§ DEBATE ON THE ADDRESS. [Sixth Day.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th November]:
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."— [Captain Pilkington.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Captain McEwen (Berwick and Haddington)
I am sure I am voicing the opinion of the majority of the back benchers in expressing my pleasure that we return once more to a general discussion of issues connected with the war, and leave specialised subjects, with which we have so far been dealing.
Ministers have been tireless in warning the country of the dangers of complacency. Everyone readily understands how insidious, and indeed fatal, those dangers might well be, but there is a danger of overdoing this appeal. We all have met the logical and highly intelligent debaters who know what you and I, who are so much slower in our minds, are going to say before we say it, and who are always two jumps ahead of the conversation. As often as not they are two" jumps in the wrong direction. In July last year, France, and indeed Europe, which is the same thing— it has been well stated that France is Europe in miniature—said, like those individuals to whom I refer, that, by all the rules of logic and intelligence, it was obvious that we had only a few days to live. The event showed that they were wrong, and they were proved to be wrong, as indeed was the enemy, precisely by our innate complacency. If the idea that we could be defeated had entered into our thick skulls for one moment, not even the Royal Air Force could have saved us. It never did enter in, and, therefore, we were saved. Therefore I say, let us beware lest, by too thorough a condemnation of complacency, 624 we undermine the fundamental self-confidence which may bo said, to a certain extent, to justify it.
I have noticed in the course of this Debate that little or nothing has so far been said about France. Very little indeed is said at any time about France these days, with the honourable exception of the Prime Minister, to whom all those who, like myself, think that no future Europe which does not contain a free and vital France is conceivable, will be duly grateful. Although we talk a great deal these days—very rightly and properly— about our Russian and American Allies and friends, yet, taking a long view such as pertains to civilisation and the art of living, what we have to learn from those two great countries is as nothing, I believe, to what we have to learn from France. I am not denying that we have great cause for complaint regarding France as an Ally, nor am I denying that that cause may become even greater in the days which are immediately before us. At the same time, let us not be hasty in any judgment that we form. France was not decadent, but her Government was, and it is well to realise that it was far more of an egalitarian democracy than ever was ours. In fact it was a democracy which lacked those very checks, monarchic and oligarchic, which we possess, and which hon. Members in other parties than my own are so fond of saying that it is their intention to destroy.
The appearance of Viscount Gort's despatches recently has reminded us once more of the deplorable panic which overwhelmed the French civilian population at the advance of the enemy. But are we so certain that in the same circumstances we should have behaved in any other way? Those people were not flying from an unknown danger, from something of which they were ignorant, but, on the contrary, from something which they knew only too well. While this was our second great war in 70 years, it was France's third, and moreover the third fought on her own soil. For all I know, it may be an axiom that no country however great and however powerful, is capable of facing up to three major invasions of her territory within the space of the lifetime of a man. Above all, of course, they had a vivid—a too vivid— sense of the value of the life of every single Frenchman, hence what has come 625 to be known as the Maginot complex. But again it is not for us to throw stones, for in all fairness it should be remembered that they had been bled white in the last war. Is the incidence of casualties in the last war sufficiently realised, I wonder. Germany, out of a population of 70,000,000, mobilised over 13,000,000 and lost about 2,000,000 dead. The British Empire, out of a white population of 60,000,000, mobilised over 9,000,000 and suffered 1,000,000 dead. But France, out of a population of only 38,000,000, mobilised 8,000,000 and lost nearly 2,000,000 killed. In view of those figures, I submit that we should do well, in passing such strictures as we may feel it incumbent upon us to do upon a great country in the hour of her bitter trial, to temper our judgment with compassion.
There are many other subjects upon which it is tempting to dwell on an occasion of this kind, such as the Atlantic Charter or the antics of the Communist party, the various manifestations of the B.B.C. or even the gratuitous extension of the "V" campaign to our own doorsteps, all of them milestones along the road to the larger lunacy. It is not, however, my intention to do more than touch upon one other subject, which is at the same time a difficult and a somewhat delicate one. We understand from the cries which arise from Ministerial sources that there is an urgent need at the present time for a vastly increased number of women to take part in the war effort. It seems to me, possibly wrongly, that the Government, and in particular the Ministry of Labour, have got this all wrong, that their appeal to women to join the various branches of the women's organisations is based on entirely wrong grounds.
Let me take two instances. There is a large poster which one sees in various streets of this city, and indeed elsewhere, which says, "Adventure through service with the A.T.S." What woman is there, with the exception of a very few, who is in the least degree attracted by the idea of adventure? It is possibly a telling or compelling argument to use with youths of 16 or 17 or even 18 or 19 years of age, but, in my submission, the last thing a woman wants is adventure. What she wants is security, a settled home, peace and quietness, and, moreover, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Major Vyvyan Adams) was 626 pointing out the other day the financial hardships which fall on certain junior officers and indeed on those in the ranks at the present time. The wives, for example, of junior officers have a great deal to put up with. They have had the props and mainstays of their domestic household removed with very little consideration, they are charged exorbitant rents for minute lodgings in places where they go hither and thither in pursuit of their husbands, they are treated by the Government with scant consideration in many ways, and when, on the top of all this, they come across an appeal to them to join the A.T.S. on the ground of adventure, I can well imagine their response. I submit that it is no use for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour—I hope that he has fully recovered from his recent illness—to go about the country bellowing like a wounded rhinoceros, threatening all sorts of compulsory steps, conscription and the rest, against women, and appealing to their sense of adventure. That is not the right approach at all.
The second instance I would give is one raised the other day by my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet), who asked a Question about a certain poster for the A.T.S. which, she said, was unworthy and should be withdrawn. The Minister of Labour agreed with her and said it would not be reprinted. I see that it is still hanging up in the front hall of the Ministry of Labour. However, it was to be withdrawn. I had not seen the poster, so I took steps to have a look at it. Of course, it turned out to be the only poster which would be of the slightest use so far as recruiting posters are concerned that has yet appeared. I might presume that the objection taken was that it portrayed a lady in the uniform of the A.T.S. who would, in modern jargon, be described as glamorous. The glamorous theme is apparently no use; that is banned, it is not allowed. Why, that is the one appeal which would have hope of bringing in a great many women.
§ Captain McEwen
I am glad to be con-firmed in my view by my hon. Friend. My attention has recently been drawn to this sort of thing on the same lines 627 the other day in a report to the effect that some girls in one of the branches of the national effort had been forbidden to have mirrors in their houses, huts or wherever they were living. What self-respecting woman would leave her room in the morning without looking in her mirror? It may be a trivial matter, but no more trivial than issuing an order to the troops, for example, that they had to shave in cold water in the morning. We can all do it, but it is a nuisance. Why should we? Why should they? Because it appears to be part of the settled campaign of the Government to see that this war has to be run on strictly utilitarian lines: women are to be treated exactly as if they were adventurous youths, and no consideration of psychology is to enter into any appeal to them. I suggest that that is fundamentally wrong, and I further suggest that until the Government realise that this problem is not an ovine problem, but a feline one, they will make no very great progress.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I join with the previous speaker in almost all he said about the appeal to women to join, not only in the A.T.S., but generally in the war effort. I agree with him that many of us are glad that the Debate has come back to a wider and more general level. Some of us rather regretted —per haps it could not be helped—that we went into narrower channels during two or three whole days. I wish to take up where the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) left off in the opening speech of this Debate. He said, among a number of very interesting comments, that he had been trying to find out in South Wales what was the underlying reason for the frustration. When I spoke in the last general Debate I dared to say that I thought there was uneasiness in the country. I have taken some trouble in my own constituency and elsewhere in investigating this, and I would not say that at the present time there is uneasiness or anxiety. On the whole, there is really a grim determination, in some places perhaps complacency, but there is, if I could sum it up in two words, a ferment and a frustration at the present time. I have never known people coming forward, especially in the field of voluntary work, with such good will, and I have never 628 known so many people frustrated by small, pettifogging, fussy, bureaucratic interference over a wide field.
I wish to mention two or three of these subjects in the remarks I make to the House. My hon. Friend said that an old collier had expressed to him the general determination to go through with the war, but that he was haunted by the memory of the last 20 years, and he said, "After this, what?" I still feel, in spite of what some Members, and apparently the Government think, that people do want to pin their hopes on something very much better than we have had in the last 20 years. I take this view about the post war world, and I am very glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio is present. I do not believe that there will be some period at which we pull down the curtains and say, "We are now in the post-war world. Let us intro duce a number of reforms." I think that is a wholly mistaken view. My mind goes back to those years between 1919 and 1922 when some of us were flung back from the war to the university. There were great hopes. We saw those hopes dashed to the ground bit by bit over the ensuing years. I hold that the only time to approach the post-war world is now. My criticism, if I have a criticism, so far as I can detect it, of the Government attitude is that they are not prepared to cash-in on certain things that are happening now because they think they are controversial.
To take just one field. I do not apologise for bringing right into the forefront of a war Debate one of the most important subjects and one of the most important Departments in this country, that is, education. We had a Debate last week on religious education. I would like to make my position perfectly clear, because I had thought of trying to speak in that Debate. I hold that unless a school is permeated and shot through with religion, it is only firing on one cylinder. That is my personal view. But when I see 220 signatures to a petition for more religion in the schools and when I see hon. Members standing up and speaking on that subject, I reflect that at this very moment there are things going on in the city of London under our eyes, to which they might well direct their attention. I see this curious picture, this patchwork picture, in which men are fighting grimly 629 in Libya, as we know, when the people in the Air Force and the Navy are fighting, and this home front is simply being neglected. Last night I went to see some children between 9 and 14 years of age in one of the shelters in London. Before I got there the place was smashed up. I do not want to make stunt speeches about juvenile delinquency, but everyone here knows that there is, at this moment, an increase, an alarming increase. The reason is that there is not the same amount of enthusiasm and the same amount of change in Government machinery on the home front that there is in some of the Services.
I Know that in one particular branch of the Air Force —and there is no harm in saying that some of my friends were concerned —very big changes were made recently, and quite rightly. Do we see that happening in the Civil Service or in the machinery on the home front? How many men with first-class experience in evacuation or Civil Defence or local government problems have been brought up and put either into the heart of the Cabinet Secretariat or in the Ministry of Health or the other Home Service Departments? I do not find that happening at all. There is in this country at the present time an outpouring of the voluntary spirit such as those who have been working in these particular spheres have never known before, but, day after day, wherever I go, I hear the same thing— ferment and frustration. I heard it last night, I heard it on the telephone this morning, and I have heard it wherever I have gone in the last two months, and in that time I have been through about 17 London boroughs and in other parts of the country as well, examining this problem at first hand. I find that this is the universal experience. People say, for example, "Why should we have to go through 12 different channels in order to provide a nursery centre?" That is true at the present moment. Such a proposal has to be surveyed by the Ministry of Labour, and then it has to go through three different bodies, including, for some reason, the W.V.S., and then it has to go back to the regional office, and so forth. I am inclined to be in favour of regional offices, if they have a job to do, but at present there is not in the regional offices any one person in charge of this particular subject, and the consequence is that such a proposal has to go through 630 officials who have very little knowledge of the question.
In the Debate on 13th November the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), following my hon. friend the Member for Llanelly, made an interesting speech which I believe found an echo in many parts of the country. He asked whether the Government was giving us a lead. He said the nation was waiting for a lead and for some real purpose, and another hon. Member on the same occasion said the spirit was there but it wanted to be aroused. I know all that sort of talk about wanting a lead, but the fact to-day is that the people themselves are only too willing to bear their responsibilities. To give one example, we have in London seen a great deal of improvement in connection with the Civil Defence Service and in the Ministry of Health organisation for dealing with post-blitz problems, and I congratulate all who have had anything to do with that improvement. But what is the position now? You have in London the most beautiful rest centres and you have a vast number of people, ambulance workers, wardens and the rest standing by for Civil Defence. If the machinery were made sufficiently imaginative and flexible there is no reason why you should not move that machinery over to constructive purposes in the various social services.
I realise that you cannot interfere with the whole structure, but in regard to children under five, children between five and 14 and people between 14 and 18 in this country, the two main shortages are shortage of accommodation and shortage of personnel. And yet what are the Government doing now? Not content with calling up 12,000 teachers and more, they are calling up young people between 25 and 30 who are most experienced in this particular branch of work. I would ask the Minister of Labour in this connection whether he has consulted with the people who know, and why it is that when there are experts on these problems available, they are completely overruled and are not put in charge of the work. Why not put the expert into the heart of the Civil Service and give him or her a job to do? There are bodies available in the field of nursery centres. There is one person who is well known who happens to have great knowledge on this subject; she has interested herself very much in the work and 631 has done the imaginative thing in helping, for instance, by providing some 2,000 or 3,000 toys in connection with the nursery centres. There are many other similar things waiting to be done. But if you try to get things done you meet with a thousand obstructions. I have tried to put through various proposals. I have sent letters to various people and to various Departments. I have no doubt the people concerned do their best but such communications at present have to make an enormous round and pass through the hands of three or four people before one can get any satisfaction. It seems to me that all such questions on the home front call for the help of people with practical knowledge and experience at the present time.
I could not quite swallow some of the speeches which were made earlier in the course of the Debate on the Address and especially some of those made during the Debate on religious education. When I go to my constituency I find that within the space of two weeks there have been four strikes. One strike was absolutely unnecessary and in that case the employers were completely wrong. In the case of the next strike I think the men were more in the wrong, and we have now had a token strike on the Clyde. Who ever is right and whoever is wrong on the Clyde one thing is certain, that there is no reason for a delay of several months. It is a question of the time lag. Demands were put forward on behalf of shipyard workers whose wages were considerably lower than those which skilled men should have had before the war. They put in what seemed to a great many people to be a reasonable demand but it has taken six months before this matter has come to a head before the national arbitration tribunal. People naturally ask why this kind of thing should happen at a time when armies are locked in war in Libya. The men themselves, in most cases, do not want to be on strike. They are anxious only to give more production.
I have visited voluntary workers in Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckingham shire and Berkshire who are dealing with the problems of evacuation and who are most anxious to help, but they too are in some cases throwing in their hands. Some of them have resigned. They ask, "How can we go on working against this 632 machinery?" One of them said to me, "I have spent four months in trying to get one nursery centre in. this county." That is not good enough in these days when we are speeding up the machinery in other respects, as for instance in the case of war transport with a new Minis try. Why cannot the members of the Government get down to these other problems of the home front? I am a bit sore about the question of the nursery schools. I feel this matter personally. When I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education nearly two years ago, the dispute about this question was, I do not mind saying, then in progress. Many of us held different views about it. I hold the same views as I held then, but two years have now elapsed and there is no reason why there should not be one person in charge with an O.C. equipment, O.C. accommodation and O.C. personnel to deal with this all-important subject. There is one well-known voluntary body which has the respect of this House and which has quite recently trained 300 people for this kind of work and they are now waiting about for a job to do, but the nursery schools are not provided.
I have covered one or two different fields on which one could enlarge and I do not want, to-day, to speak on any of the narrower issues involved. The problem is one of the machinery of government not adapting itself sufficiently quickly on the home front to war situations. I do not know what the solution of the problem is. I do not know whether it is a case of having one man, a sort of superman in the Cabinet looking at these things in a broad way. Many people think there should be such a per son and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has, I think, given expression to that view. There are three or four Ministers—the President of the Board of Education, the Minister of Health, the Home Secretary for instance —who have an enormous amount to do, but there are other Members of the Cabinet with out special portfolios. Might I, there fore, bring this question through my right hon. Friend opposite to the attention of the Prime Minister? I believe that he is only too anxious to see a speed-up on these home front questions. To satisfy the demand which undoubtedly exists it is not necessary to have any drastic change of the whole machinery. If you 633 could turn the wheel round 10 or 20 degrees and not necessarily "sack," but re move a few people and put them in other places without finding them rather more important posts afterwards, as has been done in some cases—if you remove them quietly but efficiently—and if you could put in two or three people of knowledge and experience and let the public know that you have done so—I think that is most important—it would be a real advance.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and Haddington (Captain McEwen) talked about the psychological effect and I believe that to be intensely important. If you let the public know that you have made changes then I believe you will give just that extra turn of the wheel which will bring public confidence solidly behind the Government. Realising that I have covered rather a wide field but hoping that other hon. Members will echo my experience and enable me to feel that I have been ex pressing not an individual view but a feeling generally held in this House, I would conclude by repeating that we do demand a speeding-up and a more sym pathetic and imaginative approach to these home front problems.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
In asking the indulgence of the House for a few moments, I wish to refer to that part of His Majesty's Gracious Speech which states that the Government are considering the urgent problems which will arise at the end of the war. I would like first, however, to make one or two comments on criticisms which we have heard in this Debate. We are told that, while the Prime Minister is undoubtedly the nation's leader, he lacks some of the qualities required for that position. In particular, the criticism was made that he was quite incapable of choosing suitable colleagues. I cannot under stand any man being suitable as the nation's leader if he cannot choose suit able colleagues. That is the very essence of leadership. Take Alexander: he had the most brilliant soldiers gathered around him. Our Lord Nelson gathered around him a gallant band of captains, which showed more than anything else his instinct for leadership. Napoleon, too, in his prime, gathered around him marshals who, apart from Napoleon himself, were the greatest soldiers of that time. I think there is a great deal of unjustified depre- 634 ciation of the Prime Minister's colleagues. A great many of them have done extra ordinarily well. The problems they have to face are exceedingly difficult, and I cannot conceive that the Prime Minister would continue to give them his confidence if they were making such a mess of things. On the contrary, I think that among those Ministers there are more than the average number who have made considerable successes of their jobs.
We were also told that there was deep anxiety in the country regarding the attitude of the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues on the question of help for Russia. That can be tested at by-elections. Some indication of what people are thinking about is provided in that way. I con tested an election in 1929, and I know what happens when there is great public interest in any question. In 1929 there was great anxiety about unemployment. At every meeting I held—the constituency was an industrial one—I was asked scores of questions about what the Government were going to do in regard to unemployment. In my recent by-election I spoke at hundreds of meetings: I was opposed by an exceedingly skilful electioneer, bound by no party or other ties; and in the whole of the campaign I was asked only one question about the attitude of the Government towards Russia. That does not suggest anxiety; at any rate, it is not comparable with the anxiety about unemployment which was shown in 1929.
I am myself chairman of a firm which was one of the first to supply munitions to Russia, and which is still supplying them. I am supplying munitions, not talking about it. The feeling that there is great anxiety on this question is not, I think, reflected in the constituencies. As far as we are concerned, the position of Russia, surely, is similar to that of any other Ally of ours. We shall help her to the utmost. That does not mean that we should alter our private opinions. If we help Greece, I am not going to say that I am in favour of a military dictatorship, which I under stand is the form of government in modern Greece. Nor do I suggest that other Members should alter their opinions because the Ally who most needs our help at present has a different form of government from ours. Similarly, I do not see why Russia, because she is being helped by the great private industries of America and of England, should necessarily alter her opinions. She prefers State institu- 635 tions; let her have them. Are we not fighting for the right of every country to have the form of government that it prefers, and not to have some other form forced upon it from outside?
