§ Captain Pilkington (Widnes)
(in Army uniform): I beg to move:That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.It is an alarming responsibility and a great honour to move the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech of His Majesty the King, but to-day we meet alarm with action, and I would, in passing, merely paraphrase a statement of a great French leader in the last war and say, "My left may be critical, my right may be apprehensive, my centre may feel most peculiar, but I hope to go straight on." It is an honour not, of course, to the individual, but to those whom he represents. I can in these days see my constituents but seldom; yet they have been asked to bear with me for still another year without consultation but, I hope, with approbation. They, tirelessly and relentlessly, are bending all their energies towards helping to build up that great war machine with which we shall crush the evil tyrant who has cast Europe into such a bath of blood and hate.
It is an honour, too, to the Service whose uniform I wear. To-day it is the Navy and the Air Force who are bearing the brunt of the fighting and who are 8 harassing the enemy on land and sea. But the Army is surely and steadily preparing for whatever call may be made upon it, at whatever time that call may come, whether it be soon or late. That Army has already shown something of what it can endure in Norway, in Belgium and in Greece. It has shown something of what it can accomplish in Abyssinia, in Libya, in Syria, Iraq and Iran, and that Army will, let us have faith, one day be the nucleus of that world force which we must create to safeguard the civilisation that we can and will build up when we have won this war.
The Gracious Speech is short and clear. Each new devilry of the enemy against those whom he has enslaved, each new treachery against those whose hands he once clasped in false friendship—all stiffen our determination to fight till victory. There, in four words, is our war aim, "To fight till victory."
With us and our Empire of the great Dominions and of all those other nations and peoples steadily growing to full partnership in the Commonwealth ideal, are our Allies and friends, all of whom have either felt the stab, or seen the glitter, of the Nazi knives in the darkness—Russia, stubbornly defending herself, whose way of life has shown a strength and resilience which may well make her one of the architects of the future; America, sending supplies and safeguarding the sea routes; 10 States in Europe, now overrun, but whose representatives tread with us the broad path onwards; and Turkey and Egypt in the Mediterranean, bulwarks of freedom; and in the Middle East Arabs, Jews and Persians now ranged with us against the Nazi aggressors, and in the Far East China, under her gallant leader, now in the tenth year of her resistance against the Japanese aggressor. Here, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has called them, is a goodly company, yet not such a goodly company as they were when he first called upon them to unite. But here now, at any rate, are the nations who are earning their right to a place in the new world. Here now are the nations earning; their right to help mould the future. Here now are the nations which may one day look back to the Atlantic Charter as we in this country look back to the great Charter and see in it a definition of these rights and prin- 9 ciples by which all nations shall come to live in peace and plenty together.
The Gracious Speech speaks of the resolution of the people of this Island. That resolution was shown in the black days of 1940; it was shown in the grey days of 1941; and it will be shown in 1942. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bright-side Division of Sheffield (Mr. Marshall), who is, if I may say so, so very well qualified to do it, will have something to say about the great efforts which are being made on the home front. Our country has been governed now for some 10 years by a National Government. There has been at the same time, if I may be permitted so to describe it, an eager Opposition, but to-day we are all united behind a new National Government, which, I hope, in the pages of history will come to be known as the Grand National Government. That Government is presided over by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He was welcomed on all sides in those dark days when he first took office, days when the future seemed to say to us, as Chesterton makes the vision say to King Alfred:I tell you nought for your comfort,Yea, nought for your desire.Only that the skies grow darker yet,And the seas rise higher.For one and a half years now my right hon. Friend has led us, not, I think, unsuccessfully. But to-day there is heard a certain criticism of the Government, about which I desire to say a word. Criticism can be either destructive of something which should be done away with or constructive of something which should be put into effect, but there is a certain element in some of the criticism which is heard to-day—more, I think, outside this House than in it—which has a personal enmity and a soured bitterness of expression which augurs ill for the future. That bitterness was felt after the last war, and it may be that it will be felt again after this war. Need we have that type of criticism? To some, I know, it is useless to appeal. Such criticism is the vinegar by which they live. They will always misuse their right of free speaking and of free writing. I am not asking for less criticism, but I am asking for a greater spirit of magnanimity behind some of it. Of course, things will often go wrong. But surely, it is best to try and right them either by direct approach or by using our democratic system, by which anyone can contact his Member of Parliament, who has 10 direct access to the Minister at the top. For myself—and I am certain I speak for most people—I have complete confidence in my right hon. Friend, not only in him personally, but also in those people whom, and those methods which, it is his right and his responsibility to choose and use in the winning of the war. Surely, it is better for us to try and help to oil and grease the wheels of the great war machine than to attack its steersmen.
We are in a war, the greatest in all history, in which not only nations but ideologies are struggling for survival. The Third French Republic has gone down. The Third Reich stands clasped in a death grip with the Third Internationale. What has been called the Third British Empire has stood in the breach now for over two years. We have survived great dangers, but those dangers may return in a more awful form, and we can destroy those dangers only by the most intense and prolonged co-operation by everybody. Since modern history began, there have been some six great wars in which across the Channel tyrants have arisen who have enslaved the people and have sought to achieve by force a unity which to be lasting can only be achieved by agreement. A long line of Englishmen have defied their efforts. A Drake, a Marlborough, a Chatham, a Pitt, a Lloyd George—perhaps I should have said a long line of Britons—a Churchill. There is our leader, and we will follow him whole-heartedly to victory.
§ Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)
In seconding the Motion so ably and eloquently moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Widnes (Captain Pilkington), I am deeply conscious of the great honour done to me by the invitation. It is no light task to undertake, but I think I know the House sufficiently well to know that any shortcomings will be forgiven and any remarks I make will not fall on unsympathetic ears. It is also a tribute to the City of Sheffield, a Division of which I have the honour to represent in the House, a city noted for its craftsmanship and skill, whose peace products have found their way into nearly every home, not only in this land but in many other lands, and whose war products have fortified and strengthened our resources in many crises.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key), in seconding the 11 Motion in November, 1940, spoke in glowing and eloquent terms of London, in which he had spent many years of administrative toil. He spoke of the destruction of its humble homes and the ruin of its ancient monuments under the violence of air attack. He told us also of the indomitable will of its people rising to a steely resolve to go through with it, in spite of all frightfulness. The City of Sheffield has also had its taste of totalitarian warfare, and has, like many British cities, passed through the ordeal of fire. The personnel of its Civil Defence services have been tested and have risen magnificently to their task. Under the hail of enemy bombing they manned their posts and did their job, and wrote a worthy and honourable page in our local history. We can say of them that their little cup of life was also taken out of the nation's traditional strength and courage, and along with the Civil Defence services of the country, they take an honourable place. I would like here to thank the Prime Minister for visiting our city last Saturday. It was a short visit, but I think it was long enough for him to have seen the fine spirit which animates all classes of its citizens and to have seen something of its industry, and I am sure that both employers and employed will desire me to convey to the right hon. Gentleman, in response to his appeal, this message— that from the city's mighty furnaces, forges and presses will come and continue an increasing volume of the weapons of victory.
The call for increased production is stressed in the Gracious Speech, and I feel sure that appeal will not fall on deaf ears. "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job" is still the clarion call to industry. In my position as the chairman of a great industrial organisation, I can speak with some intimacy of the spirit and determination of its members employed in many industries—steel, chemicals, engineering, gas, and many others. In their peace-time struggles, they will fight with stubbornness and tenacity born out of a righteous conviction of a just cause. Happily, there has been less cause during the last quarter of a century to exercise those qualities for such purposes, a fact in which we all rejoice. Industrial relations have undergone a remarkable improvement, due no doubt to the widespread recognition of the enlightened principle of 12 collective bargaining and mutual tolerance. But we should make a great mistake if we imagined that those admirable characteristics have become moribund. They are still there, part of a great tradition, and are stiffening and fortifying us in the stupendous task of production which lies before us to-day.
The trade unions of this country cannot afford to harbour illusions about the issues of this war. They know instinctively what the new European order would mean to them. The laborious progress of a century would topple over in a night to irretrievable ruin. I come into close contact with men who work in many industries, and I know they have done their job of work without fuss or bother, although many of them work in extremely vulnerable situations. The House will understand if I say there is one gasometer somewhere in England which has just had its two hundredth and fifty-sixth patch put on it. They carry on, and I know that to-day I can pledge to our common purpose the loyalty and devotion of 500,000 members, 100,000 of whom are women. All I have said about them can be said, I know, about the organised workers of the country generally. They will respond to the call, and will not be satisfied until they see coming from our factories the full flow of the weapons of victory.
I would like here to say a word about production generally, and what I have to say is in no critical or controversial spirit, but rather with a desire to understand. In this aspect of our struggle, no statesman has been called upon to face such gigantic tasks, and it speaks volumes for our adaptability that so much has been achieved. It has been said that industry is being denuded of its core of skilled men and we have reached a point in that process in which production must suffer. It is the function of the Minister of Labour to strike a balance, and I do not envy him his task. He is between two powerful forces, but I feel sure that the great preponderance of opinion, not only in the House but in the country, would be that he is doing his job well. The training of women to take the place of men in our factories is not an- easy job, but it is being done, and the results are with us. My right hon. Friend's unremitting labour in this avenue is certainly bearing fruit, I have here a schedule of 50 different occupations which women are doing in the 13 chemical industry, most of which have needed some degree of training. That is only one industry. I have reason to think the same progress is being made in many others. For instance, there are to-day four times as many women in the engineering industry as there were two years ago, and that really represents a great amount of training. One bears that in mind and considers that the problems in that great industry to-day are far more intricate and difficult than they were during the late war. I think that is a very fair achievement. There is not so much repetition work compared with the total output. The nature of weapons of war is far more intricate, and they need a great deal of individual skill and supervision, but, in spite of this, women have risen magnificently to their task and are rendering the country wonderful service.
It has also been said that there have been bungling, ineptitude, mistakes, waste of man-power and waste of time. I will not argue a great deal about that —there may be same degree of truth in it—but such defects must be placed against a mass of solid achievement. Before I came to the House I spent 30 years in a famous steel and engineering factory, and I know the difficulties, even in peace-time, of synchronising and balancing the various industrial processes in order to secure a continuous output. It is a question of careful organisation based upon long industrial experience. The idea that you can put a new factory down, fill it with new and strange labour, a considerable portion of it untrained, its supervisory staff probably suffering from the same defects, and expect it to run smoothly and efficiently to give a 100 per cent. output is simply asking for the impossible. It will have many defects. Its personnel will make many mistakes before you can secure a full and even flow from it. Multiply that on a scale to secure the industrial expansion that the country has had to face during the last two years, and it gives some idea of the problem confronting the production Minister. If the levers of industrial control were in the hands of a group of archangels, it would still be the same, and neither hustling, bullying nor frantic appeals could alter it. I say this because I think we should try to understand what a vast problem faces us. It is perhaps the biggest task 14 that we have ever essayed in our history. It can only be carried through by careful organisation, tolerance, co-operation, good will and helpful constructive criticism. It should be said also in justification of men who have had to endure enemy attack, in many cases bad ventilation and the difficulties of black-out, and who through it all have reached the finest point of engineering practice.
