HL Deb 08 October 1940 vol 117 cc435-83

My Lords, I desire to ask the noble Viscount if he has any statement to make on the general war situation and other matters relating thereto.


My Lords, you will naturally expect to have some review of the principal events that have taken place concerning the war since the last time the House met. We are all well aware of the form which the war has recently assumed. The promised invasion of this island has not yet materialised, and, halted by the waters of the Channel, and his plans, as I suppose, thwarted by the British Navy and the Royal Air Force, Herr Hitler has turned his wrath against our south-eastern counties, against our towns and cities and, particularly, of late, against London. He has, as your Lordships will have observed, threatened to raze our cities to the ground and he has been doing his best or his worst to fulfil that boast. It is perhaps worthy of note that in that self-appointed task he has not used his dive-bombers since they were badly cut up by the Royal Air Force on August 15. He may, of course, be keeping them in reserve for use in the case of invasion, but however that may be we have had to deal lately only with his long-range heavy bombers and on an average it is estimated that 400 of these aircraft have attacked this country every twenty-four hours during the last four weeks.

It seems doubtful whether this average rate of sustained attack could be greatly exceeded, though no doubt a concentrated effort could be made for a few days at a time. There has certainly been a decrease in casualties and in material damage these last ten days, and from our knowledge of what our own bomber pilots have to do think we may safely take it that those of the enemy are subjected to considerable strain. Therefore, while I do not wish to be thought over-optimistic, nor do I wish to make forecasts which events may falsify, I think it would not be unfair to draw the provisional conclusion that the average effort put forth by the German Air Force against this country absorbs a very considerable part of their strength. As for ourselves, both in fighters and in bombers we are, at this moment, after all these months of battle, substantially stronger actually and relatively than we were in May, when the heavy fighting began. The pilot situation is rapidly improving and for many weeks our repaired aircraft alone exceed, or make good, the loss, so that new construction is a clear gain.

German statements of the weight of bombs dropped on this country by their aircraft do not seem in any way unreasonable. They have said, for instance, that 251 tons of bombs were dropped on London during the night of Thursday, September 26. On that night 180 persons were killed in London—that is to say, it took 4 tons of bombs to kill three people. Similar figures in the last war were that one ton of bombs killed ten people, and your Lordships therefore can readily note the contrast between the conditions of to-day and those of the last war. An attack in this war on these figures is only one-thirteenth as deadly as it was in the last. That fact, which is very remarkable and significant, can only be attributed in my view to the vastly improved methods of shelter, the precautions observed by our people and the efficiency of our antiaircraft defences. In any event it has caused us to revise all our ideas of the effect of an attack on London, which were before the war based on an estimate of a nightly loss of 3,000 persons killed and 12,000 persons wounded. As a matter of fact, we have had since the beginning of the war, 8,500 killed and 13,000 wounded.

The damage to property, and particularly to the private houses of rich and poor alike, has bean, as your Lordships are aware, relatively more extensive. The loss of life of which I have spoken is unhappily irreparable, but what has been destroyed in the way of buildings can be built again, most of it better and most of it more beautiful. The scars that are being inflicted on our cities can be very quickly effaced. There is in that connection one scheme of which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is speaking in another place to-day, and on which, perhaps, I might say a word or two to your Lordships at this point. The diminution of the damage done by blind bombing in relation to what we had expected before the war enables His Majesty's Government to take an enormous step forward in the attempt to cover the risk to the property of all classes, rich and poor. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now preparing a Bill for a nation-wide compulsory insurance against damage to property from the enemy's fire. As your Lordships are aware, the immediate needs of food and shelter are already provided for, and so is loss of life and limb, but we think that a charge levied on the capital value of buildings and structures of all kinds would provide a fund from which—supplemented if need be by a State subvention—it would be possible for every one to be covered against this risk and covered with retrospective effect from the beginning of the war. Thus every one can be made sure that compensation for his house and his home and place of business will be made to him in one form or another at the end of the war, if not sooner; and that, where the necessity arises, means of carrying on in the intervening period will not be withheld.

It is necessary to make absolutely clear that I am speaking of, and the Government have in mind, only the case of damage by the fire of the enemy, and that an uncrossable line must be drawn between that and the innumerable forms of indirect loss arising out of the unforeseeable conditions of the war. Provided that Parliament is prepared to accept that principle as fundamental and imperative, His Majesty's Government will be prepared to go forward with the vast scheme which I have briefly outlined.

These four weeks of savage and quite indiscriminate bombing of London have shown here, as in other parts of England, that our people can take it as calmly and as bravely as any one who knows them would have expected. Nothing is at once more significant and more moving that when you pass a heap of rubble and ruins that was a house and see planted on the debris a little Union Jack, indicative and eloquent of the spirit that is there. As I say, these last weeks have given abundant proof of that spirit; and if Herr Hitler thinks that by smashing our towns and villages he can break that spirit, he has made yet another huge German miscalculation. I have no doubt whatever that hard and bitter trials still await us all, but just as we mastered the subtle and dangerous magnetic mine, so we shall not rest until we have dealt as effectively with the menace of night bombing.

The House will wish to hear something from me, speaking for His Majesty's Government, in regard to the recent operations at Dakar. It had always been General de Gaulle's intention to raise his standard as the Leader of all Free Frenchmen who might rally to him in support of the Allied cause in some French territory abroad as soon as circumstances permitted. His followers, indeed, have already achieved a considerable measure of success, and New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, the French establishments in India, the French Cameroons and the greater part of French Equatorial Africa have already rallied to the cause of Free France. All these territories have been won over to General de Gaulle by movements from within. General de Gaulle's information led him to believe that a large proportion of the population of Senegal would welcome his arrival, and that if he appeared off Dakar at the head of the troops, or some of them, which he has assembled and equipped in this country, Senegal would come over to him. His proposal to proceed to Dakar was consequently approved by His Majesty's Government; and they were all the more ready to support him because information had reached them that there was some danger of German influence spreading to Dakar.

While the expedition was on its way, the Vichy Government despatched three French cruisers and three destroyers from Toulon, which passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and eventually reached Dakar. By a series of accidents and some errors, which are being suitably dealt with, the news of the approach of these ships through the Straits of Gibraltar was not received in time to prevent them from passing through. When they had passed the Straits, every effort was subsequently made to stop them from entering Dakar itself, but without success. From Dakar four of these ships put to sea again, steaming south, and it was thought that they might be intending to interfere with the existing situation in French Equatorial Africa, which, as I have already said, had already rallied to General de Gaulle. Ships of the Royal Navy intercepted their passage and insisted upon their reversing their course. This they eventually did, two cruisers returning to Dakar and two being escorted by His Majesty's ships towards Casablanca.

I think I can assure the House, and I hope they will themselves feel assured, that the mischievous arrival of these ships at Dakar and of the men they carried arose in no way from any infirmity of purpose on the part of His Majesty's Government, but was one of those mischances which often arise in war, and especially perhaps in war at sea. On the morning of September 23 General de Gaulle's emissaries, flying the tricolor and the white flag in order to show at once their French nationality and their peaceful intention, made an attempt to land at Dakar. It may be, as has been suggested, that French resistance was stimulated by the presence of German emissaries who had arrived at Dakar by air. I should indeed like to believe that was true, rather than that a Government which had recently been our Ally should have given orders to open fire upon unarmed emissaries under a flag of truce, one of whom was a grandson of Marshal Foch and another of whom was a priest representing the forces which, under the banner of Free France, are determined to assist us in our present struggle and thus contribute to the restoration of France's greatness.

However that may be, these emissaries were fired upon and two officers of the party were seriously wounded. The batteries opened fire on one of General de Gaulle's warships, and subsequently on His Majesty's ships which were standing by in order to render General de Gaulle support if that were needed. Before returning fire the Admiral commanding made the signal in plain language to the commander of Dakar that he would be obliged to return fire unless fire ceased. As the shore battery did not cease, fire was returned, and both His Majesty's ships and the shore batteries secured hits and incurred casualties. The French battleship "Richelieu" joined in, and her fire also was, of course, returned. General de Gaulle's forces unsuccessfully attempted to make a landing, and after that it became plain that only a major operation of war could secure the fall of Dakar. General de Gaulle himself was most anxious that he should not be the cause of bloodshed to his fellow-countrymen, and accordingly the forces concerned were withdrawn.

That operation, of which I have given an outline, has been criticised on three grounds. It has been criticised first on the ground that warships from Toulon should not have been allowed to pass the Straits of Gibraltar; secondly, that our information about the feeling at Dakar must have been very faulty; thirdly, that the operation should not have been undertaken at all unless its success was absolutely assured. With the first point I have already dealt. In regard to the second, as I have said, General de Gaulle's supporters in Dakar had led him to believe that the operation could be effected without a serious engagement. This was the information at his disposal, and we had no reason to doubt its accuracy. Indeed, similar information in regard to the situation in the Cameroons had proved strikingly accurate, and there were in general many signs of favourable prospects for the enterprise. But it is undoubted that the situation was adversely affected by the arrival of the French warships, and I think it is clear that General de Gaulle's local supporters failed to form a correct estimate of the effect of the arrival of those ships and of the consequent manning of the shore batteries by French sailors. Further—though this, of course, was accidental—the operation was to some extent hampered by weather, and on account of fog tie escorting force was prevented from being visible from the shore and thereby exercising a certain effect, inasmuch as the sight of the supporting force might possibly have encouraged the local supporters of General de Gaulle and perhaps enabled them to take more active measures on the shore.

