§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion of Lord Strabolgi to resolve, That an independent Committee of inquiry be set up to examine into the state of the national defences, with particular reference to air-raid precautions.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
My Lords, I rise, as a supporter of the Government, with heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the achievements of the Prime Minister, to express the hope that to those achievements in the direction of appeasement may be added the acceptance of the Motion before your Lordships' House. This Motion is meant to be helpful, and I trust that I shall be able to prove that it is helpful. It should not be taken as a censure on His Majesty's Government, and much less as a Motion that would force His Majesty's Government to resign. In this House we are here to give advice on special subjects and assistance that may be helpful to His Majesty's Government, and conducive to persuade the electors that the policy which we advocate is useful to the country. We are not here to make and unmake Ministries.
There are three main reasons for the delay in rearmament. The first is due to our Parliamentary and Cabinet system. It is a system which in time of peace is admirable, but in time of war it places us at a great disadvantage, face to face with nations that submit to dictators. Under our Parliamentary system a Government cannot move more rapidly than Parliament can be persuaded to support it, nor will Parliament support the Government unless the electors have first been educated to concur. Further, normally a supreme decision is arrived at by the Prime Minister after consuitation with the Cabinet, and, if it is very important, after an attempt at unanimity. That takes time. A dictator has at his disposal not only the most extreme sanctions for enforcing every form of obedience, but also, if he has a Parliament with some remnant 1554 of liberty of speech, the decisions of that Parliament are not imperative. These features are fundamental when considering relative delay. The appointment of Sir John Anderson is an indication of an approach towards a system of dictatorship by compartments. It appears to be an excellent compromise between the Parliamentary system which we enjoy in time of peace and an approach to the facility which a dictator has for enforcing his wishes, and I put it to your Lordships' House that the Motion now before us is a very well thought out expedient for reconciling the system that the Prime Minister appears to favour with the needs of the situation. There was no suggestion in the speech of the noble Lord who proposed the Motion that a Committee should override everything and everybody. The proposal is merely to inquire in secret, take evidence in secret, and report in secret, and undoubtedly that would be helpful to overcome the first of the difficulties under which democracy labours as compared with totalitarian rule.
The next serious difficulty which is causing delay is the system of a Civil Service which is devised for peace time and for reconciling democracy with bureaucracy. Civil servants are not trained psychologically to hurry; they are trained under Regulations to be very deliberate; and to suppose that that psychology would be immediately changed when war is on the horizon is expecting too much from human nature. I am not attacking any individuals in the Civil Service. I have the honour to be myself a pensioned civil servant, brought up on the office stool, who has also had some experience of responsible government. I think I have sat in one capacity or another under some dozen Constitutions in various parts of the world. We have to make the best of things as they are. If a Parliamentary chief makes a blunder, or even a mistake, he runs the risk of losing his office. A civil servant retains his office and his pension notwithstanding mistakes and blunders, provided there is no misfeasance.
It is only natural that a Parliamentary chief who has to defend another person's advice, not only before the Cabinet, not only before the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but also before his constituents, weighs the matter very carefully 1555 if he has to decide which of two conflicting opinions of experts he has to adopt—with reference, for instance, to the construction in thousands of a new antiaircraft gun. He cannot be expected to act quickly. It is very difficult for anybody in Ministerial authority to get information behind his immediate Departmental chiefs and subordinates, though that information may at times be necessary. These Departmental chiefs and subordinates are not chosen for expert knowledge, maybe in explosives, maybe in battleships, maybe in optical instruments. They are chosen because they have passed competitive examinations; they are highly educated, highly efficient just as they have been accustomed by routine. Therefore experts have to be resorted to and a decision has to be arrived at vicariously involving all the consequential risk; hence delay. There is more than that. Anxiety to do that which is best urges the man who has to decide to turn down the good he has got to-day hoping for something better. Perfection is aimed at, and by aiming at perfection a good result which would be sufficient for the needs of the moment is set aside, so that by aiming at what is best we are not prepared enough when the critical time comes. That—I put it to your Lordships' House—is a principal cause of the conditions which are the subject of complaint.
Moreover, when it is necessary in the public service to set aside or pension off civil servants who may be good but not the best—and only the best is wanted in preparation for war—the machinery for displacing and replacing them is extremely cumbersome, extremely difficult to put into operation. I have had experience of it myself time after time. It requires much courage and determination on the part of those who are bound to make certain and decide ultimately, and so much is this the case that decisions are more seldom arrived at than is necessary to avoid delay in rearmament, and there is hence stagnation in the public service—in every public service, and that to an extent that this proposed Committee would most usefully short circuit by inquiring into individual cases and reporting to the Prime Minister direct. This is a reform in the administration which is absolutely necessary in time of emergency, when we must come to decisions quickly, with sanctions for inefficiency.
1556 There is no time for any division of the nation into those who are more loyal and those who are less loyal. I do not speak merely of loyalty to the King but also of loyalty to the King's Ministers. There is not the time for appearing to want to take the place of others in the Cabinet. That is also one of the difficulties of the present situation. More unity is required in politics, and in the Press and in all that we say in reference to rearmament. The position is most critical for reasons which all your Lordships heard yesterday, but it is not by any means appalling. We are the only great nation that has had balanced Budgets since the War. We alone in Europe have a Navy that defies attack of our shores and, what is more, a Navy so efficient that its existence defies any possibility of our Colonies being taken from us without our consent. How on earth can any rival who wants our Colonies get to take them without our permission? It is notorious that our Navy to-day and for the next few years must be maintained stronger than any probable combination of fleets that can be forecasted on paper.
The third reason for which we have to deplore the present condition of affairs is that the measure of liberty in time of peace has to be different from the measure of liberty in the time of preparation for war and during the time of rearmament. There are two classes of liberty that are excessive. There is the liberty of the individual and the liberty of corporations. Under a dictatorship everybody has to be drilled and to be subject to discipline—in some countries women as well as men. I have secret reports of the French Government as to preparations in Germany for training men, women and children to meet the event of gas attacks and for training amateur pilots. These things are done in Germany with a thoroughness which is really a danger to us unless we make the necessary counter move to win. There must be some form of education of youth organised for defence. To-day those who are less disciplined have the majority of the votes. If those between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one were well drilled and disciplined and trained—and paid for being trained—unemployment would almost disappear and the money spent on the "dole" would be spent on defence edu- 1557 cation. We should then be teaching discipline and patriotism instead of having a "dole" system that encourages idleness and the fomenting of indiscipline. I know of instances where whole families are being brought up on the "dole," and of grown-up men who have never worked seriously. They are legally now within their rights. But why should we, when the nation is under the threat of future attack, encourage families not to work and to deteriorate, and this for lack of organisation for national service which the majority would welcome? The reform has to be tackled. We have to appeal to the Government to have the courage to compel. Leaders in every Party off and on say it ought to be done, but when it comes to doing it there is always some reason for not doing it immediately—an electioneering reason.
The excessive freedom enjoyed by corporations is even a greater danger. It is quite possible for large armament firms to refuse contracts from the Government except on terms which the very capable Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence would be likely to turn down. An admirable amount of work has been done to stop profiteering, but when you stop abuse you do not always achieve the result of the application of sanctions. It was suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in the debate yesterday, that the Government should fix prices. I hold that any Government attempt to fix prices is, as proved by experience, certain to be following an illusory remedy. There is only one certain remedy, and that is for the Government to have power to acquire a voice in the management of concerns that refuse to do their best for armament in time of stress. I do not suggest criminal sanctions applied to managers, but compulsory purchase is quite easy, and it would not cost much in the long run, for the Government to buy the majority of the shares in any important firm that has to be made to do what is wanted for the safety of the nation. In this way there would be a Government majority on the board of such a company, and all possibility of obstruction would be removed by power to remove directors.
I have all my life been connected with machinery, and visited recently a large engineering establishment, magnificently organised and employing about L000 men. The partners of the firm were on 1558 the best of terms with their men and there was evidence of remarkable efficiency and co-operation all through the works. The partners had asked for war work, and they were told to fill up a quantity of forms which they said would take months to fill up honestly. Possible competitors had these forms fully filled up. The proposed Committee could be most helpful in overcoming obstruction to rearmament such as this.
There has been dilution of capital, so much so that in these days to own land is a greater luxury than any other except a good conscience. It pays to give it away. Death Duties coming from capital are being spent by the Exchequer as income, and have so been for years. The accumulated burden of Death Duties, Super Tax, and Income Tax is so great now that it is impossible for anyone with a fairly large property to insure so as to leave to his children what he may have inherited. As capital has been conscripted, the time has come to put it to the workers that they should be more willing to consider the dilution of labour. The most palpable instance in this present emergency has reference to anti-aircraft guns. The anti-aircraft gun depends on the co-ordination of optical instruments with the movement of the gun, and the making of these instruments is a very difficult and technical art that requires experience. Unless there are great additions to the ranks of those capable of making these optical instruments, the guns cannot be turned out quickly.
There is another instance where the assistance of such a Committee would be invaluable in order to diminish delay and provide co-operation. There is now a dwindling aristocracy as we knew it of old, but there is a growing aristocracy of labour among the Party represented by my noble friends opposite, an aristocracy of labour in sheltered trades and the management of trades. I might say there is also an "hoipolloi-ocracy" This division is growing up, and it reacts against getting the best work from the greatest number of the best men. It develops quite legally, and against it I offer only the criticism that it delays armament, but the time has come to put it to the aristocracy of labour whether they prefer democracy to last or whether they wish to increase the danger of defeat which would bring us to have to endure despotism as the 1559 result of attempting to prepare for war under conditions that are unworkable. It is notorious that in the time of the magnificent democracy in the Republic of Rome, when there was extraordinary danger of war, a dictator was appointed. It had to be done to save democracy, and it has now to be preached to the young.
A minor reason for the stagnation in rearmament is the importance of London. There is as yet little to go round for defence and what little there is to go round is urgently wanted in London. The Government is in London, Parliament is in London, those who pull the levers of the democratic machines are in London, the Press is in London, and London has to get everything or Parliament will be asked to censure the Government. If we have not been able to produce in time what is necessary to go round, it should he hoped that at all events if the Committee recommended by the noble Lord opposite were appointed it could send reports to the Prime Minister, who must in war time be a dictator de facto, though not a dictator in the sense of a dictatorship that is permanent and sanctioned by extreme methods of sanction. A Committee of this sort would help the Prime Minister enormously to compromise between the one system necessary to democracy and the other. We should have a Committee of this sort to help the Prime Minister, otherwise we shall have a continuance of the present condition of stagnation and confusion, and delay and waste.
I beg now to pass more closely to a typical spot in the Empire on which depends the continuance of our position as a great Empire—I refer to the Mediterranean and to our key fortress therein, Malta. I wish my remarks to have a general application although I venture to lay stress upon Malta, because it has been my lot in life to endeavour to bring closer together the people in the fortress of Malta in co-ordination with my Westmorland traditions. Two First Lords of the Admiralty have declared that "Malta is going to be defended," and I have no misgiving whatsoever that the noble Earl who now holds the great office of First Lord of the Admiralty is about to change their policy. I have had the honour of meeting him in Malta, in Australia and in other parts of the Empire, and am quite confident that he will do much to 1560 co-ordinate the resources of the Empire. We now have a declared policy of defending Malta, but what has been the policy in regard to Malta until quite recently? The policy has been for air experts and others to declare without blushing that "Malta could not be defended." Everybody there would have had to be abandoned. The Maltese population, having conquered the island from the French and after two years fighting handed it over to the King of England in order to be British subjects, were to be abandoned. British troops as co-belligerents came in only in the last days of the siege of the French garrison.
Were the Maltese to be abandoned notwithstanding the promises that had been made? Were the wives, children and families of the soldiers and sailors and English civilians to be abandoned? This was the policy about the time of the Abyssinian crisis when in Malta there was only a British garrison of 1,200 with little ammunition. Fifty miles off on a neighbouring shore there were forty thousand picked men. It has been heard in another place from a former Naval Commander-in-Chief in Malta that possibly hostile submarines were seen "bobbing up like corks" in the Malta channel. Was the Mediterranean closed at both ends? Were Egypt, Tunis and Gibraltar to be outflanked by troops poured across past Malta? That has changed. Large sums are now being spent for the defence of Malta, but it will take time, and much time, before new methods, which have been decided upon since the present Governor took office, are brought to fruition. What has been done at Munich as the work of Mr. Chamberlain and his Government has evoked the deepest gratitude, which is being displayed by some who understand what would have happened to those unprepared except by a pro-British Press.
The word "impossible" is one that no soldier, sailor or airman should couple with defence. Defence has the advantage over attack under modern conditions. The spirit of the population of Malta in the recent crisis was for "fighting it out at once and finishing with it." The spirit was splendid. Malta is hampered in the matter of defence because we have to coordinate a Navy, an Army and an Air Force, and it appears under present conditions and without the proposed Com- 1561 mittee that authorities before they can enforce a certain action at times confer together, and when they have conferred together, important questions have to be referred to London through departmental chiefs in London and those departmental chiefs have again to confer together. Then the question goes to the Cabinet. Then perhaps the Cabinet will be agreed, and perhaps they may not. This system of fractioning responsibility of authority by reference home as to the Army and Navy and Air Force puts the defence of Malta on a parallel with the Parliamentary system of trying to co-ordinate political leaders, and it does not add to rapid rearmament in Malta.