Coming to the point which I particularly wish to raise, this question of post war problems, I was glad to hear that the Government propose to introduce a Bill to restore the rights and privileges which the trade unions have voluntarily given up during the war in order to help the war effort. Every intelligent employer realises the value of the great machinery of collective bargaining which has been built up over so many years, and which now forms an integral part of the industrial system of this country. It is necessary to have a Bill, in order that there may be no obscurity about the position of the trade unions. We want the industrial machine at the end of this war to resume its normal functioning as quickly as possible, and with as little friction as possible. In that, we can get great help from the trade unions, if they feel that they are getting a square deal from the rest of the community. It must be remembered that the trade unions them selves have been the object of subversive attack by people who wished to alter their method of approach to industrial problems, and who were, I think, them selves anxious to get the jobs that would be going.
It is equally necessary that some re assurance should be given to agriculture and to industry. To agriculture, that re assurance has, in part, been given. My right. hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture only the other day, with, I think, the approval of every section of the House, guaranteed, at any rate., to the tenant farmers that they could go safely ahead with their plans for the next few years, knowing that they would find an adequate market for their produce. If it is necessary to give a pledge to agriculture, how much more necessary is it to give a pledge to industry that their pre war liberties and rights will be restored? In agriculture, it is true that you have speeded up production, but you have not interfered with the normal processes of agriculture to anything like the extent that the normal processes of industry have been interfered with. Concentration of industry has meant for many firms a complete revolution, for the time 636 being. There are questions, such as that of goodwill, which will present very great difficulties. Many people may think it superfluous to ask for an assurance on this matter. I do not ask for a Bill; a statement from the Prime Minister is all that is required. But there are people airing views at present which suggest that immense, but vague and unspecified, changes should take place in our industrial structure. I notice that they all have one thing in common. None pro poses to refer the matter to the electorate. They all propose that these changes should be brought in by a side wind, before there is once more a General Election. There are doubts, apart from it being quite undemocratic, as to whether any such new scheme would work. We work in this country by discussion and debate. Our conception of democracy is debate and government by consent. To suggest that these great changes are to be brought in is having a very unsettling effect on the actions of employers, who, equally with the trades unions, have to face a very difficult problem of post-war employment.
As the House knows, employers are bound to give re-employment to the men returning from the Forces, and the way this is to be done is to see that the industries are in a position to fulfil those pledges. In that connection I want to refer to the Atlantic Charter. Some critics contend that the Atlantic Charter was nothing but a collection of common places. I do not agree with them. The Atlantic Charter, even if the Clauses are only half carried out, will be to many of the people of Europe a very heaven com pared with the hell through which they have been going during the last few years. Clause 4 of the Atlantic Charter does, in fact, promise a great renewal of inter national trade. The normal channels of trade are to be free. We are no longer to work by subsidies, by barter agreements, and so forth, but the channels are to be freely opened, and once more the peoples of Europe and of the world are to have more freely of the varied products that the world is only too anxious to provide for them. Let us be frank about this matter. What does that mean? It means a very greatly increased inter national competition in trade. I do not object to it. I welcome competition. I like national competition, and I like 637 international competition. It is the main, and in the long run, the only safeguard for the consumer. But if that is so and we are to have this greater competition, then it is essential that the wheels of industry must be ready to turn over. It is essential that the employer should have confidence to go ahead with his plans and that he should not be left in a state of wondering, "Is my land to be nationalised? Is my industry to be tied up with other industries? Am I to be de-concentrated or concentrated?" All these things, everyone of them, are obstacles of a very serious nature to the natural resumption of trade. In this matter we owe a very great debt to all those who have left their employment to serve in the Forces. When they come back they must not find us disputing about Utopias looking for lands where the rainbow ends and things of that kind.
We have to deal with this problem in a spirit of reality. We have to get them back as quickly as possible into their nor mal work, and not into artificial work and work to which they are not used. We have to employ the whole of their great skill and energy in the work for which they are suitable. Nothing could be more reassuring to those of us who keep the younger generation within hail than to find that this younger generation has as much as ever the spirit of initiative, the ability to take risks and a sense of responsibility. All these qualities may not be much good in the Civil Service, but they are essential to success in private industry. We must see to it that when these men come back they are given the opportunity to employ those qualities in the arts of peace as they have been employing them, and are employing them to-day, on the field of war. How can we do that? Not by telling them when they come back that we do not know what is going to happen and that we have all been thinking of other ways to do this and that. On the contrary, we have to say that we have, by co-operation between the trades unions and the employers, got the machinery ready and that we intend to start it as quickly as possible. All these heroes, like the rest of us, desire to live in accordance with the common aspirations and common hopes of the rest of mankind. We can prepare for that.
There is a great opportunity for private industry, in my opinion, as great as that 638 which existed after the Napoleonic wars. But this time it can be expanded safely because there is a safeguard in existence to-day that was not in existence during the Napoleonic wars. We have now a national minimum of wages, of leisure, of health conditions and of education. Those minima are still rising, and, therefore, we can say to industry, "Go ahead and expand." When that is done we can give the people employment quickly. We have a great housing problem with which we must go on with, not only to replace the houses destroyed, but to continue at an increasing scale the pre-war housing programme. Let us have that assurance of the Prime Minister. Let us give people confidence so that they may go ahead, and then, when these men come back, we can see to it that we provide for them a decent day's work at a decent day's wage and can say to them that when they have finished their work they can return, not to a communal kitchen, but to a home and a fireside of their own.
§ Dr. Salter (Bermondsey, West)
I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) on the fluency, ease and self-command with which he addressed the House. As this is probably almost the last occasion on which I shall have the opportunity of addressing this House, I can no longer refrain from rising to oppose the present war and everything connected with it. There are only seven or eight of us in the House who are resolutely opposed to all war for any purpose whatsoever, and our opposition is based primarily on religious grounds. But there is evidence that outside this House there are at least 2,000,000 people who share these views, or roughly about one in 20 of the population are equally strongly opposed. For centuries the Churches have sought to harmonise the Christian command "Love one another" with the nationalist slogan, "Kill one another." If you fully accept Christ and his Gospel, the two positions are wholly incompatible. No one dare assert that Jesus Christ would have accepted the latter suggestion. His whole message was that any creed, however brutal and bestial, could only be over come and finally eradicated by spiritual weapons and never by destroying men, women and children indiscriminately. His teaching was to meet evil with good and hatred by love and sympathy.
639 I believe that it is my duty to proclaim my testimony against all war, whatever the bishops, the archbishops and the Free Church leaders may say to the contrary. I am thankful that my own religious body, the Society of Friends, of which I am a humble member, has spoken officially and with no uncertain voice about the wholesale slaughter which is now going on. I can take no notice of the Church leaders, who declare in one voice that all war is opposed to the spirit and teaching of Jesus Christ, and in another, talk war, preach war and pray for victory in the war. They are doubt less perfectly sincere and honest, but I am convinced that they are mistaken. There will be no spiritual revival in this country, no forward movement in religion, until the leaders have abandoned this betrayal of Christ and until they have repented of their apostasy.
I am thankful that the Cardinal Arch bishop of Ireland uttered these words a few weeks ago. He said:After two years of war, and although passions have been inflamed and anger, hatred and revenge aroused, I say that there is incomparably a better chance of attaining a just peace now than if the war is fought till it ends in victory for one side or another or in stalemate. The statesmen on both sides must know this much better than you or I. I am not saying this rashly. I have considered it, and I think it is somebody's duty to say it. I think it is time for somebody to speak out openly and say this.He went on:The poor plain people of the world to whom victory on either side will not mean very much are suffering every day the loss of their dear ones—husband, brother, father or son—and day after day they know that un told incalculable wealth is being poured out in this war and they also know it will leave a heritage of suffering and want of misery for them.He added:I think that the statesmen of the world should now come together and see whether it is not possible to arrive at a just peace. I am convinced that it is my duty to say that. In view of the sufferings of the world, there is a grave obligation upon the statesmen to make more of an effort than they seem to be doing to bring about a just and lasting peace.The people of Europe are undergoing hell at the present moment. The appalling, the fearful, slaughter on the Russian front, the wholesale starvation of Europe, and the massacre of men, women and children cry aloud for pity, but there is no sugges- 640 tion of stopping the war. Is there no one who, for humanity's sake, will call a halt? I say, with the Cardinal Archbishop of Ireland, that I do not believe—whatever may be said of the untrustworthiness of Hitler and the difficulty of negotiating with him—that it is really impossible for the statesmen of Europe to arrange an armistice and make peace. A suffering and defenceless Christ went out to Calvary though he could have called down legions of angels to defend him. Christ went unresistingly to Calvary, and it may be that we may have to undergo martyrdom first. But I have the faith that in the end the Kingdom of God will come, but it will be not as a consequence of this war. God will triumph, but not in the way the Allied Governments imagine.
Note the steady moral deterioration that has accompanied the struggle so far. Open retaliation and revenge are now being advocated in the highest quarters, and the position is growing worse and worse. No apologies are now being offered for the indiscriminate bombing of women and children. At first people hesitated to preach blatant revenge, and in the early days of the war only strictly military targets were said to be the objectives of our Air Force. Now we have photographs showing whole streets of working-class houses being blown sky-high by our bombs. Hatred is being engendered between nations by the Press and by the B.B.C., and it will only intensify and aggravate the international problem, so that every day the war continues it will become harder, not only materally but spiritually, to build a new and better world. The present war will leave behind it a pandemonium of hatred which is terrifying to the imagination. All this is founded on the great and terrible fallacy that ends justify means. They never do—never, never. That is an eternal truth which no casuistry can get around or can overthrow.
We cannot believe that any new or righteous order of society will be achieved by evil means, by overcoming evil with greater, more potent and more effective evil. We offer, only an indefinite prolongation of the agony of Europe. Is there to be no end to this torture of millions of human beings? Is there no pity in the whole world? Are all our hearts hardened and coarsened by events? There is apparently little or no hope of 641 moving the Government, but all the same I beg them, I implore them, to seize the first opportunity of making peace. Britain and all Europe are rushing down the steep slopes to collective suicide and damnation. Will not somebody, for the love of God, for the sake of Christ, demand sanity and peace? Must the war continue by its own inherent momentum until the final crash ends in prolonged anarchy and social confusion? I pray God it may not so end, but that some statesman may step in and secure the control of events that the leaders of the peoples in all the lands have apparently lost.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Although I profoundly disagree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), who has just sat down, I do not think anyone will doubt his complete sincerity, and I think one may pay a tribute to the spirit of tolerance shown by Members of the House while he was speaking. I do not agree with his reading of the New Testament. Surely we are taught in the New Testament to resist evil at all costs, and if what we are resisting now is not evil, I do not know what evil is.
I propose to detain the House for only a few moments, to express my regret, which I know is shared by many other hon. Members and others outside, that the Gracious Speech did not contain any indication that the Government propose to adopt a wages policy. I think the present position is likely to lead to more and more difficulty. I realise, of course, that it is an extremely difficult question, but because it is difficult surely that is no reason why the Government should not tackle it before they find themselves in the position from which escape will be extremely difficult. It is a rather curious thing that in this respect we seem to have done nothing at all, from the last war. Then there was the same state of affairs as exists to-day—high wages being paid in industry and a bare subsistence allowance to men serving in the Forces. Have the Government forgotten that there was bitter feeling among the men in the Forces when they compared their lot and the lot of their dependants with men at home in industry?
I cannot help thinking that it is a misfortune that the Minister of Labour did not himself have the privilege of serving 642 in the Armed Forces during the last war, because I feel that had he done so, he would be better able to appreciate what the men in the Services are feeling about this business to-day. It is not only the men in the Services. During the last few weeks particularly I have received many letters from my constituents—from wives and mothers of men who have been called up and who ask whether I can do any thing to remedy the position whereby their sons and husbands, and they them selves, are so much worse off than the men who are remaining at home and are serving in industry. I suppose it is true to say that complete equality of sacrifice is an ideal which is unattainable, but we ought to be able to get a good deal closer to it than we are now. There cannot possibly be any justification for a system which allows skilled men, such as miners and agricultural labourers, to draw smaller wages than boys of 15 and 16. There is still less justification for paying more to these boys than to the men who are risking their lives and suffering considerable discomfort and inconvenience in the Armed Forces.
We used to hear a good deal about profiteering. I think everybody who served in the last war, either at home or overseas, remembers how bitter we felt about the immense profits that were made then. We were told that in the event of another war profiteering would be impossible. I believe that profiteering is non-existent in that sense to-day, owing to the imposition of the Excess Profits Tax, but I completely fail to understand why it is profiteering when a person receives his increased income in six-monthly instalments by way of dividends but not profiteering when the increased income arrives once a week in a pay envelope. To my mind, both these sections are enjoying increased incomes directly as a result of the war.
I can assure the House that what I am saying now is not intended to be an attack on wages. I represent a constituency where the wage standard, generally speaking, has been far too low for many years. I believe, as I think we all do, in a fair wage standard, and what I am pleading for to-day is a fairer distribution of wages. I am asking for some means whereby we can be assured that everybody, skilled and unskilled, employer and employed, civilian and soldier, male and female, shall be paid in accordance with the value of 643 their contribution to the war effort. I should start the scale of pay or wages at the managing-director level and bring it down to the value of the unskilled labourer—precisely the same sort of sliding scale as there is in the Services, ranging from the Field-Marshal down to the private soldier. I ask the Minister of Labour, who must be the Minister principally concerned, to see whether he can not get some sort of negotiations started with the trade unions and the employers for the purpose of trying to get some satisfactory arrangement. The Minister of Labour has told us many times, quite rightly, that he believes in the principle of payment by results. I suggest to him that he has an opportunity of proving that he really does mean what he says.
I presume that one of these days the end of the war will come, and that we shall have defeated Germany. I am convinced that, certainly under our present leader ship, the Government are not likely to make the same mistake as we made in 1918, and that we shall not allow our selves to be fooled by the- apparent creation of a sort of liberal, humanitarian Government in Germany. I think we all realise that, in spite of the differentiation which many people make between Nazis and Germans, there is actually no difference.
§ Captain Cobb
We realise that Hitler's German is just the same as the Kaiser's German and Bismarck's German—if anything, rather worse. I think most people will agree that the only way for us to win the next peace is to occupy Germany, possibly for many years, with a consider able army, so that we can civilise the Ger mans, if necessary, against their will, and make them into the kind of people among whom we can live in peace.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he sees any difference in this country between the monopoly-holders and the working people?
§ Captain Cobb
I do not see that that has anything to do with the matter. I am talking about the alleged difference between Nazis and Germans, and trying to explain to the House what, in my view, is the only way for us to make sure that 644 another war similar to this war is not inflicted upon the world.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really see no difference between a Nazi leader and a man like Pastor Niemoller?
§ Captain Cobb
I am not saying that 100 per cent. of the Germans are the same as Goebbels or Himmler. To make such a statement would be ridiculous. What I say is that a German likes war and approves of aggression until he starts to get it in the neck himself. He has shown that time after time.
§ Captain Cobb
If I may be allowed to resume my remarks, I am convinced that if we are to have peace, not only in our time but in the time of our children and grandchildren, it is essential that we should civilise Germany by the only kind of argument the Germans understand— the argument of force. If we are to occupy Germany for some years, until we feel that they are people who can be trusted to govern themselves without making themselves a menace to every body else, we shall have to keep a large Army in being, and we shall have immense difficulties unless we can make sure that the men serving in the Forces are not very much worse off than the men serving in industry. After the last war, bitter feelings were aroused among the men in the Army. There were demonstrations in Whitehall which made the Government lose their nerve to such an extent that they scrapped the whole of the elaborate demobilisation scheme, and demobilised men without any kind of system or order, and the Army virtually disappeared, or, at any rate, its strength was enormously decreased. Unless some thing of that kind is to happen again, it is essential that the Government should take steps to see that the men serving in the three Services are at least in a position of equality with the civilians working at home. I plead with the Minister of Labour, in particular, to get down to this business and not to put it in the background, as has been done in the past.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I suppose that all of us who are fortunate enough to be called in this Debate wish to talk on that subject which seems to us to be of supreme importance. I shall 645 take the House back again to the very material question of production. I am perfectly satisfied to leave the Prime Minister to get on with the "job" of fighting the war, but we are all concerned with producing the "tools." I understand that we are to have a Debate on man-power and production next week, for which per haps I should have waited. But I want to-day to talk on the more general aspects. As there is no Cabinet Minister present on the Government Front Bench now, I hope that some of the things that I have to say will be listened to and attended to in the appropriate quarters.
The key-note of what I want to say is that we have got to do better. I think that is generally agreed. How are we going to do it? Partly, of course, by bringing more man-power into war production. But we are, as one of our journals said not long ago, moving more and more towards the stage where we have to do that by making better use of the people who are in industry and not by putting more into it. The question then is whether there is room for improvement, the need for improvement being admitted. It is difficult for any of us to answer that question, because we who are outside the Government see only a section of what is going on, and we see it from below. We have never had a clear statement of what is the target at which we are aiming and now far we are falling short of attaining it. I wish we could have had that statement at least in some of the secret De bates. I have tried to produce a fair picture in my mind. Looking at the matter from the point of view of one who represents an industrial constituency and has talked over the problem with his constituents, as one who is himself engaged in business and who has had the privilege of sitting on the National Expenditure Committee, I would sum up my impressions thus. There are very large fields of production where great momentum has been gained and where very fine work is being done, but there is also a very large field, especially among medium-sized industries making accessories and components, where conditions are far from right. There is still a lack of certainty in labour and wages policy, there is still justifiable complaint of doubt as to priori ties, there are still conflicting orders from different Departments and orders and counter-orders within the same Depart- 646 ment, there is a lack of continuity in programmes of work, panic rush orders given and then forgotten and important work held up for lack of decision as to scientific tests, etc., etc., etc. I could go on in definitely with particular illustrations.
But the point that I chiefly want to emphasise is broader. Here I propose to give an echo as the hon. member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) asked, responding to what he himself said. After 2¼ years of war we have not got a full spirit of co operation and mutual trust among all engaged in war production. Instead of having Government working in friction-less drive at all points on industry, and industry working harmoniously within itself, with a clear task before it in which all can pull together, we have still in a large part of the field doubts and vacillation about the task, and forces pulling against each other. There is still some thing that looks like narrow red tape and a jack-in-office attitude on the one side and, on the other, a sense of soreness and frustration.
I particularly do not want to exaggerate, and I do not say that this feeling is universal, but it exists in a very large part of the field of war production. To give an illustration of what I mean, I had a meeting in my constituency, a few days before we reassembled, with 12 leading industrial managers, men specially selected because of their progressive views and because they represented different types of industry. Early in our talk one of them said, "There is not a man sitting round this table who has not a feeling of grievance against the Government, a feeling that he has been messed about and that his desire for help has been frustrated." That view was endorsed by all present, with one exception, and he was the managing director of one of the large units of the big steel tube combine. His experience therefore covered a straight forward type of work required mainly by one Department. I think that the general feeling and the exception were both instructive. They threw light on what is going right and also on what is going wrong.
I am not alone in this general appreciation. Several of our daily papers, notably the "Times" and the "Daily Herald," have made special surveys which have led to similar conclusions, and the "Financial News" recently had an 647 extremely interesting series of contributions from representative men engaged in all kinds of industry who gave detailed views, which I think seriously deserve the consideration of the Government. But to me, the most impressive confirmation of my own view came in an earlier speech in this Debate, an admirable speech by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). He gave just the same impression from the workers' side, the impression that all is not well, that for some reason or other the men are not doing as well as they ought to do or want to do.