Then it is said that the operation should not have been undertaken unless it was quite clearly going to be successful. There are others here who can speak with greater authority than I can upon these higher and broader questions of strategy, but I am quite convinced of one thing, that in dealing with unknown factors, such as the degree of French resistance or French support in a case of this kind, it is quite impossible to avoid a considerable measure of uncertainty and of hazard. Your Lordships will perhaps remember that the capital of the French Cameroons was taken the other day by twenty-five Free Frenchmen. On appearances, there was no certainty there of success; ought they to have moved without having overwhelming forces in support? The truth is that there is an element of risk in every operation, and in the case of Dakar that element of risk proved a great deal larger than General de Gaulle had anticipated. Accordingly it was that, after the defences had been strongly tested, the naval and military commanders on the spot accepted General de Gaulle's view not to pursue the engagement. I may add that His Majesty's Government consider that they were quite right not to get us committed to a shore operation, possibly of considerable magnitude, which could not, like a naval operation, be broken off at any moment, and which might well have become a serious entanglement for us.

Before the decision to attempt this enterprise was taken, it was very carefully considered and it was believed to be a justifiable risk. Circumstances turned out adversely, and that estimate was proved to be wrong; but that may happen in any enterprise. In war, as in other undertakings, risks have to be accepted; and, if you never attempt anything of which the success is not completely assured in advance, you will never get any action at all. I venture to think that more mischief might flow from a refusal to accept the inevitable uncertainty and hazards of any operation than from a bolder policy, with all its concurrent risks; for that would mean that we confined all our energies to defence, and I can imagine no surer way in which to lose this war. Although Dakar is an admitted setback, it is, I think, only an episode in the wider struggle of the war, and it has neither weakened our resolve nor reduced our power to achieve final victory.

There is one other subject on which I must say something, and that is the situation in the Far East. We debated that subject rather over two months ago, in connection with the Agreement that His Majesty's Government had at that time concluded with the Japanese Government upon the subject of the Burma Road. That Agreement, as your Lordships may remember, was for a period of three months, and comes to an end on October 17. As there was no provision in the Agreement for its renewal, the question of the reopening of the Road has now to be decided in the light of certain recent developments. The original Agreement was made in response to a Japanese request, and with the object of affording an interval of time during which a genuine effort might be made to reach an all-round settlement. As the House will be aware, that object has not been achieved; the Japanese have, on the contrary, obtained facilities for sending their troops into Indo-China in order to launch a fresh attack on China. Furthermore, they have concluded a political, military and economic Pact with the Axis Powers about which I will have a word or two to say in a moment. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government propose to allow the Agreement to run its course, but they do not see their way to renew it. We have satisfied ourselves that the views of the Government of the United States on this question are wholly in accord with our action, and the Soviet Government have been kept informed of our decision.

Now I will say a word or two about the Pact to which I referred a moment ago. A summary of it was issued a week or so ago. It concerns, as we are all aware, the relations between Germany, Italy and Japan. According to the summary, Japan recognises in the Pact the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe, while Germany and Italy recognise the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia. The parties agree to co-operate in maintaining these new orders, and in particular undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means should one of them be attacked by a Power not at present involved in the European war or in the Sino-Japanese conflict. That is a bare summary.

We do not know whether that summary tells the whole story, or whether there are any unpublished commitments; what we do know is that the summary was accompanied by statements in Tokyo to the effect that the Pact did not mean that Japan was to enter the European war at present, or that she intended to challenge any Power without provocation, and it was stated that her ultimate object was the restoration of peace. The conclusion of this Pact is not, I think, any great occasion for surprise. It clarifies the situation to some extent by giving public expression to a relationship which has long existed in effect. What is not clear is how the closer association of Japan with those Powers which specialise in domination, oppression and exploitation can help the cause of peace, or indeed in the long run, I would say, further the interests of Japan herself. It would seem very possible that the Japanese Government, who certainly would appear on paper to have assumed the main burdens of this new Agreement, may have some difficulty in reconciling it with the policy of non-involvement in the war.

On the surface of it, the Pact, with some references made to it in Japanese quarters, reads very much like a threat to the United States. But your Lordships will have observed that, so far from having alarmed American public opinion, it has only strengthened their resolve to speed up American defence and to protect United States interests in the Pacific. An attempt has been made to justify the conclusion of the Pact by what is termed in some quarters the so-called threatening attitude of the United States, Australia and ourselves in consulting together in the defence of our own interests. "This animal is most unreasonable; when it is attacked it defends itself." Neither of the branches of the English-speaking race is, I think, accustomed to meet acts or threats of violence by submission; and certainly the reception of this strange, ill-balanced declaration in the United States has not been, I would suppose, at all encouraging to those who were its authors.

We hope, indeed, that the dangers so plainly created by it will be averted by the prudence and the patience which Japan has often shown in the gravest situations. For our policy has never been directed towards a conflict with Japan. We have, on the contrary, gone to considerable lengths in the attempt to meet Japan, but our efforts have not been rewarded; and however much we may desire, as we do desire still, to see good relations with Japan, we also desire to see the maintenance of a free and independent China. That is in the interest, I think, of everybody, including, I would venture to assert, Japan herself, and it certainly, I would think, is of interest to Soviet Russia which, for what it is worth, receives the assurance in the new Pact that its existing political status vis-à-vis the three signatories is not affected.

I apologise for keeping your Lordships so long. These are dark and difficult days, and our way, as I see it, lies ahead and is beset by many dangers, many pitfalls and many disappointments. There is no easy royal road to victory. But there is in this country a mood of determined resolve which will be unmoved by dangers and which will struggle through pitfalls and will, I think, profit by disappointments. We shall not remain on the defensive a moment longer than we must, but we know that every day that we hold the attacks on this country increases our strength, despite any damage that indiscriminate bombing may do. For behind us in our struggle are all the vast resources not only of His Majesty's Empire but also of the United States, and these resources are being developed from day to day and from week to week at amazing speed, far outside the range of Herr Hitler's bombers. And our Navy can be trusted to see to it that the flow of that war material to this country goes on unchecked. I do not believe that your Lordships will doubt that these sources of material strength, linked as they are with the invincible, spirit of our people, of which every day we have new evidence, will create an impassable barrier against aggression and will finally enable us to secure the achievement of our purpose. I beg to move that the House do resolve itself into Committee to consider the statement made to the House.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee to consider the statement made to the House.—[Viscount Halifax.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly: The EARL OF ON SLOW in the Chair.


My Lords, it will, I think, meet with, the approval of all your Lordships if I offer, not for the first time, respectful salutations to the noble Viscount, who speaks to us to-day not only as the Foreign Secretary but as the Leader of the House. He has occupied that distinguished post before and, I have no doubt, will again perform the duties belonging to it with his well-known skill and friendliness. At the same time your Lordships, I am sure, will feel that it is proper that we should express our appreciation of the noble Viscount who, up to now, has been our Leader and has gone to another high position in the law. He had, I am sure, the esteem, almost the affection I may say, of every one of us in the friendly and charming way with which he discharged his duties.

We shall all, I am sure, be in complete agreement with the noble Viscount opposite in what he says generally as to the outlook before us and as to the resolution and character of our people, and I think one of the most gratifying things he said was that the replacements of our fighter and bomber aircraft have more than made good our losses. That is a statement of primary and continuing importance, and one can feel confident, too, that that increase will become greater and greater. It had been proposed, I believe, that your Lordships should meet tomorrow as well, but owing to the damage done to the building, and for other good reasons, it has been thought preferable that the subjects covered by the statement of the noble Viscount should all be disposed of to-day. It had been our intention, on this side, to invite your Lordships to discuss the more domestic side of things tomorrow, but we are, of course, glad to fall in with the general desire. Therefore, I shall have to say something in a briefer form regarding what one had intended to say tomorrow, particularly on the situation in London.

I am not a military or naval strategist, but I confess I did not find the noble Viscount's explanation of the Dakar episode at all satisfying. I found there was still no answer to the fairly obvious inquiry which was, I think, in everybody's mind: If you had meant to undertake this business, why in the world did you not go through with it? I hope sincerely, myself, that whilst it is quite clear that it is, as the noble Viscount said, only an episode, we shall not have many more of these episodes. It would be a comfort if we could be delivered from a repetition of this kind of misadventure. Why the Department, if it were the Department, or the Government, was not informed about the departure of these ships, and how it was they came to get as far as Gibraltar before His Majesty's Government woke up to the fact that they were on the sea, is not, I suppose, a matter we can inquire about or, at all events, one on which we can expect to receive an explanation in public; but it is another of these Staff blunders of which we have had more than one illustration before. They ought not to occur. If our information department passes on information, which I suppose it does, there ought to be an arrangement to see that the information is promptly received and promptly dealt with. I do not know what action has been taken, and it is not proper to ask, in public, what action has been taken, but I hope the people responsible for that blunder of not using the information or passing it on are no longer in responsible office. We cannot afford bungles of that kind. I am sure we are all very sorry that General de Gaulle was so misled. The best people get misled sometimes, and one does not want to exaggerate, but I hope those responsible for the Staff blunders are not there any more.