I have often been asked "How can Malta be defended?" Perhaps your Lordships might like to hear a reply. We have seen a balloon barrage around London. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, assured us yesterday of the efficacy of that barrage, and if, around greater London, a barrage is a good defence notwithstanding the more easy angle of getting over it in so large an area, then defending the dockyard of Malta would be easy, because it would require a much smaller barrage that could be moored in part out to sea. The dockyard of Malta has to be defended at all costs and balloons could be added to air defence. There is no seamanship difficulty about it. It is purely a matter of expense. The second point is that Malta has to be defended from bombing, and ships which have taken up a berth in the dockyard for repair or to take in stores have to be defended from bombing. Now your Lordships all realise that it only requires an adequate number of antiaircraft guns and rapid fighting aircraft to keep the bombers off. If the fighters have a warning by constant scouting above, and if some are continuously in the air and if they are sheltered in a manner that makes them immune from destruction when at rest—defence can be secured. The cliffs of Malta are composed of stone which is wonderfully gifted by nature for deadening the impact of a bomb. At the same time the stone can be chopped with axes to construct underground hangars that can be made in the cliffs cheaply and swiftly. There is a large railway station at Valetta cut out- of the rock and anybody who does not believe in underground hangars can go and see that railway station. Moreover, 1562 there are cliffs down to the water's edge so that fighters that alight on the water could be added to fighting planes that alight on land, and at Malta both could be immune from destruction while at rest.
Now all know that a great danger in all air fighting is that the aerodromes where aircraft land on wheels are in danger of being converted into a collection of mud heaps and craters perhaps an hour before the declaration of war, which declarations of war are now out of fashion. It takes hundreds of men and many hours of time to level a bombed aerodrome. If the main take-off place is from the water that difficulty would not apply. It is true that craft which take off from the water are not quite so speedy aloft, but safe in starting and stopping. Nevertheless water-borne craft may be above a hundred miles an hour more rapid than any bomber, and be efficient as attackers that would have a quite sufficient margin of speed. They can come out from their bombproof shelters in the rock. If there is ample preparation of that description against hostile bombing attack something will have been done towards the defence of Malta. We do not want to attack anybody, we only want to defend; but we must nevertheless be in a position to attack. We may have in Malta one or more poison gas factories underground, and we may not use them unless they are required to be resorted to by way of retaliation. We do not want to use these means of counter attack to destroy women and children, nor to use them in the hope of hastening a probable revolution in some neighbouring country where the people may have declared that they do not want to pay with blood and treasure for an unjust war. We do not want counter attack for that purpose, but we do want people to know that we have ample means of counter attack.
I feel convinced that if Malta and Gibraltar were efficiently defended, no nation could attack or could plan to attack us without having previously assured a Mediterranean alliance. No Mediterranean Power would attack the British Commonwealth of Nations if there was a possibility of effective retaliation from Malta with comparative impunity and protection against surprise, in the fortress itself. Therefore we could by the gesture of starting to enclose sheltered waters perhaps bring about a lasting peace 1563 and a saving in armaments. As for the question of expense, the enclosing of the south-east bay of Malta ought to provide ultimately a commercial centre of the greatest value to the Empire in the future. It could be made a place where aircraft of the largest and fastest commercial lines could alight in all weathers and where aircraft could take off easily. The expenditure would be one-tenth of 1 per cent. of the £3,000,000,000 now already in prospect for rearmament and it would give effect to that great achievement of mastery of the air as well as of the sea.
Another point in favour of this plan is that aircraft alighting on the water would give the advantage of a double radius of action. We have heard of pilots who boast of being prepared to set out yet never to come back, and to dive into the funnel of a British warship in order to make sure of bombing inside. We have heard of similar things in China, where a substitute could be found for a great man to be beheaded vicariously for about $200 because of a paganised mentality. These things can be achieved perhaps by dictators and it is an incentive to the dictators to make such plans to get a double radius of action for aircraft. We can get a double radius of action by encouraging the development that will enable aircraft to alight on and take off from the water at Malta in all weathers. There is a further reason for building this harbour, and that is that the harbours of Valetta are now so congested that often the King's ships are bound to encroach on water reserved by most solemn agreements for the use of the mercantile marine. It is wrong that in time of peace these solemn agreements should not be observed, in the view that they cannot be held sacred except by increasing harbour accommodation.
A few words about man power. The man power of a nation with a population of 50,000,000 people will certainly be at a disadvantage against the man power of a nation with a population two or three times as large, even when we take into account the incalculable resources of the British Dominions. It is a saying amongst the nations round the Mediterranean that "in every war England loses all the battles except the last one." The time has come when the man power of the overseas Empire must be made more use of, and it can be made use of by en- 1564 couraging Maltese patriotism on the basis of equality of opportunity. There have been restrictions against the raising of naval reserves in Malta. These restrictions are supposed to be due to racial discrimination. That is not the case. It has in days gone by been the policy of the Navy to discourage the marriage of officers below the rank of Captain or Admiral. Officers in the Royal Navy still get no travelling allowance for their wives, although married men on the lower deck get it. The time has come to adjust such anomalies, and to end the policy of excluding from the Navy descendants of Englishmen who had married wives born in Malta. These men and Maltese naval ratings should be eligible for continuous Service employment. Malta is less than twenty-four hours of Portsmouth by air and almost a suburb of London. As an instance of the incongruity of these restrictions there may be cited the fact that in similar circumstances when the Great War broke out I had as Governor to be gazetted a Vice-Admiral of New South Wales to make Prize Courts legal there. These are typical instances which I trust the Committee suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will help to investigate.
In conclusion, I would wish to recall that two noble Lords on this side yesterday expressed their determination to vote for the Motion before your Lordships' House, and I feel sure no noble Lord should be deterred from voting for this Motion by the suggestion that it would be a vote of censure on the Government. It would be in fact a vote of appreciation of the reasons for better co-ordination.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, when I came to the House yesterday I had no intention whatever of speaking in this debate, because I am against inquiries, but the noble Marquess who spoke for the Government yesterday afternoon very nearly convinced me that I am wrong in that respect. I would like to join with noble Lords who yesterday congratulated the noble Lord who introduced this Motion. The debate on the Motion has covered a wide range of subjects. I will not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken, and carry your Lordships further afield to the Falkland Islands or Singapore, because really the Motion has to do with the defence of these islands.
1565 I would like to say a few words about inquiries. During my long years in Whitehall, I think I had more inquiries into Departments with which I was concerned than almost anyone in the paid service of the Crown. I came to the conclusion about all of them that their great virtue was that they taught the inquirers something about the subject, which is very valuable. I agree also that very often those who are being inquired into are given, by the questions addressed to them, food for thought about the subject from another angle, and in that way an inquiry may do good. But having said that, I still think that on the whole inquiries are not what are wanted at the present time. Nevertheless, I was frankly amazed by the reasons given by the noble Marquess yesterday. First of all, he compared His Majesty's Government with a theatrical company, and said that they did not want an outside committee of the public to investigate the play that they were going to put on the stage. But is that a true parallel? Is not everybody in this country a shareholder in the defence of this nation, and are not the members of both Houses of Parliament really the representatives of those shareholders? We should not have outsiders inquiring into something which has nothing to do with them; we are more concerned than anybody else with our own defence.
As I understood him, the noble Marquess said that if the Labour Government sat on those Benches and the National Party sat on those others, the noble Marquess might have been pressing for an inquiry. Those of us who, thank goodness, sit on these Benches have not to change our opinions as often as those who sit on the two Front Benches!
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, the late Secretary of State for Air, said in his most admirable speech that we must not be content to remain on the defensive. This debate has so far covered chiefly our defence deficiencies, and I am not going to carry the argument into the realm of the offensive. I hope those deficiencies, which are not so easily seen as the defence deficiencies, are not so great. The noble Viscount stated, how ever, that defence was important. I agree, and I should like to point out that, first of all, searchlights can only work for 50 per cent. of 1566 the year—that is at night, for they are no good in the daytime. Then again, London and most of the centre of England are under cloud and mist for over 50 per cent. of the daytime; and therefore you may say that all the money, energy and material you put into searchlights can only be used for 25 per cent. of the time. That fact has got to be considered, though I am not saying, "No searchlights." Anti-aircraft guns can work day and night, but again owing to cloud and mist, I do not believe that they can work more than 50 per cent. of the time.
The noble Lord who moved this Motion thought, I believe, like Lord Swinton, but he assured us that he was in favour of balloons. Balloons can go up in cloud and mist and are more efficient in regard to the amount of time they can work than any other weapon. Those points ought to be remembered when we are deciding the amount of effort we can put into defence. For the last month we have been hearing a great deal about the deficiencies in our defence. My Lords, at one time everybody seemed to think that an aeroplane would be able to come and search out every nook and cranny in these islands. That is far from being the case. I am the last to underestimate what damage would be done to places like London and the big towns, but I think there is a lack of sense of proportion in regard to the amount of money that should be put into any particular form of defence—and by money I do not mean cash only, but also brains and personnel. There is a book which I suggest should be read by all noble Lords: it is by a great writer, Mr. Speight, who has written on international law connected with the air for many years, and his books are read abroad. I would draw your Lordships' attention to his chapter on "Flight, Fancies and Facts." I do not know if anyone has ever tried to calculate what an enormous amount of aircraft would be necessary to search out every nook and cranny in the country. It would be far larger than any figures which have been mentioned even by the wildest speakers on the subject.
The noble Viscount raised two other questions, of which the first was the Ministry of Supply. I, like him, was not very much in favour of it, but I always used to remark that, if it had 1567 to come in, it should embrace the three Services in view of the situation we are in to-day, which is very different from the situation even of a year ago. We heard the noble Viscount say:I realise that it is highly important, if you create a Ministry of Supply, that you should maintain the closest contact between that Ministry of Supply and the operational staffs. That I believe you would do effectively by keeping as members of their respective Service Councils the Members for Supply who were transferred.One of the reasons I have seen advanced against the Ministry of Supply rather worries me: that in instituting it delay will be caused at first. Yes, but should that delay not be now rather than when war comes?
The noble Viscount's second point was National Service. I was profoundly disappointed, as I think many others of your Lordships were, when the noble Marquess, speaking on behalf of the Government, said that they would not even compile a Register of all the people in this country to show what they are doing now and what they would be willing to do. Surely it could be done even in the form of a few more questions on the census paper: "What are you doing, and what are you willing to do?", with a footnote, if necessary, that there is no thought of bringing in compulsion at the present time, or that no compulsion will be used to make anybody do anything. However it is done, the Government ought to compile that Register. I do not think the noble Viscount was asking for compulsion to make people work.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
It was only to compile a Register, and I never thought there was any intention to use compulsion. I do not want to detain your Lordships any longer. I will merely say that I am against the inquiry, and for the Register and the Ministry of Supply.
§ VISCOUNT PLUMER
My Lords, I must ask for your kindest indulgence, which you always show to a member of the House who addresses you for the first time. The reason why I have not addressed you before is that I have always felt that there are other members of your Lordships' House who know a great deal more and are much better fitted to speak on the subject concerned. My excuse for speaking to-day is that for 1568 over two years my principal duties were the control of traffic in areas in France which were either being shelled or liable to be shelled. During the crisis I was filled with tremendous foreboding. On the Monday when the anti-aircraft divisions were mobilised, I expected that certain rules and regulations would be enforced for the control of traffic on the roads. But time went on from Monday to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday, and nothing occurred. From my own experience I know that the control of traffic in a war area—which this country would be in the event of war—is a very different matter from the ordinary traffic of to-day. The suggestions which I want to put for-and I do not expect to be applied in the full to the 23,000 miles of roads, or even to the 4,500 miles of trunk roads, but I feel, from personal experience, that some of these suggestions might be of use.
In the first place I think that sidings must be constructed on roads which have been chosen by the War Office and the Ministry of Transport from the traffic census, and by other bodies who know which roads are going to carry the brunt of the traffic. Then they should have trenches provided for the personnel on the roads. One of the great difficulties in moving troops is that they have to halt, and if they are going to halt on the road it means tremendous congestion. If they are moved into sidings the other traffic can flow on. Under present conditions not only shall we have military traffic on the roads, but the food supplies of the country may also have to be carried on the same roads. Secondly, all side roads on to the main trunk roads, chosen for special use, should have gates or barricades, even those sidings which you are going to keep open for cross traffic. The reason for that, as I have seen for myself, is that in the case of bombing or shell fire drivers are extremely likely to panic, and I have known disciplined drivers who have lost their heads. I think you will find that the traffic control men will have difficulty in such circumstances in controlling drivers. I think also that there must be separate personnel for traffic control of the main roads, because you cannot expect the local or special police in times of crisis to provide trained men for traffic control, and once the fluidity of your traffic has been held up you will find that it is practically impossible to start it going again.
