§ ASSISTANCE TO GREECE.
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [6th May]
That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government in sending help to Greece and declares its confidence that our operations in the Middle East and in all other theatres of war will be pursued by the Government with the utmost vigour."—[Mr. Eden.]
§ Question again proposed.
Mr. Lloyd George (Carnarvon Boroughs)
I regret that this discussion should take place on a Motion of Confidence. It is generally left to the Opposition to challenge confidence if they feel that it is desirable from any point of view. What we really want is a discussion, rather than a polemical Debate, which involves an issue that I am not aware that anybody in the House wants raised. When we had a crisis after Norway, and a crisis after Dunkirk, there was no Vote of Confidence moved, or of want of confidence. We had an open Debate. It is essential that the House of Commons should have occasional opportunities of making its criticisms and its suggestions, without being fettered by the considerations which are always involved in a Vote of Confidence, including party considerations. We want to avoid that as much as possible. For the first six months of this war there were two Opposition parties. Since then the three parties have coalesced; and it would be fatal if the mere fact of that coalition were to stifle free criticism in this House. It is a case now of the House being more important than the Division Lobby. With the first part of the Motion, everybody will agree. I do not suppose there will be a dissentient voice. When the two great protagonists in this colossal war, the British Premier and the German Fuehrer, are in complete agreement as to the fighting qualities and the courage of the Greek Army, far be it from us ordinary mortals to suggest a doubt upon the subject. There is complete agreement with regard to that. I think there is complete agreement—I have not heard doubts suggested—as to the obligation of honour that the Government were under to run every risk to support the valiant Greek Army in the fight that it was making.
868 But when we come to the second part of the Motion, I think it is unfortunate that an expression of opinion should be challenged upon that point. There are parts of the war administration of the Government about which there is dissatisfaction and disappointment among their own supporters, and an anxious desire that there should be a drastic amendment. It is rather straining party loyalty to invite them to express confidence about something in regard to which, almost without exception, the Members supporting the Government in the country have noted very considerable dissatisfaction. I picked up at random two papers giving expression to that feeling. They are both supporters of the Government, each of them being at an extreme end of the political pole. One of them is the "Times"; the other is the "Daily Herald." They are so far apart in their extremes of opposition that, as sometimes happens in this globular universe, they have actually met, and they are joining in supporting the same Administration. Here is a passage:There is a widespread feeling, which it would be foolish to ignore, that we have fallen short in tackling problems of large- scale organisation.That is from the "Times." There is more of it. It goes into details—very important details—of organisation. About the worst is the administration of the problem of food production. Here is the "Daily Herald":Of this we are sure, that British output is still far below its peak, and that in several branches of vital industry the skill and energy of the workers are being dissipated by feeble organisation, that many a sound management is fettered by red tape and lack of organisation in some of the Government Departments.The "Daily Herald" has published illustrations of this feebleness. Those are fair samples of the kind of criticism which is rampant, and which is quite general. I think it is rather a mistake, on a Vote of Confidence upon a subject where the Government would receive a perfectly unanimous vote, to introduce topics which are controversial, and upon which only party loyalty would induce Members to give a vote in support. In fact, since the Government put this Motion down, they have practically admitted that the organisation is not satisfactory, by making very drastic changes. I say that, not in a spirit of criticism, but in a spirit 869 of suggestion. It is true that the claim the Government make in the Motion is a modest one—that they will prosecute the war with vigour. Nothing is said about intelligent organisation or strategical skill. They are not putting their demands at the very highest, I admit. No doubt, vigour is displayed; but vigour which is undirected is very often worse than apathy. I think it is a mistake to have taken that line, but there it is. They have chosen and raised this issue on a Vote of Confidence.
I hope that this example will not be followed, because I think the Government have gained a good deal from criticisms in this House—criticisms coming by no means from opponents or habitual critics, but from members most anxious that the best should be done, who had received information direct from their constituents, and from others, and who had also their own knowledge with regard to what was happening—pointing out the difficulties. I certainly, during the few years I was in the position of the right hon. Gentleman, never deprecated criticism of that kind. On the contrary, I received a good deal of help from it, and I took very good care, after I had heard it, to call my colleagues together and say, "What is the answer to this?", and "What is the reason why that has not been done?'' And many an amendment has been made, and many a useful step taken, as the result of discussions and criticisms in this House, not intended in any spirit of maglignity but in a spirit of unity and of help. But still this Motion, I suppose, is all right as a peg on which to hang a Debate, even if it is not a good peg on which to hang the Government.
I would like to say one word about the speech of the Foreign Secretary, who moved this Motion. I was frankly very disappointed. I really expected from him what we have been accustomed to receive from him, a full and a frank statement of the foreign policy of the Government—all that is relevant to the prosecution of the war. There has never been a war in which diplomacy has counted for so much as in this war. In fact, our worst defeats have been diplomatic defeats. Our greatest triumph has been a diplomatic triumph—that is, the work of the late Lord Lothian in the United States of America. Therefore, diplomacy has a great bearing upon the conduct of the 870 war, and, surely, we are not at the end of it yet—at least, I hope not. I can see no real triumph until the work of diplomacy has been exhausted in this war. I think that we might have heard more about our relations with Turkey; we might have heard something about Spain; we might have heard a good deal about Vichy, which counts a great deal; we might have heard how we are getting on with Russia. The Foreign Secretary in his speech passed them all by on the other side. There was nothing that was said— in fact, there was less said—that we could not have gathered from the papers. It is not his fault.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I only want to explain that my dominating purpose in what I said yesterday was not to say anything which would give assistance to the enemy.
Mr. Lloyd George
I know that there is a good deal of talk about assistance to the enemy, but there is such a thing as assistance to our own side, and I think that, if we had more of the facts, we would get more of that kind of assistance. As a matter of fact, the Foreign Secretary must feel that he did not do well. He was restrained. He was under the eye of the master, and, if he is prepared to take a hint from a well-wisher, I counsel him never to appear again in the role of the Artful Dodger, which is one to avoid. He had better leave that to his Under-Secretary, who acts very skilfully when that is the role which he is called upon to play. I am not saying this as an attack upon him, but as a tribute to his skill. But the most serious aspect of his speech was that, in moving a Vote of Confidence in the Government, he withheld essential facts from us. Why should the Foreign Secretary, while talking about the loyalty of Turkey, withhold the fact, which is perfectly well known, that Turkey allowed the German ships to pass through the Bosphorus and through the Dardanelles to seize the Greek islands. That is a vital fact. It may be a very crucial fact, it may be even a determining fact as far as this particular phase of the campaign is concerned. I think this House ought to know—every newspaper reader knows it, America knows it perfectly well—and I think it would be advisable. What is this last agreement between Turkey and Iraq which was announced 871 in the Press last night? Is it a favourable or an unfavourable agreement with a man, who, from our point of view, is a rebel and an enemy? If there is such an agreement—it was announced last night—and if Turkey is entering into an agreement with regard to the mutual defence of her own frontiers, that is a serious fact, and the House ought to know with what we are confronted.
What is the present situation? The issue of the war is certainly by no means decided. If our enemies make that assumption, I think that they are definitely wrong, and if we, by our organisation and by our future conduct of the war, pursue counsels of wisdom, I think they will be definitely disappointed. The issue is by no means decided on either side, but the war is passing through one of its most difficult and discouraging phases. I was a member of a Government when we had many phases of that kind. Even at the time when I was Prime Minister we had one. But we have had our third, our fourth great defeat and retreat. We have the trouble now in Iraq and Libya. We have the German seizure of the islands. We have the tremendous havoc among our shipping, not merely in losses but in what has not been taken enough into account, in damage.
We have also had our very dazzling successes. The victory of September was a very remarkable and a very thrilling one and, for the time being, conclusive. I have already expressed an opinion in this House with regard to the campaign of General Wavell, and I repeat it. I regard that campaign as one of the most brilliant series of successes won by any British General in any long-continued war. But we have suffered severe wounds, painful and serious wounds—none fatal, in my judgment, but grave if neglected. The nation, before it can help—and it has to do a great deal more than it has done up to the present moment—must know the real facts. I took this line in the first year or two of the last war. I always thought it a mistake to obscure or to gloss the facts. I said, "You will never get the people of this country to do their best until you tell them the real truth, and the moment you do that, they will respond to every call which is made upon them." We are not an infantile nation, and it is not necessary to with- 872 hold unpleasant facts from us, so as not to frighten us. This is not a nation easily frightened. It has faced too many crises, too many defeats, in the past to be frightened by anything that has happened, even up to the present moment. Therefore, I beg the Government to let us know the facts.
I sat one night listening to the six o'clock news on the wireless, giving the story of the Battle of Mount Olympus. I was thrilled by the account that we were holding our own and flinging back our enemies with great loss, and then at the end of it there was this sentence: "The German communiquéclaims that Mount Olympus has been captured and that the Germans are in Larissa." That was all the news that we had. There was no contradiction of the German claim. Then, somebody who was there said, "There must be something wrong about that; we will listen to the nine o'clock news." Well, we listened to the nine o'clock news, and there was just a repetition of the German claim. That is not the way to treat a decent, honest, brave public that is willing to make any sacrifice for what it thinks is right.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I am sure that we had not at that time any information on the subject. During seven days of fighting we received no information. The circumstances were peculiar, and I complained about it, but there is no question on our part of withholding information. If we had known that Larissa had been occupied, we should certainly have said so.
Mr. Lloyd George
I do not know who is to blame, whether the Government or anybody else, but surely the distance from the respective battle fronts to their headquarters was pretty nearly the same, and we ought to have known. The result was that the whole story, right up to the end, had to be gathered from the German communiqués and not from ours. If the Prime Minister says that the Government were not responsible, I accept that at once, but I feel that they ought to have been informed.
§ The Prime Minister
Certainly: Mr. Lloyd George: Yes, they certainly ought to be informed. I have suffered once or twice—on 21st March, 1918, for instance—from that, as the Prime Minister 873 knows very well, but that ought to be stopped. The Government ought to know the facts, and the public ought to be taken into their confidence. Otherwise, the result will be that our news will be discredited, which would be a very bad thing in itself. I am very glad to have elicited that opinion from the Prime Minister. I agree that it is not our business to spread gloom. I do not discourage statements which are optimistic, but they must be based on facts, otherwise they will not be believed. A road which is founded on the quicksands of illusion never yet led to victory. Certainly that is true of a people like ours, fearless and steadfast, not a panicky people, a people who have in their own hearts faith and confidence which have come from centuries of success, and of overcoming difficulties. The real danger, if anything, is that we should not grasp realities even when we are told about them. If there is a wound inflicted, diagnose it honestly—probe it. I am all for cleansing it of foreign matter put in by propaganda. Let us clean the wound and then cure it.
What are the facts? In the last war we had France and Russia with us— France, with her fine army, not quite equal to the German army in equipment or perhaps even in training. The Russian army was an immense army. We were not ready from the military point of view; we made a contribution, but we were not ready to make a very great contribution, and Russia filled the position when France and ourselves were overwhelmed. Russia intervened and at great sacrifice changed the whole military aspect of affairs and enabled us to win the battle of the Marne, which gave us time to organise. Then came Italy, in the following May, with the very useful contribution that she made. I am not one of those who deprecate Italian bravery; they were badly equipped. That was our position then. What is our position now? Our position at the moment is that we have practically no Ally at all. [Interruption.] Well, America would not allow us to call her an Ally, even in 1918. She was an "associated Power." At any rate, she is not an Ally at the present moment, and we must hold the position until there is such a change effected in the re-orientation of nations as a whole as will enable us to secure victory.
874 What docs that mean? We must make this country and its Empire impregnable, to enable it to hold its own and to resist siege until our opportunity comes. The most serious attack is the attack upon our shipping. One can see that the Government have communicated to America more than they think desirable to communicate to us, and I do not want to ask any questions about that. I can well understand that, but it is quite clear from the changed attitude of President Roosevelt, and especially from the very remarkable speech which appears to-day from Mr. Stimson and—one dislikes these phrases—which may well be an "epoch-making" deliverance, that they realise how grave is the position. In the last war the gravity was not evident at this stage. The Germans had not realised the power of the submarine. There were sinkings, but I think that on the whole we should have been able to withstand those. Now they have started earlier. Their attack is very much more formidable. They are able to go farther out. They have now the whole coast of Europe, from Norway down to Spain, from which they can launch their attacks. I remember that in the last war our worry was about Ostend and Bremerhavenand the very narrow strait from which the threat to our lifeline could be launched. We did not have so much to watch, but now our fleet must be our sentinel from Spain—and I will say from Spain—right up to Norway.
We have, in addition to that, an element to deal with which we did not have then—an air force. We lost by aerial attack in the last war only 7,900 tons of the 8,000,000 tons of shipping that were destroyed. I do not ask how many have been lost by this means up to now, but it is quite evident that it is formidable. I should say it would be a most formidable element when you come to deal with damaged ships rather than with sinkings, but even the sinkings are formidable. It is no use hiding that; somehow or other you must get over it until the moment arrives when you can do something more. You have to hold this country, feed it, see that it gets its supplies of raw materials and keep it going. For how long? Whenever I have spoken in the House, I have always said that in my judgment this would be a long war and that, in my opinion, the longer, the better our 875 chances. But we have to cross a dark chasm.
There is America—and thank God for Mr. Stimson's speech to-day. This is what I want to say of America. I am not disparaging America. We have to hold out until America is ready with her equipment, but it is most important not to exaggerate what we are going to get, or rather, how quickly we are going to get it. I warn my fellow-countrymen not to be impatient, and to see that we ourselves do the job until America is ready, and do it more thoroughly than we are doing it now. There will be disappointments. There is this to be said about America. I have had experience of American war organisation. It is full of disappointments. We must remember that the United States of America have never had Europe's experience of preparing against or for wars with millions. They have a small Army and they have very efficient arsenals, but their mechanical triumphs have been the triumphs of peace—inventing, improving and multiplying the weapons of peace.
France had to prepare for an army of nearly 5,000,000, with her reserves. She had to see that they were all equipped, and her arsenals were in accordance with that kind of dimensions. Germany had probably 5,000,000 or 6,000,000; her manufacturing power was largely concentrated, her biggest works were for the preparation of the weapons of war, and the invention of new tanks. That has never been the experience of America, and she takes some time to change from the atmosphere of peaceable construction and manufacture to make herself the arsenal of democracy. She did it last time. It is a mistake to imagine that America began manufacturing weapons when she got into the war. She was manufacturing for this country, for France and for Russia, and she was paid —I forget how many hundreds of millions of pounds—for manufacturing weapons of war which had not before been turned out by her factories. She had had two or three years of experience in the manufacture of war weapons before President Wilson declared war. Then she came into the war, and when she came in— it is no secret—her guns were supplied by us and by France, and my recollection is that she had not even prepared aeroplanes. She is better than that now. 876 We are stripped to the waist for war. We have cut down all unnecessary manufactures. We are devoting strength to the manufacture of essentials, of course, but apart from that, we are giving all our strength to the manufacture of instruments of war. Some very striking figures were given in the very able speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). He said that Germany was giving 63 per cent. of her national income to armaments; that Great Britain was spending between 50 and 58 per cent., and that 12 per cent. of America's national income was devoted to armaments. America is not at war. She is giving 12 per cent. of her national income towards war now. She is cutting down her production of motor cars by about 1,000,000. She has not yet stripped for war. The other day the Prime Minister used figures which I would rather like to warn him to reconsider, because they give a false impression of the comparative strength of the two rival antagonists in the preparation of equipment. First of all, Germany was manufacturing for six years up to the outbreak of war and spent £6,000,000,000 upon war preparations, whereas we spent about £1,200,000,000, about one-fifth of what Germany spent. Therefore, she got ahead of us. She has kept ahead in her efforts. The Prime Minister used the following figures, with reference to the British Empire and America, when he was estimating the capacity of manufacture of both sides—
§ The Prime Minister
I was endeavouring to contrast, broadly speaking, the sum of the life energies of the great forces ranged on the two sides.
Mr. Lloyd George
I will take that. We are putting about 60 per cent. of that life energy into war. We have to reduce this down to the proportions of that life energy for equipment for war which are available on both sides. The Prime Minister said that there were 200,000,000 between the United States and the British Empire, and that on the other side there were 70,000,000 Germans. That is a very misleading figure. I hope the people of this country will not run away with the idea that that is the position. We shall not be able to get them to make all the sacrifices needed of them if they still feel they are three to one against the enemy in life energy. What are the 877 real facts? In the first place that calculation is based on the assumption that all the Americans, with their life energy, are available for the war in Europe in the same way as are our 65,000,000. They are not. In the last war America could put their fleet into the Atlantic. They could put every boat into the Atlantic, because Japan was guarantee-ring the Pacific. But what is Japan guaranteeing now? She is guaranteeing that she will take advantage of the first opportunity to wrest the dominancy of the Pacific from America. The Americans are not merely building against Germany, but they have always to keep in mind the fact that they are now the sole guardians of the Pacific.