Having given this appreciation I want to make a few constructive suggestions for improving matters. Starting from the top, I still want to plead, as many have pleaded before, for a more unified planning of our whole programme of production. I wish, as so many have done, that one man could give direction on the production side, as the Prime Minister gives direction on fighting policy. I cannot believe that the pre sent system of committees can give the sure touch and the quick decision that are needed. Committees cannot write operation orders. It is operation orders that we want. Also, when we have the whole machine tuned up, I think we want a sort of revivalist energy at the top. All this has been said before by myself as well as others. The Prime Minister knows his team, and we must leave it to the Prime Minister to make decisions. But I think it is the duty of Members of Parliament to express honestly our view on these matters.
Let me turn to a second point. What ever system we have, whether it is the unified direction that I have been pleading for or whether it is departmental responsibility, corrected by various devices for co-ordination, I feel that we need some means of checking-up on the working of our machine. We in this country believe in the old method of trial and error. That is all right as long as you profit by your error, but I ask myself whether the Departments are in fact profiting by their errors or are merely concerned with denying them.
Here I want to make a practical suggestion. I suggest there should be some sort of auditing or checking machinery to follow up all alleged cases of misuse of any of the vital factors in production— materials, labour, transport, time. That 648 machinery might take various forms. The Ministry of Supply and other production Departments might each have its own Complaints Branch—or, better still, there might be some machinery for review which is independent of any single Department, an impartial outside authority with a position analogous to that of the Auditor-General. That would help the Prime Minister and the Ministers responsible; it would be good for the Departments: and it would be good for the public. At pre sent it is difficult to get satisfaction if things go wrong. Anyone who wants to call attention to these is apt to get pushed from one Department to another or one branch to another. He can hardly ever chase down the final responsibility. If there were some Complaints Branch to which he could go it would be an immense satisfaction. If there were more time, I would say more on this subject.
The two points that I have made cover control and direction from the top. I want to turn now to the transmission of that direction to the working machinery of industry. Here is another field where I think an overhaul is necessary after two and a quarter years' experience. I do not believe we have got the right men at all points in this middle piece of our organisation. Of course, we cannot have every body perfect, but I believe the complaints one hears are much too great and justifiable to give an adequate answer, even allowing for ordinary human limitations. I hope that the Minister of Supply, now that he has got through with his first special drive on tanks and has finished that great work which he did in Russia—and that was very great work—will turn on to tuning up the efficiency of the middle piece of his organisation.
That is a question of men. But the system is at fault also. Having pleaded for greater unification for settling programmes of production at the top, I want to plead for a far wider decentralisation in the supervision of execution. I believe that much more authority should be given to the Regional Boards. This is another old point. We have heard from the beginning of the war about the great things the Regional Boards were going to do, but I am very disappointed with the results. Here again, if one wants to be fair, one must admit that the results vary in different parts of the country. I am told that in the London area, or in the South-East Region, generally, things are work- 649 ing very well and that the Regional Board with its system of capacity exchanges is doing a real job of work. But from my own experience in other areas I have not found similarly satisfactory results. In the areas I know I do not believe that the Regional Boards are really doing a job of work at all. Perhaps that is not to be wondered at because they are only advisory, but, even so, something more could be made of them; and I plead most earnestly that the whole system of Regional Boards should be overhauled and attempts made to give them a much more real authority.
But that alone is not enough. It is more important still—and here I come to my main point—that much greater responsibility should be left to industry to organise its own production. The Government should work much more on the lines of telling industry what they want and leaving it to industry to work out how that production is to be achieved. There has been far too much attempt by the Government to control operations right down to the bottom. Not enough scope has been allowed to bring out the best among industrialists—and I include wage earners as well as managers—and for harnessing them in the national team. It is difficult to say exactly what one means without going in great length into this matter. But I want to give the House one illustration which shows my line of thought.
Take the Railway Executive. On that Executive there are the chief executive officers of the main railways. They are working together well as a team. They go into every point with the greatest possible care, but when they have reached a decision it has to be submitted for review to a collection of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Transport. I want to put it to the House that we should get far better work, save a lot of time and money, and do a great deal to invoke the spirit for which I am pleading if the Railway Executive were incorporated as an integral part of the Ministry of Transport. Let them feel that they are in the public service. Treat them like that and they will respond. Do not make them feel that they are outsiders who need checking by all sorts of sometimes small-minded civil servants. I believe that that is typical of a great deal that is going on. Perhaps I can bring out what I mean by turning 650 to an example of the opposite kind—the Ministry of Agriculture. They have worked on this system of devolving the work to the workers themselves. They have done a tremendous job of work, yet the Ministry of Agriculture has itself hardly been enlarged at all. That seems to me much more like the proper way of doing things.
I will not follow this matter up further. It is all summed up in my earlier remark that somehow or other we have not got the right frictionless drive by Government on industry. Management and men feel that, and that affects their relations together. Could not we have done better after two and a quarter years of war, and must we not do better if we are to deserve to win the war and if we are to be able to keep our place in the peace? This is a root question. There is nothing more important to-day than to develop a technique by which, without rigid Government control at all points, we can get the whole national economic effort working in balance together for the fulfilment of a national policy, and yet preserving the vital spark of individual initiative and enterprise. Only if we can develop such a technique can we avoid losing what we are really fighting to preserve. That is a point where war purposes and post-war aims come together. Here again I want to refer to the speech made by the hon. Member for Llanelly. I was particularly impressed with the passage in which he quoted that old Welsh miner who said to him, "Yes, I can see that we must all pull together to destroy Hitler, but after that—what?" That is a question which millions of people are asking. If there were a satisfactory answer to it, it would have a tremendous effect on the whole spirit of our war effort. For this reason it is not impractical or visionary to be thinking of post-war aims, if that means considering to what kind of economic organisation we are guiding this country. And there are other reasons why we should be thinking of that.
To get the system I want to see, and which I believe is very near the system which hon. Members opposite want to see, we need both a new technique—a technique to enable the Government to get into gear with private enterprise, as well as to bring the workers more into partnership with the management of 651 industry, and also a new spirit which will find its satisfaction in public service rather than in private profit. It is not going to be easy to work out a technique of that kind, but for that the war is a tremendous opportunity, for in the heat of war the economic structure is malleable and can be hammered into new shapes, while in the common emergency of war men are ready to sink sectional differences and pull together.
And so, my chief cause of distress is that we are not taking advantage of this opportunity. We are not so organising our work and the division of responsibility as to call out the best that is in everyone. And it is not only through the organisation of production that the Government are failing to create this right spirit. In other ways, I think that they are doing positive things to destroy it. Take financial policy. All of us have been groping after the ideas of "equality of service," "equality of sacrifice" and "taking the profit out of war." I have said on many occasions in this House and otherwise publicly that I would like to see over the door of every business with which I am connected a notice saying, "This business for the duration of the war is being run on account of the Government." I should have been glad if everybody could have been enrolled for National Service during the war and paid on a subsistence basis. I believe that that would have worked in war-time. In May last year I, like many others, thought that the Government were going to do that. They did not, and I believe they lost a tremendous opportunity. What have they done? They have, in effect, said to all those engaged in private business, "You are a selfish lot of money-grabbers; profit is the only thing you care about; therefore, we are going to leave you to work on that system." But, having said that, they have introduced a system of taxation which has so distorted the chance of realising a profit that, while it has left some concerns able to do very well, it has for others not only made new enterprise but sound business methods practically impossible.
I want to express as seriously as I can the view that a 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax as levied now is doing grave injury to the public interest. Not only is it causing injustice as between one busi- 652 ness and another, but, I believe, it is a direct incentive to wasteful expenditure and unsound business methods. I believe, moreover, that it is failing as a producer of revenue and is storing up great trouble for the future. I have said this many times to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he treats every representation as promoted by selfish motives for obtaining what he has described as taxation relief for industry. I do not want any relief at all, but I do want the burden to be so imposed that it does not produce the results I have specified. I have urged him, and I want to urge this publicly now, to appoint a small expert committee to report to him on the effects of the present system on industry. I believe the effects are very bad in the national interest. I may be wrong. I should be very glad if that could be proved, but I do think that before we Debate the next Budget this House ought to have a comprehensive and impartial review put before it.
I have raised this matter because I believe that here we have at work one of the most serious causes which is injuring the war effort. There were two courses open, either to enlist everything— property, human effort, everything—in the national cause, or to let business continue on a healthy commercial basis, levying, of course, the necessary but fairly distributed toll or. true profit by way of taxation. I believe that either way would have worked. Speaking for myself, I should have preferred the former, because I wanted to see a bold and easily understood system for taking the profit out of war, which would have helped the workers to respond. But the Government has messed about between the two courses, and has, I believe, got the worst elements of both systems. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barn-staple (Sir R. Acland) was perfectly right when he said the other day that what we are working now is a mongrel system.
Is it too late to do something better? I do not believe it is, although I must say it seems hopeless to got Ministers like the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to understand what one is driving at. I want to see the Government take this matter up, but I do not think we ought to be satisfied with merely sitting down 653 and blaming the Government. If we who are engaged in business are to justify the demand which I have made to be given more responsibility, if, too, we are to have that spirit of partnership between managements and men for which the hon. Member for Llanelly pleaded, then there is a lot which Business leaders will have to do on their own side. They need to do two things. The first thing is to organise themselves so that each branch of business or group of economic activity can speak with one voice. There are of course various associations in existence now, but I believe they need to be made more effective and to work in a different spirit. At present they are in most cases organised primarily to protect the interests of a particular section. They need to take on more of the character of being a central point through which Government can deal with each section of industry in order to get certain public purposes carried out. They should be there to work for a public purpose and to enforce high standards among their members, so as to ensure that all members play the game. Only if this is done is it fair to ask the Government to devolve more responsibility upon business organisations to choose their own way of doing the job.
That is the first feature which is necessary. The second is almost more important. The type of association for which I am pleading ought not to be a mere association of employers. The wage earners must be in it, too. Managers and wage earners ought to be on the same side, working to produce as much as they can. The wage earners must be able to feel that they are working not only in the national interest but in their own interest in producing more. I believe that it is tremendously important to devote thought to this matter and that is why I welcome so warmly what was said by the hon. Member for Llanelly.
I have mentioned a number of points. Let me sum them up. I want to see: First, more unified direction of programmes at the top. Secondly, some organisation for providing an independent check on the working of our Government machine, so that we may learn from our errors and that there may be a focal point for complaints. Thirdly, a thorough overhaul of departmental personnel and office methods. Fourthly, decentralisation of 654 executive supervision through genuine regional boards. Fifthly, greater reliance by the Government on industry to develop its own methods of "delivering the goods" once the Government has said what is wanted. Sixthly, a number of steps necessary to create a new spirit of cooperation of Government with industry on one side and of industrial leaders with wage earners on the other. As a means towards this end the Government should tackle with wider and more generous vision the problem of taking the profit out of war.
As I have said, this last point is not a matter for the Government alone. We can all help, but we do need an inspiring lead from the Government, especially from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister to-day holds a position which I believe is unique in the history of this country. Nothing, for example, has been more remarkable in this Debate than the way in which every speaker, whatever the views he represents, has ended up with an expression of supreme confidence in the Prime Minister. He must forgive us, therefore, if we treat him as carrying a unique responsibility. I want to put one point to him in conclusion. The Prime Minister said in his speech at the opening of this Debate that "we are going to make a job of this war." I think that was one of the very best of his trenchant phrases; but if we are to do that we must set before ourselves and achieve two purposes: First, not merely to beat the Germans but by our superiority in production to make them so sick of aeroplanes, bombs, tanks and guns that they will wish they had never seen one, and that the whole of the present beastly Nazi generation can never lift its head again; and secondly, to end up this war with our own nation so knit together that we can not only survive during the difficult times that lie ahead but be in the vanguard of the advance to a better order of civilisation. Those two purposes are, I think, inseparable. Without the second we cannot achieve the first, and it is the second which must give us our inspiration. I beg the Prime Minister while he concentrates, and rightly concentrates, on the immediate task, not to lose sight of the second purpose.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
The speeches of the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) are always very inter- 655 esting, but I think the House will agree with me that the speech he has just delivered was probably the most interesting he has given us. His outlook on industry is, as we know, far more enlightened than that of most of his colleagues, and I am sure that if his friends and industrial leaders generally take the same views as he does of industrial problems our present problem—
§ Mr. Strauss
I very much hope so. If he had heard earlier an hon. Member who was making his maiden speech he would have heard very different expressions from those to which he has himself given utterance. If the hon. Member will forgive me, I will not follow his arguments except to say that I agree with a great deal of what he said, because I want to talk on another matter which I think is of importance, and that is the relationship between this country and Soviet Russia. I am very glad that a representative of the Foreign Office is sitting on the Front Bench. I want to talk about that subject because I believe it is the most important issue to-day, apart from military matters, about which it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to speak at the moment. I think that on our relationship with Russia depends not only the outcome of the war but the future settlement of Europe and the prosperity of the after-the-war world. I am not at all satisfied that that relationship is as cordial as it should be. I am aware that Government spokesmen are apt to get very angry when people express doubts as to whether they are co-operating fully with the Soviet Union. I do not think anyone would deny that those suspicions do exist, in spite of speeches made by Ministers such as that of the Foreign Secretary last week, because people as a whole are paying less attention to speeches and more attention to action, not only present action ' but past action, including the attitude of the ruling class of this country during the past 20 years. It is a historical fact that from the day when the British Government tried to overthrow the newly formed Bolshevik Government, after the Bolshevik Revolution, until the time when the Soviet Government entered the war, 656 our ruling circles regarded the Bolshevik Government with a hatred which they rarely exhibited to the Nazi countries.
The question is not whether those hatreds have completely disappeared. Hatreds cannot completely disappear overnight. The question to-day is whether, consciously or unconsciously, the residue of those past animosities is preventing that 100 per cent. co-operation between this country and the Soviet Union which is absolutely essential to the achievement of victory. I believe the answer is "It is." I am not suggesting that the Government or any member of it is not anxious to send all possible material to Soviet Russia or that the Government are holding back any material. It is abundantly clear to everyone that the fate of this country is intimately linked with the fate of the Soviet armies and that if, for lack of war materials, those armies were knocked out or were unable to remain in the field as a potential aggressive force, the chances of our military victory over Germany would be very remote.
The shipment of supplies is not the only thing that matters. Co-operation, to be really effective, must be on a common policy, diplomatic as well as strategic, and it is in this vital realm that, I maintain, the Government are letting down our Russian Ally and our common cause. It is not only Germany who is fighting Russia, but Finland, Hungary and Rumania. Those countries are full allies of the Nazis. They are all trying to do their utmost to smash the Russian Armies and destroy the Russian people, and thereby bring about Nazi rule throughout Europe, including this country. Earlier in the war, the Russian Government asked this country, as a common Ally, to declare war on those countries, on the obvious principle that, if we were bound together in alliance to resist the common foe, the enemy of one is the enemy of both. One would have thought it would be unnecessary for the Soviet Government to have to make that request; anyhow, Mr. Stalin did so. I understand that the request was made early in September. It was hidden from the public of this country for some reason, until early in November. The request was made, and, up to now, so far as one is aware, it has been refused.
This inaction of the British Government is so incomprehensible and so dangerous that there have been very strong pro- 657 tests from Conservative quarters in this Country against this attitude of the British Government. In case anyone should think I am saying something irresponsible, I should like to quote a few lines from a couple of leading articles from the "Times." The first of them is dated 6th November, and is as follows:The recital of these facts would by itself be Sufficient to convict the British Government of weakness and indecision if a declaration of war were now further delayed. But the argument for action has received the strongest possible reinforcement from M. Stalin's specific démarche to the British Government asking for a declaration of war on Russia's three lesser invaders—Finland, Hungary, and Rumania. …But the expressed desire of the Soviet Government that such a step should be taken ought clearly to have precedence over any minor consideration. If difficulties of supply and communications restrict the amount of practical aid that can be given to our allies in this critical phase of the struggle, the brunt of which is for the present falling almost wholly on them, there is all the cogent reason to welcome every opportunity of demonstrating by other means our prompt and ungrudging recognition of a close community of interest and policy between Soviet Russia and ourselves. The fact that M. Stalin's request, though divulged in London only a few days ago, is three weeks old and still awaits an affirmative answer suggests a disquieting lack, not of good will and good intentions, but of initiative and imagination.On 13th November the "Times" leader said:How long, then, can Great Britain afford to talk of peace with countries which have dispatched between thirty and forty divisions to attack what we all recognise to be our own Eastern front?A fortnight has passed since then, and nothing has happened. I ask why. Have there been any further applications by the Russian Government for action in this respect? If so, have they also been refused, and if so, why? Is it unreasonable, in view of this attitude of the British Government, that strong suspicion of the bona fides of the Government should exist in regard to their relationship with Soviet Russia?
It is inevitable that the German propaganda machine should make the utmost use: of this inaction by the British Government. I am told that on the wireless the fact is constantly being stressed that there is no real alliance between this country and Soviet Russia. "Not only," says Goebbels, "does Britain refuse to open a second front in Europe, but she refuses to accede to the obvious and reasonable request of the Soviet Government that 658 she should make her enemies Britain's enemies." The propaganda machine of the German Government is trying its best, with what success I do not know, to sow discord between this country and Soviet Russia and to tell the world, and Europe in particular, that there is no real understanding between the two Governments. It is constantly saying that, in spite of the speeches of the Prime Minister, the real attitude of the British Government is that which was expressed in that very indiscreet speech of the Minister of Aircraft Production.
Apart from all that, what a ridiculous position arises from this refusal on the part of the British Government. I understand that we have a number of air squadrons acting with the Russian air squadrons on the northern front. Those squadrons are apparently at war with the German forces, but not with the Finnish forces, and they are allowed to bomb and machine gun the Germans but not the Finns. Apparently they are to resist the German army attacking Leningrad, but not the Finnish army. That seems to be an idiotic situation. If I am not correct, and our air squadrons are entitled and authorised to attack the Finnish army co-operating with Germany, the position is just as ridiculous. It means that we are prepared to fight and destroy the Finnish army but do not dare to declare war upon the Finnish Government.
The House will have noticed the remarkably different attitude of the United States Government in this matter. They are not at war with Germany, and are not an Ally of Soviet Russia, yet they have told the Finnish Government in clear and precise words that if the Finnish Government continued their attack upon Soviet Russia, Finland would forfeit the friendship of the United States. The Finnish Government have replied that they are continuing to attack Soviet Russia. In spite of that, and in spite of the specific requests of the Russian Government that we should do so, this country refuses to take any action in the matter.
The position is even worse. It does not end with our refusal to accede to Mr. Stalin's request. I understand that specific instructions have been given to the committee set up to deal with our foreign propaganda that our line to Finland must not be an appeal to the workers, co-operators and democrats of Finland to over- 659 throw their Government who are cooperating with Germany. That is banned. Equally banned is the suggestion to the Finnish people that in fighting against Soviet Russia they are fighting against ourselves. I have asked questions about this matter and tried to probe what our line is towards Finland in regard to propaganda. I have been told that I cannot be told; it is a secret. But it is not a secret, because anybody who understands Finnish can listen to the B.B.C. I understand that from our official line to Finland we have definitely banned appeals to the Finnish people to take action on their own account. The Russian Government are appealing to the Finnish people to do so, but the B.B.C. are not allowed to make such an appeal. I really ask: Is that a common front between this country and Soviet Russia? A military common front is very difficult, a propaganda common front is very simple, and when it is in respect of a country which is fighting our Allies, I should have thought we could have established such a common front.