The only other part of the noble Viscount's statement to which I would refer is the Burma Road. It is cheap and easy to say "I told you so," but we did tell him so. We told the noble Viscount so two months ago, and he did not deny the impeachment. He gave us the reasons. I think it was in a Private Session, so it would not be proper to repeat that, but such as they were, as the noble Viscount will remember, they did not satisfy anybody—they did not even satisfy himself. These aggressors are not to be appeased that way. That is quite plain. I am delighted that His Majesty's Government have arrived at the decision which they have announced. No good was likely to come of this concession, and it is to our interests that China, which has contributed to the making of this road by heroic efforts, should be able to receive what supplies she can get over it. We should not be a party to closing this great highway, which China has largely made for her own sustenance, in order to suit a cruel aggressor.

The noble Viscount did not say anything about Rumania. One feels a little bit uncomfortable about that. Somehow or other we always seem to be "behind the fair." We are always coming in after the event. I do not feel at all comfortable that there has been that drive and decision in our policy which there ought to have been with regard to Rumania. It is true we cannot affect the Iron Guard—we know we cannot. But, at the same time, the Axis Powers seem to get in first too often. One longs to see some success arising out of Britain getting in first, and a proportionate drive in our policy from which that result would come.

Before I come to the particular position in London, let me say a word about the defence of London. I have not mentioned this subject before, but I must say now that in October of last year, owing to information placed at my disposal by reliable people, I represented to the War Office that the arrangements for the defence of London were not as adequate as they ought to be—I am not going into details—and nothing was done about it. Later on, the same representations were repeated to Mr. Stanley, who was then Secretary of State for War, and later still to Mr. Eden. I was informed he would see the people concerned about it. All I can say is that the first three days of the attack on London justified to the letter the case which was submitted to the War Office as to the inadequacies in October last. As we know, enormous and rapid improvements were made in the defences which, I have no doubt, were largely due to the interposition of the Prime Minister himself. But this is another Staff thing which causes one profound uneasiness. I believe that the people who were responsible for ignoring the representations as to certain inadequacies—it would not be right to particularise—in the defence of London were still in command-when the bombing commenced. I hope they are not in command now. They ought not to be. The people who were responsible for leaving the defence of London as it was at the beginning of the bombardment ought not to be in office. I say that with a full knowledge of the facts.

Somehow or other, one cannot but feel an uncomfortable sense that our higher Staff work is not so good as it ought to be. We know that some of us—several noble Lords, not on these Benches only—for two or three years have been hammering at the matter of the programme of supplies. We saw by the equipment of the Army in France that the programme had not been as boldly drawn up as it ought to have been. We are having a better programme now I believe, but I do hope—it is not a joke—that the noble Viscount will pass on to his colleagues the sense—and I am saying it not out of hostility to the Government; I am saying it because of those things that happened—that there is a profound uneasiness that our higher Staff direction is not as good as it ought to be, and particularly, I believe, on the Army side. Our splendid people are worthy of the best they can be provided with.

I hope that our Army in Egypt is being as well equipped as it ought to be, and that we are not taking all these suggestions which are made from the Germans. I saw a piece in the newspaper this morning, evidently put out by the propaganda branch of some Department, about the enormous improvements that are being made in the Army equipment because of the experience we had in France. That is in the newspaper this morning. Of course we are always glad to learn from our enemies if there is anything worth learning from them, but one wants to feel satisfied that the people who are thinking about these things have some ideas of their own which are better than our enemy's ideas. Such ideas were not displayed in the equipment which was ordered and provided for the Expeditionary Force, and I do hope that the standard of equipment of our Armies now being prepared is far in advance of what it was previously.

Again I come back to this uneasiness about Stall. Let me just say a word about the position in London. I do not feel happy about that either. There is a multiplicity of authorities. There are all kinds of well-meaning people, far too many. I do not know what they are all doing. There is one gentleman—a good man, no doubt—who has some duties in connection with housing, a member of the other House. Somebody else has to do with the clearance of road obstructions. Somebody else has to do with shelters. If a borough is willing provision is made, but if a borough is not willing difficulty arises. We even find cases like this. A poor woman is driven out of her house and because she does not happen to live in a borough that has decided to undertake certain responsibilities she cannot be given any help. Several cases of that kind have occurred.

I shall be glad to know what has been done as a result of the investigations which have been made, I believe, by a very responsible Committee under one of our colleagues in this House as to the conditions in some of the shelters. I believe that lots of these shelters have been put up without any forethought of the cold weather coming after a time, and with very inadequate lavatory accommodation. It still is, I am afraid, inadequate, and it is not quite clear whose job it is to put it right. I am glad that Mr. Morrison had been put in charge, but I would like to know what he has been put in charge of. Besides that, the Minister of Health has certain authorities responsible to him. If they play up, well and good. If they do not, what then? He does not seem to me to have any powers to deal with the case where an authority does not make adequate provision, and if he has not, who has? Has Mr. Morrison, for example, power to step in and do what is necessary in a borough in which the work is not being done? Has he power to supersede the Minister of Health? These are not trifling questions, they go to the root of the whole matter. In the debate we had here two or three weeks ago I suggested that we ought to have a dictator of housing, or words to that effect, and a dictator of shelters. I still say so. So we ought. I do not know who is responsible, but there should be one man responsible for the whole with full power to see that whatever is necessary is done. There is not anybody, so far as I can make out, in that position at present. There is a great duplication of authorities, but no single I direction, nobody with power over the whole thing, and the people ought not to have to wait until a dilatory borough council does its duty.

May I say another word on this? I hope it will not be misinterpreted, but this is a function of Parliament. I do not believe you are going to deal with the necessities of the case rightly through voluntary subscriptions. We know everybody does what he can willingly and gladly, and quite right too, but that is not enough. Lots of these poor people are bombed out of their houses, they have no furniture, no clothes, nothing but what they stand up in. Lots of them are in that position. Everyone of us, I am sure, knows such cases. These people ought to be helped promptly. They ought to be able to go to some office, provided it is a genuine case of course, and be given there necessary financial assistance, or clothes, or whatever it is that they require, without delay. I do not know how long subscriptions take to filter down from the Lord Mayor's Fund or other funds. I am sure they do as well as they can, and I am not suggesting anything to the contrary, but I think the Government should accept the responsibility of the use of the Lord Mayor's Fund and any fund for relieving distress promptly and for having an organisation in every place that will do it. I am afraid we have not got that yet by a long way.

We shall be very interested, I am sure, to see the Bill which will give effect to the announcement that the noble Viscount made as to the compensation for damage to property. There was one sentence the noble Viscount used which filled me with some misgiving. He talked about something going to happen at the end of the war. I gathered that in some cases compensation would not be payable, or not be made, until the end of the war. I am not going to prejudice the scheme in advance, but I would like to know what that means. Thousands of these poor people cannot wait till the end of the war. All they have got has been destroyed. They ought not to wait till the end of the war. I do not know what the scheme is, but I am sure the noble Viscount agrees that they cannot afford to wait till the end of the war. Everyone, I should think, will welcome the announcement, and it is most gratifying that it can be made, but I hope the scheme of restitution will be generous—not extravagant of course—and that it will be governed by such machinery as will secure that those in need of help will be able to receive it without lots of red tape, and without unnecessary delay. I hope, too, that this hardship which the people are undergoing, willingly almost and most certainly with a splendid courage, will be promptly removed and that they will receive the help and recognition that their courage entitles them to receive.


My Lords, I would say a word first about the changes that have taken place in the personnel of His Majesty's Government, especially so far as they affect your Lordships' House. The most obvious, of course, is that of the acceptance by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Caldecote, of the great office which has been filled for many years by my noble and learned friend Lord Hewart and the consequent absence of the noble and learned Viscount from the Front Bench opposite. I suppose that it is possible that he might remain on that Bench. There is a famous precedent in the case of Lord Ellenborough, who, after having been Lord Chief Justice for several years, became a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry known as that of All the Talents which, like the present Ministry—which I suppose might claim a similar title—was composed of diverse elements of men holding different opinions on many subjects. But no doubt in these times it would not have been possible for the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Caldecote, to combine the work of his office with a seat on the Front Bench opposite.

The only other Ministerial change to which I would allude is that of Mr. Morrison, particularly with reference to what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Addison, on the subject of London, because I feel that in his office as Home Secretary and guardian of home defence he will be able from his great and almost unequalled experience and knowledge of London to play an important part in carrying out some of those reforms for which he is so anxious.

On the general question I would say that since your Lordships last discussed these matters nothing has happened, either in this country or in any part of the world, to diminish the confidence which the whole country feels, and shows that it feels, in the ultimate success of our arms. We all know—it has been fully expressed in both the noble Viscount's statement and the noble Lord's speech—that this country, and London in particular, has been going through severe trials, and we know that there may be more trials awaiting us, but that in no way lessens the confidence in the future which we feel. As regards what has happened abroad, I would say one word on the subject of Dakar. On that the noble Viscount put forward as good a defence, I do not doubt, as could have been put forward by anybody, but I doubt if he would claim that it is an altogether complete defence. Indeed the noble Viscount conceded that this unhappy business represents one of those mishaps which, from time to time, take place in every war.