Suppose we said that half the capacity of America might be given to us. That is putting it high. That would mean, with our 65,000,000, a figure of 130,000,000. Let us look frankly at the figures on the other side. The Prime Minister said that Germany has 70,000,000 "malignant Germans." There are 80,000,000 Germans. You do not kill 10,000,000 Germans with a word, however potent it may be. That figure includes the Sudeten Germans, in Austria, and perhaps those in Danzig. But that is not the sum total of their manufacturing capacity. Has the Prime Minister seen the account in yesterday's "Times" of an agreement, which has been entered into at Berlin, between the French and the Germans to place at the disposal of Germany the manufacturing resources of the motor companies in France? There was one figure which was given in the "Times," namely, that 40 per cent. of the lorries manufactured in France were turned out for the German armies. France has no material without Germany, no coal without Germany, and no manufacturing life except that which the Germans tolerate. At the present moment the French are manufacturing for Germany. Some of the best made tanks were turned out in Czechoslovakia for the Germans. The Poles are working for them, mostly on the land. The whole of these occupied territories, together with their mechanics, are at the disposal of the Germans. What about Italy? We may not think very much about the fighting qualities of their armies, but they are first-class mechanics and about the best constructional engineers in the world. We 878 therefore have figures which are superior to ours in what the Prime Minister calls life energy upon which war work is dependent.
America can do more. America, if she is to enable us first of all to catch up, and then to get beyond, Germany must do infinitely more than any indications I have seen up to the present. At any rate, the point I want to bring to the attention of the Government and to the House is this: This is going to be a slow process, and we have got to hold our own here until there is a complete change in the whole situation, and until we first catch up in equipment and then, if possible, exceed that of the Germans. The Prime Minister may say, "Well, what can we do?" I will just mention two or three things. After all, a man who is not in possession of any facts, except those he gets from the public Press, is not in a position to give any detailed suggestions. The first thing we have to do is to reorganise our man-power. We are raising an Army of between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 men.
Mr. Lloyd George
Yes, but apart from the Home Guard we are raising an Army of between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 men. If we call up all the classes, as we did in the last war, we certainly would have 4,000,000 men. The question is, What are we to use them for? I cannot see any prospect in front of us of utilising them for the same purpose as we used men in the last war. Invasion of Europe in the teeth of an army of 10,000,000 highly trained and well-equipped men seems to me to be a fatuous idea, and I do not suggest that the Prime Minister has ever cherished it. What are they there for? Are we making the best use of our manpower? All I know is that on the land the men have been taken away at a time when food is vital for the life of the country. Are the factories fully equipped? Is the best use being made of your vigorous young men in the factories? That is not the impression. I have talked to a great many people who are in contact with them, and there is a general sense of dissatisfaction and doubt. I do not know whether we have had a discussion upon man-power, but I think we ought to 879 have one. I think the Prime Minister ought to reconsider the whole distribution of man-power, especially in reference to the American policy that is developing. That is the first suggestion that I make. You have first of all to see that, whatever happens, the people will not be short of food. If they are, you may produce the conditions which resulted in the defeat of Germany in the last war. You could really double the output. I am speaking from some knowledge and experience. I am speaking from consulting men who know better than I do scientifically. You could double the output of food if you gave agriculturists plenty of machinery, which they have not got—they are short of it—plenty of fertilisers, which they have not got, and plenty of men to cultivate the land. You have millions of acres which are producing practically nothing.
The second thing I should like to say is this: You have to do more for the shelter and protection of the people against air raids. I do not believe that that problem has been considered on a sufficiently large scale. I remember very well how the old soldiers disdained trenches. They said, "You will destroy the morale of the soldiers. It is far better that they should face all these perils." But there is a limit to the morale of human nature to which you ought never to put it to the strain. I am certain that if you considered the problem of shelters on a great scale for your population and for some of your most essential factories, it could be done, and we could defy all these raids for the year or two when we may not have supremacy.
§ The Prime Minister
Is the right hon. Gentleman advocating widespread provision of shelters proof against bombs or only shelters proof against blast?
Mr. Lloyd George
We are up against both. If you did it on a sufficiently large scale, I am certain that you could do it against both. I know with regard to factories that you could do it.
The next thing is that we must really have an end of the kind of blunders which have discredited and weakened us. Norway, I think, was a very impetuous adventure; Belgium was another. I cannot quite understand why the Greek Army was left in Albania to be trapped instead of being brought down to the line where 880 they could have stopped the Monastir Gap. It may have been the fault of the Greeks, I cannot tell; but it was folly to keep that fine Army of nearly a quarter of a million men to fight for these barren mountains, which were not worth while. They had achieved their purpose; they had defeated the Italians; and they ought to have been brought down. Instead, they were trapped, and the result was that we had to retreat. There was the mistake in Libya which enabled them to surprise us, and I am not at all sure about Iraq.
That brings me to my last point. The Prime Minister must have a real War Council. He has not got it. He is a man with a very brilliant mind, one of the most remarkable men who have graced this House with their presence. There is no doubt about his brilliant qualities, but for that very reason, if he will allow me to say so, he wants a few more ordinary persons. He wants men against whom he can check his ideas, who are independent, who will stand up to him and tell him exactly what they think, but it is no use their doing so if they know nothing about it. I am not disparaging the men, at least some of the men, whom he has in his Cabinet. I have seen one or two of them at work. No man who has a big war job has time for anything else in the way of reading papers and studying questions of strategy. He is a man who has to produce weapons of war in a hurry and every moment of his time is taken up with people who go to consult him. How can he go on studying questions of Iraq and Libya and Dakar and the mountains of Albania? How can Ministers deal with all the questions arising in regard to the Atlantic? They go to the Cabinet and their opinion is asked. They know that the Prime Minister has thought it out and they have not. They have not had time to think it out. There ought to be men there who have nothing to do except to study these problems and give the Prime Minister their advice after the study. There are men of different types of mind and they very often discover objections which are not obvious to the most brilliant intellect. There is the Minister of Labour, for instance. He has a gigantic task. He has almost two departments. How can he devote his mind, his common sense, to problems of this kind? He would be a valuable 881 counsellor but I say that he is no good coming after a day spent in thrashing out every kind of detail that comes up.
I remember that when I was made Minister of Munitions I found it impossible to attend the Cabinet for some time. Mr. Balfour once said "By the way, where is the Minister of Munitions? We have not seen him for a long time." I could not attend the Cabinet. The Prime Minister has had a prejudice against this suggestion, but he has now started by taking Lord Beaverbrook from the task of making machines and he is now to devote the whole of his time to war problems. That is not enough. The Prime Minister ought to have three or four absolutely independent men, men of experience, but, above all, men of commonsense, who will read through all the papers and, what is more, examine the differences between the Departments. Where the Government are failing is in regard to those differences. I know that departmental war, and if the Prime Minister had three or four men inside the Cabinet who were quite independent he could depute to them the examination of these differences. We have a very terrible task in front of us. No one man, however able he is, can pull us through. I invite the Prime Minister to see that he has a small War Council who will help him—help in counsel, help him in advice, and help him in action.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans(Derby, Southern)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said in the early part of his speech that we are now passing through a difficult and discouraging phase of the war. We are passing through a much more difficult and discouraging phase and are faced with a much more difficult position than he was ever faced with in the last war. The Government to-day have a much heavier burden to bear. I do not feel that some of the right hon. Gentleman's comments will help at this critical moment. Critics of the Government have compared the Greek expedition with the Norwegian adventure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) did so yesterday. That criticism will not stand the test of examination. The Norwegian expedition—I would rather call it an adventure—was despatched in response to popular clamour 882 and also to uphold the government of our French allies. It arrived too late.
§ Major Milner (Leeds, South-East)
Is the hon. gentleman aware that the Government knew of the proposed expedition of the Germans to Norway some months before it took place and that they took no action?
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I am not aware of those details, but that does not alter my argument. Political and strategical considerations cannot be separated as they were to some extent in the case of Norway. No country understands the interplay of politics and the military side of war better than the Germans. The Germans have accumulated great power which they have been able to use without scruple, and as they have no scruples they are able to follow the advice given to the Germans by Frederick the Great, who said, in speaking of war and negotiation:If there is anything to be gained by honest men, we will be honest. If it is necessary to dupe, we will be rogues.When we consider the Greek expedition we must remember that neither in the matter of equipment nor of scruple was our course as clear as it would have been for Germany. Had we the same powerful Panzer divisions, and had we not been held back, as I hope we shall always be held back by a conscience, we would have met the enemy on equal terms. The guarantee which was given to Greece by the last Government naturally placed upon the shoulders of His Majesty's Government a debt of honour. I am sure that neither the Greek Government nor His Majesty's Government desired the despatch of 60,000 men to Greece merely as a gesture. The Greeks have shown ever since they were attacked by Italy that they have on all occasions not only heroism, but common-sense. Neither Government, I am convinced, would have gone forward merely for quixotic reasons. The really important question is that we should win this war in the East. The suffering of ourselves and our Allies in the meantime is a matter of minor concern provided we win the ultimate victory. No Government would have been justified in jeopardising that eventual victory. If our Government had not acted the criticism would have been that they had missed a chance of establishing a Balkan front. They would have been 883 accused of infirmity of purpose, have been told that they had a Maginot complex and lacked the offensive spirit.
If the object of the Government had been merely to reinforce the Greek front it would have been unnecessary for the Foreign Secretary to leave London, but he was sent out on a mission which had further and wider objectives. He went out to Greece with the object of building up, if possible, in circumstances of great difficulty, a political and a military front. It was the opinion of the military and political advisers of the Government that there was a fair chance of building up such a front. If the Yugoslav Government had been overthrown a month earlier, if it had been possible to mobilise the Yugoslav Army, then, indeed, the military situation would have greatly improved. It is possible that the Yugoslav Army might have occupied the Monastir Gap, and a line might have been established in Greece. That was a fair risk to take. If that line had been established then we should have been able to deny to the Germans those naval and aerial bases which are now in their hands. When we criticise the decision of the Government let us remember that the fact that a British Expeditionary Force was in Greece encouraged the Greeks and undoubtedly strengthened our friends in Yugoslavia. The expedition was sent out secretly and, in fact, this country was the last country in the world to know that British troops had landed in the Balkans. In contrast with the Norwegian expedition, there was no popular clamour here. Even now we have inflicted serious losses on the enemy and have compelled him to fight for a country which he had hoped to gain without any fighting. Failure is no reason why we should not have tried to carry out this operation and to establish this front.
I am convinced that there are many more failures to come before we have turned the corner, and that unless we take risks we shall never turn that corner and victory will never be attained. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) made a great number of criticisms in the course of his speech yesterday. He said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had "a perfect band." He asked why we did not attack the 884 Germans before they had consolidated their position. Our reverse was due to lack of material.Is it not strange that you believe not the world knoweth your weaknesses? … Your men are hardy and valiant, but what discipline have they had these many years? And the art of war is now such that men be fain to learn anew at every two years end.That is not Hitler speaking to Prince Paul, or even General Antonescu but the Bishop of Arras speaking to Queen Elizabeth's envoy in the Netherlands, in the second year of her reign. That is the answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport. We are less weak today than we were, and we are better trained, but we must still have some patience before we can make up for those years in which we neglected our defences. Certain hon. Members have put down an Amendment calling for a realist foreign policy. A realist foreign policy means, I understand, a policy related to our own power, or to that concentration of strength which we can gather on our side. The hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. Granville), whose name is attached to that Amendment, was for long associated with the Lord Chancellor when he was Foreign Secretary. Then there were many opportunities for a strong and realist foreign policy, but those opportunities went by.
The Foreign Secretary did his best to stem the tide, and make use of those chances, and I regret that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) should have made the attack upon him which he made yesterday. He said that my right hon. Friend had driven Mussolini into the arms of Hitler. My hon. and gallant Friend is rather like the Bourbons, "he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing." He is not even wise after the event. He is denied that particular form of wisdom. The Foreign Secretary in those days was a realist. He did assess the Italian strength at its right level and, indeed, we should have been spared much if his advice had been taken. He has been called once again to the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at a most critical time, but you cannot make up in a few weeks that which has been lost over many years. My right hon. Friend went out to the weakest spot on the diplomatic, military and political 885 front, only a few weeks after his appointment in order to try to see whether he could not stem the tide which was running against us. It was impossible, not for any reason for which he is responsible, to establish that front. Patience and courage are necessary to realism.
There is a view that our soldiers always feel it necessary to regard a new war in terms of an old war. To-day we are fighting not a siege war but an entirely different form of war, with mechanised cavalry. Fortified lines are older than the Roman Wall. They are expensive for in the end they are taken. We invented the tank, the French explained how it should be used and now the Germans have developed it and are actually using it. But taking a long view rather than a short one, the coming of the mechanised force may very well be of advantage to this country. We can never hope to have 200 divisions, but with a great effort, and with the help of the United States, we can hope to build up mechanised divisions to equal or very nearly equal the strength of the German Panzer divisions. That is one encouraging aspect of the development of mechanised warfare.
We are back to our traditional policy in using the Navy in order to transport expeditionary forces to the Continent of Europe on what might be described as large-scale raids. This was the policy we followed during the Napoleonic wars. I think I am right in saying that during those 20 years British Forces landed 24 times on the Continent of Europe, but only once did they establish a footing, which was in the Peninsula. Eventually a series of victories was won which contributed to the ruin of the dictator who then controlled Europe. German forces are scattered and must be used to hold down subject people. As our power grows, we shall be able to find weak places in the great area occupied by the Germans, which will give us the opportunity which we are seeking.
To criticise every large-scale raid or expedition because it is unsuccessful is to misunderstand the nature of the new war, which is, in so many ways, different from the last. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport said in the course of his speech that the Government now laid particular stress on the Battle of the Atlantic and did what they could to 886 minimise the campaign in the Middle East. This is not true. Throughout this difficult winter the Prime Minister has made it clear that this battle is a vital one. I believe that battle will be won, Mr. Stimson has shown the way, and the President of the United States has clearly set his course. The English-speaking peoples are drawing more closely together. That is a great diplomatic victory for both peoples. This close association has been made possible only because the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have, by their consistent resistance to dictators, restored the confidence of America in our capacity, determination and endurance. We have never stood higher in the estimation of America than we stand to-day. Who can doubt that Anglo-American co-operation will bring the eventual victory? That diplomatic triumph alone justifies the House in giving an overwhelming vote to the Government.
§ Captain John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I beg to crave the indulgence which this House always accords to a new Member on the occasion on which that Member first addresses it. I would say, in the first place, that I cannot altogether agree with those Members who have levelled one criticism after another at the Government. I cannot entirely forget that, when the Government came into power, we were on the verge of what looked like a major defeat and were perhaps on the verge of total defeat. Instead, we stand to-day stronger than we were before, even though we are still in a position of great difficulty. Having said that, I am afraid that I must venture upon one or two criticisms of the Government.
I do not intend to discuss strategy. I realise from my own experience in one branch of the Services how little I know of the strategy even of that branch, let alone the strategy of any other, but I would discuss for a moment the policy that lies behind that strategy. Are we pursuing this war relentlessly or are we continually trying to wage it with the brakes on? I think we are doing the latter. I will give two examples of what I mean. The first, which has often been cited, is that of bombing civilian populations. I believe that we are actuated by an entirely false set of standards. It maybe that the policy pursued up-to-date of selecting certain targets for bombing has been the 887 right one, and I am second to none in my admiration of the work that has been performed by the R.A.F. and its bombing planes; but I say that these targets, particularly bridges and those mysterious things which only came to the light of day during this war, marshalling yards, can be and, in fact, are being, repaired every day after they have been bombed. The Germans have a very rapid system of repair. It seems that they repair these things very successfully. What do the Germans do to us? They bomb not so much our factories and industries but something which, in war-time, is in many ways every bit as important—our homes. They destroy our private life, our ordinary life as citizens. It may be that our policy is better than theirs or their policy is better than ours, but we should at least try their policy and see whether it works. It may not work, but the fact that Hitler has considered it likely that the morale of our people would be broken by aid raids suggests that he considers that the morale of his own people would be broken by such air raids. That is the first point I would make.
My second point is in regard to weapons. We are told that we are short of weapons. I submit that there is one weapon which we and every country have, and which we have not yet used, and that is the weapon known as the Fifth Column. Why is it that when we talk of the Fifth Column we consider it as something bad and something which only the enemy possesses? We do not treat this weapon as we treat weapons like the bombing plane and the machine-gun, but as something which we do not use. I am told that it is un-English and that it is not cricket. I reply that we cannot play cricket against a country that does not know the rules. Cricket is a British and not a German game. Why cannot we use German Fifth-Column tactics, in exactly the same way as the Germans, but in a more successful manner than they have done?