While I am on the subject, and as the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs is here, I should like to ask whether it is in fact on the instructions of the Foreign Office that no revolutionary appeal may be made to the peoples of any Fascist-dominated country in Europe, and that in some instances such as Italy no attack must be made on Fascism at all? I am very doubtful whether the influence of the Foreign Office to-day is not definitely harming our war effort, and I am compelled to ask, even now when our Forces are clashing with those of the enemy and thousands of lives are being lost in military combat, whether appeasement does not still re-echo from the hoary walls of the Foreign Office.
The attitude of the Foreign Office in regard to our present difficulties with Russia has been paralleled, I think, by other actions during the last year or two which have been very harmful to our war effort. May I remind the House for a moment of that great and disastrous inaction, which I think historians may look upon as the greatest blunder of the war by this Government? I refer to the failure of this country to take any action whatsoever to destroy the Rumanian oil refineries. There were two occasions when this could 660 have been done: the first when our people were still in Rumania and it was obvious that the Germans were going to walk in any day, and the second was when our Royal Air Force bombers were in Greece. We did nothing whatsoever. What has been the consequence? In a sentence, the possession of the Rumanian oil-fields has made Germany's attack on Soviet Russia possible. Without those oil refineries, it is very doubtful indeed whether any sustained attack could have been levelled by Germany against Soviet Russia; if they had been able to make an attack, it would have been infinitely more difficult.
If one looks at the figures it is perfectly clear. The oil consumption of Germany has been calculated by a number of authoritative sources as varying between 11,500,000 and 13,000,000 tons a year, depending, of course, to some extent on the intensity of her military effort. It is estimated that from Rumania this year Germany will be able to get between five and six million tons; nearly half of her oil is coming from Rumania. It would have been possible if not to destroy them completely at least to damage them seriously on two occasions. There was no technical difficulty at all, and I should like to ask the Foreign Office—I do not know whether I shall receive a reply—whether in fact it was not as a result of their influence that no action was taken against the Rumanian oil refineries.
In conclusion, I would say to the Government that if they want to satisfy public opinion, which is very exercised on this question of Anglo-Russian co-operation, of their complete bona fides in their relationships with the Soviet Union, they must take certain action immediately. If they want to dispel the suspicion in Soviet Russia itself, which is, of course, far more important, they must immediately take the same action. I ask the Government to dispel both these suspicions by declaring that all countries which are attacking Soviet Russia, all countries allied in action with Hitler, are our common foes. Hungary, Rumania and Finland should be told definitely that, if they are helping to bring about Nazi domination of Europe by the destruction of our Allies, they are our enemies, and that we shall make every appeal to the peoples of those countries, and of Finland in particular, to take what action lies in their power, 661 revolutionary or otherwise, to overthrow their Fascist Governments. I would also like to ask the Government and the Foreign Minister to follow up such action by dismissing from every position of influence in the Foreign Office all those whose prejudices have induced them to give such disastrous advice during the war and who were associated with the appeasement policy before the war. This applies to Ministers and to Ambassadors too.
In the King's Speech there was this declaration:I well know that my people … are determined to meet, to the utmost of their power, the needs of the Soviet Union in its heroic conflict.I am sure that the people of this country are prepared to do everything they can to help the Soviet Union in our common struggle against tyranny. I am equally sure that they would do so with better heart if they saw greater evidence, not in speeches but in acts, of the Government's good will towards our Allies.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes (Portsmouth, North)
I have listened to-day to suggestions by several hon. Members about ways of speeding up the processes of the war in various directions. I want to draw attention to a way in which I think the war should be speeded up, but before doing so I must refer to a matter which was given great publicity in the Press last week and which has caused much comment and speculation. There has been no official statement, and I feel I owe some explanation to the House. My appointment as Director of Combined Operations was given me by the Prime Minister on 17th July, 1940, but it was not disclosed, by direction of the Chiefs of Staff. The reason was rather flattering to me. I was given to understand that it might prematurely cause alarm and despondency to the enemy. Among other executive responsibilities of my office were included the raising, organising and training of the special Service troops now known as Commandos and of the ships, landing craft and naval personnel associated with them. I also had command of this splendid amphibious striking unit.
Hon. Members have no doubt seen photographs and films of the work of the Commandos in the Lofoten raid, which have now been publicly released, although their part in it was kept secret at the time. 662 My executive responsibilities, however, were withdrawn five week ago on the advice of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee. I was informed that the Commandos were being handed over to the Army. My office as Director of Combined Operations was abolished on 19th October. One of the reasons for my dismissal suggested in many comments in the Press was that I was now too old to lead shock troops. The command of such a force does not necessarily mean that one leads it into action on all occasions, any more that the commanders in chief of an Army or Royal Air Force personally lead the forces they command, and whose actions they direct. Of course, this is a young man's war, and I assure the House that my one object has been to give youth its chance and to make good use of my force against the enemy, which, as I had considerable experience of amphibious warfare, and intimate contact with new German methods—during the Belgian campaign—was evidently the reason why the Prime Minister entrusted me last year with the development of this new force and the training of its young leaders. The Prime Minister no doubt hoped that I would be able to assist him to deliver amphibious strokes, akin to those which played so decisive a part in the campaigns of the great Pitt. To this end I spent many weeks, personally training and preparing my force, and we were eager and ready to act a year ago. I can assure the House that the Prime Minister was as keen as I was to act vigorously and face hazards to achieve great results which— if we had been allowed to carry them out —might have electrified the world and altered the whole course of the war.
But, in his first enthusiasm, the Prime Minister, I think, underestimated the possibility that my appointment would be unwelcome to one section of the war machine, whom I had criticised earlier in the war, and the difficulties I should therefore be up against. I cannot help thinking that when the Prime Minister spoke in this House on 7th May last, he had in his mind some of the heart-breaking frustrations and disappointments we had lately suffered. Replying to a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), he said:My right hon. Friend spoke of the great importance of my being surrounded by people who would stand up to me and say No, No, 663 No. Why, good gracious, has he no idea how strong the negative principle is in the constitution and working of the British war-making machine? The difficulty is not, I assure him, to have more brakes put on the wheels; the difficulty is to get more impetus and speed behind it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1941; col. 937, Vol. 371.]After 15 months' experience as Director of Combined Operations and having been frustrated in every worthwhile offensive action I have tried to undertake, I most fully endorse the Prime Minister's contention of the strength of the negative power which controls the war-making machine in Whitehall. It is very hard on the Prime Minister that history should repeat itself so cruelly. In 1915 he tried to deliver an amphibious stroke which, if persevered in, could not have failed to succeed, but the hesitations and the indecisions of the war-machine of that day defeated us, and eventually Gallipoli ended in a well-conducted evacuation.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order. Most important statements have been made by the hon. and gallant Member, and there is not a representative of the War Cabinet on the Front Bench. I think that is a scandal.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member must know by this time that that is not a point of Order.
§ Sir R. Keyes
A German General— Hans Kannengiesser Pasha—who was with the Turkish army, in his book on the Gallipoli campaign, paid a great tribute to the fighting qualities of the British troops and their energetic commanders in the field, but was very scathing about the working of our war machine. He said:Conversations, minutes and reports always preceded the decisive meetings which again continually postponed the vital decision. So, valuable time was lost, and at the Front that moment was lost which contained the possibility of success.He went on to say:The leadership of a war cannot be entrusted to a limited liability company.In his "World Crisis" the Prime Minister calls attention to the mistakes and errors which were committed in Downing Street and Whitehall in the Gallipoli campaign. He says:The errors and miscarriages which took place on the battle-field cannot be concealed, but they stand on a lower plane than those sovereign and irretrievable misdirections.664 This all occurred before my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs seized the reins of Government and, with utter disregard for personal considerations, eliminated the faint-hearts and instilled in his war machine an admirable will to victory, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as Minister for Munitions contributed in no small measure by giving a tremendous impetus to the production of war material. To-day we have another fighting Prime Minister, and no one who has heard his speeches can doubt his will to victory, but unfortunately he is handicapped, not only by the same kind of machine in Whitehall as in the last war, but now it has even greater force, and. apparently constitutional power. It is, of course, necessary to employ highly trained Staff officers to work out details and plans, but Inter-Service committees and subcommittees which have sprung up since the last war and have flourished exceedingly in peace-time have, in this war, become almost the dictators of military policy instead of the servants they should be of those who really should bear all the responsibility. By concentrating on the difficulties and dangers of every amphibious enterprise suggested, they have hitherto succeeded in thwarting or delaying execution until we have either been forestalled, or action has been taken too late to ensure success. Indeed, in my opinion, until the Staff system is thoroughly overhauled, we shall always be too late in everything we undertake.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
Has the hon. and gallant Member applied those considerations to what is going on in Libya?
§ Sir R. Keyes
Yes, I have. It is a little difficult for me to comment on actions that are in progress—quite impossible. After all, I have to be discreet. I have been reminded quite lately by receiving a copy of the Official Secrets Act—which I think was rather unnecessary—that I might almost be confined to the Tower for an indiscretion, but I think that the Noble Lord will find, as time passes, and events come out, that my intervention to-day is opportune and its object will be appreciated. I was referring to the staff in Whitehall, not that in the field. If the Noble Lord had waited a moment, he would have heard 665 me go on to say that secret and swift decisions, surprise and speedy action, are the essence of success in offensive war— brilliantly illustrated by our campaigns in Africa. You will not get any of these, however, while dependent for decisions and actions on the cumbrous machine in Whitehall from which we have been suffering since the war started, and by which all offensive amphibious projects are either strangled before birth or mangled after endless discussions in the many committees.
I have an unbounded faith in our ultimate victory, but victory will be delayed whilst, in Whitehall phraseology, "Every stone is turned and every avenue explored" for imaginary dangers and difficulties to prevent action being taken, and the glorious vista of the goal beyond is shrouded in a fog of indecision. The great leaders of the past have always emphasised the value of time in war—Drake, Napoleon and Nelson; but time passes, and as long as procrastination, the thief of time, remains the keynote of the war machinery in Whitehall, we shall continue to miss each opportunity, during the lifetime of that opportunity.
I have never concealed my affection and great admiration for the Prime Minister. I have always deplored that he was excluded from successive Governments during those anxious days when disarmament continued until war seemed inevitable. As with many others who stood by him in the hour of adversity, it has been an intense gratification to me to see him head of the State, giving a tremendous lead to the world, the hope of the freedom-loving world. But I think that we in this House, the representatives of the people who have so bravely stood by him through thick and thin and have had unbounded faith in his ultimate ability to lead us to victory, can best serve him by enabling him to carry into action those splendid, vigorous declarations that he makes, and by helping him to remove some of the brakes, which seem to work automatically whenever dangers and hazards appear, in this war machine of Whitehall.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
The House always listens with the greatest respect to the interventions of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). Amphibious 666 operations have always been very dear to the heart and the genius of the British people. Whether it is Drake singeing the King of Spain's beard or my hon. and gallant Friend singeing Hitler's moustache, we have always believed that the best form of defence was that of attacking the enemy's coasts. The House was exceedingly moved by the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, and I personally feel that charges of that nature demand an authoritative reply, which I hope will be forthcoming in due course.
I will confine my few remarks to a topic raised in the Gracious Speech—the increasing and welcome aid that we are receiving from the United States. My slight justification for raising this topic is this. I was born in the United States, on the shores of Long Island Sound, where the ships from Boston and Cape Cod pass on the way to New York, and I retain, as part of my American heritage, an almost uncontrollable appetite for peanut butter and sweet potatoes, an appetite which few 100 per cent. Americans can equal and none certainly can surpass. The Prime Minister recently likened Anglo-American relations to the Mississippi—it just keeps rolling along. Those who have seen the Mississippi in flood know that it is a great river. When it bursts its banks nothing human can stand in its way. At this moment a common danger is bringing together the people of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America, but a common danger is not always a sufficient bond. When a common danger has passed, unless those people have learned to understand each other and have an affection for each other, the bond may cease to exist. I believe that the people of the United States and of Great Britain often approach the same objective by different means, and this different approach sometimes leads to misunderstanding. That is why I believe we should try to make clear to each other exactly what these differences of approach are.
I remember Lord Lothian once saying that the average American had two pictures in his mind's eye of the average Briton. The first was a picture of what Americans call a "stuffed shirt"—the top-hatted figure, with the monocle and the drawling speech which the music-hall stage the world over loves to caricature as the typical Briton. The second picture 667 was a picture of a member of a great fellow democracy, the heir of Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. It was this picture which Lord Lothian tried so successfully to present to the American people. With his great sense of practical realities, he tried to induce the Government of the day to increase the space in the Press Gallery of this House, so as to allow foreign, and particularly American correspondents, to attend the Sittings of this House for he knew that the Debates, and in particular the institution of Question Time, would appeal to listeners accustomed to. the weekly Press conferences of the American President. Lord Baldwin once told how he had stood on the portico of Mount Vernon and watched the tobacco barges floating down the Potomac and had reflected that George Washington must have stood in much the same spot, some 150 years before, walking stick in hand, and surrounded by his dogs, surveying his acres. He reflected that, strange as it might seem, only in one other country in the world in the eighteenth century could you have found a similar type to George Washington, and that was among the subjects of the very country he was fighting against; for George Washington was of the same political and cultural tradition as John Hampden, the village squire who defied the royal anger of the Stuarts. I believe that we in this country have realised that the great figures of American history belong to the great traditions of democracy. For have we not, here in London, a statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square; and does not Lincoln stand in Parliament Square, facing the Abbey?
Britons and Americans have certainly been pioneers in developing political freedom, but this country, by the circumstances of its history, has been a pioneer in developing the social services and in trying to develop what President Roosevelt called "freedom from want." In the last century, when great industrial cities were springing up over this country, a few men of conscience, a few great orators in Parliament, aroused the feelings of their countrymen to the tragic conditions which then existed. Bit by bit, each successive Government played an honourable part in adding to that system of social services. I often believe that our system of social services resembles one of those great old country houses in England 668 made without a plan, but to which each generation has added something, here a wing, there a stair, there a terrace. We have developed our system of social services. Out in America, during the last century the immigrants were still trekking West in their covered wagons; a few years later the railway followed, and nobody who had money, nobody who owned land could help making a fortune. It was not until the great Wall Street crash of 1929, the end of unrestricted development, that Americans realised that they must find new means of carrying on their national life. America in 1928, resembled this country in 1910 when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) startled the world with his Limehouse speech and his social legislation. These are the facts Americans are interested to hear. We should tell them of our social services, and we should tell them of our efforts to improve the lot of the common man and woman in this country.
This is the best answer to those critics in America who claim that American troops only left American shores in the last war in order to save Mr. Morgan's investments. I believe that Americans, at the present stage of their development, also look with interest towards the future. I remember Miss Dorothy Thompson, recounting how she had gone down to speak at a factory in Vermont making arms for Britain. In the first part of her speech the people listened, but they seemed indifferent, almost hostile, to the war. They felt that the tragedy of Poland and the overwhelming disaster of the French Army were tragic, but 3,000 miles away. Then she started to talk of how the individual future of each man and woman in that factory would be affected by a Hitler victory; of how they would lose their right of free speech, their right to form trade unions, and how some afternoon the door of their parlour might fly open and their only child come in to denounce the father of the house to a gestapo agent. As she spoke, they felt at once that the war meant something to each one of them. Ever since, that factory has been one of the leading factories sending "Bundles to Britain." I believe that the more we can tell Americans of our hopes for the future and of the better society we hope to build, of the finer cities, of the better location of industries, 669 the more we shall win their lasting sympathy.
It was my privilege to be in the docks on that first Saturday afternoon when Goering first struck at London. As night fell great fires lit the sky and the balloons up in the air glowed like tinsel balls on a Christmas tree. To many those fires told of tragedy, of lost homes and lost relatives. But I looked on those fires in a different way. I could not help feeling that a great, tragic area of slumland—which ought never to have been built—was now being destroyed and that perhaps some day in the future we might build a city on that very spot worthier of the name of Silvertown. That is the type of message to win us the understanding of the United States of America—the hope for the future, the security of the ordinary man and woman. If we tell them frankly our problems, then Americans, who like plain speaking, can tell us one or two things frankly themselves. I believe it was Goebbels who right once said that Germany must export or die. That is more than true of this country. Too often many of us forget to realise how much of our social services, how much the very pay rolls we receive on Saturday, depend on the sum of our visible and invisible exports.
In the first days of the war we had to scramble for every single dollar bill in order to pay for weapons of war in the States. We followed a policy of so called "Selective Exports." Three hundred export groups started work. We tried to develop our exports in order to obtain dollar balances. Then came the policy of lease-lend, a policy which the Prime Minister rightly described as the most unsordid act in all history. With our need for dollars satisfied, went at the same time the need for our export trade. We gladly accept this state of affairs, I am certain, for the duration of the war, but I feel that we must insist on a great extension of our export trade after the war. It is, after all, in the political interests of this country that the United States should remain a great, strong and virile Power. It is also in the political interests of the United States that this country should remain a great, strong and virile country. We can only remain so if we have a great export trade. A poor Britain is no asset to the freedom-loving nations of the world. I feel that such an 670 idea must appeal to that great man who now directs the affairs of America from the White House, and it must appeal also to the Secretary of State, who has rightly made his name known and respected all over the world as the expounder of the policy of the good neighbour.
§ Mr. Wedgwood (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr) upon a most admirable speech made without a note; it was a great credit to the House of Commons. I would like also to refer to the speech made earlier in the Debate today by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) and that made on a previous day by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), which really deserve the careful attention of the Government. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, and I hope that he will read it. I would like to give this advice as an old Member to the Member for Walsall. He should press for a Royal Commission to inquire into this matter. It is not enough to bring up seven or eight points in detail. We want really a general inquiry now, in this third year of the war, into the total war production of this country and how it can be improved. We have not had any Royal Commission so far in this war, but this is a matter which demands the taking of evidence not only from the hon. Member for Llanelly or the hon. Member for Walsall but from the people who are concerned both in the bureaucracy which is so denounced and the manufacturers and the workers, to see how the production for the war can be improved and how these perpetual grievances can be eliminated so that the machine works at a maximum capacity. Any such Royal Commission as that must in the circumstances take evidence from Russia, where production moves much more smoothly and enthusiastically than in this country.
One of the points made by the hon. Member for Walsall—and it has been made also from these Benches frequently in this Debate—is that we ought to run this country not for profit but for use— that the time has come when the Government should see that people have a subsistence allowance and not anything above that; that there should be a general cut in salaries and that the people in the 671 workshops should be in the same position as the members of the Armed Forces. I believe that the people of this country are prepared to make that sacrifice provided they can have the difference between their proper wages or income and their subsistence allowance in the form of deferred bonds to be liquidated at the end of the war. There is much to be said for that solution, but anything of that sort would naturally be one of the points which would be discussed by this Royal Commission on maximum productive effort.