The decision to appoint a National Advisory Committee, with its counterpart in every region of the country, was, I think, very wise. These committees are composed of employers' and workers' representatives, who together should be able to bring a rich and valuable experience to the help of those in control. We learn many lessons during the stress and turmoil of war, and this is one which could be usefully carried on to the period of reconstruction after the war. Our eyes inevitably reach forward to that period, and I am pleased that it is mentioned in the Gracious Speech. It was also the subject of an inspiring article in the Atlantic Charter. The Minister without Portfolio is charged with studying and preparing for that time. It is vital and precious work. The change-over from war to peace will demand vast social and economic planning. No mere doling out of unemployment surpluses will meet that position. The whole resources of the State will need to be employed to counteract the aftermath of war, and it is good to know that even now the Minister is preparing for it. The task will be gigantic, and at the same time it will present the greatest opportunity that has ever happened in our history. It is no less than the creation of a fairer Britain, the rebuilding of its destroyed cities, the planning of our industries and the preservation of all that we cherish. Our statesmen must rise to the level of this conception of the service that they have to render to the people whom they have the privilege of serving. Nothing less is good enough for those who have suffered the agonies of totalitarian fright-fulness and who have displayed qualities of the highest moral and physical courage.
If I have confined myself to the home front, it is not because I am oblivious of the terrific events that are taking place in Russia. I am not a military strategist, nor have I the knowledge to enable me to express an opinion whether the help that 15 we are giving is adequate or in the best form. I leave that to those who know the facts. But, in common with my countrymen, I look with wondering admiration at the heroic achievements of her Armies and the inspired resistance of her people. Greece was finally beaten down by the brute mass of the Germans, but in her defeat she wrote an undying page in history. A great divine once said of Greece that it was there that liberty first built her mountain throne, first called the seas her own and threw across them a proud defiance to the banded myriads of despotism. The modern Greek, by the glorious defence of his country, has bridged the gulf of 2,000 years and linked himself to his ancient glories. It has been the destiny of this country to pursue many great and mighty causes. It is now once more in the vanguard, fighting, with its Allies to preserve its way of life and to keep the flame of freedom burning in the hearts of the oppressed nations. Its spirit has been fused into a marvellous unity under the inspiring example of a great leader. The words of Milton, written nearly 300 years ago, seem to have been designed for this struggle when he said:Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle, mewing her mighty youth and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam.I know that no words of mine can fortify such a nation in its high resolve, but, like millions of my countrymen, I can feel my spirit uplifted by the valour and courage of a vast and noble epic.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
The House always looks forward with pleasant expectation to the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Address, and I am sure that I am voicing the common opinion of all who are here to-day in saying that we have been by no means disappointed. Both the hon. and gallant Member for Widnes (Captain Pilkington) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) have fully lived up to the highest traditions which we associate with the tasks they have been called upon to perform, and, if I may, quite humbly do so, I offer my congratulations to both of them upon their speeches. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Address, in 16 those clear and ringing tones which the House delighted to hear, made a comprehensive speech on the foreign outlook, and his confident words accorded well with the spirit of this Assembly. My hon. Friend from Sheffield, a great citizen of a great city, gave proof of his knowledge and understanding not only of the activities, but of the hearts and minds of the people whom he represents, and when he pledged the workers of his city and the other cities of this country we felt that in him we had a responsible spokesman whose pledges they would honour when the time came.
The opening of a new Session marks another milestone in our history. A year ago we in these Islands were bearing the main brunt of the whole fury of Nazidom. The threat to our lifeline in the Atlantic was most menacing. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith)—I am sorry that it is owing to his illness that I have to take his place to-day—spoke then, he devoted a considerable part of his speech to events in the Western Mediterranean. To-day the war has moved Eastwards. The threat to our Atlantic lifeline, though not past, is greatly reduced, thanks to the splendid valour of our Navy and to the exploits and assistance of the Americans through the lead of their great President and with the accord of their people. The main theatre of the war to-day is in Russia. The Gracious Speech referred in particular to Turkey. We have none of us forgotten Syria, Iraq and Iran, and only last Monday, in the City, the Prime Minister warned us of what might be going to happen shortly in the Far East.
In these entirely changed circumstances our people, with their sound instinct for essentials, desire assurances on certain points. I shall only outline them in the course of the brief remarks that I propose to make, but they will be, no doubt, developed at length in the speeches which will be delivered from all sides of the House. The first question is, Are we doing everything in our power, I will not say to help our Russian Allies, but to help to win the Battle of Russia? That battle may well prove to be the turning point of the war, not the Russian war, but our war, the war between civilisation and barbarism. To the gallant resistance of our Russian Allies the Gracious Speech paid a tribute which will be echoed by 17 every brave heart in this country. It may only be by the dedication of all that we can give, our energy, our resources and our determination, to the assistance of that Russian effort that victory may be achieved. Neither I nor any of the great bulk of the people of this country would be so foolish as to attempt to instruct the Prime Minister on the right strategy of our contribution, but I adjure him not to under-estimate the effort our people are willing and determined to make to achieve the end we all desire.
In the second place, there is widespread concern regarding the waste of productive power. The extent of this waste is in dispute. I have even heard it suggested by some people that some of it is deliberate. What cannot be in dispute is that whatever be its cause and extent, it is everybody's business to get rid of it. The difficulties are admittedly immense. The conversion of a nation at peace to a nation at war demands constant readjustments. If the price of liberty be eternal vigilance, the secret of industrial efficiency is inspired organisation. The Germans are apt to boast that they have a monopoly of this quality, and it is up to the people of this country to prove that in this matter of organisation, as in others, we are the match and the superior of our German foe. But the people of this country look to the Prime Minister not to allow any considerations to prevent him from clearing out from control in every sphere any obstacle of inefficiency to the attainment of complete 100 per cent. production.
In the third place, there' is concern that during the war everyone should have a square deal. When I say "everyone," I mean men and women, civilians and soldiers, their families and their dependants. We had a Debate in this House at the end of last Session in which strong opinions were expressed on all sides. I have no doubt that those questions will be pressed further in the course of the present Session, and I hope that the Members of the Government will pay heed to the wishes of the House in this matter, because I feel certain that the House represents the views of the people among all parties and in all parts of the British Isles.
There are one or two other matters of importance to which I propose to make a brief reference. I notice with satisfac- 18 tion the reference to Ethiopia in the Gracious Speech. It is, indeed, a subject of congratulation that whereas in the war up till now so many nations have been enslaved, in this instance at any rate freedom has been recovered. I hope that we may read into that paragraph an intention on the part of our Government that the present unsatisfactory interregnum may be speedily brought to an end. This is the first restoration of the war, and the eyes of the world are on us to see how thoroughly it is carried through.
In the middle of the last war the House of Commons made preparations for the election of its successor. The franchise was extended, there was a measure of redistribution, a new register was prepared, and immediately after the Armistice an appeal was made to the country. It is generally recognised to-day that that appeal was premature, but it would be equally contrary to sound policy if on this occasion the appeal were too long delayed. This is an ageing House of Commons, and it is even, in a sense, becoming a co-opted House. It must not be charged with the task of bringing into existence the new world which the country so passionately desires. This is a matter, therefore, to which I suggest we shall shortly have to direct our attention.
But that, of course, must not be allowed in any way to interfere with our main preoccupation, which I would define as mobilising against Hitler the whole of the civilised world. We are already far advanced along that road. We have already fighting with us all our self-governing Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We have our gallant Indian troops, supported, I am convinced, by the sympathy of the great Indian peoples, despite the unhappy political differences, which we all hope that a wise statesmanship on both sides will soon remove. Beyond that we have our great Ally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the gallant people of Greece and the other free forces in occupied Europe. Then there is the growing association of the United States of America and of the other Americas, and not least the countless millions of China. Confronted with this world in arms, inspired by the noble traditions of our past, even Hitler's gigantic armies cannot hope to escape overwhelming defeat.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I consider it a great privilege to be allowed to associate myself with the congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Reply to the Gracious Speech. Those congratulations are no mere formality. I have always thought that it is the greatest ordeal that any Member has to face to move and second the Reply to the Address. Both speakers to-day more than rose to the occasion. Their speeches were eloquent, full of wit and of wise counsel to the House. It is rather fitting that the Reply should be moved by an officer and Service Member and seconded by a civilian, for in this great struggle success depends not only on our soldiers, sailors and airmen, but on the scale and power of our industries. In technique and style their speeches were very different, but they were both equal to the occasion.
The Gracious Speech, which we heard to-day according to ancient tradition, which it is a great thing to maintain in war-time, has one outstanding quality— brevity. It is very short and to the point and free from controversial matters. There is even no indication of legislation. I assume that many Bills will have to be brought in, but the Gracious Speech shows our determination to concentrate on the one supreme task of winning the war and to make everything subsidiary to it. Both the mover and seconder suggested that there would be plenty to debate. I understand that the Government, very rightly, are to allot several days to the Debate on the Address, so that more or less every Member will have a chance of having his say.
I agree with the seconder that there is a right kind of criticism and a wrong kind. I hope that we shall have helpful and constructive criticism and not mere fault-finding. After all, this House is elected to examine the work of the Executive, and it is right that the public through their Members should be able to state their grievances and criticise the inevitable faults. These exist even in totalitarian States and are not revealed, but here we can thrash them out in a free Parliament and demand replies from Ministers about them. I am all for criticism. On the other hand, I agree with both the mover and seconder that we should cot forget our great achievements. A little over 12 months ago we 20 seemed to be down and out. I happen to be intimately associated, through a committee of which I am a member, with the work of the Navy. The Navy has done magnificent things. The Axis Powers thought that they could blockade us and make us into a beleaguered city and starve us out. They have singularly failed, and, although we are grateful for the help of the United States which is now forthcoming, we must not forget the great achievements of our sailors both in the Navy and in the Mercantile Marine. We were told that the Mediterranean would be an Italian lake. We are not going to say it is a British lake, but we can at any rate claim that Britannia rules the Mediterranean waves. The Navy's achievements there will go down in history and will rank with any of the great battles in naval warfare.
The same applies to the Air Force. Goering thought that he could drive us out of the skies. It was a great thing when the Prime Minister was able to say to the world at the Mansion House the other day that our Air Force can now claim equality with the German air force. That is a great achievement, and it is a credit to the Air Ministry and to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Of course, there is criticism, and I have no doubt that it will spur industry on to even greater efforts, but it is a great thing to have achieved that in the last 12 months. As to the Army, as the mover honestly said, its achievements during the last 12 months have been perhaps less spectacular, but it is a great thing to have carried great armies round Africa to North Africa and Asia, fully equipped. That achievement alone is something to be proud of. We all agree that there is plenty of room for improvement in production. There will be, I understand, during the next few days a full-dress Debate on production. I say to the Government that they must not be unduly sensitive to criticism, whether it comes from the Select Committee or from any Member of the House of Commons. After all, criticism is the very life-blood of democracy. I think that we can claim already that some of it has brought results. It is estimated that the Nazis have under their control something like 25,000,000 of labour power. The evidence of this war shows that, however brave our men and however magnificently they are led, they cannot win through if they are not properly equipped. 21 Lord Beaverbrook said at Manchester the other day that, notwithstanding a great increase in output, we have not done nearly enough. We have to meet not merely the call of our own Services, but the resounding appeal from the Russian Government. The Russians are fighting like heroes, but they must look to us for sufficient equipment to help them in their magnificent resistance.