I listened with the very greatest interest to the speech made by the Foreign Secretary. I listened to his defence of the Government's policy in the Balkans. If it was a defence of 1914 methods of going to war, it was admirable. It showed that, judged by 1914 standards, we had done all that we could 888 in the Balkans. I agreed with the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) when he said that the war in the Balkans was lost before the German Army entered Greece, but not for the reason that he gave. His reason dealt in the main with the North African situation, but I would say that the Greek war was lost in Yugoslavia, Rumania and Bulgaria. It was lost because we did not penetrate those countries as did the Germans. We had not done the necessary Fifth-Column work that we should have done in those countries before the Greek war started. I may be told that we did it. If we did, we did it very incompetently. I may be told also that it is no use discussing the past, that the Balkan war is over, that what has happened has happened, and that in fact we should now be concentrating our energies on the future. I agree entirely, but I would ask the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister whether in faot we are going to pursue exactly the same policy in other countries.
To-day our minds and eyes are turned from the Balkans to Iraq, and I am glad to see that there at least we have got in before the Germans. That is a very healthy sign, and I hope it will be followed elsewhere. Germany is not only looking East. Hitler is looking West. He is looking towards Gibraltar. What are we going to do there? Are we to wait until Germany has amassed a large force in Spain, and are we then to send a few ships to Gibraltar and say that it is impregnable, that it has never been taken, that we have had it for 200 years, and that Germany cannot take it? I fear that if we do that, we may be woefully mistaken. We may find that while it is not taken, it is surrounded and made impossible to use. I would like to ask whether we intend to take any action in Spain. What action have we taken to date? Let us compare our action with the German action. Our action has been to send wheat to the people of Spain. The German action has been to send not wheat but large numbers of tourists, to collect troops on the frontiers of Spain. The tourists they have sent there may even, for all I know, be eating the wheat we have sent. I hope the Foreign Secretary will take note of the fact that only recently the notorious German film "Victory in the West" was shown in Barcelona. That is always the 889 prelude to action by Germany in a given country. It has been shown in Spain, and it means that Germany will act in Spain. She will act, if we are not careful, before we can. I would suggest that we send to-day sufficient forces to make the Spanish Government realise that we are in earnest, and I would also suggest that we should realise that not every Spaniard in Spain is a follower of General Franco. We have in Spain to-day the best potential Fifth Column possessed by us in any country. Why can we not use it? Why cannot we send a sufficient force maybe to Spanish Morocco? Why cannot we send a force based on Gibraltar to Southern Spain, and follow it up by intense Fifth-Column activity in that country designed to rally the republicans—the enemies of General Franco—to our side? I do not know why we cannot do it, except, as I have said before, that it is not done.
What is it that has stopped us from taking action such as I have described? Who is it, or what is it, that has stopped us? Is it the Prime Minister? I find it difficult to believe that it is the Prime Minister. Is it the War Cabinet? I think it is, in fact, a feeling that the British people will not stand for this, a feeling, as I have said, that the British people will not consider that it is a British thing to do. I would suggest that the mind of the British people has changed very considerably from what it was a year ago. A year ago, no doubt, the British people would not have stood for it, but to-day go into any barrack-room, go into any public house or indeed, if hon. Members do not wish to go to a public house, to any ordinary family circle, and you will hear exactly the same thing over and over again: "We do not mind how strong the action you take, we do not mind what you do to the Germans, only, for Heaven's sake, do it." That is what we hear on every side, and not least among the soldiers, sailors and airmen who are tired of idling, of waiting and seeing the Germans doing things which we are not allowed to do.
I would urge the Government to stop fighting what I might call a "Queens-berry" war. We have had enough of that, and I think we might have an all-in war instead. I may be told that if we do this, we shall then become like the Germans. But I submit that what we are 890 fighting for is not a method, but a cause. We shall stand or fall by the Tightness of our cause, and never in our history have we had a better cause. If it is a question of method, I would say that the first nation that abolished the tank and took to the horse would be considered to have the best cause. But I can hardly feel that to be the case. I feel, on the contrary, that it will be the greatest possible injustice to our cause if we let it down for fear of employing any methods, even the most drastic. It is, as I have said, the finest cause in the world. How should we feel if, as a result of our inaction, we allowed that cause to fail, if knowing that we could have taken action that would have made us victorious, we allowed ourselves to fail? What should we feel like if we had to sit under the German heel for 10, 20, 30, 40 years—maybe for a century—and what would our descendants feel like if they knew we had had a chance of victory and had refused to take it because we held back in the hour when we might have been victorious?
§ Mr. Cary (Eccles)
I am sure I shall be voicing the opinion of every Member of the House when I say how much we have enjoyed the excellent maiden speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. Of all Parliamentary tasks, perhaps that of making one's maiden speech is the hardest. But also, one of the most likeable things about the House of Commons is that it has a short memory for a bad speech and a long memory for a good one. My hon. and gallant Friend has made an excellent speech, and we shall welcome his contributions to our Debates in the future. He opened that speech by touching on a subject dear to my own heart, namely, bombing—the bombing of our enemies in Germany, of their towns and their civilian populations. Whether he will get an answer from the Government to-day remains to be seen; nevertheless, we shall always welcome any contribution he may make in the future on that subject.
I intervene in this Debate only because I would like to congratulate and thank the Government for their decision to support the Greek Army by sending a British contingent to Greece. In view of our commitments in Libya, in Egypt, in Palestine, in the Sudan and in East Africa, I think it also reflects great 891 credit on those responsible for military dispositions that we were able to send to Greece a force of no fewer than 60,000 men. It showed that the policy of the strategic reserve which we initiated in 1938 is working to the full and that a high degree of flexibility and mobility is being maintained. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, in his speech yesterday, had occasion to take to task my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) for some of the things which he left undone when he was Secretary of State for War between 1937 and 1939. But I think the House should bear in mind that it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport who, in fact, initiated in 1938 the policy of the strategic reserve which has worked so successfully in the war in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The collapse of France, as the Foreign Secretary told us yesterday, left us with an unenviable legacy. That we have had to carry out in part in the Eastern Mediterranean the task which, rightly or wrongly, we expected to be performed by France, and by the French Army in the Balkans, shows that, while being left with bad cards was itself a handicap, the Government can play a bad hand well. A few days ago General Sir Alexander Godley told the Royal Empire Society that there was no doubt in his mind that the performance of the Greek Army in this campaign had been second to no other feat of arms in the history of warfare. When one reflects on the bright cavalcade of military history, that is the highest praise which could be accorded to any nation. Only the churlish would seek to qualify General Godley's statement. The majority of this House would confirm it. The Greek Army even went to the extent of providing a rearguard in Greece to cover our own rearguard. That is why our casualty figures for the evacuation are so good.
There is one aspect of the campaign in Libya about which I think the War Cabinet might have shown greater wisdom. Hon. Members will recall that during the progress of that campaign Major-General Collings was acting as the official observer to the B.B.C. He told the public that the original plan provided for not more than a five-day raid on Sidi Barrani, but that the resistance of the Italian army was so inept that that raid was converted into a 892 far wider plan to enable General Wavell's Forces to reach Benghazi. Then, instead of the Government keeping before the minds of the public the fact that Eastern Libya was a tricky battlefield, they promptly set up a military governorship, which led the public to think of Eastern Libya as having become a secure base, from which we could launch further attacks against Tripoli, and even into Italy itself.
There was no need for that. The subsequent campaign has proved what a tricky battlefield it is for us; and it may well prove a tricky battlefield for the Germans, too. At the beginning of last week Mr. Mackenzie King, addressing the Canadian Parliament, had occasion to say that further reverses were to be expected on land and on sea. It was news to me that our Board of Admiralty were sitting in Whitehall waiting for further reverses at sea. My own impression was that most of the Fleet's personnel were, in fact, anticipating further successes at sea —if possible, in the manner of the Battle of Cape Matapan —and that such successes would certainly consolidate our hold over the Eastern Mediterranean.
What is the true position between ourselves and Germany? No doubt, the Prime Minister, in winding up this Debate, will attempt to state it. May I be permitted to try to do so myself? To defeat us, Germany must gain a decision at sea. For us to defeat Germany, we have to gain a decision on land. Looked at broadly, our respective strategies are fundamentally opposed. Just where those two strategies are going to engage cannot as yet be predicted. The main strength of the British Empire and of Germany has not yet been brought face to face. We have fought, so far, no more, in my opinion, than a major guerilla war against Germany. I see no occasion for despondency, either in this country or in the countries of our friends, as to the ultimate outcome of this war, provided that the total resources of the Empire are mobilised. But time is getting short. It may be too short even if the total resources of the Empire are mobilised. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, that speech by Mr. Stimson yesterday may be vital to the outcome of this war. One has only to read that excellent pamphlet, "The Trend of Tactics," by 893 the military correspondent of the "Times," to appreciate fully the enormous military task which is imposed upon us. Nevertheless, as Hitler spreads his strength across Europe, and even halfway across Asia, we may get an opportunity against his forces not dissimilar to that which the Duke of Wellington obtained against Napoleon's forces in the Peninsula. Until we get that opportunity, we must keep intact our control of the great oceans.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal yesterday used the words, "a nation of shopkeepers." I was always grateful to Napoleon for that sneer about the British. It misled the world into thinking that our greatness was founded upon some guttersnipe sharpness of the marketplace. The secret of the British was the fact that they were a nation of sailors not a nation of shopkeepers. Hon. Members may recall the scene in Thomas Hardy's epic drama of the Napoleonic wars, "The Dynasts," when General Mack, the commander-in-chief of the Austrian army, surrendered to Napoleon. Napoleon says to General Mack:But I want nothing on this continent; The English only are my enemies. Ships, colonies and commerce I desire…Hitler talks of a new European order. New European order, fiddlesticks. Without ships, colonies, and commerce, Europe is a dying carcase. Unless Hitler can break British sea supremacy, Germany itself will die with the rest of Europe. We have to keep sea supremacy. We have to mobilise our Empire resources to do that. It is the quality of our long-term planning which is the Answer to the question of the outcome of this war, and not some subsidiary phase like the present manoeuvres in the Mediterranean.
I ask the Government to consider this war in terms of not only national planning, but Empire planning. I feel perfectly certain that we shall have to come to some form of Imperial Conference. I see no reason why an Imperial Conference should not take place now, in South Africa, under the chairmanship of General Smuts. The great problems of trade, of exchange, of shipping, of transport, of the standardisation of production, of what is really necessary for this country and what is redundant — all these problems should be dealt with con- 894 tinuously. They are not being dealt with continuously between the Empire Governments at this moment, and there is great need for an Imperial war policy and requirements committees to consider these great day to day problems, if we are to surpass the output of German industry. The Delhi Conference, in my opinion, was a great disappointment. It means, in fact, no more than a co-ordinating committee, instead of being a great driving force behind the Indian war effort.
I would ask the Government, therefore, to strain every nerve to keep our control over the great oceans, to bring about a far greater degree of co-operation between the Empire Governments, even if that would mean setting up an Imperial War Cabinet not exclusively centred in London, and to make every effort to cure the tiredness in British foreign policy —atiredness which too often in the past has compelled us to withdraw ambassadors rather than to retain them as the spearhead of military intelligence and opportunity: last but not least, to cease to treat the British public like children and to give them military communiqués of adequate proportion and fact, even if the news sometimes may be the reverse of good news. If these things are done, and done promptly, then, if I may repeat a phrase used by the First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of the campaign in Greece, the road to victory will begin to define itself. If they are not done, then I need make no attempt here to state what the answer may be. The historian will see it all so clearly. Courage is not enough. Courage only remains the supreme virtue if it is coupled with intellect and truth. Statesmanship is the foundation of generalship. The statesman, the soldier and the people can only work in harmony together if the functions and duties of each are understood by all.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Kingswinford)
It is evident that in some quarters of the House there is considerable dissatisfaction that the Government should have placed this Order on the Paper with a view to securing a Vote of Confidence. I must confess that, speaking for myself, I should be very sorry if I thought that the Government were unduly sensitive to criticism. There is no doubt, and I think it will be agreed in all quarters of the House, that there exist definite misgivings in relation to some aspects of our war effort, 895 and it will also be agreed —in fact the Prime Minister himself has admitted the fact —that mistakes have been made during the past few weeks. On the other hand, I feel that in present circumstances the Government were fully justified in coming to the House and asking for a Vote. of Confidence, more especially in relation to the Prime Minister himself. During the past few days the Prime Minister has been subjected to a sustained, scurrilous and violent attack by the German propaganda machine, accompanied by every conceivable kind of abuse and perversion of the truth. It is the usual German technique of seeking to drive a wedge between the leaders of a nation and the nation itself. Therefore, I personally welcome the opportunity which will be given to the House to demonstrate once again the more or less complete solidarity and unity of the House as representing the nation, and our confidence not only in the Government, but especially in the Prime Minister himself.
But having said that, I feel that the situation in which we find ourselves today is not one which is conducive to any feeling of complacency. When we look at the map of the world, and especially at Europe, and realise, as we must do, that the German war machine has succeeded in subjugating at least nine countries, and has been enabled to bring at least three, and, if one includes Italy, four, other nations within the German orbit. When one realises that along the 2,000 miles stretch of coast between Narvik in Norway and Bordeaux in the south of France the Germans have at this moment concentrated the best part of 2,000,000 men, the greater part of their air force, hundreds of thousands of tons of merchant shipping and thousands. of barges, whatever one's view may be about the possibility or otherwise of an invasion, I think he would be guilty of the worst form of wishful thinking if he failed to appreciate the possible use that may be made of those gigantic war preparations. We turn further a field. As we all know, the German octopus has spread its tentacles across to Africa. In view of the infiltrations which are taking place in Spanish Morocco and in French Morocco, the fact that powerful German forces have landed in Libya and other German forces have occupied some important islands from the strategic point of 896 view in the Aegean Sea, I think we must realise that in the Near East we are faced with an extremely difficult and possibly a very grave situation. At the same time, I feel that we have every right to face the future with much greater confidence, and that the present Government are entitled to some credit for the fact when we compare the situation a year ago as regards our defensive and offensive preparations with the position to-day, much as there is still to be desired.
I think there is an enormous improvement. The Armed Forces are infinitely stronger in every respect than they were a year ago, and we have every right to face the future with the utmost confidence. Nor do I think that sufficient understanding has been expressed in relation to the recent peregrinations of the Foreign Secretary. I cannot see why there should be any objection to Ministers leaving this country in order to undertake special tasks. The test should be the results. There is a story told about Lenin who received a telegram from his representative at the Genoa Conference as to how the Russian representative should conduct himself in diplomatic quarters, and whether it would be all right for him to dress himself up in a high hat and a frock-tail coat, and Lenin is supposed to have replied, "I do not care how you go You may go in your wife's petticoats for all I am concerned. It is results that matter." I think the same thing applies to the visits of Cabinet Ministers to places abroad —it is the results that matter. It may be our view that the Foreign Secretary has not brought back very much in the way of results.
But there again I think we must realise the difficulties with which our Government have been confronted in relation to those countries in the Balkan zone. I, personally, have some direct knowledge of most of the countries in that part of Europe, and on all occasions when one has visited those parts one has come away with a conviction that although separately each country realised the great danger that lay ahead —not from this country, but from Germany —yet their jealousies and suspicions of one another were such that even in the face of common danger it was quite impossible for them to educate their public opinion to a sufficient extent to secure 897 their collaboration and co-operation with a "view to safeguarding their security. It is like the artichoke —one takes one leaf at a time, so that after all the leaves have gone there is nothing left. Exactly the same applies to those countries in the Balkans. If they had formed a mutual system of define, it would have been possible for them to have mustered the best part of 1oo divisions, which would have formed a very powerful defensive block.
I would like to make two further observations about the position in the Balkans. First of all, it is most ironical that the gallant Epirus army corps should have been compelled to have surrendered to an Italian general. Whatever may be the result of the defence of the Greeks, I think it will be agreed in all parts of the House that they have shown themselves to be possessed of the greatest bravery and heroism. They defeated the Italians in every battle fought in the Albanian campaign, and it was only because the Germans were able to drive them back that the Italians were able to compel their surrender. Now the Italians have annexed Slovenia, a province of Yugoslavia, with a population of 1,250,000 Slovenes. So far as I know, there is not a single Italian inhabitant there, and that is an indication of the fate that awaits any country coming within the grip of the Axis. So far as Yugoslavia is concerned, we must pay tribute to the fact that they were the first nation to embark upon revolution against their Government for betraying their independence by adhering to the Tripartite Pact. It is one thing for us, with the Channel between us and the Continent and perhaps the best equipped Air Force in the world, spiritedly to resist, but it was another thing for Yugoslavia, knowing the dangers and risks attendant upon their course of conduct, to face the inevitable with all the courage and determination that the Yugoslavs did.
I have it on good authority that the Patriarch of Yugoslavia, a man equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury in this country, who is revered and respected in all parts of his country and in other countries, was recently arrested by a party of German soldiers, who smashed down the front gates of his monastery with their rifle butts in order to get to the room at which he was carrying out his devo- 898 tions. He was roughly handled and was later taken away to an unknown destination. I also have it on good authority from an eye witness that tens of thousands of Serbian prisoners, not Croats or Slavs, many of them civilians, were herded across country from Belgrade into Germany and made to undergo a six days' march without any food, suffering the greatest hardships as a result. That is an indication of the brutality which characterises the German machine and something of which the world should be told.