I am speaking because I have an Amendment on the Paper, but I shall have no opportunity of moving it, and so the Speaker has kindly given me the opportunity of speaking in the general Debate on the question. The Amendment I put on the Paper is as follows:But regret that the offer of the Zionist Organisation to provide Jewish troops to fight anywhere, under their own flag, has been declined, and that inadequate steps have been taken to provide self-defence for Palestine similar to our Home Guards.The refusal of a distinctive Jewish contingent to the British Army recruited from Jews in Palestine, in America and from refugees in this country has been a great setback to a genuine desire to help in this world effort for freedom. It is not as though this was to have been a Free French, Belgian or Dutch force, but merely an independent Jewish unit officered by the British. Much of the expense was to have been found by American-Jewish financiers. This offer, after having been accepted in principle last February, has now been rejected. I am sorry for Dr. Weizmann and Zionists who have pinned their faith to this offer, because they have been mistakenly denounced by their people. I do not think the fault is due to the Prime Minister. I know him well enough. This is a message, which I desire to put on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT, which he sent to the Jews only last week. It says:I send a message of good cheer to the Jewish people in this and other lands. No one has suffered more cruelly than the Jews from the unspeakable evils wrought on the bodies and spirits of men by Hitler and his vile regime. The Jew bore the brunt of the Nazis' first onslaught upon the citadels of freedom and human dignity. He has borne and continued to bear a burden that might have seemed to be beyond endurance. He has not allowed it to break his spirit; he has never lost the will to resist. Assuredly in the day of victory the Jew's sufferings and his part in 672 the struggle will not be forgotten. Once again, at the appointed time, he will see vindicated those principles of righteousness which it was the glory of his fathers to proclaim to the world. Once again it will be shown that, though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small.I was very glad to see that message from the Prime Minister. I only wish he had made it in this House. This force, turned down by the Cabinet, has not been turned down by the wish of the Prime Minister. Other factors enter, and we are forced to examine the reasons for this rejection ourselves in the House. The first objection is that it is impossible to provide the equipment for a couple of Jewish divisions now, as the demand for our equipment is already overwhelming. But what we must do is to get the thing organised and start with something, even if it is only broomsticks and scythes. So far as supplies are concerned, after this affair in Libya I really begin to think that the most important weapons are tank traps and Molotov cocktails. A great deal of such necessary equipment can be made by the people themselves.
It is said that we should be committed if we gave the Jews an opportunity of forming themselves into a fighting force —that we should be committed in gratitude or in honour at a peace conference and that that committal might be inconvenient. But we are committed in the same way to the Free French, Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and to all those free forces who will have fought by our side, when the peace conference comes along. What they have fought for will be considered. So we are already committed over and over again to the Jews. We were committed to them in the last war, and this war does not increase our commitments. When terms come to be considered, who shall say how far even the most honourable Power will be able to achieve all that it has fought for?
Then there is this reluctance of the War Office to use troops who would be unpopular—unpopular not only to Hitler but to many other people. I think we should use the Jews, Africans, Indians and other coloured people against the Herrenvolk. I do not think it should be the exclusive privilege of a Britisher to die in the defence of liberty. I do not think there should be any hesitation to employ-any race or nation anywhere against the Nazis. This war is more their war than 673 our war, and why should we not say so? These people are considered by Hitler to be sub-human. The African, the Indian and the Jew would certainly get no mercy under the New Order of Hitler. Goebbels said that it is their war, and they know it is their war; they know they have more to lose even than we have, and I regard this reluctance on the part of the War Office to employ these Jewish people and others as a bad heritage of the old days. Now that we have welcomed into the struggle the Russians, the Bolsheviks, surely we can change our mentality. Why are not the King's African Rifles, the West African Rifles, the West Indian troops, allowed to fight against the Germans? Why do the War Office turn them down? It was exactly the same in the last war. I remember that then the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister was a most energetic and enthusiastic advocate of a coloured army. I remember that in East Africa we had two battalions of coloured Cape troops. They had arms, but they were not thought suitable people to fight the Germans; they guarded lines of communication, and so on. It is this spirit of the colour bar which we have to knock on the head.
Therefore, while one of the reasons for not having a Jewish army is that the supplies are not available, there is also reluctance on the part of the War Office to have a Jewish unit fighting. The Jews are: put into the Pioneer forces, but are not taken into the Army to fight. This has to be changed, not only in the interests of our people—for we shall want every man who can fight—but in order to change the mentality of these people themselves, and make them feel that they are men and that they are wanted. It is said that we have 1,000,000 men from India. What is 1,000,000 from a population of 388,000,000? The Government are proud of having recruited 1,000,000. Sir Sirdar Hamar says that there are 3,000,000 in India who are anxious and willing to fight. For goodness sake let them fight. It is their cause as much as ours. Why are they not given arms? Is it feared that they will use their arms against us? The best education in freedom that could be given to any Indian would be to get him into the allied Army. Do not be afraid of them. I think there is a magnificent opportunity provided, through the medium of a brotherhood in arms, for getting real solidarity between 674 ourselves and the Indian people and ourselves and the Jewish people, as with the Russians.
There is then an objection to raising a Jewish army which has never been put on paper, but which nevertheless is present to the minds of every one of us. It is thought that the Egyptians, the Arabs and the Iraqis would not like it if the Jews were fighting for us. I am quite certain they would not like it. It would be a reflection on them. They are not fighting for us; nor are their Governments anxious to do so. But would it matter if they did not like it? The Egyptians are not fighting, the Iraqis have been in rebellion but are not fighting, the Arabs are not fighting. The Government, the appeasers, say that if we allowed the Jews to fight, these people would not help us so much, that they would help us less. I do not believe that is possible. Possibly, the appeasers, who have framed the whole of our policy in the Near East for the last 25 years, think that if we allowed the Jews to fight, the Arabs and Egyptians and Iraqis would help Hitler. Anybody who knows the Near East knows that they would not do so. To begin with, according to Hitler, they are part of the sub-human race. We all know that the Oriental mind is more swayed by fear than by anything else, and their conduct in any circumstances is guided more by fear of Germany than by love of this country. The attitude of the Egyptians, the Arabs and the Iraqis towards this country would not be affected in the least by a Jewish army.
Unfortunately there is in Egypt, where there is the head centre of this obstruction, an administration in power with a sort of vested interest in taking this point of view, a vested interest in appeasing the Arabs and antagonising the Jews. I think the time has come to speak quite frankly on this subject. Who are the appeasers who have resisted the formation of a Jewish army? The head centre is in Cairo, and in the British Embassy in Cairo. There they have appeased not only King Farouk and the Arabs, but I think also the Italians. It must be remembered that there are a great many Italians free in Egypt at the present time, and although the Italians have bombed the capital of Egypt, there is no war between Egypt and Italy. Egypt is still standing out, and is not at war with Italy or Germany, and is allowed to remain full of Italians. Egypt is defended by 675 large British forces entirely at our expense. I would point out to the House that 15 years ago the Egyptian Government paid the Indian Army of occupation in Egypt for the very purpose of defending Egypt. I think it is from there that comes this tenderness for the Duke of Aosta and that "poor soul" the King of Italy. Thence comes the resistance to the restoration of the Empire of Abyssinia. I ask the House to consider, supposing it were the Germans who held Egypt and the King were pro-British and would not help Germany, how long would the Germans appease that King. How long would he remain King?
Let us not adopt the methods of the Germans, but we might remember, in dealing with these people, the possibility that we might, with patience exhausted, act in Egypt as we were compelled to do so very reluctantly in Persia. It would very effectively change the situation in Egypt to our advantage. We all know the difficulties in Egypt, the relations of Sir Miles Lampson, George Antonius, late ally of the Mufti, and his brother-in-law in the Embassy looking after foreign affairs. Can we expect anything but a continuation of this disastrous appeasement policy while such a situation endures? A change of personnel is essential to any change of policy in the Near East. Unless we have a change of policy, we shall be stabbed in the back by a fifth column encouraged by these appeasers. In Persia exactly the same views were held by the Foreign Office as are held by the Foreign Office about Egypt; at one time Shah Pahlevi was spoken of even more highly than is King Farouk. We changed that, probably because we were forced to change it by the Soviet Government, but we changed it with perfect satisfaction. We pleased the Persians, we pleased our Allies, we increased our reputation, and we provided a Government which is, at any rate, sympathetic and helpful for the Allied cause.
It has all been done simply by dropping appeasement for five minutes in order to exert force. Would anyone now complain for a moment of what we have done in Persia and what that change of policy has achieved? Yet in Egypt we have a similar situation, which has gone on getting worse for the last 2¼ years. They say the Egyptians are not a fighting people. It does not matter whether they are or 676 not. I say the Egyptians have just as much right to fight for what is their cause as anyone else—and that a change of Government there, and a change of policy in the British Embassy, would give those people their just right, the right to draw the sword against the Germans and the Italians and to fight side by side with the liberators.
Is this appeasement policy simply to be pleasant to Arabs, Egyptians and Iraqians? I believe that there is an element of wish to maintain at any cost an old-established system. No such prediliction, personal, or through blood connections, should be allowed to stand for one moment against the interests of the Allies. That Prince who used to rule Yugoslavia has gone. We can get rid of the rest of them in the same way, and we should if they obstruct our cause. Just think what we are paying for this policy of appeasement. In the first place, we are sacrificing the taxpayers of this country. We are paying, where Egypt ought to be paying. We are sacrificing Egyptian man-power. We are sacrificing the respect of our friends and Allies in America and Russia. We are losing the enthusiastic co-operation of Jews throughout the world whom we shall need in battle. Our good name is also being lost. If we have to retire through Palestine to the Canal, we leave 500,000 unarmed Jews—unarmed not by their will, but by ours—to be massacred by Hitler's murderers. We shall blot indelibly the whole of British history.
If we will not allow the Jews to fight for us, we reject an offer which we are, of course, perfectly entitled to reject. But we are not entitled, either in honour or justice, to prevent people getting arms to defend themselves. If we are entitled to form a Home Guard here, we are bound to allow a Home Guard in Palestine. If the Germans came here we should have a pretty rough time, but it would be nothing to the time the Jews would have. I go further. In exactly the same spirit I say that the Indians have a right to demand a Home Guard for India. This time next year we may have the Japanese over the Burma border and Hitler in Baluchistan. I am pretty certain we shall not, but are we prepared to allow Indians to organise and to defend themselves? Are we going on to conduct this war as though it were a football match between England and Germany? It is a war in which all those 677 people are concerned. India is facing a danger, never equalled since the days of Genghis Khan. Just as Genghis Khan came through and slaughtered the Indians, so Hitler and Tojo would do the same, and we shall be responsible if we do not allow them to arm themselves. What do the War Office say to that?
§ The Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War (Sir Edward Grigg)
My right hon. Friend has been pressing the War Office for some time, and I rise only to put him right on a matter of fact. He has said that the War Office take the view that the War Office are treating this war as if it were a football match between the Germans and the British peoples, and have no objection to using the other races of the Empire. It is not usual to give away the location of our troops, but I will quote from a recent communiqué of General Auchinlech:G.H.Q. 23rd November. While these operations were proceeding Indian troops have captured Sidi Omar Nuovo and are gradually extending the area of their penetration in rear of the defensive positions held between Halfaya and Sidi Omar"—which are held by Germans, of course, as well as Italians. In a further communiqué dated 24th November he says:In the Halfaya-Sidi Omar area Indian troops continue their operations in rear of the enemy defensive positions.
§ Mr. Wedgwood
But how many of the Indians are fighting? In the last war we allowed two divisions to fight over in Europe. The others were allowed to fight against the Turks. I say there is reluctance on the part of the War Office to employ West Africans, West Indians and East Africans. There is a reluctance to allow the Jews to fight; they are kept in the Pioneer Corps. There is a reluctance to allow the Indians to fight, as there was in the last war on the Western Front. Even now, when millions are ready to fight, the recruitment of Indians is slow and cautious, checked by the fear that if we allow them to fight they may then, with arms in their hands, demand something that we cannot give them.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I hesitate to interrupt my right hon. Friend again, but I think it 678 is essential to say that what he says is the absolute contrary of the truth.
§ Mr. Wedgwood
Is it contrary to the truth that you have arranged for only 1,000,000 troops from India?
§ Mr. Wedgwood
Is it contrary to the truth that you have not allowed Home Guards even in the Punjaub, and that you have refused to allow Jews to fight with the British Army? Is it not true that West Indian troops are not being used? All those things are true, and it is time that the War Office changed its attitude about the employment of coloured troops in this war. That applies also to the whole administration so far as India is concerned. We are in the middle of the third year of the war and India, which should be the main base to supply the whole of our Near East Army, is not yet producing one internal combustion machine. Not a single aeroplane is being produced in India where we have 388,000,000 people with a peculiar aptitude for engineering work. Steel production there is only 40 per cent. above pre-war, and yet this is a war which is essentially India's war. Why are we not producing goods in India? Why is production there not going on to the same extent as it is in this country? The position is simply what happened in the last war. For the first two and a half years of that war India produced practically nothing. There was the utmost reluctance to send Indian troops even to Mesopotamia. Then, the searchlight of the Mesopotamia report was thrown upon the Indian Administration, and it was pointed out how little India was contributing. For the last two years of the war India did manage to produce munitions such as small arms and small guns and developed the beginnings of a shipbuilding industry. Now, 25 years later, we started from a far better position. It is deplorable that the Government have not been able to use the offers of help which have been made or the full man-power of India and the Colonies. It is a great misfortune to our great cause that the Government continue this policy.
§ Mr. Palmer (Winchester)
I do not propose to follow the line of argument of the right hon. gentleman. Before I come to my main subject I would like to take 679 up a point which was raised on the subject of rates of pay in the services. I claim to be able to speak on the subject as I have had the privilege of serving in the Army as a very junior regimental officer in this war, and also as a gunner in the ranks. I do not know whether hon. Members appreciate just what those rates of pay in the Army are worth. I have been trying to work them out and I think I have them right. If you are a married gunner you can buy one small packet of cigarettes—if you can get them —one small glass of beer—if you get it— and a 2½d. stamp per day. If you want more than that, you have to get money from other sources. The extraordinary thing is that very little resentment is felt by people who are receiving those rates of pay even when they are serving in circumstances where they daily see their fellow-citizens going to work, living at home in comfort, going to the cinema when they want to and drawing considerably higher rates of pay in jobs which may require no higher skill than those which the soldiers are doing. I have not wished to raise this subject in public before as I did not think that public discussion was very desirable, but I am glad that it has now been raised because it is clear to me what is happening. The Government take the view that they must, above all things, preserve harmony in industry, and all along the line they have given way on the subject of wages without reference to any general national policy at all.
§ Mr. Palmer
It is not nonsense. Every hon. Gentleman in this House except the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken knows it is true. As far as the Services are concerned what has happened is that although it is recognised to be a difficult point which ought to be tackled—and hon. Members in all parts of the House know it ought to be tackled—no Minister will take the responsibility of grasping the nettle. Each Minister will refer you to another one, and there is no possible means, as far as I can discover, of getting any helpful decision taken on this subject at all. I am convinced, however, that the House of Commons is not going to tolerate that very much longer. This is a very large subject and I had not meant to speak on it at all to-lay, otherwise I would have prepared a far longer speech. 680 But, as it was raised, I felt I must say that if we are not to have a full scale Debate on this matter the Government will have to take action to forestall very severe criticism in the near future.
I would like to turn now to quite a different subject, namely, the reference in the Gracious Speech to the consultation between the Allied Governments and the United States on the subject of post-war problems. I know that the Prime Minister deprecates, as he has said to-day, counting our chickens before they are hatched. That is quite right, and certainly no prudent poultry farmer would spend his profits before he had pocketed them. But I think it is only prudent that a poultry keeper, especially in these times, should make certain of providing enough food for his chickens when they are hatched, and it is that of which I wish to speak to-day. As has already been mentioned by several speakers, as soon as you begin to consider post-war problems you are bound to get back to first principles, and it is quite clear that not only the Prime Minister but Mr. Roosevelt felt that when they met in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Charter does give a very broad framework of ideas, but I want something more than a broad framework. I want to see, here in this country, some means of continuing the fresh belief in ourselves which has come with our effort in the war. It has come principally amongst those—and there are a great many of them—who have made sacrifices, and in order to preserve that spirit after the war we must work out now a new philosophy of freedom in action. Our old talk about freedom before the war had often very little meaning in substance, and I want to see a new philosophy and a new attitude towards the State in which the emphasis will be on positive service to the State rather than on negative dependence upon it.
We have to approach reconstruction in the international sphere in the same kind of way. Of course, it is too soon to think very far ahead about political reconstruction; we must not think that we are going to have a peace conference immediately after the war at which the whole future of the world will be settled in six months. We want time for passions to cool. This country will have to play a dual rôle even more in the future than in the past. The coming of air-power has ensured that we 681 are now, fatally and for ever, a European country. In the same way, we have to recognise that, although she is not wholly European, Russia too is a European country to a certain extent. It is by no means an accident that both in 1812 and in 1914 we were fighting on the same side as Russia in exactly the same way as to-day. But let us not fall into the trap of trying to re-arrange Europe now on the basis of some scheme of federal union or any other kind of blue print which professors may like to think out.
Just as we shall have to co-operate with Russia in Europe we must do everything now, as the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) said in a brilliant speech, to co-operate with the United States as fully as we can. The United States and ourselves have, in common, an ideal of individual independence which is very valuable to the world to-day, and will be very valuable to preserve in the world to come. As he stressed, our mutual ignorance of one another was quite appalling. I discovered this or had my impression of it confirmed when I was there for a few weeks not long ago. But for all the efforts that may be made to hinder our better understanding, it is quite clear to me that we have got to learn the method of respecting one another's great qualities. The United States have a tremendous contribution to make, both as regards the principles of their politics and their lives, and the power they can and will exert for the good of the world in conjunction with us.