1569 I do not think there is anything else I wish to suggest, but I do think that before anything happens the class of traffic to use the main and necessary roads should be decided. I do not think any compulsion should be brought upon the road users, but permits should be issued, and the main users of the roads should be notified that they will not be allowed to use the roads until a permit has been supplied. That means that they would have to apply first to the traffic control authorities, who would know pretty well what was going to be the strain put upon the roads. I think that even if a crisis does not come the money thus spent would be well spent in the fact that these precautions would help to prevent the tremendous slaughter which is going on on our roads in peace time.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, it has not been my privilege to be a member of your Lordships' House for very long, but as an old Parliamentary hand I am sure I may be allowed to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord who has just made his maiden speech upon the clearness and definiteness with which he has put his suggestions. It throws my mind back to the hesitation and temerity with which I first spoke in the other House. Until we heard the noble Lord below the gangway speak, to-day, I would have said myself that this debate had had two remarkable features. One was the very useful and, if I may say so, important speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. The other was the speech of the noble Marquess on behalf of the Government, which was more remarkable for its self-satisfied complacency than any speech which I have ever heard, and surely extraordinarily out of place and out of keeping with the gravity of the issues which your Lordships were discussing, without, I am sure, any Party bias whatever. The noble Marquess at first made a few jibes at the Labour Party, which I do not think were called for. I am sure my noble friend sought to introduce no Party interest into this Motion, nor do I, but the noble Marquess complained that the Government's prestige had been damaged by the speeches of its opponents. I would rather suggest that if it has been damaged it has been damaged by the revelations of the deficiencies that existed in the defences of our capital city in a time of peril, and not by speeches of the Government's opponents.
1570 I am not going to recite those deficiencies to any great extent, but I must say I did not find any comfort in the fact that the noble Marquess was glad that the Fleet had been mobilised promptly. It is what we should all have expected. He also took some satisfaction from the fact that a million yards of trenches, or something like that, had been dug quickly. For my part I have never seen a more unholy mess in the whole of my public life—public authorities not knowing what to do, not even having a standard trench or knowing how deep it should be or in what sort of earth, and nobody knowing anything but everybody doing the best he could for himself in difficult circumstances. As a subject for satisfaction I cannot imagine anything more inappropriate, and it would have been better, I think, if some pre-vision had been exercised for an elementary thing like a sandbag. I notice that the price went up from something like a penny to begin with to about 10½d. It might well be the subject of an inquiry as to what sort of preparations ought to be made, and could properly be made, for the provision of trenches, if they are necessary. I express no opinion on the technical side, but if they are necessary for the defence of the metropolis, surely after two years of meditation we might have got something better than that.
Another source of satisfaction to the noble Marquess was that some 80 per cent. of the Territorials rallied to their anti-aircraft stations. I should have expected that they would. The people are all right, all the lot of them. Of course the Territorials rallied. The thing that mattered was that there was such a very short supply of efficient anti-aircraft weapons, and a very short supply of apparatus for securing their full use. It is undeniable—I am not going to recite any facts—that there was a deficiency, a lamentable deficiency, in the provision of anti-aircraft guns and apparatus, and I see that the Daily Telegraph. which is a good supporter of the Government, said this morning in its leading article that the publicis profoundly disturbed to discover that on mobilisation the Territorials were without an adequate supply of guns and equipment, though we are now in the third year of a five-year programme of rearmament.Some of us know that it takes a long time to make guns from the start. It 1571 depends of course on the gun. Eighteen months, I should say, would certainly be short, taking it altogether from the start. But still, we are in the third year. There should have been no shortage now, and I think when I come to the suggestion of the noble Viscount below the gangway it will not be difficult to discover why there is a shortage. I will not follow the noble Marquess further. I got no comfort from the fact that the percentage of some items of supplies last month was, I think he said, twice as good or four times as good as it was six months ago. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh said, if you only get one of a thing one month and two six months later, that is 100 per cent. increase. Many of us know how far behind schedule a large number of vital supplies are, and for my part, instead of being comforted by the complacency of the noble Marquess, I was rather frightened by it. If that is the attitude of the Government, in face of the present emergency, it is rather terrifying to find such self-satisfaction.
I will turn to a brighter side of the subject—namely, the speech of my noble friend below the gangway, when he chided me, not unfairly, on a little exultation that I displayed on finding that he now supported the creation of a Ministry of Supply. He was entitled to do so, but I do not forget that on two occasions when he and I crossed swords on this very subject he opposed me. However, one is only too happy to be allowed to bury the hatchet, though I am sure he will allow me to remind him that even in Heaven there is joy over a sinner that repenteth. Let me examine, however, the deficiencies that have actually arisen. There must be delays and confusion if there is no unity in respect of the oversight of design, the supply of materials and machine parts, and in the direction of the placing of orders. If these are to be done by different parts of the same Department and, still more, by three separate Departments without relation to one another, it is as certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow that there must be confusion, overlapping, and delay. That is the plain business reason for the creation of a Ministry of Supply. Some such organisation is essential if we are to have rational placing of orders according to 1572 the capacity of the workshops to do the work.
The other day it was announced that Messrs. Vickers were going to undertake a big contract for the Air Ministry, and that there was to be a large amount of sub-contracting. I have knowledge—and so, I have no doubt, have others—of a specific case that occurred quite recently in regard to the supply of a very vital part in which some 400 to 500 men were thrown out of work, or put on short time, for more than a fortnight because that vital ingredient was not forthcoming at the proper time, and the whole thing had to stand and mark time until it was delivered. That is only one illustration of what certainly has occurred hundreds of times. Take this particular case that I am referring to—and I hope I shall be acquitted of any desire to disparage this great firm. That is not at all my intention; it is the system I challenge. If this great firm, however efficient it may be, takes up a large bulk order and places contracts for materials here, for machinery there, for tools somewhere else, without the knowledge of anybody else, it is inevitable that there will be confusion. The War Office, for instance, comes along and wants various parts, and it will find the sub-contractors in confusion. There is no priority possible under a system of that kind. That is what has been happening all over the country for the past two or three years.
The first essential now is that an appropriate body—call it a Ministry of Supply if you like, I do not care what you call it—should have cognisance of all the requirements, particularly in regard to materials, machine tools, machine parts and scientific equipment. Unless that is done it is impossible to avoid confusion. You cannot marry your various parts and your innumerable materials and ingredients unless some body of persons is made responsible for doing the job. It cannot be done by a hundred different people. I think the fact that we now have such distinguished support in this contention should satisfy even the Government that the time has come when a single Minister or a single organisation responsible for the supply of all these munitions should be created. And it should be done now. We are told by the noble Marquess that it might hold up private work. I am not going to say it might not—for a time; but once the thing had 1573 been got in working order, it would be infinitely better for private enterprise than the confusion which prevails at the present time. Now, with the innumerable sub-contractors for materials, metals of all kinds, explosives and machinery, nobody knows what anybody else is doing, nobody knows what the next week will bring forth. If you have the thing centralised in a Ministry of Supply, private industry would then come to know where it was. It would not be subject to the confusion and interruption that inevitably accompany the existing methods. So I suggest that the Ministry of Supply, once it was established, would interfere with private enterprise far less than the present chaotic system. Therefore I do not take that as an objection.
Another objection, the noble Marquess said, was that it would slow down production. Well, I do not think so. It might slow down war production for a time whilst you were clearing the decks. I have a lively recollection of the state of affairs that prevailed in December, 1917, in the manufacture of aeroplanes. There was exactly the same muddle because a multitude of people were trying to do the job. There was confusion and overlapping, and when we came to bring things together there was delay. But within six months the output of completed aeroplanes was nearly ten times as great. In the following July it was nearly ten times what it had been in November. Although you might have for a week or more—if you like, for a month—some degree of hold-up you will enormously accelerate your output once the thing has got into working order.
The noble Marquess rather surprised me with respect to his objection to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, had said as to people being told what they ought to do. He said he had come to the conclusion that it was time that what people would have to do should be known. That is right. But he seemed to raise some objection to finding out. The Ministry of Labour at the present time, I believe, has an index of something like 85 per cent. of the workers of the community, showing what they do. It should not be very difficult to find out, and unless some steps are taken we shall have a much worse confusion, if ever the necessity arises, than we had a few weeks ago.
1574 I have a lively recollection of what we had to do in the Department of Sir Auckland Geddes, to try and comb out from the Army the men who never ought to have been there. I remember one prize fool recruited the master gauge-maker from Vickers' gunshop, and I well remember how Lord Derby and myself, so to say, sat up late until we found this man, with the aid of the Department of my noble friend below the gangway. And what was this man doing when he was found? Actually he was found doing fatigue duty on Wimbledon Common, this master gauge-maker from Vickers' principal gunshop, picking up bits of paper with a long stick with an iron spike on it. There were lots of other cases equally absurd.
It passes my comprehension why it is unreasonable to have this done. It is not an infringement of the liberty of the subject or anything of the kind to arrange your plans sensibly beforehand so as to know what is the proper job for different people to do. That is all it is. The Prime Minister has promised us an inquiry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promised an inquiry which was accompanied by a large number of drastic adjectives. My noble friend recited some of them yesterday—"searching," "ruthless," "remorseless" and so on. My noble friend's suggestion is a much more modest affair than that terrible prospect. He asks for an inquiry. He does not ask even for the results to be made public. He does not want anyone put on the carpet, except privately by those who conduct the inquiry. The one and only purpose of my noble friend is to enable us to be in a better position to defend ourselves and to be satisfied, all of us—members of the public as well as members of this House—that His Majesty's Government are not possessed of the extraordinary self-satisfaction of the noble Marquess, but are really prepared to act so that we shall not, another time, be found confronted with the dangers and deficiencies which were before us only a few weeks ago.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, when I came down yesterday, like my noble friend on my right, I had no intention to intervene at all in this debate, but after hearing those very able and very kindly put remarks of the opener of the debate and the astounding statement on behalf of His Majesty's Government, I felt that I 1575 should not be doing my duty if I remained silent. I was greatly moved by the closing statements in the speech of the noble Marquess. I yield to nobody in my admiration of the work of the Prime Minister. I yield to nobody in my faith in moral rearmament. I am proud that in the last few weeks I have been associated with the late Prime Minister (Earl Baldwin), whom I am pleased to see here to-day, in urging moral rearmament on the nation. But moral rearmament alone is not going to safeguard this nation. The noble Marquess closed his speech with the words "Blessed are the peacemakers." May I quote another text— "The strong man armed keepeth his house safe."
In my position, as a soldier on the active list, I find it difficult to criticise the work of the Secretary of State for War, but I would ask the noble Earl (Lord Stanhope), whom I should like to congratulate on having passed from the Army to the head of the Navy, if he will kindly investigate the statement that was made that 70 or 80 per cent.—I forget which—of the anti-aircraft guns for the defence of London, and a similar percentage of the searchlights, were in position. I ask him to do that because of an answer given in another place a great many years ago when a very distinguished Secretary of State for War was asked a similar question as to whether guns were in position, and answered in the affirmative. The officer concerned with the question at the War Office went to him next morning and asked why he had answered in the affirmative, "because," said this officer, "I told you there were no mountings and no ammunition for these guns." The famous Secretary of State answered, "Did I ever say there were ammunition and mountings for these guns?" If 70 per cent. of the anti-aircraft guns, representing 70 per cent. of the guns which were allowed for the anti-aircraft defence of London in the great scheme of many years ago, are complete with ammunition, with carriages, and with mountings, and with those instruments which are absolutely essential for finding the range, then I can only say I congratulate His Majesty's Government on what they have accomplished.
I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by Lord Swinton 1576 yesterday. It struck me as the most constructive speech on the supply of material and men I had heard for a very long time. I agree with every word he said, and I thank him for saying it because he has saved me the trouble of saying a great deal this evening. I, like him, stand in a white sheet. At one time I did not think that a Ministry of Supply was necessary in any way. At that time there was very little work for it to do. But I am convinced that a Ministry of Supply is now essential for the proper rearmament of His Majesty's Forces, and I cannot see why a Ministry of Supply organised as suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton—that the three Departments which deal with Services material be transferred to one Ministry and co-ordinated by one Minister—should have a more baneful effect on industry than the unco-ordinated work under three Ministers. The only objection that I have ever heard has been overcome by the suggestion of Lord Swinton that the representatives of the Councils should still remain on their respective Councils.
Might I urge His Majesty's Government to reconsider their decision about not having a compulsory Register for National Service? They have appointed a great organiser to organise air-raid precaution services, but they have tied his hands behind his back. I am dead against any form of compulsory service for either the regular or the auxiliary forces. I have no belief in conscription, and I have no belief especially in conscription for the regular Services. I hope some form of general national training may be introduced in the future, but for the immediate purpose of carrying out the duties of the defence of our country I cannot see how these duties can be properly performed unless every man and every woman above the age of eighteen is registered, so that we know, not what they want to do, but what they are capable of doing. The wastage of energy in that fortnight was something extraordinary—energy which would have been much better put into doing something rather than running about trying to find something to do. I cannot see the objections to a register. We are registered at birth; we are registered all through our lives, and we are registered at our death; why should we not be registered to serve our country? Years ago another man in my position, a very distinguished man 1577 in my regiment, stood in this position in this House and he warned the nation. I have no right to expect to be in his position, but it is my duty to warn His Majesty's Government, and to warn you, my Lords, and through you the country, that unless they now put their house in order they do not know what they may expect from the future.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships welcome the contribution which the noble and gallant Field Marshal has just made to the debate, and I think we shall all recognise that his exertions have always been in the direction in which we are tending to-day. I confess that I have wondered whether the noble Lord opposite really intends to put his Motion to a Division. I cannot think that he has himself realised what the result of his Motion would be, if carried. It is so very wide in its terms that I imagine any Committee that was set up would probably be occupied two or three years in investigation before it could arrive at a definite decision. Personally, if any Committee is set up, I should urge that it be charged with the investigation of some definite aspect of defence rather than with a general review of the whole of our difficulties.
