§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
It is, I think, perfectly right and natural that the House, before rising for the Whitsuntide Recess, should desire to review the general War Situation. It gives an opportunity for Members to make their contributions to the common stock. It is equally clear that the subject of the War Situation lends itself to very wide interpretation. It covers a great many subjects, and I think I should be doing an ill service to the House if I endeavoured to make at this time a lengthy survey. We have already had a Secret Session. The Prime Minister, in a broadcast, has put our position very clearly before this country and the world, and the Press and the public are kept very fully informed of events as they happen. I, therefore, think it is not an occasion on which it would be useful for me to review in great detail past happenings. It is quite obvious that one cannot indulge in speculation with regard to the future, and I propose to confine myself to a rather brief survey of the War Situation as it is to-day, and say a few words on a certain problem which has been ventilated a good deal in the Press and in speeches in another place. That is the question of the organisation of the higher direction of the war.
I think, if we look round at the War Situation, it will throw some light on that problem of our organisation for war. First, looking at the Far East, we have to face the fact that after the events of Pearl Harbour, after our setbacks in Malaya, after the loss of Singapore, the loss of the East India Islands and of the Philippines, the Japanese forces are in a position to strike in various directions. They have the command of the sea. We have, inevitably, a very weak strategic situation at present. We have many hostages to fortune in our possessions scattered around the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, 54 and it is perfectly obvious to anyone that, with all those islands and positions open to attack, it is impossible to provide adequate forces at every point. Equally unsound would it be for us to effect a concentration of our major forces in one area, before Japan has revealed her main objective. But, in the meanwhile, we have to do all we can to strengthen the vital points, not just as a matter of defence, but for holding the positions from which, in due course, we shall launch our own offensives. We must recognise that at the present time we have to hold on until we can regain strength in the sir, strength on the sea and strength on the land.
In Burma, General Alexander and his troops, in conjunction with the Chinese, have been fighting a very gallant rearguard action. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has asked whether we could give a full account of these operations. It is difficult to give a full account. We have not got it yet ourselves.
§ Mr. Attlee
Quite so, and naturally I cannot give a full account at the present time. But everybody will realise the terrible nature of the terrain in Burma. With the loss of the command of the sea and of the port of Rangoon, reinforcements and supply became extremely difficult. In that enormous country we had only slight forces. The Japanese were stronger than we were. The rearguard action has been conducted with great skill and great obstinacy. Essentially, it has been a delaying action, while we are bringing up our forces by air, by sea and by land. Both our own forces and the Chinese have, undoubtedly, inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and put up a very fine fight. The difficulties of communication between India and Burma, once that sea route is lost, are very great. We are doing alt we can to strengthen our forces in India.
Meanwhile, the Japanese are also threatening China, but at present it is not clear whether they will continue their attack on China or proceed with their attack on India. We have to be ready for either event, as best we can. We have also strengthened our forces in Ceylon, and we have anticipated a possible Japanese attack by the occupation of Diego Suarez. There has been published 55 in the Press to-day a somewhat more detailed account of that action. It is a very good example of a well-planned, combined operation of all arms brought to a successful event. We should never take the line of mere passive defence. We should always endeavour, as far as our strength allows, to conduct an active offensive and to anticipate the enemy's move. I say that at the present time we are strengthening our position in the Indian Ocean with the forces that we can provide and in the time that we can provide them.
It must be clear, however, that there is another direction in which Japanese forces may strike. They may strike against Australia and New Zealand. The battle of the Coral Sea inflicted a severe check on the Japanese. We have very little information about that battle, but it is clear that it was a very effective check, just as the defeat of the attempt to raid Ceylon by air inflicted another check on the Japanese. But that threat to Australia still remains. There is constant air fighting in the Northern quarters of Australia and round New Guinea, in which the Air Forces, both Australian and American, are giving a very good account of themselves. I think we ought to have the utmost sympathy with the people of Australia, who are now facing the possibility of an invasion. Of all people, we, who have been under that threat ourselves, must have our utmost sympathy aroused. They are our own kith and kin, and I am sure that our natural impulse is to send every possible help we can to Australia, just as, in our hour of need, Australia and New Zealand were lavish of their own forces. We have to consider which is the best way to reinforce Australia, and in this matter time is of the essence of the problem. Study the map, and you will see that it is far easier to send forces from America to Australia than to send them from this country. This was recognised in the discussion that took place on the general layout of our strategic co-operation with the United States. It was there agreed by all that there should be a division of primary responsibility; and the Pacific area, from a line drawn down the West coast of Australia, was allotted to the United States as an American responsibility. The United States has sent large land and air forces to Australia, and her Fleet operates in those waters. But because America has 56 accepted that responsibility, it does not mean that there is any indifference on our part or any shirking of our responsibilities. These are our own people. We are ready, when the need arises, to run any risks in other areas for the defence of Australia. But in this defence problem one must apply common sense and sound strategy. That means that we should send support from where it is most available. In Australia during these last months strength has been steadily piling up; and, under the leadership of General McArthur, who put up such a magnificent fight in the Philippines, we can be confident that should the Japanese risk an attack on Australia they will get an extremely warm reception.
Turning next to Europe, the Germans are attacking in the Crimea. I am sure we have all been heartened by the magnificent counter-attack made by General Timoshenko in the region of Kharkov. Very few details have yet been received, and it is quite idle at present to speculate as to whether this is the initiation of the main Russian attack or merely an attempt in the Crimea to seize a jumping-off place, or whether, as a matter of fact, the German attack has not been anticipated by the counterattack around Kharkov. But whenever that main engagement on the Eastern front opens, we may all be certain that in a summer campaign, as in a winter campaign, the Germans will be met with the same resolution, fortitude, and skill that our Russian Allies have always displayed. Meanwhile, we are helping. We are helping by continuing to send supplies. We entered into definite engagements with Russia that we would send month by month supplies of tanks, aeroplanes, and other weapons of war. We are keeping to our programme That is not an easy thing to do. The sea route up to Murmansk is very difficult in the climatic conditions of this time of year. There are great difficulties, great risks have to be run; it does put a strain on our Mercantile Marine and our naval forces. But we are perfectly certain that we are right, whatever the risks, to continue to do our utmost to support our Russian Allies, who are bearing this great weight of attack.
Secondly, we are helping in another way. We are containing large enemy forces, notably air forces. In Libya a considerable portion of the German air 57 force has to be employed, and in the watch on the Mediterranean and in the attacks on Malta. I think everyone has been thrilled by the magnificent defence put up by our troops and by the people in Malta. Watching day after day, one realises the weight of that attack. There has been nothing like it for continued weight of attack in any other part of the world during this war. It has been a tremendous attack. All credit is due to the people of Malta, and to their gallant Governor, General Dobbie, now in this country after very hard service, whose place has been taken by General Lord Gort. But Malta has not only defended itself; it has occupied the attention of a very large portion of the German Luftwaffe.
Our own heavy attacks on Germany, besides doing great damage to the enemy, damage to their material forces and to their morale, have also contained a considerable portion of the German air force. Our daylight sweeps, our Commando raids, and the threat of other raids, kept away from the Russian front forces which might otherwise have been sent there. There is a further thing. The existence of a possibility of attack may sometimes effect almost as much as an attack itself —not as much, but almost as much. The fact of the possibility of an offensive from this Island means that the German High Command have to consider the disposition of their troops in order to face that eventuality. I am not going to make any prophecies or speculations about what is generally called the development of the Western front. The House may be sure that that possibility is in our mind and also that it is in the mind of the German High Command.
In this very brief review, I have mentally had to travel wide distances, from Australia to Asia, Africa and Europe. It is cardinal to the consideration of any problems that we have to face that we should always remember these tremendous distances. It is wise to have constantly with one a large-scale map. Look at the great semi-circle up from Murmansk right round through Europe, Africa, and out at the Far East, and realise that on that great perimeter on which we fight we have to send troops and air forces, and to maintain them, that they have to be sent by ships, and that those ships have to be protected by warships. Whether we are 58 trying to help Russia or Australia, or to maintain our troops in the Far East, the Near East, or anywhere else, or indulging in Commando raids or attacks such as that on Madagascar, the shipping problem is always in our minds. In addition, we have to maintain ourselves in these Islands, to draw our strength for any attacks to be delivered in the future by supplies drawn across the water.
I do not think everyone realises the immense strain that has been put on the Mercantile Marine and the Royal Navy during this war. They have had fewer forces by far than in the last war, fewer Allies, wider spaces to cover. Sometimes we tend to ignore, perhaps, the immense strain on the Mercantile Marine, the Navy, and all the ancillary services, in keeping our war effort going. That matter of sea transport is a constant anxiety. There is no need to remind the Government that this is a tender spot. We live with it day after day, and every move on the board is conditioned by transport problems. The time factor is all-important. With the best will in the world, we cannot always get the forces we want to the place we desire at the time we wish. While forces are in transport events occur, improvisations have to be made, troops destined to one theatre of war may have to be switched hurriedly to another. War is not like a medal round of golf, in which you play up to your best and everything is all right. You play up to your opponent. Sometimes he holes a long putt, sometimes you hole a long putt. There are many bunkers. That is a thing to be remembered always when considering the question of planning. When one looks at a general survey of the War Situation to-day, we are at the moment in something of a pause before the full summer campaign breaks upon us, but I think that, as the Prime Minister showed in his broadcast, we can have a sober confidence in the future. I do not think that the Prime Minister made any attempt to disguise the difficulties with which we are faced, but every month increases our strength, and every month gives us more cause for believing that our position will steadily improve, and that, in due course, we shall change from the defensive, which we still have to hold in many areas, to the offensive.
Let me recall, before I deal with the specific point to which I alluded, that 59 of organisation, that we are fighting this war with Allies who are divided from us by immense distances. In the last war it was possible for the heads of the principal Allies to meet at a few hours' notice. That is utterly impossible in this war. You cannot bring Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek from China, Stalin from Russia, President Roosevelt from the United States, or the Dominion Prime Ministers, and have them continuously sitting in some central place to run the war. These leaders are required in their own countries. It is true that the Dominion Prime Ministers have been able to visit us and that the Prime Minister has been able to go to the United States of America. We have welcomed the visits of Dominion Prime Ministers over here, and we are glad to have with us to-day Mr. Evatt, who is sitting with us in the Cabinet and sharing in our counsels. We have here, too, the help of many European States, but the constitution of a general Allied Council sitting continuously to run the war is entirely forbidden by the facts of time and space. Nor can you have one combined great General Staff. We have actually set up a Combined General Staff in Washington. There we have the Chiefs of the American Staffs, with what you might call a projection of our main Chiefs of Staff sitting together dealing with the major problem of the Pacific in particular.
§ Mr. Attlee
If the hon. Member had waited, I was about to make that point. We also have over here our Chiefs of Staff, and with them representatives from the United States of America and from Russia. Similarly, in Russia we have our own Mission there, and we are endeavouring—and succeeding, I think— to get the greatest possible co-ordination of strategy, and also, on the supply side, the co-ordination and the allocation of supply. We have too the Pacific Council sitting in London and the Pacific Council in Washington, but much of the coordination of the Allied effort requires action by the most responsible people in each country. There are the leaders of the nations that I have mentioned in personal contact, who get to know each others' difficulties and to understand each 60 others' aims. Therefore, when one considers the organisation of our war effort here, it has to be put into the setting that we are one of the United Nations and that our object is to bring all the forces of the United Nations to bear together at the right time in order to bring the maximum of force against the enemy.
There has been wide discussion as to whether our machinery of planning and decision is satisfactory and whether there is adequate co-ordination between the three Services. It is right that this House should consider very carefully the machinery which we have adopted, and the Government have given constant attention to it. We are ready to consider every proposal, but at the present time we think that we have a workable machine, and we do not suggest that it needs fundamental change. I would say one word of warning here—the perfecting of the machine will not itself ensure success. Failures are not necessarily due to failures in planning. I have heard people talk as if, when something went wrong, it must be the plan that was wrong. They remind me rather of a football team for which I used to referee when I was running a boys' club in the East End of London years ago. Whenever they were behind at half-time they sent all the forwards back and all the backs forward. They could not believe that the other team might be stronger than they were. Unfortunately, so far in this war we have been put against a stronger team.
§ Earl Winterton
We were told the opposite by the Prime Minister. With regard to Libya, the Prime Minister said that for the first time the British Forces were fighting on equal terms. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will kindly explain.
§ Mr. Attlee
The noble Lord has now gone from the general to the particular. I was dealing with the broad outline of the war. The noble Lord will agree, taking the broader picture, that in all stages of the war we have been the weaker team in strategic position and resources. I am sure he will agree that Japan in the Far East has unquestionably stronger forces than we have. It is the fact that by planning one can obtain a local superiority, but the fact that you might, in a football team, have a better outside left does not mean that the team as a whole is not weak. That was the 61 short point that I was making. Our plans have had to be carried out by human instruments. Failure might be due, not to a bad plan, but to a faulty execution. It might be due just to bad luck, or it might be due to exceptional qualities of the enemy. In any case, the war is not a thing of certainties. Risks have to be run. I have seen all these points illustrated during almost the two years I have sat on the Defence Committee. I have seen some very risky operations carried through quite successfully, and I have seen others that everybody thought would succeed, because the plans were perfectly all right, fail for some quite unexpected cause.
We must remember that the enemy has had some similar experiences. No doubt Hitler thought that he was on a certainty when he fought the Battle of Britain. I think he was pretty certain that he was going to knock out Russia when he attacked Russia. He has been disappointed. But though machinery is not the be-all and end-all of everything, you must have good execution and you must have the men and the material. There is no excuse for not having good machinery and direction. We need three things: planning, decision and execution. In planning, you must consider all the three Fighting Services, and that is not exclusive. Obviously you have to bring in other services—shipping, the Foreign Office, economic warfare, and the supply services have to be brought in at the appropriate point. We have to-day a Joint Planning Staff that is drawn from all three Services, and it works as a single unit under the general direction of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Prime Minister as Defence Minister, the Defence Committee and the War Cabinet.
The principle of representation of all three Services, and all other services where necessary, runs through the whole of this organisation. If a special committee is set up to deal with a special job, it forms an essential part of the single effort. The chairman of that committee, whether he be a naval, Army or air man, will report on behalf of all the members, just as the Chief of the General Staff reports to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, as, indeed, did Sir Dudley Pound when he was Chairman and Sir Cyril Newall in the past. It is a cardinal point that those responsible for execution should also be responsible for planning. You 62 cannot have plans made in any form by irresponsible persons. The Chiefs of Staff are the responsible heads of their Services, and they carry out the plans which are submitted to the Government and approved. You must ensure that plans are related to execution. You cannot get that, in my view, by setting up some separate planning organisation. I will deal with the question of decision. Decisions have to be taken sometimes by a particular Chief of Staff, sometimes by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, sometimes by the Prime Minister acting for the War Cabinet, sometimes by the Defence Committee, and sometimes, in matters of major importance, by the War Cabinet. But it is essential that there should be an instrument of decision.
I see that sometimes there are proposals for widening the area of consultation. It is thought that a great many people sitting round a table will come to a better decision. Well, the decision may be better, but it will not be as quick; it may be wise, but it will not be rapid. Events do not wait for the assembly of some great Sanhedrin to sit in some great hall. Suggestions have been put forward for an Imperial War Cabinet, with the Governments of all nations represented. In war you must have decision, and quick decision. At the opposite pole some people demand that everything should be put under one man. I think that that as well is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am afraid the Noble Lord is completely mistaken. I have said that there is a suggestion that planning and execution should be separated. You have to-day planning which is not divorced from execution. In the everyday work of the Chiefs of Staff of the three Services they have to take into account in their immediate operations future plans, and in forming their future plans they have to take into account immediate operations. For example, such an expedition as that to Diego Suarez has to be planned a long time ahead. It has to be fitted in with all other demands on the naval and air forces; it is quite useless to get ahead with elaborate plans which have no relation to the actual condition at the time they would be carried out. When plans are submitted to the Defence Committee to-day, they 63 are submitted as recommendations of the whole Committee. The function of decision is one that must remain with Ministers, and here, if the Noble Lord will give me his attention for one moment, I do not understand his suggestion that everything is done by one man.
§ Mr. Attlee
The Prime Minister is Defence Minister. He is entrusted by the Cabinet with powers and takes action in emergencies in matters which are within his purview. Other matters are discussed by the Defence Committee, on which there are four Ministers, also the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff. I do not know whether it is the Noble Lord's suggestion that no one but one man ever says anything. I can assure him that he is quite wrong. When matters come up to the Cabinet I can assure him that the Cabinet is not a body of people sitting around and listening to one man. I do not think the Noble Lord does much service to the Prime Minister if he suggests that the Prime Minister is some kind of dictator—
§ Earl Winterton
As the right hon. Gentleman has made direct reference to me, I will tell him what is my charge. The Prime Minister—and I speak as a former member of the Imperial Defence Committee—has fundamentally altered the conception of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, either by presiding over it himself or having a nominee always on it in the person of Major-General Ismay. The Chiefs of Staff Committee have not the freedom of advice that they should have.
§ Mr. Attlee
I think the Noble Lord is quite wrong. In the vast majority of their meetings the Chiefs of Staff sit together without the Prime Minister. I am dealing with the position of the Prime Minister. They sit together without the Prime Minister, and, in fact, they have developed a team spirit; they are Chiefs of Staff in Committee and do make their recommendations. The suggestion that they are entirely swayed by Major-General Ismay is quite untrue. Major-General Ismay is a man who keeps the Minister of Defence in touch with their work, and he is also secretary to the Committee. The suggestion that somehow or other the Chiefs of Staff are unable to give an 64 independent view apart from the Prime Minister—and I am speaking from practical experience of sitting on that Committee—is absolutely wrong. That is just not what happens. I do not know whether the Noble Lord has been misled, but it is not a fact that the Chiefs of Staff are tongue-tied and are afraid to say anything at all. They speak their opinions very freely, but, as I say, Ministers must take reponsibility. In the Defence Committee and the Cabinet these matters are fully discussed. Views are heard, and decisions are come to.
The suggestion has been made in some quarters that there should be someone other than the Prime Minister who should preside over the Chiefs of Staff Committee. This proposal is supported by men of great weight and experience, and, obviously, we ought to take very fully into consideration their views. But there is not really much agreement among them as to the type of man required. Some of them desire a Service officer, some think he should be a civilian, some think he should be a Minister, and some think he should not be a Minister. Some even suggest that the whole of the Defence Committee should even be present with the Chiefs of Staff. For many years I myself urged the appointment of a Minister of Defence to deal continuously with matters of defence and take the burden off the shoulders of the Prime Minister. I think that is perfectly right in peace-time. In peace-time a Prime Minister's work is mainly concerned with civil matters. I think that would be useful, and I even advocated that he should have an alter ego who would be close to him and represent him in defence matters. But that is a different matter in time of war, when the principal business of the Government is that of carrying on the war. The mind of the Prime Minister must, to a large extent, be concentrated on these problems. I do not think it is quite realised to what extent the Prime Minister is relieved in war-time by civil problems being dealt with largely by other Ministers or committees of Ministers. But I think it would be quite impossible to take away from the Prime Minister the major responsibility of advising the Cabinet of decisions on strategy.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
Surely, in a war of these dimensions, it is undesirable that the Prime Minister 65 should be neglecting the home front, which at present is the most critical front we have to deal with, and that he should, on the contrary, be flinging armies and fleets about the world, which is not the business of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
Is it not a fact that the usual charge against the Prime Minister is that he spends too much time going about the country?
§ Mr. Attlee
The Prime Minister does not neglect the home front. As to the charge that he is flinging ships and other things across the world, the assumption is that somehow or other the Prime Minister does everything against the will of the Chiefs of Staff. I do not think the hon. Member is right. The hon. Member may have more experience than I have, and I can speak only from my own experience. The attempt to suggest all the time that there is some frightful contest going on between the Government—the Prime Minister, in particular—and their military advisers is simply not true. It is a hang-over from 1914–1918. It simply does not happen. The suggestion is made that we should have some other person presiding over the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Suppose that he were a serving officer. It would be very difficult to have a Chiefs of Staff Committee, composed of a soldier, a sailor and an airman, with either two airmen or two soldiers or two sailors, taken from one of the Services.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
There are two soldiers now on the Chiefs of Staff Committee—General Ismay and the C.I.G.S.
§ Mr. Attlee
General Ismay is secretary of the Committee. Obviously, there might be a difficult position in which the officer presiding might have to overrule or agree with a fellow soldier, and so on. I do not see what would be gained by this. The Prime Minister would then be faced, because ultimately these matters have to be settled by Ministers, with two rival opinions. And the man who was actually conducting the whole of the Services would necessarily have to have a very strong position. There really does not exist an officer who is trained in the detailed technique of all the three Services. Again, if the man were a civilian, he would either have to agree or disagree with the Chiefs of Staff. There is a sort of suggestion that he ought to 66 be a kind of judge, and that the Chiefs of Staff should be advocates before him. That is not the way in which the Chiefs of Staff Committee works. It is not a question of the constant putting forward of rival claims. I was a little surprised to find that Lord Hankey was in favour of an independent chairman. I had always understood that he had never shown any inclination towards this before. Certainly, it seems to me to be rather a death-bed repentence.
§ Earl Winterton
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very unfair attack on Lord Hankey. How could Lord Hankey do so? He was a servant of the Government. When he became free to speak, he became a Minister.
§ Mr. Attlee
Lord Hankey made a speech on this matter in another place. His opinions are perfectly well known. I do not think Lord Hankey would object in the least to my remarks. He has had very great experience of these matters. There runs through many of these arguments to which I have referred the suggestion that the Chiefs of Staff are always quarrelling. That is not true. I do not think you could get a machine very much different from the one we have now unless you could discover somewhere a wonderful winged and amphibious genius who could conduct war by land, sea, and air. I do not think we are likely to get that. One must remember that the organisation of these matters does depend to a large extent on the particular Government which has to use the machinery. I am far from suggesting that another Government, differently composed, might not like a different organisation, but by a process of trial and error, if you like, this way has been found to work best. I can assure the House that in practice this organisation does work smoothly.
I have read a great many books of memoirs and biographies of the last war, and when I joined the War Cabinet I wondered whether I should find that constant clash between the politicians and the professional men who figured so largely in those pages. I must say I have not found it. We have had very vigorous discussions. [Interruption.] I did not get that point. There is not that constant clash, and certainly there is not anything of that apparently complete failure to understand 67 each other which seemed to occur in the last war between the Services personnel and the Ministers. [Interruption.] I am sure the noble Lord does not think that the war was won by squabbles. [Interruption.] Then what is the point of making that remark? Unless the noble Lord thinks that squabbling will assist us, there is not much point in that observation. We have, as a matter of fact, learned a good deal about organisation since the last war. It may be because almost all the Ministers concerned with the conduct of the war, even though only as amateurs, have had some actual experience of it, that they may be able better to deal with it. I am quite sure we have benefited by the constant perfecting of machinery. Let me say that we owe a great debt to Lord Hankey for the great deal of work that he did in those intervening years. Our machinery works smoothly and rapidly. I have already said that with the best machinery in the world you cannot ensure success. If we found that the machinery was hampering us, we should have no hesitation in changing it. I do not think that is the case at the present time.
I have one more word to say in conclusion. You may have the best machinery in the world, you may have adequate supplies of munitions, you may have the men, you may have the generals; but wars are fought out eventually always as contests of will, and there are needed in the responsible positions men who are prepared to give decisions, who are not afraid to take risks, men of inflexible will-power. In all these respects, I say, from very close working with him for the last two years, that we have in the Prime Minister a leader in war such as this country has rarely had in its long history.
§ Mr. Greenwood (Wakefield)
I do not propose to follow my right hon. Friend's speech on the question of the war organisation, or to cover the amount of ground that he covered. Although in some respects the war situation has shown a welcome improvement in recent weeks, it is still very grave. Any improvement there may have been, or that there may be, will not obliterate from the minds of the public and Members of the House the memories of sad tragedies which it is widely felt have not yet been fully explained. It may well be that the full 68 story of those tragedies is either not yet fully known or could not properly be disclosed, or at least fully disclosed, but the Government must be aware that perturbation exists in this House, and is very widespread in the country, regarding Malaya and Singapore, the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse," and the escape of the German warships through the Channel. Madagascar and Martinique, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the developing air attack on Germany and other objectives, while welcome enough to all of us, have not wiped out of the public mind the earlier disappointments. It would be well, I suggest, for the Government to give as full and coherent a statement as is possible of the misfortunes of the past months. From discussion I have had with Members in all quarters of the House, I am confirmed in my view that in these matters distance will not diminish the strength of opinion in the House, that memories will not become forgetful, and that there is bound to be a persisting demand for explanations, which so far have not been vouchsafed to this Chamber and to the country.
After Malaya and Singapore comes Burma, and after Burma, what? My right hon. Friend quite obviously and truly says that it is too early yet to be certain as to where the Japanese will deliver their next blow—whether they go for China or whether they go for India— but it is clear that India stands now in the direst peril, and I imagine that in the course of the Debate there will be demands from Members to know how we stand regarding the defence of India should the worst befall. Can we feel, can the House feel and can the public feel, some assurance that the Japanese march, if it begins, will be stayed? One hopes that the Leader of the House in his winding up of the Debate will give the House some particulars as to the military situation in India. That, however, does not dispose of the Indian problem. If India is be-leagured and if India is invaded, it will be vital that the Indian peoples should close their ranks and present a common front to the common enemy in resistance to Nazism and Facism. They must be led to feel that in fighting the deadly foe and making their conditions to the overthrow of tyranny, they are safeguarding and ensuring their own future. It now becomes more urgent and more imperative to forge the links of real understanding 69 between us and India, so as to maximise our fighting powers in that theatre of war and in that part of the world. I ask the Government, therefore, whether they cannot, in the grave circumstances with which India, Britain and the United Nations are faced, try anew to come to terms with the Indian peoples, for in this way alone can we inspire India with hopes for the future. I fully appreciate how great the difficulties are, and how formidable are the lions that stand in the path. I most earnestly appeal to the Government to make a final effort at settlement, so that India shall not enter the war where she must fight for her own protection in a spirit of bitterness, and so that it cannot be charged against us in the future that on the eve of India's greatest trial we did not seek reconciliation and agreement with our Allies. If my voice can be heard in India, I would ask the Indians to show true unity among themselves; difficult to achieve, but vital in the war in which they may be directly plunged.
There is another theatre of war to which I should like to devote myself for a moment or two, and referred to by my right hon. Friend, that of Australia. I was very much impressed by the sincerity and the spirit of Dr. Evatt's broadcast. The determination of the Australian peoples is unbreakable, and what my right hon. Friend said about the disposition of forces and division of responsibility, or primary and major responsibility is, of course, true, and the help of the United States to Australia is really vital. Distances between us and Australia are vast, and Allied strategy must see that the available resources of the whole of the United Nations are deployed and used to the best advantage, but, owing to our close relations with Australia, our kinship and common heritage, and our common hopes for the future, it would be a great gesture if Britain could bring some more practical aid to that great Dominion. It would, I know, inspire the Australian people, and be a small return for what Australian Forces have done and are still doing for the Allied cause in theatres of war far removed from their own homes. What my right hon. Friend said is quite true. It is difficult, and we cannot have our Forces and war materials in two places at the same time, but a nation and a great people are faced with danger to-day and are in 70 need of all the moral and practical assistance which can come from the Motherland.
I now turn to what is quite erroneously called the Second Front. It is, I think, undeniable that everybody is keenly desirous to see a great Western offensive against Germany, and as soon as may be. Clearly, there can be no warning of such a step, nor, obviously, any statement as to time, place or method. What the people wish to know is that the Government are determined to deliver a great attack on the enemy in the West, parity to give the Soviet Union ever-increasing and more powerful aid, but also to take the initiative ourselves against Hitler in territories overrun by his Panzer divisions. The Prime Minister's last broadcast and his speech at Leeds gave people the hope, as did the speech of the Leader of the House last week-end, that an offensive is definitely contemplated and is being actively prepared, and indeed that was implied in statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister. The responsibility for determining the plan and the multitude of co-ordinated arrangements essential to so great an operation rests with the Government, and it must be certain, before the signal is given, that there is an ample and overpowering flow of war material to sustain the troops invading soil held by the enemy, to make good losses and to build reserves. There can be no question of another Dunkirk, with loss of prestige and loss of men and of material.
It has been implied by some people that all the Government need do is to press a button, and suddenly there will emerge from nowhere an enormous expeditionary force, fully armed and fully manned, with a continuance of supplies following up behind them. Anyone who understands the realities of modern warfare knows that that conception of the beginning of operations of a second front is utterly fallacious. A second front, a Western front, is not a case of a raiding party on a rather larger scale. It is a deliberate attempt at invasion of territory held by the enemy, and, when we do gain a foothold on the Continent next time, we must go there to stay and to strengthen our hold on territory overrun by Hitler. That means that the Government must choose the time when they act. It would merit the severest criticism in the House if they struck before they had the power 71 behind their blow. It would not please the House if they hesitated when it was generally believed that that vital power existed. The success of such a large operation will depend not on the valour of the Fighting Services engaged, though three of them must obviously be engaged in it, but on the plan and on war material of all kinds.
That brings me to the question of production. Since the war broke out, when we started far behind scratch, we have made very great progress, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in our industrial war effort, but there has always been public and Parliamentary criticism of the Government's achievements, showing anxiety as to the scale of our productive operations and an urgent demand behind all that for ever greater output. I believe we have suffered in the past, and I think to some extent we are being misled at present, by far too optimistic statements as to America's output both before and since she came into the war. Whatever the United States may do—and she is now girding up her loins, as we know— and whatever the Dominions may do, everything that Britain herself can supply is vitally necessary in the common cause for Russia and for other theatres of war, and, of course, for ourselves as well as Russia and our other Allies. Let it be admitted that the change-over from peace to war industry is a painful process, a disturbance of normal practices and methods which people do not like in the adaptation to war requirements, and often enough conflict between private and public interests. But there is a view now in all quarters of the House that we have reached a stage in the war when the industrial resources of the nation must be fully mobilised for the final stages of the world struggle. There is a feeling widely held not only in the House but, as I have discovered in recent weeks, in many parts of the country that we are very far from our maximum effort, and it is worrying and eating the hearts out of very many people.