What creates a certain degree of doubt in my mind is what is the real relation of His Majesty's Government to the existing Government in France, known by the rather ominous name of Vichy. It may not be possible for the noble Viscount to state publicly the precise relations that exist between us and them, but we all know what happened with regard to the French Navy. The arrangement made between the German and French Governments was that the main body of the French Fleet should be surrendered and disarmed either in Italian or German ports, leaving a certain balance of the Fleet for securing the power of the French Government in the French Colonies. That portion of the Fleet was obviously as dangerous to us as those elements of the French Fleet which we felt it our painful duty to destroy or at any rate to disable. Therefore it is difficult to understand how any French men-of-war were allowed to be at sea at all, and why, if owing to some unhappy lapse—of which the noble Lord Lord Addison spoke, I think, with no undue severity—they were allowed to escape at Gibraltar, they could not have been intercepted at some point before they reached Dakar, because, as the noble Viscount pointed out, the whole situation at Dakar was changed and very possibly rendered hopeless from the point of view of General de Gaulle by the presence of those ships at Dakar.

And perhaps there is no more to be said without further information as to the manner in which the Free French Leaders were unhappily misled as to the sentiment of at any rate a preponderant part of the people in Senegal. I suppose that at some time or another the situation will be cleared up; but in the meantime I hope that it will be possible to make Dakar the object of a distinct blockade to prevent the handicaps that may easily arise if free access to and exit from that port are permitted to the French, and through them in fact to the Germans. The only other point on which I would join in expressing satisfaction is that of the Burma Road. I see from the Press that it has been anticipated for some time that the step which His Majesty's Government are prepared to take towards the termination of the Agreement would be taken, and I am sure that it will receive the universal assent and agreement of the country.


I would suggest that it might be convenient if we were to adjourn now and resume in an hour's time.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.


My Lords, I rise for a few minutes to refer to a subject which was not dealt with in the review made by our noble Leader, but which, especially owing to recent developments, is, I think, of vital importance in the general conduct of the war. It is of vital importance not only so far as this country is concerned but in relation to the Empire as a whole. Briefly, what I have to say is that I believe the time has come to broaden the basis of the War Cabinet and to make it more Imperial in character by including in it representatives of the Dominions. Let me examine for a moment how intimately the Dominions are bound up with us in this war. Apart from the numerous soldiers, sailors and airmen that they have sent us, and the vast quantities of raw material, equipment and foodstuffs, that they are supply- ing—and I should like here to acknowledge what the Dominions have done in this respect, especially in relation to the size of their populations and their financial resources—we have to recognise that the war arena has been so extended as now to cover almost the whole world. Whilst we in Great Britain are fighting—and fighting effectually—the battle of Britain against Hitler's invasion, the Near East, comprising Egypt, Palestine and adjacent countries, is gradually being formed into another war area, which may well provide the decisive battle which will determine the result of this war. Into that area in the Near East—or the Middle East, as some people prefer to call it—we have poured and are pouring not only troops from this country but Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians, while the Union of South Africa is already taking a direct and active share in the operations in the greater part of this zone.

Let us look at the Far East. Here the recent formation of the German-Italian-Japanese Axis has definitely altered the whole complexion of the situation in that part of the world. Australia and New Zealand are intimately and immediately involved by this new development in what may prove a grim struggle for their national existence. Australia has already assumed partial responsibility for the defence of Singapore, to ward off the possible danger of aggression by Japan in that quarter. Even though the United States of America were to participate in a war with Japan in the Far East, Australia and New Zealand would still, with ourselves, have to take a very big share in it; in fact, they would obviously be forced to do so. Then let me turn to Canada, a Dominion who, responding to the call of the Mother Country, has of her own free will contributed an immense effort to the Empire war machine. In addition, Canada has recently formed a Joint Defence Board with the United States of America, thus starting something which may ultimately grow into that vast union of English-speaking races of which so many of us have dreamed in the past, but which so far has been found to be impracticable.

With all these considerations and elements pointing to the common interest of the Empire's war effort, and to the still greater effort which will obviously be required, as was suggested in the speech of my noble friend, it seems to many of us that there ought to be greater unification of war direction on the part of the Empire, and that if possible for this purpose representatives of the Dominions, or of such Dominions as may desire it, should be included in the War Cabinet here, which is the mainspring of our war activities. In the last war, General Smuts, a world figure and most distinguished statesman, the Prime Minister of South Africa, was included in the War Cabinet, and was of the greatest value and assistance; but in this war it seems unlikely, for obvious reasons, that his services can be made available. We have in this country, however, another distinguished statesman of similar calibre in the person of Sir Stanley Bruce, who was at one time Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, and who has filled the office of High Commissioner for Australia in this country for a number of years with great distinction. He has won the confidence of a great many people here and abroad, and he would be an admirable addition and a valuable asset to any War Cabinet.

It may be that the Statute of Westminster will be used as a reason against the proposal I am making, and of course if all the Dominions, or any of them, are desirous of adhering to the letter of that Statute I admit that there must be very grave difficulties in the way of carrying out this proposal. It may also be said that our War Cabinet, having reached the number of seven or eight, is already sufficiently large; to which my reply would be that a War Cabinet of ten or eleven, or twelve, if necessary, should not be regarded as excessive for a community of nations representing nearly a quarter of the population of the world and covering an area equal to one quarter of the land surface of the globe. In this respect I might suggest that the personnel of the War Cabinet to-day is again, in my opinion and in the opinion I think of a great many others, too much engaged upon departmental duties to be able to carry out war direction with the leisure which they ought to have in order to think out the great problems involved. Consequently when a proposal is made for the inclusion of Dominion representatives in the War Cabinet it might be of advantage to review the present personnel of the War Cabinet.

Be that as it may, I should like to ask the Government whether the inclusion of Dominion representatives in the War Cabinet has been considered by His Majesty's Government in consultation with the Dominion Governments, and if not whether they would agree to consult the Dominion Governments about this. And, should the reply to that be in the affirmative, will they take such steps as are possible to implement this arrangement? I cannot help feeling that the psychological effect of such a step on the rest of the world would be instantaneous and tremendous. It would not only be a definite indication of the solidarity of our Empire, but it would be a proof that we see eye to eye in all the issues of the war and in the conduct of the war. It would convince the enemy that it was no use to inject schisms into our ranks, but that it is the determination of the separate parts of the Empire of their own free will, and voluntarily, to make them in this great world crisis united in thought, in plan and in action, and that it is their intention to pursue with all their immense resources the path of victory until freedom and peace are restored to all the nations.


My Lords, I crave leave from your Lordships to direct attention to what is really a new military problem arising out of the bombing of London. In a phrase I would describe that problem as the problem of the anxious soldier. When I speak of the soldier I do so for the sake of convenience as a comprehensive term, including both the sailor and the airman as well as the soldier. I say it is a novel problem, because in past wars and, up to the evacuation of Dunkirk, in this war also, it was the parents and the wives left behind at home of the soldiers fighting over the seas who felt anxiety for their menfolk. In the present situation, with the bombing of London, the position is reversed, and it is the soldier who is feeling anxiety about his kinsfolk here in London. It is a truism to say that the worried soldier is an inefficient soldier and therefore this problem of the anxious soldier is a military problem of prime importance, which must be solved. It so happens that the Service Departments have charged me with the responsibility of dealing with this problem so far as London is con- cerned, and in the short experience I have had certain facts have emerged and certain questions have presented themselves to which I would venture to invite the attention of your Lordships with a view to their amelioration.

The chief anxiety of the serving man is to know in these days what is happening to his wife, his children and his parents. One might be inclined to think that that responsibility for information is one which rests upon those at home, who should inform the soldier who belongs to their family. But it must be appreciated that letter writing does not at any time come very easily to the home folk of the men in the Fighting Services. They are rather hesitant to write, and they are always a little inarticulate, especially on paper, but perhaps most formidable in the way of all there stands the almost prohibitive postal charge of twopence-halfpenny a letter. That is a very onerous impost on those at home who would wish to write to their serving men. It is so important to the man in the Fighting Services that he should hear, and hear regularly from home, especially at this time, and has so great an effect upon his whole outlook, that I hope it may be found possible to reduce the rate of postage from twopence-halfpenny to a penny in the case of letters addressed to men in the Fighting Services. I believe that the mere doing of that would be a contribution to the solution of what is already a military problem and may become an increasing one.

How does this problem present itself? In the first instance, the soldier is anxious to know whether his home has been bombed or whether his people are safe, and to know where his people are; for very often they are not to be found at the home where the soldier would have expected them to be; they have either been evacuated by force of circumstance, or they have evacuated themselves. One of the most remarkable facts that have emerged at this stage is that there is no machinery set up for tracing missing persons and relatives and no machinery for the keeping of a central index of changes of address; and yet if information of this vital kind is to be obtained promptly it is essential that there should be a central register. I am not quite accurate when I say that none has been set up. There was nothing set up until a few days ago. It has been set up now, not by the Government but by the London Council of Social Service and, to a degree, in co-operation with myself. That is the only machinery that is now available whereby any person anxious about the whereabouts of a relative in the Metropolitan area can with any certainty be likely to find out, and it is a very poor certainty at that. This morning the number of names registered at the London Council of Social Service was 1,000 or thereabouts, and my own number is about equal, whereas the movement of population in London during these past few weeks has been enormous. It has been my experience to have to deal with some thousands of cases during the past week or ten days, and I am amazed to find in what a very large number of cases—the vast majority of these cases—the home of origin has been left and a new address has been obtained.