I would like to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to a point about which many of us are not altogether satisfied, namely, the efforts of our Government to neutralise German propaganda. A few days ago Hitler made one of his usual speeches, full of perversions and distortions of the truth. It was broadcast over every radio controlled by the Germans, which means nearly every radio in Europe, and it was also relayed to the Near East. It may be that hon. Members of this House will say "Who will believe any word of Hitler's? Has he not proved himself 100 times over to be a liar, a man without any regard at all for truth? Why should we worry about what he says?" I believe that attitude to be a mistake. Literally, there are millions of people throughout Europe and the world who are not so well informed as Members of this House, and I hope the Government will take steps to see that Hitler's speeches are analysed and answered. For example, he made two statements. He said that in 1936 Mr. Churchill and other warmongers decided that Germany must be destroyed; and he also said that Britain paid Poland to make war on Germany in September, 1939. Then he proceeded to elaborate his argument that it was Britain and Britain alone which was responsible for the present war. 1 hope therefore that the Government will appreciate the harmful situation that may result from continuous propaganda along these lines.
I think the same thing applies to the German advocacy of their New Order. There are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of young men and women living in countries which have been overrun and occupied by the Germans. They are desperate and disillusioned, suffering from the after-effects of defeat, starving and humiliated and in other respects 899 verging on the border of desperation and despair. The German propaganda machine says to them every day, in effect, "Your country belongs to the new social order. We will give you peace and prosperity and protect you by the mighty German machine. It is true that you will have to pay a price. You will have to surrender your independence and freedom to a certain extent, but only to the extent that you have to fit into the New Order we are about to establish." I do not want to suggest to the Government that this is the time to make a declaration of peace aims, but I do suggest that there must be a reply to this type of propaganda and that it must be pointed out to these unfortunate people what is involved in the establishment of this New Order. They must be told that it means they will have to work and slave in order to maintain a privileged nation in return for receiving protection from the country which is responsible for the problems with which they are faced —Germany itself. I hope the Government will take note of these points and will not underestimate the potent effect of this constant propaganda for the New Order.
In spite of what is said in some quarters, this war is not a war between rival Imperialisms. It is a clash between two conceptions of life. It is a tragedy that it is so, because in such a war there can be no compromise. Either one conception of life must triumph, or the other. I wish it were possible to arrive at some settlement which would stop the terrible destruction of life and property that is taking place. But I cannot see any room for compromise between the principles and way of life for which we in this country stand and the principles, if they can be so called, and the way of life for which the Nazis stand. One set of principles must prevail. Although we may have many trials and tribulations to face in future, I believe we shall be able to carry on the longer, because there never was a case for believing to a greater extent than now that our cause is just. I believe the moral purpose which animates the people of this country is such that it will enable them to outstay the German effort. If we can make the German people realise that war does not pay, that they are not to be allowed to destroy the freedom and independence of other countries, whether those countries 900 be great or small —if we can once convince them that all nations are entitled to live in security, that obligations between nations must be preserved and respected —I think we shall have arrived then at the stage at which we can say that we have secured the victory we desire. Until that happens, I believe the people of this country will be prepared to make any and all sacrifices, because they know that that is the only way which will bring back peace and happiness to the world.
Mr. Lambert (South Molton): To my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) I would say that the more the Germans abuse the Prime Minister, the greater will be our confidence in him. Coming from the West of England, I can testify to the spirit of the people there. Plymouth has been devastated. When I was there, I was told, "But after the war we will make this the garden city of the West." That is the spirit which prevails there. And I will say, too, that in the West of England we can bear the truth. I wish there were a little more frankness on the part of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Sometimes, when listening in, I feel a little cheered, but then I am reminded of a conversation that I had with Sir Philip Gibbs, the veteran war correspondent, at the beginning of June of last year. The French commentator at that time was very optimistic, and I asked Sir Philip "Does the French commentator tell the truth?" "Yes," he said, "he tells the truth, but not the whole truth." I would like the B.B.C. to tell us the whole-truth, as far as they can do so without giving information to the enemy.
I hope this Debate will bring home to all the country the gravity and seriousness of the present situation. For too long we have had a kind of Maginot mind which was so fatal to the French. I would like a more serious mind to pervade the Government Departments, at any rate one of them to which I am about to refer. The subject is a local one, but it has made the West of England quiver with indignation. Some time before the war, there was a proposal to erect a couple of police stations, but then it was decided to leave them until after the war. Suddenly, an official from the Home Office came down and persuaded the standing joint committee that these police stations should be 901 proceeded with. The standing joint committee concurred with him. The matter was brought before the Devon County Council, and the county council, a democratic body, turned down the proposal. The matter went on. Again it was brought before the Devon County Council, and again it was turned down. Still the Home Office persisted. I wrote to the Home Secretary, for whom I had an admiration —I say, I had. It is proposed to spend money in Torquay and Totnes on the erection of palatial police stations when there are thousands of people homeless in the adjacent town of Plymouth. What is the sense of it? Cannot the Home Office realise there is a war on and that the people down there feel it deeply that there are to be erected new police stations when they have nowhere to go?
I hope this sort of complacency has largely gone. All the time we were slumbering Hitler was planning the destruction of this country, and he has been carrying out his plans in a most cold-blooded fashion. I will not detain the House by going into this question too much, but what surprised us more than any other one thing was the complete collapse of France. Let us make no mistake —the collapse of France was the cause of our temporary misfortunes. But I do not intend to apologise for this country. We have had too much apology. Hitler conquered all the countries on the coastline of the Continent. Then he proposed to invade this country. His schedule, as President Roosevelt so finely said, was shot to pieces by the Royal Air Force. Yes, but the Hurricanes and Spitfires were not produced in nine months. They had been years in preparation. Without wanting to introduce any polemics, I wish to say that there was a spark of vision in the Government of 1934. In that year they proposed an increase in the Air Estimates of £20,000,000, or 41 squadrons, and I am sorry to say that they were met in the House by a Motion of Censure. Where should we have been if there had not been an extension in the Royal Air Force in those pre-war years? I do not apologise for this country. If France had been as ready as we were, there- would have been a different state of affairs.
We must realise that there is a limit to the powers of Britain. We cannot fight in every clime. I cannot agree —and I 902 am sorry to have to say it —that our Foreign Office has helped us much. They failed to foresee the collapse of France. They failed to pierce the corruption of French politicians and the obvious desire of many French people not to fight. When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary went to Egypt, Greece or Turkey, I recall that Earl Grey, who had similar experience, said, "Diplomacy without force is like an orchestra without instruments." If we had the force, doubtless the Foreign Secretary might have been more successful. Carrying my mind back, I think of some of the "ifs" in our history. What would have happened if Mr. Bonar Law, that very wise statesman, had lived? He it was who said, "Britain cannot be the policeman of the world." Again, if Lord Curzon had been a commoner, and Lord Baldwin an earl, things might have been different, because Lord Curzon had, at any rate, knowledge of foreign affairs.
Our Intelligence department has been criticised. We have been surprised, but I will not detail the surprises, because they were given in a very brilliant speech, which I consider is the best speech I have ever heard him deliver, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha). In the last war our Intelligence Service was magnificent, and Sir Reginald Hall directed it. Have the Government called on Sir Reginald Hall for his advice now? If not, I give them that suggestion. I see my right hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs laughing about that —at any rate the Intelligence has not been too successful. Egypt is important, but Egypt is a secondary theatre compared with Britain. Britain matters most, as Sir John Dill so well said the other day I hope that we shall repel invasion, but there is the danger, I will not say of starvation, but of a serious dearth of commodities. Do not let us make any mistake about that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) alluded to it just now. That is a danger. There again, by the collapse of France, the Germans have obtained bases on the Atlantic for their submarines, and air-fields which they can use to bomb this country. One can see their strategy. They are bombing the Western ports, Plymouth, Bristol, 903 Swansea, Cardiff, in an endeavour to prevent absolutely necessary foodstuffs from being distributed in this country. No victory in the East would compensate for a defeat in Britain. If Britain goes, all goes. We must trust the War Cabinet. A war cannot be conducted by public clamour. I have heard in the past that there is safety in a multitude of counsellors, but generally I have found that in a multitude of counsellors there is confusion. We must trust the War Cabinet, or change it; there is no alternative.
For my part, I think the Prime Minister, since he assumed office, has played a magnificent part in the history of this country. Some of his speeches have had an enormous effect on the great Continent of America, and that is more important than any other one thing. That phrase of his, with which he finished one of his speeches: "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job," was a wonderful appeal to the great American Republic. Those men who compose the War Cabinet have a terrific responsibility. They have responsibility for the allocation of our Forces, what shall be sent to Egypt, and what shall be kept here. It was said in the House the other day that what we needed were younger men. I am not so sure about that. What we want are wiser men, but it is not the number which counts but the quality. The Prime Minister had great difficulties in May, 1940. He had to combine all the political parties, but now his position is sufficiently established, and he need not take politics into account. He can act as he thinks best in the interests of the country, and, judging from the Press —of course, I have no inside information —I should say it is quite possible that some of his Ministers are not quite equal to their responsibilities. I have been troubled a good deal lately wth gentlemen who call themselves "planners," and those who ask what is to happen after the war. I should like someone to tell us what is to happen in the next three months, and, more especially, what is to happen in 12 months ahead. What I tell my people in the West of England is this: What we have to consider is who will do the planning. Will it be by this Parliament, under King George VI, or by Adolf Hitler? The job is to see that we do our own planning. 904 For my part, I feel pretty confident. It is going to be a long business, but we shall stand up to it. Our position is more satisactory than it was 12 months ago, and, as the Prime Minister said so eloquently, "There is a light dawning in the West."
I do not think we in this country can ever be sufficiently grateful to that great man, President Roosevelt, for his psychological skill in bringing America so far to help us. But there is another man for whom I have a great admiration, and that is Mr. Wendell Wilkie. He fought a Presidential election in the United States, which was one of the most bitter that has ever taken place there, in opposition to the New Deal. It was as bitter and as violent as the opposition to the 1909 Budget of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. When that election was over Mr. Wilkie dropped all politics and shook hands with the President. He said: "I am an American," and then he came over here and saw for himself. Now he has gone home to his country to help Britain and the free people of the world. If they want an additional member of the War Cabinet, they could not do better than invite Wendell Wilkie, if he would come. [An Hon. Member: "And Al Capone."] That may be the hon. Member's choice. If any good comes out of this horrible war, it can only be achieved by close cooperation and understanding between the English-speaking peoples of the world — the United States and the British Empire.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
Like the last speaker but one, I have had actual experience of many of the countries that have been mentioned in the Debate. I had the honour up to a year ago to be on General Wavell's Intelligence Service. I feel that it is very difficult to say much without giving useful information to the enemy, but I should like to say a word or two on behalf of my late colleagues in the Middle East. We have heard a good deal of criticism about the Intelligence Service. One speaker said it was not comparable with the Intelligence Service in the last war. As I served in the Intelligence Service during the last war, ever since, and in this, I might perhaps not be able to give an impartial judgment, but I am certain, from what I have heard from our own and Allied authorities in the Middle East, that our Intelligence there is 905 extremely good. With all due respect and humility, I would say that one or two statements in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) do not help the Intelligence Service. I refer particularly to the statement about German ships passing through the Dardanelles. The right hon. Gentleman said it was common knowledge and that he had read it in the Press. I have not read it myself, but: I may be a very bad Intelligence officer. I have asked several of my hon. Friends sitting around me, and I cannot find anyone who has read it in the Press. Statements of that kind are calculated to do us a great deal of harm, particularly where Turkey is concerned.
In the Middle East we are going through an extremely difficult situation, and I cannot believe that it helps our cause to talk about coming in at the back door of Palestine and coming round through the '.desert. We wonder if those who talk in that way have any first-hand knowledge of the terrain over which those comings in often have to be made or the preventing of communications has to be done. I keep in touch with my late colleagues in the Middle East, and my impression is that there is nothing wrong with the leaders or the men. The leaders have the utmost confidence in their men, who are some of the picked men of the British Army, and the men have the utmost confidence in their leaders. They say, however, that they are not quite so confident that the people at home are doing their share. May I cell a story which rather indicate? what they are thinking? An armoured car patrol during recent operations was sent out on a reconnaissance. It came in contact with the enemy, and in the course of the firing a tyre was punctured and the car was immobilised. The officer and men, thank goodness, did not perish of thirst and starvation in the desert. They were captured, but the men said that if they had had a spare tyre they could have got away. You may say, "Why send the car into the desert without a spare tyre?" The whole point is that every unit has been working 1oo per cent. during recent operations, and cars have had to go out without the proper equipment, and the equipment has not: been sent from this country, presumably because it does not exist. I hope that those in authority in the Government 906 Departments will see to it that the equipment side of the war programme is pushed to the very utmost. I would repeat what the Prime Minister said on behalf of these men: "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job." I know that those are their sentiments.
I should like to ask those who have the drawing-up of the B.B.C. communiques, or the B.B.C. authorities themselves, to give us those communiques in a sober, objective manner. Do not go in for boasting. Do not say, "We have captured the last Italian capital in Africa," when five minutes later we lose it. Being a Highlander, it may be that I suffer from superstition more than most people, but I believe, that if we state soberly that we have done such and such a thing and we have not been able to do such and such a thing, the country will prefer that to being told some fantastic story which has to be denied a few days later.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Throughout the Debate there has been a note of criticism of the Foreign Secretary. I think that criticism has been very unjust. It is inevitable that the speech should have have caused some disappointment because, as I see it, many Members wanted a Debate on the conduct of the war, and the Foreign Secretary naturally gave an account of his recent journey. He talked of the past, while we wanted to talk of the present and the future. If he had made that speech 10 days ago, it would have had very great success. I emphasise that, because there has been a very unfair tone of criticism. After all, a lot of us have talked about total war. That implies a balance of economic, political and military factors, and it seems to me very dangerous to do as some papers have done and suggest that there has been conflict between the political and the military leaders. The criticism that has appeared in the Press that the Foreign Secretary did not succeed in the attempt to build up a collective system in the Balkans against Hitler comes from the very people who, ever since the last war, have done everything they can to prevent the development of a collective system in Europe. They are angry with him because he was one of the principal opponents of their policy of kow-towing to Mussolini when he invaded Abyssinia. I do not think we ought to forget that just because the Foreign Secretary's speech may not have 907 been quite the prelude to the Debate that some hon. Members expected.
I cannot help thinking also —and because I happen for the first time to be dressed in a semi-military uniform I do not want to pose as a military expert — that there are two military facts which have not been sufficiently stressed in the Debate. I wonder very much whether, even if the Greek affair had not occurred, it would have been militarily possible for us to follow up the advance from Benghazi to Tripoli. Sooner or later, when all the facts are published, I believe we shall find that the small force which advanced to Benghazi did an even greater job than people yet realise because it went with extremely little equipment. I wonder how many tanks that arrived at Benghazi could possibly have followed on with the journey to Tripoli. There is another fact which has not been sufficiently stressed. After the fall of France a year ago how is it possible to expect us in one battlefield or another to stand up to the enemy on a footing of anything like equality? We could not possibly send military supplies to the Balkan countries on anything like the scale that was necessary if it was to make the Foreign Secretary's trip a complete success. It is only fair to remember that no Foreign Secretary on earth could possibly have overcome the reluctance of those countries, however much they wanted us to win, to take terrific risks unless we could send them war materials. Even if we had a little war material to spare, which was very seldom, our shells did not fit their guns because most of them had been depending on France. That military consideration has not been sufficiently brought out in the Debate.
From a political point of view I still believe that the Foreign Secretary's trip, which was carried out in some circumstances of considerable physical danger — at one time very great physical danger — was a much greater success than people realise. After all, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs emphasised, we have this frightful gap to fill up between the collapse of France a year ago and the advent of America. During that period we have had to fight rearguard action after rearguard action, and any country which for a week and even for a day can hold up 908 Hitler's plans is playing its part in this war. There is no doubt, of course, that some countries are coming round now and saying that Germany will succeed. The hon. and gallant Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) reminded us yesterday that nothing succeeds like success. I think that I am right in reminding him that Oscar Wilde said that nothing succeeds like excess, and that it is Hitler's excesses that have frightened so many people. We are bound to go through that sort of period, and I suggest that the House should feel grateful to the Foreign Secretary because he did not fear to go on a very difficult job. He did not expect much praise for it and he has not got much. We want Ministers who will show initiative. We grumble time after time in this House because we are not trying to carry out total methods of warfare. He has been trying to do so, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the Foreign Secretary for that.
§ Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
Does not my hon. Friend believe ' that initiative like charity might begin at home?