The Government can and should discount the hypercritical and the disgruntled and so on, but they cannot ignoré the deep-seated view that, notwithstanding the growing volume of war output, we are still far from the top of our form. There are a good many people 72 who do not think that in the sphere of production at any rate, to use the Prime Minister's words, we are within sight of the top of the ridge. The call to-day is for more far-reaching action, a call again which is not confined to those for whom I speak in the House. It has been voiced by Members of all parties. It has been stated often enough, with countless illustrations of the shortcomings of our war industry. Bluntly, to some of us at any rate, the question now is, at this stage in the re-adaptation of our war machine, Where we have gone so far, can we not now go further? Can we not ask the Government to exercise fully the powers they already possess to complete the organisation for war purposes in order that all the power that we can put shall be put behind the men who fight? To that, I am sorry to say, up to now no clear answer has been given, but I am sure that, with the great measure of coordination which has been achieved in industry, the time has now arrived when many people of different schools of thought believe that the Government should finally assert their authority against private interests. There is a very widespread feeling—I have met it myself —that there is one shoe which pinches more than the other, and the shoe that pinches most is the labour shoe. I feel that if more drastic steps were taken in that direction—and I hope some may arise as the result of the publication of the Citrine Report and the Government White Paper—it would give a great stimulus to the war effort.
A special case in point is the organisation of the coal industry, on which so much depends. I was not very popularly received in certain quarters of the House when I spoke on the coal industry a little time ago, but I assert again, what I know to be true, that the palsied hand of vested interests and the old-fashioned methods which so many people in the mining industry still cling to so very tenaciously must be moved if the men in and about the mines are to be enabled to put the whole of their weight into and to pull all their strength for the national cause. As I said on that occasion, in many industries, apart from the coal industry, a good deal depends on the feeling that those who are employed are being employed for the national cause and not in the interests of persons or groups of persons. The question of the future of the coal industry will 73 be discussed on the Floor of the House in the near future, and I refer to it in passing because it has, I think, a close bearing on the effective prosecution of the war.
My final point is one of an entirely different character—the clarification of peace aims. I am convinced that this is desirable on two separate grounds. First, I believe that in order to convince our people of the intention of the Government to fulfil the pledges made in agreement with the United States and other nations, Allied and neutral, we must take action during the war in order to inspirit and inspire the people. We cannot alone take steps to deal with international post-war problems, but we can during the war take steps to implement our solemn obligations as regards our domestic affairs. Ministers of different parties have spoken of their determination to secure freedom from want, economic security and civilised conditions of life for the people of our land. These brave words should be carried into effect while the war still rages so that these schemes shall not be swept into oblivion in the first weeks and months of the armistice because of other pressing needs. Parliament, I am sure, would be glad to give extra time if need be to considering these vital questions so as to prove beyond any doubt that Britain's primary peace aim at home is the fulfilment of democracy, the establishment of full equality of opportunity and human conditions of life for all. The effect that that would have on the spirit and morale of the people would, I believe, be incalculable.
There is also an international aspect of this problem which needs close consideration, not that it has been altogether neglected, but much more might, I think, be done on the Continent to put over to our Allies and to neutrals the tragic plight of the peoples should Hitler's New Order prevail and to emphasise the hopes and promises which the Atlantic Charter and President Roosevelt's four freedoms will bring after the victory of the United Nations. To do this we must mercilessly analyse and dissect the true meaning of the New Order, hammering home day by day by every means in our power the contrast between the sufferings that the suppressed dominated peoples have undergone and will undergo until the Nazi régime is ended and the opportunities of development which will come to them after the Nazi defeat, because in the last 74 resort the whole structure of the Nazi régime will totter when the morale of the German people breaks. Heavy military forces and means will have to be used, and it may be there will be long continued war, but when military victory has been achieved or is on the point of achievement and the spirit of the people cracks, that means that the moment of victory has arrived.
It is, I suggest, enormously important that in our propaganda we should do what we can, not to tell those in the over-run countries what Nazism really is, because, poor things, they know it only too well, but to try to convince them that an Allied victory would mean to them more hope for the future. To do this the world must be told as early as possible the broad details—I do not go any further than that— of the plans worked out in concert by the United Nations for the alleviation of world suffering, the re-establishment of free institutions, the transfer from a war to a peace footing in the world, and the means to be taken to prevent future aggression. I am certain that the spirit or the people will be strengthened and their hearts encouraged by the knowledge that the United Nations mean what they say—some doubts have been expressed about it, but I accept that the United Nations mean all they say —and that the purpose of the war is to plant freedom and justice firmly in the world. If we can crystalise in the minds of people the reality for which we fight and the things which we hope to see, then, I think, both in enemy lands, in allied lands and in neutral lands we shall have done a great deal to help forward the war to a successful issue.
As the war proceeds, criticism may sharpen. After all, this is not a Government war. It is a war in which we are all involved, in which all are vitally concerned. It is a people's war, and the people's views must, of course, be heard. The enemy, our Allies and the neutrals must not believe that if opinions clash the fundamental British unity is breaking. The resolve to win the war at whatever cost is much stronger than ever it was, and criticisms that may be made in this Debate will come from the minds and hearts of men whose purpose in speaking is not defeatism, but to urge forward the prosecution of the war to its final victory.
§ Captain Austin Hudson (Hackney, North)
I do not intend to speak very 75 long, because I feel that the object of having two days' discussion on the war effort is to allow as many Members as possible to give their views on how best we can win the war. The last remarks made by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) are the subject on which I chiefly want to speak, and that is national unity, but before I come to that there are two other points in his speech on which I should like to comment. The first concerns the giving of further information or, perhaps, the holding of an inquiry into what took place at Singapore and in Malaya. I am of the opinion that to hold such an inquiry or to give a great deal further information at this time, or even during the war, would be a great mistake. The reason I say that is because it is not entirely a domestic issue. If it were the case that some great mistake had been made by this country alone—and we do not know whether great mistakes have been made— perhaps there would be a good case for further inquiry.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I was not suggesting an inquiry. All I said was that people would like to know rather more about what happened.
§ Captain Hudson
I hope that my right hon. Friend did not think that I was criticising what he said. I was just attaching my remarks to the fact that he had addressed himself to that point. I cannot help thinking that to have such an inquiry, for which some people have asked, or to give much further information, would be a mistake, because we could not avoid bringing in the conduct of and the preparations made by other countries. At this time that would be a mistake, whatever we may feel in this country and however much anxiety there may be. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the drag, however small it may be, on the war effort of the vested interests of private enterprise. I think too much emphasis can be laid on that, though I agree that certain firms may think too much of what is to happen to them after the war. After all, before the war in connection with unemployment, we heard a great deal about the importance of people having security. During the time I was with the Admiralty I had a great deal to do with industry, because the job of Civil Lord touches industry at 76 many points, and although one did find there was that feeling to a certain degree there was also another vested interest, again very small, which did seem to touch the war effort, and that was the vested interest of certain leaders of the workers, trade union leaders and others, who also had one eye on their jobs after the war and another eye on making the fullest efforts for the war. I agree with my right hon. Friend that both these vested interests must as far as possible be swept away, but I do not think it is fair to say that all the fault is on one side. And as far as possible we want everybody to be united in the war effort.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that trade union officials and workers' leaders generally are appointed regularly by the workers themselves, and therefore they could have no ulterior motive with regard to the future?
§ Captain Hudson
What I was meaning to say—to put it bluntly, as the hon. Member has interrupted me—was that when some workmen are not behaving very well, their leaders do not take a firm line with them because they are frightened that they may become unpopular with them after the war and lose their jobs. That is what I meant, though I tried to wrap it up a little more carefully.
I think we have arrived at a decisive stage in the war. I think we can see victory ahead, or, as the Prime Minister said, can now see the ridge over which victory lies, and I believe—and this is what persuaded me to speak to-day—that if all of us make a really concerted effort now, we may bring that victory nearer than any of us have dared to think. It must be a united effort. This country has naturally taken some time to settle down to a total war organisation, but surely now, after two and three-quarter years of war, we ought to have made our arrangements for total war and should not find it necessary, as so many people think, to alter those arrangements at the period, so far advanced, when every effort is required to do all we can for the carrying on of the war. First you have to settle your organisation, and then you must give it a chance to work, and I put it to the House that that moment has come. We should not now be altering 77 things, but should give a chance for the machinery we have set up to work. We should not think highly of a business which every six months changed its directors, its management and its foremen. We should not think much of our war factories if only now were we fitting the machines into all the factories planned before the war. We hope that the tools are there now and that production is taking place.
But it seems to me that in this House— and I am linking this up with the question of a Joint General Staff—we are always wanting change, and I am not certain that it is not a question of wanting change for the sake of change. I say that the time has come to stay put and to let those who are responsible for the direction of the war, whether political or Service chiefs, concentrate on the task of winning the war without constant disturbance and frequent changes. After all, we had a drastic political change in March. Naturally I cannot agree that the change of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was a wise step, but apart from that, and joking aside, I think the House agreed that the changes were for the better, though I still see in the newspapers, and still hear both inside and outside the House, droning about further changes, although those concerned always link it up with the statement that they are pronounced supporters of the Prime Minister. What they really mean is that they want to go forward on the reflected glory of his speeches and his great personality, but otherwise to be free to criticise him in every possible way. I say that we should now give our leaders a chance to get on with the job. Many explanations have been given of why certain by-elections did not go as the Government had hoped and expected. I believe their results were largely a protest against Parliament spending too much time over non-essential matters and not enough time on the essential task of winning the war.
That brings me to my second point, this question of—I do not know how to put it—a Chief of Joint General Staff, about which much of this Debate will turn. I cannot help thinking that this plan is very much our old friend the Defence Minister—other than the Prime Minister—in a different guise. I want to be perfectly frank with the House. Many people both inside and outside this House 78 fear that the Prime Minister has in the past overruled his Service chiefs and brought about unfortunate results which otherwise would not have happened. They therefore wish to interpose somebody—it may be under the title of Defence Minister, it may be under the title of Chief of Joint General Staff—who would prevent any such occurrence in the future.
I would like first of all to consider the allegation of interference. I can go only by my own experience. It brings to my mind two specific cases which occurred when I was at the Admiralty, and in which two Members of this House came to me and told me that certain unfortunate naval events had occurred owing to the direct intervention of the Prime Minister. It was not my job, as Civil Lord, to do so, but I took the trouble to find out exactly what had happened. I can assure the House that there was not a word of truth in the allegation on either occasion. On both occasions the Service decisions were given by Service chiefs, and there was no interference. I am not saying that there has not been interference, but I think it only right to give the House that information about the two cases, in which hon. Members came to me in all sincerity. The Prime Minister cannot be in any doubt about how suspicious this House is of any interference in Service matters by himself or by any other Member of the War Cabinet.
As regards the division between the functions of Prime Minister and those of Defence Minister, or the Chief or Super-chief of Staff, ray opinion has always been, and still is, that you cannot divide the functions. You cannot divorce political from strategical considerations. When you are going in for military operations, they overlap everywhere, and I do not believe, whatever you may call the man, Defence Minister or Super-chief of Staff, that you can ever take away from the Prime Minister the responsibility' of, in fact, being Defence Minister. As regards liaison between the Services, at the time when I was at the Admiralty I had many combined conferences with other arms of the Service, and I found the liaison and co-operation between the three Services as good as could possibly be desired. In passing, I would say that recent combined operations have shown what can be done when you have 79 a young and energetic man at the head of affairs. For that reason, I cannot believe that the proposal, which will be more fully developed later, for a joint chief of the planning staff is a good one. I agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that our present system of joint planning is very nearly as good as you can get it, and I am opposed to the change suggested.
I have one more point to put to the House, and I am afraid it may be a little more controversial. It is on a matter about which I have been spoken to a great deal and which is causing very great annoyance in the country. I want to appeal to Ministers, and particularly members of the War Cabinet, not to make party political speeches under the guise of Departmental utterances. This matter is causing enormous annoyance in the country. People feel that it is not fair. If a Socialist speech is delivered, a Conservative cannot answer, for the simple reason that he is bound by the party truce. Surely there will be plenty of time after the war to go in for this form of warfare—if we have to do it again. I am certain that, for instance, if the Prime Minister had ended his excellent broadcast the Sunday before last by saying, "Of course, the great improvement from 1940 could have taken place only in a capitalist country and with a Parliament with a pronounced Conservative majority," there would have been a great deal of trouble. On the pattern of some of the speeches I have heard, particularly one which seemed to say that Socialism was the only thing for the future and the winning of the peace, that is the way in which he ought to have ended his speech. I am sure that it will be better for the national effort if those Members and Ministers are a little more careful in this matter. However keen we are in this House as Members of Parliament, upon our various parties, it is nothing to the keenness of our supporters, and our chairmen and others in the constituencies, who feel these matters very deeply. I end as I began, by pleading for the utmost united effort needed to bring victory in the very near future and for leaving smaller and less important things to be dealt with when victory has been achieved.
§ Major-General Sir Frederick Sykes (Nottingham, Central)
I will address myself to the question which was raised by the Deputy Prime Minister at the outset of his speech, in regard to the higher directing organisation and planning of the War. It seems to me that there are four main problems which fall to be considered in that regard. I agree, in passing, with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that if a change would be to the detriment of the war effort, it ought not to be made. I entirely agree, and I would also say that if by any clarification and simplification the machinery could be more directly brought to bear upon winning the war, that action ought to be taken. As I see it, in regard to the higher organisation, we want to bring the most concentrated effort we possibly can in the shortest possible time to bear against the enemy. The first point I would make, therefore, is that there must be adequacy, suitability and co-operation of our Forces, in one combined defence Force—or attack Force, whichever you like to call it.
Then comes the necessity for combined Staff direction. Then there is the War Cabinet, or the political machinery to which the combined Staff is responsible. The next step is the Imperial War Cabinet, to ensure that, politically, and from the fighting point of view, the whole Empire is in step. Finally, there must be some supreme direction of all the Allies, in order, again, to bring the greatest pressure to bear upon the enemy. That supreme Staff, in my opinion, should be assisted by an inter-Allied or inter-United Nations naval, military and technical Staff, for the same purpose, as between the Allied nations. The Deputy Prime Minister- said that perfecting machinery would not necessarily bring success; I quite agree, but that is no reason why we should not do our utmost to improve the machine where it can be improved. I would like to say a word or two in regard to the last war, because it was as a result of this machinery in the last war that we were brought to a final success. Perhaps the House will bear with me for a moment while I try to bring out the main factors which, in my opinion, came out during the last war and which are again the main factors in the present war as a greatly improved and advanced science. The main factors were aircraft, both tactical and strategical, tanks, and wireless. That 81 was in the zone of the actual fighting. Then, in the zone of planning and staff work, there was the establishment of a joint supply system, inter-co-operation between the three Services, a small War Cabinet acting as a supreme body of defence, the supreme War Cabinet and the Inter-Allied Staff for co-ordinating and unifying general Allied policy and operations, which brought into being the unified command on the Western Front which went so far towards bringing us finally to victory.
Hon. Members will remember that at the end of the last war we had the greatest Navy, the greatest Air Force and the finest Army in the world at that time. The co-operation of the Fleet, the Army and the air units was, I think, better at the end of the last war than it had ever been, and possibly even better than it is now. We also had to our credit at the end of the last war the strategic, pivotal bases without which it is impossible to wage war and without which it would be impossible to maintain the peace. We controlled the sea communications without which we cannot live, and the door was wide open to us to spread a wide network of civil air communications throughout the world. Finally, we had a tested and practical machine for handling planning and policy. We also came out of the last war with the greatest respect of the whole world and, I think, the greatest influence that any nation has ever had. Surely that was not a small thing, which was achieved in great measure by the various factors in our war direction which I have attempted to adumbrate. Then came the peace, and all this was thrown away.
I would urge on the Government not necessarily to change without thought, but to make quite sure that the machinery of Government planning and direction of our war effort cannot be improved, short of making such changes as would necessitate an upheaval which might temporarily at all events be adverse to the war effort. I agree with the last speaker that this is the moment for the greatest possible effort which we can make. It is no use thinking of 1943 or 1944; we have to think of 1942, and put our whole effort into it. In that connection I would like to ask whether the Army Council, the Board of Admiralty and the Air Council are quite satisfied that they have put forward what they think are the real requirements 82 of the immediate future. I expect that they have, but it is a point about which we all ought to be quite convinced. Is the Army, for instance, satisfied as to what are its requirements in the shape of dive bombers? Is the Admiralty satisfied that its requirements are being met in regard to torpedo-carrying aircraft and so forth? It is all a matter of simplification, and of trying to bring the greatest directing effort to bear upon the war which we possibly can in the immediate present.
Just as we have had our successes in this war, which have brought out the lessons which are so important to the continuance of the war, in Libya, at sea and in the air, our defeats both in Norway and in Crete have also brought out many lessons. In Crete, I think, the primary lesson is that of the necessity for a balanced force with infantry supported by aircraft and reasonably secure communications. To say that Greece and Crete were lost because of insufficient air action is, I think, a mistake, because it puts too much weight upon the air factor alone. In both those countries I am quite sure that it was a balanced force which was required in order to effect what we were trying to effect—to hold the country and not release it to the enemy. At sea the moral is the same. With adequate air power I cannot think that the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" would have been sunk. Perhaps we have tar too little information as yet upon which to base a final opinion, but that is the feeling one has in reading the accounts which have been brought out. Perhaps, but for the effect of the air umbrella over the "Scharnhorst," the "Gneisenau" and the "Prinz Eugen," they would never have got through to Heligoland.
In attack, co-operation of air and sea power is equally essential. That is shown by the part played by the torpedo attacks, and we all know and realise to the full the necessity for the closest co-operation between sea and air. The cardinal principle should be the co-operation of all three arms in an integral Fighting Service. For this co-operation they must in the first place be adequately equipped. The Navy has clamoured, and I think quite rightly, for the highly specialised type of air support which naval warfare requires. The Army probably needs a supply of aircraft suited to its requirements and probably in the near future will require more highly 83 specialised units. The Air Force needs its long-range strategical bombing and fighting force, and for that requires the types needed both for the defence of our shores and cities against day and night attack and for the long-distance strategical bombing of the industries which play an integral part in modern warfare. I would also suggest that as and when aircraft are available, a mobile air reserve should be organised to go where it is required to throw in increased air support.
I do not think that these demands conflict. The Air Ministry should provide and allocate the necessary materials between the various air requirements of the Services, and give the initial training and other necessary preparation in accordance with the policy laid down by the War Cabinet. Then I think there should be a joint combined Staff capable of being brought into operation without the least dislocation or check to the war effort. These allocations now, in view of the greatly increased production, should be ample to meet the requirements I have mentioned. Probably, the institution of the Fleet Air Arm was, theoretically, premature, because at that time there was insufficient aircraft for that Service to carry on with; but, as it turned out, it was so important for the Navy to have its own aircraft that the risk was worth taking. But efficient organisation and equipment of the Services are not, as has been said by the Dominions Secretary, a guarantee of effective co-operation. They must work on an accepted doctrine, and a thoroughly understood, agreed policy in practice. To provide this is the function of the Minister of Defence and the War Cabinet, the Minister of Defence being, as he must be in war-time, the Prime Minister, but with a deputy to carry out routine work for him and to implement the decisions come to by the War Cabinet as a whole. That is to say, I am definitely in favour of their being a joint Staff, if it can be got together—I always bring in this caveat—without detriment to the war effort. I do not think that the Chiefs of Staff Committee can meet his requirement. The joint Staff should draw up a plan, submit it to the War Cabinet, and ensure that it is carried through, the staff of each Service naturally carrying out the work required in that particular Service, but in conjunction, as laid down by the joint Staff.
84 The Prime Minister has described the machinery by which, as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, he has thought to secure, in his own words, "general supervision over the conduct of the war." Day-to-day conduct of the war is at present entrusted to the Chiefs of Staff Committee—that is to say, the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and the Chief of the Air Staff, who meet regularly and transmit their orders. He says that they advise the Defence Committee and the War Cabinet on large questions of war strategy and war policy. The Prime Minister himself is represented on this Committee by General Ismay, who is responsible for keeping the War Cabinet in touch and the Prime Minister informed on all matters requiring their decisions. The Chiefs of Staff Committee is assisted by a Vice-Chiefs' Committee. Then there is the Defence Committee, besides subordinate joint committees for planning and intelligence. I do not know what the House thinks of this machinery, but my own view is that it would seem, on the face of it, to be too cumbersome and complicated. I would suggest that from this machinery should be drawn out what is no longer required, and that there should be concentration on what is the real typical point, of getting the Services to work in the closest co-operation. There are two weak links. One is at the head of operations, and the other is at the head of the United Nations. If you can improve those two aspects, I am sure we shall go a long way towards speeding up the war effort and getting greater concentration to bear.
I will say, in conclusion—as I know so many other Members want to speak—that we ought to look upon the three Services as one concentrated unit. The problem of defence is one. The machinery designed to meet it is a kind of chain, of which the strength lies not in the individual links, however powerful, but in their unity. The War Cabinet is assured, through the Empire Cabinets, of Dominions agreement and support in its policy, and, through the Supreme War Council, of the agreement and support of the Allies. The Minister of Defence knows that the plan which he has worked out has the sanction and endorsement of the War Cabinet, and he knows that the three Services, working together, are staffed, equipped, and organised to carry out the plan. This 85 co-operation, based on the realisation that the problem of defence is essentially one, however widely the details may vary and however widely dispersed the forces may be throughout the world, is the root, as I see it, of the whole matter. Whatever promotes it is worth the closest examination: any proposal which contravenes this principle is condemned at the outset. The central problem is not the defence of this or that point, however important, hut the organisation of the huge war machines of the United Nations, one of which is framed and utilised by this country, the Dominions, and India. Then there are the United States, Russia, and China, each with its own parts. The effort must be to co-ordinate their combined forces into a united effort to achieve final victory.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I want to detain the House only to make two points. The first is far divorced from strategy and tactical considerations, which we have been considering mostly in this Debate. It concerns that problem of unity which has been mentioned two or three times in the Debate, and which is based, in the main, on the condition of the people. The last war seemed to me an unrelieved tragedy, because it was followed by two decades of intense bitterness between class and class, generation and generation, and nation and nation. Those two decades ended with a conflict far more horrible and extensive than the one which preceded them. The point I want to make is that that tragedy must not be repeated, and that the people of this country will feel an enormous responsibility. Directly this war comes to an end we shall be the only people in Europe with a national coherence, with a national unity and with some kind of continuity in our national life. We shall bear the major responsibility for the future of the new world. That affects the life of this country at a great many points.
It is only on one point that I wish to say something now. It seems to me that if we are to be prepared to deal with the situation which will arise in the last phase of this war, and when it is over, we must raise the morale and the spirit and the understanding and the unity in all aspects of our own life. I do not suggest for a moment that the will to win this war and the will to make a decent peace have been impaired by the tremendous 86 burden which has been thrust on our people during the last three years. I believe that will to be as strong and resolute as it was at the beginning. But the human frames that condition that will, that sustain that will, are becoming gradually fatigued with the burden and exertions that have fallen upon them. Next winter will be the fourth winter of the war. I want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the time has come to make a very earnest survey of the conditions of the home front and to try and consolidate the position on the home front to meet the tension, the anxieties and difficulties. That is a peril which we shall all neglect to the great detriment of this country and of generations to come.
I wish to put, from my own experience and constituency, a few of the things that are bearing hard on the working-class population at the present time. There is a problem, for instance, in some great towns of houses that have been damaged by air attack and are not in as good a condition to live in and keep clean and healthy as they were a few years ago; there is the problem of people who have been compelled to go and live with relations; there is the problem of long and exhausting hours of work; there is the problem—and the great difficulties, which increase now from month to month—of transport for people to get to and from work. There was last winter a problem of fuel, which may or may not be solved by some system of rationing. Regarding the suggestions before the country I would, in passing, say to anyone present representing the Board of Trade that a cut of 12 to 15 per cent. to ordinary working-class people, if involved by rationing, will be a serious problem for many people in my area at any rate. There is the problem of shopping for the housewife doing ordinary domestic duties and often having to do part-time work; there is the problem of children who are evacuated and are not happy; there are children not evacuated and for whom schools have not been ready and who, now that the schools are ready, are sometimes not as good in their attendance as they were.
Certainly there are all kinds of domestic problems of that sort. Added to them, there are the problems of which everyone is aware, the problems of anxiety about relatives in the various 87 Services, the constant failure in letters and other communications, the constant strain upon the ordinary family Sense of affection and responsibility throughout the country. I hope the Government will pay a great deal of attention to this home front during the next few months and try to build it up, so that we may look forward not only to carrying this war to a successful conclusion next year or the year after, or whenever the end may come, but that we may find ourselves at the end of the war a nation fit to carry those immense responsibilities to which I have referred, a nation sufficiently united, sufficiently unexhausted, sufficiently undebilitated to be able to carry on in the face of these enormous difficulties.
There is only another point about which I wish to speak, a point which I am afraid will perhaps raise more controversy in the House. I have referred to it before—our relations with Russia. I cannot help feeling that in its bearing on this problem of preparing for the last phase of the war and making peace after the war our relations with Russia are not so happy as they ought to be. We know from information which seeps down from the Treasury Bench from time to time that there are difficulties, perhaps physical difficulties as well as mental and temperamental difficulties, in establishing as close and cordial a relationship with members of the Russian Government as exists between members of the Government and members of the American Government. I should be far from saying that I think —and the Leader of the House would, I am sure, be far from saying if he were here—that the faults are all on the side of our Government. I do not believe that is true. I do not suggest that there are faults of any sort at all. I do not think it is a question of blame here or elsewhere. I do think it is perfectly true that there are great temperamental difficulties of experience and approach between the ordinary Russian and the Englishman, no matter what his basic ideology, his training, which make it very difficult for complete unity of action at a time like this of great emergency and pressure.
But to understand the problem is not to solve it, and it is a problem which has got to be solved. I wish that Mr. Stalin could be persuaded, and that President Roosevelt could be persuaded, to meet 88 the Prime Minister round a table in Reykjavik in the summer months. I do not know whether either of these great leaders could leave their own country, but it is a time even for the greatest men to make departures from precedent and to make experiments in politics, and I suggest it is urgently necessary that a rapprochement should be built up between the Governments of this country, Russia and the United States if the last phase of this war is to be not only as successful but as rapid as we hope it is going to be, and if the making of the peace is to be as truly triumphant and as worthwhile to the peoples of the world as we all pray that it will become. So I would like to press upon the Leader of the House, who, I see, has just come in, that he will, with all his recent experience of the Russian people and his great knowledge of world affairs at this moment, consider whether something cannot be done to build up a closer unity between the three great leaders. And in saying that I do not forget China, but China will for a long time after the war be occupied by domestic problems of her own and problems in the Far East, and she will not bear the great European responsibility and the great world responsibility which the other three great Powers among the United Nations do and must bear, and in particular ourselves, because we are more cosmopolitan and more universal in interests than either of our two partners. We must be the connecting link between Russia and the United States of America; we are also the connecting link between all the small nations of the Allies, and if this war is not to be followed by a tragedy such as that which followed the last war, it behoves us, not next month or next year, but now, to build up a greater unity both at home and abroad.
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
I am sure that I shall have the sympathy of hon. Members in all parts of the House, including hon. and right hon. Members on the Treasury bench, when I say that the task of a private Member taking part in a Debate on the War Situation is peculiarly difficult. He may feel it his duty to give expression to doubts and criticisms, not only on his own personal authority but as a representative of opinion outside this House, but he will always be desperately anxious not in any way to give comfort or information to 89 the enemy, and certainly not in any way to embarrass those who are rowing the boat. There is another difficulty, which I am sure hon. Members who have been for any length of time in this House will recognise. It is, that in these Debates on Defence private Members have to confront an enormous ascendancy on the part of the Government. On many subjects this House has confidence in itself, and, on domestic policy, it knows exactly what it means, and is prepared to give effect to what it feels. But on questions of Defence the House is always a little diffident and not very sure of itself. That is easily to be understood. As a result it is, as I say, confronted by an immense ascendancy on the part of the Government.
I am reminded by what is taking place in this House to-day of innumerable prewar Debates. These Debates, as my hon. Friends in all parts of the House will agree, always went through the same process. The alarm was sounded by someone or other, usually by the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister sitting in his place below the Gangway, and the familiar process followed. There was, almost invariably, a White Paper; then there was a great deal of underground activity and it was explained, in the purlieus of the House and elsewhere, that this was creating great difficulties and that we ought to trust the Prime Minister. Then followed a Debate. While the House was very often satisfied at the end of the process, hon. Members will, I am sure, remember that those Debates and those speeches made very little impact upon the trend of events in Europe. It is the same thing—I feel it deeply—to-day. We can all sympathise with the Deputy Prime Minister in the task which was given him to-day of speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. He deserves sympathy because it always seems to be his duty to report on the War Situation to the House when there is very little to say about it. That is very hard upon him. He also is ordered to put up a case when there is a consciousness on the Treasury Bench that there is not very much of a case. In this respect I greatly admire his honesty. When he has nothing to say, he says it with a candour and a thoroughness which everybody must admire. He reminds me of the late Coordinator of Defence, Sir Thomas Inskip. 90 Sir Thomas Inskip co-ordinated Defence. We all know what that meant. He made many speeches and he made them as a trained advocate, but he never performed his task more devotedly and more successfully than the right hon. Gentleman has performed his to-day.
I am sure that the Prime Minister, if he were in his place—and I know that he has important preoccupations to keep him elsewhere—would sympathise with this feeling of the private Member up against the ascendancy of the Treasury Bench on a question of Defence, but I beg of the House not to be intimidated by it in the present circumstances, because the responsibility of the House is very great. The Prime Minister, when he sat in his place below the Gangway, devoted four years of solid, persistent, extraordinarily eloquent and effective argument to trying to get more effective and rapid rearmament. He strove in vain. This all took place in this very House of Commons, in this very Parliament elected in November, 1935. I have been looking through the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, which are now in volume form, and it is astonishing to think that they produced so little effect, and that on every occasion his arguments were belittled, borne down and blanketed by the ascendancy of the Government of the day. That is always what happens. There was certainly no argument more strongly supported or strongly reinforced than his by the march of events.