I am glad that the seconder of the Address paid special tribute to the women. They are going to make up the leeway for us. I saw the other day that Sir Walter Citrine, who has just returned from Russia, paid a special tribute to what the women are doing in Russia. He noted one munition factory where 60 per cent. of the workers were women. I can take him to munition factories where 85 per cent. of the workers are women. They do not ask for any special privileges. All they claim is equality. I warn the Government that the women will be very vocal in our Debates during the next few days. They have their grievances, but with good-will they can be put right.
I do not propose to intervene longer between the House and the Prime Minister. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman before I sit down that he has the complete confidence of the country and that his stock never stood higher. The common people swear by him, though they still claim the right, it is true, to swear at his Government. I think the British people, if they are in a healthy condition, do like to grouse, but that grousing does not mean that the right hon. Gentleman has, in any way, lost the confidence of the country. I believe that in 12 months' time this Session, which we are opening, may be found to have been at least the prelude to victory. If the Prime Minister continues to give us a bold and strong lead, I can assure him of success.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
Before I come to the direct topic of the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, I have a few announcements on Business which I ought to make to the House. The general Debate on the Address will be continued upon the next Sitting Day and upon succeeding Sitting Days. I think I should at this point refer to certain Bills which are to be presented shortly, though we did not think it appropriate to bring these Bills into the general scope of the 22 Royal Speech: for example, the Town Planning Bill, the Education (Scotland) Bill, and the Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Bill. The Town Planning Bill contains some of the first results of the preparatory work for physical reconstruction which has been going forward under the supervision of Lord Reith. The Education (Scotland) Bill is required in order that full effect may be given in Scotland to the Government scheme for the nutrition of children by maintaining under wartime conditions a high standard among school children and expanding as rapidly as possible the provision of meals and milk in schools. The Restoration of Pre-War Trade Practices Bill will shortly be introduced. The House will recollect that a pledge was given by the Government to the effect that these agreements would be restored after the war. In similar circumstances, an Act of this kind was passed in 1910, after the end of the last war. The Bill has been prepared in consultation with the National Joint Consultative Committee consisting of representatives of the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress. We shall also have to pass the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill before the end of the year. We propose at a very early date to move the Motion for the re-appointment of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. Any other necessary business will be brought forward as and when required.
I must also inform the House of the Government's intention to propose a Motion at the next Sitting Day giving precedence to Government business, to provide for the presentation of Government Bills only and to stop the ballot for Private Members' Bills. In this we shall be following the precedents of the last two Sessions and of the last war. I trust that these proposals will receive the general assent of the House. It will be generally agreed that in present circumstances our deliberations must be concentrated upon those matters or Measures which are vital to the effective prosecution of the war. So far as opportunities for debates are concerned Members will recall that last Session there were many opportunities for raising matters of general interest. We hope that it will be possible to provide similar facilities during the coming Session. It is the desire of the Government that they should be continued at any rate until such time as 23 Government business must occupy the whole attention of the House. I think it should be possible to arrange a reasonably early Debate upon the question of Defence Regulation 18B. That is a matter about which a good many Members are concerned.
I have only one thing more to mention on Business. I trust there will be agreement to adjourn the Debate on the Address at an early hour so that we can go into Secret Session for the purpose of considering a Motion relating to the Sittings of the House. I do not after further consideration think it advisable to move that in Public Session and it is essential that we should get it to-day.
I have heard many Debates upon occasions like this in the 40 years off and on —mostly on—during which I have been in Parliament, and I know well that it is a ceremonial occasion on which the foils have the buttons securely fastened to their tips and complimentary exchanges are made. I think there was a note of warm kindliness in both the speeches which came from the leaders representative of the two parties opposite. I am particularly grateful for the appreciation and encouragement which those two right hon. Gentlemen gave to His Majesty's Government. We have had two speeches from the Mover and Seconder of the Address which everyone will feel were adequate to the occasion—very excellent speeches from a Member who has in this war already gained the Military Cross and also from my hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Marshall) who in Sheffield has not been far from the fighting front.
It has been aptly remarked that Ministers, and indeed all other public men, when they make speeches at the present time have always to bear in mind three audiences: first, our own fellow countrymen; secondly, our friends abroad; and thirdly, the enemy. This naturally makes the task of public speaking very difficult. Yet under our Parliamentary and democratic system, Government Ministers are frequently called upon to make speeches in both Houses of Parliament and in the country at war savings meetings and the like. We have over 80 Ministers in the Government and they cannot all be equally informed about the general course of affairs and military operations. 24 It is not possible for me with my other duties to read all the Ministerial speeches, and of course many of our Ministers are natural orators and speak entirely extemporaneously and on the spur of the moment. In those circumstances, as anyone can see, one may easily find discrepancies arising. These discrepancies when they occur immediately attract the attention of our faithful and vigilant Press and are paraded as examples of ministerial discordance, or at any rate lack of concert. I hope therefore that those who feel that their war work lies especially in the direction of criticism will make allowances for these difficulties inherent in the situation. I hope they will also remember that no sensible person in war-time makes speeches because he wants to. He makes them because he has to and to no one does this apply more than to the Prime Minister. I have repeatedly called attention to the disadvantages of my having to give too frequent reviews of the war, and I have always declined to be drawn into discussions about strategy or tactics so far as they may have relation to current or pending events. The House has shown me great indulgence in this matter, but I feel that I should be excused to-day from entering upon discussion of the war position, to which I referred in a speech I made only a month ago. Most of all shall I refrain from making any prediction about the future. It is a month ago that I remarked upon the long silence of Herr Hitler, a remark which apparently provoked him to make a speech in which he told the German people that Moscow would fall in a few days. That shows, as everyone I am sure will agree, how much wiser he would have been to go on keeping his mouth shut.
Even I, in my modest way, run great risks of giving dissatisfaction when I speak. Some people are very hard to please. It is impossible to please everybody; whatever you say, some fault can be found. If, for instance, I were to pay —as I should like to pay—strong tribute to the splendid heroism, and undaunted gallantry of our Russian Allies, I should immediately be answered, "Let us have deeds, not words." If I were to omit all reference to Russian bravery, it would, on the other hand, be said, "Not even one kindly word was spoken to cheer on these heroes." If I were to describe the help in detail which we are giving to 25 Russia, that might be very interesting but it would give away to the enemy secrets which are Russian as well as British. Again, if I gave an appreciation of the fighting on the Russian front, I should get hit either way. If my account were favourable, I should be accused of fostering complacency. On the other hand, if it were grave, I should be accused of spreading needless despondency and alarm, and the Russians would not thank me for underrating or disparaging their giant strength. I must mention these facts merely as illustrations of the difficulties and dangers of making too many speeches about the war at times like these, and to give a respectful explanation to the House of why, with one fleeting exception, I am not going to refer to-day to any of the changing phases of this tremendous struggle.
I am, however, able to give some information about the war at sea. The House will remember the very good reasons which were given for leaving off publishing monthly figures of sinkings by enemy action and how those precise periodical statements, made at too frequent intervals, gave the enemy valuable information as to how his varying tactics were succeeding; but there is no objection to giving exact figures for longer periods, and I take this occasion to give figures of the last four months, ending with October, without dividing them into months, and compared with the figures, already published, of the four preceding months, ending with June. They are certainly well worthy of mention. I am speaking in round numbers. In the four months ending with June, we lost just over 2,000,000 tons, or an average of 500,000 tons per month. In the last four months, ending with October, we lost less than 750,000 tons, or an average of 180,000 tons per month. 180,000 contrasts very favourably with 500,000 tons. I see opposite me my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). We shared, I in a very humble position but with full knowledge, the terrible anxieties of 1917. We saw the figures mount, but we also saw the sudden fall. However, we must not count at all that the danger is past, but the facts are more favourable than are represented by the reduction on the four-monthly period from 500,000 to 180,000, because, from the point of view of keeping alive our power 26 to wage war at sea and of increasing it, you have to take account not only of what is lost but of new building. You have to deduct the new building and see how the position stands. I do not intend to give exact figures about new building, but, making allowance for new building, the net loss of our Mercantile Marine, apart altogether from captures from the enemy and United States assistance, has been reduced in the last four months to a good deal less than one-fifth of what it was in the previous four months. That is an impressive fact. This has been done in spite of the fact that there were never more U-boats or more long-range aircraft working than there are now. While that fact should lead us to increase our successful exertions and should in no way favour an easy habit of mind, it does, I think, give solid and sober assurances, as was mentioned by my right hon. Friend earlier, that we shall be able to maintain our seaborne traffic until the great American shipbuilding promised for 1942 comes into service. The United States are, of course, building new merchant ships on a scale many times what we are able to do in this Island. Having regard to the many calls upon us, our new shipbuilding is confined to a certain proportion of our resources, but the United States are embarking on an output of ships incomparably greater than what we can produce and far surpassing the enormous efforts they successfully made in the last war. If we are able to get through this year, we shall certainly find ourselves in good supply of ships in 1942. If the war against the U-boats and the enemy aircraft continues to prosper as it has done— about which there can be, of course, no guarantee—the Freedom Powers will be possessed of large quantities of shipping in 1943, which will enable oversea operations to take place utterly beyond British resources at the present time.
Meanwhile, the destruction of enemy shipping is proceeding with even greater violence than before. During the four months ended October, there were sunk or seriously damaged nearly 1,000,000 tons. In the Mediterranean, the enemy's losses have been particularly severe, and there is evidence that he has found it very difficult to reinforce, or even to supply, his armies on the African shores. This last convoy was a particularly valuable one, and its total destruction, together with the devastation being wrought by our sub- 27 marines in the Mediterranean, is certainly very much to be rejoiced over. There, are at least 40,000 Italian women, children and non-combatants in Abyssinia. Some time ago, guided by humanitarian instincts, we offered to let the Italian Government take these people home, if they would send under the necessary safeguards their own shipping to the ports on the Red Sea. The Italian Government accepted this proposal, and agreement was reached on all the details, but they have never been able so far to send the ships specified, because the destruction of their ships has proceeded at such a high rate and to such a serious extent. All this makes me hopeful— although, of course, I will not prophesy —that the German and Italian boasts that they will take Suez by the end of May last, will very likely remain unfulfilled at Christmas. That is much more than we had any right to expect when the Italian Government declared war upon us and the French deserted us in the Mediterranean, 18 months ago.
The fact that our shipping losses have so remarkably diminished, and diminished at the very time when Hitler boasted that his sea war would be at its height, must be taken in conjunction with our greatly increased production of food at home. I have always held the view that the British people, especially the heavy workers, must be properly fed and nourished if we are to get the full results from our war effort, and at the beginning of the year, when it looked as if we should have to choose to some extent between food and munitions imports, I asked the Cabinet to approve a minimum of food imports to be maintained, if necessary, even at the expense of munition materials. There is no doubt that the dietary of our people has been severely curtailed and has become far less varied and interesting. Still, at the rate we are now going, it is sufficient for our physical health, although I am hoping that we shall be able to give a somewhat larger share of the available supplies of meat to the workers who need it most. This will be done by a rapid expansion of canteens, which will supply meals off the ration to the workers they serve at places where those workers are actually gathered. I am glad to say that the figure which we prescribed for minimum food imports will now probably 28 be achieved, and even a little surpassed, and that the Minister of Food has been able to make certain minor relaxations during the winter months in the severity of his restrictions. As a precaution, we have amassed stocks of bulky articles of our diet which amount to double what we had in September, 1939. We are going to make a job of this war, and those who are working on the job must have their strength fully maintained, because although much has been asked of them in the past, we are going to ask them for more as the struggle deepens.
