sure of what you propose to do, or not touch it at all.
One has, of course, heard the explanation given by the Prime Minister, that 332 there were mistakes, that disciplinary action has had to be taken and that there were misfortunes. There are one or two things, even on his explanation, that ought to be cleared up. I went over Dakar 12 months ago last February, and was privileged to be taken over all the defences. They are certainly formidable. Not only are they formidable on the hills around Dakar, but on the little island which now forms the outer bastion of the main harbour. Anybody with any knowledge of the matter at all should have realised that offensive action against Dakar would be fraught with tremendous difficulties at any time. I understand that information came through that the people of Dakar were, in the main, friendly towards General de Gaulle and this country, and that it would be possible to take it without very much effort. Then ships left the Mediterranean; they could have only one object, unfriendly to this country.
One can pass over the mistake that occurred by which the ships were allowed to move out of the Mediterranean. It is human to err, and I daresay that the persons responsible for that mistake will be dealt with; but the ships came out. It was then found what their object was. Otherwise, no effort would have been made to stop them. They went on, and two of them, I understand—it may have been only one—were persuaded to turn back. In the meantime, the others had put into Casablanca. Those again escaped; it may have been due to bad weather or to somebody else's mistake; but, at any rate, they did it. I should have thought that there could be no doubt now in anybody's mind that there was a real hostile force within the harbour of Dakar. In "hostile," I am using too strong a word; "unfriendly" is better. Nevertheless, it was decided to go on. I should have thought that once it was realised that unfriendly forces had got inside, the situation called for further consideration before proceeding any further. It may be that that further consideration took place. All that one can say at the present time is that we do not know enough, but that the incident has caused worry, anxiety, and even distress.
The matter which caused me to intervene was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport, calling attention to the loss of production. 333 Undoubtedly there is a loss of production. What it is, I do not know. Undoubtedly again, the figures which the Germans are broadcasting are wildly exaggerated, but we all know from our experts that there is a serious loss of production, coming at a time when, in Germany, there is an increase in the whole of production. The Germans are subject to bombing which undoubtedly has affected them, but what they have obtained from the occupied countries has not only covered the gap caused by the loss suffered through our direct hits but has greatly increased their production. Figures have been given to me by the Oxford Department of statistical inquiries, which makes such a close study of these matters. As far as they can work them out—they have worked out such figures before—there is information of the following kind which they can get. The amount of war effort production that Germany is now putting forward, thanks to the fact that it has extracted tributes from the occupied territories, has increased from £3,500,000,000, which was about the figure of last April and May, to the enormous figure of £4,200,000,000, and that quite apart from the loot which she has taken in the shape of guns, ammunition, aeroplanes and everything else from France, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark. I notice the Prime Minister shakes his head. I hope he is right—
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry. If that is the right figure, it is appalling. Our figure during May, June, July and August was mounting up. The figure that was in the minds of the Government in April was an expenditure of £2,000,000,000 on the war effort. Unfortunately, as far as we can see now the amount of production has seriously suffered during this last month. May I give the House one experience that I had of the difference that has arisen between work stoppage during the whole time of these air-raid warnings and under the new system of putting a watcher on the roof? In one place that I know there would have been a stoppage last week of 12 whole hours. By putting a watcher on the roof the actual stoppage was well under two hours. Multiply that throughout all London, and by instituting this system undoubtedly you will at 334 once call forth a much greater increase of production. You cannot expect these people to respond fully unless they are sure that sufficient precautions are being taken not only for them but also for their wives and children. A man cannot be expected to continue at his work knowing that he is safe, if he feels that at the same time his family are in danger.
Therefore, further precautions must be taken for their protection, and I would suggest the evacuation of all people who are not necessary within the area. I would thin London. I do not see why the women and children and the old people should remain in London. It is not fair to put the responsibility upon the individual. Members of a family are attached to one another. To ask the family to decide for itself that the wife and children should go away while the man remains will, of course, lead to scenes. If the Government take the responsibility of telling them that they must go, that is a different matter. It is a good thing to see the great numbers who are going from the main stations of London. The only argument I have heard against the Government taking action is that by making this announcement it would be an indication to Germany that we have had to clear out of London. But what has happened to Germany itself? During the last week there were broadcasts to the effect that the women and children would have to leave not only Berlin but every important city. In that way not only would there he better protection for the women and children, but the men themselves would be giving their services much more readily if they knew that their families were safe.