This Government, let me remind the House, was elected in 1935, only a few months after the declaration of universal military conscription in Germany in defiance of the Peace Treaties. Very soon after their election, in March, 1936, the Rhineland was reoccupied. The present Prime Minister made a magnificent speech, but that was all that took place, except one thing. Sir Thomas Inskip, as he then was, was appointed Co-ordinator of Defence. That was the only thing done to deal with the situation created by the occupation of the Rhineland in March, 1936. I remember the argument in this House at the time. There was a minority led by the present Prime Minister which wanted action at once but the immense majority were against it and nothing was done, except, as I say, that Sir Thomas Inskip was appointed Co-ordinator of Defence.
In the following Spring, in February, 1937, the Government wisely announced 91 the expenditure of £1,500,000,000 on rearmament. That was a great gesture to which the present Prime Minister gave eloquent support, but he pointed out that, valuable as that was, it would have no effect in the time still available, unless the money was spent and the munitions were produced, and that could not be done without some interference with normal industry. He was absolutely right, but once again we had blanketing arguments from the Treasury Bench and nothing was done to interfere with business in its normal course. In April, 1938, Austria was annexed; in September we had the Munich crisis and in March of the following year Czechoslovakia was annexed. At last—I think it was immediately afterwards—we had the decision to introduce compulsory military service in this country. As everyone knows, however it was, from the Army point of view, desperately late, so late that we were found changing from one system to another, a most dangerous state of affairs, when the war took place.
Looking back at these Debates I am reminded of a remark I heard the other day in a most brilliant play by a Welshman entitled "Morning Star." There is in that play the perfect type of the London charwoman—the whole play is a reproduction of an air raid on London—who says at one point, "I am beginning to like these air raids because they take my mind off the war." I feel that the Debates which took place at that time and, perhaps, if we are not careful the Debates which take place at the present time, may distract our minds in the same way from the realities of the case. Everybody remembers how the sirens sounded the alarm, how bombs were dropped by critics, how artillery went off from the Treasury Bench. The detonations were loud and reassuring even though they did not connect closely with the targets which were presented to them. Then the sirens sounded the "All Clear" and the House went home content. "Let us trust the Government," we said—and events in Europe went steadily from bad to worse. So far as I know, the Prime Minister, before he entered the Government, was never once proved wrong either in his statement of facts or in his interpretation of facts, and he was constantly reinforced by events which were hammering at our door. But, even so, he was defeated by 92 the tremendous ascendancy of the Treasury Bench.
I insist on that because I believe the House should take it to heart to-day and face its own responsibility. A responsibility rests on every individual in this House, because the life of this country and our Empire and the future of our youth are at stake. It is no good saying simply "The Government must know; trust the Government." We are bound to try to work this thing out for ourselves. If we do not, we are denying the responsibility which has been placed upon us. The results of that system, as the House knows, are written in blood and suffering across the face of Europe. The saddest comment on the futility of our old pre-war proceedings is the fact that the place in which we held them is now a ruin of rubble and dust. Was there ever a more complete and more destructive comment upon a series of Parliamentary Debates? This House cannot disclaim its responsibility. In his last speech in the United States, which some hon. Members may remember, Lord Lothian said that it was one of the great features of democracy that it placed the responsibility for the policy of the Government, for the action or inaction of the Government; square upon the individual. If that responsibility rests upon individuals of this country, it certainly rests on the representatives of the nation in Parliament. The House has always had power to take action. It insists upon its opinion being followed when it is sure of itself—I quote the Hoare- Laval Pact. The House was then sure of itself. I think it is always sure of itself on questions of national conduct. It is usually pretty clear on big issues of domestic policy. But is apt to be very shaky and diffident on these vast questions of Defence. In this war we must purge ourselves of that diffidence.
I emphasise that because, as the House knows, events are once more hammering at our gates. The Deputy Prime Minister said to-day very little of past events. I do not want always to quote the present Prime Minister, but he is a quarry from which it is difficult not to quote. I remember a remark made by him in the Debate on the annexation of Austria. I remember the phrase as he used it there in that place. "We cannot," he told the House, "say the past is past without surrendering the future." It is that which we have to say 93 to the Government to-day. We cannot, as the Deputy Prime Minister did, decently draw a veil over all that took place in the Malay Peninsula. We did not hear a word from him about it. We have had his speech in this Debate, but I most earnestly hope not the only speech. Something more, I hope, will be heard on this great subject from the Government before the Debate closes.
Let the House consider where we are. We have been at war for a little over two and a half years. I think the country fully expected, particularly after the collapse of France, that it would have to face a long, uphill and gruelling task. The Prime Minister warned us, again and again, in words of great eloquence and I do not think the nation ever shrank from that task. In the first two years, and more particularly after the collapse of France, the achievements of this country were very great. We have saved our souls alive and we can never be sufficiently grateful to the leaders who led us through that period, to the Service chiefs who organised and prepared our defences and, still more, and most of all, to the young men who sacrificed themselves at that time in our defence. Our record was splendid. I think it is important, in considering our trouble to-day, that we should not belittle our achievements up to date in this war. They are very great. Think of what the Navy and all our sea Services have done. It is absolutely magnificent. They are doing a terribly exhausting and exacting task day by day, week by week, month by month. It is a splendid record that the Navy and sea Services have put up in this war, punctuated, of course, by brilliant actions here and there as opportunity occurred.
The Army also has a great record behind it. I agree that as far as operations in the field are concerned, the Army has had to face many evacuations and retreats. I believe they were justified, and that operations are not necessarily failures because they end in retreats. But a sequence of retreats is hard upon any Service, and naturally the Army is burning for advance. In addition to the brilliant actions which it has fought, the Army, I think, deserves the gratitude of this country for the way in which it reorganised home defence. That really was an enormous task. Nobody will realise how enormous it was who did not 94 know from inside the difficulties that had to be faced. Finally, there was the Royal Air Force. The Prime Minister has spoken in words which will never be bettered of what we owed to the Air Force in the Battle of Britain. Now they are extending the area of their operations and carrying offensive warfare into the land of the enemy. That is a magnificent achievement. Do not let us underrate it, do not let us be suspected of one shadow of ingratitude to the men who have led us through that period and the men who served us in it.
But what about the last six months? I think there is a different feeling in the country about the last six months—a feeling of deep disappointment and anxiety, heightened by the fact that for nearly a year now we have had a magnificent fighting Ally in Russia, who has taken the main strain of our main enemy off our backs. I think the country was expecting that in that period we should be able to act with more effect, but instead of taking action, we have suffered terrible blows which I believe it was in our power, if we had looked forward clearly, to prevent. Think what we have lost. We have lost what was always stated before the war to be the indispensable bastion of our defences in the Far East, the defence of India, the defence of Australasia, and, of course, of the Malay Peninsula itself— the fortress of Singapore. We have lost with it, the Malay Peninsula and all the invaluable resources which it contains, resources invaluable for the war effort in which we are now engaged. We have lost the Dutch East Indies, and also the equally valuable, if not more valuable, economic resources which they contain. Here may I say how greatly, in this House, we all admire the magnificent fighting effort made by the Dutch. They have proved most gallant Allies, and I only regret, as I am sure the whole House regrets, that up to the present we have not been able to give them more effective support. We have lost Burma, and the Burma Road. The Deputy Prime Minister was not very clear on this point, but I hope we are not isolated from China, for we owe China also an immense debt for the way in which she has been fighting in this war.
With the loss of the Malay Archipelago, we are, of course, facing a threat to India and a threat to Australasia, and the worst about all, this is not only the loss to ourselves, 95 but I am sure, in this country, the feeling that we ought somehow to have been more effective in our help to the gallant Allies who are fighting with us, Russia, China and the Dutch.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I was thinking of the foreign nations, but I absolutely agree concerning the nations of the Commonwealth. How has this calamitous story come about in the past six months? I think the House should concentrate on this Attention called to these points by really experienced and authoritative minds has centred round two points. It has centred, in the first place, on the absence of an adequate air component in the forces which were sent out for the defence of Singapore. I do not intend to argue about that. If air forces were not available, the answer is that they should have been available. There was plenty of time to think. And if any forces were to be sent, if naval forces and military forces were to be sent—and they were sent in great strength—then air forces should have been sent with them. It is terrifying that that lesson should have been neglected after the costly experience we had had in Norway, Flanders, Greece, Crete and Africa—after two years' experience of what air weakness must cost. That is one point on which criticism has naturally been centred.
The second point on which it has been centred is the spirit of the defence at Singapore. I suppose that every hon. Member has met men who took part in the defence of Singapore. I have met several men who were there and who left either just at the end or just before the end. I am not going to say a word which reflects on the leaders on the spot, because, after all, we must in fairness leave judgment entirely suspended in their case until they are able to tell their own stories, which cannot be before the end of the war. But quite apart from the local and immediate responsibility of the leaders on the spot, the Government cannot pretend that there is not plenty of evidence on the wider responsibility for what took place. There is plenty of evidence. For months beforehand, this defence was not being properly organised. Why? The defence of Singapore, not only from the sea but from the land, had been studied at all Staff Colleges. I am 96 sure it had been studied at the College of Imperial Defence But action was not taken, and Singapore was overwhelmed like Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius, as though the menace had been a sudden-one detected by our leaders only at the last minute.
The Government—I say this with all restraint—must take responsibility for a very grave miscalculation in regard to the defence of our principal bastion in the East, and that responsibility I think it ought to face. If the Prime Minister were still below the Gangway, what a speech, what a commination service, he would have given us! The Recording Angel would not have been more terrible. Incidentally, as the Prime Minister himself is no longer in his place below the Gangway, the Recording Angel might be a very useful Member of the House, but probably he would not be adopted by any of the regular party associations, and I am sure he would have a very rough time at the hands of the Prime Minister if he stood as an independent candidate.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I have spoken of the past, but I have referred to the past only in the spirit of the words of the Prime Minister, which I have already quoted, that you cannot say the past is the past without surrendering the future. In fact, I am sure that in this House we are all looking forward and not looking back. The question is, what can this House do to ensure that the miscalculation manifest in the case of Singapore is not repeated in some other case?
In that connection I suggest that the House should give serious attention to certain reforms in our organisation for the higher conduct of the war which have been advanced in the Press and in another place with much authority, experience and weight. There is some difference of opinion on matters of detail, but there is practical unanimity on the point that some reform is required. If the House will bear with me, I should like to say a word on how the work of the present Chiefs of Staff impresses me. Before I deal with that aspect, let me make it plain that I am making no criticism whatever of the individuals who are at present Chiefs of Staff. I believe that we owe a great deal to them, and that they are 97 doing admirable work. The duties of the Chiefs of Staff are really very complex. In the first place, each one of them is executive head of his own service; in certain very important respects, that responsibility varies between the Services—I think it is greater in the case of the Admiralty, less in the case of the Army, and, in the case of the Air Force, as in so many of these matters, somewhere between the two. As I say, the Chiefs of Staff are executive heads of their respective Services. That in itself is an enormous task. In addition to that they have to give the Government advice from day to clay and from hour to hour on the problems presented to them, with operations taking place in many theatres, and with new problems coming in all the time, or put before them from elsewhere.
The Prime Minister stated in this House that last year the Chiefs of Staff held 460 meetings. Think of that. The House knows that usually their meetings take most of the morning, and this figure shows that they had to meet twice on a hundred days in the year. In addition to that, they have to attend meetings of the Committee of Defence, and, when called, meetings of the War Cabinet. They also have to be prepared to go to sudden conferences and discussions which may take place at any hour of the day or night. Surely these responsibilities are enough to occupy any man, however well qualified and however capable of work, 24 hours of every day. They constitute, as it stands, a most gruelling task. Yet on top of all that the Chiefs of Staff have a further responsibility, which is, so to speak, diffused and distributed between them, and that is the responsibility for the long-range co-ordination of plans, for looking ahead and for seeing that nothing is overlooked, for seeing that the Services are working together in every respect and that all the other operations, shipping, production and everything else, is being conducted to the best effect. That responsibility is not only placed on men who have already got quite enough to do, but it is diffused and distributed between them.
It is a very good principle, which, I think, is recognised in the organisation of civil government, and which certainly has always been honoured in military spheres, that, if you want a thing well clone, you must put responsibility squarely on the shoulders of some individual, 98 and I suggest that that is what is required in the present case. I suggest that this responsiblity, the greatest of all the responsibilities, which is diffused and distributed, should be placed squarely on the shoulders of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. This is no new suggestion. It was made 19 years ago by the Salisbury Committee, and I do not understand why we have been so long in giving that suggestion effect. There are three duties which a Chief of the War Staff, acting as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee should perform. He should, in the first place, be the watch-dog from the professional side, seeing that nothing important, however far ahead, is overlooked. If we had had such a watch-dog, I do not think that the essentials of the defences of Singapore would have been overlooked. In the second place, he should be—I use this word for lack of a better—a co-ordinator. He should make sure that, in production policy and also in the allocation of strength, a proper balance between the Services is observed in every important theatre, and that nowhere is any Service compelled to suffer and to fight under unnecessary disadvantages because co-ordination is deficient.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter (Hertford)
Would the hon. Member have as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee a Service man or a civilian?
§ Sir E. Grigg
I will come to that point in a moment. I would insist on this point of co-ordination. Co-ordination has never failed in the operational field for any reason except that the Service which failed had not the necessary strength available on the spot. In the field the Services have never failed to help each other out. In every way in which they could work together they have worked together, and I do not think there is any question about that. Where they have failed is where they have not had the wherewithal to cooperate, and the fault for that has lain in strategic allocation of strength. The fault, in fact, lay here at home and not out there, and it is on that account that we require a better co-ordination of the three Services in our Central supreme staff. Finally such a chairman would act as a filter and a sifter through which plans are put up to the War Cabinet.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I will come to that in a moment. He should be a sifter through which plans are put up to the War Cabinet. He should be a man who sees that we secure the maximum concentration possible of all the forces required on the vital objective, and that the best objective and the most effective objective is chosen for this concentration. I think he should be a Service Chairman. I believe there is plenty of political judgment available. What we want at this planning stage is a cold analytical professional man, working without any political colour, to put up, in the first instance, for ultimate decision by the War Cabinet absolutely unprejudiced and uncoloured professional advice. That is my answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). I am very strong on the point that he should be a Service coordinator, because there is plenty of political judgment in the Government. With most of the War Cabinet, political judgment has been the business of their lives, and I am not decrying the present Government or the War Cabinet when I say that what they are short of is professional experience.
I believe that this question of getting professional advice on the allocation and concentration of strength is of vital importance for two reasons. In the first place, let the House remember that we are, in point of fact, near the acme of production and of war strength possible with the man-power which we possess. All the strength we have must, therefore, be allocated and concentrated to the best effect. The House will realise that this concentration involves very difficult decisions at many points between political and military considerations. The Deputy Prime Minister very rightly called attention to the immense political preoccupations of a Government in war-time. He spoke of Russia, of the United States, of Australia, New Zealand and China. In all these matters obviously there are political as well as purely military considerations working strongly all the time. I do not suggest for a moment that military considerations should override political ones. All I suggest is that in the first instance the purely military considerations should be put up free of political colour or prejudice. People should know, and the War Cabinet should know, exactly what the 100 professionals think. A professional chairman to the Chiefs of Staff would do much to ensure this.
The Deputy Prime Minister made three objections. He said that, in the first place, there should be no overruling of the present Chiefs of Staff. I absolutely agree. I have not suggested that such a chairman should overrule the present Chiefs of Staff. He should only relieve them of one of the three duties which they at present perform, and should perform that third duty himself. It should be squarely on his shoulders instead of being distributed between the rest; but he should carry the other Chiefs of Staff with him in any important proposal that he had to make. Failing that, they should state their case direct, along with his, to the War Cabinet.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The situation would be exactly as at present. A Chief of Staff who disagrees with his two colleagues must either accept their decision or resign. A chairman would be in the same case. The situation would really be exactly the same as in the case of the individual Chiefs of Staff at present. One may feel that the others are not doing what his own Service requires. He must either accept it or resign or go to the War Cabinet. That would be exactly the case with this professional Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, when he could not secure agreement; but I do not think such would often be the case. The trouble does not lie in disagreement. It lies in long-range miscalculation because something is forgotten after being settled, or totally overlooked, and that he should prevent.
The second objection that the Deputy Prime Minister made was that no separate planning organisation was required. I absolutely agree. The necessary staff for such a Chairman already exists; but in every military organisation what really matters is what happens, at the top. Advice has to come up, and I suggest that it should come up to a single planning chief responsible for this particular branch of the work of the Chiefs of Staff. Finally, the Deputy Prime Minister said it would be quite impossible to take away from the Prime Minister the major responsibility for military advice to the War Cabinet. I am a little puzzled by the phrase 101 "military advice." I should have thought the duty of the Prime Minister was to receive, not to give, professional military advice. He is surely not responsible as a military expert for giving advice to himself as a statesman. That seems to me a difficult position.
§ Mr. Attlee
My actual phrase was "major responsibility for advising the Cabinet in decisions on strategy." That does not mean that he gives technical advice but that he takes a leading part in advising on general matters of war policy.
§ Sir E. Grigg
I am very grateful for that correction. I understand then that the Prime Minister is to give the War Cabinet major advice on questions of strategy. He must, of course, give his judgment on such questions to the War Cabinet; but his responsibility on the military side is not to give but to take advice. It is to judge on the advice that is offered, and it really is a very perplexing business that the same individual should be both giving and taking professional advice.
§ Mr. Attlee
Surely, if the Prime Minister gives advice to his Cabinet, that does not prevent him taking advice from his technical advisers.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The right hon. Gentleman is right. But the Prime Minister, according to him, has his own technical advisers.
§ Mr. Attlee
The Prime Minister is also Defence Minister and Chairman of the Defence Committee, and, as Chairman of the Defence Committee, consisting of Ministers and their advisers, on matters that come before the War Cabinet he is naturally the spokesman of the Committee.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The right hon. Gentleman is a very candid person, but he seems to have forgotten that the Prime Minister is also Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and therefore is really responsible for giving himself advice. No one suggests for a moment that the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet are not responsible for the final decision on everything. This is a really constitutional and Parliamentary country and the decision will always rest with him, but advice on the military side should be tendered, in the first instance, by a detached professional mind concentrated on that task, the mind of a man who 102 has nothing else to think about. I believe that that would be a real help to Ministers and to the Prime Minister himself. He has complained that in the past professional advice was unduly tainted by political bias—for instance in the case of the Irish bases which we gave up—and the danger of introducing political considerations into purely military planning in the early stage is even greater in war than in peace. It is therefore vital that professional advice should be given by detached minds which have nothing else to think about. Nor is there any need for a superman. All that is required is a man who has freedom from the daily round which sits so heavily upon the other Chiefs of Staff, a man who can stand back from the picture and make himself responsible for this forward-looking, coordinating, sifting process.
The other thing is that he should be a man with professional experience and authority, a man who can bring a trained mind with Service experience to bear. I do not believe he would require any extra staff. The staff already exists in the combined planning staff and the Secretariat. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley) knows much more than I do about that, and it would be deeply interesting to hear what he has to say about it. But I do not think that in order to get a professional chairman with an adequate staff any great reorganisation is necessary. The staff already exists. There is no challenge to constitutional government in this respect. Really distinguished Ministers like Lord Salisbury would not 19 years ago have recommended a step of this kind—
§ Mr. A. Bevan
Is not the hon. Gentleman occupying the House for a very considerable time and making very heavy weather over a very simple point? Is he not arguing that the Prime Minister if no use as Minister of Defence and ought to give up the job? Why does he not say so in simple language that everyone can understand?
§ Sir E. Grigg
The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech, but that is not my speech and that is not what I am saying. I am arguing for a proper balance between military and political advice. That suggestion is not a new one, for it is 19 years old. What is necessary at the present time is to fit the keystone into the arch 103 which has long been waiting for it. That is the case which I wish to present to the House. I have spoken a great deal—and I hope I have not wearied the House with too much detail—of the importance of authoritative experience. It is not, however, on the claims of age and authority that I would say my last word; it is on the claims of youth. Our debt to youth is already inestimable, and whatever plans we make the issue will depend upon our youth. I received yesterday, like other Members, a pamphlet called, "A Fighter Pilot writes to his M.P." I was deeply moved by it. It deals almost entirely with what is to happen after the war, and it is pretty clear that the writer feels his generation is suffering even now from a lack of vision and grip in their elders, and he refers to Singapore.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
I am trying my best to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument because this is a point of substance. When he says that these young men are losing their faith in the men who lead, whom does he mean?
§ Sir E. Grigg
The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech. What he is trying to do is to distract me into a direct attack on the Government. [Interruption.] I do not think that hon. Gentlemen on that side really advance the cause of the nation by taking that line at the present moment. It is more important to argue, as I am trying to do, the merits of the case than to try always to give it an edge against the Prime Minister and the Government. Let us get down to the merits of the case. If we do not, if we always seem to be on the personal issue, the country will lose faith in the House of Commons. I said that we owe a debt to the youth. I believe that there is some lack of confidence on the part of youth in the way in which the war is being run, and some step of this kind is necessary to give confidence and reassurance to youth. Therefore, I await what further the Government may have to say on this subject with anxious interest.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) has made a most interesting speech,' but it would have been far more effective to me if he had not occupied a place in the Government for a considerable time. One of the things that has troubled me is that those who have held office in the 104 Government have taken an early opportunity, after leaving office, of pointing out defects in carrying on the war. Many of the things of which they complain happened while they held office, and the question I ask is, "What did you do when in office? Did you become a mere cipher?"
§ Sir E. Grigg
The hon. Gentleman has given me a personal challenge and I will reply to it. He knows as well as anybody how far the responsibiities of an Under-Secretary extend. I cannot say what I did as a Member of the Government, but since he challenges me I will answer him. I have consulted my own sense of public duty and I do not require to be guided by the hon. Gentleman's advice. But as a matter of fact I have followed the precedents. In 1915 the present Prime Minister left the Government. In the same Government was Sir Edward Carson, and he left just before. The Prime Minister went to France, but before he left he made a speech and said that he thought it was the duty of Sir Edward Carson, who had moved from the front Government Bench to the front Opposition Bench and was too old for service, to use the knowledge he had acquired in the Government to give proper guidance to the House. These are the words he used on 15th November, 1915, and since I have been challenged I think I ought to read them:It is a high public interest that someone with complete secret information of the whole position as it is to-day, someone unimpeachably devoted to the public cause and altogether independent of the Government, should be available. That bench is the right hon. Gentleman's war station, and I hope that he will continue to occupy it for the good of the House, for the good of the country, and for the good of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1915; col. 1499, Vol. 75.]
§ Mr. Tinker
I claim that when a man occupies a position in the Government, whatever status it might be, he should, if he feels that the conduct of the war is not as he thinks it should be, have the courage to stand up then and not wait for some future time when he may be kicked out for some other reason. There is too much of this sort of thing going on. As soon as anyone loses his position in the Government he comes along and points out how much better the war could be carried on. I hope that this will be a lesson to others who are taken into the Government, to 105 have the courage to speak out while they are in the Government and to get some redress for what is wrong then. After all, the nation is in jeopardy, and the fact that a man is in office should not keep him quiet if he feels that things are wrong. An Under-Secretary has an important position. He stands at that Box and speaks for the Government, and if things go wrong, he should come out and tell us where they are wrong and not wait until after he has left office. Singapore has been going on for years. What has been done by men who have occupied office to meet the situation? Have they ever told the House what was wrong in Singapore? Some of us are feeling rather bitter that men who take office never say anything about what is wrong until the time comes when they give up office. I say this in protest, and I hope that it will be a lesson.
§ Earl Winterton
Does that apply to my hon. Friend's own leader, who in a most admirable speech to-day criticised certain things the Government have done?
§ Mr. Tinker
My own leader has been one of the most outstanding men since he came out of office. He has played an honourable part and has not been content with making mean, pettifogging criticism. He has made more worthy criticism than I have heard from other quarters. The Noble Lord has occupied a place in the Government, and he is one of the most bitter critics of the Government.
§ Earl Winterton
I left the Government 2½ years ago entirely by my own volition and at my own request.
§ Mr. Tinker
I am saying what I think about the situation. We ought to say what we feel on these matters, and I am uttering a word of caution to those who become members of the Government not to wait until they leave office to make attacks on the Government. I share with many others the regret that the Prime Minister was not present to take the lead in this Debate. We look forward to the Prime Minister coming to the House on great occasions to give an account of what is happening. One is bound to admit that he exercises over us all an influence such as very few other men possess, and yet, listening to the Debate to-day, it has struck me that when he is away from us many hon. Members want to attack him because of the high position he occupies. We want him here to exercise his influence 106 over us, and when he is away we are criticising him on account of the immense influence which he is said to exert over the members of the Cabinet. Some Members seem to think that there is no one with any influence in the Cabinet but the Prime Minister, and yet when he is away from this place they seem to regret that he is not here to exercise the same influence over us. I want to say that the right hon. Gentleman who took his place to-day stated the case remarkably well. It was one of the best speeches which I have ever heard him make in a difficult situation. Yes, in a very difficult situation; there is no doubt about that, and I am sorry the Prime Minister was not present himself.
One of the points which the Deputy Prime Minister tried to clear up concerns Australia. At the present time it is the Americans who are sending reinforcements to Australia, and criticism has been urged by Dr. Evatt that Britain is not doing her share in that direction. The explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman was that America is closer to Australia and better situated to send munitions of war and troops. That is a good explanation of the situation. But I want to urge, also, that the Australian people are our kith and kin. I myself have a married sister in Australia, and that is a very close tie. The desire of the Australian people is that we should show a better understanding of their position by sending out to them several squadrons of our own aeroplanes. That might not be to give them any more effective assistance than the Americans are giving them, but the psychological effect upon the Australian people would be invaluable. We all know how we should feel if somebody said to us, "We know your anxieties, and we are prepared to send our fighting squadrons to help you." If such a gesture were made, I believe it would have a remarkable influence upon the Australian people. If they could see British squadrons flying above Australia, it would be a real symbol of our help to them in this struggle, and I hope that when the matter is next considered by the Cabinet the right hon. Gentleman will pay due regard to that point of view. I agree that the tactics of war may be against me, but there is the sentimental and the psychological effect, and it is that which I wish to emphasise.
107 With regard to the Russian front, there again it was a message of hope that the right hon. Gentleman's speech conveyed to me. He told us that we are doing all we can to help Russia by sending them tanks, aeroplanes and anything else they may require. Whatever happens, we must continue to do that—whatever the cost, whatever the risk—because we must remember that if Russia breaks, this country cannot hold out very much longer. On the general prospects of the war, and what is called planning and having things ready for the other side, let us not be too critical of the Government, and let us realise the fundamental fact. It is that we are up against a powerful foe, one whom we have never estimated to the full. In my view we have made the best use of all our resources. I think that the munition workers, the Government, all concerned with the war, have done all that has been humanly possible, but we are facing a foe who has proved to be stronger than we ever thought him to be. I do not think we ought to be disheartened, but we ought not at the same time to belittle our own efforts. I think the tide is turning. I think we are getting on top now. I think we are moving forward from the defensive to the offensive, and I trust that, whatever happens, we shall not relax our efforts.
I had hoped that the Prime Minister would be here to deal with one particular point. I listened to his broadcast a week ago on Sunday, and I did not agree with the whole of it. When he dealt with the gas problem I differed from the Prime Minister. I do not know whether it was a gesture to Russia or not, but he said that if Germany used gas, we should resort to the same tactics. I have no qualms about the use of gas. To win the war I would resort to all weapons. But I do not want us to lose our chief weapon against Germany. Gas can be effective only when armies are facing each other. Anybody who was out in France in the last war will remember that gas was effective at the outset because we then were unprepared for it. That was when Germany did so much damage. Gas can only be effective when the opposing armies are facing each other and the wind is in the right direction. I do not want us to be deterred from dealing out to Germany what we are giving her now. We are 108 using powerful explosives against Germany, and are doing tremendous damage in that way, and to use gas against Germany would be less effective. The Prime Minister told Russia that we shall use against Germany whatever means we have in our power, and with that I agree, but I should not like us to turn from high explosives to gas because Germany used gas against the Russians. If we did that, we should be playing into Hitler's hands. I should not be surprised to hear at any time now that Hitler had started to use gas against Russia with the object of getting the Prime Minister to carry out his pledge to Russia, because by using gas we shall be less effective in our attack upon Germany. As I have said, I have no qualms about the use of gas if it can be made more effective, but I do not want us to be detracted from using the most effective methods against Germany.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Has not the hon. Member forgotten that there are gas shells now and that they do not depend upon the wind at all?
§ Mr. Tinker
I was arguing that to drop gas would not be as effective as dropping high explosives. I am only putting this forward to the Prime Minister because he has given his pledge to Russia. If the Germans used gas against Russia, we should have to carry out that undertaking, and that would mean changing our form of attack upon Germany. On the general conduct of the war, I can only emphasise what I have already said. I am quite satisfied with the work of the Government. I am satisfied with the people who are getting the munitions of war I only trust that Parliament, in its deliberations, will not let anything go out to the country that may belittle those war efforts. We can do a great disservice to our people by being too critical of what is happening. The people look to Parliament to give them a lead. If we strike a high note in our belief in the Government, we shall be doing a great service to our country.
§ Colonel Stanley (Westmorland)
I almost feel that I am entitled, after my long absence, to ask for the indulgence of the House. Indeed, I am much more entitled to do so than most people who make maiden speeches, because, owing to the job I have been holding for a long period, I have had to deprive myself and others of the pleasures of a speech; 109 whereas, the maker of an ordinary maiden speech in this House, although he is unfamiliar with the Chamber, is usually extremely familiar with the sound of his own voice, having just come from a series of by-election speeches. For me, austerity began some time before the Lord Privy Seal. I intervene now only to deal with one particular aspect of this Debate, and that is, this machinery for the higher direction of the war.
My reason for doing so is that I have had experience which I think is unique in this House, in that I have seen this machinery both from above and from below. Believe me, things look very different from those two angles, which is something like what the toad is reputed to have said under the harrow. If I indulge in a certain amount of criticism as well as a certain amount of praise, I hope I shall not receive any censure from the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). In the atmosphere of an Oxford Group week-end, where all of us are sharing our experiences, which was inaugurated by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member, let me say that I have no bitterness against the Government. I was offered by the present Prime Minister a very high post, which, for reasons of my own, I did not feel able to accept. I have no bitterness against them, and I have no hopes from them. The fact, which I heard at Question time, that the number of Parliamentary Private Secretaries is not to be reduced, has filled me with no hopes that I may get something from them. Therefore, perhaps the hon. Member will believe that what I say is intended to be a sincere contribution to a very important subject. It is a very important subject, and it has been dealt with, on this occasion certainly, by a very responsible Member of this House in a very responsible way.