I was very much disappointed with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, a few moments ago. The noble Lord himself, during the Great War, had very wide experience of supply, and it has been in his power to help us very much by advice in that respect. Probably I have not followed his speeches sufficiently closely, but I wonder whether he does not belong to that very large class who at the present moment are somewhat too ready to attack the Government. The noble Lord has used strong words to-night, such as "extraordinary self-satisfaction" with regard to the speech of the noble Marquess last night which, I thought, was an admirable speech. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Addison, has himself, from the great knowledge he obtained during the War, warned the country of the very serious risk which many felt was being run by the policy of disarmament to which the Party of which he is a member attached the greatest possible importance. If he has made any warning speeches of that kind I do not recollect them. If he has not made them, then he belongs 1578 to that large class of persons who are now reviling the Government for a condition of things which has resulted from the very policy which they themselves followed.
§ LORD ADDISON
May I interrupt the noble Earl? In July, 1935, I urged that a Ministry of Supply should be created for the purpose of expediting the supply of armaments, and in May of this year I repeated the plea in this House.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
If anybody on the Bench on which the noble Lord sits is able to say that he is one of those who warned the Government of what we were losing by our apathy in the past I shall be only too glad to hear his speech quoted, but I have a feeling, and I believe your Lordships generally have a feeling, that those who have become wise too late ought to be a great deal more careful in the language which they use with regard to the efforts made by the Government in view of the record of their own Party. I wish to make one appeal to the Government with regard to the present situation and the future. The country, ever since the days of the Duke of Wellington, has gone up and down with regard to armaments, but there is one thing which it has never clone in the past, at least not so far as my historical knowledge goes, and which has been consistently done since the Great War. Not only has the money which could have been spent upon armaments been more than carefully safeguarded, but a principle has been adopted with regard to both the War Office and the Admiralty which I venture to say in the opinion of every business man in this House would be regarded as fatal to any big business. This matter is probably not within the cognisance of many noble Lords, because they may not have taken an interest in it.
It is twenty years since the Great War came to an end. During those twenty years the War Office and the Admiralty have been treated as offices to which any civilian Minister could be appointed if it happened to be convenient that he should sit there for a few months. In twenty years there has been in the War Office, ten chiefs—Mr. Winston Churchill, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Lord Derby, Mr. Walsh, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans a second time, Mr. Shaw, the Marquess of Crewe, Viscount Hailsham, Viscount Halifax, Mr. Duff Cooper and Mr. 1579 Hore-Belisha. There have been ten chiefs and one change in addition so that there have been eleven changes. The tenure of office has been less than two years for each man in a Department which was spending £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 and is now spending nearly £50,000,000. The Admiralty has been treated in the same way, or very nearly the same way. There has been one change the fewer at the Admiralty, which spends £70,000,000.
I would ask any business man in your Lordships' House if he would get up and even criticise what I say. What control can be exercised over a spending of £50,000,000 and still more of £70,000,000 in a very technical office by heads who change in less than two years? Yet we are supposed to have done our very best under great difficulties to get these defences forward. I am going to fortify what I have said by instances from past experience of what has been the effect. Take the War Office. Money voted by Parliament for the War Office has been obtained with the greatest possible difficulty during all these lean years. The practice in the War Office has always been that when December approaches—within four months of the end of the financial year—the whole of the estimates are gone through individually by the head of the Department in consultation with the experts. Money which had not been spent in one way might be spent legitimately in another and so it was possible, in the last four months of the year, to fill up many difficult chinks, many gaps in the provision of munitions and guns and other things which could be produced in four months. The money therefore went to the Army instead of going to repay the National Debt.
One of the statesmen who have been in and out of the War Office repeatedly in the last ten years is the late Secretary of State, Mr. Duff Cooper. Let me say that nobody could feel more than I do the great advantage of the services which Mr. Duff Cooper has rendered, but let me take the first two years when Mr. Duff Cooper was Financial Secretary at the War Office. In those two years there was returned to the Exchequer £1,992,000, nearly £2,000,000, a sum which even in the Great War would have provided a large amount of munitions for three Army Corps during all the early months of the year. But this was after the Great 1580 War. Take the period when Mr. Duff Cooper was Secretary of State. In two years then, £2,070,000 were returned to the Exchequer unused. Those sums had been voted by Parliament for the Army, and a man who does not use them for the Army is in my opinion very badly serving the force over which he presides. I do not want to make a personal attack in any way, but I do say that that sort of thing would not be tolerated anywhere other than in the public service.
The first essential, I venture to say, is not to remove an efficient person from one post to another if we are to ensure the efficiency of these great public Departments. Take the Admiralty. I know very little of the Admiralty, but I venture to say that if Sir Samuel Hoare was not a good head of the Admiralty, certainly it is the first public post he has filled in which he has failed. But I have heard it stated—it may be quite untrue, of course—that it was felt that a man like Sir Samuel Hoare who had been Foreign Secretary could not be retained in a lower post such as the Admiralty when the higher post of Secretary of State for Home Affairs was open. Therefore he must be removed, and he was removed. I absolutely deprecate this shuffling of heads of Departments like pawns, leaving utterly untried men to deal with the great emergency which has arisen. I do not know whether Mr. Hore-Belisha is correct or not in regard to the retirement of officers, but I certainly think that if the retiring age for officers must be drastically altered, it would have been better at all events if some experience of the Department had been obtained before it was done, if it had to be done, by a man who was wholly untried. The one thing I do appeal to the Government to do is to give a pledge, before this debate ends, that if we put our trust in them, as we do, if we believe they are doing at this moment a work impossible to be done by any other Government, they will not falsify that trust by continually doing things which make it quite impossible for the work of great Departments to be properly supervised.
I apologise for having gone into so much detail, but I hope I may be allowed to say that I would not have ventured to do it if I had not had almost unique experience of the War Office. I served in it for twelve years under three most 1581 distinguished chiefs and with three most distinguished Commanders-in-Chief. More changes took place in that period, I think, than in any other similar period. At all events I can say that there was no opportunity for any Secretary of State to find time for anything else but the supervision and adaptation of fresh changes. I hope that we shall be allowed now to feel that not only is the very best man appointed to an office, but that the man who is a round peg in a round hole will be allowed to stay there and carry out his work. This may be only the contribution of a back bencher but I think I may say that if the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. himself once Secretary of State, who has just come into the House, had heard me. he would agree with every word I have said. If we are to sit down and criticise things done a few years ago I think we ought to put all we can into the common stock and do our best in these great difficulties to assist the Government in keeping together to the best advantage the only Power which is entirely unselfish.
My Lords, even if I do not agree entirely with the terms of the Motion, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, on putting it down, because I think the general question with which he deals is probably the most vital one which affects our country at the present time. To proceed at once to the centre of the Motion, I feel that an inquiry, even if it is independent or if it is secret, as was suggested by the noble Lord in his speech, would not be of utility to-day. We all know that inquiries take a long time, and very often at the end of them the reports are pigeon-holed. Even if the reports are not pigeon-holed, those who are affected are held up in their work during the whole time that the inquiry is on foot. I conceive that the heads of the various Defence Ministries would be held up pending the result of the inquiry and would refrain from doing things which might be of great use in the defence of the country during that time. I believe that to-day is the time for action and not for inquiries.
I cannot help feeling from the speech which was made by the Prime Minister in another place yesterday, that he has this question very fully in mind and that 1582 he is already having, or has had, inquiries instituted in order to satisfy himself on the points which would come before any such independent inquiry as is suggested by my noble friend. But one other point arose in the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday which I am sure gave your Lordships great gratification. That is the appointment of Sir John Anderson as Minister of Civilian Defence. I cannot help feeling, knowing Sir John Anderson as I do, and knowing his work and his record as we all do, that no better appointment could have been made to this post. I was particularly pleased to see that the post is to be named the Ministry of Civilian Defence. After all, as has been said in this House and outside over and over again in these days, those who will come first into the fighting line if a war occurs will be the civilians, and what is more appropriate than that we should have a Ministry of Civilian Defence in order to defend the civilian?
Having said that, I feel that we have a great deal of ground to cover before we can believe or know that defence for the civilians is put in proper order. During the last crisis chaos and confusion reigned almost everywhere. Before and during the crisis thousands of people all over the country were asking what they should do, how they could do it, and where they might do it. All wished to do something, but many did not know what to do or where to go. In July last a deputation went to the Prime Minister to recommend the institution of a National Register. I quite understand that at that time the conditions were such that probably no Prime Minister would have felt that he could go so far as to impose a compulsory Register of citizens in this country. But that time has changed. None of us who went through the recent crisis will believe that there is anything but a very small minimum of the citizens of this country who would not welcome a Register of citizens to-day.
Suppose the voluntary system is adopted, as was indicated by the Prime Minister yesterday, and Sir John Anderson sets up under his Ministry a voluntary system, I believe that, if no crisis occurs for some time again, that voluntary system will break down. I further believe that, as this civilian defence will necessitate the use of a great many individuals, those who do come into it will ultimately become discontented 1583 at the sacrifices they are making while they are watching other people amusing themselves and doing nothing. I had the privilege of organising and administering the food control in the Clyde and the West of Scotland during the War. Very early on it was decided that rationing was necessary. The Government of the day did not feel that the time had come to make that rationing compulsory, and so a system of voluntary rationing was instituted. What happened? Within a very few weeks we found a large number of people, it is true, rationing themselves voluntarily and sacrificing themselves perhaps to a greater extent than was necessary, but on the other hand there were a great number of people who did nothing at all, who ate the same, drank the same and continued as if there were no war.
Out of that arose great discontent, and within six months, if I remember rightly, the voluntary system was abandoned and we entered into the reign of compulsory rationing. But six months had been lost, and I venture to suggest to your Lordships that if to-day we institute a system of voluntary citizenship, if I may so call it, it will be found within six months that the same sort of thing will arise as arose under the voluntary rationing, and that a system of compulsory registration of citizens will have to come about. But we shall have lost a valuable six months by doing so, and six months which I do not believe it is necessary to lose, because in those parts of the country in which I have been speaking with all classes of people, I have come across none who would not welcome to-day a system of compulsory registration of citizens, so that they may know what they have to do if any similar crisis arises such as arose the other day.
I venture to suggest, further, that the same spirit applies to a system of National Service. One can only go to one's own surroundings for a question of this sort, but I know that my own employees in Scotland voluntarily approached me and asked whether such a system was going to be introduced, because they would like to see it in force. My own gardener said to me: "When is this going to take place? I am prepared to go and spend two or three nights a week getting training for what may come in the future"; but he added: "If I do so then my assistant must do 1584 so likewise." That is the feeling in the country, and I do not think we ought to wait. I hope the Government will take note that there is such a feeling up and down the country, and will institute some form of National Service along the lines of Switzerland, we might say, which would enable this country to be placed on a similar basis to the non-democratic countries, if I may so call them, in other parts of the world. I visited France, Switzerland and Italy about the time when the crisis was going on. I found calmness there—anxiety, it is true, but calmness—because it was known that all these things had been organised. The people knew what, if war broke out, they would be called upon to do. So they sat and waited. They were not like us in this country, hurrying hither and thither wondering what we could do to help our country.
There is one other point which has been raised in this debate, and that is the question of a Ministry of Supply. I feel a little bit sorry that I cannot go as far as the noble Lords, Lord Trenchard and Lord Milne and Lord Swinton, who spoke yesterday in this matter. I was not quite sure how far Lord Milne himself would go. What Lord Milne said was that he believed that the three Services ought to be given one organisation for supplies, but he did not go so far as the statement made by my noble friend Lord Swinton yesterday, in which the noble Viscount said that this Ministry of Supplies should have power to require any firm in the country to do any particular job of work needed; that the first call on industry seemed to him to be right. I am not at all sure that it is right, because if you are going to instal a Ministry of Supply in this country, with authoritative powers of that sort, where is it going to end?
It may begin all right, but I can conceive of that Ministry growing into a large system of bureaucracy, in which ultimately the whole of the business of this country would be subservient to that Government Department. I do not think that Lord Snell and Lord Strabolgi had any idea when supporting a Ministry of Supply of drawing the necessary political motives for it, but I quite imagine that when actually stated Lord Snell and Lord Strabolgi would not object to a system inaugurated in this country which gradually might wholly assume control of 1585 all the businesses and set up a Socialistic State. That would be bound to come out of this, ultimately, but I believe that the time is not yet. Some day it may come, in a changing world, but we should have to change our whole system before we set up an institution which would bring that about.
I can conceive of interference in the factories of this country which might bring great trouble upon us. The Ministry of Supply come in and say: "Do this at once." A factory might have on hand a commercial contract that means a great many thousands of pounds to the company. Of course they would have to put it aside. In that way you might wreck the whole procedure of a factory, and make it most difficult to carry on even the military supplies that are required at a later date, because you cannot run these factories without capital, and you must have a continuous chain of orders going through the factories in order to keep them alive. I hope the Government will consider this matter very seriously before they impose the recommendation of my noble friend Lord Swinton. On the other hand, I hope they will also consider very seriously the setting up of a compulsory Register of citizens, and the institution of some form of compulsory National Service. I believe that only in that way are we going to back up the splendid work done by the Prime Minister at Munich and other places. We all know—it is no good burking it—that in order to have a policy of appeasement you must have strength, and the only way in which you can do this is to get the whole nation together—to gather together from every quarter the good will and co-operation which are there to-day, and not lose them by waiting too long.