There is another problem which is facing London and which will face it seriously this winter, and that is the problem of feeding. London can be fed only by water. It cannot be fed by the railways and roads. I agree with one of the hon. Members who spoke about the co-ordination of transport, but co-ordinate it as you will, in the main London is to be fed by water. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer, and the difficulties are therefore getting greater. There are 8,500,000 people who have to be fed. If you could divert the women and children and those who are unnecessary for carrying on the work of London, it would ease the food situation here.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Would the hon. and learned Member answer this question? Does he believe that at present there is sufficient billeting space in the country even to take all the mothers and children who go voluntarily, and, if not, does the hon. and learned Member think that that situation will be eased by a number of compulsory evacuations?
§ Mr. Davies
Certainly there is not sufficient accommodation in the country at the present moment, but if we used such accommodation as there is in the country, there would be far more possibility of the people getting sleep than there is in London. One only has to go to the Underground to see them all huddled together. On this question of production, there is the question of labour. We are undoubtedly short of skilled labour. I have been told that we are short of about 60,000 highly skilled men. It will take some time to get that number trained. That being so, there ought to be a general order that the designs are not to be changed unless there is absolute necessity. I will not dilate upon that because it is so obvious. A great many of these people are not fully engaged throughout the whole week. Many firms have highly trained men who can complete their work in a day and then go on to other work. There must be a register, and somebody must be able to direct the men where they are most needed. In the meantime, we must have much more intensive training than we have to-day. Curiously enough, while we are short of highly skilled men, there is also a shortage of unskilled labour in the place where it is most needed. That has arisen from the fact that they went to these big factories at certain places. The people who have gone there have now occupied all such space as there is, and now that you are calling for more you have not got the accommodation for them. That being so, that matter must be taken in hand, and you will have to provide for unskilled labour not only that they can go to these places but that they can have when they go there housing, feeding and protection. Unless you can have those requisites, and unless you can have continued protection and an opportunity for proper sleep, this production will continue to go down. That 336 at the moment is the most serious matter of all.
As far as I know, no one has said a word about the changes which have taken place in the Government. We are getting back to the conditions about which many of us in this House protested before the change of Government. We were protesting from the outset against the War Cabinet consisting of nine men, most of whom were fully occupied with other duties throughout the day. Then in May came a great change, and we had a smaller War Cabinet of five. Of those five, three had no definite duty allotted to them, which is, of course, right. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are still members; but out of the five, three—the Lord Privy Seal, the then Lord President of the Council, and the Minister without Portfolio—were able to devot[...] all their time to true War Cabinet work. Now we have gone back to the figure eight; and of those eight, five have other full-time occupations. How can they devote the time which is necessary for settling the main problems which should be dealt with by the War Cabinet? No one has called attention to this matter more forcibly than the Prime Minister did during the last war and after it, when he was writing the history of the war. Giving the matter his wider consideration in the calmness that had come after, when the whole thing was over, and cloaking it in perfect language, he called attention to the difference between a Cabinet working in war-time and a Cabinet working in peace time, and pointed to the necessity for quick decisive action, which could come only from a small body of men.
§ Mr. John Morgan (Doncaster)
I feel somewhat relieved at the direction which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has given to the Debate, because that is a matter about which I rise to speak. This issue of the composition of the Cabinet has disturbed the country in certain ways almost as much as Dakar has done. It was regarded as a clear indication that already party considerations were at work again, that for some reason the Prime Minister was coming to the idea that he should accept the possible leadership of the Conservative party, and that he was al-ready in some way supplementing the War Cabinet to that end. That is putting the matter bluntly, but that is how it has 337 come to be regarded by many people. A policy which gives rise to such feelings is not doing good service at the present time. The support that the Prime Minister enjoys at present is founded on the fact that he is not a good party man. That fact has enabled an important measure of public feeling to rally behind him, and has enabled us on this side who subscribe to the admiration which is felt for certain of his qualities—certainly in wartime—to sink our views. The reappearance of this party alignment has disturbed political feeling in this country. I do not want to go further into this matter, but only to register the fact that we are alive to the dangers. If this is followed by the sequel of the Prime Minister accepting the leadership of the Conservative party, it will be very unfortunate. He could have done so before: he could have done so in other circumstances; but such a step in these circumstances would have a very unhappy result in the long run. I leave the matter there, after giving expression to what I believe is a very general view. We do not want to see any general disturbance of the public support which the Prime Minister enjoys.