I do not want to discuss to-day the subject of military co-operation, but I do want to discuss the possibility of closer economic co-operation with the United States now and at a later period. I must confess that when I get among economists I feel I must tread as delicately as I would among lawyers. Rather hesitantly I put forward the view, that whereas questions of reconstruction both in the political and military field must be left until later on, we can make a start on considering a good deal in the economic field. In fact, the Government have already done so, in some consultations which have taken place and accounts of which have been published in the form of a White Paper—the consultations of the Inter-Allied Committee. That Committee has accepted the Atlantic Charter as its basis, but has gone further. It has set up 682 a bureau which will undertake the organisation of the supplies of food and other raw materials for instant despatch to Europe, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
As far as that Committee is concerned, I would like to suggest that there are two other fields in which it could begin to plan and discuss for the future. I would like to suggest that it could usefully plan to assist the restoration of health services throughout the occupied territories as soon a opportunity permits. I have no doubt that the need for the health services in those territories will be immense at a later stage. I would also like to suggest that they should now consider making sure that at the earliest opportunity after the war, the peoples of Germany are given copious chances of learning the truth about how the war started and how it has been conducted in the occupied territories. The consultations of that Committee, to which reference was made in the Gracious Speech, are a matter of great interest to the United States who have requested that they should be consulted on matters which are considered. They have special interests, such as shipping problems and the disposal of wheat and cotton surpluses. They have, too, a general interest. I should like to call attention to a very striking and constructive speech made by Mr. Sumner Welles on 7th October. He represents a large amount of constructive thinking, which is going on more in the United States, I would say, than in this country at present—naturally so—on the subject of post-war reconstruction. He said:The creation of an economic order in the post-war world which will give free play to individual enterprise and at the same time render security to men and women and provide for progressive improvement of living standards is almost as essential to the preservation of free institutions as is the actual winning of the war.But we cannot confine ourselves to the consideration of European problems. Nor can we confine ourselves to the immediate measures which have to be taken as soon as the war stops, which is all. that the Inter-Allied Committee have so far done. We have to look forward to the period when it will be possible to undertake a large-scale reconstruction of Europe, aiming primarily, of course, at employment, but needing for its fulfilment such things as plant and factories, raw materials, building materials, finance, reconstruc- 683 tion of transport, and many other things. But it is possible to think of that in Europe only in terms of a wider picture. I do not say that this is a time to take final decisions, which will tie us down to action in hypothetical circumstances in future, but it is time to explore the issues in great detail and with our best people, to explore, in conjunction with the United States, issues which are fundamental to the future economy of the world. I will give one or two examples. There are the prices of basic commodities, questions relating to capital investment, raw materials, the development of industries in raw material producing countries, the maintenance of agriculture in an industrial country like this, and, above all, questions of commercial policy, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham referred. My hon. Friend underlined the need for making it clear to the United States that we shall have to restore our export trade. I am sure that that is true, but I would like to draw attention to another passage from the same speech by Mr. Welles. He said:The basic conception is that the United States Government is determined to move towards the creation of conditions under which restrictive and un-conscientious tariff prefer-entials and discriminations are things of the past; under which no nation can seek to benefit itself at the expense of another; and under which destructive trade warfare shall be replaced by co-operation for the welfare of all nations.I do not think that Mr. Welles was trying to paint a picture of anything that would be called an unattainable, or indeed an unselfish, ideal. He was trying to describe the kind of world that would be of benefit to America, and to the rest of the world, too. We have to examine the suggestions made by Mr. Welles, and by others, in exactly the same spirit as he in his speeches examined, quite frankly, the mistakes made in American economic policy in the past. We are now working in close conjunction with the United States on many aspects of the war effort. We have machinery set up for running these aspects of the war in conjunction with them. We may be able to use that machinery not only for planning the postwar world but for carrying on the work in the post-war stage. The chance that we shall have for economic reconstruction immediately the war stops will never come to us again. If we fail to prepare 684 for that chance, we may plunge the world into economic chaos from which, had we prepared, we might have saved it. Someone has remarked that peace conferences are the grave of reputations and the womb of future wars. History is giving this generation the chance of disproving the truth of that rather gloomy reflection. The responsibility of building a new world will be hardly less weighty than the task of winning the chance to undertake that responsibility.
§ Captain G. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
There are one or two matters to which I want briefly to refer in this "grand inquest of the nation." First of all, I would reinforce the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer) on the disparity of pay between civilian labourers and privates in the Army. This is a very urgent matter indeed. Civilian labour has been working side by side with the Army in the same district, doing the same job, and the civilian labourer was getting between £6 and £8 a week whereas the private in the Army got only 2S. 6d. a day. This has led to grave dissatisfaction among men called up to serve in the Forces—so much dissatisfaction that there have been free fights in some of the public-houses and in the streets.
Again, now that women are taking their place more and more in our war effort, there will be occasions when the young married woman, who, after a very few weeks of elementary training, will be getting more pay, even taking into consideration that a man in the Services gets his food and accommodation free, than her husband, who has perhaps been in the Army ever since war began. Surely, the time has now come for these grievances to be remedied. The Army are told that it is the fault of the Treasury, who hold the purse-strings. If my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is questioned on the matter he says that he cannot be responsible for the wages that are paid to civilian workers and that that comes under the Ministry of Labour, the "buck is passed'' from one member of the Government to another and still nothing is done. There are many people in the Army who have very just grievances about their pay and allowances, and that dissatisfaction leads to inefficiency. If we are to maintain our efficiency and our war effort with unity, then these grievances 685 must be put right. It is the case also with regard to the subaltern officers. There is no doubt that the War Office believes that the pay of the subaltern officer is inadequate and that it also thinks that the married allowances of some of the junior officers are also inadequate. Every day one reads in the newspapers of some young officer or another who has got into trouble through dishonoured cheques—perhaps even as bad as misappropriation of public funds—and that leads to court-martial proceedings. It is a matter of amazement to me that more young officers do not get into trouble than at present is the case.
There are still too many people throughout the country who benefit financially through the war, and there are still too many rackets in existence which "D.O.R.A." cannot prevent. We must realise that there is still a great number of unscrupulous persons who are only too ready and too willing to benefit by the misfortunes of nations as well as by the misfortunes of individuals. Only the other day I was astounded to hear of one of these rackets. I am given to understand that no criminal or other proceedings can be taken against those who are responsible. I admit that I was listening to a conversation in the restaurant of a certain London hotel, but I was not eavesdropping. The conversation took place in such loud terms that I could not help overhearing it. A young man was entertaining an older man to lunch, and a very good lunch they ordered. The conversation attracted my attention when the older said to the younger:If I were your age and had the prospect of having to join the Army in front of me I think I should commit suicide.Then he went on:Those of us who are used to our little luxuries and our self-indulgences do not want to be put into big boots and rough clothes and drilled around the barrack square. Think of what your life will be in the Army. Think of the dirt and filth. But I will look after you, my boy; I have arranged for you to have a job in Bristol.Evidently the job referred to was a job in a reserved occupation at £500 per annum, with travelling expenses. But the story does not end there. As a consideration for securing this job the older man was to be paid a fee of 25 per cent. per annum— £125 a year. I am perfectly certain—in fact I could almost guarantee—that that older man would not pay tax on that 686 £125 a year he received from the younger man.
§ Captain Taylor
I have the older man's name and address but I cannot vouch for his nationality. How the older man was able to get such a job for the younger man I cannot find out.
§ Captain Taylor
I know his name and his address. I saw the first instalment of £12 10s. handed over by the younger man and the older man walked over to the telephone, rang up his bookmaker and put the money on a dog. I telephoned the information to the Ministry of Home Security in the hope that some action might be taken to put a stop to this sort of iniquitous racket. Unfortunately, at the moment it seems to be within the limit of the law. It occurred to me that should this undesirable gentleman be able to obtain similar appointments for 10 or 12 other younger men, he would be able to make a very substantial income for himself and would pay no tax on that income.
There are other rackets in existence, too, and I hope some effort is being made on the part of the Government to see that qualified doctors do not produce false X-ray photographs and certificates which, I am told, can be procured for a fee to prove that certain precious individuals are not fit for military service. Another racket, to which I want to refer briefly, is what I would call the drink racket. I hope the Government, through the Ministry of Food, will wipe out the black market which exists at the present moment in the wine and spirit trade. Everybody knows that hotels and night clubs are willing to pay prices far in excess of those fixed by the trade. They retail these wines and spirits to their customers at even more fabulous prices. Many people, because they cannot afford to do so or as a matter of principle, refuse to pay these prices but, unfortunately, that is not universal, and so these hotels and night clubs have every opportunity of disposing of their stocks. I regard profiteering in war-time, whether it be in munitions, foodstuffs, wines or spirits, as equally repulsive, and I hope that before it is too late the Gov- 687 eminent will take steps to frustrate the schemings of these speculators and racketeers. I have mentioned only three types of racket. There are many more besides which all hon. Members must have had brought to their notice from time to time. I hope that the knowledge that such undesirable practices do exist will cause the Government to take very drastic steps against these individuals who perpetrate these treacherous acts. Might it not be possible to set up some sort of bureau to investigate any charges of a similar character which members of the public might care to bring before it?
I hope that Ministers who are to speak during the remainder of the Debate will take the opportunity of replying to questions and points that have been put forward by hon. Members and that they will not follow the example of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who devoted three-quarters of his speech to rather ah unsatisfactory attack upon the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). I am sure the hon. Member for Seaham went away with the impression, or rather the confirmed opinion, that he was indeed the most important Member of this assembly. A certain newspaper which delights in ill-informed and destructive criticism of the Government referred to the hon. Member as the most feared and outspoken critic of the Government. I do not want to follow the First Lord's example by pouring scorn upon the frequent and unhelpful speeches which the hon. Member for Seaham makes throughout the country. Certainly, they have no entertainment value; certainly, they do not spur on the workers to greater efforts in our war production, and one can only assume that there must be some other object in view.
I am afraid that the urge to say something glamorous, to appear knowledgeable in military strategy, to give the impression that one knows just that little something which the other man. does not, was a disease in peace time, but now that the enemy's ears are wide open in the hope of detecting some major disagreement in our ranks, it has become a plague. I wish that all persons who hold, or have held, positions of responsibility, including many officers who have held senior appointments in the Services, would show more discretion in their public utterances, 688 in their statements in the newspapers and in broadcasts, and would not allow their personal opinions to create a false impression in the public mind that the War Cabinet are in disagreement over matters of major strategy. If the advice in all the articles, all the statements, and all the broadcasts, were followed by the War Cabinet, which God forbid, there would be no end to confusion and chaos. There is still too much talk, there are too many indiscretions, and insufficient attention is paid to the less spectacular but more effective method of winning the war, and that is hard work. Finally, I offer to those people to whom I have just referred, those people who talk so much in these troublous times, who broadcast and who write lengthy articles on how to win the war in 12 simples lessons, the words of Charles Kingsley:Not by the blare of trumpets, not by noise, wrath, greed, ambition, intrigue, puffery, is good and lasting work to be done on earth; but by wise self-distrust, by silent labour, by lofty self-control, by that charity which hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I do not desire to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Captain Taylor). I thought that he went out of his way to ascribe bad effects to the "Shinwellian" expositions we get in this House. It was remarkable that the hon. and gallant Member dealt with those things to which the Press give the greatest prominence, and dealt with questions which cannot be expected to assist the morale of the people of this country. He has suggested that harder work is the only way to win this war, and, yet, the major portion of his speech was devoted to that which is the converse of work; by example he should be the last person to criticise the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) for his criticisms in this House.
§ Mr. Edwards
It does not matter where the criticisms are made so long as they are genuine. I too wish to join those critics who have expressed apprehension of the way in which the war is being carried on. It came as a shock when the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) made a very grave charge against the military direction of the war. Very many of us 689 had thought that such charges were confined to the economic planning of the war. If the statements which the hon. and gallant Member has made go unchallenged, it will give room for many more speeches which my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will have reason to criticise. It seems that throughout this Debate there has been an undertone and undercurrent of apprehension on the failure of the Government to take advantage of the present favourable military situation, which, it is true, is related to our failure to mobilise fully our economic resources. It will be within the recollection of the House that we were told by the professional experts that Hitler would do all in his power to avoid a war on two fronts. We were told that war on two fronts would be fatal to his designs. With those recollections in mind, is it any wonder that our people have demanded a second front, and is it any wonder that they have followed the theories of professional experts, when they stated that the opportunity for taking action which would be fatal to Hitler had arrived? Only now have we taken very belated action.
It would have been a delight to have heard the present Prime Minister dilating on this situation, if only he had been speaking from below the Gangway instead of at the Despatch Box. Here, indeed, would have been a theme after his own heart. How he would in such circumstances, smite the Government for its apparent ineptitude and lack of resolution. I am sure he would have delighted the House time after time on such a theme. Indeed, it is not difficult to conceive, if the right hon. Gentleman had not been a Front Bencher and Prime Minister, that there would have been a second front long ago, and that the main drive for a second front would have come from him. The critics of to-day will recollect his whimsical maliciousness, and the scenes in this House, in 1938, and in the early part of 1939, when our present Prime Minister urged his case with all his force and wit. We recall how the Prime Minister of those days would snarl and sneer at the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms, because their policies were completely opposed, and how the present Secretary of State for War would urge all his sheep into the fold in order to discredit the right hon. gentleman. How often did Members of this House watch the present Prime 690 Minister go out of the Chamber with heavy and despondent tread to the sneers and jeers of those who now most loudly acclaim him.
It is remarkable that the role that the right hon. Gentleman then filled with such outstanding distinction, he now desires, apparently, to cancel altogether. Our situation to-day has one essential difference. This House, as a rule, wants to travel on the same road. We are united in principle. The critics differ from the Government only in their desire to travel along the road with greater speed, greater urgency and greater resolution. The right hon. Gentleman who, before the war, made criticism his only contribution to the national well-being, now dons the robe of his predecessor and behaves towards the critics as the Chamberlains behaved towards the Churchills. Not only has he donned the robe but he appears to have found a use for the umbrella as well, if only to cover some of the weaker members of his Administration from the hostile criticism of the public. But to this criticism there has been no effective reply.
There is disquiet and fear in too many places and in far too many minds. It is not confined to the House. It spreads throughout the length and breadth of the country. One day we are told that our output must be increased by 40 per cent. The same week-end our men are told 1hat they must not work overtime and must not work on Sundays. In the mining industry we have been very actively begging our men to work harder and longer hours, and some thousands of them are rendered idle because the coal that they have filled cannot be taken away. The men in the aircraft industry are told to strain every nerve to give planes to Russia, and far too many of them have to stand idly by their machines and watch their waiting time mount. The Minister of Labour tells the workers to behave as if they were behind guns, yet thousands of them are faced with the efforts of the Assistance Board to transform them into paupers.
This is the picture that faces far too many of the workers. It is a picture that exists in all parts and one that ought to be dealt with in a very stringent way. One can overstress this dark side of the picture, and the most severe critic must agree that the progress that has been made in the last 12 months is remarkable. We have only to compare our position with what it 691 was some 18 months ago. The vast majority of our people have worked marvels, and this applies to all sections of the community, but our need to-day is greater than ever before in our history. To meet this need we shall have to root out all inefficiencies, all slacknesses and all misdirections. To use a phrase very well-known in the mining industry, the time has arrived to pull in every bit of slack, and far too much slack is in evidence at present.
Now I want to take to task the Minister of Labour. He has shouldered a responsibility which would have destroyed the political life of almost any Member of the House who attempted it, and he has acquitted himself in a way that has earned the admiration of the vast majority of our people. His contribution to our ultimate victory will probably be as large as that of any other single person in the Administration. But there are still sections of our resources to which he ought again to direct his attention. Let me give one example. On Thursday week he made one of his usual stirring speeches. I ought to say that we welcome him back to the House after his recent illness. His speech was reported in the Press of Friday week, and it was headed, "Get on with the job." He said:Get right on with it this winter. The great testing time for this nation is coming in March and April.Later in the speech he said:Thousands more tanks and guns and other munitions thrown in at this moment may have such a decisive effect that next year we may well be meeting in peace. Somehow or other we must get everyone in the country to feel that he is holding a gun. If all put their backs into it we shall achieve such results in the next six months that we shall be at Hitler's funeral before long.These are my right hon. Friend's declarations as to the urgency of the situation. Will he, however, tell the House how the thousands of unemployed men in South Wales can get on with the job? Will he tell the House how the miners, who have worked harder and now have to wait for wagons, can put their backs into it? Will he tell the thousands of aircraft workers who are standing by idle machines how they can behave as if they had guns in their hands? Will he tell the highly skilled men with a vast managerial experience, whose names are recorded on the Central Register, how they 692 can put their backs into it? They have been waiting for a long time for the Central Register to find them jobs. These people want to help to defend this country. We are entitled to ask when the Government intend to give them a chance to do so. Let me quote a special example. In the Press of South Wales—and there are thousands of unemployed men in South Wales—there recently appeared an advertisement appealing for 6,000 women to enrol for light bench work in munitions factories. On every hoarding and in every exchange posters to a like effect were exhibited. In South Wales alone these jobs could be filled many times over by unemployed men who have been registered for years for this type of work. Yet the work that these men can do is being offered to their wives, so that we have the stupid position that men who want work, are being compelled to live on the earnings of their wives.
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not accept that position. The minimum wage in these industries is over £3 3s. a week. We visited one of the factories yesterday and saw the women at work and saw their wages. We are satisfied that their husbands would have jumped at the chance to get these jobs at the wages the women are getting. The thing goes further than that. Not only are these jobs advertised and offered to women only, but as soon as the wives of the unemployed men get the jobs, the means test man comes round and says, "You must live on the family income." The unemployed man is immediately made into a pauper and is struck off the Exchange lists.
I would say to my hon. Friends at the Ministry of Labour that they will not hide the unemployed men by making them paupers. There is a deliberate tactic by the Assistance Board to submit these men to medical examination and, for the flimsiest reason, to strike them off. It has reached the stupid stage that men who have been put out of scope by the Assistance Board have had their cases tried within three weeks of their having been put out of scope, and the men have actually been at work at the time the 693 appeals tribunal have declared them unfit for work. That is the sort of thing against which we are entitled to make our protest. In a recent Debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was put. up to reply to the charge that there was no planning in this country. If I may say so very respectfully his answer to that Debate was a complete justification of the charges. All he succeeded in doing was to indicate that there was a plan in allotting labour, but he never indicated that he was satisfied how that labour was being used. To the charge that there was an uneconomic use of labour there was no reply.
I turn now to an industry where affairs, in my view, are causing the greatest alarm and concern, and that is the aircraft industry. For that the Ministry of Aircraft Production must accept responsibility. In a former Debate, when we made very grave charges about this industry, the Minister displayed a decorative somnolence on the Front Bench. He never attempted to reply to the charges. Indeed, his speech must have convinced many of those who heard it that his pose of somnolence had got the better of him and that he had really slept through the Debate. I am not alone in that view, because three or four days afterwards the Prime Minister came to the House and made the reply which ought to have been made by the Minister of Aircraft Production. We must consider this section of our war effort in the light of the Minister's own pronouncements. To him the position may not be urgent. To him it may not be necessary to send the maximum aid to Russia. If this is the position, then I can understand the condition of the aircraft industry.
I should like to give some choice examples. It is within the knowledge of the Department that a factory has been run by the glorified car-salesman Rootes; that it has had to be reorganised, and that it is now due for a further reorganisation. How long is this to be tolerated? There is power to put a workman into prison for not working; Has the Minister neither the power nor the desire to imprison a management for preventing men from working? Not only does it waste its own time, but it also causes dismay and discontent in every sub-contracting factory with which it is 694 concerned. Let me give an example or how this bright star in the constellation of aircraft manufacturers does his job. Some time ago the factory got a contract for the production of a certain plane. Many parts of the job were sub-let to subcontractors. The men employed by one of these sub-contractors complained to me that they were engaged upon a part of a plane which they understood the Russians wanted. They had heard the powerful speech made by Lord Beaver-brook. They had done little work all that week. I asked them to convey my concern to the management, and on 8th October the Ministry of Aircraft Production at Bristol were informed. On 9th October I received a telephone message in this House, the contents of which were conveyed to the Minister. On the next day I visited the factory. Here is the story, given in the form of telegrams, of a plane for which the Russians were waiting:29th September. We have accumulated 275 hours waiting time since Wednesday due to shortages.1st October. We have accumulated 120 hours waiting time.6th October. We have accumulated the following waiting time: Wednesday 110 hours, Thursday 118, Friday 210, Saturday 188. We have seven jigs idle to-day.7th October. Attention…. All jigs idle awaiting spars.The next day:We have accumulated the following waiting time due to shortage of spars.The next day:We have accumulated the following waiting time due to shortage of spars…. We have now 12 jigs idle. Position is desperate.On the next day:We have accumulated the following waiting time due to shortage of spars…. Position desperate.On the next day:We have accumulated …. 505 hours waiting time due to shortage of spars…. Desperate.The last telegram was:We have accumulated ….410 hours waiting time due to shortage of spars. Men will be standing idle for another week unless someone gets cracking.Altogether nine of these telegrams and four letters were sent to Rootes, without a single answer to any of them. All the communications indicated that men 695 were standing idly by, when they were supposed to be producing a plane desperately wanted for Russia. There were 76 men idle for nearly three weeks, and it took over 14 days to get a reply from Rootes, who were the main contractors.