§ LORD CROMWELL
My Lords, unlike Lord Balfour of Burleigh I arrived at the House full of sympathy with the Motion moved by Lord Strabolgi, but at the same time hoping that I might hear something from the Government which would convince me that, in the event of a Division, my vote should be given to them. I do not know whether a Division will take place, but after what I have heard so far from the Government Front Bench I shall certainly vote in support of the Resolution if a Division is taken. We must all be pleased that the Prime Minister got 1586 us out of war, but do the Government fully appreciate the fact that Mr. Chamberlain got us out of war by signing what in the view of a great many people was a humiliating document, and that he had to do that because, as it turned out, this country was totally unprepared to resist any form of attack—I mean attack upon these shores by bombers? If we had been at war there can be little doubt now that this war would have been fought by us, not for Czechoslovakia, but in order that we might exist ourselves.
I do not wish to argue the merits of the Munich Agreement and the differences between that and the Godesberg ultimatum; but I personally am convinced that if Czechoslovakia had been the only issue our Prime Minister could not possibly have signed such a document as in fact he did. What does that document do? It insists in practice that people who have been living in their homes for generations must get out without even the usual week's notice accorded to a tenant in a cottage. It is true, as was stated by the Prime Minister in another place, that in theory they have three months in which to exercise their option, but can anyone seriously suggest that any Jew, or others similarly situated, could have risked staying in Czechoslovakia once the Germans had gone in? Their only course was to flee with what few belongings they could take with them, or risk death or some worse fate. Supposing the Prime Minister had taken a firmer stand at Munich, what would have been the result? I suppose the result would have been that the enemy, that is, the German, Air Force would have been over London in a few hours; and it was owing to the fact that we were completely unprepared to resist that attack that the Prime Minister had to take the course which he did. It was only after I learned of our complete unpreparedness that I was able to subscribe to the action which he took, as I do most wholeheartedly, and I should like to pay my tribute to his untiring patience and persistence on that occasion.
We have been told to look to the future and not to recriminate about what is past, and therefore I will leave the past. But I am not satisfied myself that the Government have learned the required lesson. If they had done so I think there could have been no doubt that they would have immediately issued a statement informing 1587 the country that it was essential to have a National Register and that people should be compelled to supply the details required. Instead of that, no pronouncement at all was made except the pronouncement of the Prime Minister in another place in answer to a Question, that during the life of the present Government conscription would not be introduced No one in this House, I think, nor anyone outside, wishes to introduce conscription in its ordinary sense, but I believe that National Service is absolutely essential. As far as I can see, all the Government are prepared to do is to go on toying with the idea of improving the existing arrangements, or rather the lack of arrangements made on a purely voluntary basis. I think it is essential that all man power and industry should be nationalised in peace time, so that when war comes everyone may be ready and trained. We have already heard how essential it is to fit the men to the jobs and not make the jobs fit the men.
Unless the Leader of the House is prepared at the end of this debate to reverse what was said by the noble Marquess last night, I cannot believe that the Government even now have realised the seriousness of the position. In the past few days one Minister after the other has publicly stated that there have been serious gaps in our defences. If that be true—as I think it is—then either the Government are incompetent or they are trying to work an out-of-date system which is not applicable to modern times. Personally, I do not think it is possible in these days for any private concern to compete with a State industry, and in the same way it is impossible for a voluntary effort to compete with the compulsory effort of the whole nation. Unless we really put our hands to the wheel I do not think that we shall weather another crisis if it occurs, which, pray God it will not.
The noble Marquess yesterday referred to the fact that a Ministry of Supply when first set up would slow up production, but I suggest respectfully that the argument proves the reverse of what he was trying to point out. If we wait until a war comes to set up a Ministry of Supply, that is the very worst time at which to retard the production of munitions. If we are going to retard it at all, retard it now, and then when zero 1588 hour comes we shall be completely ready for everything to work like clockwork.
Up to 1914 the Army and the Navy fought and the country applauded. From now on, in my view, it is the civil population who will first become involved, and if the civil population are not prepared to stand the initial shock in order to give the forces of the Crown sufficient time to deploy, then the forces of the Crown will be of no avail, however strong they may be. It took a week or more for the armed forces to mobilise in 1914, but it is doubtful now whether it would take as many hours as it took days then. We have been told that the country cannot afford to have its trade dislocated, and the noble Marquess at the end of his speech made a quotation from the Scriptures. I would add another quotation: "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."What is the use of our national prosperity if we are killed and not able to enjoy it through our unpreparedness?
A word about the evacuation of civilians from London and the larger towns. I have looked into this rather carefully from a local government point of view, and, as far as I have been able to gather, there was nothing in the instructions to prevent key-men, working essential services, being evacuated along with the refugees. If that had happened it would have been as bad as the case of the Vickers key-man of whom we have been told. I think also from my experience that if evacuation had taken place there would have been nothing but chaos at the other end. There was nothing to stop undesirable persons, well-known to the police in their own localities, being spread all over the country, which might have led to almost anything happening. It is absolutely essential that we should have control of the population, and that also refers to evacuation. No one should be allowed, unless he is making his own arrangements, to leave his own home until ordered to do so.
I would ask the Government to consider again—for it is dealt with in the Report—the advisability of establishing refugee camps instead of private billeting. It has been pointed out that the setting up of refugee camps might have the result of creating additional centres for bombing, but I do not think that is an unanswerable argument. If those camps were set up in rural districts, 1589 which presumably they would be, and were well defined, I think that would be better than private billeting. Anyhow it would be a complementary method. No one, I am sure, at this stage subscribes to the idea of the inevitability of war, but if we are not prepared to adopt Mr. Maxton's theory and offer the other cheek, then as long as there are "haves" and "have-nots" we cannot regard war as being unlikely. In order to eradicate war one must eradicate evil from men's hearts. All of us I am sure would be in favour of prohibiting bombing altogether, but that is a far call at the moment. In China we have seen the experiment tried of refugee centres, and I am credibly informed that the Japanese did respect these refugee centres and did in fact not bomb them. That may be a lesson for us in this country. I should be sorry to be told that I am wrong in this respect, but that is my information.
What then is the lesson to be learned, and have the Government learned that lesson, or is it prepared to go on with what is described as British muddling-through? This Empire of ours has had a very long run, and history is full of examples of Empires which have declined and fallen. Will our turn come when the next crisis comes? The noble Marquess said that if the voluntary system failed we should then introduce compulsion. I suggest to him that we should not have time to do so. If the voluntary system fails, the whole country then fails, and we go down with it. If we are not prepared to defend ourselves and our possessions, and if we do not put ourselves in a state of being able to do so, we shall not have another chance.
In conclusion, I would make this appeal to the Government:—"Trust the people. They will be overwhelmingly behind you in any measures which you think fit to introduce in order to make them able to sleep safely in their homes at night." This is no time for Party politics, but I would suggest to the Government that by delaying in taking action as they are doing now they are losing ground rapidly in the country. I do not think there is any other possible solution except a National Government, but I suggest that they might broaden that Government and bring in the help of all those people who can give them help. I would like to quote one concrete case given to me in confidence, and I shall be pleased to give the 1590 Minister the actual reference if desired. In a certain county the Clerk of the County Council and the Chairman had no knowledge whatever of what was going to be expected of them in the event of war. The only people in possession of that knowledge were the police, and the police were not allowed to inform so responsible a person as the Clerk of the County Council as to what the county council authorities would have to do in the event of war. I would urge on the Government, therefore, that as well as trusting the people they should trust every responsible officer and let them all know beforehand exactly what they will be required to do in the event of a crisis. The Government must take a risk, if it is a risk. They must give us leadership. If necessary they must give the country a pill without sugar on it. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out in his broadcast address to America the other day, everybody will be required to make sacrifices, some financial and some otherwise. I suggest that if the Government will give us a lead, the country is prepared to follow.
THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE
My Lords, I regret that I was unable to be present when the noble Lord initiated the debate yesterday, as I was engaged in winding up an effort with which he and I have been intimately concerned during the last six months. I should like in the first instance to thank him, as I am sure all members of this House do, and the country as well, for bringing this question so forcibly before us at this early stage. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to make myself conversant with what was said in the House yesterday, but I have not been able to digest completely the statement of the Secretary of State for India, so I will not enter into the criticism which has been levelled by some other noble Lords at what the noble Marquess said or left unsaid. I would rather stress, if I may, that the Government, by their appointment of a new Minister with a specific office to take charge of civil defence, have realised and are realising more fully the importance of this question and the importance it has for the safety of the country.
In the debate which we had on this subject some weeks ago the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, in his maiden speech which was delivered with an authority 1591 which we seldom hear in this House, recommended the "mobilisation of industry." That was a phrase which was taken up very largely in the public Press and one to which great attention was paid. What exactly is meant by "mobilisation of industry"? Several noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have emphasized the fact that at this moment there probably is a very definite desire on the part of everyone in the country to do his part as long as he knows what it is. That is a change which has taken place quite recently. Only a few weeks ago, when the Government through the local authorities were inviting citizens to register themselves in order that the local authorities might tell them where, when, and how they could perform useful service, although a great number of persons did thus register themselves, there were quite a number of localities—I know of several in my own part of the country—where the requisite number of wardens and other officers required for special duties did not volunteer. Now there is a different spirit, and we should find, if leadership were given, that there would be a very general response.
But, as I have said, what do we mean by "mobilisation of industry"? If it means putting in motion industry which is not fully employed, persons who are idle, and so on, there can be no question but that that is what is desired and what would be of benefit to the country. But if it means taking charge of the whole of industry by one officer of the Crown, then we must think and think again before we adopt that solution. Surely we can say that, although there is undoubted necessity for thinking of mobilising for defence, defence is not the ultimate end. The ultimate end is that we may enjoy life with increased commerce, increased trade, and increased prosperity, and if, by taking such action as complete dictatorial control of all commerce by the mobilisation of industry, we strangle that expansion of trade and prosperity, we shall not be acting in the best service of the country or of the Empire. I am satisfied, as I am sure most of your Lordships are satisfied, that there are many latent possibilities of service which might be mobilised, and if one thing has been emphasized more than another by the crisis it is that it is a very bad thing to have all your eggs in one basket. 1592 Industry ought to be distributed over the different parts of the country, in order that it may be possible thereby to protect it and make all the persons who are occupied in it safe.
May I give your Lordships one or two illustrations of that, which I think bring out this point? In the industry of aircraft construction there are only twelve hundred persons in Scotland employed. Now surely there is an opportunity for expansion of this industry in a country which has such a great aptitude for engineering and for construction of that kind. Again, a number of cases have been brought to my notice of firms who are able and willing to provide equipment for the various Departments of the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry, and who actually did have contracts during the War, but have been unable for some reason or other to employ their machinery or obtain employment for their personnel on contracts, even in spite of the fact that when it came to the issue of gas masks there were not sufficient to go round in any district of the country. That is the kind of thing that I feel it is supremely important that the Government should realise and realise even more fully than they do to-day. Much more use can be made of the latent possibilities than is being made of them to-day. Why is it necessary for thousands of people to stand idle when there is work requiring to be done? Why is it necessary that certain factories should remain on halftime when we are unable to fulfil the contracts to put our forces into the field?
In connection with this matter I must refer to a speech made by the Under-Secretary of State for War on the 6th October in Glasgow. He came to Glasgow to represent his chief, and he spoke, therefore, from the speech prepared for him. It was a recruiting speech. It was meant to bring out that here and now was an opportunity to Glasgow to bring forward personnel to protect their own cities. There were new anti-aircraft units being formed. Here was a chance for the young men. "Hitherto," he said, "you have been entirely dependent for your defence upon Dunfermline." My Lords, Dunfermline is my native city. Dunfermline was the ancient capital of Scotland. I have a great veneration for Dunfermline. I had the honour of commanding the heavy Territorial battery in Dunfermline before 1593 and during part of the War. It is that battery which has now been converted into an anti-aircraft battery, and on those guns and on those alone depend the safety of Scotland.
THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE
Not the same guns. It is quite true that it has now been converted from a heavy battery into an anti-aircraft battery. It was at the time that Lord Strathcona was speaking, or a few months before, I think in possession of two guns. It now has four. I believe there has been since then another battery, and that there may be six or perhaps eight guns now in Scotland. That is the kind of thing which I wish the Government to realise, not to talk so much in percentages but in actual facts. I feel that on this point the Government ought to take more seriously to heart the necessity of the situation. I am not, like some of the previous speakers in this House, so despondent about the voluntary system. I feel that if the Government would give the lead the country would follow, and I say that because of the effort ill which I have been recently engaged. Scotland has shown in that effort a response to leadership. We have been able to stage in the Exhibition in Glasgow something that, I believe, was really worth while not only for Scotland, not only for the British Isles, not only for the Empire, but for the whole world as a leadership in expanding commerce, in better understanding through personal contact, and in peace. I believe that the same kind of leadership given by the Government now would be responded to in the country.