How, as things at present stand, is the soldier to find out where his relations, where his family, have gone? I have indicated one reason why they do not write—because the postage is so high. Another reason is that, harassed and harried, either by actual bombing or fear of bombing, charged very often with the care of young children, the wives have really not the time or inclination to write—perhaps give too little thought to the anxiety of the husband and father in the Fighting Services. The fact is they do not, in most cases, write. The consequence is that the only machinery to-day is the crude machinery of sending someone actually to the home to try to find out from the home itself what has happened and whether or not the family is still there. If the house is unbombed, if the family is still there, the inquiry is immediately finished. But what is the position if the family has evacuated, if it has gone, say, to Devonshire, without any address being left behind? Only long and tedious inquiries can disclose where the family has gone.

It is vital that we should be able to keep track of the movements of population. It is true that, at the present time, the billeting officer in each municipal authority is supposed—he is a busy man—to keep a registry of those whom he billets. But, apart from that, there is no arrangement made at all, except the voluntary arrangement of the London Council of Social Service to which I have referred. It is of the first importance that the man in the Fighting Services should be able to get to know at the earliest moment where his family is, and I would urge on the Government that they should take into close consideration the question of establishing—and establishing at once—a system of compulsory registration. If movements of population, changes of address, were compulsorily registered, a central registry could be maintained, and much time, labour, and anxiety saved. I would earnestly and respectfully press that on the Government.

Another fact which has emerged with regard to these cases where bombing has taken place is the multiplicity of authorities to which the sufferer must resort, I will not say for assistance, but even for information. For a claim for compensation it is the municipal authority, for another it is the Public Assistance Committee, for payment on account of furniture, or clothes, it is the Unemployment Assistance Board, for the evacuation of mothers and children it is the local education authority, for expectant mothers it is the ante-natal clinic. It would not be so bad if all these authorities, or the representatives of them, were in one room or even in one building, but they may be in as many buildings as there are authorities and spread over a relatively wide area. I could tell your Lordships tale after tale of soldiers who have been given forty-eight hours' leave to come and look after their families here in London, to find out what has happened to the bombed home, to make arrangements for the harassed mother and children. They have spent the whole of those forty-eight hours being pushed from pillar to post, from one authority to another, in the end achieving nothing, with only one result—either they return back to their units disgruntled soldiers or they apply for an extension of leave and by that means prevent others from obtaining leave and adversely affect the ordinary movement of units. I am glad to say there is very little overstaying of leave or absenteeism. All these things have to be borne in mind. You want to keep the soldier in a good mood. It is essential he should not be unduly worried or harassed and in the end achieve nothing.

Therefore, the second practical suggestion I make is that whatever requirements the bombed citizen may have, he should be able to achieve them in one central place in each locality. If there must be several authorities, they should be all represented in the same building, so that it is not a question of the soldier having to move about, spend his time, waste his exiguous resources in trying to find the representatives of these various authorities, and often ascertain in the end that they are not there, that the office is closed, as so often happens when the siren sounds, and that he must rejoin the queues outside and begin all over again. It is a real practical problem of great practical importance, and the solution is not difficult. It needs energy, imagination, and promptitude.

With regard to those who have been evacuated by some authority—I will not say compulsorily evacuated, but evacuated under the Government scheme—a very curious result emerges which would be contrary to the intention of Parliament did Parliament know about it. I do not know if your Lordships are aware that a soldier's wife living in London is entitled to an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week over and above that payable to soldiers' wives outside London. Picture to yourselves the case of an evacuated mother with young children. She has only evacuated because things are so bad. Either she has been bombed or, as we say, near-bombed. She takes her young children to a new home in a strange part of the country. Her resources are always small. In the first week she presents her allowance book for payment at the Post Office in the reception area, and what does she find? In spite of her having been bombed, in spite of her having to be sent from her home to a reception area, her income is at once reduced by 3s. 6d. a week. Just at the moment when she needs a little more money, it is taken from her. I would suggest again, as a purely practical matter, that for a period of at least four weeks after evacuation, the London allowance should apply to the wives of men in the Fighting Services, notwithstanding that during these four weeks they have been actually not in London, but in a reception area. I do not think that one can emphasize too strongly the bad effect which that immediate reduction in such circumstances of 3s. 6d. a week on a small income has upon the minds not merely of the wives but also upon the soldiers as soon as they hear of it.

The noble Viscount the Leader of the House mentioned a prospective Bill with regard to compensation. I do not propose to say a word about that Bill but to await the time where it will be the subject of discussion. I want, however, to deal with a question of compensation as it arises as a practical matter at this moment. In the first place I do not know whether your Lordships have seen the form which has to be obtained from the local authority. I interrupt myself to remind your Lordships that I am speaking from the point of view of the serving man whose home has been damaged, and who has not had time or opportunity for going round from one authority to another. It is a form of four pages with a considerable number of questions, not all of them simple to answer. When that form is obtained and filled in it has to be returned to the local authority. After a period a district value in the case of a louse will assess the damage, but no payment is made, and no payment will be made, as the law at present stands, until after the war.

Not only is no payment made but no one knows what payment will be made after the war. I have had most pathetic, letters from young officers as well as from other ranks who have bought a small house, or are buying it from a building society, whose homes have been bombed, their furniture destroyed, left bare and with nothing, and they ask: "What compensation am I to receive?" The only answer I can give them is "You must wait till after the war; meantime you are entitled to nothing." But they have got to provide for their families, they have to provide a home elsewhere for them, and it is essential that a payment in proportion to the loss should be made and made as soon as may be and promptly after the loss has been sustained. Your Lordships may ask how many soldiers are there who wish for compensation for their houses. More perhaps than might be surmised, because so many have adopted the system of buying through a building society. But it is on the question of the furniture that the matter arises in its acutest form. The great mass of the people of this country, when you talk of home, do not mean the four walls in which they live; they mean the furniture within those walls, the things that have been collected together over a lifetime to make a home. I have been struck by the pathetic statement not in scores but in hundreds of letters that I have received from those who have been evacuated, or who have evacuated themselves, that they cannot make arrangements either to store their home or have the home sent to them.

Let me before I conclude deal with these two questions of storing the home and sending the home to them. The local authorities have the right to salve and store furniture from bombed houses, but there is no storage space left in London, with the result that the furniture remains in the damaged homes there further to deteriorate unless the owner is able to make some arrangements of his own. I have tried to make some of these arrangements for them, and, believe me, my Lords, it is desperately difficult in these days of shortage of storage and difficulties of transport. Or they want their furniture sent to their new home which they have established, and there again there are enormous difficulties in transport, to say nothing of the expense. It is in my considered judgment essential that the Government should take into consideration the question of dealing with the central and critical matter of the furniture of the evacuated citizen. The wife of the soldier goes up to the North, perhaps, and finds a new home there and wants to furnish it. She cannot do so because her furniture is here in London, and there is the extraordinary result that, because there is no storage in London, the soldier has to continue to pay the rent of the home in London as he cannot take his furniture out of it, and at the same time he is paying rent for his new home outside London, so that he is paying two rents, not indeed out of the same income but out of the whole income reduced by 3s. 6d. a week. Now it is essential—and I can make practical proposals to the Government when I am asked—that some arrangement should be made promptly whereby the furniture of the home may be placed at the disposal of the person to whom that furniture belongs. It may have to be done in one or other of a number of methods, but it is essential that it should be done.

And what about clothes? When the clothing in the bombed home is destroyed these people want new clothes. They go to a number of authorities. They have first to fill up a form saying at what they value the furniture and clothes which they have lost. Then they may get a small sum of money paid to them for the purpose of tiding over the immediate emergency and enabling them to buy a modicum of new furniture for their new home and of clothes. But in my experience the amount allowed both for furniture and for clothes is quite insufficient, and instead of the new home being founded in replacement of the old one in a place where they can establish in every sense a new home, they can only look back as things are upon the old home from which they have been bombed, feeling that if arrangements had been a little different, if the authorities had exercised themselves a little more, if the payments authorised to be made by law were administratively made more quickly and more generously, at least a large part of their suffering instead of being exacerbated would have been removed. I said at the beginning, and as my final word I repeat, that although this problem has a general application it also has a particular application as a novel military problem, because until it is solved you will be confronted with the anxious soldier, and it is essential that the anxieties of the fighting man should be allayed.


My Lords, I had no intention of speaking to-day, but I feel I must thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for the information he has given us about the events which recently occurred at Dakar. I am sure every member of your Lordships' House must know that there have been feelings of very great apprehension among the general public about those events, partly because they knew nothing about them, because they knew nothing about the reasons for our going there or for our coming away. It is very natural, therefore, they should have felt that something had gone wrong. When I was asked for any information coming from behind the scenes as to what had happened, I could only say that I imagined General de Gaulle had been very much too enthusiastic and too optimistic. He had probably been able to assure our Government that he had only to appear there backed by British forces and the whole of the French people would join him. That being the case I think it was natural for the Government to take advantage of it. It is asked why the French ships were allowed to pass through the straits at Gibraltar? I imagine that that was allowed because we were under the impression that they contained Free Frenchmen who would join General de Gaulle.