The agricultural Ministers for England and Scotland are also to be congratulated upon the very great expansion they have made of our home food production. In the short space of two year; the area under crops has been increased by no less than 45 per cent. Although the corn harvest that was gathered was rot quite so good as we had hoped it would be before I left for the Atlantic meeting—and here I must say that in future I shall be as careful in abstaining from prophecy in agricultural matters as I am in military matters —nevertheless, the cereal crop was 50 per cent. greater than in 1939. We should also have very large crops of potatoes, sugar beet, fodder roots and other fodder crops this year. Despite the lack of imported feeding-stuffs we have well maintained our head of cattle, both dairy cows and beef cattle, and I hope—I say this on the spur of the moment and shall perhaps get into trouble—that my right hon. and Noble Friend will see if he can do something with the hens All who have to do with the land, farmer and farm worker alike, have played a worthy part in this achievement. But satisfactory as are the results to date, there must be no relaxation of our efforts. Despite all difficulties, we must go on to produce still more, not only because of the ever-present menace to our importation from abroad, but because it is possible that as the war develops our military operations will make much more extensive demands on our shipping.
I mention these facts at the risk of being accused of complacency. When I spoke a month ago I mentioned the fact that our people would have better Christmas dinners this year than last year, and dinners which would be more justified by the food position. For this I incurred a rebuke from the "Daily Herald," which 29 wrote, with a spartan austerity which I trust the editorial staff will practise as well as preach, that we were "making war not wassail." It is a poor heart that never rejoices; the House may rest assured that we shall not err on the side of overindulgence. The building-up of reserves is continuous, and I trust that we shall not be blamed for stoking up those fires of human energy and spirit upon which our victory in this long struggle depends.
Some months ago we were anxious about the coal position for this winter, and it still gives cause for concern. I am glad to say that, thanks to the exertions of the President of the Board of Trade and of the Secretary of the Mines Department—
§ The Prime Minister
I am coming to that—the situation is better than appeared likely a few months ago. Our stocks of coal are now between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 tons larger than they were a year ago and are far better distributed, and the men, who have responded most nobly to the appeal made, are working a longer working week than before. There has been great concern on the part of some of the younger miners at not being allowed to go to the Army. We have had some vary hard cases of young men who wished to go and serve in the Fighting Forces, and we all understand how they feel. But they can really best help the war effort at the moment by staying where they are, although at the same time, as things develop, we must endeavour to meet the wishes of individuals as far as possible in regard to the form of service they give. I know how tremendous was the contribution which the miners made in the last war, when we had the same difficulty in holding the men at the pits. What the position will be if this country becomes the scene of actual strife I cannot tell, but I sympathise entirely with their feelings, and if we have to ask them to make the sacrifice, it is because of the vital necessity of coal to our whole production. Against this improved situation we have to bear in mind the steadily increasing demand which is coming as our war industries expand, and it is necessary that all efforts for the production of and economy in fuel should continue. There are good grounds for the belief that we shall come through the winter all right, and that, without having 30 deranged our Army by withdrawing thousands of coal miners from their platoons, the regular process of our coal supply will be maintained.
There is nothing that Hitler will dislike more than my recital of these prosaic but unassailable facts. There is nothing that he and his Nazi regime dread more than the proof that we are capable of fighting a prolonged war and the proof of the failure of their efforts to starve us into submission. In the various remarks which the Deputy Fuehrer, Herr Hess, has let fall from time to time during his sojourn in our midst, nothing has been more clear than that Hitler relied upon the starvation attack more than upon invasion to bring us to our knees. His hopes were centred upon starvation, as his boasts have made the world aware. So far as 1941 at least is concerned, those hopes have been dashed to the ground. But this only increases his need to come at us by direct invasion as soon as he can screw up his courage and make his arrangements to take the plunge. Therefore, we must have everything working forward for the improved weather of the spring, so that we are well prepared to meet any scale of attack that can be directed upon us. Although we are infinitely stronger than we were a year ago, or even six months ago, yet at the same time the enemy has had ample time for preparations, and you may be sure that if an invasion of this country is attempted by the Germans, it will be upon a plan which has been thought out in every detail with their customary ruthlessness and thoroughness.
I now come, on what I hope is a fairly solid foundation, to the criticism of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) spoke of criticism as being the life-blood of democracy. Certainly we are a very full-blooded democracy. In war it is very hard to bring about successes and very easy to make mistakes or to point them out after they have been made. There was a custom in ancient China that anyone who wished to criticise the Government had the right to memorialise the Emperor, and, provided he followed that up by committing suicide, very great respect was paid to his words, and no ulterior motive was assigned. That seems to me to have been, from many points of view, a wise custom, but I certainly would be the last 31 to suggest that it should be made retrospective. Our universal resolve to keep Parliamentary institutions in full activity amid the throes of war has been proved. That is a feat of enormous difficulty, never accomplished in any such complete perfection in history. His Majesty's Government base themselves upon the House of Commons. They look to the House for aid and comfort, in the incalculable perils by which we are beset. We are entitled to seek from the House from time to time the formal renewal of their confidence. The Debate on the Address furnishes the signal outstanding Parliamentary opportunity of the year. It is the Grand Inquest of the nation. The fact of passing the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech without any Amendment is the proof to the nation and to the whole world that the King's Ministers enjoy the confidence of Parliament. This is essential to any Government in times of war, because any sign of division or any suspicion of weakness disheartens our friends and encourages our foes. We shall therefore give the fullest facilities to the Debate on the Address, either upon the general Debate or upon Amendments.
I should like to point out to people outside this House and to countries abroad which do not realise the flexibility and potency of our Parliamentary institutions, nor how they work, that any Amendment, however seductive, however misleading, however tendentious, however artful, however sober, or however wide, which the wit or other qualities of man may devise, can be placed upon the Paper, can be fully debated by the arrangement of calling particular Amendments. None shall be invidiously excluded. If a Division takes place, it is a matter of confidence, which, nevertheless, enables everyone to see exactly where we stand and how far we can call upon the loyalty of the House. If such Amendment should be moved and pressed to a Division—I say this for the information of countries abroad— those who vote against the Government will not be assaulted with rubber truncheons, or put into concentration camps, or otherwise molested in their private lives. The worst that could happen might be that they might have to offer some rather laborious explanations 32 to their constituents. Let it not be said that Parliamentary institutions are being maintained in this country in a farcical or unreal manner. We are fighting for Parliamentary institutions. We are endeavouring to keep their full practice and freedom, even in the stress of war.
In order that there may be no misunderstanding about the basis on which this Debate takes place, I must state that the Government stand united as a corporate body, as a band of men who have bound themselves to work together in special faith and loyalty There can be no question of any individual Ministers being singled out, by intrigue or ill-will or because of the exceptional difficulties of their tasks, and being hounded down in any Government over which I have the honour to preside. From time to time the force of events makes changes necessary, but none are contemplated at the present moment. Neither do I consider it necessary to remodel the system of Cabinet government under which we are now working, nor to alter in any fundamental manner the system by which the conduct of the war proceeds, nor that by which production of munitions is regulated and maintained.
The process of self-improvement is, of course, continuous, and every man and woman throughout the land, in office or out of office, in Parliament or in the cities and municipalities of our country—everyone, great and small, should try himself by his conscience every day to make sure he is giving his utmost effort to the common cause. Making allowance for the increase of population, we have reached, in the 26th month of this war, and in some ways have surpassed, the deployment of national effort at home, which after all the slaughter, was not reached until the 48th month of the last war. We cannot rest content with that, and if Parliament, by patriotic and constructive counsel, and without unduly harassing those who bear the load, can stimulate and accelerate our further advance, the House of Commons will be playing its part, unyielding, perservering, indomitable, in the overthrow of another Continental tyranny as in the olden times.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I would like to say a few words on the Address in reply to the King's Speech. First I wish to touch on the Prime Minister's speech, as I think that is the most important to-day, 33 I can quite understand his reason for not touching on the strategy of the war and the position in Russia. But I would appeal for some broad outline as to the position generally. The country is waiting for a message from the Prime Minister on the war position. I think that the country would have appreciated a more general outline of what is taking place, although I realise that it would be difficult for the Prime Minister to make such a statement without giving away important information. However, I think it would have been better if he had mentioned the steady progress which is being made. In my opinion we have turned the corner, and I think the Prime Minister could well have stated that without being complacent. We all have in mind that the position is gradually changing in favour of the Allies, and the country would have appreciated a message of that kind coming from the Prime Minister.
The next point with which I wish to deal relates to food and agriculture. I am glad that the Prime Minister referred to agricultural production. I and my friends have been impressed with what we have seen in our travels through the countryside. We have been impressed by the keenness of the farming community who arc devoting all their time to increase production. When I have asked fanners how their crops are growing, invariably they reply, "As well as can be expected, and we intend to do all we can to improve them further." As an example of the desire of the community to help, I found that the schools in my area had delayed the holidays so that the schoolchildren could help with potato-lifting. That is a gesture in the right direction, and it shows the willingness of parents to allow their children to go out in the rain to help in this heavy work. In another case I saw some young girls helping a farmer and I was told that they came from the high school and that they were giving up their holidays to help in lifting potatoes. All this shows the willingness of the community to help in the war effort.
The Prime Minister paid a well-deserved tribute to the mining community. That tribute, coming from the Prime Minister, will be appreciated by the miners. He stated that the coal position had slightly improved, and I believe that to be the case. There have been many differences between employers and 34 miners, but for the most part these have now been smoothed over, and a better feeling prevails. The Prime Minister mentioned longer working hours. We are now trying to get the miners to work a six day week, and in asking them to do that, I want the country to realise what it means. Mining is very hard work, and it is impossible to keep up a continuous high level of production for six days a week. In spite of this, we are asking our men, in this vital crisis, to draw upon all their energies and work a six-day week. When I speak to miners I ask them to try and realise what the Russian people are going through, and to bear in mind that by their work they are helping the Russians, who are fighting so hard on our behalf. I believe that the Prime Minister's appeal will give that extra spur which is required, and that it will be given whole-heartedly by the mining community.
I now wish to refer to the stabilisation of prices and wages. This is a most important question, which has not been mentioned in the Address. Although I know much has been done in this direction by the granting of subsidies, there is much which still remains to be done. The calls which are made upon different industries to increase production often lead to extra costs for the community. This is brought about because the same ratio of production cannot be sustained when people are working longer hours. I think it is unfair that these increases should be borne by the community. I will give an instance of what I mean. Under the Essential Work Order, a colliery owner has to find work for a miner or pay him a day's wages. That has led to an increase in the price of coal, and in Lancashire the price rose by 1s. 6d. per ton last month. In my opinion that increase should have been offset by a subsidy from the State. Whenever prices are increased on a commodity which is generally required, it has the effect of putting up the cost of living, followed, quite rightly, by a demand for increased wages. I should like to see all such increases offset by a State subsidy, so that the increase is borne by all taxpayers. If this is not done, we shall reach the same faulty position of the last war.