§ Mr. Bartlett
Probably in the long watches of the night I shall understand what that means. I am sure that it is a very profound remark, and if I get called on again I shall hope to answer it.
It seems to me that undoubtedly at the background of this criticism is a genuine uneasiness that is felt throughout the country. I believe that one of the main reasons for that is that we do not tell our people enough. After all, why should there be depression? Can we find in the history of the world a people which has shown more persistence in facing up to what appear to be overwhelming odds than the people of this country has done since we met in this House exactly a year ago on the eve of this series of disasters? The depression, such as it is, comes from the fact that we are still losing the battle of brains. A year ago, when we had to retreat from Dunkirk, the whole effect of Hitler's great military victory was destroyed because day after day came: the accounts of those little ships going across under the command of ordinary little people of this country to bring our army home from Dunkirk. It was a marvellous story, and the courage, the good humour and the resilience of spirit shown in it took 909 away the value of Hitler's great military victory.
There is no reason that I can see why the same thing should not have happened again in the case of the Battle of Greece. In many ways it has been a more romantic epic and a greater story still because we knew, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out, what the odds were against us. when we sent that army and that unless we went to help this very gallant people we should be shamed for all time. Yet day after day the whole Press of the world outside this country was printing accounts of the arrival of British troops in Greece. The Germal military attache sat on the quay of Athens, or whatever the ports were, checking up the battalions as they arrived. But we were not allowed to print one word of the arrival of that expeditionary force. Almost as soon as it was announced came the news of the withdrawal —but not in the British Press. Day after day the Germans were broadcasting the most abominable and detailed lies about British Empire troops allegedly running away and being hooted by the Greeks because they were not playing their part. We were not allowed to publish a word about that. When finally it was too late, when the Germans had gained a great propaganda advantage, we were allowed to tell the story of that magnificent retreat. That is putting upon the British people too great a strain. It is putting too great a strain, too, on our relations with the Americans.
We are all very pleased because of Mr. Stimson's speech yesterday. It was a grand speech, but might not we have had a speech of that kind some time ago if we had done our best in the battle of brains? Is it generally realised that even while we were withdrawing from Greece, while the American Press, like the rest of the Press of the world except our own, was filled with these accounts about the British running away, so little information was given here about the Battle of Greece and the Battle of the Atlantic that one of the great American broadcasting corporations halved the time that it gives to broadcasting from this country and half of the time it took away from us was given to Berlin? That seems to show a very dangerous lack of co-ordination somewhere in the Government. I want to pay my tribute to the Foreign Secretary. I think he does not always have the right people 910 behind him. I think the House would agree that we have got past the time when we want men in the Foreign Office who are chosen because of their charming manners. We want tough men in the Foreign Office. We have heard of Sir Robert Vansittart; there is also Mr. Nicholas Vansittart, Sir Robert's brother, who was European manager of General Motors, a business man who knows a great deal of European affairs. Surely there are a good many people like that who ought to be brought into the Government service at this time.
I apologise, because I have taken up more time than I had intended, but as a last word I should like to add this: Not only in foreign affairs, but also in military affairs and other affairs as well, there seems to be a lack of co-ordination. Why do not we tell the people more about our military policy? Time after time we call up people and it is not quite clear why they are called up, because it is obvious that there is a need for more material and yet we are taking people from the workshops and putting them into the Army without explaining sufficiently to the ordinary man in the street why that is happening. We can never outnumber the Germans. Sometimes I am reminded of the story of the two rabbits that were chased by two foxes into a burrow. As they sat there wondering what was to happen, one said, "What do we do now?" and the other said, "I think we wait until we outnumber the enemy." With the best will in the world it is going to be a very long time before we can do that. I think the uneasiness is due above all to the feeling that there is still not that firm grip of affairs which we want at the head of things, not that co-ordination of brains, of muscle, of finance and so on that we should have.
Exactly a year ago we had a Debate in which many wanted the Prime Minister of that day to retire because they felt he had done a good job but could no longer stand the strain. There is not a man in this House now who does not desperately want the present Prime Minister to go on for a very long time, and it is because of that desire, because of the confidence we have in him, that I would venture to remind him of this: Although he has indomitable courage —courage which to a great extent explains our affection for and 911 devotion to him —there are throughout the country a lot of ordinary little people who are worried about their ration cards, worried because young Jim is to be called up next week, worried because they do not know what so and so is going to do and whether Jane will find a job in a munition factory. There are masses of people who are frightfully confused and bewildered by the war. We have seen throughout the bombardment of our big cities and villages that there is no need to worry about their courage, but we must, for the sake of the Government, for the sake of Parliament, for the sake of the people themselves, take them more into our confidence, so that they can carry on through the difficult coming months.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox (Wycombe)
I have realised from the last two speeches at any rate that it is rather dangerous to attack the Foreign Secretary, and equally dangerous to attack the Intelligence Service. In the few remarks I want to make I shall concern myself first with Foreign Office Intelligence I do not intend to talk for more than five minutes because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has occupied a quarter of the time given up to this debate to-day, and that has left very little time for others. I realised yesterday that the Foreign Secretary was speaking under great limitations. He could not tell us all he knew about his visit, which no doubt was very useful, to the Middle East, but is he quite satisfied with the Intelligence Service in the Foreign Office? I will not say a word about Intelligence in Egypt, as I know nothing about it, but judging by the results of this war is he satisfied that his diplomatic advisers give him timely advice? We have only to look at the case of Norway. Before the last war I spent seven years as Military Attache in a certain capital, and I am perfectly certain that if I had been in Oslo last year I should have had some inkling of what was going to happen there. I cannot understand why the Foreign Office was not aware of what was going on. It was the same in the case of Denmark. As to Iraq, how soon did the Foreign Office know that this coup d'état was to take place? Surely they ought to have sent troops there before.
912 We talk about the little nations ceasing to have confidence in us, and the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) has pointed out what a terrible threat there is to their existence. I read the other day an article which talked about their "collective pusillanimity." But are we giving those nations all the help we would give if we had decent foresight? Look at the position of Turkey now. Has not the revolt in Iraq endangered Turkey's position? I read in the "Times" this morning how the Germans are picking up many little Greek islands. Soon Turkey will be completely surrounded and it will be beyond our power to do anything for her. Surely we have had intelligence and warning. Can our Navy and our Air Force in the Middle East do anything to help? Of course it may be impossible. I speak as an ignorant outsider and am only putting the question. I want to know whether it is possible.
On the other hand, there is a telegram from New York in the "Times" to-day which tells an amazing tale of what is going on in Spain. We were hoping that General Franco's Government would continue its prudent course, but we read that the Nazis are getting refuelling depots there for their U-boats. If that is the case, surely the Foreign Office ought to take action; not send an ultimatum because we have no force to back it up, but find out from Sir Samuel Hoare where we stand as regards Spain. If Spain is giving facilities to the Nazis to establish U-boat bases surely we ought not to allow her to have grain ships from America. Surely we ought to put Spain on the black-list and blockade her. We are sorry to think that the Spaniards are suffering from starvation, but war is war, and it is better that they should starve than that we should starve. There are certain points near Spain we might seize if Spain decides to adopt the policy of its Foreign Minister. We want to know where we are and to act accordingly. I agree, of course, with the Foreign Secretary that it is very difficult for diplomacy and for propaganda to act against a background of continued military defeat. The point I want to make is, could not the Foreign Office do something to facilitate victory, to give timely warning, so that we might direct our strategy to where we might expect the next blow? I think the Foreign Office could do more than it has done.
913 Another question I should like to ask is this: While we all know the Prime Minister has an immense burden on his shoulders, has he got all the assistance he ought to have in the present War Cabinet? When we look at all the statesmen around him in the War Cabinet and remember how they came to their present positions, we are impelled to ask which of them has any knowledge of strategy. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer know anything about strategy? Does the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs himself profess to be a strategist?
§ Mr. Eden :indicated dissent.
§ Sir A. Knox
There are three Members in the War Cabinet of the party that generally sat opposite before the war. We know that it is necessary to have political representation, but would it not strengthen the hand of the Prime Minister if he had more advisers from among outside people? We know that the Prime Minister is not a man who hesitates to make necessary changes. Would it not be better if he had people who were, perhaps, too old to take any active part but who might advise him on such questions as relate to the Air, the Navy and the Army? For instance, I would suggest Lord Trenchard, Lord Chatfield or Lord Milne, to mention only three names. Do not hon. Members think that such advisers would be more useful than people who are accustomed to managing trade unions? Would they not give better advice?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
Is not my hon. and gallant Friend encouraging the Government in the very vicious habit of settling their strategy themselves, rather than leaving it to their Service advisers? Is he not fulfilling what was said by M. Clemenceau, that war is too serious a matter to be left to soldiers and that it ought to be done by the politicians? If the politicians do not approve of their naval, military or air Departments, they ought to get them changed, and not look after strategy themselves.
§ Sir A. Knox
The question is whether the War Cabinet are to direct the war themselves or not. I understand that the only person who is directing the strategy of the war is the Prime Minister. Would it not lighten his enormous burden if he had some practical assistance? I shall sit down now, as I am terrified of exceeding my time
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
I believe it is the view of the country that we had to go to the help of Greece, but —and it is that "but" that we are discussing to-day. It is said that we do not need inquests but action. Inquests however sometimes produce action, as was the case with the Debate upon Narvik, which produced this Government. My colleague the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) and I placed upon the Order Paper an Amendment, which you, Sir, were not able to call. I make no complaint about that, but I am still convinced that the questions raised in that Amendment represent matters which the public opinion of this country desires to see carried out. I believe that until we mobilise the full resources of the Empire and use them on a basis of total war we cannot achieve victory. Also, unless we organise propaganda behind a realist diplomacy, we are bound to be at a serious disadvantage. The Prime Minister said in a broadcast speech last week that some Germans are killable and other Germans are curable. I am not proposing to ask when I shall see the steel tanks to deal with those who are killable, but I ask: Where are the propaganda tanks to deal with those who are curable?
Behind the Battle of the Atlantic is the front line of food production. In view of the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in this Debate and on a previous occasion, when we debated food production, I would again emphasise this aspect of the matter and ask the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that we are getting an adequate production from the soil. Last week I made an appeal to the Prime Minister for a small War Cabinet or an Imperial War Cabinet. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs referred to the matter to-day, in the light of his vast experience. Since I made that appeal, the Prime Minister of Australia has made a statement on the eve of his departure from this country in which he said that this question has not reached finality, and Lord Beaver-brook has been appointed Minister of State. Although I received three ''Noes'' as replies from the Prime Minister last week on the subject of the War Cabinet, I am encouraged to go on raising the question.
915 The whole British Commonwealth of Nations has a new world contribution to make. No one who heard the Prime Minister of Australia would doubt it. The speed of the aeroplane, the use of the wireless and the power of propaganda have changed the technique of modern war. The Empire effort must be centralised in other ways than through the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. I am told that the reason why we cannot have an Empire war cabinet is that the leaders, Prime Ministers and statesmen of the Dominions cannot get away to come to this country. I am sure that that cannot be the fundamental reason, because the democracies of the British Commonwealth of Nations are not one-man institutions. I believe that once the idea of the Imperial war cabinet has been proved, it will be a relatively simple matter to bring it about in reality.
I welcome the appointment of Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of State, and I want to pay my tribute to him. He produced planes when it was imperative we should have them. I believe that the people of this country have the greatest confidence in his powers. He is one of the few men I know who can remove the red tape worm from the bowels of the bureaucratic machine and its "Yes-men" interpreters. I would ask the Prime Minister what is meant by "Minister of State"? What are the duties of the new Minister of State? Will he have power? [Interruption.] An hon. Member says, "I hope not." I imagine that he hoped so at the time of the Battle of Britain. Who will preside over the present production committee? Will the existing group of Cabinet committees remain? I would like to ask also whether it is intended that there shall be an inner Cabinet? If so, will it take decisions on general war policy? All that we have so far on this subject is a statement in a newspaper which suggests that the Minister of State will be put in charge of the home front and all its problems. The country has not been told anything, and I hope that the Prime Minister will take an opportunity of telling us about it today.
When I am asked, as we all are from time to time, "Where will you defeat Hitler in the field?" I point to the workshops. In my 916 view, the battle for mastery is a battle of production. It is not good enough to say, as was said upon the wireless last week and referred to by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, that 200,000,000 free people are against 70,000,000 slaves. The slave machine has got a start and time is a vital factor in this struggle. It is true that supplies are coming in from the United States and will increase, but speed is vital. I ask then: Are you sure that you will get the guns, tanks, aircraft and ships in time? Hitler has announced that the German troops will have more weapons next year, but I ask myself: Do we yet fully understand that we have to beat the Nazis in the workshop first, and that that means using the productive capacity of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America?
Let us face the question. Germany has a single command. So had this country and the Allies in the last war. The Nazis have a single command of the war machine and of war production. That, in my judgment, is the great lesson that we have to learn at this moment and at this juncture of the war. Can we, with the United States of America, catch up in the world of production, with our separate production and equipment? That great leader of democracy, the President of the United States, has appealed to American industry for mastery of the air. To achieve this, you must have a unified British and American air striking force. This involves co-ordination between the production of America and of this country, in types, armour and equipment. In the British Commonwealth of Nations and in the vast continent of America, we have superiority in resources over Germany, but we have to harness it, we have to unify it, and, in my view, we have to place it under a single direction. Only in that way can democracy beat the slave State in this war of mechanisation. We need an allied War Production Council, comprising the British Empire and the United States.
Democracy is fighting for its existence. I was interested in the suggestion made in the speech of my right hon. Friend this afternoon. I would ask the Prime Minister, is it not possible to get a man of the calibre and driving force of Mr. Wendell Wilkie or Mr. Harry Hopkins, 917 and to use his great knowledge and power to help turn the scales now, by joining in a great unified arms drive in the British Commonwealth and the United States of America? Such co-operation, and a single command of production, would give us superiority over the Nazi machine in the shortest time. In my judgment this is not the time for hopeful words, nor for journeys to and fro across the Atlantic. It is the time for bold leadership to take risks in action, ahead of public opinion here and in the United States of America. If there is one lesson to be learned from the last 10 years, it is that democratic leadership has failed in the technique of adjusting itself to public opinion.
I make that suggestion to the Prime Minister. Whatever the march of events in the next few months —the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs referred to it as a dark chasm through which we have to go —the Prime Minister, who has the complete confidence of the English speaking peoples, has said, "Look to the West." I am certain that the way to victory lies in co-operation between America and this country. The first step —the vital step at this time —is to get unified production between Great Britain and America, and I appeal to the Prime Minister to do everything possible, with his great authority, to invite the leaders of American industry to co-operate to that end. Just as we had a unified command in the last war, so we need one now, in war production. One day, in my view, we shall see the war effort of the British Empire and the United States of America directed by a democratic allied war council, comprising the leaders of the United States of America and of the British Commonwealth. This council will direct the winning of the war, the making of the peace and the carrying out of postwar reconstruction under the security of the air power of the British Commonwealth and of America. Some people call that union. If that is union, then I support it. In my judgment it is the real alternative to a Hitler-dominated civilisation. Let that be the call to the people of this country; let that be the message to the people of America and of this island that goes out from this Debate.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
It is sometimes unfortunate to have a Debate about the tactics of a battle while it is going on, and it is not certain that it will always 918 be of use. But that is what we asked for two weeks ago when we demanded that the Foreign Secretary should tell us about his strictly strategical mission to the Middle East, and now we have had the Debate, in the main about the Battle of the Mediterranean, I think that many people will agree that in fact it has been of real advantage, although the battle is still at its height. I hope it is clear to people here and in other countries, and I hope it is established in everybody's mind —above all in Hitler's —that the Government and Parliament are agreed in thinking the whole of the Middle East of vast importance, and that even if we lost Suez —which we shall not do —we should fight back and retake it from our bases farther South and farther East. I hope the Debate will have blown up for good and all the phrases that we used to hear about making an island fortress and winning the war by bombing and blockade. I hope it has silenced the would-be experts who wondered why the Government had courted what they called the recent disasters in Libya and Greece, and who demanded when the Government were going to learn to avoid these great strategical mistakes. I hope it has recalled to the mind of the public here and in the United States and elsewhere how immensely our position was weakened in the Mediterranean by the collapse of France. I hope it has taught the people of France that Italy would long ago have been defeated if their Government had gone to Algiers and not to Vichy, and I hope it has taught them that that would still happen if even now they would throw in their lot with ours.
I think the Debate has shown that in spite of the dangers created by the French collapse we are enormously stronger in the Middle East than we were a year ago. Think of the situation as it was when the Foreign Secretary went out there last time. Think what would have happened —and this is the real question —if Hitler had struck there last summer. I do not believe a single country in the Balkans would have offered the least resistance, and our power to parry his thrusts on Egypt would have been slight indeed. Then remember what the Government have done to change this. There were certain major weaknesses that it was not in their power to deal with quickly. Our Army, like the French Army, had hardly begun to be mechanised. It had no plans 919 or factories for the production of sufficient tanks. It had no plans for dive bombers, flying garages and flying workshops. Its strength in Egypt, in comparison with those great Italian armies in Libya and Abyssinia, was perilously — almost incredibly —small, and the development of India's capacity for arms production, which is of obviously vital strategical importance, had hardly been begun. Those were major weaknesses that should have been dealt with in the years before the war, and by the nature of the problem the present Government could not remedy them for many months.
