HC Deb 27 June 1950 vol 476 cc2244-54

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Popplewell.]

10.46 p.m.

Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)

I would ask—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We have only half an hour to discuss this most important subject and I ask hon. Members opposite to be quiet for that time. This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referred to the "soiled finger of coincidence" and that soiled finger is again prominent today because I am privileged to raise this very serious question after 48 hours of further evidence of the Communist menace.

Having only half an hour in which to discuss the menace of Communism, I would first point out that it is the most momentous and awful menace with which mankind has ever been faced. In Mr. Speaker's office there is a book where we enter our names for an Adjournment Motion. There, an hon. Member is allowed to enter the name of the subject and the Minister he wishes to reply. I put down the Prime Minister's name, and I want to protest most strongly that he is not here tonight to answer this Debate, because even the right hon. Gentleman has not got a clean record. Elaborating his Socialist plan for local governments, the Prime Minister wrote this: What is required is a regional authority having jurisdiction over a number of existing Local Government areas. … The regional Authority should be a commissioner. He is not impartial. He is a Socialist … rather like the Russian plan of Commissars. I would say to him, if he were here, that leopards do not change their spots. The war between good and evil has been going on since the world began. [Interruption.] I appeal to hon. Members to give me a chance. Periodically, it flares up into armed conflict, but the Communists have taken this war on to a spiritual plane. They have got half Europe and half Asia without firing a shot, and it looks, according to the events of the last 48 hours, as if this armed conflict will break out again. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. I say that there is wickedness on our Government Front Bench because no one knows how many fellow-travellers there are among the members of His Majesty's Government. Other countries have outlawed Communism, but His Majesty's Government, with their usual ineptitude, do next to nothing, because they are not masters in their own house.

There are no neutrals in this spiritual war. In a sentence, the war today right throughout the world is Christianity versus Communism and I ask hon. Members opposite and the country, "On which side are you? There are no neutrals." What we want from His Majesty's Government is deeds, not words. This country of ours, the mother of freedom, the home of freedom, is farther down the totalitarian road than anyone realises, and the farther we go down it the harder it will be to turn back. We are asking for, and getting, help from America to fight Communism, and I say that for America to give money to this Government is to subsidise Communism.

My time is limited, and I want to kill two birds with one stone by reading some extracts from the Congressional Record of the Senate of the United States of 1st May, which will show that I am not the only one who is alarmed about the policy of this Government. This is the quotation: The British Government that was our loyal ally in World War I and World War II has passed into other hands. It is now entirely different. In Great Britain, the ruling Government is a Socialist government. It follows closely the doctrines of Karl Marx. The Government of the U.S.S.R.—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—also adheres to the teachings of Karl Marx. In event of war with Russia—and God forbid it—the Marxist Government of Britain would decide with whom Britain would cast her lot—with the U.S.S.R. or with the United States. … The miners' union of Britain is dominated by its secretary, Arthur Horner, who is a Communist. He has announced publicly that if England goes to war with Russia, no coal will be mined in England. … Mr. President, I have none but feelings of friendship and affection for the British' people"— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I make a, further appeal to hon. Members to be quiet. I have a difficult speech to make. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The only argument hon. Members opposite have is gibes and jeers. They will not listen to serious arguments. The quotation continues: After the British election last February, Prime Minister Attlee appointed John Strachey to head the vital British Ministry of War. It so happens that Mr. Strachey has quite a record as a Communist writer and Communist worker. He has written numerous books on the virtues of Soviet socialism, as he calls it. He once wrote, 'the coming of Communism can alone render our problems soluble.' Think of that. The man who now heads the British Ministry of War has said, 'The coming of Communism can alone render our problems soluble.' The final quotation is this: Certainly Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister, could not have been unfamiliar"—

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

On a point of order. Is it in order, Sir, to make libellous statements about hon. Members in this House? May I get your Ruling on that?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

No libellous statement has been made so far as I have heard.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

Further to that point of order. May I take it, Sir, that it will be in order later, if we are fortunate enough to catch your eye, to make similar damaging statements about the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I will listen carefully.