§ Mr. Edwards
They were sent in October and they continued every day. No reply was received at all. It is rather alarming that the sub-contracting firm who "spilled the beans" to a Member of Parliament should have their contract cut down from the use of 17 jigs to six jigs. I suppose the big gang at the top mean to teach them not to "spill the beans" to a Member of Parliament. It may be said by the Ministry of Aircraft Production that they did not know. In these factories, as in this particular factory, they have seven persons employed all the time by the Ministry to watch the output. I suggest that this example is symptomatic of the way in which this industry is run and of the way in which the Ministry of Aircraft Production is doing its job. Half a dozen big contractors are at the top, with their own paid representatives in the Ministry, and they share out the contracts between themselves. Then there are hundreds of thousands of sub-contracting firms, each with its own sales agents and touts, who scout around for the juiciest sub-contracts. These are allotted in the most peculiar way. They go by favour, and, rumour has it, for favours. Proximity to the main contract works is a secondary consideration, and heavy lorries carrying the parts pass across the country in an intricate pattern, wasting vehicles, petrol, men and time. Each little firm has to keep its scouts to get orders, and tools and skill to suit the orders as well as the material to do the job. All this happens for each new subcontract. There is no continuity of type or pattern. Each competes for the most profitable part of the plane. The long distances from the main contract factory give rise to all sorts of delays as well as unnecessary chasing over the countryside. Telephones are clogged with messages while men stand idly by their machines and watch the waiting time mount up.
696 In all this mad rushing about, where is the plan? I ask the question again. It is just chaos. Workmen are tied to their jobs by the Minister of Labour; why are not the factories tied to the production for which they are best suited? Why is not the work directed from the main works to satellite smaller works, on an ordered and planned basis? Why are not factors of transport and proximity taken into account? Why must capitalist enterprise, using capital largely provided by the Ministry of Aircraft Production, be allowed to potter along in this chaotic way and play with the safety of the country, as they are doing? I ask the Minister: "Where is the plan?" That is the question that thousands of his countrymen are asking. I ask him: "Does he want to help Russia?" It is not enough for him to make a declaration in this House or to get a declaration made for him. It is by the methods he employs in running these industries that he will be judged. With this I have finished. The Prime Minister has said that the team has to be judged as a whole. That indeed is a new philosophy for him. He addresses the House on this matter as if he himself were not the inventor of the technique of exporting his own failures. The Prime Minister will suit the mood of this nation, and its needs, if when he is making up his next cargo for export to other countries, he provides a place for the Minister of Aircraft Production.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
The interval before the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech gives us an opportunity to meet our constituents and come back here and express some of the views we have heard from them. I think there has been a certain amount of anxiety about the absence of a second front, an anxiety which I believe was misplaced and which has been very unwisely fostered by one or two former Ministers. But, in general, in regard to the conduct of the war, I think the country has the greatest possible confidence in the Prime Minister and in his professional advisers. There is, I believe, some disquiet in the country about the lopsidedness of the observation of the political truce. I do not think hon. Members opposite can complain that we on this side of the House have taken advantage of the war situation to make political capital in the country, but I do not think that all have observed the same balance.
697 Obviously, Ministers cannot be responsible for all Members, but I suggest that they can be responsible at least for their own Parliamentary Private Secretaries. Recently a Select Committee made some comment on the position of Parliamentary Private Secretaries. We know that Parliamentary Private Secretaries are most useful cogs in the machine. We in this House know, what the public very often does not, that they do not occupy any official position at all, although they are very useful indeed in the House. I raise this point because the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Admiralty has, in the course of speeches in my county, twice made political observations which I think were most improper. I hope that Ministers will at least endeavour to control their own Parliamentary Private Secretaries. It is quite true that we know what the Parliamentary Private Secretary is, that it is quite an unofficial post, but when a local paper describes him as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Admiralty it suggests that he holds some official position, which is not the case.
As regards the conduct of the war there is, as I have said, great confidence in the Prime Minister, but throughout the country, as speaker after speaker has pointed out, there is grave disquiet about the home front. It is true that there is unchecked extravagance everywhere. Neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Minister of Labour seems to have the smallest interest in economy. They have been warned continually. I hold in my hand a whole series of warnings, such as a leading article in the "Times," of April last and article in the same paper of the same date. I want particularly to refer to a warning given by the Government itself. On 25th April, 1941, there was issued by the Ministry of Information for publication overseas a paragraph about wage increases which concluded as follows:The Government, while desiring to preserve the level of real wages, is now extremely interested in avoiding further wage increases which can only drive up the cost of living. This is in accordance with the anti-inflationary policy they are pursuing.One imagines that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had something to do with, or at least approved, such a reasonable statement. My complaint, and a complaint that is general, is that he does absolutely nothing to implement those good inten- 698 tions which are expressed. We had a statement by the Government on price stabilisation and industrial policy, a very good statement—but absolutely nothing has been done about it. We have report after report of the Committee on National Expenditure, and for the most part their recommendations are not carried out; their findings appear to be ignored. Can it be wondered that people ask what is the use of saving, of trying to practise individual economy, when the Government have no interest whatever in the question? I quote from the "Times" of 4th November, a report about war-time building. It was stated that out of the £13,000,000 a day spent on the war, £1,500,000 was being spent on building. That is not such a surprising figure to any Member who takes the trouble to go round and visit the building sites.
About four months ago I gave the Minister of Labour some very simple figures. I will not weary the House with them all. I will take one typical example. I am quoting a case which I have examined personally where semiskilled, very slightly skilled labour was drawing £6 19s. a week plus five different benefits, some of them substantial, for doing a job for which before the war, the same labour was being paid £2 16s. for a 48-hour week. The result of the enormously increased earnings in the particular cases which I gave the Minister was an output of about 90 per cent. that of pre-war.
§ Wing-Commander James
I said on a 48-hour week before the war. My point is that for a 60-hour week now, labour was receiving £6 19s. plus benefits for work in respect of which the same class of labour received £1 16s. for a 48-hour week before the war. This figure that I gave was not by any means the highest. The Minister appeared to me rather to pooh-pooh the whole thing. He invited me to take the figures around to his Ministry. After some pressure on my part, I go to permanent officials, and the details were given. I will not discuss our conversation, but I will say that the Minister, to whom I had given that challenge, has never said one word more about it. The simple fact is that he 699 cannot. Speaker after speaker has emphasised the shocking disparity between the remuneration of men in the Services and that of men on the various constructional jobs. Last week-end a man on whom I know I can rely absolutely, told me that in his local bar on a Friday night two Irish labourers came in, and my friend saw their pay envelopes for the week. They were both marked £18. Compare that with the earnings of a sublieutenant in the R.N.V.R., with two years' service, whose total earnings today, allowing for various benefits such as cigarettes and so on, amount to about £4 a week in cash and value.
§ Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)
How is it possible for a labourer to earn £18 a week? Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us the rate per hour, and how it is possible for any labourer in this country to earn such a sum?
§ Wing-Commander James
That is precisely the point which I have put to the Minister of Labour, and I cannot get an answer. I have given the Minister the facts, with the date.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
Can the hon. and gallant Member tell us whether there were any bonus payments in that particular period?
§ Wing-Commander James
I do not know. I hope that the hon. Member will press for a day's discussion on the matter, and then the Minister of Labour can give particulars, which he has so far refused to do. I am not going to weary the House by allowing myself to be drawn into controversy. I have stated the facts, and I want an investigation.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) asked how it was possible for a labourer to earn £18 a week. I would like it put on record that this question has been asked.
§ Wing-Commander James
I hope I have said enough to stimulate interest in the subject. There is one general remark that I will make which anyone can check, namely, that, all over the countryside, wherever aerodromes have been constructed, men and boys, and particularly boys, can go from ordinary local employment and straight away earn two, three or four times as much as they have done 700 up to date in ordinary civilian life because they are on a war job. All this would not matter if it were helping forward the war effort. It is not doing so, and all this has to be paid for after the war. That is the reason why it is such a tragedy that we have so weak a Minister of Labour and so lamentable a Chancellor of the Exchequer. They simply "pass the buck" from one to the other.
I shall be told from the benches opposite that I am attacking the weekly wage-earners. The real people who are attacking the standard of living of the weekly wage-earners are those cowardly persons, ministerial or otherwise, who do not face up to the facts, and it is this that is driving us to inflation. It will all have to be paid for after the war. This is purely an artificial war-time procedure which workmen know as well as anybody else cannot last. It is unnecessarily extravagant and terribly diminishing to our postwar position. The burden accumulates and we are merely mortgaging the future for no advantage. Why cannot the Prime Minister face up to this issue and appoint somebody to go into this matter of the home front? We have great confidence in him as the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and in his advisers. Why cannot the Prime Minister appoint some responsible Minister whom he and the House approve to co-ordinate the home front? There are plenty of people whom we would not trust to do this, and several whom we would trust. Let the Prime Minister realise that the odium and blame accrue to him for neglecting to do this. Why is it that not one Minister has been sacked since the present Prime Minister came into office? There have been cases of admirals, generals, and air-marshals being pushed out. Some of these cases may, at a later date, require some explanation, but not during the war. A few Ministers have been promoted but not one has been pushed out. The Prime Minister must realise that this pandering to unsuccessful Ministers is causing disapproval. I hope that the Minister taking note of to-day's Debate will not hesitate to point out to the Prime Minister the apprehension of this House from all sides regarding the state of the home front.
§ Mr. Collindridge (Barnsley)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) in the remarks that he 701 has made to this House, but perhaps I shall be permitted to refer to the fact that he questioned my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) upon the idea of introducing the party point of view. I wonder whether he appreciates that, while we are now endeavouring to get through this war as successfully as possible, there is still in vogue the system and economic policy which to a large extent the hon. and gallant Gentleman supports. I was rather alarmed about the remarks he and other Members have made to-day with regard to comparisons between serving men and people in industry. I have some fears about the points of view which were expressed. Do these hon. Members really desire to see the treatment of serving men improved, or do they desire that the higher wages they talk about, without much proof, should be considerably lowered? If their hearts are moving out to the serving men, they ought to put the point of view of these men without making the somewhat unfair comparisons which they have made.
I wish to-day to put the point of view of my constituents and no doubt the constituents of others. There is pride, I feel sure, in all parts of the country at the way in which we have emerged from the calamities of last year. If I can, in the short time at my disposal, I will endeavour to put points of agreement rather than points of difference. We have had the opportunity of visiting our constituencies fairly frequently, and the overriding feeling of our people is one of pride and gratitude at the way we came through 1940 to the position we are in to-day. Most of all, I think, thanks are due to our men of the air, land and sea who have helped us out of these difficulties. There is a deep feeling that everything should be done at this juncture for Russia in the fight she wages to-day, not merely for the sake of Russia but for our own people as well.
I would say to those people who were inclined to criticise the actions of the Soviet Republic before June, "Let the past be buried." We fight for the present and the future of us all and I hope we shall attack on other fronts, with every means at our power, to divide our enemy and lessen his power to do harm. I favoured the idea of a second front when the war started but I think the Government are in the best position to know the 702 facts of the situation. Without throwing any bouquets I would say that the Government are composed of men who desire to win the fight as speedily as possible and I am satisfied that they are the best people to decide when and where second front activity should start. The Government can rest assured that if they want greater sacrifices from our people, our people will be only too ready to make those sacrifices immediately.
I want now to refer to one matter which affects the war effort. From the time when the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary was Minister of Supply there has been advice to all the workers engaged in war production to "go to it," but the simple fact is that people engaged in industry can produce only when they have got to the place where the work is. I make a habit of travelling to London in the early hours of the morning on a workers' train. In the Division which I represent, there were at the beginning of the war many thousands of people out of work, but I am glad to say that since the war most of them have been absorbed into war industries, not necessarily in the places in which they reside. Many of them have to go to their work by train. Invariably the trains are very late, owing to the bad system of running; I should say that every day on an average at least a quarter of an hour and often more is lost in travelling by each worker before he gets to his job. Last year, I and several other people suggested to the railway companies that they should rectify that position, but instead of improving, the services have got very considerably worse. Not only are trains late in the morning, but in the evening the number of trains has been very considerably reduced. I am speaking of an area in which there are perhaps half a million or more people. From one large centre of war production there is no train after 10 minutes past seven in the evening to the place where the workers live. There the position is worse than it was in 1940, and repeated overtures to the responsible transport authorities have brought only worse results.
In this area, in the blitz of last year, there was heavy bombing, and some railway waiting rooms were demolished by enemy action. In January of this year it was suggested that the good weather 703 part of the year should be used in renewing waiting-room accommodation, but unfortunately, the last word that we have heard about the position is a letter which I received a few days ago stating in truly Parliamentary language that this matter was being actively considered. I do not think this is fair treatment for people who are doing war work for us, and I ask that there should be an improvement in this respect. I suggest to the Government authorities interested in the question of transport that, without waiting for Members of Parliament to complain about the position, there is very great need for them to make inquiries in different localities to find out whether all is well. I suggest that the Minister of War Transport might be well advised to send immediately to the various industrial localities where munitions are produced representatives who could arrange for private meetings—because I do not want unnecessary publicity on this question— between employers, employees and the railway authorities for the purpose of endeavouring to improve the position. I am sure that this position is grossly impeding our war effort. It has a psychological effect as well, because it is difficult to convince workers of the need for a one hundred per cent. effort when they see no one is worrying about these other questions.
§ Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)
Can the hon. Member tell us whether he has put the case before the Regional Transport Officer, and whether the Regional Transport Officer has been able to bring about any improvement?
§ Mr. Collindridge
I must confess that I have not done so, but since 1940 I have repeatedly made representations to the railway authorities who have stated that the matter would be rectified, but, unfortunately, that has not been the case.
In conclusion, I wish to refer to pensions. This question has been threshed out in this House time and again, and I believe that all are convinced of the need for improving the lot of this class of the community. There are, however, some pensioners who have not received any increases to meet the additional cost of living. For example, war widows and dependants have had no increase in their pension allowance, and this is also the case with dependants who lost their men 704 in the last war. The lot of widows of civilians, with their very meagre allowance, has been very hard, and there is also room for improvement in the case of pensions for retired postmen and others. I know that all these suggestions involve expenditure, and, inevitably, one is asked whether the country can afford it. I would reply to that with another question, and ask whether we can afford not to make an improvement? Our fighting men cannot wait for an improvement to be made in dependants allowances, although if increases were given it would have a heartening effect;. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen are ready, whatever their conditions may be, to fight vigorously for an early and successful victory, but in common justice it is our duty to try to improve the lot of their dependants at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans (Derby, Southern)
The hon. Member who has just spoken has been carrying out the duty imposed on this House on such an occasion—to search out weaknesses and call for the redress of grievances. The House of Commons would lose much of its usefulness and all its influence if it did not use this occasion to bring to light any grievances and weaknesses in the Administration. One thing which will emerge from this Debate is the necessity for this House to watch carefully the tendency, which will undoubtedly develop, for Departments to impose policies on the country under Regulations which would be rejected if they had been submitted to Parliament.
There is another form of criticism which was referred to by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards). He said that, if the Prime Minister had been sitting below the Gangway as he was in 1939, we should have heard that he was a strong advocate of a second front. I re-member the attitude of the Prime Minister in 1939 and the years that went before and I am certain that he would not have been a supporter of a second front. His criticisms on all occasions were based on very wide knowledge and great experience. The criticism that has been levelled against the strategy of the Government is, as far as I know, not based on great knowledge. In fact there are few men in the country who are in a position to express a view on whether a second front should be established or not.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Would the hon. Member suggest for a moment that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) is not a person with considerable knowledge?
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
Yes, he has considerable knowledge, but I said there were very few, and I should say they are confined to the Prime Minister, the Chiefs of Staff and the heads of the Service Departments. They, after all, are the only men who actually know the disposition of our Forces and the strength at any given place of the Navy or Air Force or how much shipping is required to move a division from one part of the world to another. We have had a good deal of advice on the setting-up of a second front on the Continent, and a campaign has been carried out in the country by two young journalists, who seem to be gifted with a great deal more knowledge that I should have credited them with. This form of criticism is having a bad effect on our relations with Russia. I have always been in favour, both now and at a time when it was not very popular on this side of the House, of an Anglo-Russian military alliance, because I believed that our interests did not clash before the war and will not clash after the war. I also knew then, as everyone knows to-day, that we were facing the same ruthless enemy, who is doing everything in his power to bring the independence of both countries to an end.
The Russians are fighting with the same courage and tenacity to-day as in the years 1914–17, and indeed in 1812. They then rendered inestimable services, as they are doing to-day, and it is our duty and our endeavour, as the Government have said on many occasions, to bring all the help we can to Russia, because it is part of one Allied front. It is not really a question of help for Russia or for this country, but for the whole Alliance. But the fact that we are fighting side by side does not mean that we share the same views on the internal government of our respective countries. The Government of Russia and the Government of this country spring from very different foundations; they have different backgrounds. While there are a certain number of people in this country who want to explain away our institutions, Stalin is far too great a realist 706 to explain away Russian institutions in order to try and satisfy British public opinion. He is devoted to winning the battle. He is not interested in the opinions of the Archbishops on Anglo-Russian relations. We shall also make our best contribution to the Alliance by being realists.
When I have listened, as I have, not so much in this House as in the country, to the critics of the Government, I have found them to come chiefly from among the isolationists, those who would not prepare for war, and the appeasers. Then they forgot our responsibilities, and they are forgetting their own responsibilities to-day. We hear too little of our own lonely fight during the last year. We hear too little of the Battle of Britain. We hear too little of the fact that we have the greatest Navy in the world, that we are building up the greatest Air Force, and that we have a very formidable Army. All these things tend to be obscured by a spate of criticism of the kind to which I object, of the kind which has no real foundation. We are told that our future will be affected by this Government or that Government, that other nations will influence and direct our course. That is weakness and defeatism. Our democratic Parliamentary institutions are not things of yesterday. They are old and tried. They have given us our liberties and that justice which is the source of our strength to-day. We need not go abroad for a new form of government, nor hanker after anything which comes from foreign countries. Men are dying to-day in the Western Desert and on the broad seas so that our system of Government and our way of life should be preserved, strengthened and developed in our own time in accordance with our own ideals and in our own way. That, I believe, is the set determination of this country, from which nothing will turn us aside.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I should like to say how much I agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans). I believe profoundly that one of the troubles on the home front to which so many speakers have drawn attention in the Debate is our failure to make enough of our traditions—not so much of, our traditions, perhaps, as of our achievements in building up a really decent 707 democratic system. I think there is one profound misunderstanding that we still find in our policy. We are too apt to try to imitate the Germans. We forget too often that we can never be the equal of the Germans on the basis of quantity. We have to build up a nation of qualities rather than of quantities, that is, a nation of individuals rather than a nation of people in the mass. I believe that unless we have a strong leadership, a strong guidance from above, we come up against the difficulty that these individuals speak with too many voices. On the basis of having attended one dinner as one of many guests of M. Stalin, on the basis of five weeks in the territory of the Soviet Union and a five days' visit to the Russian front, I cannot claim to be an expert upon that country, but I am convinced of this, that the ordinary Russian people have not yet had to face, and I hope they never may have to face, the same sort of strain as the ordinary people of this country had to face up to last year. After all, the Soviet Union has, and let us be thankful for it, such immense territory that although I am afraid millions of Russian people may starve this winter, and millions may die in this common struggle, nevertheless, there will still be beyond the Urals, in those vast new territories that are being developed, millions more ready to carry on the struggle who have not yet been forced to realise the horrors of it as have the people in this country.