But the Government did what they could. Last July they acted very boldly when they made the decision, of which the Foreign Secretary told us, to transfer armoured forces from this country to General Wavell, and to reinforce the R.A.F. in Egypt with Hurricanes and other modern machines. As a direct result there came tremendous changes in the situation. Our Army, still greatly inferior in numbers, has killed or captured or otherwise disposed of Italian forces to the number of 400,000, and captured arms and supplies with which they intended to fight a long and costly war. It has cleared away the Italian menace at our backs in Abyssinia; and has brought us the offer of the Emperor of Abyssinia to give up his armies if we need them later on. And the Abyssinians are extremely brave soldiers. The R.A.F., outnumbered two to one, have destroyed half the Italian Air Force, and the Navy have reduced the fighting strength of the Italian Navy by very nearly half. These are the changes since last year. It is with those facts in mind that we must judge the gravity of the Mediterranean situation at the present time. I am quite sure that the Debate has silenced, for good and all, a few good and misguided friends who said that we ought not to have sent troops to Greece. I think the House will unanimously endorse the wise decision that was made
With respect, I do not think that even the Foreign Secretary has stated all that we got out of helping Greece. What would have happened if the Greeks last October had said "Yes" to Mussolini, instead of "No'? The Axis forces all over Greece would have been increased. What would that have meant to Admiral 920 Cunningham and General Wavell last winter? They would have had Greek ships and the Greek Army and the Yugoslav Army at the disposition of the Axis countries. Worst of all, there would have been a covered route from the Dardanelles for the transport of oil to Italy, where they needed it most. It was on our promise that the Greeks began resistance. You must count it all in when you count the cost. The Greeks destroyed 10 Italian divisions in Albania, and, with us, shot down, it is said, 300 Italian aircraft, and sunk Italian submarines and transports, many of which are now at the bottom of the Adriatic. Also, they set an example to Yugoslavia. Although the Yugoslavs were unprepared, who doubts that Hitler must have lost two or three divisions in Yugoslavia, at least the same in Greece, and a great many tanks?
There was fierce fighting in those Yugoslavian valleys for a week. Two armoured divisions were so badly damaged that it may be months before their combat value is restored. General Simovitch tells us that the Danube has been blocked probably for several months. The great railway bridge at Belgrade, 600 to 800 yards long, is completely destroyed. There are 18 other railway bridges from Belgrade to Athens. I wonder how many of them survived. That railway is lost to Hitler. The railways through Rumania and Hungary are very bad, and the bridges on the railway from Bulgaria past Adrianople, down to Istanbul, have been destroyed, and it will take six months to build them up again. The Corinth Canal has been blocked. We are holding Crete. Hitler has two more mountainous, hostile countries to hold down. We have the reinforcement of the Greek and Albanian navies and part of their air forces. In these campaigns Hitler has used great quantities of oil, and he must continue to use great quantities in keeping his troops supplied. All those losses to the enemy, military, naval, air and economic, have followed from our decision to help Greece. Our loss is two destroyers, a small number of aircraft, 10,000 to 15,000 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner, and the heavy equipment of only three divisions and an armoured brigade.
Is it possible to doubt that, as a military exchange, the campaign has been immensely to our advantage? Can it be 921 doubted that it must have greatly reduced both the speed and the weight of any attack that may be made upon Turkey? But for that campaign, might we not now be seeing a lightning campaign against Turkey? May we not have gained time for our help to Turkey to be made effective? Our reputation as allies —a vital asset in America and elsewhere —has been saved by doing what we did. Judged, therefore, by its actual results, the decision to send troops to Greece was sound and right. For my part, I congratulate the Government on their decision, and on their general conduct of the war in the Middle East during these winter months. Could we have done better in these campaigns? Are there lessons to be learnt from them for the months that lie ahead? I hope the Government will take careful note of many suggestions made yesterday by my hon. and right hon. Friends about the Intelligence Service; about help for Turkey; about Greece; above all, about our arms production —with which I am not going to deal, because I understand that we are soon going to have another Debate.
It is about these Greek campaigns and their lessons that I am going to speak. I want to ask some questions, not as a matter of academic historical research, but because I believe that the answers may vitally affect the course we are now pursuing. My first question was, I think, touched upon by the right hon. Member for Duvonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) yesterday, and certainly by another hon. and gallant Member. Did our High Command and the Government see the vast importance of Albania in the general pattern of the war? Did they keep continually in mind how very nearly the Greeks drove the Italians into the sea? Did they realise how immense would have been the political and strategical results if that had been done? A Greek staff officer of many years experience in war —he has fought four wars —who knew every inch of the country, wrote to me in January that if the snow had fallen at its usual time, a month later, they would hive won that campaign. The difficulties of the Greeks were very great. They had those two ports, Valona and Durazz), behind them —Valona with two jetties, Durazzo with four modern quays. Everything for 250,000 men had to come through that bottle-neck —food, petrol, 922 arms and reinforcements, which in six months amounted to 12 divisions.
The morale of the Italians was very low. They expected to be beaten. There was a story about the colonel of the Wolves of Tuscany, who was being taken back to Athens by a Greek escort. The escort apologised becaused the villagers crowded round the car. He explained that they were not used to seeing such high officers. The Wolf said, "They had better get used to it, because they will see generals very soon." The Italians expected to be beaten. Suppose we had been able to clear Albania. Would it not have been worth a great sacrifice? Did we give the Greeks every assistance in our power? I still believe that we could have sent more air power. I have often spoke about it to the Secretary of State for Air. If, in particular, we could have had a squadron of heavy bombers to bomb Valona and Durazzo, we might have won that campaign, and I am sorry it was not done. I have a second point closely connected with my first. The Prime Minister says that perhaps it could not be done. I talked about it with air experts, both Greek and British, who know the country, and they think we could have done a lot more, if we had had the aircraft there. I do not say that we could have had a large number. That is a different point, which I will come to later.
Now I come to what is of very real importance for the future of the Middle East campaign. Did we understand the necessity of keeping the Greek Army and the Greek Air Force in the field, if that could possibly be done? It is an issue which was often raised in the last war about our Allies, and it is going to be raised again. The Greek Army mobilisation numbered 20 divisions, and they had seven divisions in their reserve which they could have mobilised. They were defending a vital front. They did not have to go round the Cape to meet the Germans. They were on the spot. The infantry was as hardy and as daring as the Finns. The artillery was often better than that of the Finns. The Air Force was extremely brave; all the troops were extremely clever. This was shown by everybody; they could use any weapon and make any gadget do. How much shipping would it have cost us to have sent an equivalent strength in our divisions to that vital 923 front? Those Greek soldiers stood on guard like the Finns until they died of frost. They not only fought without a moment's rest for 10 days on end, by night and day, but they lived upon bread and olives. They never wasted a round. They made one lorry do the work of five. It was a wonderful army, and, as was said yesterday, we have lost them except for a few divisions that were saved. Could that have possibly been avoided? The German wireless propaganda said that we kept magnificent armies for ourselves and gave them second-hand rubbish. Did we do what we could or give them what we could spare? We made great efforts to get the Italians beaten in Africa and Abyssinia. I believe it is true that we sent them second-hand material and only what we could spare.
If I rightly diagnose what happened, our mind was far more on equipping our own new divisions training in this country and the new squadrons being formed here than on keeping these tremendous reinforcements in the East actively in the field. In consequence, when the Greeks had to fight the Italians and then the Germans, they did it with hardly any anti-tank guns, with far too few lorries, and with old aircraft and not many of them. They fought on until it was physically impossible for them to continue. I do not say that the Government could-have done more, but I do say that, if it had been possible to add a ship or two to the convoy that we sent through the Mediterranean in early February and to have sent the Greeks some modern aircraft, two or three hundred anti-tank guns with which to hold their passes and the motor trucks which we would give to two divisions, we might have saved the greater part of that Army and we might have held the Germans far longer than we did.
My third doubt is, again, one which the Secretary of State for Air has been kind enough to discuss with me on many occasions, namely, whether it would not have been possible to take a very bold decision in December like that which we took in July about tanks and Hurricanes and guns, and sent to the Middle East a much larger proportion of our total Air Force. I have talked to people who know a great deal about it, experts whose names, if I could use them, would command the respect of every Member of the House, who said that in these winter 924 months really large-scale daylight air operations are very difficult indeed if not impossible, and that, therefore, we could have spared a lot of fighters, knowing that our production was coming along. I have talked to bombing people who say that even in the worst Mediterranean winter you can do a great deal more bombing with a given number of squadrons than you can in the best winter over here. As things turned out, our Air Force did much more work in the Mediterranean than the equivalent strength could do here- I have worked out a lot of figures, and I will not trouble the House with them, but our Air Force got marvellous results out there at much less cost to themselves. In 10 days, according to the communiqués from Africa and the Mediterranean, they destroyed 106 enemy machines, and they damaged many more. They did a lot of extremely dangerous ground strafing and bombing work. They helped to smash Keren, and in that attempt they lost fewer than 10 of their own machines. During that same time our bombers at home' were doing much less, and they had a much heavier loss.
If we had had more air power, could we not have accelerated the whole timetable of the defensive offensives of which the Lord Privy Seal spoke yesterday? Might we not have cleaned up Abyssinia more quickly? Might we not have spotted sooner the German Libyan adventure and bombed the German transports, firstly in Tripoli, and then as they crossed the Tripoli desert? Might we not have been able, as I have described, to smash Valona and Durazzo and destroy many more Italian transports in the Adriatic? Could not we have destroyed the great oil plants at Bari and at Naples which we did bomb once or twice but which, if we had had the aircraft, we could have bombed a great deal more? Might we not above all have been able to hold a certain line —I do not say where —in Greece? An observer who was with our Forces, writing in the "Times" on 3rd May, said that he never found a single British officer or man who was not convinced that if we had a greater fighter strength, we would not have been able to make a perfect massacre of Nazi bombers such as we had in this country last September, and that with that we might have been able to hold the Haliakmon or the Olympus line.
925 I put these doubts in a very inoffensive form, I hope, to the Prime Minister, and what I think it comes to in the terms of the Motion is, Could we by any means in February last have sent more guns and planes and transport to help the 20 Greek divisions which were in the field and to mobilise the extra seven divisions which they had? Could we at the beginning of November or December last have sent the greater part of our Air Force from this country to the Middle East? Only the Government know the answer, because only they know the strength and the flow of armament production and the shipping which they can command. Looking backwards, only they can decide whether we have too much of the island fortress state of mind, but I ask them, for future guidance, to consider this. If the only way to help the Greeks had been deliberately to postpone the equipment of our new divisions in this country, would it not have paid as well? Should we not have got far greater reinforcements on the vital front at much less cost in shipping space and subsequent supplies than we could have got in any other way? Were we not far too easily put off by the facile argument that the Greeks could not use modern weapons, that bomber squadrons were difficult to move and that bombers ran on tramlines from Britain to Berlin?
But whatever was possible or impossible in the winter, I hope we will do this kind of thing to-day. We must press on with production here; but I hope the Government will not think only of equipping new divisions in this country and shipping them round the Cape from here. I hope they will do their utmost to exploit our resources on the spot. I hope they will make plans to-day for allocating' American industrial capacity for the supply of arms and munitions to the Turks, if they should be attacked. We have several Greek divisions, and we may get more; I hope the Government will give high priority to re-equipping them with modern arms and modern planes. I hope they will do the same for the many thousands of other reinforcements which they can get. They have many volunteers from Palestine. Arabs and Jews and many Abyssinians who can be trained, and if equipped, might play their part in the long and bitter struggle that lies ahead. I hope the Government will send a special ord- 926 nance mission to Abyssinia to help General Wavell to sort, to classify and to distribute the vast stores of arms which have been captured there. Above all I hope the Government will make a bold decision to go on moving as much air power as we can possibly spare. If we want to hit the Nazis we can do it better than in any other way where the Nazis are making their defences.
As soon as we hold a line, I hope we shall be prepared to pass on to a great air offensive against Italy. Italy is still the weakest part of the Axis, as Austria-Hungary was to the Kaiser's Germany a quarter of a century ago. Good witnesses say that Mussolini has only a few hundred personal supporters. The Italian people hate the Germans, and the more so with every victory they win. They hate war and the squalid corruption of the Fascist regime, and their shipping is being reduced by our bombing and submarines to danger point. They are beginning to be hampered for oil, their industry is short of raw materials, and their general economic position will, indeed, soon be grave. Germany has occupied Italy as she occupied Austria-Hungary last time. She has sent troops and aircraft to every Italian front. It was in Austria-Hungary last time that the great break came, and if we act as we should act, I believe it will be in Italy that the great break will come in this war too. We must hit hard and all the time at her troops, her navy, her air bases, her oil, her harbours and her shipping.
In conclusion, I want to say that I know, as we all know, That we may have to face great reverses, however hard we try to reinforce the Middle East. The only thing certain about the Mediterranean Battle is that very stormy times lie ahead. Hard things have been said in this Debate about the Foreign Secretary, chiefly, I think, because he was sent by the Government on a certain mission, which was not his own fault, and because he reported yesterday on the mission, as he was bound to do. For my part, I hope the Government will face the storm ahead in the Mediterranean, as I am sure the nation will face it, in the spirit of calm and bold determination which the Foreign Secretary showed last 927 year when he was at the War Office and which he showed, in my view, during his two indispensable and invaluable journeys to the Middle East. When he left this country a few weeks ago —and I can give this story to the House as I heard it second-hand from the pilot-—he flew from England to Gibraltar. He knew that every day was vital and that time was the essence of the task he had in hand. The aeroplane took off and ran into fearful weather. It was the storm which sank 15 ships in the Tagus. The plane was swept up by air currents and dashed down again almost to the level of the sea. The pilot, feeling his responsibility beyond him, and not knowing whether he could keep control, sent back a message asking for instructions, saying that the weather was worse ahead and asking whether he ought to turn back to England. The Foreign Secretary answered, "Push on," and they reached Gibraltar with 10 minutes' petrol supply to spare. Whatever lies ahead in the Battle of the Mediterranean, the House desires the Government to push on, knowing, as we do, that the great moral forces of the world are behind us, and that for this nation no sacrifices can be too great.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
This Debate, as I think will be agreed on all hands, has been marked by a high sense of discretion and a high degree of responsibility in all who have taken part in it. If there were any speech I could single out especially for praise, it would, I think, be the last, to which we have just listened. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) is a great devotee of the Greek cause, and all that he has said has shown how deeply he has studied the articulation of their defences and, of course, their fortunes. If there were any speech which I felt was not particularly exhilarating, it was the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who honoured us by one of his always deeply important and much valued appearances in the House. My right hon. Friend made complaints, first of all, of the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday because he did not refer to Spain, Russia, Vichy and Turkey. But this was not a Debate on foreign policy, although no doubt such might well be arranged, in public or in private, and I do not think the speech of the Foreign Secretary can 928 be judged entirely by what he said. Rather might it be judged by what he did not say. If he did not refer to Spain, it was not because we have not plenty of information about Spain or because there are not a lot of things that could be said about Spain.
I am not sure how those things which could be said about Spain could be couched in a vein which would be helpful to our affairs. Again, much might be said about Russia, but I am not quite sure that we should gain any advantage by saying it, and I am not quite certain we should receive any thanks from the Soviet Government. It would be possible for one to dilate at length upon the sad and sorry and squalid tale of what is going on at Vichy, but I really do not think we should profit ourselves well if we tarried very long to examine and dissect that tragic spectacle. With regard to Turkey, I thank my right hon. Friend for the great restraint with which he spoke about that country, whose relations are so highly valued by us, and whose part to play in this great world conflict is of the greatest importance. But there are two points on which I think I can a little relieve my right hon. Friend's fears and anxieties about Turkey. First of all, he said they had allowed ships which carried the German troops to the Greek Islands to come through the Dardanelles. They had no right to stop them. While at peace, they had no right whatever to stop them. That would be a decision to quit their neutrality. Article 4 of the Convention reads as follows:In time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, merchant vessels under any flag or with any kind of cargo shall enjoy freedom of transit and navigation in the Straits.It is evident that a decision by Turkey to stop these vessels would have been of very great consequence to her. [Interruption:'] I said merchant vessels. I believe that one of them may have been used in the occupation of the Islands, but there were other vessels in possession of the Germans and Italians which may equally have been used for that purpose. At any rate, the question of the interpretation of their neutrality is a matter obviously of supreme consequence to Turkey. I do not think we should make a reproach upon that subject. Nor did my right hon. Friend do so. He merely put the case.