With regard to Dakar, I was hoping that his general admission that it was some fault on our part which enabled the Dakar authorities to be reinforced meant that the Prime Minister was accepting the major blame, for this country as a whole, for the failure of the expedition. Because we allowed that force to proceed through the Straits, so making all the difference to the de Gaulle expedition, the fault was ours. If we admit that we, in error, allowed that expedition to proceed—which had the effect of discounting the effectiveness of de Gaulle's expedition—the fault was ours, then we should accept the full responsibility for the failure.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
May I interrupt my hon. Friend to say that a very much more sinister rumour is in circulation to the effect that de Gaulle himself said that he thought the enterprise ought to be abandoned but was overruled by the Prime Minister? If that is not true, it ought to be denied.
§ Mr. Morgan
That is not a question to which I can properly address myself, and I have no intention of doing so, but it substantiates the feeling I had after the Prime Minister's statement this morning 338 that, in general, we were in error for our handling of the situation, and to that extent we ought to absolve de Gaulle in this House from any responsibility for the shame that we feel for that incident.
On the other hand—and the whole House is testifying to it—I am relieved that the Government have come to a decision to reopen the Burma Road, and I hope that that means that we are fully to support China now and in the future. We shall never be able to escape the implications of our action in Japanese eyes and we therefore may as well accept the full liability and go fully to the support of China in whatever way is available, though I am not suggesting that it should take the form of an expeditionary force. I contemplate the possibility of the United States of America giving us all possible aid, the extent of which and the maximum value of which may yet be advisedly short of entering the war. China is carrying on the fight, and the U.S.S.R. is in danger of pressures and intimidations which she has tried to avoid on issues which are being frankly faced by the Axis Powers. They have made up their minds where the U.S.S.R. ultimately stands, and probably the move into Rumania is part of the action to neutralise any effective resistance from Soviet Russia. Whether that be true or not, there are the four great peoples—the United States of America, China, the U.S.S.R., and ourselves, four great dynamic civilisations, which, if they were to co-operate, would make Nazi-ism and Fascism look like the fake philosophies they are. There is no substance in their creed, and the fusion and volition of these great Empires moving towards common ends would, I think, be something worth the Foreign Office going a long way out of its way to achieve.
The whole country—and again I can testify personally to what is felt by the common man—believes that in some way or other our Foreign Office is letting us down; that in some way or other it is not victorious and that our initiative there is quiescent, dormant and ineffective, and that we are being forestalled diplomatically time and time again. As one can see it elements in the country as a whole are saying that the next War Cabinet change must see the fall of Lord Halifax, because he stands for this policy and for what the common man thinks the Foreign Office is lacking in positive diplomatic 339 strategy. I do not know whether that is true or not, but that is the measure of what I believe to be the feeling of the man-in-the-street about the Foreign Office. We have a superb chance to rally friends to our cause—and after all this is not our fight, although we tend to talk in this country as if it is Britain alone fighting the Axis Powers, when actually it is not our fight in a singular sense at all, but is related to the flow of human development represented by these four great countries I have mentioned. The charge that we are fighting the Axis alone cannot apply to young China.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Will my hon. Friend tell the House who else is fighting the Axis Powers if it is not Great Britain?
§ Mr. Morgan
That may be so as my hon. Friend says, on the surface. Resistance in men and material and in the actual sense is certainly ours, but I think my hon. Friend has not missed the point I am trying to make. The whole basis of our propaganda approach to the rest of the world should be based on building up the case that it is their fight as much as ours. There is danger in the way we talk about our standing alone against the Axis Powers. We must submerge that feeling to some extent, and we should work upon the fact that sooner or later those Powers I have indicated will also realise that their cause is ours. But we make it difficult for them to believe as much when we have incidents like Dakar and moments of indecision that throw away a whole situation.