Sir W. Smithers

I am quoting from the Congressional Record of the United States. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whose speech?"] It was by Senator Kem. The quotation goes on: Certainly Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister, could not have been unfamiliar with the reputation and activities of Mr. Strachey. I do not agree, I cannot agree, that the appointment of Mr. Strachey can be properly laid to stupidity. I believe it is a key move in a carefully calculated plan of Communist forces to dominate the world. … There must be no compromise with Communism. But the British Socialist Government has compromised with Communism. All that the Government has done, as far as I know, is to carry out a mean little purge of civil servants. If there is to be a purge of civil servants, they must be judged by their past record—and there are several Ministers of the Crown who, if they were civil servants, could not pass that test. I do not know how many fellow-travellers there are in His Majesty's Government but the Chancellor of the Exchequer once wrote: The Socialist Government's first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment, and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day. This Bill will be wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by Ministerial orders. These orders must be incapable of challenge in the Courts. … At the present time it is left to the Courts to decide whether these (Ministerial) orders are within the powers given by Parliament. … This power must be taken from the Courts. In the General Election there was a Conservative publication which said this: If you do not vote Right this time you may never vote again. A Conservative accepted a Labour challenge to this view, when Mr. W. A. Fearnley-Whittingstall, K.C., said: Sir Stafford Cripps has written that 'unless during the first five years so great a degree of change has been accomplished as to deprive the capitalists of power, it is unlikely that the Socialist Party will be able to maintain its position of control without adopting some means of prolonging Parliament without an election. The strongest force in human nature is the religious force. Left-Wing Governments—even that in Russia—have found it impossible to carry on their policies successfully without roping in the religious. And yet our Chancellor of the Exchequer preaches in St. Paul's Cathedral on the eve of the election. It was disgraceful that the Church authorities should have allowed him to do that.

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

What about the hon. Member playing the organ?

Sir W. Smithers

The B.B.C. is riddled with Communism, and if hon. Members and the public generally want particulars of that, will they please write to the Listeners' Association, 71, Victoria Street, Kensington?

There is no difference in principle, in my opinion, between the policies of Hitler and Stalin and of this Government. They want power at any price. As Lord Acton once said, "All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." They will say or do anything to keep in power—and the Communist influence is very strong in the present Government. The Minister of Town and Country Planning did a disgraceful thing which caused him to leave the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer; if he had done that in ordinary business circles he would have been hounded out—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I would remind the hon. Member that he must not cast reflections on an hon. Member unless he puts down a substantive Motion to that effect.

Sir W. Smithers

I only ask the House to note this—that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is now a member of the Cabinet: the recent Minister of Town and Country Planning was not a member of the Cabinet. What blackmail powers does the Minister of Town and Country Planning have over the Prime Minister?

Mr. Wigg (Dudley)

On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to use words describing the actions of the Minister of Town and Country Planning or any member of the Government as "blackmail"?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman said, "Blackmail powers"; I was listening very carefully.

Sir W. Smithers

I believe that today there has been a Debate in another place on similar lines to the one I am initiating now. In the National Provincial Bank's review for May there is a remarkable article by Professor Hodder. It tells how industries have been nationalised and, in four or five tables at the end of the article, he shows how the Government has obtained a complete strangehold—if they like to use it—over all the economic activities of our country. He says that the apparatus of complete despotism is in existence and has been modified only because of the Government's reduced majority.

I have been able to touch on only a few of the headlines, and I wish I had time to deal with more. I want to say, in conclusion, that I have many friends in the Socialist Party who sincerely believe in the philosophy of Socialism—but in my opinion they are barking up the wrong tree. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bow-wow!"] They will have to learn their lesson by bitter experience, because the philosophy of Socialism must end in Communist dictatorship, especially in Great Britain, which is not, and cannot become, self-supporting.

When Marshall Aid and the sellers' market end, when we get full German and Japanese competition, we shall have to export at world competitive prices or starve, and our only hope is to do away with all the Communist controls which now govern the country, and return to free enterprise, allowing men of experience and ability to use the talents God has given them. To those Socialists who may be using office to set up a Communist dictatorship, I quote some words used 2,000 years ago which are as true today as they were when they were uttered: You hypocrites, you generation of vipers, who shall deliver you from the damnation of hell? I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to the country, "Beware, the false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing."