929 Then my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said that he had read how Turkey had made some agreement with the Iraki Government, and he asked about that. I always thought it was a most unfortunate and most tiresome thing when both Persia and Mesopotamia changed their names at about the same time to two names which were so much alike —Iran and Iraq. I have endeavoured myself in the domestic sphere to avoid such risks by naming the new Minister a Minister of State in order that there should be no confusion between him and the Minister without Portfolio. That unfortunate procedure on the part of these two neighbouring States has led my right hon. Friend into needless anxiety. I am very happy to be able to relieve him. It. appears that the arrangement is between Turkey and Persia, and that it relates to measures to strengthen the Turco-Persian borders, which we knew all about, which have been prepared for some time, and which are now put into force as from 4th May, 1941. I hope I have relieved my right hon. Friend's anxiety on that score, which indeed was entirely excusable owing to the unhappy similarity of the names of these two countries.
I must, however, say that I did not think the speech of my right hon. Friend was particularly helpful at a period of what he himself called discouragement and disheartenment. It was not the sort of speech which one would have expected from the great war leader of former days, who was accustomed to brush aside despondency and alarm, and push on irresistibly towards the final goal. It was the sort of speech with which, I imagine, the illustrious and venerable Marshal Petain might well have enlivened the closing days of M. Reynaud's Cabinet. But in one respect I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the note which he struck, because if anything could make it clearer that we ought to close our Debate by a Vote of Confidence, it is the kind of speech which he delivered, and the kind of speeches we have heard from some of the ablest and most eminent Members of the House. I think the Government were right to put down a Motion of confidence, because after our reverses and disappointments in the field, His Majesty's Government have a right to know where they stand with the House of Commons, 930 and where the House of Commons stands with the country. Still more is this knowledge important for the sake of foreign nations, especially nations which are balancing their policy at the present time, and who ought to be left in no doubt about the stability or otherwise of this resolved and obstinate war Government. Questions are asked, conversations take place in the Lobbies, paragraphs are written in the political columns of the newspapers, and before you know where you are, you hear in all the Embassies with which we are in relation queries, "Will the Government last? —Are they going to break up? —Will there be a change of administration and a change of policy? "
I think it is essential, considering the tremendous issues which are at stake, and, not to exaggerate, the frightful risks we are all going to run, and are running, that we should have certitude on these matters. In enemy countries they take a lively interest in our proceedings, and I flatter myself that high hopes are entertained that all will not go well with His Majesty's present advisers. The only way in which these doubts can be removed and these expectations disappointed is by a full Debate followed by a Division, and the Government are entitled to ask that such a Vote shall express itself in unmistakable terms. I see that one of the newspapers, which is described as a supporter of the Government, and which supports us by being the most active in keeping us up to the mark —like the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton),now relieved from all necessity of keeping himself up to the mark — has deplored the fact of this Motion of Confidence being proposed, because such a procedure might lead some Members to make speeches in favour of the Government, whereas it would be much more useful if the Debate consisted entirely of informative criticism. I am not one, and I should be the last, unduly to resent even unfair criticism, or even fair criticism, which is so much more searching. I have been a critic myself —I cannot at all see how I should have stood the test of being a mere spectator in the drama which is now passing. But there is a kind of criticism which is a little irritating. It is like that of a bystander who, when he sees a team of horses dragging a heavy wagon painfully up a hill, cuts a switch from the fence, and there are many 931 switches, and belabours them lustily. He may well be animated by a benevolent purpose, and who shall say the horses may not benefit from his efforts, and the wagon get quicker to the top of the hill?
I think that it would be a pity if this important and critical Debate, at this moment which my right hon. Friend describes as disheartening and discouraging, consisted solely of critical and condemnatory speeches, because, apart from the inartistic monotony, it would tend to give a distorted impression to many important and interested foreign observers who are not very well acquainted with our Parliamentary or political affairs. Therefore I ask the House for a Vote of Confidence. I hope that those, if such there be, who sincerely in their hearts believe that we are not doing our best and that they could do much better, I hope that they will carry their opinion to its logical and ultimate conclusion in the Lobby. Here I must point out, only for the benefit it is admitted of foreign countries, that they would run no risk in doing so. They are answerable only to their consciences and to their constituents. It is a free Parliament in a free country. We have succeeded in maintaining under difficulties which are unprecedented, and in dangers which, in some cases, might well be mortal, the whole process and reality of Parliamentary institutions. I am proud of this. It is one of the things for which we are fighting. Moreover, I cannot imagine that any man would want to bear, or consent to bear, the kind of burden which falls upon the principal Ministers in the Government, or upon the head of the Government in this terrible war, unless he were sustained, and continually sustained, by strong convinced support, not only of the House of Commons, but of the nation to whom the House of Commons is itself responsible.
It is very natural that the House should not be entirely satisfied with the recent turn of events in the Middle East, and that some Members should be acutely disappointed that we have not been able to defend Greece successfully against the Italian or German armies, and that we should have been unable to keep or extend our conquests in Libya. This sudden darkening of the landscape, after we had been cheered by a long succession 932 of victories over the Italians, is particularly painful. For myself, I must confess that I watched the "fate of Greece after her repulse of the Italian invader, with agony. The only relief I feel is that. everything in human power was done by us and that our honour as a nation is clear. If anything could add a pang to this emotion, it would be the knowledge we had of the approaching and impending outrage, with so little power to avert from this heroic and famous people a fate so hideous and so undeserved. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) and some others, have spoken of the importance in war of full and accurate Intelligence of the movements and intentions of the enemy. That is one of those glimpses of the obvious and of the obsolete with which his powerful speech abounded.
So far as the German invasion of the Balkans is concerned, we had long and ample forewarning of what was in prospect. It is three months since I stated publicly in a broadcast that the Bulgarian air-fields were being occupied with the knowledge of the Bulgarian Government by the advance parties and agents of the German air force. Talk of our diplomacy being idle —our diplomacy has never ceased for one moment to try to apprise countries of the dangers and perils that were coming on them, and urging them to common action by which their own security and safety could only be maintained. Every week one watched the remorseless movement of vast German forces through Hungary, through Rumania and into Bulgaria, or towards the Croatian frontier of Yugoslavia, until at last no fewer than 40 German divisions, five of which were armoured, were massed upon the scene. Hitler has told us that it was a crime in such circumstances on our part to go to the aid of the Greeks. I do not wish to enter into arguments with experts. This is not a kind of crime of which he is a good judge. When the first request for a Debate began to be made about a fortnight ago, I understood that our critics wished to argue that we were wrong to go to Greece, especially in view of what happened in Libya. Therefore, we put the question of aid to Greece in the forefront of this Motion of Confidence. However, apart perhaps from some echoes in 933 the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, no one, as far as 1 can make out, has challenged our action in this respect.
§ The Prime Minister
We cannot judge our aid to Greece without the consequential effect on the position in Libya, and on that my right hon. Friend made a charge, if my memory serves me aright. Looking back on the sad course of events, I can only feel, as the Prime Minister of New Zealand has so nobly declared, that if we had again to tread that stony path, even with the knowledge we possess today, I for one would do the same thing again, and that is the view of all my colleagues in the War Cabinet and on the Defence Committee, and I believe that view is almost universally sustained by the House. After all, military operations must be judged by the success which attends them rather than by the sentiments which inspired them, though these, too, may play their part in the verdict of history and in the survival of races. It remains to be seen whether the Italian dictator, in invading Greece, and the German dictator, in coming to his rescue and trampling them into a bloody welter, will in fact have gained an advantage or suffered a loss when the full story of the war is completed.
Even from a strictly military point of view the addition of the whole of the Balkan peoples to the number of ancient and independent States and Sovereignties which have now fallen under the Nazi yoke, and which have to be held down by force or by intrigue, may by no means prove a source of strength to the German Army. This vast machine, which was so improvidently allowed to build itself up again during the last eight years, has now spread from the Arctic to the Aegean and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. That is no source of strength, and, returning from the military to the political aspect, nothing can more surely debar the Germans from establishing and shaping the new Europe —and one will certainly emerge —than the fact that the German name and the German race have become and are becoming more universally and more intensely hated among all the people in all the lands than any name or any race of which history bears record 934 Some have compared Hitler's conquests with those of Napoleon. It may be that Spain and Russia will shortly furnish new chapters to that theme. It must be remembered, however, that Napoleon's armies carried with them the fierce, liberating and equalitarian winds of the French Revolution, whereas Hitler's Empire has nothing behind it but racial self-assertion, espionage, pillage, corruption and the Prussian boot. Yet Napoleon's Empire, with all its faults, and all its glories, fell and flashed away like snow at Easter till nothing remained but His Majesty's ship "Bellerophon," which awaited its suppliant refugee. So I derive confidence that the will-power of the British nation, expressing itself through a stern, steadfast, unyielding House of Commons, once again will perform its liberating function and humbly exercise and execute a high purpose among men, and I say this with the more confidence because we are no longer a small Island lost in the Northern mists, but around us gather in proud array all the free nations of the British Empire, and this time from across the Atlantic Ocean the might' Republic of the United States proclaims itself on our side, or at our side, or, at any rate, near our side.
I do not intend to-day to discuss the large, complicated questions of munitions or food production. On a future occasion, probably in Secret Session, the Minister of Supply will make a considerable statement to the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, who is so far-seeing now that we have lost his services, and who told us at the end of November, 1939, that we were comfortably winning the war, had the temerity yesterday to raise the subject of our admitted shortage of tanks. There is one very simple point about tanks, which I think he might have mentioned to us, in the years preceding the war when he was at the head of the War Office and had the opportunity of the highest technical advice. In the last war, tanks were built to go three or four miles an hour and to stand up to rifle or machine-gun bullets. In the interval the process of mechanical science had advanced so much that it became possible to make a tank which could go 15, 20 and 25 miles an hour and stand up to cannon fire. That was a great revolution, by which Hitler has profited. That is a 935 simple fact which was perfectly well known to the military and technical services three or four years before the war. It did not spring from German brains. It sprang from British brains, and from brains like those of General de Gaulle in France, and it has been exploited and turned to our grievous injury by the un-inventive but highly competent and imitative Germans. The British Tank Corps knew all about it and wrote it down, but apparently my right hon. Friend did not take it in —at any rate, he did not mention it to us in those simple terms, and, indeed, it may be that the point may not have struck him until now. It would have been a very valuable contribution to our pre-war preparations. My right hon. Friend played a worthy part in bringing in compulsory service.
§ The Prime Minister
I have often noticed a difference in the note taken by my Noble Friend on the occasions when he has been in and out of office.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not too sure that the change of note did not depend entirely on the amount of information my Noble Friend was able to receive. To return to the point, I was saying that my right hon. Friend played a worthy part in bringing in compulsory service. I should not have referred to this matter if he had not endeavoured to give the House a sort of idea of his super-prevision and super-efficiency and shown himself so aggressive when, I think, with all good will, he sometimes stands in need of some humility in regard to the past.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I think that what the right hon. Gentleman is doing in indulging in petty recriminations is quite unworthy of the great purpose that we have in common. I made no reproach whatever against the Government for any lack of tanks. I suggested, and I think the House concurred with me, that the same priority that has been given to air- 936 craft should now be given to tanks, because the Germans achieved their victory in Libya without air superiority. If I am responsible for the present tank position, I willingly accept, although I would never claim some part in the credit of the advances of General Wavell. I have never claimed that at all. The point is that my right hon. Friend has been in office for 20 months. I have been out of office for 16 months. During that period he has enjoyed unprecedented powers. With the abrogation of trade union regulations, with the full support of every part)', which I never enjoyed, and indeed some of those supporting him now were opposing me, in my own proposals, and to reproach one who has been out of office 16 months is irrelevant.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought my right hon. Friend rose to correct me on some point, and not to renew or elaborate the speech which he delivered yesterday.
§ The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friend must restrain himself. Let me tell my right hon. Friend that we are now making every month as many heavy tanks as there existed in the whole British Army at the time he left the War Office —and that we shall very soon, before the end of this year, be producing nearly double that number. This takes no account of the immense productive efforts in the United States. I only say this to him by way of reassuring him that the good work which he did, the foundations which he laid, have not been left to stand where they were when he went out of office. He must learn to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us."
My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made his usual criticisms about the composition and character of the Government, of the war control and of the War Cabinet, and the House is entitled to know, has a right to know, who are responsible for the conduct of the war. The War Cabinet consists of eight members, five of whom have no regular Departments, and three of whom represent the main organisms of the State, to wit. Foreign Affairs, Finance and Labour, which in their different ways come into every great question that has to be settled. That is the body which gives its 937 broad sanction to the main policy and conduct of the war. Under their authority, the Chiefs of Staff of the three Services sit each day together, and I, as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, convene them and preside over them when I think it necessary, inviting, when business requires it, the three Service Ministers. All large issues of military policy are brought before the Defence Committee, which has for several months consisted of the three Chiefs of Staff, the three Service Ministers and four members of the War Cabinet, namely, myself, the Lord Privy Seal, who has no Department, the Foreign Secretary and Lord Beaver-brook. This is the body, this is the machine; it works easily and flexibly at he present time, and I do not propose to make any changes in it until further advised.
My right hon. Friend spoke of the great importance of my being surrounded by people who would stand up to me and say, "No, No, No." Why, good gracious, has he no idea how strong the negative principle is in the constitution and working of the British war-making machine? The difficulty is not, I assure him, to have more brakes put on the wheels; the difficulty is to get more impetus and speed behind it. At one moment we are asked to emulate the Germans in their audacity and vigour, and the next moment the Prime Minister is to be assisted by being surrounded by a number of "No-men" to resist me at every point and prevent me from making anything in the nature of a speedy, rapid and, above all, positive constructive decision.
However, I must say that, in this whole business of Libya and Greece, I can assure the House that no violence has been done to expert military opinion, either in the Chiefs of Staff Committee at home or in the generals commanding in the field. All decisions have been taken unitedly and freely and in good will, in response to the hard pressure of events. I would make it clear, however, that, in certain circumstances or emergencies, the responsible political Minister representing the Government of the country would not hesitate to assume responsibility for decisions which might have to be taken, and I, personally, as head of the Government, obviously assume that responsibility in the most direct personal form. It follows, therefore, when all is said and done, that 938 I am the one whose head should be cut off if we do not win the war. I am very ready that this should be so, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) feelingly reminded us yesterday, most of the Members of the House would probably experience an even more unpleasant fate at the hands of the triumphant Hun.
I notice a tendency in some quarters, especially abroad, to talk about the Middle East as if we could afford to lose our position there and yet carry on the war to victory on the oceans and in the air. Stated as an academic and strategic fact, that may be true, but do not let anyone underrate the gravity of the issues which are being fought for in the Nile Valley. The loss of the Nile Valley and the Suez Canal and the loss of our position in the Mediterranean, as well as the loss of Malta, would be among the heaviest blows which we could sustain. We are determined to fight for them with all the resources of the British Empire, and we have every reason to believe that we shall be successful. General Wavell has under his orders at the present moment nearly 500,000 men. A continual flow of equipment has been in progress from this country during the last 10 months, and, now that the Italian resistance in Abyssinia, East Africa and the Somalilands is collapsing, a steady concentration Northwards of all these Forces is possible, and, indeed, it has been for many weeks rapidly proceeding; and General Smuts has ordered the splendid South African Army forward to the Mediterranean shores.
Warfare in the Western Desert or, indeed, in all the deserts which surround Egypt, can only be conducted by comparatively small numbers of highly equipped troops. Here, the fortunes of war are subject to violent oscillation, and mere numbers do not count. On the contrary, the movement in the desert of large numbers would, if things went wrong, lead only to disaster on a larger scale. That is what happened to the Italians. For many months last year a steady flow of Italian troops moved forward day by day from West to East along the coastal roads of Libya, in order to build up an army for the invasion of Egypt. In December those masses were ripe for the sickle; 180,000 men lay along the North African shore, from Benghazi to the Egyptian frontier. Once the head 939 of this force was chopped and broken, it was not physically possible for this great army to retreat. It had been built up bit by bit. It could not retreat all at once; the single coastal road could not carry it, and the transport available could not feed it on the move. The victory of Sidi-Barrani, as I told the House some months ago, settled the fate of the troops in Cyrenaica. They did not possess command of the sea, they were beaten in the air, and no course was open to them but to be pinned against the sea and destroyed in detail at Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi.
The same thing, with important modifications, might well have happened to us when the German armoured forces defeated, dispersed and largely destroyed our single armoured brigade which was guarding the advanced frontier of the Province of Cyrenaica. There are no exact accounts of what happened at Agedabia and Mechili. The generals have been taken prisoner through running undue risks in their personal movements, risks which they could run against the Italians, but not against the Germans. The remnants of the armoured brigade are now fighting in Tobruk. Events are moving so fast, people have so much to do and the intensity of the war is such, that there is not much time to be spared to dwell upon the past. But there are certain broad features which will interest the House. It may surprise the House to learn that the German armoured force was not much larger than our own. But tactical mistakes were committed and mischances occurred, and with very little fighting our armoured force became disorganised. However, the troops we had in Benghazi only amounted to a division, and this division, by a rapid retreat, gained the fortress of Tobruk in good order and unmolested, and there joined the large garrison. There, a month ago, it stood at bay, and there it stands at bay to-day.