However, the main point I rose to make, and one which was referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery was that the recent shaping of the new War Cabinet can be criticised. A case has been made out against this type of War Cabinet before, time and time again, and I am disturbed that at this stage we should be tending to establish along precisely party lines a Cabinet which includes elements that have not really established their right on their administrative records to be in that Cabinet, and can only justify themselves on the ground that they are to protect some particular party situation that may or may not develop. That is the deduction that this House has broadly made. I am not referring to any right hon. Member opposite; the right hon. Gentleman 340 I have in mind is absent, but the exact significance of his presence in the new Cabinet is well understood, and it is not a good enough reason. It may well disturb and possibly in the end destroy a happy connection between the Prime Minister and this country and this House at the present time.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
To some extent I think the House will agree with some of the contentions made by the speaker who has just sat down, particularly when he said that the present composition of the Cabinet, especially the War Cabinet, has given rise to considerable disquiet among people outside. I think he is only telling the truth when he says that, because most Members of this House must have had representations made to them by people both inside and outside their constituencies.
The point I want to raise is the question of Dakar. Let us get this business perfectly clear in our minds. So far as I can interpret it, the speech of the Prime Minister to-day said that no proper warning of the movement of the French ships was given to the War Cabinet by the responsible staffs. Unless my recollection is incorrect there appeared in the public Press of this country an account of these ships proceeding out of the Straits. If that is the case, surely, if the naval staff was so utterly incompetent that it failed to give the information to the War Cabinet, the War Cabinet might have read the news in the Press. The other point I want to put—and possibly one of the Ministers watching the Debate on behalf of the Government can give an answer straight off—is this: Was this expedition undertaken with the good will and under the advice of the combined staff of our Services? Did they advise the expedition? Did they say it could be carried out with a reasonable chance of success, or did they not? I think the country is entitled, for the sake of the reputation of the officers concerned, to have a plain answer to that question. If they advised against it, under whose advice was that fatal step taken? To what extent, for example, was a Member of this House responsible for our being seduced into that expedition? Those are questions which the Government ought to answer to the House and the people of the country. There has been far too much of this amateur generalship and 341 amateur Admiralty going on, so that responsible trained officers and staffs have been overruled by politicians who fondly imagine that, because they are masters of rhetoric, they are therefore naval, military and air geniuses of the first water.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and others have spoken on the history of production since the change of Government in May, and a general complaint has been voiced that there has been a considerable falling off after the boost-up by the changed personnel. There are manifestly reasons for that, and the fault of the falling off should not be attributed to the workers or employers or to bad organisation. When you have a boost-up of that kind, the boost takes the cream off the top, and it is followed by a certain degree of slump. There is a second point which it is essential should not be lost sight of when comparing the effort of the workers with that of the forces. You cannot continuously, week by week, work men for 12 hours a day for seven days a week and expect to get efficiency out of them. It is out of the question. No one admires more than I do the magnificent efforts made by members of the Air Force, but they have their hours of rest. It is impossible in the heavy engineering industries to keep the workers going for these long periods for successive weeks.