Let me say at once that, whereas I know the hon. Member feels most sincerely about this matter, I believe that a certain amount of this agitation with regard to a change in the planning machinery is, in fact, an attack upon the Prime Minister as such. It is not my business to defend the Prime Minister. He defended himself through many years without my assistance, and he probably can go on doing so, but if we are to discuss these things seriously, I think it is for those 110 who want to attack the Prime Minister, and for those who want to change the planning machinery, to do so. I shall deal with the matter only on the basis of whether we have the best machinery and, granted that we have the right machinery, whether it will be run by the right people. Frankly, although it is ill to deprecate the importance of the subject of one's own speech, I do not attach nearly as much importance to machinery as I do to men. If I have to choose between first-rate men with second-rate machinery and first-rate machinery with second-rate men, give me the first-rate men every time. They will get along with whatever machinery you give them. We should try as far as possible to devise machinery which will enable the men who are available to make the best of themselves and to give us the best results.
It would be absurdly complacent. even if, in the last year or two, things had been going well, to claim that no improvement could be made in our present machinery and that we might not be able, somehow or other, to make things go better; things having gone badly for the last 2½ years, it would be too Pollyanna, even for Ministerial week-end utterances, to claim that this joint planning machinery was not capable of some improvement. [Interruption.] I hear an hon. Member asking what "Pollyanna" is. She was a lady of almost incredible optimism and illusion, who appeared in fiction many years ago and who appears to have come back to life at week-ends, and hovers over platforms occupied by many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.
As a matter of fact, this machinery always is being altered and improved. Since I have been there for nearly 18 months, there have been several changes. One of the most important changes, for which the Minister of Production has been responsible, is the introduction of a sort of Joint Planning Staff for production, someone to link up the needs of strategy in the future and the needs of production to-day. One of the things we have been much too apt to overlook in the past is the time-lag between the two. It is no good thinking: "We want to do this next year," unless at the same time we start preparing the weapons with which to do it. If you wait and, when the time comes to carry out your strategy, you say to the right hon. Gentleman, "Now produce 111 the weapons," you will find that for the last year he has gone on making the weapons dictated by the old strategy instead of making those anticipated by the new strategy. I think this change is a most important contribution. Although the Joint Planning Staff no doubt will be improved, it is sufficiently good and is working sufficiently well for us not to attempt to alter it merely for the sake of altering and merely because we feel that any change must be a change for the better. It needs alteration only if we can definitely put our finger upon the necessity for some particular improvement and can be quite certain that the alteration which we suggest will really effect that improvement.
If I may, I will deal first of all with some of the suggestions which have been made, and afterwards I would like to put one or two suggestions to the House by which I think the whole planning machinery can be altered and improved. When the White Paper was issued, a great many people were surprised by the completeness of the joint planning machinery on the lower grades. Many of them did not realise how carefully interlocked the different sections were for planning and intelligence staff. Most people were impressed with the lay-out of that plan. Also, I do not think they realised the extent to which we have already advanced in co-operation between the three Services, and how all these sections are formed of members of the three Services, working and, as the Prime Minister said, eating and living together. Given the limitations of the past—and that is a very important thing—as far as the junior staff are concerned, I think we have got as far in our machinery for inter-Service co-operation as we can go—given the limitations of the past, and I and other Members of this House have to bear responsibility for them. Such was the shortage of officers in the various Services before the war that there has never been an adequate interchange of personnel. There has never been enough opportunity for Army officers to go and live for six months in an Air Force mess, or for Air Force officers to go and live for six months in a warship, and really get to know something about how the other Services think and feel, what their problems and their limitations are, and what they can do and what they cannot. That is a state 112 of affairs which it will be impossible to remedy until we once again have peacetime conditions.
I have really heard only one criticism of the junior side of this machine, and that is of the fact that the Directors of Plans of the three Services—these are the people under whom I and other members of the Joint Planning Staff work—do not live and work together. They do not work in the same room; they live in their respective Ministries and come together for meetings. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that that can be altered. It is essential that these Directors of Plans shall be completely in touch with what is actually going on in the various Ministries and Services which they represent. If they were to be divorced from the Ministries, doing their planning in a vacuum without the knowledge, for instance, that particular ships were going to certain places, that certain forces had reached this or that stage of mobilisation or training, that certain air forces were earmarked for particular jobs in advance, a great deal of their planning would be academic, theoretical, and in fact valueless. They must know what is actually happening in their Services if their planning is to have a practical value.
When I first went there I thought that in one Ministry, at any rate, so much Departmental responsibility and executive work was given to the Director of Plans that so far as joint planning was concerned he was not worth anything at all. He was so overwhelmed with Departmental considerations that he had no time left for joint planning. That, of course, if it were universal, would destroy the whole system, but it has been remedied in that Department, and I think it is generally recognised that while Directors of Plans must have their close link with their Department, they must be relieved as far as possible of purely Departmental responsibility, and allowed to give their attention to joint planning and combined work.
I will now pass to the higher hierarchy, upon whom I look from a great distance with a mixture of veneration and reverence. There have been a good many suggestions as to alterations which could be made in the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the principal suggestion is that there should be a Chief of a Combined General Staff. The hon. Member who said that 113 there was unanimity on this proposal was quite wrong I have read Debates in another place and articles in the newspapers, and although everybody agrees that something should be done, they all disagree as to what it should be. There is a proposal, for instance, for a civilian head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I was reading an argument about this civilian head the other day, and I cannot remember where it was. It might have been in a speech made by the Lord Chancellor in another place, in which case, of course, I should not be entitled to quote it, or it might have been from some other source. I have forgotten. But the gist of the argument was that there was no demerit in political influence impinging upon Service opinion at an early date. The fact that the argument ended up, despite that remark, by being against the civilian head, makes me think that after all it must have been the Lord Chancellor. I profoundly disagree with that statement. I quite agree that under our Constitution it is right, necessary and proper that the final decision should be taken by the politician and that in taking that final decision he should weigh political—I mean by that higher political—and military considerations together. But I think it is absolutely essential that any right hon. Gentleman sitting on that Front Bench as a member of the War Cabinet and having to take responsibility for great decisions should get his military opinion undiluted.
Let me take a homely simile from an age which, alas, is past. If I wanted to mix myself a whisky and water, so long as I had the whisky bottle in one hand and the water carafe in the other I could mix for myself exactly the strength I wanted. But if somebody else, unknown to me, had already been at the whisky bottle and had filled it half-full of water, I should not know how much to put in. [An HON. MEMBER: "You would have to call for another bottle."] Yes, but not until I had made the mixture. The trouble about the subject with which we are dealing now is that once the mixture has been made, there is no time to call for another bottle. There is no time to say that if one had known that the Service chiefs had already been influenced by civilian opinion, one would have come to a different decision. Once the decision is taken, it is too late ever to go back on it. I think that the impinging 114 of political opinion upon Service opinion at too early a stage is disastrous, and I am sure that nobody is more in agreement with that view than the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench who are members of the War Cabinet and who have to take responsibility and who will want for themselves the military opinion on which their decision is to be based. No one can sit permanently as a civilian head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee except one civilian, and that is a dictator. We have not got that, and we do not want it.
Another alternative suggested has been that of a Service Chief of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, but a Service Chief to whom overriding authority is given, a real Chief of a Combined General Staff who has the responsibility for himself personally giving military advice to the War Cabinet, thus relieving the three existing Chiefs of their joint responsibility. I saw that suggestion advocated very strongly the other day in some publication which said that it was not difficult to fill this post, as all that we wanted was a man with the wide technical experience of Lord Hankey and the forcefulness of Mr. Lloyd George in his heyday. I must confess that, although theoretically I disapprove strongly of this proposal, if, on the other hand, that man could be found, I should be much inclined to give him this job. On second thoughts, I think I should go a step further and make him Prime Minister, and I am sure the present occupant of that post would be only too glad to step down.
We have really to consider this machinery question from the point of view of getting ordinary men to fill them, the sort of men who now fill the positions of Chiefs of Staff or other high positions, who can be put into these jobs. As for a single man with responsibility for giving advice, you may call him Chief of the Combined General Staff, you may give him a combined uniform, you may give him ranks in all the three Services, but until the day before his appointment he has been either a soldier, a sailor or an airman for probably something like 35 years of his life, and the result is that he will know a great deal about one of the Services and not a great deal about the other two. If, as suggested in some quarters, you make him responsible for tendering all strategic advice to the War Cabinet, what in fact will happen? Take the latest instance—of the operation 115 in Madagascar. Say you had the instance, when it was being discussed by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff being in favour of it, the Chief of the Air Staff being in favour of it, and the First Sea Lord saying, "No, I think the prize is too small, the risk to my ships too great. The naval situation does not permit the risk of a ship at the moment or the spreading of our resources. I am against it." Faced with this disagreement, this new Super-Chief says, "I have thought it over. I am in favour of it, and I shall therefore recommend it to the Cabinet."
Could he, knowing that the Chief of one of the great Services—I am assuming that the Super-Chief had been a soldier, not a sailor—was against this operation, conceal that fact from the War Cabinet? Obviously he could not. He would have to say to the War Cabinet, "I recommend this operation, but the First Sea Lord is against it.' What would the War Cabinet do? They would obviously say, "We do not want to hear from you the objection of the First Sea Lord. We must hear the First Sea Lord himself." You would have, in fact, argued out at the War Cabinet, despite the new Super-Chief, exactly the same argument as you would have to-day if the three Chiefs of Staff disagreed about a question of major policy of that kind. I do not therefore see how it is possible for this overriding authority to be exercised in view of the fact that we have not got joint Services, that the War Cabinet, in discharging its responsibility, will never be prepared to take a purely military opinion on a naval problem and decline to give the representative of the Navy the chance of stating his own view.
We come down to the only remaining suggestion, which I think is the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that you could put a Service man in as chairman. We all know the advantages of a good chairman. I understand that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who takes the chair at the Chiefs of Staff meetings, is very good at getting the business through. What would be gained by having an independent man as chairman? If you are to take the chair at a meeting, if you are not to have actual authority over the others, you must at east have an equality of status with those over whom you are to preside. What authority will this independent chairman 116 bring except his own personality? Compare him with the other members of the Committee. If the Chief of the Imperial General Staff agrees to something, great armies move. If the First Sea Lord agrees to something, fleets sail. If the Chief of the Air Staff agrees to something, air forces go up in the air. But if the new chairman agrees to something, the only man who does anything is his own personal assistant. He has no one under him, no executive control whatever. My experience of any committee has been that it is the people who have the executive responsibility and power who count, and they will always exercise greater authority in any committee than a man who is just a "swinger" with no great power and responsibility behind him.
I do not believe, therefore, that the vacant place—I believe there is a vacant place—at the Chiefs of Staff Committee is in the chair. I do not believe we would really gain anything by putting in an independent man as chairman. I feel that there is a very useful part to be played in the Chiefs of Staff Committee by a Service man who is free of some of the great responsibilities which are now being borne by all the other members of the Committee. Just look at the Committee as now composed. I quite see the force of my hon. Friend's argument about however good they are the fact that they have to be responsible for their own Service Department must make it more difficult for them to get the necessary time for those matters of great strategical concern. You cannot get over this difficulty by the duplication of duties. The person who gives advice to the War Cabinet as to how a Service is to be used can only be the head of that Sendee, and we cannot have one man at the head ordering and another man telling the War Cabinet how the Service is to be used.
The only way of ameliorating the difficulty is by the maximum of decentralisation on the part of the Chiefs of Staff. During my time in the War Office the innovation was made of Vice-Chiefs for all the Services. It was done expressly for the purpose of relieving the Chiefs of Staff of a great deal of their routine Departmental duty while still retaining general control of the Department. The assistance is there for the Chiefs of Staff to use if they are prepared to use it, and they must be prepared to use it, because unless there is a certain amount of devolution, 117 they cannot run both jobs properly. That is the three Chiefs of Staff. Obviously you cannot put upon them any new duty. We have had references during this Debate to the position of General Ismay. He was appointed, oddly enough, my Noble Friend will be astonished to hear, not by the present but by the late Prime Minister. [Interruption.] The Noble Lord being further from the Government than I was at the time is more in the secret than I was. General Ismay is termed the representative of the Minister of Defence upon the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and it would be idle to pretend to anybody, including the Front Bench, that that was a popular appointment among the Services at the time it was made. Different people wondered what was the reason for it. They thought it meant, quite frankly, patting a spy of politicians into the deliberations of the Services. They were very unhappy about it.
I remember that irreverent people used to have a parable for it. Passing the lake in St. James's Park, as some hon. Members will on their way home, they will see three pelicans, large, stately, not very graceful, but very effective birds, who perfrom by themselves curious but no doubt satisfactory evolutions. Alongside of them, but not of them, close, but never too close, you will also see with those three pelicans one single cormorant: less impressive, no doubt, in its own way as effective, performing less graceful evolutions. I am sorry to say that the irreverent used to refer to the cormorant as the Prime Minister's representative on the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Now let me pay a tribute to General Ismay. Although he started with all that suspicion, he has, by his own sincerity, loyalty and frankness, destroyed all that. Nobody now is at all suspicious or regards him as being there with any other purpose but to help on the war. General Ismay, being a practical man, has abandoned the theoretical description given him, and has done the practical job, not as the representative of the Prime Minister, but as the head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee secretariat. As the head of the secretariat, he naturally has a very close liaison with the Prime Minister. He is doing a very useful job. He should not be regarded as a member of the Committee.
§ Earl Winterton
I entirely agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend has 118 said. I may have given the impression that I was making an attack on General Ismay. He is one of the finest servants we have in this State. It is his position which is so anomalous.
§ Colonel Stanley
We have recently had a nebulous addition to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in the Chief of Combined Operations. The Chief of Combined Operations is a person for whom the whole country has, and I in particular have, the most profound admiration. He has displayed in this war exactly the qualities which clearly we want to have in the conduct of the war. He is just the type of man, with just the type of experience, that one wants associated with the higher direction of our war effort. But the Chief of Combined Operations has been given enormous responsibility of his own, for planning, for training, for control, for execution. Raids, the planning of combined operations, the training of men in combined operations, the ordering of technical equipment necessary for landing, looking ahead for new methods of overcoming new obstacles, are all his personal responsibility. He cannot add the further responsibilities of a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He has his own responsibilities, just as the Chiefs of Staff have, and he has the additional disability that he has not a long-established, well-trained staff such as they are able to call upon. Therefore, although you might expect him to advise the Chiefs of Staff Committee when they are discussing something connected with his own combined operations, it would be quite unfair to expect him to assume the wider responsibility for other matters that somebody else should have in mind.
In the Chiefs of Staff Committee there is no swinger. There is nobody free from overwhelming Departmental duties to be put on to some particular job. I think there is a very great need for somebody of that kind. Let me give three or four instances of what a swinger might be doing. The first is not a matter that one can discuss in this House in great detail. Totalitarian war means a great deal more than action by the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. There are a great many other activities which we rightly do not discuss in public. I am not going to discuss them. I do not know whether right hon. Gentlemen are satisfied with the way 119 they are being conducted now. If I were in a position to discuss the subject, I should tell them what I thought about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell us now."] It cannot be done. It is quite clear that it would not be in the national interest to discuss matters of this kind in public.
§ Colonel Stanley
The hon. Member does not need any clues; he knows the type of work to which I am refering. Matters of that kind ought to be recognised as being just as much a part of operations as the movement of an air force, of a battalion, or of a ship, and ought to be just as closely linked with the work of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The first job for this swinger on the Chiefs of Staff Committee would be, in some cases complete control, in other cases at any rate the provision of these extra bits of effort which go to make up national effort in totalitarian warfare. Then, I agree, you want on the Committee a follow-up man. It is all very well taking a problem of burning importance, which has to be settled in one way or another in a week. Everybody sits on it, you get a recommendation made, and it is over. But other kinds of problems take a year. You want somebody on the Committee bringing them up at intervals, seeing how people in the Departments are getting on, or not getting on, with the matter; finding out whether it is going well, or not going well. It may be six or nine months before the emergency comes, and then everybody digs the matter up, and says, "It has not advanced since we left it six, or nine, months ago." The swinger on the Committee would have a great deal to do in following up these long-term matters. He could act as chairman of the Vice-Chiefs Committee, to give a good deal of substance and interest to that body. Finally, I do not pretend to offer complete suggestions, but I wonder whether he could not find something to do on the Intelligence side. I have no doubt that great improvements have been made lately, but we cannot pretend that the history of the war on that side has been satisfactory. The buck is passed with a rapidity of the hand that deceives the eye. Some say that the information was not received, some say that the information was 120 received but was not appreciated, some say that the information was received and appreciated but it was not acted upon. Who can tell among those conflicting stories? The fact remains that in the past the system has not worked. Could not the swinger do something to make it work better?
There is one other suggestion that I have to make. Passing from the Serviceman to the politician, I want to refer to the Defence Committee. With all reverence and humility, I must say that I cannot see for the life of me what useful purpose is served by the Defence Committee. Look at its composition as compared with the War Cabinet. Of the Defence Committee, the Service Ministers are members; to the War Cabinet, they can be summoned. Of the Defence Committee, the Chiefs of Staff are members; they must attend the War Cabinet. Of the actual members of the War Cabinet, there are a great number of sheep, and only a few goats In the War Cabinet there are only the Lord President of the Council, the Minister of Labour, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in the War Cabinet.
§ Colonel Stanley
That reduces the number of goats by one, leaving only two; and the number of sheep is increased. Very much to my regret, the Lord Privy Seal has to join the goats. That leaves the Minister of Labour, the Lord President of the Council and the Lord Privy Seal as the only people on the War Cabinet who do not also sit on the Defence Committee. It seems to be an awful lot of effort to keep them out of it. What would three be among so many? It serves no useful purpose at all. What is the present procedure? An important thing goes to the Chiefs of Staff and from the Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister, and then to the Defence Committee, with the Prime Minister as chairman, and then to the War Cabinet, still with the Chiefs of Staff and still with the Prime Minister. I consider that that really is an unnecessary complication. For nearly everyone it is a very great waste of time to be compelled to stay and hear the same thing thrashed out, certainly twice. To the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Labour, I honestly do not think it is quite fair. If 121 I were them, I should object to that. I should like it to come straight to me and to be discussed in front of me instead of being thrashed out by somebody else before.
I suggest, as a simple division, that some of these strategic matters are so important that they must receive the approval of the War Cabinet. Let them go to the War Cabinet as soon as possible. As soon as the Chiefs of Staff are ready to tender their advice, let it be taken to the War Cabinet and be thrashed out in the only place where decision can be taken. Do not waste time hanging about the road. There are a certain number of decisions which cannot be taken by the Chiefs of Staff Committee but are not important enough to require a decision of the War Cabinet. Let the Minister of Defence take the decisions and then report them to the War Cabinet. That is the quickest and speediest way. It is a question of responsibility, but it is not one to prevent the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Production from helping to take the responsibility in these smaller cases. I think it might speed up the work, and I am certain it would put more firmly and squarely upon the War Cabinet the responsibility for final strategic control which rests upon them and which no one Member can delegate to anybody else.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Would not that mean that all Service Ministers would have to be in the War Cabinet?
§ Colonel Stanley
It would not mean that they would have to be in the War Cabinet. They could, wherever their presence was desired, as they are even now, be summoned to attend the War Cabinet, just as in the last war. My father was Secretary of State for War. He was not a member of the War Cabinet, but when there was a matter in which his advice was thought to be useful he was summoned for that particular purpose. I want to make only two general points. One I address to my masters upon the Front Bench. If you want to get the best out of this machine or any other machine, do try and use it in the right way. You will never get the best out of 122 any machine unless you try to work it in the way in which it has to be worked. If you see on a machine a label with the words, "To start machine, press button 'A' and turn handle 'B,'" it is really much better to do that than thinking that you would do better by turning handle "B" and pressing button "A." It really does not work that way. This machinery is devised to work from the bottom upwards, to have questions, demands for information, and for plans, drawn to it in broad terms, and then ask to produce it and have it criticised. It is not to have decision taken on the job and then to be asked either to approve or to criticise it afterwards.
My last point is a plea that I make to hon. Members of this House and, through them, the country. Popular clamour is the worst possible basis for national strategy. I am not going to pretend that strategy is impenetrable and that it is impossible for a man of good judgment, if he knows all the facts and is given all the arguments, to come to a right decision. It is a thing that he can do, but he must know the facts. Without them, the judgment of the wisest man in the world is absolutely valueless. These are the facts and arguments which cannot be given broadcast throughout the land. You cannot give them to the Press and to electors and to publicists, and you cannot even, I am afraid, give them to by-election candidates. So, the result, well intentioned as it no doubt is, is simply an expression of what these people would like to do, without any reference at all to what can be done. Surely, the way for all of us who want to join in the war effort, and are determined that we shall march victoriously through this trouble, is plain. We cannot, with our lack of knowledge of the facts, give advice on strategical matters, but we can insist that, if the Chiefs of Staff, who are the people responsible for it, are giving to the Prime Minister advice which proves to be wrong, unsound and timorous, then let the Prime Minister sack them. If the Prime Minister is choosing people who give him the wrong advice, then let us sack the Prime Minister, but sooner or later you have to have somebody, the Prime Minister, the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the War Cabinet, whom you will trust and who alone can know the facts and alone can take the decisions and whose decisions you must accept. Of coure, it is no advantage 123 to discover at hustings and by-elections that we ought to attack and that it would be a good thing if we captured this or destroyed that. If the Chiefs of Staff do not know that, and you cannot find people in the Service who know that kind of thing, we had better give up the war. We have to trust, difficult as it is, the people who know the facts and upon whom the decisions have to rest. In this matter the Services look very closely to the House of Commons for protection. The House has been very jealous in the past of allowing clamour of this kind to influence great strategic decisions and to jeopardise in a reckless dream the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The House has done that in the past and long may it continue to do so in the future.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure that the whole House has listened to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley) with that attention that it always gives to those who speak with great authority, but I am anxious that those who have studied the matter should for a moment remember the White Paper produced by His Majesty's Government in explanation of the arrangements for the higher conduct of the war. I am sure, as has just been said by my right hon. and gallant Friend, in regard to any speech in this House or anywhere else assuming knowledge of strategical facts not within our province does very great harm, but I feel that we have our own responsibility as Members of Parliament to be frank and open if we feel that the machinery of government is not always working smoothly. Some of us have always believed that it is not for the War Cabinet to do anything more than decide; it is not for the War Cabinet or politicians to plan. It is the essential business of the Service officers to take that on, but there is this fact, in addition, which I think is of great importance —that unless there is associated with the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in whatever way works most smoothly, someone who can give advice on technical matters, it will not be possible for the planners or the commanders in the field to carry out operations successfully. As my right hon. and gallant Friend said, unless the Ministry of Production and the whole organisation bound up with it deliver in a balanced flow what the Services require 124 at a future date, all the work done by the planning and intelligence divisions is wasted effort, because the Army finds itself without adequate support from the air, or the necessary support of other arms, or supplies and conveyances by air. I believe this is within the province of this House and that it is very much our duty to try and see what steps can be taken to link up design with the testing-out of weapons and instruments which will be most useful to the Services in action.
Some of us who are Members of the Select Committee on National Expenditure have opportunities and hear evidence which cannot, of course, be disclosed now, but I would say that the evidence we have heard in some cases undoubtedly shows that there has been a real lack of understanding of the importance in modern war of implements and machinery and technical matters of one kind or another. You will never win a war with great ease by a whole series of committees. I am convinced that it is no use, when you are up against a difficult problem, thinking you will solve it by the appointment of a series of liaison officers. There must be a central organisation at the top and right through in a form which can give advice to the General Staff on technical matters, so that we do not repeat the mistakes which have been only too prevalent in the past in regard to failures of certain material in the field. We know that the material made in the factories of this country does not break through faulty workmanship. It is usually faulty design, and it is because design is faulty that I think the General Staff at the moment are unable to have that technical assistance when enunciating what they require and it is passed to the Ministry of Supply, who have clever officers, but not with field experience, and who are unable to interpret always what the General Staff wants in an entirely satisfactory machine. One of the most urgent needs in modern war is radio communication, and I will only mention that there are exactly 23 committees now sitting, all doing a different line of work on this important matter. If there was some technical organisation which would link up all these matters, I am quite sure that quicker results would come, especially if there was somebody to take decisive and executive action, somebody with technical knowledge behind him.
125 There is another matter which must be mentioned, and that is that under our present system it is possible, and it has happened, that matters have been referred to individuals and orders have been given which have cost the taxpayer up to £30,000,000—expenditure which has not been really justified. It is absolutely necessary, as my right hon. and gallant Friend said, that if you have a machine, you must not misuse it, that you must handle it in the way for which it was designed to do its work. There are now various technical committees, comprising some of our most eminent scientists, and in the case which I have in mind they were never consulted. When they heard about it they reported adversely upon it, but still the work went on. These matters are very much within the province of this House. Then there is the question of the technical training of people in the Services, notably in the Army. There is tremendous confusion at the present time because we are still working on the methods of the last war as regards the organisation of technical training, in spite of the enormous advances which have been made in the apparatus which must be used by troops in the field. In the Royal Navy you must be taught to be technical from the moment you join, because life is a complicated box of tricks in what we call a ship, which is merely a mechanical contrivance which happens to float, and unless in that Service you have a well-founded knowledge of technical subjects, you are not likely to get very far. That is still more true of the Royal Air Force, which depends entirely upon machines and their handling, and until it begins to dawn upon somebody's mind that unless troops are trained properly in the use of the equipment which is provided with such tremendous care and trouble, there is not much object in going on, with all the expense and toil, to give of the very best we can.
I hope that before the Debate ends there will be others with more practical experience of technical matters who will be able to quote concrete examples of the most unfortunate lack of foresight which has cost many lives. It is the business of Members of this House, while we do not interfere in any way with strategical plans, if we have any information given to us about the lack of imagination or foresight, or the bad working of the machine, and valuable lives are lost and 126 objectives not obtained because the technical side has not been properly thought of, to go into it very carefully. In the White Paper Members will notice that there is no reference whatever to technical questions, and I hope it may be possible for the War Office soon to make some arrangement which will enable technical officers in the Army to feel that they are not floating about in a sort of vacuum but to feel that they have some definite organisation which will look after their interests and see that their work is made thoroughly applicable to the Army. I am sure that these troubles and difficulties have arisen because there has not been a proper definition in the conduct of the war between policy, which is the business of politicians, and strategy. We have heard the Prime Minister say that he takes full personal responsibility for what happens, that he accepts the whole of it, but under the Constitution he cannot accept it. So far as we are concerned, we have to look only to the Secretaries of State for War and Air as the two Ministers who are responsible to Parliament for what happens in their respective Services. From the Constitutional point of view I do not think that the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister of Defence, has removed the responsibility of the three Service Ministers as to what happens in their three Services. That is a constitutional matter of some importance, and I hope that before the end of the Debate we shall have some definition of it.
There is another thing. There is no safeguard, so far as we know, that advice tendered under the present system will always be accepted. We know that a great deal of time of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is taken up, not in solving problems that come up, but in trying to digest all kinds of wonderful schemes that come from above. That takes a great deal of time—
§ Flight-Lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
When my hon. Friend say that we have no safeguard that advice is always accepted, if it is bad advice, surely it ought not to be accepted.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I did not mean to imply that bad advice should be accepted. What I meant to imply was that if the advice given by the organisation whose business it is to advise is not taken, the House and the country have no knowledge of that. What means are there for 127 ensuring that the advice of the Services is not ignored in favour of something else? I think that hon. Members would read with some interest the Report of the Dardanelles Commission. It is interesting, because it was action taken by the House, within their rights, to inquire into something for the purpose of preventing a similar series of events from occurring again. If hon. Members would read that Report, and especially the evidence of Lord Fisher and Sir Arthur Wilson, I think they would find in it a good deal of food for thought.
As has been said so often in the House, I believe that none of us can express how much we owe to the man who holds the position of Prime Minister, and I think it is cowardly to make attacks upon him without supporting them by facts. I feel that in the Prime Minister we have a unique person who, as Prime Minister, can do anything with this country. The danger is that the machine which is designed to function with a normal man may find difficulty in functioning with his tremendous powers and abilities. He has taken decisions and has been proud to take them and accept the full responsibility, but that does not relieve the House of their responsibility, because the winning of the war is much more important than the reputation of a man. I feel that in the workings of the High Command to-day there is room for alterations to make the war Staff more effective, to include in the war Staff a technical side, and to ensure that the Service Departments and the executive heads of the three Services shall give free and absolutely untrammelled advice. I hope that no White Paper will again be issued that puts among the membership of the Chiefs of Staff Committee an individual representing a politician. It is utterly impossible to confuse politics and politicians with a Services Committee. I think the idea that General Ismay, who is a most able officer and has served the country for many years, represents a politician on a Services Committee is doing a very great disservice to him and his work. I am quite satisfied that unless, as the result of this Debate, we hear something from the Secretary of State for War, and perhaps from other Ministers, to assure us that the technical side of the war is being properly looked after, many of us will go away extremely disappointed.
§ Major Marlowe (Brighton)
I do not propose to follow the lines which the Debate has taken so far of dealing with the position of the Prime Minister in relation to the Chiefs of Staff and Defence Committees. It always appears to me that the criticism which is made of the Prime Minister's position is that he overbears his subordinates. If that is the position, the blame is not to be attributed to the Prime Minister, but rather to the subordinates. I have never been able to understand the reason why the Prime Minister is attacked on that score.
The matter with which I want to deal is rather a different one. Both inside and outside the House one hears clamourings for what is known as a second front. I dare say in common with most other hon. Members, I receive from time to time resolutions urging that the formation of a second front is an immediate necessity. So far as I am able to form an opinion, those resolutions are usually sent by people whose main occupation is passing resolutions rather than by those whose duty it would be to take part in such an affray. I do not receive from any of those people resolutions to the effect that they themselves should be placed on equal pay with the soldiers who would have to undertake such an operation; nor do I receive from them any resolutions that they should forgo overtime pay for night duty, which airmen and sailors have to do without.