If I may return for one moment to Scotland, I would say that Scotland in this particular question of air defence does not quite understand being dealt with by the Home Office. The Home Office is not in intimate contact with the daily routine and administration of Scotland, and so there has been, I think, a little more difficulty and friction, and possibly misunderstanding in Scotland than in other parts of the country. If, as the result of the appointment of the new Minister, some responsible head is placed in the capital city of Scotland who can be the medium of meetings and of personal contact with the local authorities, ensuring 1594 that their point of view will be considered, and ensuring that they understand on their part what they have got to do, I have no doubt that the response will be given. And so, my Lords, I would conclude on perhaps rather a more happy note than has been struck by the two previous speakers, for I do still believe that, given the leadership, we shall be able by voluntary service to find the response which is required.
§ THE EARL OF CARLISLE
My Lords, I must ask for the indulgence of your Lordships' House to one who addresses it for the first time. I did not intend to do so when this debate started, but I feel I must give expression to the keen disappointment of myself and of others at the apparent lack of constructive policy on the part of His Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess made a very eloquent and moving speech, with the sentiments of which I am sure your Lordships will agree, but he gave us nothing definite. I do not propose to speak to your Lordships about Ministries of Munitions or their organisation. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has already dealt with that subject, and his knowledge and his experience backed by that of noble and gallant Lords on the Cross Benches, cannot fail to have impressed your Lordships. I would only ask His Majesty's Government to proceed with the immediate compilation of a National Register. Everyone in this country realises that in the time of war they are going to be called upon to serve. Surely it can only be advantageous that they should know beforehand in what sphere they are going to perform and also that they should have some limited training for it. This training can only be given in time of peace. It is my fear that should a crisis arise in the future the present organisations would be so overwhelmed by a rush of volunteers that they would be unable to function efficiently. It is for these reasons that I would ask that a National Register should be compiled at once.
My Lords, last night we listened to the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, with much interest, but there was one point which I think he did not make as clear as he might have done. He referred to the things of the spirit and those of the flesh. I am not one of those who think that the dictator countries are 1595 necessarily wrong in everything they do. I feel that there is a definite lesson they can teach us in regard to the appeal that has been made for several years, and successfully made, both in Italy and in Germany, for the sacrifice of self, the appeal made to the individual to work for the country as a whole. On those lines the noble Marquess went on to say that the Home Secretary appealed during the summer for a million volunteers and did not get them. In my opinion the person to blame for the lack of volunteers is the Home Secretary, and nobody else. I have now had thirty years' experience of close contact with working men and women. My experience has been, and I am sure the experience of other noble Lords who know working people has been, that if you explain to them what you want clearly and plainly and tell them why you want it, you will always get a response. They may not agree with you, but they will give you a fair trial.
The noble Marquess seems to take some comfort from the fact that in the course of five or six days a million feet of trenches were dug. We heard a few weeks ago from the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, that in any future war there were likely to be tens of thousands of casualties among women and children before any troops had gone into action. I suppose that at a low estimate there would be ten or fifteen million people trying to get into that million feet of trenches which were dug. It is really not good enough. The working people of this country deserve something better than that. You have the finest working-class in the world, and I agree with what was said by another speaker that they have responded magnificently on the whole to the calls which have been made upon them. The Government should trust them, and there should not be so much of this confounded secrecy which was upsetting everybody all the summer, when any number of business people were ready to try to help them.
We heard a few weeks ago from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, that he warned the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary at the beginning of August of what was likely to happen. To business people it is incomprehensible that during the whole of August we were not allowed to get on with our job. There would have been much less confusion when the 1596 occasion arose at the end of September if we had been allowed to get on with our job quietly without upsetting anybody or spreading alarm. The only reason I can think of why we were not allowed to do it is the same reason as that for which the Anderson Report was not published in July. That Report was not published because things were supposed to be so serious that it would have created a state of alarm and panic in the country. If that was so, surely the Government should learn the lesson and put in a Ministry of Supply. Several noble Lords have said that that might slow up things now, but now is the time to slow things up, not in a crisis.
Then there should be a compulsory National Register. To my mind a voluntary National Register is no good at all. You must have, in my opinion, something to upset the notion which people have abroad, not that there is lack of material resources, but that there is not the spirit in the country. I am told, and I quite believe, that Herr Hitler has a sincere regard for his own working people. I believe that if in this country an example of sacrifice on the part of well-to-do people was given in the way of definitely trying to help the 2,000,000 unemployed in this country, that would impress upon dictators on the Continent that the spirit of this country was still alive, and that with our material resources they would not have any chance if they started any bother with us. It would also fit in with the Prime Minister's policy of appeasement, if we show that the spirit of this nation is not decadent and that people are still willing to make sacrifices and yet do nothing to antagonise foreign nations.
The reason why I say that a voluntary National Register would not help in my opinion, is that there is already a tendency amongst some of the young people to think that there is a great deal of keenness and anxiety on the part of the middle aged and the elderly to get the young enrolled on a National Register so that then they can sit back and draw their dividends, make money in the city and enjoy themselves while the young defend them. They do not seem to have realised yet that the front line will be the centres of big cities. You are not going to get anything like the same response from a voluntary Register that you will get if you have a compulsory Register and 1597 then voluntary service when you know what people can do.
I am not going to weary your Lordships with a lot of figures, but there were some amazing figures given last night in another place bearing on this question of an inquiry for which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asks. They were given by Mr. Boothby and they were not contradicted by the member of the Government who spoke later. Mr. Boothby said:I took the trouble to look it up, and I found that the War Office alone has spent £43,000,000 on artillery. I do not know the exact number of anti-aircraft guns of modern type that were available for the defence of this country at the time of the crisis, but if it was 20 per cent. of the establishment I should be very surprised.… Similarly, with regard to aeroplanes, we spent £110,000,000 on aeroplanes, and that, at £15,000 apiece, ought to work out at 7,000 aeroplanes. Who it this House supposes that we had 7,000 efficient fighting aeroplanes two weeks ago?Those figures have not been contradicted and I think they go a long way to substantiate the demand for an inquiry which has been made by my noble friend.
Before I sit down I should like to say how much we all welcome the appointment of Sir John Anderson to the very important position with which the Government have entrusted him. It gives one an uneasy feeling to be told that one of the four people in the Inner Cabinet during the last crisis was a gentleman who—I do not know what the percentage of the criminal classes in this country is, but it must be very low—was spending his time personally working out a Prison Reform Bill for those classes and leaving the air-raid precautions, which affect every man, woman and child in this country, to an Under-Secretary. It shows a complete lack of sense of proportion in regard to his duty, and it rather makes one lose confidence in the advice which he may or may not give as a member of the Inner Council. I hope that you will agree with the noble Lord that an inquiry into these various deficiencies, particularly in regard to air-raid precautions, is desirable and necessary.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I do not think that the Committee which has been suggested would carry out any good purpose. We have to go forward, and I see no use in looking back and wondering whether we might not have done better. By the appointment of a 1598 Civil Defence Minister the Government have shown that they, at any rate, are desirous that air-raid precautions shall go ahead as rapidly as possible. We who have to administer air-raid precautions know well the difficulties and perplexities of the subject, and I am sure that the Government are also well aware of them. The ground has been well covered in this debate, and all I want to do at this late hour is to put three points before the noble Earl who replies, in the hope that he may be able to say something about them. I am Chairman of a County Council, and we local authorities, who have the responsibilities of air-raid precautions, receive circulars from the Home Office from time to time, but we are never sure that those circulars are final. There is a possibility—in fact, it has happened—that work may be embarked upon in accordance with a circular and the necessity for that work may be cancelled soon afterwards as a result of a subsequent circular.
Then, again, there is apparently going to be a National Service scheme on a voluntary basis. If this goes forward, what is going to happen to the men and women—the men, chiefly—whom we are at this moment training for special duties in air-raid precautions? Many of these, under a scheme of National Service, might be taken out of the air-raid precautions for duties elsewhere, and all the instruction and training which we are, with so great a perseverance, at this moment giving them will go to waste. It seems that there is some lack of coordination. I would remind your Lordships that these men and women are being trained at a substantial cost to the Government and to the local authority.
That brings me to the last point on which I want to ask the noble Earl to reply, if he will. I want to make a vigorous and, I have no doubt, a perfectly useless protest at the local authorities having to pay anything for air-raid precautions. The local rates for the Social Services are already a tremendous burden upon the ratepayers of the country, and it seems quite unfair to make us pay for a great National Service of protection like air-raid precautions. We might just as well be rated for the Navy, as far as I can see. There is one other point in passing. As Lord Elgin has 1599 pointed out the importance of Dumfermline, I should like to know how the protection which is being given to the country is arranged for. I consider that the County to which I belong is just as important as the County of Fife, and Rosyth. We have in my County perhaps the biggest explosive works in the world, and perhaps some of the biggest bomb factories, and yet so far we have not received a single gas mask, a single gun, or supplies of bleach or sand-bags. I am giving you one instance of what is in my humble opinion an important case. I do not want to be unfair to the Government, who, I am sure, are very busy in this tremendous business which they are trying to carry out, but I think some consideration should be given to such an important part of the country as Ayrshire. I hope the noble Marquess will be able to relieve the anxiety which is felt, I am sure, by many local authorities on the points which I have made.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, I had not intended to speak at all to-day, being very much in two minds—as indeed I am still—about the desirability of the inquiry proposed by the noble Lord opposite. I have the feeling, which I have no doubt is shared by many noble Lords in this House, that all that the country is concerned with is that the Government should get on with the job of rearmament with a great deal more activity than they have shown so far. I am therefore hesitant to recommend that any inquiry should be made, for fear lest in any way it should distract them from the main effort which we wish to see them put forth. I would perhaps prefer—because the speeches in your Lordships' House to-day make it quite clear that in all Parties there is a great volume of anxiety, if not discontent, even among regular supporters of the Government—that the Prime Minister should consider doing what he did about a year ago: receiving a deputation, in privacy, of members of both Houses, so that before an inquiry was set up we should be informed of the real inner situation of rearmament. But I have found in the speeches of my noble friends Lord Swinton and Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and of others yesterday, so close a reflection of my own feelings that I had to say a few words in support of their utterances.
1600 It is customary to say that it is no good looking at the past. I do not quite agree. We do not want to waste more than a very short time in looking at the past, but really, if we are to recognise the gravity of the situation, we have to see this picture in its fuller frame. My noble friend Earl Baldwin will remember for how many years some of us have been urging the dangers of disarmament upon him and upon other members of the National Government. I remember going and saying to him on more than one occasion, and I remember constantly saying in public, that disarmament historically always meant submission. I remember, in this House and outside it, up and down the country, begging him and his Government to change their policy before it was too late. I remember being told that the Party would not follow Lord Baldwin if at that time—1931 or 1932—he changed his policy from disarmament to rearmament. My reply was to go, as your Lordships may remember, although I had not been on the platform for about fourteen years in this country, to Party Conferences in 1932, 1933 and 1934, at Birmingham, Bristol and Bournemouth, and even at that time I carried the unanimous resolution of the whole Conservative Party in favour of rearmament. And yet nothing was done, except, I think, that my noble friend Lord Baldwin appointed Mr. Ramsay MacDonald to co-ordinate defences, or something of that kind!
How long is this calamitous story of delay to go on? I will not refer more to the past than to say that it has been going on now for ten or twelve years, and yet the German menace has been sticking out a yard since 1932. Like Lords Stonehaven and Balfour, I am not yet convinced—and the speeches made by your Lordships in this House bear me out—that the Government are yet applying the full force of war movement to rearmament. There is no sign that they are pressing forward rearmament in the same way, though we are nominally at peace, as they would do if we were at war. Without a Ministry of Supply, armed with all the powers suggested by Lord Swinton, I do not think the Government can so press forward, and, after all, the task of the Prime Minister has been enormously enhanced and made more difficult by his predecessor's delay. We are asking the Government to do something which has never been done before in history— 1601 namely, to rearm a whole Empire after its forces have declined to an almost contemptible size. If the task is prodigious, does it not mean that most unusual and exceptional powers should be taken to carry out the necessary task for the nation? I am not one of those who would wish to criticise what the Government are doing now. I am referring to the past. It is no good making victims of this or any other Minister when you impose upon him a task which is almost beyond the powers and energies of a single man. He must have the necessary machinery. A Ministry of Supply must be set up.
I will close by saying one further word. The Prime Minister in another place yesterday was referring to a five-year plan. That gave me an unpleasant feeling. How can we talk about a five-year plan to-day? A member of another place in reply remarked on that reference, and asked what it meant. Why was a five-year plan referred to, unless it means that the Germans are to have their way, and to have other Munichs, from now onwards up to 1941? If it does not mean that, what does it mean? We cannot proceed in a normal leisurely manner with a five-year plan if the whole nation is to be mobilised immediately as a means of concluding peace by strength. I wish to emphasize to the full what has been said as to the intense desire which has been shown by the public to serve the country in any way possible. I will not say I have had thousands, because that would be an exaggeration, but I have certainly had hundreds of letters from the general public in the last two or three weeks, all of them anxious to know what they can do, where they shall go, and how they can serve. I am sure that this is the experience of every noble Lord in this House, and without the creation of a compulsory National Register, as suggested by Lord Swinton, I do not see how that splendid sense of service can be adequately exploited for the national use.