Reference has been made to loss of time in air-raid warnings. I wish someone would pay attention to the whole question of what the Prime Minister referred to as the banshee howling of the sirens. I do not believe that, if you institute a noise which is fundamentally meant to frighten people, you can expect their nerves to remain calm. I should like to see a complete change of policy. There should be a different alarm altogether for the "Alert," and the banshee wailing should only take place as soon as the roof spotters see enemy aircraft hi the neighbourhood. That would lead to far greater efficiency all round in industry and less waste of time in shelters. At one time we sent a Junior Minister to Germany to see what they were doing with regard to the protection of industrial workers. I was there myself very shortly afterwards and saw what was going on. 342 I saw what they were doing in Berlin and the neighbourhood, and I am confident that they had got or were in process of getting complete protection by light bombproof shelters for all industrial workers in the immediate neighbourhood of their works. As to what they have done with regard to the civilian population, I am not so clear, but for the industrial workers I have first-hand information.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Poole) spoke about what I will term "general muddle" and as the Lord President of the Council is present and the matter I want to mention refers to the Department which he has lately left, I will draw his attention to it. I am connected with a town in the Eastern Counties which at one time was declared to be vulnerable and unsatisfactory for the manufacture of armaments. When the war started, we were immediately scheduled by the Minister of Health to receive evacuee children from London. That policy was then reversed, and the children were taken away again. Shortly afterwards, owing to certain circumstances into which I need not go, the local authorities were urged to evacuate as many people as they could from the borough. That was quite reasonable, although some of the people did not want to go as far afield as they were encouraged to go by the authorities. Then this astonishing thing happened. Some other Department decided that the people now homeless in London—and of course we will do all we can to help them—should be sent to the neighbourhood so taking the place of those who had been sent away. That does not seem to me to make sense. There is an awful lack of coordination. It is true that these people are not being brought into the centre of the town; they are being brought into the surrounding district, but that is really under the same schedule. There is another question I wanted to raise concerning the Minister of Information, but as he is not here and the matter involves a personal attack upon him, I will refrain from raising it.
I turn now to the Prime Minister's speech, which personally—I may be the only Member to feel so—I found disappointing. Nobody admires more than I do the right hon. Gentleman's rhetoric, 343 and I enjoyed as usual listening to him. I wish I could dream of aspiring to his ability in holding the attention of the House. But I am bound to say I am getting a little tired and a little nervous of what lies behind the window-dressing. Then we have had a series of misfortunes which have been covered up and glossed over. At the start there was Narvik. We were told that all the ships that crossed the Skaggerak were going to be sunk. Then there was the great and dreadful disaster in Northern France. It has never been properly cleared up why the Northern Armies were not withdrawn when the hinge broke at Sedan. Now there is Dakar. That episode brings home to me a word of advice given me years ago; it is that one should not pay attention to émigré governments. In saying that, I am not casting any reflection upon General de Gaulle. I am sure he acted with the greatest integrity, but history has shown that while one should give comfort, help and all that one can to émigré governments, the less attention one pays to their advice the better in the long run.
I was astonished by the Prime Minister's statement that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not, apparently, know what was happening to these ships. As the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) said, the right hon. Gentleman had only to read the daily Press to see that the ships were coming through Gibraltar. Everybody wondered why. Everybody thought there was a deep plot, and that presumably all the ships would surrender when they were safely down the West Coast of Africa. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the Governor-General of Nigeria and the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in West Africa were in agreement with this scheme and whether they supported it from their local experience of what the feeling was in the district. Secondly, rumour, which, of course, is frequently wild, suggests that the forces that went to Dakar were perhaps not sufficient. I should like to ask whether it was left to the officer commanding the naval forces off Dakar to decide whether he should attack or not, or was the decision given from this end? That is an important point which ought to be cleared up, and 344 the blame ought not to be laid upon that officer without the position having been made clear to the British public.
That raises this question in my mind—whether or not the Higher Command, be they Air Force, Army or Navy, are being interfered with too much by politicians who think they are generals? There is a great danger in that. We had experience of it in the last war. If it is not the case that they are being interfered with by politicians who think they are generals, I would point out that we have had a change in the Army and Air Force recently, thank goodness, because it was in spite of the Higher Command that the Air Force has done so well and not because of it. If it is not the politicians who are meddling, is it not about time that we made a thorough search into the Higher Command of the Navy to discover whether some of the people there are not a little too old for their job?