Another point to be remembered is that while the wage-earning classes can seek an increase in their pay, those who are on fixed incomes, such as old age pen- 35 sioners, cannot obtain relief for any increase in the cost of living. It will be appreciated what the increased price on a bag of coal means to an old age pensioner. I know the Chancellor of the Exchequer is watching the position, and that officials want to know the feelings of the population in this regard. I want the Chancellor to tell us exactly what he intends to do to meet future advances in the prices of all commodities. I understand that the prices' of fish are to go up. Fish is a necessary article of food. If prices go up, the spiral will follow. When the State is satisfied that an increased price is necessary—and no prices can now be increased without the State agreeing—that increase ought to be met by a State subsidy.
I am sorry that the question of old age pensions has not been touched in the Speech. There is great discontent among the people. They accepted, on our advice—and I was one of those who advised them to accept—the Determination of Needs Bill. I understand that that is working fairly well in the case of those who have taken advantage of it. There are others, to whom it has not yet applied, who feel that there should be a flat-rate advance in old age pensions. I think that the time has now come for a flat-rate advance over and above what people are getting now. The 10s. a week has stood for a long time. The cost of living has gone up during this war. The people cannot understand when one says to them that the cost of living has not gone up as it did during the last war. They tell us, very fluently, that their purchasing power has gone down considerably. In my own constituency a working-class organisation of over 2,000 members has passed a resolution on this subject. We have told them the position, but the matter cannot be left over indefinitely. Is it possible for some message to be sent out to these people, between now and the time when the next financial statement is made, that there will be a flat-rate advance? Questions of finding money now seem to have gone by the board. We are spending untold millions on the war effort. When we speak of keeping up the morale of the people, regard should be given to those who have given of their best during their lifetime to the State and who now have 36 sons in the Army, and daughters also giving all they can to the State. The services of these people should be recognised in a better way.
I wish to add a word of compliment to the mover and seconder of the Address. I have been here a good many years, and I am amazed every time how well Members rise to such an occasion. Never having had an opportunity, I wonder how I should fare in their place. I look upon the possibility almost with dread. Yet every time the Members who are selected for the task rise to the occasion. The two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken today have done so in the best traditions of the House.
§ Mr. Barr (Coatbridge)
I would like, first, to concur in the tribute which was paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) to the mover and the seconder of the Address. Like several other Members, I have for several years prized this opportunity, especially the first two days, of the Debate on the Address, when one is at liberty to call attention to particular subjects which perhaps there may be no later opportunity of discussing. I desire to call attention to the subject of Sunday closing in Scotland, and to congratulate the Secretary for Scotland on his action in that regard, particularly in connection with the bona-fide traveller. I am referring to Sunday closing of public-houses, of course. That will appear as I proceed We owe Sunday closing of public-houses in Scotland to an Act passed on 15th August, 1853. It was, indeed, remarkable that such an Act should then have been passed by Parliament. At that time, the churches, I say quite frankly, were not alive to any benefit that could come from Sunday closing or from restriction of the hours of sale of liquors during the week. They put all their strength into moral suasion, and did not think that any moral value would come from such restrictions as these. I have here the words of a well-known temperance reformer, himself a total abstainer, the Rev. Alexander Hannay, of Dundee, who in 1851 said:I pity the men more in their state of enforced sobriety than in their more familiar state of voluntary drunkenness. What good change has been effected in the men? At best they have become sober drunkards, drunk in intention but sober in fact.Parliament, greatly to its credit, stepped forward from that position, and passed 37 this Act. It was driven to it by the condition of things that prevailed at that time. In the city of Edinburgh, a city at that time of 160,000 inhabitants, there were no fewer than 312 public-houses open on the Sunday. The Edinburgh Total Abstinence Society undertook a census, and found that on a particular Sunday no fewer than 40,956 persons were counted leaving the public-houses. Of men, there were 22,202; of women, 11,031; of young people between the ages of 8 and 14 ostensibly, 5,631; and of those under the age of eight years, no fewer than 3,092. Duncan MacLaren, the then Lord Provost of Edinburgh and afterwards M.P. for the city, called attention to these figures. He was accused of exaggeration, and he called upon the police to take a census of their own.
Their census only confirmed and rather emphasised, because the figures were slightly larger, the former results of the plebiscite that was taken on the part of the Edinburgh Total Abstinence Society, and so there came the Forbes McKenzie Act. It was passed by a Bill in the name of William Forbes McKenzie, who was for long Member for Peebles, but at the time of the passing of the Act he was Member for Liverpool, and so it is to an English representative that we owe this Act. It was passed without a Division in any of its stages, and it came into operation in May, 1854. Two years thereafter there was issued a Statement of Testimony and Statistics regarding the working of the Act. Nothing could be more conclusive. It gave the opinions of magistrates throughout the whole of Scotland, and the opinion of superintendents of police, and I will content myself with quoting only one of these. Mr. James Smart, Superintendent of Police for Glasgow, said:In no place is the difference more observable than in the police office, particularly in the central office, where Sunday-used to be a busy day, but it is now perfectly quiet, and it is not unusual for a whole Sabbath to pass without a single case of any kind being brought in. The lieutenants are now at liberty to go to church, and the turnkeys have now nothing else to do on Sundays but read their Bibles.The only objection that had been taken in the passing of the Measure was that you could not make the people of Scotland sober or virtuous by Act of Parliament; but here, after two years, it was proved that you could make them sober, or help to make them sober, by Act of Parlia- 38 ment; and it is sad to say you can make them drunken or inclined to drinking by Act of Parliament, and it may be even by Parliamentary Orders and Regulations. There is one remarkable thing. It is often said that Scottish people drink more on Saturdays because they cannot get it on Sundays. One remarkable result here was that the Forbes McKenzie Act beneficially affected every day of the week as well as Sunday. Take the Edinburgh statistics. From 1853 to 1856 the cases of drunkenness in Edinburgh diminished from 9,730 to 7,736; and in Glasgow in the same period the cases of drunkenness under the Act diminished from 10,659 to 6,625. So far as that general Act is concerned, I have never known, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends here from Scotland have never known, any candidate for public honours, for Parliament or for a local authority, who has said in his election address or in answer to a question that he would repeal the Forbes McKenzie Act.
That is the fine side of the story, but the sinister figure of the bona-fide traveller has shadowed this Act all the time. The Act in its Schedule said that a man holding a licence must not open his house for the sale of any liquors, or sell or give out the same on Sundays, except for the accommodation of lodgers and bona-fide travellers. The distance was not defined that could make a man be a bona-fide traveller, and we are bound to confess that the supply of liquor to those who were said to be bona-fide travellers rose to great dimensions. Provost Gaul, the Provost of Saltcoats, in a case disputed regarding a seven days' licence, made personal investigation of the books of the hotel in question, and he found that over 1,000 on a particular Sunday had giver. their names as being supplied or about to be supplied with liquor. How this affects the war effort I would like to indicate by quoting from a report that was sent from the Seventh District of my own County of Lanark in August, 1940, a year ago. They sent a resolution to the County Licensing Court deploring the increase of drunkenness in one of the towns in particular, and this is what they said:So great is the number of visitors entering Shotts on Sunday to take advantage of the licensing facilities that workmen employed at Shotts and Kingshill Collieries have complained of the difficulty of getting to and 39 from their work at night, especially between 9 and 10, when visitors are returning.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland deserves great credit for his courage and wisdom, and he stepped in and said that he could not, of course, displace the privileges of the bona-fide traveller, but he insisted that in the Order that was passed it must be primarily for a meal, and that the drinking must be ancillary to the meal and not the meal a mere ancillary to the drinking, and that it must be supplied in a place that was set apart in that seven-day licensed house for the supply of meals. Not only did he take that action, but he has been confirmed in case after case in the courts, and the result is that the men are better, their homes are better, the omnibuses are quieter, and the air is sweeter. I would like to say to him and the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), whom I am glad to see present, that there might be evidence from other areas in Scotland that would warrant an extension of this experiment, and I trust that such evidence will be available and that the Scottish Office will examine it very carefully.
I want to say this further. While we cannot on account of the war pass, and are not able to pass, legislation, I hope that the bona-fide traveller will pass away as a result of this work, not to return. I would remind my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary that in the evidence he gave before the Royal Commission on licensing in Scotland in 1930, Major A. C. MacLean, O.B.E., J.P., Chief Constable of Inverness-shire, who was President of the Chief Constables Association, gave evidence and said that what he would like to see would be the bona-fide traveller being done away with altogether. In that report, which was issued in 1931, the Majority Report said a distance of at least 12 miles should be required for a man becoming a bona-fide traveller. That perhaps does not carry you very far in these times of quick distance, but the Minority Report recommended that all hotel certificates should be for six days only in this regard, and thereby they would effectively do away with the bona-fide traveller; and I trust this recommendation may be borne in mind for the future. You would thus do away with the only sem- 40 blance there can be of any class legislation in this matter. I know that some of my friends in Scotland object to this, because it means that a man of means, in a position to get a good meal, can still qualify as a bona-fide traveller and get his food and his liquor.
I would refer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary to the example of England in this matter. Under the consolidated Licensing Act of 1910 there was fixed a limit of three miles as the qualification for a bona-fide traveller, and that Act reestablished him in his privileges. But when it came to the Licensing Act of 1921, Section 61 of the 1910 Act was cancelled and fell into desuetude. With it the whole privilege that obtained in England for the bona-fide traveller passed for good. Amendments were put forward, but none of them received much support. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) spoke on that occasion and said he knew the bona-fide traveller in Yorkshire, of whom all that he could say was that he was a bona-fide humbug. Sir Gordon Hewart, afterwards Lord Hewart, who was then at the Home Office, said that a bona-fide traveller was a person who took a bona-fide walk in order to get a mala-fide drink. In 1931 a Royal Commission for England and Wales were asked to give a deliverance on this question. There were 20 Commissioners, but only two, one by express statement and the other implicitly, I think, were in favour of a return to the old conditions. The general result on this point was this: The Commission said:We have been asked to revive in some form or other the provisions as to the bona-fide traveller which were swept away in 1921. We cannot accept this proposal. Even before the days of motor transport, and the restricted hours on week days, the provision proved itself to be in the highest degree unsatisfactory in practice.I will close with this reference made in 1921 by the then Sir Gordon Hewart. When this question was under discussion, in connection with the Bill of 1921, he said that the bona-fide traveller was going out "unwept, unhonoured and unsung." I do not need to tell the House that these are the words of a very great Scotsman, Sir Walter Scott, and I do not see why they should be quoted only for England. I trust the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Joint Under-Secretary will have them in mind when we sing our own 41 Scottish requiem in our own Scottish way when the Scottish bona-fide traveller, in due time, will pass out completely, "unwept, unhonoured and unsung."
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) will excuse me if I do not follow him in his argument, because the Prime Minister was right in saying that this is an occasion when parties and individuals define their total attitude to the total situation which confronts them. Therefore, I would like to make it plain, without bitterness and certainly without any trace of personal animosity—but none the less firmly—that I am opposed to the policy that is being pursued by this Government. I wish there were 30 or 40 hon. Members of this House who were similarly opposed, and I wish there was a Member of Front Bench calibre who was taking the same line. But as there are not 30 or 40 such Members or a Member of Front Bench calibre, as one individual back Bench Member I wish to express my view.