11.2 p.m.

Mr. Wigg (Dudley)

It may be in order for the hon. Gentleman to quote the Gospels, but I should have thought it came as near to blasphemy as anything. There is a view held on this side of the House that the hon. Gentleman is an amiable idiot. I dissent from that view. I do not think he is amiable.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is out of order for one hon. Gentleman to say that another hon. Gentleman is an idiot. That was the inference I drew.

Mr. Wigg

In that case I withdraw, Sir, although I thought I said it was a view held by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I will substitute the statement that I think that the view is that he is amiable but irresponsible. I dissent from that view because I do not think that he is amiable. I think that he is vicious and unkind.

I have searched the hon. Gentleman's speeches over a period of 10 years, and I have failed to find that he has sponsored any decent human cause. He now has a bee in his bonnet about Communism. In 1936 the bee in his bonnet was expenditure in South Wales. He put down Question after Question deploring the cost of Public Assistance for miners; he criticised the cost of education. Between the odd occasions when he put down Questions—for he spoke remarkably few times in those days—I presume he was composing further masterpieces such as "On, Stanley, On" to the tune of "Yes, we have no bananas." In the intervening years the hon. Gentleman swung from the anti-South Wales bee in his bonnet—

Sir W. Smithers

I have tried my best to restrain Government expenditure because I knew we cannot afford it. If extravagant expenditure continues, we shall not merely have a South Wales and a Jarrow. The whole country will be a Jarrow.

Mr. Wigg

My purpose is to show the hon. Gentleman as an irresponsible man with a beehive on his head. At the moment it is anti-Communist.

I can prove from the hon. Gentleman's speeches that the bee in his bonnet for two or three years was that the miners of South Wales were getting too much Public Assistance. Next it was too much on local expenditure. He charged us on this side with being on a par with Hitler. What a charge to come from an hon. Gentleman on the Conservative benches. Did he ever raise his voice against the menace of Nazism or Fascism in Hitler's days?

In the first question put down by the hon. Gentleman after the outbreak of war he asked the Minister of Health whether his attention had been drawn to the fact that evacuated children were suffering from various diseases, including whooping cough, impetigo, scarlet fever, and verminous heads. That was his attitude towards the grave social consequences disclosed at that time. The hon. Member finished by quoting the Scriptures. May I quote them back, and, I hope, with a little more reverence? What is wrong with the hon. Gentleman is not that he is worried about Communism, not that he really cares about the level of expenditure in South Wales, or anywhere else. He has another god. It is the love of money. If he will turn to First Timothy, chapter 6, verse 10, he will read: For the love of money is the root of all evil. If the hon. Member would go back and read those words, and have them inscribed above his bed, perhaps he would become a better Member of this House.

Sir W. Smithers

I deny the hon. Gentleman's charge absolutely.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)

I am reluctant, as a Member who has been in Parliament a considerably shorter time than the hon. Gentleman, to instruct him about our practice here, but the fact is that a junior Minister nearly always takes the Adjournment, and from time to time when hon. Members put down Adjournment Motions directed to the Prime Minister he courteously, as in this case, transfers them to a junior Minister. The hon. Gentleman complained so much that the Prime Minister was not answering that I should like to point out that only on two occasions in the last five years has the Prime Minister replied to an Adjournment Debate: to one arising directly out of a statement by him, and to one when the Leader of the Opposition informed him that he was to speak. If the hon. Gentleman becomes Leader of the Opposition I can assure him that when he raises a matter on the Adjournment the Prime Minister will be here.