§ Mr. Davidson
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that such resolutions do come from many people who are receiving much less pay in their workshops than is received by an officer in the Army?
§ Major Marlowe
That may well be so. I was only telling what my experience is I have received resolutions only from bodies of the sort to which I have referred, and which I describe as irresponsible in the sense that there does not lie with them the responsibility for providing the ships and armaments that would be required for such an undertaking. However, I am not concerned with any particular numbered front. I am more concerned with the home front which, to my mind, is where the war can be won or lost in the quickest time, and where joint planning is most needed. It is here at home that there exists the germ which could, if unchecked, breed defeat, but which, if properly fostered, can bring 129 victory in the shortest possible time. We shall not achieve victory in this war until we can lay our hands on our hearts and say—and know it to be true—that we deserve victory. We can deserve it only if we find the answer by which we can bring about that victory, which I believe not to be a solely military one or a social one, or even an economic one, but to be a political one. I describe it as that for want of a better word.
We shall not have this country working and fighting at the right tempo until we can give to the people a political belief which convinces them that we are all sharing equally in this battle so that we can all share equally afterwards in the benefits of the peace. I do not believe that this aspect of our planning has been sufficiently clearly thought out. It is not enough to promise obscure and ill-defined benefits, to the people when the war is over. It will not suffice to go to the wireless on a Sunday night and talk of a Utopia which may come into existence in due course. The Government in the last war sold that one to the people, and the people are a little sceptical about buying it again. I am not, I hope, simply propounding a vague political theory, but seeking a solution to our problem, which I believe arises from one fundamental source, namely, that people have no confidence that they will get the world for which they are supposed to be fighting. That is why there is absenteeism and poor production, and that is why there are strikes and profit-seeking, both among employers and workmen. That is why there is not that utter and complete selflessness, that unquestioning sacrifice, which is necessary for victory. People—I do not say anything like all of them, but too many people—are looking to themselves first, to their creature comforts, to their pockets, or to their class. We cannot blame the workers. It is scarcely surprising if, after they have waited so long, they try to make what they can while they can, if they do not really believe that the chance will come again.
Let the people really believe that their sacrifices now will be repaid a hundredfold after the war, and you will have their complete co-operation. You see almost every day in this House what to me is the undignified spectacle of Members on this side of the House complaining of high wages and attributing poor 130 production to matters of the kind with which I have just dealt, absenteeism and self-interest, and on the other side Members castigating employers and blaming grasping and inefficient managements. This should not be happening in a team which should be working as one, and it illustrates that division and lack of cooperation which can be fatal. Is it surprising, therefore, that from time to time there walks down the Floor of the House, in between, a Member who has been voted here by people who see no hope for the future, either in Members of this House who for 20 years have consistently bungled foreign policy, or those who throughout the same period strove to prevent our getting the arms which would have made a different foreign policy possible? Arguing over the faults of the past is not perhaps of much help, unless it aids us to solve the riddle for the future. It does not help us any more than blaming the Government for their mistakes in the coal industry in the past helps us to get the coal now. I think it is best to examine and diagnose the disease.
Let the Government make it clear that the winning of this war is only a phase in a continuous policy. There is too much talk of reconstruction and post-war planning, as though it were something divorced and separate from our present position. It is not; it is part and parcel of the same thing. We must produce a policy of social and economic reform which is of a pattern of which the winning of this war is only a small and first part—something fitting into its right place, so that the immediate future and the more distant future can emerge into one progressive whole. And so, this Government which is in existence now should itself be committed to a policy which would inspire people to do great and noble things. I urge upon the Government not to make it a vague promise of some problematical Government which may or may not come into existence at some indeterminate date. That is not sufficiently concrete for the imagination to grasp. Among more intelligent Members of this House there is probably complete agreement as to the necessity for social reforms, and probably very little disagreement as to the nature which those reforms should take. Let them, irrespective of party, get together to produce now such social legislation as would make Hitler's new order seem very old-fashioned 131 and a worn-out creed. Do not put it off until afterwards, so that people mistrust it and say, "That is what they promise us now. We do not really believe it. We know we shall go back to the bad old ways." Give it to them now, and say, "This is yours, and there is only one way in which you can keep it."
We have to face the fact that there are people in this country not pulling their weight who are an obstruction to those who are. I suppose that even among them there is not one who, if his house was on fire with his family inside, would not strip himself to the waist to fight the fire all night without thought of payment. You have to get that same spirit into the people to work for the homes of all of us. This House does not fulfil its duty or its promise to the people if it merely meets here to pass ad hoc legislation and discuss past events. It will justify its existence, and I think the people will be proud of it, if we grapple now with the social evils crying out for remedy and provide the people, not with an unsubstantial promise for the future, given out on the radio, but provide them instead with a Britain of which they can be proud to be part-owners. Give them that, and you will have no absenteeism, no quarrelling between class and class and no jealously or recrimination, but instead 40,000,000 hearts beating as one. Give them that, and you will give them a country for for which they will work and die without thought of self. Remember that first and foremost this is a political war. The position of the people is that they want a policy which will inspire them for the future. An Atlantic Charter is all very well for the purposes for which it is intended, but what the people of this country want is a British Charter, and if you give them that, they will fight and die to the end.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am very glad that I have the honour to follow the very remarkable speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton (Major Marlowe). He has very rightly brought the Debate back to the general matters which concern this House, and still more the country at large, from the rather narrower points which were debated in the last few speeches. I find myself in complete accord with what my hon. and gallant Friend has just 132 uttered. I have felt for a long time that the mentality of the people of this country, as expressed in the work we are doing, and the way we are fighting the war, is not the mentality which the people themselves really desire. There is a sort of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction and a groping for something which is far bigger, which no one so far seems to have been able to touch. Really what it means is that there has not been the leadership which this country wants and desires. That, I am quite sure, quite apart from failures and quite apart from objections to disorganisation, explains to a large extent what has been happening at these by-elections, where not merely has the anti-Government candidate been successful, but the votes have been cast against the Government chosen to represent the people.
As my hon. and gallant Friend says, it is rather dreadful that in the third year of the war taunts are thrown across the House, and we get these taunts in the country, and there still seems to be antagonism between the employers' side and the employees' side at a time when both of them are facing the common enemy. That is why I say—and I have been reproved from the Treasury Bench for saying it—that we are still waging this war as if war had not yet been declared. That is what I mean when I say that the profit motive, on the one side, and the wages motive, on the other, which are both the same thing, are still dominant motives, and that at the back of production is the fear of the employer regarding the future of his business and its goodwill, and the fear of the employee whether a slump will come and he will face a long period of unemployment. Those are matters which must be dealt with by the Government, and that is a question of leadership. That is what I am sure the country is calling out for from one end of it to the other. Atlantic Charters are all very well, but they are too vague, too general and too international. You must have something definite and concrete for the people of this country. It is easy enough to work up their emotions with regard to winning the war, but you will work them up all the more easily if you can tell them why they should want to win the war. Do not give them mere negative reasons. Give them positive reasons as well, and that again is a question of leadership.
133 May I come back to the Minister of Defence and his place in the general organisation? The speeches to which we have listened remind me very much of earlier Debates on matters which were somewhat similar. Similar speeches were delivered when Members were asking for a Ministry of Supply. Similar speeches were delivered when we were asking for a Ministry of Production, and similar objections were then being raised. My objection at present is not so much to the organisation whereby the Minister of Defence is at the head of all three branches, and also of Home Defence, but that the holder of the office is responsible to no one. Just consider his position. He is the head of the Cabinet. He chooses the War Cabinet. He then, as Minister of Defence, has the three Service Ministers in close consultation with him and under him, but he can override them and be in complete, close contact with the Service Chiefs, hearing direct from each their technical advice without the presence of anyone else. He is entitled to that, if you like, as Prime Minister and as Minister of Defence, but, having made up his mind as to what he should do, he then sits in the War Cabinet with his colleagues. However much they talk, there is a single answer to everyone of them: "What do you know about it? Whom have you consulted? How much time have you devoted to this problem? I have seen A, B, and C, I have spent a great deal of time on this matter, and I think this is the right decision."
That has been my objection throughout. It is said that, of course, he is responsible to this House. But when? If we ask before the event takes place, we are told, "I cannot tell you now. We are about to start upon something which we dare not mention, or we shall be giving information to the enemy." If we ask while the campaign is going on, we are told, "Do not interfere with us now. Please do not criticise anyone. Do not swap horses in midstream." If we ask after the event, we are told, "It is all over. Do not indulge in recrimination." There is never a proper moment when the House can ask for information, and, if it does ask months after the event, it is met with the inevitable answer, "It is not in the public interest to tell." We have heard it to-day. It was not in the public interest to tell us what has happened in Burma, though Burma is now in the hands of the Japanese. Everything that has happened 134 in Burma is now known to the Japs. We shrewdly suspect that a good deal about the position in Burma was known to the Japs and unknown to us months ago, but the answer is always given, "It is not in the public interest." That is why I and others all along have asked for the separation of the War Cabinet from the executive head, and that the chief of the War Cabinet should be one who has no executive duty at all, who is responsible for policy and main strategy.
If the Minister of Defence were under the War Cabinet and not in the War Cabinet, still less if he were not the President of the War Cabinet, the War Cabinet could call him to account. They could then say, if I may take one instance, "What has happened in the Far East? You were warned as to what was likely to happen some years ago. You were warned, when Japan first made an attack upon Manchuria, that the chances were that she would not be content with such successes as she could have in the far North. You were warned when Japan joined the Axis. You were given a much more definite warning when Japan entered Indo-China. You were also given a warning when you had to close the Burma Road. Apparently they had taken advantage of those warnings, because some time later they reopened the Burma Road, and we all felt that the situation had so changed in our favour that we could dare to do it; and the Minister of Defence went to the City of London on 10th November and warned Japan that, if she dared to attack the United States, we should be in the war within an hour. He went on to say that every preparation that could be taken for the defence of the common interest had been taken. If we ask to-day, "What were those preparations, and when did you take them?" we are met with the reply, "It is not in the public interest to tell you," or else, "The generals who are on the spot are not now in a position to give us the information." But it is not information as to what has happened in the last few hours that we are seeking. What we are seeking to know is what happened up to the disaster that took place, and it is on that that there is this silence.
If that had been the only instance, it would have shaken the confidence in this Government, but it is the culmination of a whole series of events. We now know 135 from the Gort despatches what was the position of that small Army in the North of France. After that came Narvik, Danzig, Greece, Crete, North Africa twice, Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies, Java, and Singapore. Now we have Burma, and communication with China is broken. There has been a whole series of events, and as far as we know the same strategy is the one which is to be followed in the coming months. We are denied the opportunity of questioning it. There is no one to question, and no one is allowed to know the facts. I agree with the remarkable speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley), and I wish he could speak oftener. It is not for us to discuss strategy. I have never asked for a second front, for the very good reason that I do not know the facts. But if, watching the events, we see disaster following disaster and the same people there, we are entitled to ask whether there is to be no change. Is this due to organisation, to lack of planning or to personnel? To what is it due?
It is no good blaming any particular Minister. The Prime Minister has taken upon himself to inform the world that he takes full responsibility. It is a tremendous responsibility to take, but he has taken it upon his own shoulders. Apart from shouldering that tremendous responsibility, he is responsible for picking his colleagues. I felt a disappointment in the earliest hours of his Prime Ministership. He was called upon at a great moment when the attack had suddenly come upon Holland, Belgium and France, and he stood as the great representative of Britain. But what did he do? Instead of picking the very best men he could find, he merely picked delegates from either side of the House, delegates who had been appointed by the parties on either side. One feels that he has tied his hands ever since with them and has been unable to get rid of them. That has placed upon the Prime Minister an even greater responsibility, and it has been responsible for a great many things. Nothing can be done without consultation with him.
Why is it that one can again refer to the slowness with which production has been tackled? Eighteen months elapsed before we had a Minister of Production, and two years elapsed before that Minister 136 even began to operate. We heard from him to-day that at long last something which had been largely in operation in the last war and for which many of us have been imploring is now to be considered and put into operation. Now Regional councils are to be formed, but, as far as I can see, they are to be largely advisory and not executive. A remark of the Minister of Production which stuck in my mind was that the Regional council and the Regional Controller can put a firm upon the black list and say that it can no longer have orders from the Government. We do not want a factory and its machinery and men to be idle merely because the manager or owner has failed to carry out his duty to the country. We want to take over the whole thing and put it at work for the country.
May I illustrate the position with another side, the side which worries one more than any other? That is the shipping side. The whole situation in this country turns upon shipping. There are 45,000,000 people, and not enough food is raised to feed them for more than a few months. That is apart from supplies. One hears a great deal about American production. Phenomenal figures are given. They may be true, and I hope they are, but however true they may be— America may build 1,000 planes an hour or 10,000 guns an hour—but they will be of no value unless they can be carried to where they are wanted against the enemy. The shipping losses have been terribly serious. I could give the House the actual figures as I have worked them out and ascertained them, but the Government do not see fit to give them. The time has arrived when the Government should reconsider that attitude. The figures would be giving no information to the enemy, but they would give direct information to the people of this country, who are terribly concerned about it, and enable them to realise what the position is. Let the figures be given. Give the figures also of replacements and rebuilding. America is giving hers. What is the objection to giving ours?
I went to the North-East the other day and was present at the launching of a ship. I saw her sister ship which had been launched seven weeks before and had been completed. They were two beautiful ships, of which anybody would be proud at any time. They were ships 137 of which the shipowners will be tremendously proud if they survive after the war. They are building for after the war; that is why the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton was so right. They are taking care of their goodwill after the war. The steel plating that is being put in now is thicker and stronger than at any time before 1938, but if another quarter of an inch of steel plating is added, it will not stop a bomb or a torpedo. It is just waste of steel, but they are building for after the war. On that river there were seven yards working and eight derelict. Fifteen were working in the last war, but only seven in this. The losses in the last war were not to be compared with the losses to-day. The situation was nothing like so serious. Five nations were then dependent on our merchant shipping, but there are only two to-day. Yet we allow eight derelict yards on one river.
A Minister of Production has been appointed, and the Regional controller will call a Regional committee to consider what is best to be done. I warn the Government that Regional committees in themselves are not of any use. Take further power, take more control, forget about the profit motive and the wages motive. There is a deeper, higher and greater motive which will stir this people. You have to put in front of the people what will be their lot after the war. That must be part of the Government's war policy. Do not stunt for war purposes. You will not get production by stunts; you will get it only by a long-term policy. Put that before them. I see no sign of one yet from the Treasury Bench.
I end on this: The Prime Minister has done great service—there is no doubt about that—but during the whole period there has been something stopping progress and policy for war purposes. There has been someone who is against the Minister of Production. There is someone who has stopped any action with regard to the coal situation. Although Ministers have stood at that Box and accepted the position, we have had to hear that their plan was withdrawn. Whoever is responsible, the Prime Minister could stop it at once. Therefore, I can only come to the conclusion that it is the Prime Minister himself who has stood in the way of these things, and, so far as I am concerned—I say it here and now—I have no confidence 138 in either the Prime Minister or the Government.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) has brought the House back to the question of the general conduct of the war. Not that I have any complaint about the discussion of the interesting points which were raised by my right hon. Friends who sit beside me, both of whom made extremely interesting and informative speeches on the question of the control of strategy by the Chiefs of Staff. The method by which matters should be decided is one which certainly is of interest to the House, but all I want to say about it is that I have been greatly impressed to-day by the difficulties of a decision as exemplified in the contradictory statements which have been made. There were the remarks by my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate, the Deputy Prime Minister—I think he holds some other office, but I cannot for the moment recall what it is. There have been so many changes. The team remains the same, but the colour changes. They remind me sometimes of those happy animals who have the ability to change their colour according to their surroundings, and it is perhaps not surprising that as the team remains much the same, one sometimes forgets what particular office a right hon. Gentleman holds. In dealing with the question of Chiefs of Staff control, the Deputy Prime Minister said, as I understood him, that everything was practically perfect. Everything works well. There was no trouble, there never had been any trouble, everything had gone satisfactorily. Above all things, the Prime Minister had no overriding authority, he never interfered, and in this most perfect world no more perfect machinery could be set up. The speeches which I have subsequently heard from those who know this subject do not at all bear out that view. They appear to think that a great deal has to be done to bring about a satisfactory system of control. All I want to say is that on a suitable occasion—I hope it will not be too much discussed in this Debate—the House should certainly devote itself to that topic.
I am anxious, however, that in the short time we have for this Debate the House should address itself to the conduct of the war. In that connection I would 139 say that the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister was an extraordinarily wide survey of the world. It might be said without offence—I am sure he would not mind my saying it if he were here now— that it was an excellent lesson in elementary geography, but he told us nothing new at all. He gave us no information of how the war had been going, or what were the Government's hopes or fears, and he left on me, at any rate, an impression which I had really arrived at before the Debate, that the Government did not want this discussion at all; that they put it off till the last possible moment and then arranged it in such a way that it would probably "peter out." In fact, they did not appear to see any reason at all why the House of Commons should want to debate the war effort. Speaking from memory, I think it is nearly three months since the war was discussed in this House. It may seem strange to the Government that the House should want to discuss the war once in three months, or four times a year, but I do not think it will seem strange to the country. I do not think it will appear at all odd to the country that we should want to discuss the progress of the war and want to know from the Government what are their plans concerning it. So far we have heard nothing from the Treasury Bench. I only hope we may hear a little before the Debate ends.
My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made one or two remarks which were somewhat surprising to me and were not very clear. He said, "Before the full summer campaign falls, upon us." If I took down his words correctly, I wonder what that means? Does that mean that the Government are expecting a campaign, an invasion as a result of a summer campaign on the part of Germany, or did he mean a campaign by us? He did not explain. He said, further, that it was right that the House should consider the machinery of strategy. What opportunity have the Government ever given to the House to discuss the machinery of strategy or any other subject connected with the direction of the war except upon pressure from members themselves?
The Prime Minister, in a fine broadcast a few nights ago, made reference to his taking over control of the Government. I need hardly say that, like every other Member of the House, I have 140 paid both public and private tribute over and over again to what the country owes the Prime Minister, both for his foresight before the war, when most of us, unfortunately, were lulled into a sense of security by the incorrect information we received at the time, and for his wonderful leadership at the time of Dunkirk. We have all paid tribute to that, and the country will not forget its debt to him. But the Prime Minister spoke in that broadcast as if he had had no connection with the Government until he became Prime Minister. The House should not forget that the present Prime Minister was a member of the Government for six months before that— for nine months, perhaps—and not only that, but that a large number of his associates in the Government now, chosen by himself, were also in that Government; a number of them, indeed, were in the Government before that. In reality, therefore, we are dealing with a Government which has been very much the same for the last three or four years. The Prime Minister cannot in any way be divorced from complete responsibility.
It is so interesting to hear what is said from side to side of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) spoke of the Prime Minister being necessarily responsible. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the front Bench spoke as if the Prime Minister never did anything without getting advice from everybody, that he stood with a quite impartial mind and then made a decision. What is the real truth? You may put up as many committees as you like, but everybody in the country knows that there is only one opinion, and that is that of the Prime Minister. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself has accepted the fullest possible responsibility. Standing at that Box, the Prime Minister said on 27th January:If we have handled our resources wrongly no one is so much to blame as I am. If we have not got large modern air forces and tanks in Burma and Malta to-night no one is more accountable than I am.Again, he said:I am the man that Parliament and the nation have got to blame for the general way in which they are served."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1942, col. 604, Vol. 377.]There is no question in the mind of the Prime Minister himself that he is responsible, not only for the strategy of the war, 141 but for the whole conduct of our affairs. Of course, he acts upon advice, but the decisions are his and largely his alone.
I said that I wanted to bring the House back to the War situation. I ask the House to consider again what has happened all these two and a half years. We have had a series of disasters, a steady series of disasters—France, Norway, Greece, Crete and the rest of them —and the only victory to be put against it is the recovery of Ethiopia. It is always the same story—our men fighting magnificiently against impossible odds, always ill-equipped, always unprotected; over and over again the same story. We have been told that these misfortunes are entirely due to the fact that we have been rearming for three or four years whereas the Germans were doing it for six, seven or eight years. No doubt that is perfectly true, but does anyone really believe that the Government have inspired the country to the effort in production which is necessary to put us in a position to fight with maximum efficiency? We know they have not. The hon. and learned Member who has just spoken referred to the fact, which otherwise I would not have thought it desirable to deal with to-day, that it has taken the Government two years to accept the recommendations constantly made to them regarding the setting-up of a Minister of Production. Over and over again they were pressed, and over and over again what did we find? That the Government were invariably lagging behind and that it came to the scratch months, or years sometimes, after they had been told what should be done.
It is an amazing state of affairs, that instead of leading the country they are always behind. Leadership? Apart from the personal leadership to which I have already paid tribute, where is the leadership in this Government? What are the Government? One man. There is tremendous responsibility upon that one man. It is such a responsibility that I do not believe any one man can carry it. When we want to deal in this Debate with the conduct of the war, the Minister of Defence and Prime Minister ought to be in the House. I do not want to have to speak about him in the absence of the Prime Minister. I would very much rather say it in his presence. I did not begin on this note because we were told that he could not be present. No one realises more than we do the tremendous claims 142 upon his time, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored that the House and the country have been pressing reforms upon the Government which would have made all the difference in the conduct of the war, and that little attention has been paid to these representations. For two years, the question of production, the changes necessary in economic policy and the inequalities of wages throughout the country have been put forward in this House. The sense of frustration and unfairness which still exists in the factories and workshops in this country, although conditions have greatly improved, has done more to hinder production than anything else and has led indirectly to the murder of our own men at sea, because we have not had the full and proper equipment for them. That is the real fault of the Government; that they have not tackled the fundamental matter which is at the basis of all our efforts, that of getting the production we require and thus securing the victory which we all want.
The conclusion which one is bound to come to, looking back on the past 18th months—at least, I say frankly that it is the conclusion to which I come—although I realise our difficulties in the early days to the full—is that our losses and failure arise from the lack of munitions in the past. There is no doubt that 18 months or two years ago that was a factor which everybody had to take into consideration, but it should not be the governing factor to-day. We are not so far behind in munitions production now. In spite of what I have said, I do not minimise the tremendous change-over from peace to war in this country, and what the country has done. It has done wonders.
The point I want to make is that while these failures of the past 18 months—I prefer the word "disasters," because they were disasters—which fell upon us, were due at that time, unfortunately, to our want of munitions, this cannot be put forward as the only reason for our difficulties to-day. It is more than six months ago, speaking again from memory, that the Prime Minister stood in the City of London and said that we were already at parity with Germany in the air. Incidentally, how is that statement to be squared with the one which was made to-day by the Deputy Prime Minister? I hope I have his words correctly. I think he said that a considerable proportion of the Luftwaffe was occupied in fighting against Malta. 143 Does he really believe that? Does he really believe that a considerable proportion of the whole of the air forces of Germany is occupied against Malta? If so, all I can say is that I wish he would give the House the information upon which he bases that view. It seems to me an impossible position. If that is all that Germany has, and that is all we have in parity with Germany, after four years, there must be something wrong with our production. My right hon. Friend must have meant to express himself differently. I am sorry to have to quote him in his absence.
I said a few moments ago that there was discontent during these two years in our workshops and factories due to a feeling of unfairness and frustration regarding the inequality of wages and the want of a prices and wages policy. I do not hesitate to say that there is also a sense of dismay among certain members in the ranks of our Fighting Forces. They are not happy as to the position of the war. I know what the Government say. Their excuse, if I may use that word, for what has happened in all the recent defeats is that we have had to support Russia. I yield to nobody in my admiration for what Russia has done and of what we owe to them, and I entirely agree that it is our business to support and rearm Russia as far as we can, but not, I hold, to support Russia and lose parts of the British Empire in doing it. There is a limit to what we can do in supporting Russia. As I see it, we have no right to sacrifice the Empire for Russia or for anyone else. We have made two fatal mistakes in this war. First, we have constantly under-estimated the power of the German military machine and later that of Japan. Secondly, it seems to me as though the Government have always had the idea that somebody else is going to win the war for them. Nobody—not Russia and not America, with all their strength and power—will win this war for us. We have to win it for ourselves.
Surely it was mistaken strategy on the part of the Government that led to the disaster at Hong Kong. I do not want to go over the terrible story of the atrocities affecting British soldiers and innocent civilians, men and women, in Hong Kong, but who was responsible for the defence of Hong Kong, an island which it had been stated over and over 144 again was incapable of holding out? Who was responsible? I am pressing the question as I have pressed constantly for an inquiry into Singapore. Who was responsible in Singapore, not for the fact that at the last moment our soldiers had to lay down their arms? That was a catastrophe which, as far as I know, is unique in British history; 70,000 men, many of whom had fought magnificently in the retreat in Malaya, had to lay down their arms almost without a fight. It is not on the point of the final decision that I want an inquiry, but upon the whole strategy at Singapore that led up to that catastrophe. The story of the surrender must wait till those concerned are free. Why should we not have an inquiry? It will be said that to have such an inquiry will take months and will not affect the immediate conduct of the war. That does not alter the fact that we are entitled to know, and to learn the lesson from that knowledge, what strategy caused that disaster. I therefore press the Government again—and I hope the House will insist upon it—to set up an inquiry into the Singapore disaster. Who was responsible for the conditions and for the planning of those operations? Who was responsible for sending those two great ships out there without any air protection? It is very easy to turn round and say that it could not be helped, and that we may have to risk other ships at other times; this is the place, in this House, where we are entitled to know what the plans were and who was responsible for these decisions and the disasters which followed.
For how long have the Government been pressed to strengthen China? Long before any of these disasters. How little of what we have lost, if it had been delivered to China at the proper time, would have altered the whole position in the Far East? The Government have had warning after warning. They were warned from Malaya before the campaign began. They were warned about Burma. All the time they have been warned. Again, how many battles have we lost at sea owing to the want of dive-bombers? How long is it going to be before the Government learn what apparently every other Government learned months if not years ago —that dive-bombers are essential in modern war?
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
I gather from the 145 hon. Gentleman's remarks that he inferred that if we had not sent supplies to Russia, but had spread them over the British Empire, we should have avoided the disasters that have taken place?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I gathered that the hon. Gentleman said that we had to choose between helipng Russia and losing the British Empire.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I never made such a definite statement as that, and I certainly never made the statement that we should not have assisted Russia. What I said was that we should not assist Russia, even to-day, to an extent which causes the loss of parts of the British Empire. I did not say that we should not assist Russia; I said—and I gather that the House rather agreed with me—that a very small portion of what we have sent to Russia and elsewhere, if in fact it had been sent to the Far East at the right time, would have made a vast difference there.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The Prime Minister said so himself. If my hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt for a moment, he will no doubt recall that in a previous Debate on the conduct of the war the Prime Minister said that if half the material that had gone to Russia had been sent to the Far East, it would have made all the difference.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Every hon. Member knows quite well the size of the operations in Europe and in the Far East respectively, especially in the early days of the "war in the Far East, and one may well say what a tremendous difference it would have made to the Far Eastern operations if we had sent there even a small portion of the supplies referred to.
I want to deal with another subject, and the House is entitled to hear more about it. What about the sacrifice of lives as those so-called disabled ships steamed up the English Channel to take refuge in their home ports? We have heard very 146 little about that operation. We have heard very little as to whether it was justifiable to spend weeks and months dropping hundreds—or for all I know thousands—of tons of bombs on Brest, one of the most difficult ports in which to hit any ship. It is a port I happen to know quite well, and it is one of the most difficult places in which to hit any ship. We have never been told anything about that. We have never been told why we had out-of-date aircraft to attack those ships as they came through the Channel. All we were told afterwards was that after all the move was all to our benefit. It is aways the same story, the lack of aircraft —always the lack of air support.
Again, the other day three destroyers were lost in the Mediterranean for the same reason. I think the House is entitled to get from the Government something more than the mere statement we had today, the mere survey of different parts of the world, with no details at all, which we had from the Deputy Prime Minister. Like my hon. Friend who spoke before me, I do not wish to say very much about the shipping position. It is not perhaps a matter which should be discussed in public in any detail. I will only tell the House that I am filled with apprehension at our present position. There again I think the Government are to blame for their delay in putting shipbuilding and ship-repairing into the forefront of their programme and giving it A1 priority long ago.
Our traditional policy has always been based on sea power, to which, of course, you must to-day add air power, and that seems to have been forgotten in favour of the building of huge bombers. I know that there are many opinions on this bombing policy, and I do not pretend to have the knowledge to form a judgment. I only say this, that when I think of the enormous number of man-hours required in the construction of these great machines, their heavy cost and, far more important, the loss of valuable trained lives, I wonder whether this policy is going to return a dividend as against that we might have received from other types of aircraft to prevent disasters in other parts of the world. I only put that into the minds of hon. Members; I do not give a judgment, for I do not know. Naturally, the bombing of German munition works must have a very valuable 147 effect from our point of view, but whether it is worth it or not is a subject upon which it is very difficult for those who are ignorant of the full facts to make up their minds upon. I do not think the Government themselves tell the people enough on that point. If they hold the belief— which I think they do, strongly—that this is by far the best policy and that everything or at least a great deal should be sacrificed to it, they should tell the country far more than they have done about it. At present I do not think that people are really happy about the situation.
The same thing applies when we are dealing with the question of the second front. I do not think that anybody who has not the knowledge which only the Government can have can possibly decide about a matter of that kind. We all know the difficulties, but one thing I am quite sure of is that time is not on our side. We are constantly being told that everything will be better as time goes on. The fear I have is that we may constantly under-estimate the power of Germany. She has not been doing nothing all these months. Far from it—she has been rearming and re-organising as strongly as she can. It may be that this is the time to strike and that the opportunity may not come again. These are indeed very difficult questions which the Government have to face. In addition there are domestic matters, questions which must be causing them difficulty at the present time. There is, for instance, what I am afraid I must call the coal muddle; the tremendous waste of man-power in some of the home services to which attention has been drawn in this House over and over again; the large number of fully-paid people in A.R.P. services, some of whom surely could be released at a time when we want every man in production.