I believe there is a large number of people in this country who are anxious and frustrated, because they do not concur in the total policy which is being pursued yet sec no other policy even being expressed. Far from my believing that any attitude of mine would create any effect contrary to the maximum war effort, I believe there are many people who will feel relieved that some of their views are being expressed quite definitely here. I believe that hon. Members will be surprised how great is the volume of support which will be forthcoming for the line which I shall take before His Majesty opens another Session of this House. Of course, I do not expect supporters of the Government to be unduly perturbed at the action of a single back bench Member. All the more so because I do not suppose that I shall be able to be present here more frequently in the immediate future than in the recent past, as it would be quite wrong to abandon the occupation to which I have been called together with most young men of my age merely on the basis of my expectations. But so often as I am here, I shall endeavour to explain my views as I hold them.
The Prime Minister spoke about the great difficulty of making forecasts, but I think I can make one which will be found to be all right. It is quite certain either that the Nazi military machine will col- 42 lapse in the next 18 months or that it will not. There is very little doubt about that. If it does collapse in the next 18 months, we will be faced soon with the problem of post-war reconstruction. If it does not soon collapse, then we are faced with the problem of a prolonged war, and my point is that the total policy of His Majesty's Government though adequate perhaps for carrying us through the next 12 months of war, is not adequate to deal with post-war tasks of reconstruction and is not adequate for the problem of seeing us through a prolonged war Although I think it is surprising that we have developed no military diversion on the Continents of Europe or Africa, my criticism is not in any substantial sense strategic. Nor does it rest upon any collection of points of detail. Opposition does not consist of constructive or destructive criticism raised ad hoc to different issues as they arise; the very word "opposition" possesses a rather special technical meaning in this country. It means that the Members or parties who oppose believe that there is a fundamentally different approach to the whole problem from that which the Government are taking up. That is my position to-day.
The Government's policy will fail either to see us through a long war or to deal with the problems of reconstruction, if by good fortune we can face those problems at an early date, because of their complete failure to understand what is happening in the world to-day. Those who move with the great forces of the world can win wars and conclude lasting peace. Those who do not, cannot. I see to-day not only a failure to move with the great forces of the world, but a positive desire to struggle against them. What is really happening in the world to-day? The battle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia—yes. The battle between Nazi Germany and democratic Britain—yes. But there is something bigger than that. This struggle is the result of a process that has been going on for many years now, namely the complete breakdown of the existing order. The order that is breaking down is the order that has been openly and avowedly based on the assumption that we could create a prosperous and harmonious world by setting each man to pursue his own individual self-interest.
That system, by a series of fortunate accidents, served us well enough for 150 years, or, if you like, for 300 years. Of 43 course, it was at all times in diametric opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ. He said that material wealth could not be the end and goal of human endeavour. This system said that it was. He said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." We said, "Look after your own interests." There was a clash of diametrical opposites, and to-day that system is breaking down. At this moment we are working under a kind of mongrel system. It may be described either as public control of private ownership, or, I think more appropriately, as private ownership exercised over the public control. If this system showed by the spirit of those who are directing it and by their administration in detail that it was being used as something which we are passing through to attain something new, it might be all very well, but both the spirit of those who are mainly in control of the system and the details of its application show that we are all the time dragging back to the old, and that way lies failure either in prolonged war or in peace. Every effort which the Government makes to create order and justice out of chaos and inequality stops just short of the point at which it would be necessary to say goodbye to the old order which is breaking down.
I challenge the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Supply on this. They are receiving from their own people, the men who have to tackle the actual problems, one report after another that the particular problem with which each man has to deal cannot be solved unless it is taken completely out of the realm of profit and loss. Those reports are all being turned down flat by the heads of those Departments. Why? To-day there is an acute housing shortage in a city which has thousands of empty houses. Why? Today there is an acute furniture shortage in a city in which every warehouse is bursting with unwanted furniture. Why? Because, while tens of thousands of Russians are dying in our cause and any one of us or all of us may be called upon to face death before another Session of this Parliament is opened, you will not break with the sacred principles of private property.
We are to have a Debate on Production. I wonder whether in that Debate anybody will mention the root cause of the difficulty. The root cause does not lie in 44 Ministerial incompetence, or in absenteeism, or in managerial inefficiency, or in the overlapping of Departments, or anything of that kind. It lies in the fact that you are trying to get the maximum production of the whole, through the instrumentality of men who must have one eye resting on the post-war capital value of the particular part which they control. I want to keep a sense of proportion. I am not for one moment supporting those exaggerated statements which hold up every shareholder as being a conscious and deliberate saboteur of the war effort for his own individual cash benefit. Of course not. But there is an association of ideas in the minds of those who take for granted that the old system will go on after the war which leads to a conflict of interest altogether too great to be tolerated throughout a long war. It may not matter if there is to be a collapse of Germany in 12 months, but it does matter in a long war.
Let hon. Members think of these points. It is in our interest to postpone every postponable repair; it is in the interests of the owners to get every repair done and have it charged up to the Excess Profits Tax. It is in our interest to work the good seams in the coal-mines now; it is in the owners' interests to postpone work on the good seams until after the war. It is in our interest to share trade secrets; it is in the owners' interests to preserve them. It is in our interest to concentrate output in every factory on one or few products; it is in their interests to keep the factory flexible by making as many different products as possible: It is in our interest that skilled men should spend part of their time teaching their skill to unskilled men; it is in the owners' interests that skilled men should be kept on direct production all the time. It is in our interest to save paper by cutting down advertising; it is in their interests to spend money which belongs to us—because otherwise it would go in Excess Profits Tax—in advertising things like aeroplane parts.
Let hon. Members look at technical journals such as "Flight" and they will find them filled with advertisements of aeroplanes. It is simply a question of our money being used to build up postwar goodwill. It is in our interest that women should replace men; it is in the interests of the firms to hang on to the 45 men because they know that the women will go away after the war. It is in our interest that half-used machines should be sent to factories where they would be fully used; it is in the firms' interests to disguise the fact that the machines are half used. It is in our interest that skilled workers, when work falls off in one factory, should be sent to another factory; it is in the firms' interests to hang on to skilled workers in case a good order should turn up. It is in our interest that every productive resource should be pressed into service; it is in the owners' interests to wonder whether there will not be surplus productive capacity at the end of the war. In case it should be thought that I exclude myself from these divided loyalties, it is in our interest to see that every mature or nearly mature tree is felled now, but I ask hon. Members where is the estate owner who is not compelled by this system to think about the timber needs of his particular estate in five or 10 years' time? These conflicts of interest are too great.
It goes further than that. We are appealing for more and more spontaneous self-sacrifice for our country from the great masses of our people. This is the second time within living memory that we have been asked to sacrifice for our country, and we are willing to do it. Is it too great a shock to hon. Members opposite to hear, quite bluntly, definitely and certainly', that, after these sacrifices have been made, this country is going to be ours and not someone else's? Of course, in moments of individual crisis acts of individual heroism are always forthcoming, but something more is needed for the war effort. These acts must be backed up by enthusiastic self-denial hour after hour, day after day and year after year in all the humdrum tasks which war involves. This enthusiasm, though considerable, is crabbed and confined to-day by a picture which is present to the minds of great numbers of people; a picture of this country divided into "We" and "They." "We" are the great masses, more or less unwanted, called out to act as heroes when we are needed, and then pushed back to where we belong, as we were last time. "They," on the other hand, are a little group, living a rather different kind of life from what we live, somehow always succeeding 46 in striking it lucky, and with a fair probability that, when the soldier is back in the unemployment queue and the Spitfire pilot is selling vacuum cleaners, "they" will be somehow comfortably running the country from behind the scenes. If you want the fullest enthusiasm of our people for a prolonged war something has got to happen which will categorically and unequivocably prove that that picture is not going to correspond to what will happen at the end of this war.
I would ask hon. Members to notice one very great difference between this war and the last. In the last war we talked of a new world, but each man in his heart was deeply anxious to get back to just the same little world that he knew before. In this war there is a positive and passionate longing on the part of the overwhelming majority of the people not to go back to the miserable world which they knew in 1939. We want to move on to a new way of living, where the motive of service will transcend the motive of individual gain. Even the "Times" admits that that is true, though very few of its readers understand what are the conditions which must be fulfilled in order that that may be possible. The conditions are dead simple. We can work in a new way, both for the war and for the reconstruction afterwards. We can work in order to serve, without thinking first and foremost of our own interests, only if the great resources on which we work are ours. We cannot break from the way of life which puts self-interest first as long as we know that there is a group of men somewhere who will be just a little bit better off every time we work a little bit harder.
Hon. Members will be surprised to find how far the acceptance of these ideas has already gone. They are not only to be found among working men. They are also to be found among that very large, sincere, generous, forward-looking section of the middle-classes which I think I can describe more accurately than in any other way by saying they are the men and women who find their ideas better expressed by Mr. J. B. Priestley to-day than by anyone else. They will also find these ideas spreading rapidly among the churches, and finally, and most surprising of all, you will find them spreading among the men who really get the work of industry done, the men who would carry on British industry without 47 a moment's pause even if every shareholder died intestate and without heirs to-morrow. I speak of the salaried technicians and managers of industry. It was a great surprise to me when I was invited to discuss these very ideas with nearly all the departmental managers and sub-managers of a very substantial engineering works. There I was, as I am. sure they will not mind my saying, surrounded by a tough set of successful business men. They criticised my ideas in detail and made very valuable suggestions, but there was no doubt that they all want a Britain without property owners, and they are all convinced that they could work it more efficiently than they can work it under the distorted influence of those who at present own.
I end with a note of personal explanation, because I shall be asked whether this attitude mean; that I desire to see a new Prime Minister. It may be unusual for an Opposition, even an Opposition of one, to rest on anything other than personal animosity towards the Prime Minister. But we have a very unusual Prime Minister. As long as the English language is spoken his name will be revered and honoured, for the simple reason that but for him most of us would be underground just now. I hope he will believe that it is possible to disagree with the policy being pursued by the Government without feeling any diminution of the sense of gratitude that we must all feel towards him. I know it is very easy to make fun of Gallup Surveys, particularly when they pretend to show that 84.4 rather than 84.5 hold certain views. But the Prime Minister cannot ignore the proved fact of an overwhelming majority that desires the continuance of his leadership and, at the same time, a vast number of people who are dissatisfied with the policy that is at present being pursued. This must mean that there are many who desire the continuance of the Prime Minister's leadership and yet desire a quite different policy. I do not see why those people should not be represented in this House, and to the best of my ability I mean to represent them. I should like to ask the Prime Minister one question, which I would not for a moment expect him to answer. But I hope he will turn it over in his mind from time to time as things develop. Supposing it becomes clear at some future stage that not only a large number but 48 an overwhelming majority of people desire the continuance of the Prime Minister's leadership but only for a clearly stated, definite policy, what will his attitude be? What will he do? After all, he is Prime Minister and not a Fuehrer. The very title, being fully interpreted, means the First Servant. I wonder whether it is constitutionally proper for the First Servant to suggest, however tentatively, that he would have to hand in his notice if we persisted in pressing our objections to the behaviour of the servants' hall as a whole. I think not, and if he were to take that line and present us with the awful choice, then, though he would, of course, go down to history as the one solid rock on which the Nazi ambitions had been wrecked, yet he might not go down to history as the greatest democratic leader of all time.
§ Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)
All the speeches to which I have listened today reflect the determination of Members to endeavour to assist in bringing the war to a successful conclusion so far as they can. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) has expressed the view that in order to do that it will be necessary completely to upset the existing order, and he has put forward such fundamental changes and ideas that I do not propose to follow him. We know, of course, that collectively we can control the policy of the Government, but individually we have much less power to effect a change. As individuals we have our own special spheres of knowledge, and within those restricted spheres we can propose certain constructive ideas. I should like to deal with two small but important points concerning the conduct of the war, points on which I have some special knowledge and which arise out of a considerable and close industrial experience. The first relates to man-power and the particular aspect that concerns me is the diversion of workers from non-essential trades to war production. In respect of the bigger concerns which occupy the energies of hundreds of individuals this is not a very grave problem. With them the problem is in course of solution because they have either got on to war production by their own efforts or have become nucleus concerns by having absorbed other units into their own activities, or their factory premises have been requisitioned for storing purposes by the Board 49 of Trade. This process of transformation which is taking place in the large concern is going on all the time. It is slow and in some circumstances there is a lack of co-ordination between the Ministries concerned. Particularly has that been the case in respect of the closing down of the Lancashire cotton spinning industry, where the labour was released in such circumstances that it got no control and direction and was not diverted through the activities of the Minister of Labour, as it should have been, on to war work. In any event, that process in respect of the large concerns is taking place.
When we come to small businesses—and this is the crux of my point—we find that the situation is much more unsatisfactory. Before the war these small businesses were responsible for the bulk of the total production of the country. It is clear that if they are not to be affected by Government policy and are to retain their labour without Government direction, the man-power available for the war effort will be much less than the national requirements demand, if the war is to be brought to a successful conclusion. The Government's policy, which, in my view, is not satisfactory, is that there should be no coercion in respect of the small man in a small business. That policy obviously commends itself on grounds of equity, but on grounds of getting on with the war and providing the maximum amount of manpower it not only does not assist the war effort, but is directly opposed to its furtherance. The Board of Trade and the Ministry of Supply are by administrative action endeavouring to rectify the situation which is developing. They say to the small man, "We will not give you any facility for your supplies unless you take part in some concentration of industry or production scheme." Thus by administrative action they stultify the effect of this plan not to force the small man into a bigger scheme for the organisation of war production. Hon. Members will appreciate that it is a straightforward truism to say that the small man prefers the threat of ultimate extinction and of being starved out of industry than having to face immediate extinction without any compensation. Thus the small man's efforts to survive result in his directly impeding the full utilisation of man-power. The small man can impede this necessary process quite easily. He has to work with an irreducible 50 number of overhead personnel and, owing to the fact that the goods he supplies are in short supply and there is a great demand for them, he can get a margin of profit which enables him to pay his personnel wages which do not allow that labour to be attracted elsewhere.
Therefore, it will be appreciated that this ill-thought-out policy is having a serious effect on the question of manpower. I would like to try and give some estimate of the magnitude of the problem of the small businesses engaged in non-essential trades. As an index I have taken a small and non-essential trade of which I have some knowledge. It is a minor industry employing about 12,000 persons. I propose to give certain figures, but I will not say what the industry is. In normal times the whole production is almost completely absorbed in the civilian market. I do not want to say what the commodity is because it would enable outsiders to identify the industry and that might not be in accordance with the wishes of the Board of Trade. This industry embraces 520 different firms. Of these 85 are in the nucleus category, 75 are closed, and 360 are the kind of firms with which I am dealing, small firms employing fewer than 20 persons each.
The point of the inquiry is what has happened to these 12,000 people. It will be appreciated that any figures I give must be submitted with a certain amount of. reserve, though I believe them to be approximately accurate. Of the 12,000, 5,000 have been attracted to war work by reason of the increased activities in munition production and the closing down of certain of these other firms. As against the 5,000 who have gone out of the industry, some 1,000 new entrants have come in from other non-essential trades. Thus the economic circumstances of the war have resulted in a transfer to war work of one-third of the man-power of this industry. In addition, the concentration of production plans are coming into operation, and I estimate that a further 2,000 or 2,500 persons will be released for war work. That gives 6,500 people as the ultimate number diverted to war production out of a total of 12,000.
Thus, in this typical non-essential industry 45 per cent. of the personnel are retained. That fact has to be assessed against the background that the industry may be required to do a certain amount 51 of war work, and that there is a shortage of supplies. Having regard to these facts, I do not think there is any doubt that the total maximum production of the industry could quite easily be done by 20 per cent. of the original personnel, that is 2,400 out of the original 12,000. The final conclusion I come to is that, under optimum conditions, a further 25 per cent. of manpower could be diverted to war work. I believe that this figure of 25 per cent. is true not only of this industry but of the bulk of non-essential industries, and as there are many scores of them the total contribution that could be made to manpower is very substantial. The distributive trades employed more than 2,500,000 people before the war and there are also the small shopkeepers and I would remind the House of one very important fact in that connection, namely, that one person in the retail trade served on the average only six customers per week. In other words, each customer occupied about 18 hours per week of the time of a person engaged in the retail trade. I know that the figure is an astonishing one. If we add to the contribution from the non-essential trades the contribution that could be made from the distributive trades there is no doubt that there we have a formidable total of untapped man-power.
I have indicated the problem and have endeavoured to give some idea of its magnitude. What about its solution? I believe that the problem will defy solution unless the Government alter their policy of no coercion and no compensation. It can be demonstrated over and over again that the retention of these small businesses is a burden on our war effort. If we close down a small man's business without compensation, it is clearly a gross injustice. It follows that there should be compensation. There can be no question, in my opinion, of providing compensation in cash during the war, but we ought not to rule out the provision of purchasing power after the war. Further, the trades themselves should be encouraged to put up their own compensation schemes. The ideal arrangement would be one under which every one of the small businesses closed down should have a share in the prosperity of the industry as a whole, and that share should be associated with some after-the-war payment which would 52 provide for the rehabilitation of those businesses. If there were some such plan, there would be no holding back by the little man and there would be no political necessity to give the pledge of no compulsion. The must successful example I know of an industry which has provided a large amount of man-power is the cotton industry. More than 40 per cent. of that industry is closed down. Why has that scheme been so successful? First, because there was compulsion, and, secondly, because there was compensation. I feel that we shall not attain the full use of our man-power unless our present policy is altered and the principles of compulsion and compensation are applied to all the non-essential trades.
Another point with which I want to deal concerns tanks. The production of tanks is very much in the public eye, and I do not think that in open Session I can usefully add any observations on the question of their production to my previous advocacy of putting the maximum responsibility on the parent concerns and utilising to the full the ability of the area boards. Incidentally, I hope that the Army is fully aware of the necessity of maintaining and increasing its supply of trained personnel for tanks. The production which is coming along will have to be utilised, and it is no good endeavouring to fight tanks with an untrained or comparatively untrained personnel. What I wish to speak about is the question of tank design. This nation has a right to expect that mistakes which were made in earlier models and which have since been rectified, should not recur in new models. Troubles that have been overcome by trial and by experience should not recur, yet the fact is that we are continually getting a recurrence of difficulties which have been solved and overcome in the past. Unfortunately, for reasons which I do not quite understand, we do not seem to be able to take full advantage of the collective knowledge which the nation, as a whole, possesses in the matter of tank design.
This is not the place to go into details, but I should like to put forward in quite general and vague terms some of the things which I think it is necessary should be stated and which I have submitted specifically and in detail to the Ministry of Supply. The tank design department 53 works far too much as a watertight compartment. In theory, the tank design compartment should work in the closest collaboration with the manufacturers. In practice that collaboration is small. The tank design department tends to be secretive, and it is because it is so secretive that its reports are frequently misleading—I should not say "frequently," but sometimes. It is clear that there cannot be a standard text book on tank design, as the work is moving forward so quickly, and naturally most of the information is secret; but we in this country have had 25 years' continuous experience of tank production and during that time have learned a very great deal. Unfortunately, much of what we have learned has been lost, and, indeed, it appears to me that some of the important things that we are learning at the present time are not being carefully recorded in order to form the basis of information in the future. A failure to build up an accurate and reliable storehouse of tank design information is a great weakness.
A further weakness is the method of testing pilot models. Rigorous and exhaustive testing of pilot models is an essential part of the production of reliable tanks. Our testing arrangements are inadequate. The experimental test course is not sufficiently searching, and the records are not sufficiently reliable. It is a moot point whether the actual experimental test course is in the right place, having regard to the position of the main manufacturing concerns.
However much we exert ourselves, we cannot hope to outbuild the enemy in numbers, so if we cannot have more tanks than the enemy, we must have better tanks. That points to the necessity of development. If we had tanks of greater protection, greater fire-power and greater mobility, it is obvious that we should be well on the way to victory, but those characteristics are mutually incompatible. It is highly undesirable that the Army should ask for all these three attributes together in one vehicle. They should be willing to sacrifice some mobility and protection in order that tanks should have very much better fire-power than they have at the present time. We can obtain mechanical vehicles of a type and firepower far in advance of anything possessed by the Germans or ourselves at the present time. In the last war we built 54 gun-carrier tanks which could carry 60-pounders and 6-inch howitzers. These were fired from the gun-carrier tanks quite satisfactorily. It is obviously not outside the possibilities of British designs to provide tanks which can be armed with guns of heavier calibre than anything at present contemplated. Such tanks would have great power of penetration, making them much more effective against the enemy.
I agree that, with the increased mobility of modern artillery, it is undesirable to try and revive the idea of the old gun-carrier tank, but there is room for a. new and additional kind of tank carrying a high velocity gun of heavier calibre than anything we have at present. I agree it would be heavier than it would be possible to fire effectively from any tank in rapid motion, and obviously such a lank would not be able to fill the accepted tactical role of present-day tanks. You would have to rely much more upon camouflage, but you would have the great advantage over an anti-tank battery that it would be able to engage more directly in battle, not relying on any auxiliary method of transport. It could go into battle, not as does the existing anti-tank battery, being drawn by some kind of supplementary device. I cannot usefully pursue this subject further, but I want to emphasise as much as is possible to a private Member the importance of development. We shall not get the victory we want by mere multiplication of numbers of the tanks that we now have in production.
In a nutshell, my point is that the Army should insist upon development. It should indicate the development but should not ask for development that is impossible. I cannot expect to get any reply on these matters, but I hope that what I have said will be read. I hope, although the Government will not say what they are doing in the way of development, that they will say something on the question of organisation of tank design. They have now announced a new chief engineer in the tank design department. The position of tank design is clearly not satisfactory. There is a department known as the D.T.D., which is the direction of tank design, and there is the Stern committee responsible for the design of particular tanks. There are private designers of tanks which are made by private contractors. All this organisation is associated with mistakes which ought 55 not to occur. It is not enough to change the director of tank design every three months. It is the organisation below those officials, and not the officials at the top, that requires looking at and improving.
My remarks have indicated two weaknesses, one on the home front in respect of man-power and the other on the fighting front in respect of tank design, but I would not like to sit down without making it clear that I appreciate that there has been a great, in fact a marvellous, improvement in all aspects of our war production and war policy generally. These criticisms are not intended to be destructive. They are intended to be helpful, and they are made with the full realisation of the improvements which have taken place, and which I am sure will continue.