I cannot sit down without saying a word about the general war situation. The war has developed into a kind of battle between a tiger and a whale. The tiger cannot get at the whale, and the whale cannot swallow the tiger. The unfortunate thing is that both of them are accompanied by flocks of eagles, and it would seem that for the next year or two—the first of the Prime Minister's long war—we shall witness a sort of test of endurance between the populations of various countries to see who can best stand up to the bombing. All right; if that is the only way, it cannot be helped; but I do beg of the Prime Minister to remember—it is a matter which an hon. Friend here spoke about, and it was for that reason that I interrupted him—that we are not fighting this war alone. There are others with us all over the world. But apparently it is an impossibility for the Government to say what it is we are fighting for. What I have pressed for, and what many of my friends have pressed for, is that we should have a statement of aims. That request has been repeated again and again in the daily Press, and as recently as 1st October, the "Daily Herald" wrote:We who are fighting this war want to make the peace that will follow. We are unwilling to waste an hour of needless waiting. We have to give the neutral world solid justification for supporting our cause. We have to give the depressed inhabitants of the occupied countries a standard to which they 345 can rally in their souls and, when the hour strikes, with all their strength. We have to make it clear, above all, that we are fighting for humanity and not for Empire frontiers. But the crux of the question is a declaration of aims.If we are to go through this test of endurance—everybody knows some of the horrors perpetrated already, and one cannot suppose they will be less—surely it is right that we should hold out to all the peoples of the world, including our own, that we are fighting for something which is really desirable and attainable, given good will on all sides. I conclude this, my probably very bad contribution to this debate, by saying that the suspicion I have in my heart is that many of the right hon. and hon. Members opposite have not the same idea of what the peace should be that I have, and it is for that reason that they are afraid of declaring their aims.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I think this is the first time that I have ventured to speak in a general debate following a statement by the Prime Minister since the war began, and I should have refrained from doing so on this occasion had I not shared, and deeply shared, the disappointment with that speech which was felt by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I yield to no one in my personal admiration of the Prime Minister's qualities, and I came to the House to-day with a greater sense of anticipation than was satisfied by the speech the Prime Minister made. He made a speech which was on his customary level of oratory, and the end of the speech was undoubtedly an inspiration to flagging spirits everywhere, but if one examines the content of the speech, I think it was profoundly disappointing. From statements in the general Press and some very responsible portions of the Press, I had been led to hope that the Prime Minister would announce to the nation and to the world what were the Allies' war aims. It is no use trying to dismiss this matter as a purely academic question. The people of this country are going to pass through very many trials in the coming winter. It is very easy for many of us, who, after all, live in fairly comfortable circumstances, to be heroic and stand by the flag and to make rhetorical speeches urging other men to stand firm. It it not so easy, however, for millions of poor people in the country 346 to have to live 12 and 14 hours at night in uncomfortable shelters, badly clothed and very often ill fed. It is not so easy for them to stand up to prosaic bombardments and daily vicissitudes. It is necessary for the people of Great Britain to be morally reinforced by receiving from the Government an early declaration of war aims, not only for the purpose—and I want to emphasise this—of rallying to our assistance other nations, but war aims which at the same time will buttress and reinforce the morale of the people of Great Britain. It may be perfectly true that we have potential Allies in the world, but ultimately we shall have to rely on the fortitude of the people of this country, and that fortitude requires reinforcement from the Government.
I hope that when the Prime Minister comes to settle down to this task he will do it early, and that he will not take too much into account the claims upon this country of the large number of Allies whose national anthems form so long a prelude to the B.B.C. news on Sunday nights, because it will be quite impossible to inspire this country by any attempt to revive the sovereignty of the nations of Europe. We must present to Europe, as against Nazi domination and unification, something more than a negative ideal of resurrecting some of those ancient frontiers over again. The people of this country and Europe are not prepared to lose their lives in order to reassemble a ramshackle Europe. They are looking to higher ideals than that. I hope that the war aims of the Government when they come to be declared will take into account cultural independence and federal freedom where it can be exercised.
This is the moment when our aims should be stated, and this is the moment when they should be declared. I know that the Prime Minister would tell me that he would like to see us win the war first. The essence of the matter is that we can only win the victory if we inspire the people by having the right aims. We have gone beyond the point now of defence. The Prime Minister said to-day that the fear of invasion still remains. I must say I am feeling pretty bewildered about it. A constituent of mine wrote a letter to me the other day in which he pointed out that there was an absence of co-ordination between two important Government Departments. There was the Chief of the General Staff who would wel- 347 come an invasion and wanted to see the Germans land any day, and there was the R.A.F. trying to stop them. He asked if there was not something which could be done to bring these two Departments together. Nevertheless, I think it is correct to say that we have emerged or ought to have emerged from the defensive, and that we ought now to engage—and here is almost a magic word—on the offensive. We cannot engage upon the offensive in a military or naval sense until we have embarked upon it in the spiritual sense, and we have not done that. It is not enough to offer to the people of Belgium, France and this country merely the defence of the institutions of democracy against the threats of Nazi dictatorship, because they recognise that, after all, it is that sort of democracy that brought Europe to war. If we are to persuade them, to enthuse them and inspire them with the defence of democracy, the conception of democracy has to be fitted into modern needs. We have to fill it up with a greater social content.