If I am correct in the belief that no people in this war have stood up to the strain as our people have stood up to it, I think it is important to know the reason for it. It certainly is not that our Government has been exceptionaly strong or our Civil Service exceptionally adaptable to new conditions. I would say that it is in a very great measure due to the Prime Minister himself, because when the Prime Minister has made those great speeches which have inspired everybody he has spoken as an individual to individuals. When he says that we shall fight on the beaches and in the fields, he is telling us to do exactly what we, as individuals, would want to do if the circumstances ever arose. The ordinary, little people of this country stood up to the strain of last year not, as I say, because they are stronger than other people, not because they are braver and not because they are 708 fitter, because we all know that by reason of our failure in the past to distribute wealth more equitably many of them were disgracefully unfit. But for centuries the men and women in this country have given up their lives not to get personal gain or political power but in order to see that every individual, however humble, has some right to have his grievances heard and some chance of getting them rectified.
I would maintain that that recognition of the respect for the individual does give this country a much greater strength than we realise. How can we turn it to account in this war? I shall not attempt to talk military strategy. We are fighting a campaign in Libya, and nobody yet knows how it will turn out, but one hopes that it is a campaign which will give the individual a chance of using his initiative. But I woud suggest that our European Allies, who will play an important part in the later phases of this war—those countries which are now overrun by Hitler —and our European enemies do not attach as much importance as we do to the maintenance of communications outside their own continent. We shall have to do more than fight this campaign in Libya if we are to give fresh help to those Allies and to instil fear into the Germans. We must do more to develop what I would call a "mosquito" policy, a policy of annoying the enemy on every occasion.
We have heard to-day an important and disquieting speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). We back benchers have no knowledge of the facts behind that case, but speaking as a representative of a small section of the ordinary people I would suggest that there still is in this country a feeling that we are not making the most of the opportunity which was given us by Russia. I agree fully with the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans) that we could not have carried out a development of the war on the Western Front. The answer to that suggestion was given by the Foreign Secretary about a month ago. He reminded us that, after Dunkirk, this country had not a single division in this country fully trained. That is the answer to the people who demand a new Western front. It is remarkable that a great number of those who are most active in making that demand were not in the lead in the past in demanding that 709 fuller production which alone could make a Western front possible. I believe we could still do a great deal in the way of little tip-and-run enterprises, a sort of smash-and-grab all the way down the coast. They do not require a lot of shipping or men, and they would do a great deal to give fresh hope to our allies as well as to remove the growing inferiority complex of the Army vis-a-vis the Air Force and the Navy.
That is not all. We are going to win this war because we have respect for the individual man as against the mass. We must therefore do everything we can to encourage the individual to put his utmost effort into the war. Surely there is something gravely wrong when so many people treat Parliamentary institutions and the freedom of the Press as though they were things of the past and did not matter any longer. This, I believe, is part of the reason for this growing contempt for the institutions of democracy. On the first day of this Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) made a speech the courage of which deserves the admiration of every Member of this House, although not all hon. Members may agree with it. I believe my hon. Friend was right when he said that we are hampered and robbed of our inspiration by men who are thinking of the future in terms of maintaining their own privileges. I do not necessarily mean that they want to maintain their own class position. In many cases these people can do nothing else, under our economic system. They cannot be blamed if, even during war-time, they prepare for a renewal of the competitive struggle after the war, but I am convinced that millions of people do not want to fight only to preserve something that has given us two wars in a generation and poverty in the midst of plenty. They want to fight to create something new.
If the Government want to obtain the maximum war effort, they must show that they are anxious to discuss new problems. For example: Hitler has created a united Europe on the basis of slavery, fear and hate; to what extent are we preparing schemes whereby the destruction of national barriers that he has brought about can be made lasting but beneficial for mankind? Production in this country is now planned, and both the old competitive impulse, and the duplication and 710 competition of private industry are being eliminated to some extent. Are the Government doing everything now to ensure after the war that production will be planned in the interests of the State and not of shareholders? The leadership of the Prime Minister in this country is as great as it ever was; I venture to appeal humbly to him to consider whether more should not be done at home and in India, as well as in the Colonies, to convince the world that his leadership is taking us away from greed, selfishness, fear and poverty.
As a democracy, we possess one other great source of strength, and it is in regard to this House of Commons. I referred just now to the fact that, even in war time, the humblest individual in the land has some right to air his grievances and express his opinions. That is an invaluable safety valve. Hon. Members know that our correspondence has greatly increased during the war. I am impressed by the way in which, even in war-time, muddles and hardships revealed in that correspondence are considered by Ministers and their Civil servants. It is an extraordinary thing, which ought to be brought home to the people of this country as much as possible, that they have this right of appeal. I can understand that Ministers who are overworked —if they are not, they ought to be—must sometimes resent being pestered by questions and criticisms in this House, but there is a dangerous tendency in the country to consider Parliament as out of date. I think that considering the fact that a general election is long overdue and apparently cannot be held now, and considering the fact that so many of the younger and more energetic Members of this House are now in the fighting Services, this House of Commons has done a great deal to be proud of during the war. It seems to me essential that we should build up the prestige and the dignity of Parliament. We must have that, and we must have a free Press, as bridges between the ordinary people of the country and the Ministers. I, therefore, appeal to Ministers to realise that even their critics have their parts to play. They are voicing the grievances of considerable sections of the public.
I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but why 711 does he suggest that at the present moment there is any feeling of the obsolescence of Parliament? I have not found it.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I very much hope the hon. Gentleman is right. I find, especially among younger people, that there is a very considerable tendency to think that Parliament does not matter. There is a great deal of criticism because we in the House of Commons are not able more quickly to help the Government to act.
The hon. Gentleman said a few moments ago that Hitler had achieved a united Europe. I did not interrupt him —I was waiting to hear him explain the point—but he has not done so.
§ Mr. Bartlett
That is another point. I said a united Europe based on fear and slavery. Only to-day—
§ Mr. Bartlett
Only to-day he has a meeting of the slave States in Europe, whose whole national economy—
I listened to what the hon. Gentleman said, and his words will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. He said Hitler had achieved a united Europe.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I assure the hon. Gentleman that he will be able to read my words in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I said Hitler had achieved a united Europe, because it is, unfortunately, a very considerable achievement. This confounded man has sent his army all over Europe to unite Europe on that basis of slavery. It is up to us to see that it is reformed on a basis of democracy. I would once again urge Ministers that the only critics they have a right to condemn are those who are anxious to hamper the war effort, and I believe that they are none, or a negligible few, in this House.
§ Major Sir George Davies (Yeovil)
I am one of those who welcome the extension of the limits of the Debate from the narrow grooves into which it had been confined to a broader sphere. There are one or two things which have struck me as being common to nearly every contribution to this Debate. The first is that in each of the speeches, most of which 712 were critical, the speaker made an exception of the Prime Minister himself, except the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shin-well), who, we all know, is an exceptional man. The other thing they had in common was to suggest that as a result of visiting our constituencies, and going up and down the country, we had found that there was abroad a feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction—the cant phrase now is "frustration." And it is impossible to say how far that has gone. Every speaker in this Debate has borne testimony to its greater or lesser existence. I think it is not unprofitable to consider for a moment some of the causes that have produced that. Certain speakers have suggested some. I should like to select four.
The first is the present lull through which we have been going. That has just been broken by the operations in Libya. Members will remember that earlier in this war we passed through a similar lull. At the start, our people in general, and we Members of the House of Commons, could hardly believe that we had gone into a real war, as nothing very definite happened. We gave the impression, taken up in the United States, that it was a "phoney" war. Our people were passing then through a mental time very similar to that through which they have been going in the last few months, that things were setting down. That was quickly broken by the anxieties of Dunkirk, by the thrill of the Battle of Britain, by the exultations at Wavell's expeditions in Libya, then by the blitz over London and other big industrial centres. The remarkable thing was that the greater the trials and the tragedies our people had immediately to face, the stronger were their morale and spirit and the less was the feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction. It is only as we return somewhat to an atmosphere of lull that a great deal of that malaise has begun to reproduce itself again.
My second reason is the feeling of inequality of sacrifice. That has been touched upon by other speakers, but I do not mean by that what hon. Members opposite are so prone to talk about— "You are conscripting labour; why not conscript wealth?" If they went into the facts, I think they would find that those in the country who are called wealthy have had their habits of life more varied, their standards of life far more lowered, than 713 any corresponding section of the community, in numbers anyhow. I mean something deeper than that. It has been touched upon by other speakers with regard to the comparative remuneration in the Services and of those who remain in industrial employment. I believe myself that—all credit to the workers of our country—it is not so much that the men in the Services are dissatisfied in general at the conditions; they went into it mostly with their eyes open, though there has been conscription since. What I mean is that people who have remained in industry and reserved occupations, who are straining, and working very long hours, and yet are in what we used to call in the last war "cushy" jobs compared with those who at any moment may be facing the bullets and shells of the enemy, are not quite satisfied and happy in their own minds to be paid remuneration while a mate who worked next to them formerly is now getting 2s. 6d. a day and the chance that at any moment he will be in the battle-front. I believe that spirit and feeling, which is an honourable one to our workers and the whole community, is having its effect on the spirit of malaise, as I would call it. There is also a feeling that there are still too many scrimshankers. They are in every class of society, and in both sexes. There are scrimshankers, indeed, to-day in the King's uniform who have wangled to themselves "cushy" jobs which they hope to hold for the duration.
Fourthly, there is a feeling that, even with all the efforts that are being made, we have not yet achieved 1oo per cent. of our potential productive capacity. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who, in his position as Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, has access to the facts, says that we are working only to 75 per cent. of capacity. He is reproved by our Front Bench—courteously, but nevertheless he is reproved— for his defeatist figures. Not long after the Minister of Labour and National Service comes forward and appeals for a 30 to 40 per cent. increase in our effort. People say that if the hon. Member for Kidderminister is wrong, and there is not 25 per cent. more, or anything like it, that we can do, what is the use of the Minister of Labour calling upon us for 30 to 40 per cent. more? These things are causing feelings of frustration, unrest, malaise, or whatever you like to call it. 714 I agree that the outbreak of active hostilities again in Libya has given a reply to some of that feeling, which had arisen in the time of the lull.
Speakers both inside and outside this House have not been slow to take advantage of this unrest and dissatisfaction, from three points of view. There are those who genuinely want to drive home, either to our people outside or to the occupants of the Front Bench, the anxieties they feel, and who hope that by their criticisms these things may be corrected. There are some who, actuated by very human sins, which we are warned against in the Prayer Book, give way, in greater or less degree, to envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness. There are some, too, with an eye to the future, who think that they can stake out a political claim from a party point of view. The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shin-well) had a defender to-day on the benches opposite—possibly because he himself is not present. But I think that he did ask for a certain amount of criticism. He goes in for hard knocks in Debate, and he must be prepared to receive them. I confess that in that speech he made last week he uncorked all the vials of his wrath, and poured them indiscriminately over everybody on the Front Bench, including the Prime Minister. Not for him to drive a wedge between the Prime Minister and his colleagues. So many of the critics have tried to do that, and I have wondered why. That will not help to reduce that feeling of dissatisfaction. It will not restore confidence for people to go up and down the country saying, "We will perhaps make an exception of the Prime Minister, but all the rest of the Government are a nuisance and a hindrance." It is not helpful to suggest that, in spite of all the declarations of the Government that we are out to give all the help we can to Russia, they do not believe that that is the Government's policy. None of these things is helping what people really want to see, which is the maintenance of the real united front and determination with which this country has carried on the war. It is up to us to do everything we can to foster that, rather than to prevent it.
We are not going to get 100 per cent. production out of our people unless they have peace of mind and peace of body. Peace of mind can be restored only if we restore complete confidence in the good 715 will and the efficiency of our great leader, his War Cabinet advisers, and his close colleagues in the Ministry. Sniping is no use. If we want to have real 100 per cent. production, we must have that peace of mind. Peace of body is essential as well. We have put the workers of this country into conditions of great discomfort, tearing them away from home and their surroundings and making them go to factories at long distances from where they have been accustomed to be, and it is up to us in the House of Commons to insist that the conditions under which they are doing this strenuous work must be as far as possible those that give them as much ease of body as possible. I was going to develop those two themes, but I will sit down with this suggestion. Really in order to have a practical outcome of this long Debate, we want to urge upon the Government the necessity of restoring the confidence of the people rather than sniping and destroying confidence, and to see that in the great schemes of industry for increased output we do all we can to make the conditions under which we live as easy and as agreeable as possible.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
I do not think that any member of the Government has any complaint to make about the course of the Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) spoke about the function of the House of Commons in war-time. I may remind him that I made the first speech after war broke out on the place of the House of Commons in war-time. It is true that I sat on the other side of the Table, but I see no reason to change my views. I said that the Government would be the first to admit that during the war not merely by criticism, but by constructive suggestions made on the Floor of the House, they should be made aware of the feeling expressed by the Members of the House in their determination to win the war. If there is one thing upon which it appears to me the whole House has been agreed during this Debate, it is the desire for 100 per cent. efficiency. I am all for it. Everybody is all for it, and it is only those who are out of office who know how to get it. It is very unfortunate that we have not yet been able to realise that magnificent objective of 100 per cent. efficiency, but at least let it be said that efficiency improves as time goes on. In 716 view of our vast growing industrial mechanism, with 46,000,000 people in this country and the problems that face us, with the arrangements that have to be made, complicated when things go wrong because there is a shortage of supply, we must be forgiven for not having reached the high ideals which too many people who have not technical responsibility seek to put upon our shoulders the responsibility for achieving.
There have been, not only to-day, but on previous days, many matters raised which affect Departments, and I want to assure the House that all these subjects will be considered by the Departments concerned. I am certain that the House will not expect me to reply in detail to every general speech which has been made during the last two days. There are, however, several rather wider issues which go deeper than that of particular Departments. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) raised the question of effective social organisation. That is not a matter for one Department; it affects many Departments. It is unfortunately true—we must admit it—that the readjustment of the social organisation of the conditions of peace is not an easy task to undertake. At least let it be said that, if one looks back a year or 18 months, the way in which we caught up with the developing and changing situation in the autumn of that year, when the blitz was on, merits some approval from the House, if not the full approval we should all desire.
Several Members have raised to-day the question of industrial wages in their relation to the question of Service pay and allowances. I think the Prime Minister made some observations on that problem not very long ago, but, of course, if there is any strong desire in any part of the House for a Debate on this particular subject, it will not be for us to deny that opportunity. It must be remembered, and I think the Government know it to be the case, that this question of manpower, production and increasing industrial efficiency is a continuing problem. If you accept my view that the curve will never reach 100 per cent. maximum, it is perfectly obvious, as we learn more and more from our experiences of the war and industrial organisation, that we should continue to have under review as an ever-present problem the question of manpower and our industrial organisation. 717 That would be so, also, as regards other countries. The question of India and her industrial effort was raised to-day. It is not at maximum yet; no one would pretend that it was, but at least it is marching on at a rate—it is not for me to give any figures, certainly not in open Session—which many of us a year or 18 months ago would have thought to have been impossible. So I say, let us keep constantly under our eyes this question of our industrial power and our potential industrial capacity. If the House expresses a considered wish to have a Debate on this question, naturally, the Government must accede to the wishes of the House.
There was raised to-day by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) the question of our use of peoples of other races, in regard to which he made what was, in fact, an accusation that we were most unwilling to use their services. I have heard criticism made in this war that most of the fighting has not been done by troops from this country, but it happens, as was said a little earlier in the Debate, that in the great Battle of Libya which is now going on Indian troops have played, and are playing, a very important part, and I learn from Cairo to-day that troops of the 5th Indian Division have captured the important post of Augila, near Jalo. It is, I think, a little unfair for any hon. Member of this House to suggest that we are not anxious to make use of the services, industrial and military, of those people who share our ideals.
Several Members raised to-day the question of the Atlantic Charter and a wide range of post-war problems which it is difficult for us to discuss to-day. The four "freedoms" enunciated by President Roosevelt represent something which is very real to the people of this country and those who are fighting by our side. The Atlantic Charter, in my view, represents a testament which will be comparable with any of the greatest political, constitutional, social and economic documents ever put before the world. Within the eight Clauses of the Charter is not a simple plan, not a detailed programme, but beacons for the future. It is not without significance that every Ally alongside whom we fight now has given its adherence to the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
718 Hon. Members have stressed the importance of our co-operation with the United States of America, with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with all our Allies. Only a few days ago my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the Russian Ambassador, united in intention, declared that it was the purpose and determination of the British and U.S.S.R. Governments, on all matters relating to the war and in those vital matters with regard to the days after the war, to continue in harmonious co-operation. With regard to the United States, one has to remember that the Atlantic Charter took its birth from a meeting of the President of the United States and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is our intention to pursue to the full, during and after the war, every avenue of cooperation that we can for the solution of our political, social, and economic problems. Indeed, these discussions are taking place at the present time, and they will continue to take place. Our Allies, many of whose Governments we have been happy to house in London, are engaged on the same task. It was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Palmer) that the discussions up to now are about immediate problems. But the first task that we shall have to undertake at the end of the war, the first task that will face the free Governments as they return to their own lands after the war, will be the feeding, the clothing, and the housing of their peoples. The question of post-war relief is a task of first importance, of first magnitude, and of the greatest urgency.
§ Mr. Palmer
I quite appreciate that. I was making no complaint, but only saying that there might be an opportunity of going still further.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I want to impress on the House the fact that we realise the urgency of this very great task. To restore Europe's capacity to live by her own efforts Will mean far more than clothing and feeding those people who have been freed from the Nazi yoke, and one hopes that out of the present discussions will grow conversations on a wider basis which will help us to solve the problems which we shall have to face. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater spoke of the need for the discussion of new problems. The problems that we are 719 facing now have not all of them been defined; nor can they be, in the nature of this rapidly developing war situation. But at least let this be clear. While we must keep abreast of the problems, there is a great responsibility not merely on the Government but on all people and on all kinds of organisations to make their active contributions to the solution of these problems by the new methods for which the time calls. As time goes on there will be other opportunities to discuss some of these problems. We need not discuss them in detail at this moment, or within the next few weeks, but at least let this be said. The fact that we are patiently working on the application of the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and that we regard this as a growing creed, is to our credit, when we set it against the final last word of the holy writ put out in "Mein Kampf," or the declarations made by Herr Hitler as to his static new order. The Government will always cooperate with organised and responsible bodies of opinion in the solution of their great tasks.
One final word. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) has spoken on questions which affect him personally. I have no intention of attempting to make a reply, which would mean the disclosure of information of great strategic importance and which, therefore, could do nothing but embarrass the war effort. While my hon. and gallant Friend is entitled to make his statement in the House, I hope that we shall not allow our minds to be diverted from our major objective, that is the successful winning of the war and of the peace after the war.
§ Wing-Commander James
Before the Minister sits down, may I ask whether he can say something in regard to the home front? Repeated approaches have been made to the Government on this question, which he has entirely left out of his speech.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I referred to the question of man-power and production, but I will repeat that if there is any strong desire on the part of the House to have a discussion on any aspect of the home front, the Government will be willing, subject to the time available, to afford the necessary opportunity for such a discussion.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. Grimston.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.