It is not the moment to say anything about foreign affairs, but I am a fairly close observer and I have had opportunities of observing closely the trend of foreign affairs to-day. I think the situation, far from having improved since Munich, has in many ways deteriorated, and that the situation is just as grave to-day as it was a fortnight or three weeks ago. I would not like noble Lords 1602 to think that because we have received relief from the immediate anxiety we were then in, the situation to-day is less urgent or less grave than it was then. It is with this situation in mind that I feel that to talk about five-year plans, or putting off the National Register, or deferring a Ministry of Supply, causes one only to wonder if the Government have even yet realised how short the time may be before the nation is called upon again.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, the debate which is now drawing to a close has been a very remarkable one for several reasons. I should like to say at once that there has been really no Party bias brought into it, I think, from any quarter of the House, and I might almost say that the criticism of the Government has been rather more severe from this side of the House than from the other. Therefore, if it was at any time true that the Government or any of the Ministers in the Government had a sense of complacency, I think the debate during the last two days would have completely dispelled that spirit. In fact, I know of no such complacency whatever.
It is not so long ago that I used to stand at this box as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I was perfectly conscious with what grave suspicion I was regarded by some of those who sat opposite to me, and also by some of those who sat on this side too, because some of them felt that I was not in favour of national disarmament. Those are the same members of this House as a whole who are criticising me to-day, because they think that I, as a member of the Government, am not pushing forward sufficiently fast with rearmament. It means that the change in the public spirit and in the public attitude has been a complete revolution from a few years ago.
Lord Lloyd tells the House that he got a unanimous resolution passed at various Conservative Party conferences. I remember them well. I was at one or two of them, and let me tell him this. Lord Baldwin will probably remember. There was a certain private meeting I was to go to, and I asked him if he did not think it would be a good thing if I, as Under-Secretary, put the cards on the table and told that meeting the need for rearmament, and the position which was 1603 gradually developing on the Continent. I did so. They were all men in responsible positions, and many members of one House or the other, and so far as I know not one of those men went and made speeches throughout the country warning the people of the position. Why? It was perfectly safe at a Conservative Party Conference or in this House, but you were not going to get many votes in a constituency if you told people outside that at that time you were in favour of rearmament.
§ LORD LLOYD
I understood the noble Earl to say that he was not in favour of national disarmament. Was he not a member of a Government which was disarming?
§ EARL STANHOPE
To a limited extent. An Under-Secretary does not control the whole policy of the Government, and I was satisfied in my own mind that if I left the Government I could not do anything from outside, while I could do a little more from within. I may tell the noble Lord that the one man I blame more than anybody else for the situation in which we are to-day is the noble Lord's Leader, Mr. Winston Churchill. When we first came in in 1924 we found five cruisers laid down by the Party opposite. We asked for four, and failed to get them, and as I told the House recently, I and all the other members of the Board of Admiralty were within twelve hours of handing in our resignations. I may tell him now, even from the very short experience I have again now had at the Board of Admiralty, that we are suffering to-day from some of the things which were left undone by the Conservative Government of 1924–1929, and still more by the Labour Government of 1929–1931. I am perfectly well aware that the international situation has deteriorated very materially since those days. That is not the fault of the Conservative or Liberal Parties or of any other Party, as sometimes the Labour Party are inclined to think. Unfortunately the Government of this country do not control the policies of foreign nations. They try to influence them, and I think all of us recognise, perhaps far more clearly than some of us recognised before, 1604 that we should have been able to influence those policies far more satisfactorily if we had been in a stronger position than we are in to-day.
Your Lordships will say to me, "Of course we all accept that. What we are discussing is the situation in which we are to-day." Well now, let me turn to that. A large part of the public seem to think that all you have to do is to press a button or pull out a drawer and a completed gun or aeroplane or searchlight is then produced. We wish it were. I well remember in the last War—I am sorry to impose this personal reference upon your Lordships, but perhaps I still suffer from a remark in the Press (which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will not think that I instigated) to the effect that I returned from the War with mud on my boots to ask for more armaments—coming back and speaking here, not in uniform but in very much the same kind of clothes as I wear now, and I referred to the shortage of shells. That was in May, 1915. In February, 1917, it was my privilege to move the Address in this House in reply to the King's Speech. I was able to say then that shells were not, at any rate, anything like so short as they had been in 1915, but that there was still an insufficient quantity. But as regards guns I doubt if there was a single really big gun made by that early spring. It took over three years to do.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Well, if the noble Lord produced them, he kept them at home, because they were certainly not seen in France and Flanders.
§ LORD ADDISON
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but he is wrong there. The Ministry of Munitions was not set up till May, 1915, and he does not pretend that there were not big guns in the field before May, 1917, does he?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I do not see what on earth the setting up of the Ministry of Munitions has got to do with it. Everyone knows perfectly well that the Ministry of Munitions got a great d-al of credit for the guns ordered before.
§ LORD ADDISON
I will not admit that. The noble Earl will find that there was a fierce controversy over the big gun order, which was not placed until July, 1915.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I am really not going into that now. The noble Lord may be right and I may be right. All I can tell him is that the guns did not get to the other end. But what I want to deal with is where we are now. We know quite well, and we have known ever since we began to go into this question, that once these orders began to be placed there would be bottle-necks, there would be places where it would be difficult to get an order completed. What was the reason? The reason was that some of, these things such as guns are, of course, not made in any kind of way in civil life, and some or them require very special machinery and very highly-skilled work. The first thing that had to be done on making this survey was to arrange that those bottle-necks should be widened. That sometimes meant the building of a factory, the making of machinery, the making of gauges and of all the other things that were necessary, and therefore before that bottle-neck could be widened sufficiently for production to begin to go ahead properly, all those earlier preparations had to be made. They have been made. All those various things are now not merely coming into production but they are being delivered in very large numbers indeed, so much so that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was perfectly correct in saying that what had been a trickle was now becoming a torrent:. This was referred to by the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, yesterday when he spoke of the vast improvement that had taken place during the past few weeks in the output of guns and searchlights.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, yesterday wanted to know whether we are getting value for our money. I think I can assure him that we are, and indeed that is one of the things which has caused delay. I think my predecessor has been writing recently in one of the evening papers on this subject. There has been, of course, a certain amount of delay over financial control. That is being dealt with differently now, and there is no delay from that quarter. But what does happen is this. The best, as we know, is always the enemy of the good. Over and over again it happens that when you are going to go into production for a certain article, the expert members of the General Staff 1606 will tell you that if you will wait a little longer they have another design about to be produced which will be a very much more valuable article. And so a delay is imposed so that the final article should be very much better than the one which would have been made if the order had been placed earlier. The result of that has been that the guns and the searchlights and the other things that we are getting now are of a higher quality than any other nation in the world can produce. Our aeroplanes and so on have, I think, a very fine performance indeed. My noble and gallant friend on the Cross Benches knows far more about that than I do, but I think that he will not deny that the aeroplanes which are now coming into production, and still more, those which are very shortly coming into production, are such as many other nations would wish to have. That is largely due to the work done by my noble friend Lord Swinton.
Both he and other members of your Lordships' House have spoken in favour of a Ministry of Supply. I wonder if your Lordships quite realise how these orders are placed. Noble Lords opposite, perhaps even more than other members of the House, have suggested that everything should be concentrated under one man.
§ EARL STANHOPE
One Ministry, with hordes of officials. Let me tell the noble Lord a better way. You go to the industry itself, to the Engineering Employers' Federation, and you say to them, "We wish to place such-and-such an order. Which is the best place to send it to?" They have an organisation spread over the whole of the United Kingdom, divided into areas and districts. They can tell you, "If you go to such-and-such an area they are already full up with orders. We suggest that you should go to such-and-such an area, where we think they can do it for you." You go there and you find that they have a whole succession of very valuable orders for the export trade. They would be quite prepared to give those up perhaps, and to go into munitions supply. But does anybody suggest that it is wise in these days to let the export trade drop, when you want to keep up the credit and the value of the exchange of this country in view of the situation 1607 in which the world is to-day? You go to another area which is suggested, and there you find that you can place that order, and you arrange with those people that a very large part of that order shall be sub-contracted for, as they have all sorts of small firms in the area. Ninety-two per cent. of the engineers are in that Federation. Those small firms can be brought in to do various parts of that big order. I suggest that that is a far more effective way of doing it than by a horde of officials in Whitehall.
After all, what are you going to do in order to set up that Ministry? You are going to draw those officials from three or four different Departments. You have to house them somewhere, unless you are going to leave them in their various Departments scattered about London as they are to-day. Some of us have had to try to administer Departments which have already certain branches scattered outside the main office. Those of us who have had to do that know how long are the delays and what complications ensue through having to work under conditions of that kind. Is that the kind of thing noble Lords want to do in the case of a Ministry of Supply with Departments spread about London, or to find some new place and remove these people away from all their offices where they are now? If you want to hold up supplies the best thing to do is to try to set up this Ministry now. If you want to get ahead with the job the thing is to work as we are doing now, with these people working in their various Ministries and the whole thing being co-ordinated through the Principal Supply Officers' Committee, which is a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence and meets very often.
Noble Lords will say there is overlapping, and that you cannot get priority of orders. Let me tell the House that that matter is dealt with by that Committee which I have just named, but the number of cases which have come before that Committee for settlement is extraordinarily few, because almost invariably the principle of priority is settled departmentally before it comes before that Committee at all. What advantage are you going to get out of it? My noble friend Lord Swinton suggested that various compulsory powers should be given. That is all very well in war time, when you 1608 take compulsory powers over the nation as a whole, but at the present moment the volume of armaments that we require is really very small compared to those which were required in the Great War. What we do require is a large number of articles which are extremely difficult to produce—anti-aircraft guns mostly; but if it were a question of shells, cordite, and so on then, of course, an enormous number of people and an enormous number of firms would be required as in the case of the war expenditure which occurred in 1917 and 1918. But that is not the situation to-day. There is no great expenditure on ammunition, fortunately, and we hope there never will be. What we do require are these articles, as I said, with a sufficient supply of shells to have your reserve until war production becomes necessary.
If you are going to select a particular firm and turn it into doing war work, and, by so doing, cut it off from some line either of home trade or foreign trade, and limit its profits, as, of course, we ought to do, and leave the firm next door to carry on its ordinary business and make what profits it likes, that, everyone will agree, is an impossible position. Yet it is quite useless to set up a Ministry of Supply unless you give it compulsory powers, and that is the way, inevitably, these compulsory powers would work. We feel that the way in which we are doing it, through full co-operation with the employers and, may I add, with the workmen too, who are helping us in every possible way, is a better way than to set up a Ministry of Supply with compulsory powers.
Let me turn to the voluntary service side and A.R.P. I doubt whether even this House, with all its experience, quite realises the complexity of the questions which are comprised in the term A.R.P. Your Lordships may have noticed that the Prime Minister yesterday, speaking in another place, said that my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal would preside over a Committee of Ministers of eight separate Government Departments—eight. That shows how widely the whole of this air-raid precautions business is scattered throughout the life of the nation and of the Government. Of course there have been gaps, of course there have been delays. In the course of this debate somebody referred to the digging of trenches and said that a 1609 worse mess he had never seen. I think it was the noble Lord opposite.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I entirely agree. But if we had done that in the summer people would have said we had completely lost our heads, that we were destroying the people's parks, and all the rest of it. We have learned our lesson or, at any rate, part of it; but let us realise this, that these trenches are only a very small part of what is necessary in the way of air-raid precautions. A great many people seem to think that a war is only going to last for a very few weeks. In fact that was the impression I got from some of the speeches I heard from this side of the House. If anything has been proved recently in the wars in Spain and in China it is this, that air raids are not going to bring a war to an end. They are going to do an immense amount of damage, they are going to inflict terrible loss of life, but if there is one thing that has been proved about air raids it is that they increase the determination of the people to resist and to win through in the end.
Very well, then, what happens? If you are going to win through, the job of most of us is to carry on with the business we are doing now—it may be in agriculture, it may be in munition factories, it may be in coal-mining. On the other hand, there are a certain number of people who will be willing at once to give their services for decontamination or fire-fighting or whatever it may be. These people will have all to remain in their towns or factories or wherever they are working to-day. To go and make trenches in the public parks is therefore only a very small part of the story. The first thing we have got to do is to see what protection is needed for those people near their work and to see that that is put in hand and carried through at the earliest possible moment.
The next thing is in regard to evacuation. Noble Lords have talked about a National Register, and I shall have a good deal more to say about it in a moment or two. But nobody has mentioned the difficulty that, whereas Tom Brown lives at 49, King's Road, he is now somewhere down in the south of Sussex or possibly in the Welsh mountains, and how are you going to find him? Let me turn for what I am afraid 1610 will be some time to the question of how this Register is looked on by the Government. We see no object whatever in having a compulsory Register, and for this reason. We are shortly going to ask for volunteers for all these services—I hope much more systematically than we have done up to now. Perhaps I had better read, if your Lordships will allow me, a rather long note I have received from the Air Raid Precautions Department, and I must preface it by stating that the details I am now going to give to the House have not yet been considered by my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal, the new Minister, but they are given as indicating the sort of material he will find ready to hand when he addresses himself to his new responsibilities.