What has happened now is exactly what happened in August, 1914. It is a case of history repeating itself. In August, 1914, the Germans had that very powerful battle cruiser the "Goeben" and the light cruiser "Breslau" off Sicily. It was vital that we should bring those ships to book. They had three courses open to them, either to get through the Straits, or to get into the Adriatic and intern themselves at Pola, or to make for the Dardanelles and get into Constantinople. The Navy of course did what could be done to intercept them, but those two powerful ships got into Constantinople, and no doubt the presence of the German Admiral with his officers and men had a very great deal to do with Turkey coming into the war against us. The same thing has happened again. Those three French ships got into Dakar and we evacuated it.

I do not wish for a moment to criticise the decision to come away. From the strategic point of view it must be wrong to have scattered forces all over the world, forces not strong enough to take real offensive action and possibly too weak to defend themselves. But people are asking "Are we never to come to the end of evacuations?" The first evacuation was at Narvik. About that I think no one can have the slightest doubt but that the right thing was done. It was quite impossible to hold on at Narvik with a small force. We were dissipating our troops and our ships. We can only give the greatest credit, thanks and praise to both the naval and military authorities who brought about that evacuation with such great success and without great loss. The next great evacuation was at Dunkirk where, of course, there was a very different state of affairs. We had our great Army of 350,000 men who had to be got away. We may say that that was through no fault of our own, through no fault of our Staff, or officers, or troops, but through the fault of our Allies. We had no alternative. We had to withdraw our men from Dunkirk. There again I feel that everybody concerned—Lord Gort and his officers and men and the Navy—deserve the greatest thanks from us. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to every one of them.

The other evacuation was that of our forces from Berbera in Somaliland. Again without being in any way behind the scenes, it seems to me that it should have been possible to reinforce those troops. I think I may say that I have a very good knowledge of the Army in India. I get many letters both from British officers and old Indian friends, both soldiers and civilians, all longing to do something to fight for the Empire. It did seem to me—perhaps we may have had no transport available—that it should have been possible for a division of Indian troops with a large amount of artillery and with an Air Farce, if necessary, from Aden to go in, not to stay in Somaliland but to wipe out the Italians, and then go on to reinforce the troops in Egypt and Libya. It may be that it was not possible to get the troops there, but though I am full of admiration for what Italians can do in the way of mechanisation and road-making—their equipment and guns are excellent—after all, what wins battles is the man behind the gun.

We may feel confident that every one of our British soldiers is worth ten or twelve Italians. Our Indian troops, I know from experience, are full of admiration and affection for their British comrades and would follow them to the death. That is not the care with the native troops employed by the Italians. They will not follow the Italians as Indian troops will follow us. Therefore, I regret that it was not possible to reinforce the troops in Somaliland. I believe we should have wiped out the Italian force and then our troops might have gone on to Egypt to face what is going to be a great issue. We shall have to fight and defeat the Italians in Libya, and we are going to do it. Again I say that I am not behind the scenes, but I feel confident that the Government have made the necessary arrangements so that we shall be strong enough utterly to defeat the Italians. If we can do that, though it may sound optimistic to say so, it may prove the thin end of the wedge and be a great factor in time to come. I do not want to criticise in any way the evacuations that have taken place, but I do hope that we may not ever again be faced with the necessity of carrying out evacuation.


My Lords, I should be very impertinent if I ventured to follow the lines of the speech just made with such great authority on strategic questions. I am sure that the Government will bear very carefully in mind everything that has been said by the noble and gallant Lord and I will not say anything about it for fear of weakening the effect of what he has said. All I will say is a word or two about Dakar. I shall not criticise the decision to withdraw. My noble friend, with great skill, evaded criticism—rightly from his point of view—as to the French ships having been allowed to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar by very frankly saying that a mistake was made and that there must be an inquiry. No one can ask for more than that. It is a complete answer to anything we may say. But it does seem to an onlooker like myself strange that the possibility of such an event taking place should not have been long foreseen and proper orders given. It is not so much a question of failure of information being given or of that particular thing being done. The failure I would ask the Government to look into is the failure to make proper provision for something which quite obviously was quite possible to occur and which might produce, as it did produce, very unfortunate results.

I do not want to dwell on that because I think it is right for us to say what the noble Viscount was too modest to say himself, that we feel we have every reason to congratulate the Government and to congratulate ourselves on the position in which we find ourselves to-day. No doubt we are very far from victory. That is true; but we are very much nearer than we were, as you will see if you cast your mind back to Dunkirk and the change that has taken place, for which we are bound to give, and we do give, great credit to the Government, but of course even more credit to the marvellous feats of arms of the Royal Air Force and other branches of our forces. We praise what the Royal Air Force have done, obviously and necessarily, but I firmly believe that when all the facts are known we shall feel that our praise has been very half-hearted indeed. I believe that theirs has been one of the most marvellous feats of arms that has been performed in the history of the world.

One more word about what the noble Viscount said, and that is about the decision, which I welcome very heartily, to reopen the Burma Road. The noble Viscount may possibly remember that I have always been in favour of that policy, and I do not wish to say more than how grateful I am to the Government for arriving at this decision, which I am convinced is absolutely right. I hope also that this last example will convince everybody that in dealing with people like the great military Governments that are now joined together in a Pact, concession is of no value whatever, but only encourages the Government to whom you make the concession to become more unreasonable than it was before. That is all I desire to say, because I do not want to do otherwise than to thank the Government most warmly for the decision at which they have now arrived.

That is all I desire to say about the speech of the noble Viscount. There are just one or two other matters to which I should like to draw his attention, because I think they are worth considering. We heard the most interesting speech just now from my noble friend behind me about the anxieties which he felt were unduly placed upon the shoulders of the serving soldiers. He made a variety of suggestions, which the Government will no doubt consider, whereby those anxieties will be diminished. One thing I think creates great and quite unnecessary anxiety, and that is the form of the communiqués that are issued as to the damages that have been done in the air raids. The normal communiqué is of this kind: there was an air raid over certain unnamed towns; considerable damage was inflicted and several casualties were suffered, most of them fatal. Suppose those are said all to have occurred in the County of Essex—I take that county at hazard. Everyone with a relation in the County of Essex who is not, as my noble friend so justly said of the people for whom he was speaking, in a position to hear exactly what happened to his relations immediately be- lieves that his relations were in danger and suffered severe loss.

I understand that for military reasons it is desired to conceal the name of the town. I would not venture to express any opinion on that policy, but it seems to me that at this stage in the war it is rather extraordinary that the Germans should bomb towns frequently without knowing what those towns are; but it may be so, and if it is so, of course it may be desirable to conceal names. There can, however, be no reason for the form "Many casualties have been suffered, some of them fatal"; or, very often, "Some casualties have been suffered, many of them fatal." Why on earth can it not be said, without the authorities committing themselves, "We believe on present information"—any guarding phrase of that kind—"that there have been 100 casualties, not more than 20 of which were fatal"? That would at any rate be some consolation to people who are in anxiety about their friends; but it is also surely of the greatest importance that we should not exaggerate or allow people to exaggerate the injuries and the losses that we are suffering. I do not want to conceal them, but let us not use phrases which enable ill-disposed people to represent London as a heap of ruins, and things of that kind. It does nothing but harm, and is besides quite untrue.

I beg the Government to consider whether they cannot give instructions that the information should be as precise and definite as possible. They need not be in the least afraid of frightening our people by giving them definite figures. Nothing of that kind will frighten our people, I am convinced of it. They will regret the losses deeply, of course, but once they know what they have to stand up against, they will stand up. The thing that is really harassing to everyone, even to our people, is to have a great disaster, the limits of which are quite unknown for them to brace their minds against. I venture to press that rather strongly on the Government, because I am sure. I have talked to a great many people and have never met anyone who disagreed with me on the desirability of precision.

One other matter has an indirect bearing on that; it is a thing with which the Government are quite familiar, but I venture to think that we ought to say something about it in this House. That is the deplorable condition of the postal arrangements of this country. I know that we must make, and we do make, every allowance for the war; of course we do. We recognise that things cannot go on as they did in peace. But it really is quite fantastic that a letter should take, as I know it did take, some seven days to go from Sussex to London. That cannot be a condition of affairs that ought to exist. And it is not only the letter but also the whole telephone and telegraph service. A noble friend of mine told me that he sent a telegram which took three days to reach its destination, though the distance was quite small. I am sure that is a matter worth the very serious consideration of the War Cabinet, and I dare say it has been given. That state of affairs ought not to be as it is.

Undoubtedly one great cause of the dislocation of this service is the practice by which until quite lately—I believe there has been a change lately—there was an actual order that every employee in every Post Office vas to cease work the moment what is called the "Alert" now was sounded. It is the most fantastic thing that ever was. In a great number of cases the danger is non-existent for a long time after the Alert is sounded. Now we have instituted the system of a "spotter," a "Jim Crow," being put on the roof-top to tell when an aeroplane may actually be expected. That is a great improvement, I quite agree; but even that system has one great defect, as I am told by persons who work under it. There is no means by which the "Jim Crow" can say "Now you may all go back to work." Once it is indicated that there is a danger, that danger remains in existence until the end of the Alert, though the planes may have passed over that part of the district and be threatening somewhere quite different. These matters really want considering. It is true that this is a total war, and that every part, of our organisation must be arranged with a view to war and with no other view. We must be prepared to insist that the regulations that have been enforced, for instance, in munition factories shall be equally enforced in the Post Offices and in the municipal offices of this country.