That is why I was disappointed with one or two other things that the Prime Minister said, if he will not mind my saying so. He is a formidable personality, and it is not very easy to confront him with an unpleasant speech. Surely we were entitled to hear from him a defence of his new War Cabinet. I thought it was treating the House rather churlishly to reconstruct the War Cabinet in the form the Prime Minister has done without giving the House some defence. If he did not feel it necessary to answer our own speeches, he might have thought it necessary to answer his own. The new War Cabinet has in it five heads of great Departments. Surely that is not the kind of War Cabinet which the Prime Minister led us to believe he would construct. It is the very opposite of the advice he has given to the House for many years. There is on it the Minister of Labour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Foreign Secretary. There is also the Lord President of the Council, who has some important work allotted to him. I would like to say a word about him in a moment or two, because I have decided to make a very unpleasant speech. We cannot expect to get from the Government the general direction of the conduct of the war that we need from a Cabinet of men weighed down with Departmental re- 348 sponsibilities. I hope the Prime Minister will either take an early opportunity of justifying the form that the Government had taken or construct it in another form. When one comes to discuss the personnel, the Prime Minister will pardon me because he spoke sharply and he will not mind an equally sharp rejoinder. He rebuked many of us on this side of the House, and on that side too, for having conducted what he said was a vicious—
§ The Prime Minister
On the contrary, I made no reference to any Member of the House, and the hon. Gentleman knows it quite well.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman said "in many quarters." There were two references by the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke with great feeling. One was about Dakar, and the other was about the Lord President of the Council. I have been responsible for writing to the Press, and, therefore, I am guilty under both heads of saying many critical things about the Lord President. Let the House take an objective view of this matter. The Lord President has very many great executive qualities, but I submit that on the facts he is the last person to be a member of the War Cabinet charged with the framing of general policies. Look at the position we have been in since the beginning of the war. The right hon. Gentleman has been saved from major disaster, by the House of Commons having to confront him and resist him on four separate occasions. The right hon. Gentleman had to take the Defence Regulations back after a Debate in the House of Commons which did great damage to the country as a whole, because it represented everywhere that the Government was making a wanton invasion of citizens' rights—(Interruption)—I know I am making a very unpleasant speech, but these things must be said. There have been far too many smooth speeches, but these are the facts. On the second occasion, the right hon. Gentleman fought the House of Commons for practically seven hours, on the Courts (Emergency Powers) Bill. We had to force him to take his Bill back.—(Interruption)—Is it not true?
Then, the right hon. Gentleman's handling of the internment of aliens was, and remains, a disgrace to the country. There are many examples of the appalling consequences of the way in which that 349 matter has been managed. The right hon. Gentleman has fought a rearguard action against the House of Commons in this matter again and again. Even now, the categories of aliens still in internment are a disgrace to the country. There are men who have been for 20 and 30 years in this country, and in some cases longer. Hundreds of them are anxious to assist the State. There are men who have great skill, but are in internment camps, and we have not been able even to get courteous replies from the Department about them. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. I am stating what is within the recollection of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister is very badly advised in some of his appointments.
The fourth major thing for which the Lord President of the Council was responsible is the shelter policy. The Prime Minister said that the Anderson shelter is a good shelter. Nobody denies it. It is a good shelter. The Lord President of the Council could not make all the mistakes. Shelters had to be produced, and he had the advice of his Department and produced the Anderson shelter. For very limited purposes it is necessary; but because water comes through the tap it must not be thought to come from it. The Anderson shelter came from the right hon. Gentleman's Department, on the advice of his officials. Even that shelter, experts advise, contains far more steel than is necessary. We wasted steel in its construction because the steel masters had far too much influence. Every expert knows that the Anderson shelter contains a far higher percentage of steel than is needed.