These are only examples, and I say in conclusion that I think the House is entitled to further information as to the Government's plans. I think the House is entitled to more information from the Government as to the conduct of the war than we have had up to date. The House is entitled to know whether we are learning from the mistakes that have been made. Let us face the mistakes. It is not for the purpose of delving into the past that I am speaking; it is so that we 148 shall learn by those mistakes. Are the mistakes based upon the fact that responsibility rests too much upon the shoulders of one man? If so, let us face it. Some-body said earlier in this Debate that if we are criticising the Prime Minister, we must say so. I say so quite frankly. That is my criticism. The Prime Minister is not backward in criticising others, quite rightly. He is the last person to expect from the House of Commons not to be criticised. I say quite frankly that it is the Prime Minister I am criticising. The Government—I was almost going to say are the puppets of the Prime Minister, but I will say they are the people of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the man who is responsible. He admits his responsibility. As Prime Minister and Minister of Defence he is trying to carry too heavy a burden, and the country, with all its belief in him, which many of us share, with all its trust, with all its gratitude, is beginning to feel that it would be well if he were to share that burden with somebody else.
Mr. McGovem (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I have listened to this Debate for a considerable time to-day, and I have heard the main speeches that have been made in demanding certain plans for the execution of the war and the winning of the war this year. Taking into account those who have held that this war is not being prosecuted vigorously enough and that the war plans are not dispersed into more hands with greater efficiency, I would say that the speeches to-day have been on an extremely high level and have been very critical and reasoned at the same time. I listened to the speech to-day of the Deputy Prime Minister, and, like the hon. Member who has just spoken, it appeared to me like a schoolboy essay. I have heard my own boy aged 13 going round the world in the morning newspaper to discover what has happened since the previous night. He roams the world in the same way as the Deputy Prime Minister did. I would say this of the speech in general, that it would seem that he is like most Ministers in this Government, afraid to express any thought in case the Prime Minister might come down rather heavily upon him for having expressed any thought or displayed any initiative. We are told that totalitarian government destroys all initiative in the individual, and we can therefore see the gradual growth of that creeping 149 paralysis over the Front Bench and the Government. They are men who, I believe, have a certain measure of ability, but they look to this great white chief, and they are afraid to stand up to him and face up to him in case they will be thrown on the scrap-heap for being manful enough to display it.
The speech we had to-day was an insult to this House and the country. Even though I have not been a supporter of the war, I try to follow a reasoned case being made for the prosecution of the war and reasoned criticism for drive in the prosecution of the war, and if any person in this House was satisfied with that Front Bench speech to-day, I think he is a fit inmate for a mental asylum. I am not amazed at the criticism which is being displayed in the House if we see the series of disasters that have taken place.' I had a letter the other day from a man who listened to the last speech of the Prime Minister dealing with the war. He said in his letter:I listened to it in the very same pub that I listened to his speeches 12 months ago. Twelve months ago you could have heard a pin dropping on the floor, everybody anxious to listen, but now there was talk, laughter and jokes being expressed, and the proprietor had to turn off the wireless because no one seemed interested in the speech.The letter said that all sorts of disrespectful remarks were being made about the Prime Minister. I do not know whether the Government and the Prime Minister realise it or not, but that is the feeling in the country. Everybody is asking when this Government is to come to an end, when there is going to be a change, and I would say that the feeling that is being expressed in this House to-day is typical of the feeling that is being thrown up at by-elections. The feeling in by-elections is not being thrown up in an extreme degree; it is not by anti-war candidates that it is being thrown up, but by independent men who will not be "Yes"-men when they come to "this House, and who express the desire of the nation to get this war ended, with the end of a menace which they are told is overhanging them. If that drive grows in the country, and if independent candidates are to be thrown up on to the Floor of the House, the various parties in this House will be sitting on the top of a volcano in the country if they are not prepared to pay attention to the desires of the public.
150 In the country there is a feeling that the war has got to a stale stage where there is no prospect of victory being carried through. It is true that in this country there has been a drive in the by-elections and the creation of a demand for victory this year. I would say frankly that that' is the feeling of the public. They would desire victory this year, because if victory does not come to your arms this year, you will be in a serious position next year with the public of this country if there is to be an indefinite waging of war and killing of men, and no prospect of the ceasing of that struggle. We hear of this demand, alluded to in the House to-day, for a second front. People have to differentiate between a demand that is backed up by the popular public imagination of the country and a demand that is being planned from outside this country. This second front demand, if I believed in the war, I would still say was a fanatical and stupid idea in the waging of the war, because, after all, who am I to put myself as an authority regarding the military situation and say that we should throw great forces on to the Continent in order to create what is called a second front? They are all wrong in their demand for a second front. We have not got only one front. We have a front in Libya, we have a front in India, we have a front in Iraq, in New Zealand, in Australia, in South Africa.
As a matter of fact, the great trouble regarding the Government of this country is that we have too many fronts to defend. If I were to turn to this House, lacking any military knowledge, and to organise meetings and put on the hoardings all over the country posters saying, "I am in favour of a second front. I would like Russia to create a second front against Japan in order to relieve the pressure of the Axis Powers on the British Empire," it would be an impertinence, not knowing the military commitments of an Ally in the war. Therefore, those who come along with a political demand not sponsored by working-class opinion in this country but from an outside source are carrying out a dangerous form of propaganda in the country.
Governments have been driven to gamble in the past. In the last war we were told that the Dardanelles was a gambler's throw. I have never been able to discover whether it was a gambler's 151 throw or not; but it was a disaster for scores of thousands of men, who were buried there, with no fighting opportunity to defend themselves. If we threw large forces on to the Continent, and met with another terrific disaster, in which young men were blasted in attempting to force their way out, there would be a demand for the heads of those who were responsible for this second front and for the throwing of young men into that terrible struggle. Therefore, if I were a 100 per cent. backer of this war, I would still say that it was a question for the experts, the military, naval and Air Force advisers. Then, if the politicians thought it necessary to develop a second front, if they thought there was a splendid prospect of success, with the forces to back it up, no one could object. But what has been shown, in this House and in the country, is the feeling, which has been developing since the beginning of the war, that Members of the Government are pinning their faith completely to a policy of death and destruction to win the war.
I did not want the war, I created no demand for the war, and I do not back the war; but when you are in the war you have to consider the position. There are three conceptions of this war. First, there is the type which believes that the war should be won to defend the British Empire and its possessions, and that at the end of the war, after all the sacrifice, we should go back to the old order. They believe that the war is being waged to defend Imperialistic bond-holding possessions, and that it should be followed by a return to the old racket of the exploitation of the labour of the people of this country and of the Colonial world. The second conception is that this war should be waged successfully, if possible, against the Nazis and Fascists in what is termed an ideological struggle, and that, having won the war against Hitler and Mussolini and Japan, the people who hold that conception should then stake out their claim to establish a new order in this country. I do not think that is an unfair presentation of the case from these two angles. I take an entirely different view. Opposing the war, because I believe it is being fought for the defence of those interests to which I have referred, I say that if we are to wage the war it should be done not by military means only and by the destruction of men, women and children on 152 the sea, on the land, and from the air, but that, alongside of that military struggle, we should be waging a psychological war. We cannot display moral indignation about things which the enemy have done in Coventry and elsewhere, and then lose all that moral indignation when we find that we have enough bombers to repeat that type of conduct ourselves on the Continent. If it is wrong and indefensible for the enemy, it is not right for us to copy the enemy.
How would I conduct this war and try to extricate ourselves? That is a disturbing problem for me, and for a large number of the progressive people in this country. I think of the people who desire to maintain the old order and the old Empire, and to win the war against commercial competitors only. I say that an approach should be made to the German people. The idea that Lord Vansittart and the Prime Minister are correct in assuming that the German people are all Nazis, and are all behind Hitler, is not correct. There are millions of human beings in Germany, and more in Italy, who are opposed to the Nazi and Fascist régimes. If you make speeches in this country showing that you are making total war on the German people, you are only driving the moderate elements in Germany and Italy behind their Nazi leaders, instead of cutting a clear division between the Nazi gangster section and the decent people in those countries, who are out for the ending of the war but who want to be sure that you are not going to impose a dreadful economic and financial penalty on them, which will drag them down into the depths of poverty and despair. Every speech made by Lord Vansittart is equivalent, in my estimation, to two or three divisions of infantry for Hitler.
§ Mr. Baxter
Does the hon. Member not think that, even if Lord Vansittart is extreme, there must be something basically wrong with a race of people which can produce hundreds of thousands of men who are ready to act as Gestapo agents and storm troopers, and to commit consistent brutality on their fellow-creatures?
§ Mr. McGovern
No; from the experience that I have, and from the knowledge that I have even of the Black and Tans in Ireland, I think that this country could select professional men who 153 deemed it right when they got an order to carry it out, even though the order was a brutal one. But I believe in the best of human beings, and I believe that people will respond to an appeal to their sense of decency. If the argument is that the whole of the German people must be written off, we should not get the Hitler chiefs, but we should get the whole of the German women and children, and wipe them out. I cannot agree with that. I have met people in Germany and in Italy who are just as antagonistic to Hitler and his Gestapo and to Mussolini and his thugs as anybody in this country, in any section of the working class. We should make our appeal. What kind of appeal should it be? I believe that an ounce of practical demonstration is worth a ton of theory. We should put ourselves in a position to nail the German lie to the mast and say that this is not a country of Colonel Blimps out to defend the old bond-holding interests, but that we have gone through a process of purging; that here is a regenerated Great Britain, which has taken over the land and the mines, and the banks, that we are prepared to utilise them to improve the lot of humanity in this country, and that we are prepared to free India and all the slave peoples of the British Empire. Let us put ourselves into a position to present that picture and say to the German people, "You are not dealing now with the Vansittarts and the Halifaxes, but with the people of Britain, who have cleared out that old order."
§ Mr. Davidson
Surely, the hon. Gentleman will agree that in Russia the Government took over the factories, the land, the educational facilities and everything else and presented things to the workers, and that did not keep the German forces, which were composed of German people and no others, from committing the most horrible atrocities upon these same workers.
§ Mr. McGovern
I think that the answer to that is that the right hon. Gentleman who is sitting on the Front Bench representing the Government should tell the House and the country the story about the negotiations with Russia, where, at a critical juncture, it was only a question of whether Stalin was going to attack Germany or whether Hitler was going to attack Russia. That presents an entirely different picture to the German people. They believed that the Germans were being 154 double-crossed by Stalin, and, before Russia was fully prepared, they decided to attack and prevent the maximum effort being made upon them. It was in that situation that the war originated. I do not care what the opinions of hon. Members are now, but it is strange that, as you have totalitarian bureaucratic dictatorship of an insidious type, with a basis of private ownership, or a totalitarian bureaucracy of common ownership, where the popular masses have no real say, in both cases there is to be brutality of an extreme kind. Therefore, the Russians have never been able to say to the German masses that Russia, while accepting the basis of common ownership, will do so by means of an extremely humanitarian and beneficent leadership. They lost the opportunity of making that genuine appeal to the masses that they have never been able to make to decent Socialists throughout the world who believe in something of a different kind from these totalitarian gangsters.
§ Mr. Davidson
Is that the reason why the Russian workers are fighting so heroically and valiantly and dying so readily for this type of country?
§ Mr. McGovern
It is just the same as is the case with British workers. Men who have worked in the mines in the past are fighting and dying heroically in defence of a capitalist Britain, although they do not believe that they are dying for a capitalist Britain but are dying in defence of their native soil. But there is a tremendous difference in taking soldiers out to Malaya and disembarking them. They begin to look around to see for what they are fighting. They see that they are out to defend tin mines and oil wells, but in Russia the people believe that they are defending their fatherland, as it is claimed. The worker will always fight more heroically in defence of his own soil than on foreign soil. Those who are trying to impress us by their strong patriotism in regard to this war and the position in which they find themselves did not adopt that attitude until a short time ago. Here is a quotation from the "Daily Worker" of 14th May, 1940, at the time that our boys were dying at Dunkirk:On this date British working men, on the orders of the capitalist Government, faced death in Belgium in the biggest and most murderous international gang fight by capitalist society that has ever been seen.155 When the boys were dying in Dunkirk there was no clamour for a second front. An attempt was being made that all fronts should be one. One of my complaints is this: I am going to voice it here, seeing that this matter has been introduced. I can understand people saying, "I will in no circumstances defend this war because it is a bloody Imperialist war," but I cannot understand those same people, when Russia is suddenly attacked, saying, "Let us create a second front." What for? To defend this country? No, to defend Russia. Let them say, "We will be honest and say to the British public, 'We want a second front, not in order to defend Great Britain, but to defend Russia. We are not interested in Britain. We wish British working men go out and defend Russia.' "If they said that, I should have no antagonism towards them, but they cannot have it all ways.
We should look at this question from the psychological aspect. We should separate the German people from the Nazi gangsters and make an appeal to them. Anyone who has listened to the wireless knows what appeals have been made on the question of India and English domination of India and the refusal to grant self-government to India. I know that I am treading upon dangerous ground. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal was selected and went out to India to try and appease the Indians and appeal to them to help to defend the British Empire, with the invader on the doorstep. I say this personally to him, and I say it without any bitterness. I feel that he did more harm to the Indian cause by his approach than has been done by any other approach that has been made. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is my view. I am dealing with it from a reasoned point of view. The Indians are able to say that one of our leading Socialists went out and made an effort and that we could not agree among ourselves, and therefore there was no hope of getting any form of agreement in India. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did his best within the framework of the proposals that were given to him upon which to try and get acceptance. But the Indian people placed great importance on the question not only of driving out Japan but of driving out the British invader also. They said in effect that we should put the defence of India 156 in their hands and repel the attack of the Burmans and the Japanese. They said that in the end they would be wanting us to evacuate India also. Therefore, the crux of the whole situation was, Who was to be responsible for the defence of India? They believed that they were to be used for the purposes of defending British Imperialism and then to surrender their arms at the end to British Imperialists and to have the old order and rule reestablished in India.
§ Sir S. Cripps
That certainly never was the idea. If there was one thing abundantly clear and accepted, it was that immediately after the war we would give to India complete self-government and self-determination.
§ Mr. McGovern
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may have meant it. I am not disputing his sincerity, but the cunning plan behind that was the same as was shown in the last war. It was the same complaint in Ireland during the last war. They got Ireland's acceptance of the defence of British Imperialist interests and afterwards attempted to crush Ireland by sending the Black and Tans into Ireland. So with that kind of example of double-crossing you cannot blame the Indians for saying, "We know the English race. They are a race of double-crossers, and therefore we demand freedom now." I think that they showed intelligence when they refused to accept anything other than that. I know something about the struggle between the races. Sometimes we have as many deaths between religious sections as you have in India.
§ Mr. McGovern
I admit that there were more deaths at Amritsa. Given the opportunities, the Indian people would have responded. They would have responded if we had said, "We intend to do away with British rule throughout the world; we intend to develop the housing and educational system of the people and clear away disease." In every place in which Great Britain has been tackled by Japan there has been disaster, because people have not been prepared to respond to demands to assist. They heard that the difference between Japanese and British Imperialism was not such that they should lose their lives in deciding which masters they should have. That is not as it should be. If British rule had 157 been intelligent and decent in its conduct towards its people, they would have responded to the call for defence. The emancipation of Colonial people, the taking-over of the means of life in this country and our saying to the German people that the old order was dead would have caused a dividing line between the Nazi rulers and the German people. You could have said to the German people, "Do as we have done. Destroy your gangster leadership and clear it away, so that we can all join in the common effort with the rest of humanity to pull the world out of this gutter of unemployment, poverty, disease and war." If that picture had been drawn, it would have made a real appeal.
You cannot blame people who have been in prison and who are working long hours if they say, "The new order we are to have after the war is the old claptrap that Lloyd George used after the last war." I say we want proof that we are standing for something other than the defence of British Imperialism and old rights. If we stand for something other than that, the struggle will become different from what it is to-day. It is not sufficient to say that we will have some form of new order after the war. It is not sufficient to say to the people, after their bodies have been used, after they have bled and died to protect the old order, "Go back to the means test and the slums and the service of the bondholders. We will send for you again if England is in danger in the future." That has been the history of this country. If the ruling classes are sincere and mean what most of them say, I want proof. Give us the basis of that new order to enable us to take over banks, machinery, mines, transport and land. Why is it in the hands of private individuals instead of in the hands of the masses of the people of this country? There is no prospect of military victory in any shape or form—
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
The hon. Gentleman asks whether this House can give him real proof that this country stands for something better than the interest of bondholders. Does not real proof lie in the fact that it allows him to speak in this House for such a long time, saying something which can do no possible good to this country?
§ Mr. McGovern
I am rather surprised that the hon. Member has raised the point 158 of my being allowed to speak. I thought he stood for liberty. He is usually found on platforms castigating the Home Secretary for taking action against newspapers of this country. There is relatively greater freedom of expression in this country than there is in Germany or Russia, but it does not mean there is greater real freedom. If the masses are prepared to be used as wage slaves in factories and accept the old order, there is no need for the Gestapo. The Gestapo is developed only when the slave turns on his master and wants to overthrow him. Often the greatest slave is the man who believes he is a free man. A slave in chains knows he is a slave, but a man who buys an alarm clock in order to wake himself in the morning believes he is a free man.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) talked about the development of a one-man band. If that is true, it is totalitarianism at its very worst, because it is totalitarianism in the guise of democracy. All I would say to the hon. Gentleman, whether I am allowed to say it in this House or in a prison cell from which it can seep through to the world, is that there must be some means of human approach in this war, besides this killing, bombing and frightening terror. I ask you to search your minds and hearts and say, "Let the old order die. Let us inaugurate a new order; let us appeal to the German people to do likewise and end this war by creating a new order in the middle of a war." Not until we do that shall we end this war and eliminate the commercial and financial rivalry which has been the means of bringing it about.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
I can hardly hope to follow all the points made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), but there are two points which interest me. One of them concerns the propaganda which he thinks will do so much good in Germany. Personally, I detest all highly-coloured, load-speaker, electric methods of propaganda. They are not really persuasive. I suggest to the sage of Shettleston that he should read a book entitled "The Roots of National Socialism"—150 years of it—a recently issued book of history, published at Oxford. If he does so, I feel confident that he will readjust his views. I know he likes history, and is a great reader.
The background of what I have to say has been provided admirably by my right 159 hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley), who is serving on the Staff at the present time, and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), both of whom made admirable speeches, although I was very much more impressed by the speech made by the ex-Secretary of State for War than by that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland had the courage, which I appreciate so much, to say what a mistake it is to change because one is over-anxious or merely for the sake of change. He said, in the main, that the idea that change is necessary because of anxiety, dissatisfaction or wounded pride is a grave mistake. As to the speech of my hon. friend the Member for Altrincham, I do not think there is any hon. Member who has taken so much trouble, or who is more deserving of praise for the trouble he has taken, in presenting the case for an expanded Joint Planning Staff. Nevertheless, I very largely disagree with his point of view.
The Debate so far has been of immense value as a sign of healthy criticism and proper anxiety, but I cannot help thinking that the causes of the trouble go very much further back—and we should remember that—than the present Front Bench or any policy produced by the present Government. The long series of misfortunes we have suffered is due in a very large measure to want of foresight and preparation, which has made the task of the Services infinitely more difficult, the scope of the critics limitless, and the Prime Minister's burden heavy and grievous. I have said over and over again that the trouble goes a long way back and is due to the starvation, studied contempt and persistent disdain which has been the lot of all three arms of the Services since the last war. The result has been decisions, policies and hasty improvisations, and these have provided a crop of very bitter fruit, which we are reaping at the present time. I am sorry to say that even to-day—only very slightly in the House, but certainly in some organs of the Press—there are the same decadent and destructive influences at work as those I have described.
Like other hon. Members who have not the opportunity of close contact with the 160 Staff or the Cabinet, I can only judge on the evidence which I see in the Press and by reading between the lines, but having done that, and having listened to many wise speeches, including that of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham, I can only say that it is a miracle we have done so well, and that there is much to be said for our high endeavour and our prestige. We have held on tenaciously in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, and even in Burma, in circumstances that defy criticism, and even, I suggest, comparison. There is one supreme test which I have always tried to apply in all that we have done, and in all that we have tried to do and failed in the trying. It is: What would have been the effect upon the world, upon the United States, Russia, Holland, if we had not made the sacrifices that we have and those tremendous, though sometimes unsuccesful, efforts? We have had to put up with miserable misfortunes, but if we had not done those things that we have done, we should to-day have been a despised, craven, fallen and defeated nation. None of the things I am saying is meant to imply for one moment that the disasters we have suffered are acceptable, but I do say that they are not entirely the fault of the people responsible for our conduct of the war. Instead of being despised, craven, fallen and defeated, we are—I feel it very deeply and say it proudly— wholly alive and enormously respected.
I want now to say a few words on the subject of joint planning, which is of supreme importance. I have made as close a study as I could of the White Paper, and I want, as an onlooker, as one who is rather out of touch with Staff duties, to put forward some considerations. I suggest that, although it may be slightly at fault here and there, in the main it is not the organisation which is at fault, or is creating our problems, or producing disasters. It is a question of the magnitude of the task, which seems to me not to have filtered through to many people's minds. It is the vastness of the job we have had to take on. The task is at present beyond the capacity of the weapons we have for dealing with it. The task has grown a great deal faster than the weapons have grown. Having had an opportunity of making a rather close study of the details of the proposals that have been made by my hon. Friend and of the White Paper, I cannot but feel that the authors of the scheme which has been 161 discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincha m are to be congratulated on their skill and ingenuity.
If I may strike a personal note, I would say that I was at the Admiralty immediately after the birth of the Naval Staff before the last war. The present Prime Minister was the father of that Staff. Apart from the Chief of Staff, I was the first Staff Officer appointed in the Navy. Therefore, I am deeply imbued not only with the necessity for a Naval Staff, but with the impossibility of conducting war without the very best Joint Planning Staff that can be devised. It is not any old-fashioned or conservative motives that cause me to hesitate to accept the constantly-made suggestion that the present system should be extended. Is it really supposed by some of the critics that the Prime Minister is unaware of or averse from the Staff system, or that he is incapable of extending and improving it, or unwilling to do so? My own experience of him, a long time ago, was that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to do so. I do not believe he has changed very greatly. In one of his speeches he asked: "What sort of people do they think we are?" I cannot help saying to some of his critics, "What sort of man do they think he is?" From my own experience he has not been against a Staff, not against changes and not against improvements.
I heard the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) just now directing his remarks to the end of destroying the Prime Minister and removing his character. He said so in so many words. He wished to bring about his downfall. Well, I do not. We comb the nation for a leader and then querulous critics cry at every decision and wail at every set-back. I hate the set-backs, but I decry what I call shattering policies, which we have seen in the Press recently, on slender pretensions. I have had experience of the shattering policies, of slender pretensions in the Chichester by-election. I would never have believed it possible that an officer belonging to one or other of the Services should advance such policies on such slender grounds and on such a very poor measure of experience. When I read speeches of that kind, it seems to me that they do a frightful injury. They convey an altogether wrong impression to the enemy and to our friends 162 and kinsmen overseas. Worst of all, they convey a shocking impression, and quite a wrong one, to officers and men in the Forces. That is why I feel strongly that we must be very cautious before upholding the complete renewal or re-establishment of something which, on the whole, is not working too badly. We get a certain amount of this in the Press and in this House.
We as a people are terribly apt to forget that the blame does not lie with the Government, and certainly not with the Prime Minister, but really lies at the door of the people, and with every local authority, every chamber of commerce and every other organisation which is capable of passing resolutions. If they throw their minds back, they will see that they should rightly and properly carry a good deal of the blame for the position in which we find ourselves to-day. I was going to say a word or two about Independents. I observe that there is not a very large body of them present at this Debate. Perhaps they are exploring radiating avenues and trying to hammer out a policy, of their own, each with his own anvil. Independents endeavour to get into Parliament— some have already got here, and others have become Independent since they came here—and they are a very unhappy and discordant lot. They seem to me to be men of limited and moderate abilities, and some of immoderate conceit. They are so ready to say things about other people, myself included, that one is entitled now and again to provide a salvo or two in reply. They really remind me of the old description of the mule. Their political ancestry is mixed and uncertain and their hope of political posterity is entirely negligible.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
There appears to be one present who has been in the wars at the Chichester by-election. I note with real sorrow the undercurrent of attacks against the Prime Minister. I think it is a thing which ought to be brought to the surface. I was glad that the hon. Member for Kidderminster was ready to say what his views really were and why he was making his statement—with which, in certain respects, I agree, but which I thought was on the whole not conducive to the conduct of the war as I should like to see it. These comments about the 163 Prime Minister are perfectly proper and within the rules of Order, but I want a great deal more evidence that the accusations are justified before I can subscribe to them. I do my best quietly and properly to get hold of internal evidence from my friends, and the internal evidence which reaches even a back bencher does not support the contentions which I think are so harmful.
We should be grateful that Hitler's colossal error in attacking Russia has stretched the German air power, to our infinite advantage. Also, we ought to appreciate the immense gravity of the Japanese menace. It has set a task for our sea-power with which it cannot possibly cope at present. A very great advertisement for our system, and the worst advertisement for the German system, is that we, an unprepared nation, have managed to stand up against the calculated might and the ferocity both of Germany and Japan, and that they, notwithstanding all their preparations, have made major mistakes which will hasten their downfall. I am not impressed by the comparison one occasionally hears of our system with that of the Germans. The staff organisation expanded as and when necessary—which it could be now, as desired by the Prime Minister and as advised by the Chiefs of Staff Committee —will have one great and very lasting effect. When peace comes, such a staff will, I hope, remain fully in action and enable the burden of Empire which we discarded, to be borne with dignity and efficiency, because we have to bear that burden. It will I hope have some influence in restraining the efforts of people who suggest that we should put the burden down and become a small, insignificant nation. If I may make one strong recommendation in regard to this staff and its extension, I would say that from my experience as a naval officer, there is not sufficient use made of technical advice with the staff as it exists at present. I think greater use could be made of the services of scientists.
I should like to say a word about the second front. Untutored and irresponsible calls for a second front are deplorable. Of course the Prime Minister would like a second front. It is amazing that any one should imagine he would not. The hon. Member for Shettleston said, truly and bravely, that the Russians might very 164 well consider an Eastern front. That is a very proper thing to have said. I ask the people who make these proposals on these very slender pretensions whether they realise what has happened, as I see it, from a Service standpoint since the beginning of the war. First, the Royal Air Force has multiplied over and over again—I do not know how many times. It would not be an exaggeration to say four times and it may be much more. It may be as many as six. I cannot say. The Army has multiplied many more times. These two forces have been very largely expanded. The Navy and the Mercantile Marine, however, have suffered in the cause of freedom, in saving the country, in enabling the other Services to expand and function, and over and over again in saving from complete disaster the remnants of the British Army. People seem to forget the desperate and grave losses that have come upon the Navy in doing that. Our sea power is to-day not greater in strength and numbers—I hazard that it is rather less— than it was at the beginning of the war. How can we with a depleted sea power in both Mercantile Marine and men-of-war gaily suggest sending, let us say, 300,000 men with perhaps 70,000 vehicles to a second front? Think of the ships and so on that would be required. We would have to think many times before we could spare enough shipping to bring about a second front. I feel that this reduction of sea power is a measure of the trials that have come upon us and of our problems to-day. The reduction of sea power does not seem to have entered the minds of a great many of our critics.
On the subject of a Chief of a Combined General Staff, my feeling is that, if he were found, he and the Prime Minister ought to change places because it certainly would not work as has been suggested. Therefore, the greater the ability of such a C.C.G.S. and his power of persuasion and persistence, the greater would be the danger of delay and perhaps of even worse. I am confident, and I hope the House will agree with me, that no Prime Minister could possibly divest himself of the ultimate responsibility for the general conduct of the war. I do not believe anybody denies that that must be the duty of the Prime Minister. It does not matter what is a Prime Minister's past history, his experience or his inclination, for that has no bearing on his position as final 165 arbiter at such a time as this. No Prime Minister has any right to seek or even to accept any relief from that final responsibility. He does need support, but he has not received it fully to-day. A good deal of criticism has been directed at him. I repeat what has already been said, that he deserves the widest and deepest gratitude that we can give him for his unexampled leadership and inspiration. If I found myself in the tremendous situation of being Prime Minister—if such an impossible situation can be imagined—I should try to get inspiration and example from the great men of the past. I should say with William Pitt:Being responsible I will direct, and I will be responsible for nothing that I do not direct.That is my view of what should be the Prime Minister's attitude.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
At the risk of boring the House may I reply to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) has just said about the Independents. We are not a group and I have no right to speak on their behalf, but I have been puzzling why we are like mules, whether mules suffer from frustrated ambition, or moderate ability or inordinate conceit. It may be that those of us who are independent do suffer from these disqualifications, but it is difficult to see ourselves as others see us. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke about the by-election at Chichester. May I suggest to him that not everybody who stands as an Independent at a by-election is, as he seemed to suggest, an enemy either of the Prime Minister or, what is much more important, an enemy of this country? I was invited to speak at Chichester, but I did not go because the Independent candidate there did demand that a second front should be opened, and I agree very much with what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley) said about the difficulties of criticising strategy in this House of Commons; none of us can really have the information upon which to base criticism. I believe very strongly that it is unwise for Members of the House of Commons or anybody else to go around the country saying that we must open up a second front. But if it is true that in the case of the Chichester by-election the Independent candidate did talk about a second 166 front, it is also true that the Government candidate also talked very dangerous stuff, because he said in effect—I am not quoting his exact words—that in a by-election an Independent candidate was weakening the national war effort. I suggest that that sort of stuff is very dangerous at the present time, because every Independent candidate at every by-election has demanded a much more vigorous war effort, and the only ways in which the public can express their desire that we should fight this war with the utmost vigour are through the Press, through the House of Commons or at by-elections. I suggest therefore that it is very unfair to attack independent candidates at by-elections—
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I did not want to be unfair. What I wanted to impress upon the Independents and upon the House is that people should not make what I call tremendous suggestions about great enterprises unless they know a good deal about the conditions that govern such enterprises, and though a lot of people in the country, in the nature of things, would understand a reference to a second front, they can know little about the demands which would be made upon the Navy, the Army or the Air Force.