The reasons why we do not consider a compulsory Register is worth while are these. Firstly, a National Register that includes all the population can never, by its nature, form the basis of the actual placing in appropriate service and employment of all the individuals thus affected. You may send out your questionnaire to people and say, "What are you qualified to do?" and you may get that questionnaire returned to you filled in, but the clerk or whoever it is who has to take in these cards and put them into their proper places has no means of knowing whether any qualification that is claimed is a proper claim, or whether it is merely something that a man feels he might be able to do but which in fact he has no capacity whatever for doing and would fail to do if put to the test. Therefore, to get the qualifications put on a card is of very little use at all. Secondly, as I have said to your Lordships, a very large number, in fact perhaps the majority of the population, will best be fulfilling their duty in helping the nation if they stick to the jobs which they are doing to-day. That applies not only to men but to women. They will best be fulfilling their national duty if they carry on with their household duties, keep the household going, if necessary be evacuated out of the great city they live in, and go and help to look after their children in the country and help the families on whom they are billeted.
Now the Register also would fail in this. Every individual who puts down his name to take a job for A.R.P. will 1611 automatically appear on a Register whether he is going in for the fire brigade or for the voluntary police or other duties of that kind. His name then will appear on the list, and there he is registered But in addition, which I think my noble friend Lord Swinton largely forgot, there are already registers in existence which did not exist during the Great War. You now have the Register at the Ministry of Labour.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My noble friend has directly referred to my argument. I am sorry he misunderstood me. My argument was this. What I wanted to put to the Government was that I have always understood that National Service was regarded as essential by successive Governments in case of war, that National Service could not be conducted without a National Register, and that if that was so and you wished to be ready for war you must have your National Register in existence before war broke out. That was the argument.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Of course if you apply conscription you require your National Register, but until you apply conscription we feel that a compulsory Register really does not fulfil any object whatever. You get on that Register, in addition to the people you have there now, only those who are not prepared to take up training in time of peace. You ask for your volunteers. We believe we shall get them. We shall have those names in the list doing the jobs they are prepared to take up now, and, in addition, you will get a thing which I think has not been mentioned to the House before, or indeed anywhere, and it is this. For a very long time past the Government have been considering what particular industries should be excluded, in the sense that those employed in them should not be allowed to volunteer at all, and we have now got practically completed a list of those occupations, which I might almost call reserved occupations. People will be asked to carry on and do their jobs in those occupations and will be prevented from putting their names down for any other war job. We hope that when we get this information circulated, both as regards the various things that are required for air-raid precautions service and defence service and so on, and when we also get the list of the reserved 1612 industries, we then really will have got complete a record of all those who are prepared to give voluntary service.
Let me point this out. If one thing is more clear than anything else over the whole of this crisis, it is that those who come up only when the crisis arises are of very little use to the country as a whole or to anybody else. It is essential that they should get their training beforehand. Therefore, unless you are prepared to put in compulsory service for that training—in other words, conscription, whether it be for the defence service or for air-raid precautions makes no difference—unless you are prepared to exercise compulsion, we do not feel that a National Register compulsorily instituted really is of any benefit to the country at all.
May I ask the noble Earl if he will clarify that. It is very important. Suppose those people in reserved services, tool-makers and people of that sort, want to enlist in the Army or to go to another job in a reserved service, what do you do then?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I should think very likely that they would be allowed to do so, because it would be a whole career. What I was thinking of more was something like the Territorial Army or one of what I might call the part-time employments or some special work which an individual would say he would be prepared to take on in the event of an outbreak of war. Once war broke out then he would be definitely kept to the tool-making, or whatever it was that he did, but at present, this not being an autocratic country, I at any rate should not be prepared to say that an individual who chose to change his occupation and become a soldier instead of something else should be prevented from doing so. I hope I have made that clear.
§ LORD CROMWELL
May I ask the noble Earl this? Supposing people volunteer for a specific job now, will they be compelled to undergo some form of training in peace time in order to make them fitted for the job when the crisis came?
§ EARL STANHOPE
In the Territorial Army a man is not considered an efficient Territorial unless he has had a certain amount of training during the year, and if he does not put: in that training he is turned out and fined. The same thing applies in regard to a good many of the air-raid precaution services. But there are some services that require comparatively little training, and in order to make up the number that would be required you can have a certain number of what I might call the hewers of wood and drawers of water who would merely say: "In the event of a crisis, I am prepared to come up and take on particular work of that kind, although I cannot do any training in ordinary times before the crisis arises." I do not know if my noble friend Lord Cromwell realises what I mean. I am not putting it very well.
§ LORD CROMWELL
May I ask a supplementary question? Will they be treated in exactly the same way as Territorials?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I think so, but I hope I shall not be accused of committing the Government to all this, because the new Minister might have views of his own. Indeed, we are likely in the new Session to have a Bill dealing with this subject, and we shall no doubt know a great deal more about it then than either I or any other member of the House does at this moment. We are about to publish a handbook which will state all the various services that will be required in the event of a crisis, will tell people where they are to join, what ages those who join must fall within, and various other qualifications which will be necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, raised the point about the evacuation of businesses, a most important point. I think I know the institution to which he was referring. It had made its preparations beforehand and it was indeed a most unfortunate case. The noble Lord raised the question as to whether the Government might not commandeer buildings which some of the institutions would wish to occupy by moving out of some big city. They might get into these buildings outside, and then, having made all their arrangements, a Government Department or someone else might come along and commandeer them for war purposes. There is this difficulty. 1614 I am all against too much secrecy in these matters, and I entirely agree that there has been a great deal too much secrecy. But this is one of the cases where secrecy is probably necessary. You do not want enemy agents to find out that such and such a Department—it might be one of the Defence Departments, or the Foreign Office possibly—is going into a particular place. Possibly aeroplane photographs would be taken, and it would be marked on enemy maps as a target. What might be normally a peaceful place to which we might send refugees, or perhaps my noble friend the Foreign Secretary, would become a danger spot.
Of course, once war had begun and the Department had moved there, you would have to tell the nation or at any rate let it be known where you were, so that people could find you in order that the Government could be carried on, but by that time you would have imposed a censorship and you could prevent information getting out of the country. But if you blaze it about now that such and such a Department is going into such and such a place, that my noble friend's bank, or whatever it may be, is going to such and such a place, it at once becomes marked, as I say, as an enemy target. I think, however, we can meet that situation, and at any rate the matter is being inquired into very carefully. I would like to make a point in regard to that matter. It is not only the Government that is to blame but many private businesses. I wonder how many great businesses in London or other big cities who can move, have made any preparations to do so. I wonder how many newspapers in London have made arrangements so that in case Fleet Street is bombed they can be printed somewhere else. I know the answer. It is a good deal worse than anything said about the Government. Yet we are likely to see remarks about our incapacity printed in those newspapers to-morrow. However, that is part of the reason why we become politicians. We make suitable Aunt Sallies.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
May I ask whether a definite appeal has been made to big businesses in the city to deal with this matter?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I think it has been left to the ordinary intelligence of 1615 individuals. It has not been laid down by the Government that certain institutions should move. Some big factories, of course, must stay where they are. But a general appeal has been made that all who can leave great cities should do so and thereby make the situation of the local authority easier than if they remain.
My noble friend the Earl of Glasgow suggested that the Government should undertake the whole cost of these air-raid precautions. I wonder if, thinking the matter over, he will not feel that some of it must remain on the backs of the local authorities. Take the case of a local authority which crowds up the whole of its area leaving no place in which to dig trenches. It will have to make shelters at a much greater cost under buildings. It depends on how a local authority manages its affairs whether the cost of its precautions is to be high or low. To put costs on the taxpayer which rightly should be placed on the ratepayer I think everyone will agree would be unfair. My noble friend says the ratepayer is groaning under the burden. I wonder whether the taxpayer, who is usually the same person, is not saying exactly the same thing.
Amongst many kind letters which I have received in the last few days was one from a friend, whose occupation I think the noble Lord opposite may recognise, who wrote that there was nothing like having "a trial run over the gun and mountings." What he meant was that this crisis through which we have passed has taught not only the public but the Government a great many lessons indeed. I make no secret about it. Many of the shortcomings we knew of. We knew that guns were not being produced as rapidly as we should have liked. But we have learned those lessons and we are profiting from them.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and other noble Lords asked about the 70 per cent. of anti-aircraft guns. Of course that was 70 per cent. of the guns now available, and not of the number which will eventually be placed round London and other places. But let me reassure the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the Cross Benches. Those guns are complete with their sights, their apparatus, their ammunition, and, I need hardly say, their gun carriages, because otherwise they could not have been moved into position. 1616 They can go straight into action forthwith. The Government have been accused of not taking advantage of the public spirit which people have displayed and they have been asked to give a lead. I can only say that we recognise fully that spirit and we have every intention of taking advantage of it while the iron is hot. I think your Lordships will find that under my right honourable friend we shall see that progress in regard to air-raid precautions is very rapid indeed.
The noble Lord opposite has placed a Motion on the Paper and asks your Lordships to vote on it. What is it? It is that we should hold an inquiry. As far as I am concerned, I should be glad if an inquiry were set up by an independent body. I was only sworn in as First Lord of the Admiralty on Thursday afternoon, I attended a meeting of this Committee on Friday morning, and I have been at one every morning since, except this morning, when there was a Cabinet meeting. I am going to another to-morrow. There is no delay about that. And what is happening? Each head of a Department has to furnish a report showing any shortcomings that were discovered, any delays, any part of the programme which we should have liked by now or at a very early date, and he has to suggest what steps can be taken in order to make good these deficiencies.
All the cards have been put on the table. If you get independent individuals to come in and examine a matter like that a good deal of the information put before them conveys nothing to them. We know at once when a particular report is mentioned what it is about, but you would have to explain it to outside individuals. Automatically if you bring in outside individuals, independent individuals, to deal with a matter of that kind, every Government Department feels that it must justify itself, make excuses, explain things away and the rest of it. So far from getting a complete survey as is happening now, I think the survey would be much less complete. As several noble Lords have pointed out, the mere fact of holding an inquiry, which means having to hear evidence, getting experts to attend to be examined and the rest of it, would delay the work which everyone of us wants to be able to do at the earliest moment. What we really want to do is to get on with the job. His Majesty's Government feel that if your 1617 Lordships accepted this Motion, and the Government agreed to it, so far from getting on with the job there would be delay. I believe that the noble Lord opposite and your Lordships generally will feel that that is true.
We recognise to the full the value of the debate which has taken place in your Lordships' House in the last two days. We realise fully how urgent is the need to complete our defences at the earliest possible moment. We recognise that the public as a whole desire to have a lead and desire to see this work completed as soon as possible, and that they will hold us to blame it that is not realised. Therefore we venture to suggest to your Lordships that an inquiry, such as is suggested by the noble Lord, would really not be helpful. If the noble Lord agrees with me in that I hope he will agree with me also that the best thing for all of us to do is to take this lesson to heart, and that being so, that he will allow us to go on with the inquiry which is already being held and withdraw the Motion he placed on the Paper.
My Lords, it will of course be realised that this Motion, which was placed en the Paper, is admittedly wide. It was drawn in a very wide way, but it was put on the Paper a month ago. I put it on the Paper in consultation with my noble friend Lord Snell, and I dare say that, if we had known then some of the things we know now, we should have rather narrowed the terms of it. Nevertheless, I think your Lordships will admit that it has served a useful purpose, and its wideness has helped that purpose, having, with the contribution of my noble friend and other noble Lords behind me, produced a very valuable debate.
If I might briefly draw your Lordships' attention to the following considerations, I think there is an outstanding lesson to be learned from this debate and that it is therefore very valuable. First of all, there is general agreement that in case of war you must have a Register of the people in order to pre-vent the conscription of the wrong men. It would be much more necessary if another war came than in any war in the past. Men in certain industries must not be recruited into the forces. Secondly, if war comes you will immediately set up your Ministry of Supply with full powers. Now there is general agreement, even among the Gov- 1618 ernment's spokesmen, about those two considerations. Apart from the Government spokesmen, as far as I can make out, there is unanimous agreement throughout your Lordships' House on the need of a greater effort to rearm, and I particularly wish to thank Lords Trenchard, Milne and Swinton for supporting with their great experience the general tenour of our proposal. That being the case, that in war you will immediately have to institute these two reforms, why not set up the machinery now? You can have the machinery without necessarily all the powers that you would then have. I think that is the case for the Ministry of Supply now. It need not have the full compulsory powers that are required in war. Also, with regard to a National Register, you need this now, so that you know where your men and women are, whom you can take and whom on no account must you move from their occupations. I would remind your Lordships that in the very moving speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, on the last occasion we met, he came down himself on the side of those who want industry mobilised now. I think I am not stating the summary of this debate unfairly in what I have said.
I would only add that this debate has not proceeded on Party lines at all, and we have not, as I said at the beginning and as my noble friend Lord Addison repeated to-day, attempted to make Party capital out of this matter. The noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for India, rather alarmed us yesterday: he gave us the impression that there was a five years' plan which had been initiated three years ago and was just going on as it had all been -arranged, with no enlargement or speeding up; the programme was being followed out normally, we understood yesterday. The noble Earl who leads your Lordships' House has, I think, reassured us to a certain extent by his statements to-day. There is apparently going to be a speeding-up, and there is going to be an attempt to find out the cause of this trouble and delay in getting the arms needed. The Government are holding the inquiry themselves, by themselves, on themselves; that is quite true, but nevertheless they are trying to find out what is wrong. It is, I think, implicitly admitted that there is something wrong, and I hope that when the faults are discovered the Government will 1619 not hesitate to ask the country to make any necessary sacrifices and any alterations in the system that are required. In all the circumstances of this debate I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with a Division, and I respond to the invitation of the noble Earl to withdraw my Motion. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.