§ Mr. Muff (Hull, East)
I cannot pretend to know as much about tanks as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. All I know about tanks is that I have been in one. I was horrified over a year ago, when the war had been running for nearly a year, to see a letter from one of the biggest producers of tank steel in this country. The then Ministry of Supply, run as it was on the policy of self-complacency, was telling this firm not to increase its plant or its output, as the War Department was perfectly satisfied with the output of tanks. I will leave it at that. As to the concentration of industry, and the problem of closing the small plants, I would ask the hon. Gentleman to consider what the Ministry of Food will be doing shortly with regard to other plants, quite different from tank production, those of the fat melters and dripping refiners. This matter may appear somewhat small, but the industry has its ramifications in every fried fish shop in the country. The Ministry of Food is not only trying to concentrate the industry, but—and this was the hon. Gentleman's point—to give a certain amount of compensation.
I would now like to turn to the speech made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland). I understand he possesses rather more than three acres and a cow. Coming from him, the speech to which we had the pleasure of listening I should call a groping speech. I should call the hon. 56 Gentleman a pilgrim; in fact, he could write a book on the Pilgrim's Progress through No-man's Land. He has the precious gift of youth on his side. Although he stood and moaned in splendid isolation, I should not like him to think that he is like Elijah, sitting under the juniper tree, and that he is entirely alone in this country. He may be alone at present on that bench. There are no cohorts of die-hard Manchester-school people now, I agree, but the speech of the hon. Baronet showed that there was a stirring of the waters throughout the country.
He pointed out what was happening with the technicians, when he had the honour to sit at their feet like a little Gamaliel, or, rather, to speak to them like Gamaliel, and tell them how to do the job. He need not be too pessimistic; by all means let him try to be a David and go for the Goliaths on the Government Front Bench. We must never have a return to the self-complacency which was the cardinal note of the Government Front Bench from 1931. I mention that date, owing to the fact that in his charming speech the hon. Member mentioned the National Government of 1931. I do not want to be controversial, but when the history of these times is written—I hope my hon. Friend will be alive, although I may have passed on—the year 1931 and what happened in it will, I believe, be proved to have been one of the root causes of what we are going through to-day. I leave that and pass on now to what the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple said about the spirit which should actuate us in industry, for instance, in the near future. There is any amount of evidence that even what some people call the "hard-faced men" are trying to face up to the difficulties of sharing the very secrets which the hon. Gentleman said they refuse to share. There is a new spirit in industry, and that spirit must be fostered.
Now I should like to refer briefly to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. It is a unique Speech in that it mentions no Acts of Parliament which are going to be passed, but I am certain that if the Government calls upon this House to pass necessary Acts of Parliament they will be passed without any undue delay and with only a modicum of speech. I hope that there will be legislation during the coming 57 Session. I will only say in passing that the only letters I have received from my constituents are those which point to the hardships of the aged and of widows left with children. I am not trying to make sob-stuff capital cut of this, but the aged and the widows are passing through increasing difficulties and even in these days, if it is shown that we shall have to increase the benefits given to these people, I hope the House will be ready to shoulder the task.
I was glad that the Gracious Speech mentioned the fact that the Emperor of Ethiopia had taken his place in his capital. Surely it is poetic justice that the country which was set upon the first should be the first to be liberated. I could not help thinking as I listened to the Gracious Speech, and read it afterwards, that I would rather be a "yes-man'' supporting the present Government than Mussolini, who is now the rubber stamp of the Fuehrer. I was glad also that mention was made, in the Gracious Speech, of Turkey. As a non-military man, knowing very little of strategy, I hope that during the coming months Turkey will continue to be able to call her soul her own and maintain her Alliance with this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple mentioned reconstruction after the war. I would remind him that there is a member of the Government—and of the War Cabinet—who has one of the most difficult of tasks, and that is the task of reconstruction. He gets no spotlight, but plenty of criticism, and I hope that he is getting on with the job. If the Minister without Portfolio were present, I would suggest to him that he ought to have a moving lent and not be content to sit in Whitehall. We want the Minister, for instance, in my constituency. It is quite impossible for some of the municipal authorities to indulge in schemes of reconstruction without the aid of the central authority, and therefore the best thing for the Minister without Portfolio to do would be to go and see what is to be done on the spot, so that he can realise the terrific problems with which places like Kingston-upon-Hull are faced.
There is only one further matter to which I wish to refer, and that is that I wish some of the Departments of State could be prompter in their answers to correspondence. I have received many resolutions, not condemning, but support- 58 ing, the Government and at the same time pointing out a certain amount of negligence in the answering of correspondence. Three weeks ago—and I hope that this will be brought to the notice of the Dominions Secretary—I pointed out the state of affairs on the coast of Labrador, where the inhabitants are suffering great privations. When a Member of Parliament tries to draw the attention of the responsible Minister, he often finds several days' delay, and then when he asks the Minister about it the latter sometimes says he has not yet seen the letter. I have said this in order to get it into the OFFICIAL REPORT, so that the Minister responsible will take immediate action to save the people on the coast of Labrador from starvation.
I have nothing further to say except that I am glad of this opportunity to look forward. Like other Members of this House, I do not know when the war is going to end, but we are ready to see it through, and in any action which His Majesty's Government may take in order that the war shall be carried forward to a successful issue both His Majesty and His Majesty's Government can depend upon the faithful Commons.
§ Major Lyons (Leicester, East)
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will forgive me if in the very few minutes at my disposal I do not attempt to add my quota to the many interesting observations which he has made. I would, however, desire to make some observations, if I may, upon two things to which he referred. The first is what he said about our being anxious to support the Government in any Measure that may be necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. We are all ready to give what support we can to a Government determined to take efficient and constant action for the vigorous prosecution of the war, but some of us are a little apprehensive that notwithstanding the large measure of power granted to the Government some 18 months ago so few steps should have been taken to make use of the great resources available. Representing the overwhelming opinion of the country, we should willingly support any other and additional measures deemed necessary.
It would ill become me in the short time available to make much criticism of the speech made by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), but I hope 59 he will allow me to express the view, which I think is the view of a great number of hon. Members, that however courageous he is in making that speech alone to-day, we disagree profoundly with some of his observations. Especially do I dissent from his statement that this country had been suffering from what he sees fit to describe as "a mongrel system." Whatever system this country has had and whatever its effects may have been, it has given a greater opportunity, more security, a wider outlook and a greater degree of personal freedom, liberty and toleration than have been known anywhere else in the world, and while at all times different Governments have been ready to make such improvements as could properly be made with even that system, I think it ill becomes anybody to say that it is a mongrel one. It is the system under which this country has become great and prosperous, and which has given us all a greater degree of safe freedom than any other country in the world. With that observation I will leave the hon. Member's speech, but it must not be thought for a moment that I agree with a large amount of what he said.
It is customary, on this day, to look at the Gracious Speech, and see indicated a number of specific proposals for the future. That does not arise on this occasion. Circumstances necessarily prevent it. There is one striking paragraph which I may quote:The fulfilment of the task to which we are committed will call for the unsparing effort of every one of us.I recognise what the Prime Minister rightly said to-day when he spoke about this Debate being in each Session the grand inquest of the nation. May I speak to the Government respectfully and humbly as a back bencher? The criticism which people are making is that they are not being directed enough in the way of sacrifices, and effort, that there is not sufficient mobilisation of the undoubted resources of the Empire. The country, to the last man and the last woman, is ready and willing to give up everything, and to be harnessed in the national effort. I put it this way. So anxious are we that this war should be prosecuted vigorously and with vast determination and concluded successfully that the whole people say "Take everything. Let us even surrender our liberties for the time being to 60 the Government. We ask you to take everything, knowing full well that this Government or its successor will hand us back those liberties in full measure when the war is over, rather than take the risk of some one depriving us of those liberties for ever." We have seen remarkable instances of trade unionists sacrificing rights for which they have fought for many years, because they know that our war effort should be as full as possible. I urge the Government: Do not ask, take everything in the mobilisation of the national effort and place it where it will be used vigorously and purposefully. Do not plead; do not adopt a "flag-day" complex. Let us all be unsparing in the task.
May I urge one or two individual matters? Man-power presents a great problem. Many of us have criticised the way in which man-power has been organised. I ask the Government, are we to have any real increase in national service, the mobilisation of all those people willing and ready to be mobilised in the national effort, or is it to be delayed, and is every obstacle to be put in the way of people of middle age and advancing years who offer their services being accepted? I would say, "Mobilise everything and everybody everywhere." Harness the whole lot, and sort out in the most useful way for the one transcending purpose of the vigorous prosecution of the war effort. In reply to a Question of mine yesterday, it was stated, for the second time in recent weeks, that it is anticipated that a statement on the subject of individual reservation as opposed to bulk reservation will be made at an early date. In the third year of the war, is it too much to ask that the mistakes of the last war should be considered and shed now, and that improvements, obviously required, should be made at this stage? Individual reservation should have come long ago. I hope there will no longer be delay in bringing about the better reorganisation of the man-power of the nation and the absorption of large numbers more. Some of us would like more detailed selection in some of the organised places in which man-power is marshalled and directed.
If the Government want more power to do this they have only to say so and the whole House will be willing and ready to give it. All we ask is that power should be taken and applied properly and purposefully in the furtherance of the 61 nation's war effort. The hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) spoke about compensation to be paid to small industries which are no longer able to carry on with their proper functions. I realise there are difficulties in that direction. I assume that my hon. Friend includes in this question, the position of small shopkeepers. I hope they will not be omitted if any comprehensive scheme is presented. With the trend of events in industry nowadays, the small shopkeeper is carrying a burden which is becoming well nigh intolerable and I hope that if any steps are taken that the small shopkeeper will be one of the first to have his really difficult situation properly analysed and dealt with. Whatever testing time awaits us, the country is determined. It asks for plan, leadership, direction. In my submission, it is entitled to each one of these things. It is entitled to have a Government which will mobilise the whole resources of the Empire. I listened to the Prime Minister when he said to-day that the present system of Cabinet government was going to remain. I do venture to make this plea, on the first day of the Session, that he will not shut the door altogether to the formation of an Empire War Cabinet, consisting of a few chosen advisers, representative of the whole British Empire, planning together, free from all departmental duties, to direct, to order, and to control the full war effort of the whole Empire.
I hope it will not go out that the Government resent criticism. Let us not have dangerous complacency. In the last few weeks there has been a good deal of criticism of the allowances of soldiers' wives and the imposition of a means test, or something akin, in the new scale. In 62 the presence of two of the Service Ministers, let me say that I hope that the Government have taken heed of that. I think it would be a welcome thing to the country if the whole question of a means test were taken away from this and a flat improved rate given to those who have to bear a very heavy burden because of increased costs and prices. I hope it will not go out that the Government are to shirk criticism. It is not criticism of the effort to which they are directing themselves; it is the way in which they are doing it. I am glad to have had an opportunity of making these few comments. I hope the Government will take heed of the fact that the country is anxious, perhaps more anxious than individual Ministers know, that there should be a tremendous stepping-up in the whole gearing of the country's war effort.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put and agreed to.—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.