My Lords, this debate, as is natural in the circumstances, has ranged over a very wide field, and I shall only say one or two things which are not directly relevant to what fell from the noble Lord the Leader of the House. With regard to Lord Cecil's remarks on the Post Office: I can only-say that I am thoroughly in agreement with all he said. I would add two instances which will show that his complaints are not ill-founded. About a fortnight ago one of the Ministers of the Crown had occasion to write to me from Whitehall—I was living in Chelsea—inviting me to come and see him. The letter took four days to reach me. In the meantime, it so happened that, without knowing that this letter was in the post, in its dignified progress over a distance of four miles, I went to see the Minister, and we had the talk that was desired. The other incident is this. During a period of Alert a relative of mine went to buy some postage stamps at a post office. He found that the door was shut, owing to the sounding of the Alert signal; but I do not think it was because, the people in the post office were in any way timorous, because the three young women had their noses glued to the window and were looking to see anything that was to be seen in the sky. That is the sort of thing which has been happening constantly all over the country.

There is one other thing which I should like to say with reference to the remarks of the noble Viscount who has just spoken. I understood him to plead for very much more information with reference to air-raid casualties, and I understood him to say that he did not know anyone who did not agree with him. I am sorry to say that I am one of those who do not agree with him. It seems to me that the information which we give must be conditioned by the assistance which we may be giving to the enemy. Information given to our own people can be given a little later—say after a week or a fortnight, or whatever interval you please—but to give it at once is in my opinion, derived from Air Force sources, most unwise and injudicious.

Now let me come to the subject which has induced me to detain your Lordships with a few observations, and that is a remark made by my noble friend Lord Addison, when criticising the Government in regard to episodes which have resulted in a lack of success. I want to say something with reference to this question of episodes being unsuccessful. I understood the noble Lord to say that he hoped there would be no more such, and that we had had the last of any case in which, after having started some operation, it was necessary to stop it or to withdraw from the territory in question. I understood him to say that no such operation should be commenced unless we were assured that it would be successful. That is what I venture wholly to dispute. It never has been the doctrine or the principle upon which the British Navy has conducted its operations, nor the principle upon which our magnificent Air Force is night by night conducting its operations. It is a complete mistake to suppose that you should never embark upon an operation of that kind without being certain that it will succeed.

There are three factors—they are perfectly plain, I think, to anyone who chooses to investigate the matter—which should be considered before embarking upon a warlike operation of a particular kind. You have to consider what the cost may be if you are successful or unsuccessful. You have to consider the advantages which are to be gained by success, and then you have to consider, on the basis of the information which you have and your own knowledge, what prospects there are of success. You have to appreciate—using the word in its technical sense—those three factors, and then make up your mind whether you will proceed or not. If the advantages of the step are a hundred times more important than the losses which you may incur, you may then run risks which are greatly against you, and yet on the whole the operation may be perfectly well founded and one which should be undertaken.

It was never the practice of this country, even under so celebrated a person as Nelson, to take the view that an operation ought to be avoided unless you are sure that it will succeed. There has seldom been a great Admiral in this country who was concerned with more unsuccessful operations than was Nelson. Again and again he was in charge of "cutting out" expeditions, or expeditions such as that against Bastia, which were wholly unsuccessful and which resulted in very large casualties on the British side; yet he was right. He knew quite well that you have to run risks in war, and you cannot condemn an operation because it is unsuccessful. The operation against Zeebrugge, as we now know, was very greatly unsuccessful; but it was not one which ought not to have been undertaken. We did not close Zeebrugge, and we completely failed to close Antwerp; at the same time, it was an operation which did the country good in all sorts of indirect ways.

When you come to consider the operations which the noble Lord describes as unfortunate episodes, it is quite true that, if you look merely at the episodes, you will think that the Fighting Services have been singularly unlucky; but you must not forget the other operations in which we have scored remarkable successes. We began with the "Altmark," a very fine operation. We went on to the attack on the "Graf Spee" by Commander Harwood (as he then was) in the estuary of the River Plate. There he attacked with a vastly insufficient force a ship, the "Graf Spee," whose broadside was of a weight fifty per cent, greater than that of his three ships combined, and one of those three ships was made almost useless by a shot fired before 7.40 in the morning and was out of action, except for one gun which could be worked by hand. Yet Commander Harwood went on, and that great ship, the "Graf Spee," was driven into harbour and knocked out of the war. It was a wholly improper action, if in truth the Admiral—he is now an Admiral—should have weighed the prospects of success in the way in which some people may suppose that he should have done. He ran grave risks, but they were worth it, and the result was successful. That is not the only thing that our people have to their credit. There was the action of that noble officer, whom I had the privilege of knowing, Captain Warburton-Lee, in the northern parts of Norway. He went in with insufficient forces and destroyed or ran ashore six German destroyers in a very severe engagement. Well, that is the sort of thing we have to put against the fact that on certain occasions things have been attempted unsuccessfully.

I do not for a moment think it is fair to pass judgment on such an episode as the last one, that of Dakar, at the present time. I am afraid I am going to say something which will lead people to imagine that I resent criticism of the Government. It is all one to me whether the Government are criticised or not if they are criticised fairly, but I would observe that it is obvious that the Govern- ment at the present moment cannot present the whole defence of the Dakar incident. Those who listened to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to-day could see quite well that there were considerations in reference to the action taken by the British Government which were not capable of being discussed at the present time, and I am afraid that I, not unnaturally perhaps, take a judicial view of cases of that kind. I do not conceive that one can make a definite decision or pronounce a judgment on cases on which you have not the whole of the facts before you. And, although we may know the cost, which was reckoned, the prospect of success cannot be fully present to us when we come to discuss such a matter as Dakar. They depend upon facts which are not yet on the table. And therefore for my part I would prefer to say I do not know whether there will finally be a defence available at the bar of history for the failure of that particular transaction.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Addison, expressed a hope that the people who were responsible for letting the ships through would be very severely dealt with.


No. I beg pardon. I said the people responsible for the error to which the noble Lord referred.


The noble Lord is quite right. That is what I intended to say—that the people responsible for the error should be severely dealt with. I presume, if they are naval officers, they are going to be tried by Court Martial, and I do not think that the noble Lord would wish to express an opinion as to their guilt, even if they have committed error, before they have been tried. Everybody has committed errors at some time in his life. If, on the other hand, they are people employed in the Intelligence Department, then before making up one's mind as to how they should be dealt with I should like to know on how many occasions they have been successful before I condemn them for an instance in which they have made a blunder. All that is a matter which must be discussed at some future date. But what really is the sole thing that I rose to insist upon, as far as I properly can, is that which I have already said, that you must not in war judge an attack, whatever its nature may be, merely by whether it has been a success or a failure. That is not the proper way to deal with it, and if you are going to approach the matter in that way there is an end to any attack, and you must be left for evermore with the principle of defence, which nobody imagines is the best way to win a victory.


My Lords, I am tempted to make this comment upon what has just fallen from the noble and learned Viscount, that I think, with the greatest respect to him and to the great profession he adorns, that the judicial mind is out of place in the conduct of war. I am extremely sorry to have to say that but it is true. The only lawyer I have ever known who was any use in war at all for actual executive action was my right honourable friend Mr. Lloyd George, and I think the reason was that he had ceased to practise law actively for a great many years before he assumed his high office.


Are none of us to talk unless we are experts? On that principle the noble Lord, Lord Addison, who so often contributes to the debates on these topics, ought to be perpetually silent.


The noble Lord, Lord Addison, is an ornament of the greatest profession of all—that of medicine and healing. If now I correct my noble friend Lord Cecil I do so only because it is a matter of some importance. He allowed himself to say that when the roof spotters have declared that there is imminent danger and the men take cover, there is no way of getting the men back to work. That is not so. We have a system in our own factories in the Midlands.


I was only telling what happens in London.


In those factories to which I referred as soon as the danger is past the men go back. My noble friend Lord Southwood has asked me to say that in Fleet Street, where they are working under great difficulties, they were last night sent to cover twelve times, and twelve times withdrawn from cover. Therefore my noble friend has been misinformed on that point. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Southwood would for- give me if I say that the work that is being done in London and other great cities by the newspaper people and the compositors under the most tremendous difficulties, working at night, is worthy of the highest praise. I know the Leader of the House has great respect for the British Press and I am sure this will enhance it.

My noble friend Lord Addison asked me to accentuate a very important matter on the domestic front, if I may so call it, but before I do this may I also yield to the temptation of making a comment on the very important statement made by my noble friend Lord Halifax on the Dakar episode? My noble friend said that we would lose the war if we always stood on the defensive, and we all agree—they are most refreshing words. I hope he was speaking for the whole of the hierarchy of the Command of this war. But I suggest that we shall not win it if we behave as ostriches, putting our heads in the sands and blinking facts. I was amazed when I read the official apologia for the Dakar episode put out by the Government. In it they said that they did not propose ever to engage in serious warlike operations against the forces of the Vichy Government. That is the key to the failure at Dakar. You cannot make war like that. You have either got to say, "We will not touch these people," and, if you like, send General de Gaulle naked and unarmed—as Marshal Ney did on a famous occasion to shame his fellow-countrymen—or send overwhelming force and carry the thing through to a conclusion. You cannot do it by half measures of this sort.