§ Mr. Bartlett
Has the hon. and gallant Member discovered how many Independent Members of this House have supported a second front, because, if not, I think the accusation is rather unfair? I may have misunderstood him, but I rather understood that Independent Members of the House of Commons had gone out in a haphazard way to support the idea of a second front. I would not go to speak at Chichester because I do not think the general public can decide about a second front. However, I apologise for a rather ill-tempered and perhaps unnecessary protest.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
If an Independent wins at a by-election, does that strengthen the Government or weaken the Government in the eyes of people here and foreigners?
§ Mr. Bartlett
It depends entirely on the type of candidate put forward by the parties in a National Government. If as a result of these Independents appearing at by-elections the parties in the National Government will take greater care than hitherto to choose candidates who really 167 do represent the best in the nation, then I am sure we shall not have Independent candidates standing anywhere.
I should like to deal for a few moments with a question which has not been widely discussed during this Debate and yet I think is important. We now have pretty good co-operation between all the Departments producing armaments, and I think that as a result of to-day's Debate we shall have still better co-operation between the Service Departments which use those armaments. Might I urge that we do not forget the importance of co-operation between the Departments that are seeking to do their share in beating the enemy by argument and persuasion? Almost since the war began, propaganda has been able to do very little. Hitler has had all the victories, and the occupied countries have been too bewildered. Even so, I think we have lost valuable opportunities of propaganda in neutral, and even in Allied, countries. For example, there has been constant conflict between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Economic Warfare about Spain. At the present moment, Latin America is the last great area where the war still takes place between the diplomats. Even if our diplomats were ideal men for the job, and they seldom are—I say it with apologies and with certain reservations, because I have a great number of friends in the Diplomatic Service—they would constantly be hampered in Latin America by the fact that there is no central policy. The Treasury, the Ministry of Economic Warfare and the Board of Trade, and no doubt other Departments, each have their own policy. We need far greater co-ordination than we have yet had in our political warfare.
I would give two examples, very briefly. For a long time we were frightened to tell the American people that we were fighting their battles, and for a long time we told them that they were the arsenal of democracy. That directive, which was a sound directive at the moment, went on for so long that you now have throughout the United States a conviction that the people of this country have not been producing the amount of armaments that they should have done. Therefore, we have had, quite, recently, Lord Halifax making a speech to explain the enormous production 168 which we have achieved in this country. We have great difficulty in catching up. A long time ago, a directive went out that we must play up, in the Press, on the wireless and so on, the very great part played by soldiers from the Dominions. The result has been that people in some sections of some of the Dominions believe that the British fighting man has played a very small part indeed. Those two examples suggest that there is not that constant watching of public opinion in neutral countries and in the Dominions, as well as in enemy countries, that there should be.
I suggest that broadcasting is second only to the blockade in importance in political warfare. If I may say so without inordinate conceit, I can claim that I know fairly well what kind of directives go to the B.B.C. At some time to-night I shall be broadcasting to America and the Empire. I have not yet seen what has happened to my script, but I shall not be very surprised if there has been this or that negative directive in respect of it. Many of the directives that go to the very hard-worked speakers and officials of the B.B.C. are either negative or unnecessary. For example, it was decided some time ago by Heaven knows what Government Department that there should be no reference about the development of British trade routes across Africa. It seems fairly certain that the Germans know quite well, otherwise I should not be saying this now in the House of Commons, the extent to which we are developing those trade routes. To my mind, it is one of the most romantic things which have happened in this war.
It is a subject that interests everybody in every one of the Dominions, every one of the Colonies and every neutral country. That directive went out a long time ago, but still people at the B.B.C. dare not talk about that sort of thing. The visit to India of the Leader of the House was marvellous material for propaganda throughout the Empire, but I believe I am right in saying that the directives about that visit came only from an official in the India Office and not from the experts in the B.B.C., who know from long experience how that story should have been presented, for example, to the United States, or to South Africa where they have their own Indian problem, or to any other particular country.
169 In other words, we still have nothing like that central organisation for political warfare that we ought to have. There has been an improvement, a definite improvement, since the formation of the Political Warfare Executive, but I do not think that that improvement is to be found in all aspects of broadcasting. You still find that officials of different Government Departments are consulted by harassed officials of the B.B.C. whether it is advisable to say this or that, and the official of the Government Department says, "No." You cannot blame him if he plays safe the whole time, but his negative may hold good for weeks or months over all talks on that subject from Broadcasting House. The result is that those of us who are trying honestly and sincerely by propaganda to show people all over the world how great this country's effort really is are getting absolutely sick and tired of it and feel that it really is not worth going on with. Some time ago, I have forgotten how long, Mr. Ivone Kirk-patrick was appointed to give political directives to the B.B.C., and those of us who are interested in propaganda were very pleased to learn of the appointment. But in fact he has concentrated entirely on the broadcasting services to the occupied territories and to Germany, and he has had no time to do anything else. I would say that in my humble opinion our propaganda generally to Germany and the occupied countries could hardly be better, but, as I say, Mr. Kirkpatrick is so busy with it that he has no time to bother about the broadcasts to the Empire or to the United States. I suggest that there should be a planning committee at the B.B.C., with a staff adequate to keep in contact with all the Government Departments, to make sure that the directives that go out from those Departments are not merely negative and mainly out of date, but do help people to present this country to the world.
There are two other very brief points to which I should like to refer. One is that there are half a dozen Allied Governments established in this country. They have very little to do, and the less they have to do, the more probable it is that their members will become disgruntled and begin to quarrel among themselves. I should have thought that the Foreign Secretary, who, to my mind, should have much greater control than he has had hitherto over political warfare in general, 170 would find it worth while to get these Allied Governments together, not for grandiose, well-advertised meetings which really do not do anything, bat for meetings at which their representatives would put down on paper the maximum that they would be prepared to offer in the way of collective security when this war is over, and the minimum that they expect other countries to offer them. It seems to me that even now there is a possibility, as the result of our increasing bombing of Germany and the tremendous Russian effort, that the war will come to an end very shortly—only a possibility, but we dare not risk being caught unprepared. I would have thought that, with that in view, these Governments should draw up on paper the maximum of things they are prepared to throw into the common pool and the minimum they are prepared to get out of it.
Also I would suggest it is time we got on with this subject of democratising the Diplomatic Service. A long time ago we had a report on this subject drawn up, I think, by an hon. Member of this House. We have heard nothing more about it, and we shall be ill-prepared should the war come to an end shortly. How will it come to an end? You will not get an explosion in Germany. The Germans will be too bewildered, too tired, too depressed. You will get some workmen in the Ruhr putting down their tools and refusing to go on, or some regiment throwing down their rifles and saying they are not going to fight. You will get a sudden disappearance of authority. Then you will have an appalling period of atrocities while people, not unnaturally, get their own back on their own quislings and on the German officials who have backed them up. Then hunger will come along, and the only two countries— because Russia, too, will be hungry— which can supply food will be this country and the United States, and if you are supplying the food to Europe, that must imply the control of communications.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I thought the hon. Member had given up journalism for the period of the war. Food coming in from this country implies control of communications and to some extent the control of the Governments which control those communications, so that when the war comes to an end, we may have a period, only of a few months, no doubt, when this country, in spite of the fact of its being a debtor country, will have a greater influence on affairs in Europe than it could ever have hoped to have when the war began. I pray to God that when that times comes we shall not be found wanting. It is for that reason that I beg the Government to pay greater attention to political warfare than they have done in the past.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Earlier in the Debate, when the right hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley) opened his able speech, he recommended those of us who were to speak to-day either to attack the machine or to attack the mechanic, and he then himself proceeded to go for the machine. I wish to make it abundantly clear that my criticism to-day is of the mechanic. It does not seem to me sense, if you have a Rolls-Royce, and the driver drives it into a ditch, to complain about the person who designed the motor car. My complaint and the criticisms I want to level to-day are primarily against the Prime Minister. I must say that I felt sorry for the Deputy Prime Minister in the task he had to perform. It seemed to me, to take the analogy away from the football arena in which he put so much of his speech, that he was batting on a sticky wicket, a state of affairs in which the Prime Minister himself did not want to come out of the pavilion to face the bowling. I feel it was a great mistake, and I am very sorry that the Prime Minister is not here to-day, and I can only hope that he will be here on the next Sitting Day. It seems to me that this is a most important Debate. We have been held off it for nearly three months, and on the last occasion on which the Prime Minister spoke he left the House very shortly after he had spoken, with one of the elder statesmen, and did not come back to the House to hear criticisms which were levelled at that time. While I recognise that he has a tremendous amount of work to do elsewhere, it is to this House that 172 he is responsible. He has accepted the responsibility, and insisted upon it; and I know that he is the last person in the world to mind criticism, having indulged in it so often himself.
§ Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Does the hon. Member not think that the Prime Minister can read the speeches in the OFFICIAL REPORT just as well, and in half the time that it would take him to listen to them in this House?
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Lady is entitled to her view on the matter, but I am one of those people who, when they want to attack a person, prefer to do it to that person's face, rather than behind his back. I would rather do it with the Prime Minister here to answer me than have it passed down to him through the channels, however able, of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal. We have been denied any information of any kind whatever on Singapore and Malaya. Three months ago the Prime Minister said that it would not be opportune to discuss what had happened in Malaya and Singapore, because he had no information. Some of us have been asking for debates ever since. Despite the fact that they have had Debates in another place, this is the first opportunity we have had of raising the matter again. The Deputy Prime Minister to-day gave us no information about that disaster. He made me and some of my hon. Friends-feel that the Government are burking the issue and are afraid to tell us what they do know. I asked to-day whether the Chancellor of the Duchy would be given an opportunity to speak in the Debate, to tell us something of what he knew first hand about the conditions precedent to the fall of Malaya and Singapore. I got a curt negative from the Leader of the House. I considered that the House was entitled to hear something from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy. From my personal knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure that he would be only too glad to be allowed to tell us something about what went wrong. I want to know also what our Ambassador in Japan said about conditions in Japan before the Japanese attacked in the Far East. Is it true that he sent home despatches to the effect that there was not the slightest chance of Japan coming into the war?
173 I know that the Prime Minister, when speaking of the heavy burden laid on Sir Archibald Wavell, said that it would not be fair to him to call for a full inquiry. I quite appreciate that that may be so at the present moment, but on 14th April this year we were told that a special message had been sent to Sir Archibald Wavell to appoint an officer to collect reports. Surely something has come back by now. We might have been told the results of that investigation. Then again there must have been any number of reports from Sir Shenton Thomas. All we know is that next to nothing had been done in the way of A.R.P. at Singapore. I cannot imagine anything more dreadful than finding yourself in the position of defending a town of something like 1,000,000 inhabitants of mixed races, with no protection whatever. Why was that? Surely we are entitled to information on that score. On that very point, the absence of A.R.P. arrangements may have been one of the main causes of surrender. Then Sir Robert Brooke-Popham is home now. Surely there must be some information from him that could be given to this House. We are told absolutely nothing. All we know, from Sir Robert Brooke-Popham's point of view, is that Sir Keith Murdoch stated that all the demands sent home from Malaya were cut down to ineffective proportions by the officials in Whitehall. Who did that?
In the "Daily Herald" of 12th January this year there was a statement that the Chinese papers of the previous day had published the statement that an offer had been made by the Generalissimo there to send troops to help in Malaya and Singapore. Is that true, and, if it is true, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us, when he winds up, why that offer was refused? What have we been told? We have been told precisely nothing, except that when the Japanese attack had started it was almost inevitable that Singapore would fall. The question that arises in my own mind and the mind of my constituents, many of whom have lost their husbands, sons and sweethearts— and East Anglia has suffered very gravely in this particular action—is, What on earth was the sense, at the last moment, of pouring in something like 40,000 men who had had no experience of that climate? You have to go to Singapore to realise what a thirsty place it is, to start with. You cannot expect people 174 who have been rocking about on the sea for 12 or 13 weeks to land and be in fighting condition and able to undertake the kind of duties which are inescapable from a major battle. We know that a great number of men arrived just in time to lay down their arms. I have letters from constituents of mine showing that sons and brothers were in South Africa at the end of January and yet were captured at Singapore.
I want to know who is responsible. Why, if it was decided that there was no hope of holding Singapore, were these people sent there inadequately supported by equipment? I do not mean to say that the arms they carried were not up to the mark, but the Prime Minister said that preference of tanks and aeroplanes had to be given to Libya and they had to go short. If the decision was that Singapore could not be held, the right thing to have done would have been to have taken those troops to Rangoon, where they might have been of vital importance in the defence of that area. This sounds too much like another Hong Kong. I wonder whether we really ever learn our lessons.
§ Mr. Baxter
How could we send troops that were used to these conditions? From where would we have sent them?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am not asking whether we could or could not have done it. We did it. We did it too late and nobody had the good sense to divert them and send them to places where they could be useful and the climate better.
§ Mr. Baxter
The point made by the hon. Member was that these troops were not used to that kind of thing as if you could have sent other troops.
§ Mr. Stokes
The point I was making was that it was totally absurd to allow them to land. It was bad enough that they should be late in arriving. I want to study for a moment the whole question of the entry of Japan into the war. Was Japan's entry as entirely unexpected as we are now led to believe? One unfortunate habit of the Prime Minister is to elide events so that they all appear to have taken place in a few days when in fact they covered three months or more. I want to recall to the House the history of the case. It was on 28th July last year that the Japanese first went into Indochina, and on 24th August the Prime 175 Minister, speaking on the B.B.C. about the menace of the East, said:They menace Siam, they menace Singapore. It is certain that this has to stop.An unfortunate expression, which those of us who remember 1940 will well recollect. On 18th November the Japanese entered Thailand. I want to know what practical steps were taken effectively to protect the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore. The Prime Minister must have realised, when he spoke in August of last year, that the threat was there, that danger was imminent, and that something was likely to happen. It is no use telling me that the whole of the defence of Malaya and Singapore was dependent upon the United States of America. While I know that is the common belief, President Roosevelt said in a fireside chat that even if the attack on Pearl Harbour had not been made, it would have been a hopeless operation to send a fleet to the Philippines, across thousands of miles of ocean, while all island bases were under the control of the Japanese. It seems to me that there was never any contemplation, on the part of America at least, that their naval forces were to be expected to operate in that part of the ocean, and President Roosevelt said so.
Following the Prime Minister's statement on 24th August, in a Mansion House speech on 10th November he said:Should the United States become involved in war with the Japanese, the British declaration would follow within the hour.That seemed to some of us to make it quite inevitable that Japan would certainly come in, and I fail to understand why there should now be this surprise that Japan entered the war, and my complaint is that we should find a great chunk of the British Empire chopped off us without any apparent constructive steps made to defend it. Also, might not the Prime Minister have told the House about this rather than have announced it from the Mansion House? Next we were told on 18th November, again by the Prime Minister, over the B.B.C., that he had pledged the word of Britain that should the United States become involved with war with Japan, the British declaration would follow within the hour. If that was the intention, the contemplation must have been one of two things—either, America would come into the war before Japan, or Japan would come in before 176 America. Ask yourself, which was more likely? In view of the difficulties of the American President, with a huge country and a variegated population, and in view of the statement made in this country about Japan's menace, the obvious conclusion would be that Japan would come in first. That being so, I cannot understand the complete lack of preparation in the Malayan Peninsula. In the Debate in January the Prime Minister said that 60,000 men had been concentrated upon Singapore, but priority in tanks, aircraft, etc., was accorded to the Nile Valley. Was there any sense in leaving them there without tanks and aeroplanes? The man in the street is puzzled and says to himself, "We have already been told several times by the Prime Minister that in Libya it was impossible to deploy at any one time more than 45,000 troops, and it seems ridiculous for it to be claimed that we cannot spare sufficient of our resources for the protection of Malaya and Singapore. It is absurd to say that the great British Empire and America jointly are only capable of effectively arming 45,000 men in Libya and can do nothing in the Malay Peninsula."
I stress that point by reminding the House that in the same Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) suggested that 1,000 tanks and 1,000 aeroplanes diverted from Russia might have made all the difference, and claimed that that amount was only a fortnight's supply. Whether he was right or wrong in his figures, I am not in a position to judge; but the Prime Minister replied that half of that quantity would have made us far better off and would have dazzled the eyes of Sir Robert Brooke-Popharo. If the first figures quoted are right, it means that one week's supply diverted from Russia would have made all the difference in the world to the defence of Malaya and Singapore. The evidence put forward by Sir Keith Murdoch says again that that is so. Writing in the "Daily Mail" on 13th April, he said:The Japanese had only between 500 and 600 aeroplanes against us, and 200 Spitfires would have made all the difference.I think he said, although I have not the quotation with me, that the total number of tanks employed by the Japanese in Malaya was of the order of 150. Finally, I come to the major decision, which was, in my opinion, disastrous; it was the decision 177 whether or not Singapore should finally be defended. Having got into the position in which we were, with not enough aeroplanes, inadequate or insufficient tanks, and so on, again I can only quote Sir Keith Murdoch, who said:The most striking and inexcusable failure of strategy was surely the acceptance of the last battle. Fantastically few preparations had been made for the defence of the island.I think we are entitled to hear from the Government some explanation of what happened, and why more preparations were not made—because it seems that practically nothing was done—and finally, why it was that those troops were allowed to land when they had, as it would seem from the scarce reports we get, no alternative on landing but to lay down their arms and to engage in what has been described to-day as the biggest surrender of the whole history of this race.
§ Petty-Officer Alan Herbert (Oxford University)
What would the hon. Gentleman have said if the Prime Minister, as Minister of Defence, had sent orders to Singapore saying that our troops were to leave that island before the Japanese had established and brought forward their major attack on it?
§ Mr. Stokes
That seems to me to be an absurd question to ask, but this is what I would have done if I had been Prime Minister and known the facts as they now appear to have been. I would have said, "I am not concerned with the criticism that will be levelled against me, I have sized up the position correctly and I see that there is no earthly chance of holding Malaya and Singapore; I will not try to do so, although I may get thrown out because of it." But there is no sense in doing what he did do, and it is most unfair to put soldiers in such a position that they have nothing to do but either surrender or throw away their arms and fly into the sea.
§ Petty-Officer Herbert
Ought the Prime Minister from this country to intervene in military affairs, interfering with the arrangements of the Army officer on the spot?
§ Mr. Stokes
That is my complaint. I believe he did. I want to know who was responsible. I cannot believe that anybody else, except the Prime Minister, would do anything so absurd. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of my opinion of 178 the Prime Minister's strategic powers. I said 18 months ago that the Prime Minister is a great leader, but that strategically nobody ought to follow him. I hold to that opinion, and everything that has happened since bears it out. I hold the view sincerely that unless we can get a change on the question of the strategic control, we not only will not win the war, but will lose it. We shall not even avoid defeat. It is because I feel in that way, especially in these matters where so many thousands of people have simply been thrown away, that I have spoken as strongly as I have done.
I want now to say a few words about the whole question of night bombing. I believe the major strategical error in the war—and again my right hon. and learned Friend can tear me up on this particular point when he winds up the Debate, and I shall be glad to be torn up if I am wrong—was made when the Prime Minister decided in 1940 that the way to win this war was by bombing aeroplanes and tanks, when those who thought differently considered the right way was by more ships and fighting aeroplanes. I question very much the policy which is now being pursued with regard to telling people in this country that they are going to win the war by bombing Germany. I do not believe that for a single moment. I have been through practically every raid in London, and to most of the places which have been badly blitzed, and I do not believe for a single moment that you are ever going to destroy the morale of the people by bombing from the air. You will do terrific destruction to property—and thank God some slums have gone west as a result of what has happened in this territory—but to think that you are going to bring down Germany by bombing from the air is absolutely puerile. One of our more noted strategic critics described strategical bombing the other day as contagions lunacy, and I think there is a good deal in what he said.
I question very much whether the losses we incur in the process are worth the material damage which is done. Of course, it is impossible to say with any accuracy, but mathematically it is quite certain that it must be easier for Germany to bomb us than for us to bomb Germany. I have some figures here which, I think, will be of interest to the House. 179 From 1st September, 1941, until 28th February this year there were 82 nights when bombing raids took place, either over Germany, or on the coast of Germany, or near the frontiers of Germany. There were 99 nights on which such bombing could not take place, owing to weather conditions, and we all know that during the long summer nights bombing of Germany is altogether out of the question, because you cannot get there and back in the dark, and, therefore, have to confine your attacks to near targets. I question very much whether the right policy would not be to devote the major proportion of our bomber aeroplanes to supporting our ships as much as we possibly can, instead of wasting personnel and aeroplanes in a futile attempt to carry out what the country regards as a promise to bomb Germany into submission.
§ Flight-lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine Eastern)
How does the hon. Member suggest that heavy bombers can help ships?
§ Mr. Stokes
That, I am not capable of knowing. I have been told by competent naval officers, however, that a great deal of aid could be given if bomber aeroplanes were slightly modified and used to assist our naval resources at the present time. I hope that that particular point will be taken note of and that something will be done about it.
I wish to conclude by referring to something which was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and also to something which was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Major Marlowe). They mentioned peace aims, and the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton mentioned the importance to the people of this country of believing in the future. Surely the object of our propaganda, and indeed the object of war, is to get yourself into such a position that you can stop fighting. Politicians, unlike soldiers, seem to think the great thing to do is to keep the war going as long as possible. I speak with some feeling in the matter, having witnessed the inefficiencies of our elder statesmen during the last war. Surely the main object in any propaganda put over to enemy territory should be to cause discontentment in their ranks, and not, 180 as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) suggested is actually being done, to reinforce them behind their leaders. Surely there is no better way of doing this than by showing them over the heads of their Government what a just and lasting peace can bring. But we do not do it, or, if we do, no one in this country hears very much about it. I wish to ask Members of my own party why we do not lay more insistence on our own policy in this matter. On 9th February, 1940, this was put out by the Leader of the party:We are opposed to any attempt from outside to break up Germany. We do not seek the humiliation or dismemberment of your country. We wholeheartedly desire to welcome you without delay into the peaceful collaboration of civilised nations. We must warn you, however, that Hitler and his system prepared and started this war. He would not continue it if you ceased supporting him. Until this accursed Nazi regime is overthrown there is no hope of peace between us. If you establish a Government willing that Germany shall be a good neighbour and a good European, there shall be no humiliation or revenge.I have not heard that put out over the wireless, or any reference made to it.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
Is the hon. Member aware that the speech of the Home Secretary, which does not seem to have been received with enthusiasm by some Members of the Front Bench, was put out in German over the wireless?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am glad to hear it, but I hope they put out that part which was the most sensible statement made by any member of the Government since the war started, and not the subsequent evasion, which was what I call a get-out. May I remind the House, and my own party particularly, what the Deputy Prime Minister said on 8th November, 1939?:There shall be no dictated peace. We have no desire to humiliate, crush or defeat the German nation. All idea of revenge or punishment must be excluded. Peace, to be lasting, must result from the agreement of all, and not from the dictation of a few nations.And, I would add, must not depend on the temporary weakness of any nation. How are you to get an agreed peace with a nation which has been beaten to a frazzle? You cannot do it. It becomes a dictated peace. The urgency of stating peace terms now is to bring home to the German people the kind of peace they can have if they will overthrow their masters. Encourage them to get into a 181 position where you can make peace with them before they are down and out.
Finally, to go back to my first assertion, it is no use not making abundantly clear to the country where each one of us stands. Like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), I am profoundly disquieted with the way in which the war has been conducted. It has been nothing but a series of disasters. I do not blame members of the Government as much as I do the Prime Minister. Unless you get a change at the top, there is not the slightest chance of getting the machine to run effectively, and achieve the objective we all desire.
§ Captain Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
The hon. Member wants an inquiry into Singapore. I rather feel that the question for inquiry is not who was to blame, but whether the machinery of staff planning is sufficient for our needs at the moment. I think we are all indebted to the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) for raising the matter. We will all admit that the present machinery is a great improvement on that which we had in the last war. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) in what he said about the Prime Minister. When we remember the condition we were in after Dunkirk, the way the Air Force and the Navy saved us, and the way the army re-equipped and retrained itself after that great disaster, we must pay a great tribute to the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff. However critical we may be at the moment, I do not suppose that in the history of our country there was ever a wiser or more courageous decision than that taken in the summer of 1940, when we had little stuff with which to defend ourselves, to send out men and material to Libya. That showed the greatest strategical imagination we have shown in the war and it altered the whole situation in the Middle East.
We fully appreciate the great work that has been done, but that does not mean that we cannot improve on our present machinery. I am glad to see the hon. and learned Member the Leader of the House, whom I may call my political neighbour. He is perhaps congratulating himself on the nice little puff he had in the "Daily Mirror" this morning complimenting him on being a Socialist. As a democrat I find it difficult to know 182 where Socialism ends and Fascism starts. The right hon. and learned Member is a Socialist because he believes in organisation. I have often heard him make speeches attacking the capitalist system because it is disorganised. If he accepts the wonderful speech made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley), who told us that the organisation was very good at the bottom, surely the Leader of the House will agree, as an organiser and a Socialist, that we ought to carry the organisation right up to the top. It rather reminds me of my youth, as it will probably remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of his youth, when as boys at school, wearing boots in those days, we used to put the laces through a few holes at the bottom but did not take them up to the top of the boots. I suggest that the war organisation wants perfecting right up to the top.
The Chiefs of Staff Committee may have been adequate in 1940. It is true it had to meet great dangers, but the problem then was comparatively simple. The problem was just how to hang on. We had no Allies and we were alone. To-day, we have new and powerful enemies, but we have new and powerful Allies, and the problem is therefore much more complex. Modern war moves with lightning rapidity, and prevision as well as provision are more essential than ever. It is often forgotten, because we are apt to judge the present by the past, what is the present situation in regard to manpower. Many think that all will be right one day, because man-power will be in full operation and the output of war products will grow, but, as my bon. Friend the Member for Altrincham pointed out, we have probably run to the end of our man-power. We cannot think of any new resources.
We are dipping deeply into our resources, we are probably in sight of our maximum war effort in production of munitions, and we have a very small population, and therefore we must consider what machinery we have to ensure that we are using our man-power and munitions to the best effect. I wonder whether there has been lack of coordination between the three Services. If there has been, it is our duty to tighten it up. On 11th April "The Times" said:The misplaced reluctance of the two senior Services at an earlier stage to recognise the 183 equal claims of the air arm have been answered by excessive insistence on the autonomy of the R.A.F. Wherever the fault may lie, and it may be more fairly put on the system than on any one Service, lack of air support is accountable for a succession of naval and military disasters.The hon. Member for Ipswich spoke about the bomber programme. I should like to know whether the long-range-four-engine-bomber programme was considered by the Chiefs of Staff as a whole, or whether, at any rate some time ago, the objective was all worked out by the Air Ministry. I think it is of the utmost importance in the future to have co-ordination, so that when a new theatre of war is opened up the Chiefs of Staff of all the Services must be consulted and must decide how much Air co-operation, Army co-operation and Navy co-operation is necessary. For instance, there may be overwhelming evidence that the right thing to do at the time of the Battle of Britain was to go in for a long-range-bomber policy, because it might have been the only way in which to hit Germany, but directly Russia came into the war the whole strategic conception altered, and I wonder very much whether the Chiefs of Staff Committee as a whole has considered what that has meant in regard to air power and working with the Navy and the Army. When Japan came in, and when the Vichy régime allowed Indo-China to go, the whole strategic method of defending Singapore altered. I wonder whether, from a military point of view, it was considered possible to give the three-Service support necessary to hold Singapore and Rangoon, to carry the Libya campaign to a successful conclusion and to supply arms to Russia. Political considerations may, of course, have pointed to the desirability of doing all four, but at the very beginning, at the very inception, was cool military calculation brought to bear? The hon. Member for Altrincham in an article which he wrote in "The Times," used these words:The merits and demerits of any course of action should be weighed in the first instance by cool and competent professional minds and they should be unhampered by political suggestions.I am not suggesting in any way that political considerations must not come in. They must, in the last instance, be the overriding factor, but I think it is of the utmost importance, and this was agreed 184 to by the right hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland, that the first consideration of these problems must be a purely military one and that the political consideration must come at a later stage.
I do not see how it is possible, under the present organisation, for the Chief of the General Staff, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, to see that all the necessary considerations come before the Committee, when I realise how fully his time must be occupied in running his own Department. What would be the duties of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, as suggested? He would have no executive power, but he would advise the Cabinet on long-range policy. He would be in charge of all staff organisation, and he would drive it along. He would be in close touch with planning and with intelligence. He would be in a much better position than the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, because if the intelligence of one Department were lagging behind the intelligence of another, he would be in a position to bring those Departments to the same level. He would cover the economic field and he would see that the best advice was at the disposal of the Committee. He would see that strategy and planning were in accordance with the production and transport available. He would also see that, in all operational plans, a proper inter-Service balance was maintained so that no commander-in-chief in the field would be unable to deploy his Forces owing to lack of air support. That is a full-time job for any man, and yet those are the duties which we ask the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who is also the Chief of the Committee, to carry out at this moment, in addition to running a great Department on the military side.
This is not intended as an attack upon the Prime Minister, but as a suggestion for the development of the organisation so that it may help the work of the Chiefs of Staff of the various Services. The Chairman would be able to see the Prime Minister at a time suitable to the Prime Minister, and the Chiefs of Staff would be relieved of many midnight conferences. As far as I could understand, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland did not disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham in regard to the necessity for an extra 185 member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The right hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland, however, said he did not think that that member of the Committee ought to be Chairman, but that he ought to be a "swinger." I am not quite sure what a swinger is, but I should have thought, if it was a swinger's job to bring all those considerations before the Chiefs of Staff Committee, it would be much better done by the Chairman. Nobody suggests that the Committee should have the last word. We suggest that the Committee should be able to put before the War Cabinet all purely military considerations so that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet might then come to their conclusions. Quite rightly, if necessary, political considerations must over-weigh the military considerations.
I have heard it said that the present directorate and secretariat really perform the duties which we would like the proposed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to perform. We have heard a very well-earned tribute to General Ismay to-day, but I should have thought that it would be very difficult, when the Prime Minister was not present, for General Ismay, sitting with the Chiefs of Staff, to avoid in some way or another voicing the political considerations of the Prime Minister before a conclusion has been come to on military grounds. I think we are entitled to ask, if the improved organisation as put forward by the hon. Member for Altrincham had been in being, should we have been in a different position from what we are to-day? I think that the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff would have been in a position to tell the Prime Minister and the Cabinet the forces necessary for the defence of Malaya and Singapore, the defence of Burma, to complete the Libyan campaign, and to send aeroplanes and tanks to Russia. It might have been possible to carry out one, two or possibly three of those plans. But nobody can resist the conclusion that it would have been quite impossible—and has been impossible—to carry out all four, and if those military views had been put forward by the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff in a coldly-calculated form, it would have been for the Cabinet to decide which should be attempted.