The Germans, as we now know from the examination of prisoners, had no expectation of proceeding beyond Agedabia. They meant to engage our armoured troops and create a diversion to prevent the despatch of reinforcements to Greece, while they were bringing over larger forces from Italy and Sicily and building up their supplies and communications, but when they won their surprising success, they exploited it with that organised, 940 enterprising audacity which ranks so high in the military art. They pushed on into the blue —I might say into the yellow ochre —of the desert, profiting by their easy victory as they have done in so many countries, and for the morrow they took, in this case, little thought either what they should eat or what they should drink. They pushed on until they came up against Tobruk. There they met their prop, a hard and heavy prop, not the less important because, like all these desert operations, it was on a small scale. They pushed on until they came in contact also with the large forces which guard the frontiers of Egypt and which lie there securely based on the road, railway and sea communications. There, for the present moment, they stop.
I shall not attempt to carry the story further this afternoon. To do so would be foolish and might be harmful, but this I will say, that so long as the enemy have a superiority in armoured vehicles they will have an advantage in desert warfare, even though at the present time the air forces are about equal. But, as I said, this desert warfare must be conducted only by small forces. Thirty or forty thousand men is the most who can be supplied in the desert, and it is very doubtful whether even this number can be attained. For the invasion of Egypt, for an invasion in main force such as the Italians contemplated last autumn, enormous preparations would be required, great supplies would have to be built up and maintained, a pipeline might have to be made to carry an artificial river forward with the troops. We, on the other hand, lying back on our fertile delta, which incidentally is the worst ground in the world for armoured vehicles, and enjoying the command of the sea, confront the enemy with problems far more difficult, because on a far larger scale than any he has yet solved in Africa. All the more true is this while we defend, as we intend to do to the death and without thought of retirement, the valuable and highly offensive outposts of Crete and Tobruk. Crete has not yet been attacked, but Tobruk has already been the scene of a most stubborn and spirited defence by the Australian and British troops gathered within these widespread fortified lines, under the command of the Australian General Morshead. The strategic significance of Tobruk was obvious from the first, and anyone can see now how irresistibly it has imposed itself 941 as a magnet on the enemy. I nave gone into all this military detail, not in order to burden the House with it, but in order to give Members an indication of what happened, and why, and what were the various factors.
I have gone into all these details because I want to make it clear that we intend to fight with all our strength for the Nile Valley and its surrounding country and for the command of the Mediterranean. We have every reason to believe that our troops and resources will give a good account of themselves. Let there be no feather-headed or defeatist talk about cutting our losses in the Middle East. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport in that. But, as I said early in December, when our situation in Egypt was far more critical than it is now, it is a case of deeds, not words. We must allow the story to unfold. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), in a speech to which I listened with great interest, asked a very fair question: how was it that this very large number of Germans got across to Libya without our Intelligence or generals knowing about it? Perhaps they did know about it; or perhaps the numbers were not so very large, after all. It depends on what you call "very large." At any rate, our generals on the spot believed that no superior German force could advance as far across the desert towards Egypt, as soon or as effectively as they did; and, secondly, that if they did advance, they would not be able to nourish themselves. That was a mistake. But anyone who supposes that there will not be mistakes in war is very foolish. I draw a distinction between mistakes. There is the mistake which comes through daring, what I call a mistake towards the enemy in which you' must always sustain your commanders, by sea, land or air. There are mistakes from the safety-first principle, mistakes of turning away from the enemy; and they require a far more acid consideration.
In the first belief to which I have just referred our generals were proved wrong; the second has not been decided. It has not yet been seen how the forces that advance will fare in the desert fighting, with all its chances and hazards, which still lie at no great distance before us. I will allow the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield 942 to detain me a moment longer on military issues, because it illustrates some of the points in the Debate. He reminded us of Frederick the Great's maxim, that it was pardonable to be defeated but that it was not pardonable to be surprised. On the other hand, when your enemy has five or six times as large a regular army as you have, much more amply equipped, and a good deal stronger in the air and far stronger in tanks; and when he lies in the centre of the war scene, and can strikeout in any one, two or three different directions simultaneously, out of a choice of seven or eight, it is evident that your problems become very difficult. It is also evident, I think, that you would not solve your problem, as Frederick the Great's maxim and his remarks seem to suggest, by being prepared at every point to resist not only what is probable but what is possible. In such circumstances, upon which there is no need to enlarge, it is not possible to avoid repeated rebuffs and misfortunes, and these, of course, we shall very likely have to go through for quite a long time. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon-port, the hon. Member for Seaham and any others of our leading lights in the embryonic all-party Opposition to the Government are not likely to run short of opportunities where they will be able to point to our lack of foresight and to the failure of our Intelligence service, of which I will only say that it was thought to be the best in the world in the last war, and it is certainly not the worst in the world to-day.
Some have pointed to what has happened in Iraq as another instance of the failure of our Intelligence and our diplomacy. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), though in a perfectly friendly way, has inquired about that. We have been told that the Foreign Office never knows anything that is going on in the world, and that our organisation is quite unadapted to meet the present juncture. But we have known only too well what was going on in Iraq, and as long ago as last May, a year ago, the Foreign Office began to ask for troops to be sent there to guard the line of communications. We had not the troops. All that we could send had to go to the Nile Valley. In default of troops, it was very difficult to make head against the pronounced pro-Axis intrigues 943 of Rashid Ali, who eventually, after his removal from power at our instance, staged a coup d'état against the Regent and the lawful Government of the country. Obviously, his object was to have everything read' for the Germans as soon as they could reach Iraq according to programme. However, in this case the ill-informed, slothful, kid-gloved British Government, as it has no doubt become since it has been deprived of the abilities of some valuable Members, actually forestalled this plot. Three weeks ago strong British forces, which are continually being reinforced from India, were landed at Basra, and they assumed control of that highly important bridgehead in the East for which we shall, no doubt, have to fight hard and long.
§ The Prime Minister
Rashid Ali, having consented to the first stage of this action, was led into a more violent course. He attacked the British air cantonment at Habbaniyah, and for several days we were very anxious about the people there. We are very anxious about them even yet. They had, however, been reinforced beforehand. Air Forces from Egypt and Palestine were able to give powerful assistance, and I am glad to inform the House that yesterday the garrison sallied out and attacked the besiegers, with the result that they completely routed them and put them to flight. Twenty-six Iraki officers and 408 men were taken prisoners, and the total enemy casualties are estimated at 1,000. While this was going on, our Air Force attacked and largely destroyed the reinforcing convoy of lorries and ammunition which was on its way to the besiegers. Other operations are in progress, and I shall not predict their results. But we shall try to make headway against all our foes, wherever they present themselves and from whatever quarter they come. A combative spirit in all directions is essential. It may be that the Germans will arrive before we have crushed the revolt, in which case our task will become more difficult. It may be that the revolt went off at half-cock in consequence of our forestalling action in landing at Basra. I would, therefore, enjoin caution on some of our critics, 944 who may perhaps find that they have been premature in saying that we were too tardy, and too soon in saying that we were too late. We are not at war with Iraq; we are dealing with a military dictator who attempted to subvert the constitutional Government, and we intend to assist the Iraqis to get rid of him and get rid of the military dictatorship at the earliest possible moment.
I ask you to witness, Mr. Speaker, that I have never promised anything or offered anything but blood, tears, toil and sweat, to which I will now add our fair share of mistakes, shortcomings and disappointments and also that this may go on for a very long time, at the end of which I firmly believe —though it is not a promise or a guarantee, only a profession of faith —that there will be complete, absolute and final victory.
Now we come to the Battle of the Atlantic. It is a mistake to say that the Battle of the Atlantic is won. First of all, how is it won? It would be quite easy to reduce our losses at sea to vanishing point by the simple expedient of keeping our ships in harbour or to reduce them markedly by overloading them with precautions. The Admiralty, on whom the first burden rests, naturally measure their struggle by the ships which they bring safely into port, but that is not the test by which those responsible for the highest direction of the country have to be guided. Our test is the number of tons of imports brought into this island in a given quarter or a given year. At present we are maintaining great traffics, although with heavy losses. We try to meet these losses by building new ships, repairing damaged ships, by repairing them more speedily and by acceleration of the turn-round of our ships in our ports and in foreign ports. We have made great progress in these spheres since the beginning of the year, but there is much more to do in that field.
With the continued flow of assistance which has already been given to us by the United States, and promised to us, we can probably maintain our minimum essential traffic during 1941. As for 1942, we must look for an immense construction of merchant ships by the United States. This is already in full swing, and since I last mentioned this subject to the House a month ago, I have received assurances that the construction of merchant vessels 945 by the United States, added to our own large programme of new building and repair, should see us through the year of 1942. It may be that 1943, if ever we have to endure it as a year of war, will present easier problems. The United Suites patrol, announced by President Roosevelt, on which the American Navy and Air Force are already engaged, takes a very considerable part of the Atlantic Ocean, in a certain degree, off our hands, but we need a good deal more help, and I expect we shall get a good deal more help in a great many ways. In fact, it has been declared that we are to have all the help that is necessary, but here I speak with very great caution, for it is not for a British Minister to forecast, still less to appear to prescribe, the policy of the United States. So far in our relations with that great Republic, which began so well under the auspices of Lord Lothian, 1 do not think we have made any serious mistakes. Neither by boasting nor by begging have we offended them. When a mighty democracy of 130,000,000 gets on the move, one can only await the full deployment of these vast psychological manifestations and their translation into the physical field. Anyone can see Hitler's fear of the United States from the fact that he has not long ago declared war upon them.
In some quarters of the House, or at any rate among some Members, there is a very acute realisation of the gravity of our problems and of our dangers. I have never underrated them. I feel we are righting for life and survival from day to day and from hour to hour. But, believe me, Herr Hitler has his problems, too, and if we only remain united and strive our utmost to increase our exertions, and
|Division No. 17.]||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bernays, R. H.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Berry, Capt. Hon. J. S.|
|Adams, Captain S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Banfield, J. W.||Bevan, A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Barnes, A. J.||Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Bartlett, C. V.O.||Bird, Sir R. B.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Batey, J.||Blair, Sir R.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Baxter, A. Beverley||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Bossom, A. C.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Boulton, W. W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Boyce, H. Leslie|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Beechman, N. A.||Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Braithwaite, Major A, N. (Buckrose)||Beit, Sir A. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bellenger, F. J.||Brass, Capt. Sir W.|
|Assheton, R.||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Broad, F. A.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Benson, G.||Brooklebank, Sir C. E. R|
§ work like one great family, standing together and helping each other, as 5,000,000 families in Britain are doing today under the fire of the enemy, I cannot conceive how anyone can doubt that victory will crown the good cause we serve. Government and Parliament alike have to be worthy of the undaunted and unconquerable people who give us their trust and who give their country their all.
§ It is a year almost to a day since, in the crash of the disastrous Battle of France, His Majesty's present Administration was formed. Men of all parties, duly authorised by their parties, joined hands together to fight this business to the end. That was a dark hour, and little did we know what storms and perils lay before us, and little did Herr Hitler know, when in June, 1940, he received the total capitulation of France and when he expected to be master of all Europe in a few weeks and the world in a few years, that 10 months later, in May, 1941, he would be appealing to the much-tried German people to prepare themselves for the war of 1942. When I look back on the perils which have been overcome, upon the great mountain waves in which the gallant ship has driven, when I remember all that has gone wrong, and remember also all that has gone right, I feel sure we have no need to fear the tempest. Let it roar, and let it rage. We shall come through.
That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government in sending help to Greece and declares its confidence that our operations in the Middle East and in all other theatres of war will be pursued by the Government with the utmost vigour.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 447; Noes, 3.
|Brooke, H.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. Leith)||Fildes, Sir H.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fleming, Flight-Lieut. E. L.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Browns, Captain A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Fletcher, Comdr. R. T. H.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Foot, D. M.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)|
|Burghley, Lord||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Fraser, Capt. Sir Ian||Kimball, Major L.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Furness, S. N.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Fyfe, Major D. P. M.||Knox, Major-Genera! Sir A. W. F.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gates, Lieut. E. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.|
|Cary, R. A.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Latham, Sir P.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Lathan, G.|
|Channon, H.||Gledhill, G.||Law, R. K.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gluckstein, Captain L. H.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Leach, W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Goldie, N. B.||Leigh, Sir J.|
|Chater, D.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Grant-Ferris, Squadron-Leader R.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Granville, E. L.||Levy, T.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Epp'g)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Lewis, O.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Liddall, W. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Collindridge, F.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Lloyd, G W. (Ladywood)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.|
|Colville, Col. Rt. Hon. D J.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Conant, Capt. R. J. E.||Grimston, R. V.||Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard|
|Cook, Maj. Sir T. R. A. M. (N'flk, N.)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lytteiton, Capt. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cooke, J D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)||Mabane, W.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'rS.G's.)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. H. (Edin., W.)||Guest, Major Hn. O. (C'mb'w'l, N.W.)||McCallum, Major D.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||McCorquodale, Flight-Lt. Malcolm S.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Macdonald, G. (Inee)|
|Cox, Captain H. B. Trevor||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hammersley, S. S.||McKie, J. H.|
|Cross, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Maclay, Hon. John S. (Montrose)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Macnamara, Lt.-Col. J. R. J.|
|Daggar, G.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Magnay, T.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Heilgers, Capt. F. F. A.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Maitland, Sir A.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery),||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Mander, G. Ie M.|
|De la Bère, R.D||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Danman, Hon. R. D.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Marshall, F.|
|Denville, Alfred||Henage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Martin, J. H.|
|Dobbie, W.||Hepworth, J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Medlicott, Major Frank|
|Doland, G. F.||Hewlett, T. H.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Hicks, E. G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G.||Higgs, W. F.||Milner, Major J.|
|Drewe, C.||Hill, Dr. A. V. (Cambridge U.)||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Micheson. Sir G. G.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Holdsworth, H.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Dugdale, Captain John (W. Bromwich)||Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Montague, F.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Holmes, J. S.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Cl. R. Hn. J. T. C.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)|
|Dunn, E.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Ede, J. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (H'ckn'y, N.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Edmendson, Major Sir J.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Hughes, Moelwyn||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Mort, D. L.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Hunter, T.||Muff, G.|
|Elliston, Captain G. S.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Munro, P.|
|Emery, J. F.||Isaacs, G. A.||Nail, Sir J|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Jackson, W. F.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)|
|Errington, Squzdron-Leader E.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Erskine, Lord||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||Jewson, P. W.||Nunn, W.|
|Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph||John, W.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Johnston, Rt. Hn. T (Stl'g C'km'n)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Jones, A.-C. (Shipley)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Owen, major G.||Salt, E. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Paling W||Samuel, M. R. A.||Tinker, J.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Titchfield, Lt.-col. Marquess of|
|Parker, J.||Savory, Professor D. L.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Peake, O.||Schuster, Sir G. E||Touche, G. C.|
|Pearson, A.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Peat, C. U.||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h[...] Selk'k)||Train, Sir J.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Selley, H. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Petherick, M.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Pilkington, Captain R. A.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Walker, J.|
|Piugge, Capt. L. F.||Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Silkin, L.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Poole, Captain C. C.||Simmonds, O. E.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Power, Sir J. C.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Price, M. P.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Profumo, J. O.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Purbrick, R.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Pym, L. R.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Weston, W. Garfield|
|Radford, E. A.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Westwood, J.|
|Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Smithers, Sir W.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, £.)|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wickham, Ll.-Col £. T. R.|
|Rathbone, Beatrice F. (Bodmin)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Southby, Comd. Sir A. R. J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Fluid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)||Stewart, W. Joseph (H'gton-le-Spring)||Willink, H. V.|
|Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Windsor, W.|
|Raid, W. Allan (Derby)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Wilmot, John|
|Richards, R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rickards, G. W.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W. J.|
|Ridley, G.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Riley, B.||Summers, G. S.||Woodburn, A.|
|Ritson, J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Woodburn, A.|
|Roberts, W.||Sutcliffe, H.||Woolley, W. E.|
|Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Sykes, Maj.-Gon. Rt. Kn. Sir Frederick||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Robertson, Rt. Hn. Sir M. A. (M ham)||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Tate, Mavis C.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Ross, LI.-Col. Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Taylor, Capt. C. S. (Eastbourne)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Mr. James Stuart and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Co!. Sir E. A.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Salmon, Sir I.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Gallacher, W.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Pritt, D. N.||Mr. Maxton and McGovern.|
That this House aproves the policy of His Majesty's Government in sending help to Greece and declares its confidence that our operations in the* Middle East and in all other theatres of war will be pursued by the Government with^ the utmost vigour.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed
§ Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Mr. James Stuart.]