The deep shelter policy of the right hon. Gentleman has been shown to be a miserable farce and a disaster. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not"] Do not say, "It is not," because the right hon. Gentleman has admitted it. The Under-Secretary of State for the Horne Department made a very good speech the other day, in which he said that the Home Office had now decided to adapt their shelter policy to the behaviour of the people. It meant that people go to deep shelter when they can find it. Anybody who knows the people and has sufficient imagination realises that their reaction to bombing raids would be to go down as deep as they possibly could and wherever they could. Although I think the Ander- 350 son shelter was not as expedient, there was no reason why both the Anderson shelter and a deep shelter policy could not both have been carried out.
The fact is—and the Prime Minister must recognise it—that a very great deal of damage has been done to the morale of London and the country by this deep-shelter policy. He and I need not be at issue about this matter, because we are at one about the major facts and the major policy of the war and our desire to defeat the enemy. But sometimes the right hon. Gentleman's ear is too sensitively attuned to the bugle notes of Blenheim for him to hear the whispering in the streets. There is deep resentment in the East End and in some of our East Coast towns at the fact that the policy of the Government has not provided them with deep shelters, and the result is that in many cases the people have taken the law into their own hands. They have forced upon the Home Office the policy which for two years the House of Commons has failed to prevail upon the Home Office to adopt. I know that what I have said is unpleasant, but it needs to be said. In many respects the Prime Minister is not being well advised. We must put another dose of oxygen into the people of this country. They are brave and resolute, but we on this side of the House are deeply anxious that the Government should adopt a policy bold, visionary and inspiring to try and associate ordinary men and women spiritually and not merely formally with the war effort. If that can be done, we shall get a response which will amaze even the Prime Minister with his faith.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I desire to make a few remarks about deep shelters. I should like to relate an experience that I had last Friday, when I saw something that I could scarcely have believed was possible, and something which is a condemnation of the Government and especially of the Lord President of the Council. I went along to see Tilbury Tunnel. There are two tunnels. One runs direct from the gateway, and one runs diagonally from the left. The tunnel that runs straight through is a Port of London Authority tunnel and is vacant, so that it can be kept clean. It is scheduled to hold 1,600 people, but there are over 3,000 people every night. The other tunnel belongs to the L.M.S., and there are loading platforms, and all kinds 351 of food are stored ready to be taken by the lorries that go in and out during the day-time. Thousands of people are packed into that tunnel and sleep on top of the food. When I got there at about 12 o'clock there was a queue of people waiting to get into the tunnel.
I went through the tunnel with one of the officials. I was told that they would get in at 5[...]30, and that if there was an air-raid during the day, they would get in then, but that in that case they would be turned out on the "All Clear." At the other end I found another queue coming up a side street. The Siren went, and then the guns started. I got to the top of the road again, with the guns blasting, and the queue was still standing there. I asked whether they were not being allowed into the tunnel. The answer was the most astonishing I have ever heard. It was that the people could get into the tunnel, but that if they went in they would be turned out on the "All Clear," and would then lose their places in the queue at night. I went to Stepney. At half past two I heard the air-raid still going on, the guns still firing, and these unfortunate, neglected people were still standing in a queue, waiting to get into the tunnel at half-past five.
Any man with human feelings who understands what is going on in many 352 districts would, instead of eulogising the man who blocked any possibility of adequate shelter being provided for these people, drive him out. Do not forget that those who are now talking about fighting for democracy handed over millions of pounds from the Bank of England to Italy a few months before the War. Do you remember the Prime Minister, when he was sitting below the Gangway, saying that the money went to Germany and Italy in bonds, and would come back in bombs? They had money to provide bombs for Hitler, but no money to provide shelter for the people. If the people of this country are to get out of the terrible catastrophe into which they have been driven by the ruling class of this country, they have to get allies. There are plenty of Allies in France, Belgium and Germany, but the men on that Bench cannot speak to those people in a language that they can understand; nor can they speak to the 180,000,000 of the Soviet Union. What is wanted in this country is not a Cabinet shuffle, but a new Government, representative of all the people, which will speak to those masses, and, with the help of those masses, bring this terrible affair to a speedy end.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.