It has been suggested that we might have been able to hold Singapore if we had sent less air support to Russia. I do not know whether that is true, but I do 186 believe that had we been able to say to Mr. Stalin that if we sent him less air support we should be able to hold Singapore, he would probably have agreed, although probably apart from China no-one has lost more than Russia. If, however, it was essential to send aeroplanes and tanks to Russia, it might have been possible to hold Singapore by not trying to complete the Libyan campaign. It might have been possible to complete the Libyan campaign by not attempting to hold Singapore, but what one feels is that these decisions were come to without full and adequate military consideration. It would be the duty of the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff to see that in the future cold military calculations were first put forward, before political considerations.
I cannot see any grave objection to the appointment of a Chairman. It has been suggested that he should be a super-man. We heard all those arguments before in regard to the Minister of Production. It has been suggested that he would be in such a powerful position that he would rival the Prime Minister. I cannot see the force of that argument, because his duty would be to see that military views were brought forward and nothing left out. He would be much more a Chairman than a possible rival to the Prime Minister. It has also been said that if a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee were appointed, it would further depress the position of the Service Ministers. With all respect, I think the great depression started when the Ministry of Co-ordination was originally set up; but I do not believe it would depress their position. Surely the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, not himself a Minister, would be very anxious to carry the Service Ministers with him and would probably do more for the Service Ministers than the Prime Minister could possibly do. Actually, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland suggested, I believe that the depression as far as the Service Ministers are concerned ended with the appointment of the present Secretary of State for War.
It has been said that if the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee resigned, it would make the position of the Prime Minister difficult. I cannot see that it would make it any more difficult than it would be if the present Chief of the General Imperial Staff, who is Chairman of the Committee, resigned. The suggestion 187 is that they have not at the moment the courage to resign if they do not agree on fundamental matters. I do not think that is true, and I do not believe for one moment that the Chairman would egg them on to resign when they did not feel that there was cause to do so. If he resigned and they did not his position would be a weak one. I cannot see that it would make any possible difference. What it would do would be to ensure that nothing was left out of consideration. I do not believe there is a greater contrast in the world than that between the "brass hat" as we see him in the cartoons, and the "brass hat" as he really is, and I think it right that the House in these critical days should feel—they will accept my assurance as one who has served under him—that we could not have a better leader and a more brave general than General Alexander, who has done so magnificently in Burma. I do not think there is anything wrong with the brain-power and ability of our generals and leaders. What may be wrong is that the organisation has not grown sufficiently with the times. We do not put these points forward to embarrass the Government in any way, or to embarrass the Minister of Defence. We are grateful for all he has done and' the way he has evoked the best that remains in the dwindled but, I hope, no longer dwindling free world.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The right hon. and gallant Member who represents the peaceful and soothing atmosphere of Westmorland had a serious complaint to make about what he called popular clamour. I can understand that he does not like it, because I remember that when he was Minister of Labour he introduced Regulations, and there was popular clamour in this country. The Regulations had to go, and he had to go as Minister of Labour. But he was answered by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who said that it was the people of this country who were leading the Government and not the Government who were leading the people of this country. Not only so, he was answered 80 years ago by Karl Marx, who wrote in a Vienna newspaper:The workers of England have a remarkable facility for organising mass political demonstrations. By these mass political demonstrations they can stop the Government from doing such and such a thing or make the 188 Government do such and such another one. It is the facility of the masses of the workers to make popular political demonstrations that represents the true greatness of English politics.That was said 80 years ago. He answered the empty twaddle of the aristocratic Member for Westmorland. I want to talk about a subject referred to as being stirred up by popular clamour—the second front—but before I talk about it there is something else I wish to say. I have had occasion before to draw attention to the character of speeches made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). His speech to-day was a mass of wild generalisations, having no relation whatever to the situation that confronts us. Running right through it was vicious hatred of the Soviet Union and a desire to justify Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, and of course the usual attack on the Communist party. I have heard him fall very low, but never as low as he has done to-day, when he stooped to lick up the vomit of the Home Secretary, and to tell the Communists that they are not loyal to this country but that they are loyal to the Soviet Union. Who was loyal to this country when the hon. Member was supporting the betrayal of Czechoslovakia? How dare he dissociate himself from this war, when he claims that he was an ally of the late Prime Minister, whose policy led directly to the war? We were loyal to this country when we supported the People's Government of Spain, when the hon. Member was attacking the People's Government of Spain. We were loyal to the people of this country when we fought against Munich and the betrayal of Czechoslovakia. We have always been loyal to the people of this country in any action we have taken.
§ Mr. McGovern
When the hon. Member says that I attacked the People's Government of Spain, is he aware that I defended the right of the People's Government in Spain to purchase arms in the markets of the world and condemned the British Government for denying them that right? What I condemned was the Communists, who in Spain were murdering Socialists and Anarchists and trying to gain domination.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member was supporting the P.O.U.M., the Party of Marxist Unity—so called. The P.O.U.M. was attacking the People's Government 189 from the rear, while the Nazis and the Fascists and Franco were attacking it from the front. The hon. Member went to Barcelona, and came back to this country, and wrote a true report of what he heard; and the whole blame for what had happened in Spain was levelled at the Catholic Church. He said that the Catholic Church made money out of brothels.
§ Mr. McGovern
The hon. Member must not lie. He is entitled to make his reply, but he must not say that I made that statement. He made such an allegation in the Cathcart by-election, and if I could get witnesses, I would put him in the courts. I pointed out that the Catholic Church exploited the workers; but when he claims that I said that the Catholic Church exploited the brothels, I say that he is a brazen liar.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I cannot allow that. I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw that statement.
§ Mr. McGovern
I might withdraw the statement that he is a liar, and say that he is making a statement that is not true. I ask him, if he has any decency, to withdraw a statement that has no foundation, in any shape or form.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I will do my best to get a copy of the pamphlet. If I cannot justify the statement from the pamphlet, I will withdraw it.
§ Mr. McGovern
I will provide the hon. Member at any time with a copy of the pamphlet, which I have. I heard that he had made that statement at Cathcart, and I did not believe it; but this confirms it. If he repeats that statement on a platform outside, I will put him in the courts at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Gallacher
If the hon. Member gets me that pamphlet, I will go over it, as I did before. I was speaking one night before and drew attention to the fact that people were prepared to use the name of Socialism for most nefarious purposes. Goebbels in Germany used Socialism for that purpose. I said that Marx and Engels had been unable to name their famous 190 manifesto a "Socialist" manifesto because of the quacks who were degrading the name of Socialism. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) got up and gave me the lie and insisted that there was not a word of truth in what I said. Here is what is said in the Communist manifesto:At present it is undoubtedly the most widespread and most international production of all Socialist literature, yet when it was written we could not have called it a Socialist manifesto. By Socialism was understood, on the one hand, adherence to the various Utopian systems and, on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks.That is what they said about the manifesto. Every kind of quack is using the name of Socialism to degrade Socialism and to confuse and disrupt the working class. That is what they have to say in their own manifesto. Anyone who has read these most popular of Marxist publications must have known it.
I also draw attention to the fact that there is talk about Communists supporting war and supporting Tory candidates. If a Tory candidate expresses the policy of the Government, and the Government policy expresses an alliance in the interest of the people of this country, why should we not support it? At the time of the civil war in America Marx and Engels openly supported Lincoln and the capitalists of the North. The International Working Men's Association sent a message of greeting to Lincoln in the war against the slave owners of the South. Marx's great criticism and complaint about the leaders of the North was that they were not prosecuting the war sufficiently vigorously. Marx pointed out that, unless the masses of the people were brought in and the most vigorous prosecution of the war took place, a most dire calamity might happen. He drew attention to the fact that, if they wanted to win the war they would have to march right through Georgia, and take possession of all the vital railway junctions, and by that means they would split the Confederate army in two and finish it off. Two years later, after the most unspeakable suffering and bloodshed, the strategy of the "amateur strategists" was put into operation. The march through Georgia took place.
We cannot wait for two years for the second front. We are continually being warned there is the possibility of the Nazis invading us. If 191 Hitler, with all his commitments on the long Soviet front, his commitments in the occupied countries, is capable of invading this country, then it is obvious to all of us that we should be capable of invading the Continent. If Hitler invades this country, every man's hand, with the exception of a few hidden friends, will be against him. But if we invade the Continent, the masses of the people will be with us. This question of the second front is put as though it were for a second front or no second front, but that is not the issue which is before us. Anyone who has discussed how this war will end has always pointed out that before it could end in a victory for the Nazis this country would have to be defeated. I know that the setting-up of a second front on the Continent would be a terrible experience and would mean very great sacrifices. There is no question about it. But shall we avoid sacrifices and suffering by refraining from doing it? There must be a second front sooner or later.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I can deal with that at any time. Our policy at that time was the creation of a people's Government and an Alliance with the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We were in favour of an Alliance with the Soviet Union because we always maintained that the fate of the people of this country was bound up with the fate of the people of Russia. When the leaders of the Government in this country tried to develop war against the Soviet Union, the hon. Member for Shettleston supported the policy of the Government. If that policy had been carried through and we had been drawn into war against the Soviet Union, it would have been the most terrible catastrophe that ever happened to this country. Why do the people who brought us to the edge of that catastrophe dare to say that we are not loyal to the people of this country? As I have said, there has to be a second front, either on the Continent or in this country. You cannot escape that issue, unless there is to be a capitulation. Sooner or later you will have to take the responsibility either of 192 invading the Continent or waiting until the Nazis invade this country. Will there be more sacrifice and suffering with a second front on the Continent or a second front in this country? Unless you make a capitulation, there is no escape from that issue—unless, of course, you have the hope of someone else winning the war for you. It is for these reasons that the people realise the importance of this matter. Every disaster we have suffered has been a disaster of waiting until we were attacked. I have no hesitation, and my party have no hesitation, in giving the utmost support to, and encouraging the masses of the people to support, the establishment of a second front on the Continent rather than to wait for a second front in this country.
But if there is to be a second front, if there is to be any effective drive in connection with bringing the war to an end this year or at the earliest possible moment, production is necessary, and this becomes one of the biggest questions. We have heard all sorts of generalisations in the matter of promises to the workers and the future world that we are to have, but nobody ever faces the natural and practical consideration of what is to be done. One hon. and gallant Member opposite expressed some very fine sentiments, but we have heard such sentiments thousands of times before. We have heard different hon. Members talking about the dictatorship in Germany and the dictatorship in Russia, which, they say, are fundamentally the same. To say that is to take a very sketchy and surface view of the situation. There is a world of difference between the dictatorship of monopoly capitalism in Germany and the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. Before you can consider any new world, you must consider the structure of the present world and ask yourself whether there is any need for changing the present structure of society. What is the structure in Germany? There is a powerful landed aristocracy. There is that in this country also. In Russia it does not exist. In Germany there are powerful monopoly capitalists. They exist in this country, too. In Russia there is no such thing. In Germany there are private banks of all kinds handling and controlling the finances of the country. In this country there is the same type of private banks. In Russia they do not exist. In Germany and in this country you have an officer 193 class in the Army whose social life is quite separate and apart from the rank and file, which is not the case in Russia. In Germany, as in this country, in every town and city there is a West End and an East End. There is no such thing in Russia.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am only drawing attention to certain parallels which no Member in this House can dispute. In the factories in Germany the workers are completely under the domination of the "bosses," and in this country it is the same. Only now are shop stewards beginning to break through. The employers of this country would not allow trade unions to interfere in any way with managerial functions. In the engineering union we fought against it for years and years, and I have had experience of it in the Clyde as a trade union official. In the Soviet Union, as many hon. Members who have been there will agree, there is the utmost democracy in the factories. The resemblance is not between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, but between this country and Nazi Germany, and, if you are to make a new world, you will have to alter the structure of society. Is any Member going to tell me that you can have a new world and justice for the masses, the workers and the people as a whole with the same structure of society? An hon. Member talked about workers who wanted a second front, but who would not take the pay of soldiers. I make this challenge. Let the bankers, the big company owners, give up their wealth-producing machinery and their privileges, and the workers will give up their wages.
§ Mr. Colegate
Does the hon. Member include the Co-operative Society, which is the largest in the industrial field?
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Co-operative Society do not own the big means of wealth production, but, if they own any means of wealth production, we could take them over along with the rest. Until you are prepared to take over the bank directors, the company directors, and company owners, and make their property the property of the nation, you cannot discuss the question of wages and the workers. If you once take them over, the workers will have no hesitation in giving out everything 194 they have, without any consideration about wages and the rest of it. If it is necessary to get production, everything possible should be done to encourage and inspire the workers to come forward and express their initiative and inventive genius, strengthening their organisations, the shop stewards and the rest, and one of the best ways of doing that is by removing the ban on the "Daily Worker." There was never any justification for the ban. It was the breaking of a pledge solemnly given by the Minister at that time responsible who is now Lord President of the Council. It was a pledge solemnly given to this House, that the Regulation he was asking would never be used except under very serious and drastic conditions. That pledge was broken in order to ban the paper. It was a sheer case of political victimisation. If there was a case against the "Daily Worker," it should have been taken into the courts. The only reason why it was not taken into the courts was because the Minister felt shaky as to whether he had a case which was strong enough. To use that Regulation was a shameful thing and sheer political victimisation of a working-class paper, for which the workers in the country gladly subscribe week by week. Every penny for its maintenance comes from the people of the country. If it was a scandal to ban it, how is it possible to excuse the continued maintenance of the ban when everyone knows that its removal would be the greatest argument for strengthening, stimulating and inspiring the masses of the workers in the mines and factories?
I wrote last week to the Prime Minister and told him that, if there had been an argument for the maintenance of the ban, the Home Secretary would have supplied it to his Under-Secretary when she went to a conference of the N.U.D.A.W. to state the case. She got an overwhelming vote against her. She had not an argument which could possibly justify it. It is unfortunate that the Labour party leaders, who claim to stand for national unity, should be adopting such an attitude towards the "Daily Worker" and the Communist party. At a time when national unity is the one great essential, they are doing everything possible to make divisions. We have supported the Government, we have even supported Tory candidates, because they represent an alliance with the Soviet Union and the other democratic countries. My loyalty 195 has always been, and always will be, to the people of this country, and the same applies to my party. We see the Government with many weaknesses, which we seek to remedy. It is a difficult job to maintain them, but we recognise that national unity around the Government in the carrying-out of the Alliance is essential for the safety of the people of the country. Give the people the "Daily Worker," and they will give you the results that you desire.
§ Captain C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
I do not often have the opportunity to speak, owing to military duties; therefore I make no apology for keeping the House at this late hour, as I have to go on duty again on the next Sitting Day. The points to which I wish to refer are points which have been impressed upon me during the period of service that I have had with the Army. The first point can best be expressed in a letter which was written by the Duke of Wellington to the Secretary of State for War in about 1810:My Lord, if I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence that surrounds me I should be debarred from all serious business of campaigning. I must remind your Lordship for the last time that so long as I retain an independent position I shall see that no officer under my command is debarred by attending to the futile drivelling of mere quill driving in your Lordship's office from attending to his first duty, which is and always has been so to train the private men under his command that they may without question beat any force opposed to them in the field.The Army regret that there is no general who with such outspoken vigour condemns the paper war that is inflicted upon them. I believe that there is a man going round investigating the usage of paper in the Army. A Major-General is promoted to that august rank after long and excellent service in the Army. Having made a man a Major-General you then give him less power than is given to a managing clerk in business. I would only assure hon. Members that if administration were decentralised to Divisional Commanders and Brigadiers, they would find that they are quite capable of making responsible decisions without constant reference to higher authority.
The second point to which I want to refer is the co-operation or lack of cooperation between the Army and the Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. is to be admired greatly for its courage and the 196 way in which it has fought battles like the Battle of Britain and carried out attacks on Germany. I am one of those who believe, however, that we shall never win the war by bombing. I feel that before any attack on a second front is discussed, we have to consider whether there is this vital co-operation between the Army and the R.A.F. I think it would be true to say that the Army really does not know how to co-operate with the R.A.F. and that if the R.A.F. were asked to support the Army in battle, it would not do so efficiently, as it has not been trained for that role. I only hope that this policy of using the R.A.F. only for attacks on Germany and fighter sweeps will not be the only task for that Force. I hope that in the next few months a large section of R.A.F. pilots will be trained in Army co-operation. We in the Army really feel that this is one of the most serious matters that deserves consideration. There is no doubt that in modern warfare the R.A.F. takes the place to a large extent of the artillery and that without adequate air support there will be no hope for the Army to win a battle.
The last point I want to make is that of one commander for one battle. I am convinced that had the Battle of the English Channel been fought by one commander, the result might have been different. "The Times," in its leading article on the day after that unfortunate event, said the Prime Minister would ask for reports from the various commanders concerned. I do not know what the result would have been had there been one commander in the battle. If the torpedo-carrying aircraft had had fighter cover, and if the attack had been coordinated, we might have seen very different results. In conclusion, I cannot say that the Army has had a really fair deal. I feel that the Army has been much maligned, and that hon. Members who malign the Army ought to take advantage of the opportunity to attend manœuvres in this country and to see what a magnificent Army we have defending these shores.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
A short time ago the Prime Minister told us that in considering the war it was necessary to consider it as a whole, and therefore it is impossible to consider the present situation without reference to the past out of which it arises. The present 197 situation is very severely conditioned, and conditioned to our detriment, by the catastrophic collapse of the whole Far Eastern situation and the strategic failure of the Libyan campaign. To refer for a moment to the latter; the success which I imagine was intended and anticipated in this campaign would naturally have eased immensely the critical Mediterranean situation, and by now might well have opened up the vital Mediterranean supply route to the Middle East, thereby saving us an enormous amount of shipping and revolutionising in our favour the general shipping situation. Indeed, it might have led to the elimination of Italy from the war. The possession of the African coast from the Nile to the Niger was not too extravagant an objective to which to look forward, but that has failed, failed utterly, and must be regarded as being a very great factor in the present unsatisfactory position in which we find ourselves.
Events in the Far East are far too vivid in our minds to need any recapitulation. Even uninstructed opinion throughout the country was very deeply stirred by what happened out there, but I still think it is doubtful whether the general public realise fully the serious results which are accruing, and will accrue, from the Japanese successes or, I would rather say, from our own lamentable failures, because I am one of those who believe that nobody was more surprised than the Japanese themselves at the extent and rapidity of their successes. I think only those with a knowledge of Far Eastern races can understand the extent to which we have "lost face" in the East, notably in China and in India, particularly in the case of the Chinese. Conscious as they are of having withstood the whole might of Japan for some years with considerable success, they are naturally only too ready to draw the most unfavourable comparisons with our complete collapse in as many months, and from what I know of them, they will be very little impressed by our excuse that we were busy elsewhere, however true that excuse may be. Nor do I think the public as a whole realise how serious has been the damage to our commodity position, nor are fully aware of the very great danger which might result if the two wings of the Axis were to succeed in joining in India or in the Middle East.
198 In these circumstances it appears to me that it is the plain duty of Parliament to inquire into these matters, to discuss them and to insist upon a proper inquiry being held. We do not want scape-goats, which, after all, were innocent creatures sacrificed for the sins of guilty men, but we do want, not the scalps of guilty men, but to know who were the men responsible for these failures and disasters. We want to know that they are no longer in a position to do further harm, which, next time, might be fatal; or, if the machine was detective, we want to know that steps have been taken to remedy its defects. Here I should like to say that I do not think this House or the country has been in any way helped by the Prime Minister's disposition to attribute all our misfortunes to a fortuitous concatenation of adverse circumstances It reminds me irresistibly of the kitchen-maid who, having broken a valuable piece of china says indignantly to her mistress, "How could I help it? It came to pieces in my hand." I do not think that the House or the country is prepared to accept that kind of excuse, not even from the Prime Minister.
I agree that it is useless to inquire at this juncture on the spot what happened in Singapore. We have been told that General Gordon Bennett's report is quite unsuitable for publication. I can quite understand that. We have also been told that General Wavell is too busy, and that is entirely true, but Malaya, Singapore, and the whole of our Far Eastern position were not lost among the swamps and jungles of Malaya; they were lost in the corridors of Whitehall and the Palace of Westminster. It might very well be true that Singapore was lost on the playing fields at Harrow.
The tragedy of Singapore began when Vichy treachery admitted Japan to Indo-China last July. To all instructed opinion it then became a question, not whether Japan was going to attack, but when. In the event, it turned out that we had five months in which to prepare and to remedy the lack of defences out there. One of the principal failures in this sphere of operation appears to have been in our intelligence system. I will not develop this point except to say that we have been told time and again that it was difficult for us and easy for the Japanese, because almost any Japanese can pass as a Malay or a Chinese. That is true, up to a point, 199 but it cuts both ways. Out of the million or so Malays from whom we had to choose, surely it would have been possible to have had agents, working not necessarily in Japan but, say, in Indo-China. Think of the surprises which the Japanese sprang upon us, those great twin-engined torpedo-carrying planes which, we have been told, sank the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse." Yet, apparently, we knew nothing about them. Otherwise, I am certain that Admiral Sir Tom Phillips would not have ventured out as he did.
Now I come to the defences of Singapore. It has been stated in some quarters that Singapore was never a fortress. That is not true. Hon. Members have said, and I myself have had personal experience at two of the Staff Colleges, that this question of the defence of Singapore has been discussed and has been the plaything of the Staff Colleges and the Imperial Defence College for years. I would not like to say the number of lectures and schemes I myself have done, but the outcome of all those schemes was that the only way to defend Singapore was through an extended defence system, through the Malay Peninsula, and that implied defence by land, sea and air, particularly submarines, and torpedo-carrying aircraft, to prevent the Japanese from landing on the open coast, which they certainly did in more than one case. That extended defence system seems to have been non-existent, and I think the House ought to ask the reason why.
I now turn to the combined strategy which was presumably discussed at the Atlantic Charter meeting which took place after the penetration of Japan into French Indo-China. The most magniloquent communiqués were issued afterwards. We were given a long list of those who went with the Prime Minister: the First Sea Lord (Sir Dudley Pound), the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (Sir John Dill), Air Chief Marshal Sir William Freeman, Sir Alexander Cadogan, the inevitable Lord Cherwell, the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Personal Assistant to the Minister of Defence, and eight other officers; and we were told, as usual, that complete agreement had been reached. Just to show that the general public and at any rate a great many organs of the Press were conscious of the danger, here is an extract 200 from a leader in "The Times" of 16th August last:The arrival in Singapore of strong Australian reinforcements will not go unmarked in Japan. It gives point to the warnings of Mr. Eden and Mr. Menzies, and should remove any doubts which may still persist of the reality of British determination to tolerate no further aggression in the South Pacific. Singapore is the pivot of the whole British defence in that part of the world, and is being steadily strengthened to resist any attack from the seas, in the air, or by the backdoor on land from the Malay Peninsula.After elaborating this theme a little, the article goes on to say, referring to Japanese commentators:Others realise that the situation in the Pacific must certainly have been among the subjects discussed at the Conference, and noting that the President and the Prime Minister were accompanied by their principal naval and military advisers, they draw the natural and very salutary deduction that a basis of agreement has been reached for joint action in the defence of vital British and American interests.I think we all came to the conclusion that this matter had been thrashed out between the two staffs on board the "Prince of Wales" at the Atlantic Charter meeting. From that time onwards the Ministry of Information, the Press and the British Broadcasting Corporation vied with each other in extolling the defences of Singapore, telling the world how ready we were and laying particular stress upon the air defences. Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, a very distinguished air officer, was the Commander-in-Chief, and I think from that we deduced that air forces would form a very important part of the defences of Singapore. We all know how it turned out.
I now turn to the arrival of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse," and the Prime Minister's speech, which can only be described as unfortunately boastful. We took it for granted that those were the advance guard, anticipating the arrival of the American Fleet at Singapore. It now appears from President Roosevelt's fireside talk—which has already been quoted by another hon. Member—that the American Fleet never intended taking up the obvious strategic position at Singapore. Why, then, I want to ask, were the "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" sent at all? There is another question in connection with that which I should like to put, and I think it should be answered. Admiral Sir Tom Phillips was an old friend of mine, and one of the finest Staff 201 officers I have ever known, but I want to know who was responsible for his selection and why he was sent in preference to one of the round dozen of experienced flag officers who had experience of air attack during this war? Sir Tom Phillips had none; indeed, almost all his career he had been a Staff officer. I think that one of the veterans of this war should have been sent.
There is taught in the three Services among the higher officers a common doctrine of war, and it became apparent at least three weeks before Singapore fell to anybody who had been brought up in this doctrine of war that the retreat through Malaya was a débacle and that the surrender of Singapore was inevitable. May I remind the House that in a Debate which took place just before the fall of Singapore I made a remark to which one or two Members took exception? I said that it would be a miracle if Singapore-lasted a fortnight. That was not a guess. It was simple knowledge gathered in my training that in the light of the information given on the "ticker" and in this House it was inevitable. Why then were reinforcements sent to Singapore right up to the last moment, when, as a Member has put it, men practically stepped off the transports into Japanese prison camps? I cannot believe that General Wavell or the Chiefs of Staff gave advice to the Prime Minister that Singapore could be held at any time during those last three weeks. I find it impossible to believe. If they did, the sooner they are removed the better. This mistake of reinforcing failure is an elementary strategic mistake for which any junior staff college student would be sent back to general service in disgrace were he to make it in a war game.
I now turn to the correspondence in "The Times" newspaper, and the speech made by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) on the subject of a combined Staff and particularly a chairman for the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Many very eminent people who should be listened to have taken part in this discussion, among them Lord Hankey, and if one reads between the lines of the anodyne phraseology of his contributions, I think that the House will agree that they amount to a very devastating criticism of the Prime Minister. I am no believer in veiled criticism and in this excessive discretion. It means that such criticisms do not reach the public as they should do, 202 and I am not at all certain that a return to the old and virile traditions of plain speaking and invective would not be better; because to-day phraseology which even 50 years ago would have been regarded as being as mild as milk is regarded as being indiscreet. Yet these things regarded as indiscreet are bruited round the Lobbies. Members whisper them into the ears of Lobby correspondents. You hear them murmured in the taverns of Fleet Street and the Savoy bar, where the foreign correspondents gather. I sometimes think that we are watching the ruins of a great Empire going down in a blaze of discretion. I do not agree with these veiled attacks. I am sure the Prime Minister, who has himself been known to attack people, would very much prefer people to come out into the open. I do not think that he will ever accuse me of not having come out into the open. This correspondence, and speeches in another place, and speeches to-day, have attracted, and will attract, much attention. The high qualifications of those involved make that perfectly certain, and they cannot be ignored. I think on the whole that the participants have been very generous, because they have attributed the mistakes, on the whole, to the machine, and in doing so have let down the Minister of Defence very lightly, perhaps more lightly than he deserves. A very strong case has been made out for an independent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I am strongly of the opinion that he should be a Service man. And—again let us be indiscreet—I think that the principal reason why I want him and why a lot of other people want him is to be a buffer or shock absorber between the extremely dominant personality of the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff. We cannot get away from personalities. Lord Hankey is the man who, beyond all others, devised this Staff system. I myself have had more than one excellent lecture on it from him. But he did not make it personality-proof. That is a factor which cannot be neglected.
There is one other fact about the Staff machine. Some hon. Members may remember that about 18 months ago, in a Debate raised on the Adjournment by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), the First Lord of the Admiralty, in defending the Chief of the Naval Staff against a rather ill-tempered attack which 203 I made on him, said indignantly, "Why, he works 18 or 19 hours a day, which should be an example to a great many younger officers." I ask, Is there not something wrong with the machine if one of the Chiefs of Staff, the men upon the crystal clarity of whose minds everything depends, has to work 18 or 19 hours a day, not only occasionally, but every day? Without going into detail, I think there is a great deal of room for improvement there.
What kind of man is wanted for this job? There might be some difficulty in finding one, but I do not believe it would be impossible. Whitelock said of Fairfax in the Civil War:I have observed him at councils of war, that he hath said little, but hath ordered things expressly contrary to the judgment of all his councils.I do not think that Fairfax would have made a very good Chairman of this Committee, but Richard Baxter said of Fairfax:He was acceptable to all sober men, being of a sober and religious disposition, very fit for execution, and neither too great nor too cunning to be commanded by the Parliament." So I think that, on the whole, Fairfax would have made a better Prime Minister.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
My hon. and gallant Friend is aware, of course, that Fairfax was a conspicuous failure in the Civil War, and that no progress was made until Cromwell took things out of his hands.
§ Commander Bower
I think my hon. Friend has rather a biased view of the qualities of Fairfax, who, I think, was almost as good a soldier as Cromwell himself was. An unanswerable case has been made out for an inquiry into 204 Singapore—not into what happened on the spot, but into the dispositions which were made before the campaign opened, in order to find out who were responsible. Otherwise, there is no guarantee whatever that the repeated mistakes of Norway, Crete, Greece, and Malaya will not once more bring disaster in their train.
These optimistic broadcasts by the Prime Minister are all very well but they do not get us very far. People are beginning to realise that. I enjoy them enormously, but there are lots of other things that I enjoy as well. Some of us can see the top of the ridge as well as the Prime Minister can. The only difference between us and the Prime Minister is that to us it appears much further off than it did in November last. Cheering crowds in Leeds are all very well, but no amount of cheering by these boys and girls, out for a day, who would cheer just as much for Charlie Chaplin or Ginger Rogers, will alter unpleasant facts.
Like all Members who have been critical of the Government, I get a very large post bag. There has been an extraordinary change lately in the letters that I have had. We know that many of these letters come from cranks and people with a grievance, but lately the majority have come from serious well-educated people, who have been taught to think. I do not think that the bulk of the people are as concerned as they ought to be, but educated people are. The country as a whole is suffering under a huge edifice of frustration built upon a foundation of disappointed hopes. I can only say that on that Front Bench sit the architects of that edifice.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.