He was good enough to give me some idea of what he was going to say, and that he was going to attack certain Members of the Government. But I had no idea that he was going to devote so large a proportion of his time to attacking members of the Government, and so small a proportion to constructive suggestions of what is to be done to meet the menace of Communism. As to the attacks on Ministers, I do not think the hon. Gentleman has taken sufficiently seriously the reply the Prime Minister gave to his Question on 14th March. He asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister what steps he takes, before inviting any hon. Member to accept ministerial office, to ascertain, as in the case of other servants of the Crown, that they are reliable persons from a security point of view. The Prime Minister replied: I cannot accept the implications in the hon. Member's Question. In any case, I would remind him that it is established constitutional practice that the Prime Minister of the day is solely responsible for recommending ministerial appointments to His Majesty, and it is not customary for him to answer Questions on these matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 37.] As to the hon. Member's general point about security, I would refer him to the Lord Chancellor's speech in another place on 29th March which covered that topic. I said I was surprised the hon. Member had devoted so much of his time to his personal attacks. Perhaps I should not really have been surprised because we who have had the advantage of being with him in this House know that his great activity is not in the battle for such things as how best to raise the standard of living for men and women throughout the world, how best to bring peace and security to the world by international political and military agreement, how best to convince the world that parliamentary democracy and political and religious and racial toleration are very great ideals. Rather, instead, his great activity in this House has been at Question time and, out of character with his many kind actions to many people outside the House, has been chiefly in vilification, hatred and intolerance and generally displaying marked totalitarian tendencies.

Sir W. Smithers

How funny!

Mr. de Freitas

For instance, the first two Questions put down by the hon. Gentleman in this Parliament—at least the first two I remember—illustrate this. In the first he was rebuked by Mr. Speaker for reflecting on the patriotism of hon. Members, and in the second, again repeated tonight, was his desire that we should outlaw the Communist Party. Surely it is a very dangerous step, a very dangerous first surrender of democracy, to do such a thing. The hon. Member spoke of vipers and quoted Biblical texts. I have not exactly a Biblical quotation, but surely to outlaw the Communist Party is really to call in Beelzebub to cast out Satan. And does the hon. Member really think it would help us to outlaw the Communist Party. Would not the Communist Party be far more dangerous as an underground movement?

HANSARD records other interventions and Questions by the hon. Member against free speech and against the freedom of the Press. His hatred of Communism is so great that he is prepared to take on many of the characteristics of totalitarianism in order to defeat it. I say, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that if we can possibly avoid it, we are determined not to deal with the evil of Communism by adopting illiberal methods entirely opposed to our traditions.

It is right that we should get this Debate into perspective. The hon. Member is really almost a party of one in this House. He is not taken seriously in this House or in the country, but on an occasion like this we should not rejoice too much in that fact.

Sir W. Smithers

My constituents doubled my majority last time.

Mr. de Freitas

Yes, but there was redistribution to help that.

On this occasion let us not rejoice too much in the fact that the hon. Member is not taken seriously, because there is always the proverb, "Wolf, wolf." One day there may arise in this House an hon. Member who is justified in his accusations against his colleagues in this House or against the Government of the day, and he may be regarded wrongly by the House and the country as merely another hon. Member in the tradition of the hon. Member for Orpington.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

When the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) was suggesting that we should outlaw Communism, I did not know whether he was proposing legislation. Therefore, I am in some doubt as to whether I should suggest to my hon. Friend that we should outlaw foolishness. If you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, feel that that would be suggesting legislation, may I suggest, as an administrative measure, that we should tighten up the regulations for certification?

This is a question which I think worth while asking. Is the conduct of the hon. Member in the national interest? I do not know if I have time to read the whole of the letter which the hon. Gentleman saw fit to write, on a most critical subject of national interest, to the American Press. Does the hon. Gentleman remember what he wrote to the "Wall Street Journal" at a time when he had a moment of authority, when he could throw the pound sterling off its balance? He said: To send dollars to the British Government is to subsidise Communism. That is the sort of insanity in which the hon. Gentleman thought fit to indulge. That is the sort of feeling against which I think the State ought to take executive measures to protect itself. During the war it was necessary to send into protective custody the stable-mate of the hon. Gentleman—Captain Ramsay. Perhaps in the present circumstances, when we are in equal difficulties, one might also consider a similar measure in regard to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orpington. When one considers the complete untruths—and I say that advisedly—

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at a Quarter past Eleven o'Clock.