I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, will forgive me if I show some vehemence on this matter. He did not mention to your Lordships the dastardly attacks on our fellow subjects in Gibraltar on two succeeding days by great waves of French aeroplanes. I hope the pilots were not Frenchmen. I see that some splendid Frenchmen are under "Court Martial for refusing to fly and to murder civilians in Gibraltar. Was not that a serious warlike operation? The truth of the matter is that the Government, I am sorry to say—at any rate my noble friend the Foreign Secretary—has not yet learned that the war has changed its character since the setting up of the so called Vichy Government and it is now what we have always tried quite agree that it was advisable to avoid—it if possible—a war of ideologies. It is not international war any longer. The Men of Vichy, as they are called, are—I hope against their will—as much our enemies as are the Governments in Rome and Berlin. It is no use blinking that fact. The bombing of Gibraltar was an act of war and the allowing of the use of Dakar, which is of immense strategic importance, as an air base and a base for commerce raiders, will be a most serious matter if it develops. If that is done it is the most unfriendly act they could do. There are many others I could quote but I do not wish to stress the point.

The noble Viscount gave an explanation of our not having known that the French warships had left Toulon for the Atlantic. My noble friend Lord Addison has dealt with that and I will not stress it. Once more we are faced with the fact that there is something seriously amiss with our intelligence system. We should not have to rely only on General de Gaulle, with his naturally provisional governmental machine, for information. We have had trained administrators and merchants in West Africa for many years and we ought to have the most perfect intelligence of all that happens on the West Coast and to know exactly what is happening in Senegal or elsewhere in West Africa. We ought to know what is happening in Toulon—we have many friends there—and not have to rely only on General de Gaulle's improvised Intelligence Service. Our intelligence system requires overhaul, as my noble friend Lord Snell and my noble friend Lord Addison and honourable friends in another place have said more than once. I am not referring to Lord Swinton and his confederates, for their work deals with counter-espionage and interior intelligence. I am referring to our Intelligence Service for getting information from foreign countries, enemy, ex-enemy, neutral and France.

There is something seriously wrong there and we shall often meet with trouble unless the Government take this matter in hand. I am glad to have an opportunity of saying this once more and of reinforcing what my noble friend Lord Addison has said. Three more large destroyers have recently left Toulon. I do not know whither they are bound, I do not know whether Lord Snell can give us information about them. The matter has been in all the papers that they have passed Gibraltar. I hope they are not going to make mischief. There have been many causes for disquiet over the Dakar episode and the strategy which lay behind it, and—most important of all—I cannot help making this suggestion, the lack of appreciation of the altered character of the war especially since the collapse of the former French Government.

The only other matter to which I shall refer is this question of the effect in London and other large cities of the air attacks. My noble friend Lord Snell knows as much about London as anyone in your Lordships' House. He has devoted his life to the people of London and I am sure he will be prepared to support what we have to say on this side of the House. There is this question of compensation for people whose businesses or houses are destroyed. Take the man with a small business, the small shopkeeper whose whole business is destroyed by enemy action. That man wants something to go on with quickly, so that he can set up somewhere else. He wants some negotiable security. The noble Viscount referred to compensation after the war and what it he had to say on this subject was discussed by my noble friend Lord Addison. I do beg my noble friend Lord Snell to make representations in the right quarter to the effect that quicker relief should be given to those who suffer from enemy action. Very often they are rendered completely destitute and they want help quickly.

In this whole connection I do not want only to criticise. The record of the last weeks is a most heartening one. Our whole situation in the war has improved almost beyond hope. There is a tremendous change for the better in the situation generally. Forget for the moment an episode like Dakar, forget British Somaliland, forget the initial blunders in London and the breakdown of the machinery of the Ministry of Health and of Home Security and of the others. The outstanding fact is that our people are facing the greatest ordeal they have ever had to face with a most wonderful courage and our services are performing prodigies of valour and skill. Therefore what I say is not in any way meant to be depressing or pessimistic. I would beg the Government to realise this par- ticular point, if I may. They have been remiss so far. They always tell us that in this stage of the war, civilians are in the front line. There are certain corollaries that follow from that. The soldiers in the front line have privileges. I see many distinguished soldiers in your Lordships' House at this moment. They would not have dared to treat their troops in campaigning areas during war as the people of London and other big cities have had to be treated in these weeks. The soldier is entitled to his food and his shelter, his clothing, when it requires replacement, and his relief and rest. He only does a certain time in the front line. My noble friend Lord Croft will bear me out that he would not have allowed his soldiers to be treated in the last war as the unfortunate people in the East End of London have had to be treated through lack of organisation and appreciation of what is required.

If your civil population are in the front line, they have to be treated as troops are in the front line and their relief and comfort and safety organised accordingly. Therefore it is absolutely essential, as my noble friend Lord Addison has said on two occasions now, that you should have someone with dictatorial powers and a proper General Staff who can take decisions and override all these overlapping and separate authorities and see that the people who are going through these ordeals.—and may have to face possibly even worse ordeals—have everything done for them that can humanly be done. I hope I shall be forgiven for referring to anyone in another place, but we are delighted that my right honourable friend Mr. Herbert Morrison has assumed his present office. We only hope he has the powers and authority to cut through all the difficulties that have grown up. No one knows that better than my noble friend Lord Snell and if he has not the powers, we all feel he is the man to demand them.


My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House has asked me to make one or two comments on the debate which has followed the statement that he made to the House. The Government note with great satisfaction that the decision not to renew the arrangement about the Burma Road has met with the approval of almost everyone who has spoken to-day. That, at any rate, is something accomplished in the way of unanimity.

The question which has aroused the greatest anxiety in your Lordships' minds has been that of Dakar. Your Lordships well know that I have not the least claim to be able to express any personal opinion upon the technical or other issues of that event, but I think that my noble friend Lord Addison quite properly and very forcibly raised the issue for your Lordships' consideration. He expressed, as others of your Lordships have expressed, doubt and anxiety as to the failure of the de Gaulle mission to Dakar, and, taken by itself, it looks to a layman like myself as being an unfortunate episode, but I think I am -sufficient of an historical student to believe that there never has been a war anywhere where considerable mistakes have not been made. We know our own mistakes because we always, being a free country, have plenty of friends to remind us of them, but we do not always know the mistakes that the enemy has to face day by day and week by week, and so there have been anxieties as to the question of competence of the higher Staff. I can only in regard to that say that the remarks that have been made will, I am quite sure, be thoroughly examined. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said it was difficult to understand why the French warships were not intercepted, and that the presence of these vessels at Dakar altered de Gaulle's chances completely. That I think is correct, but until we have the full story in relation to the other events before us it is difficult to pass judgment.

The next point was that about the situation in London. This has been dealt with by several of your Lordships and everybody has expressed anxiety. It has been said by my noble friend Lord Addison that adequate preparations were not made, that advice which had been offered earlier had been mostly ignored, and that now the shelters, such as they are, are available they are not suitable in view of the cold weather. Well, I assume one explanation for that is that those who were responsible thought of the air-raid shelters being required for one hour or a couple of hours at most at one time, and nobody appeared to have anticipated that a raid might go on from seven o'clock in the evening until seven o'clock next morning. You can stand cold and dis- comfort for two hours, but you do not stand it with equal enthusiasm for twelve hours. I agree that the shelter policy in London requires some overhauling. The events of the last few weeks since heavy night raiding on London began have shown that if thousands of Londoners are to seek refuge in air-raid shelters and spend all night there, much remains to be done to improve the conditions in the public air-raid shelters which are being used for this purpose; but during the last week or so many improvements have been put in hand.

Steps have been taken to make more basement shelter available, for example, by taking over for use as public shelters during the night hours shelters which have been constructed in commercial buildings for the use of the employees who are on the premises only by day. A rapid survey of existing shelters from the health point of view has also been made by an expert committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Horder, and many other measures are being taken on their recommendation to improve conditions by better ventilation, better provision of sanitary accommodation and so on. Admiral Sir Edward Evans, one of the Regional Commissioners for London, has been given the special task of supervising and co-ordinating all this work of improving shelter accommodation throughout the London region, and active steps are now being taken to see that the decisions come to by the responsible Minister are implemented without delay by those locally responsible for carrying out the work. The new Minister of Home Security has been busily engaged in reviewing the shelter position ever since he assumed his new responsibility at the end of last week, and I have no doubt that he will take an early opportunity of making a full statement on the matter in another place. Meanwhile I assume that your Lordships would not wish me to anticipate the statement that he may make.

Arising out of what my noble friend Lord Strabolgi said, your Lordships will permit me to say that I have had the privilege of working with the new Minister in London government, being concerned with him in very heavy responsibilities, and I am sure that whatever can be done by one man Mr. Morrison will do with vigour, with efficiency, and, if necessary, with complete remorselessness. The difficulty is the structure of London government. I cannot enter into a long discussion as to how and why London is what it is, but it is a medley of different authorities. If you look at it as a proposition on paper you are amazed that it works at all, and no foreigner looking at it would believe for a moment that it would work, yet in some strange way, owing to our British capacity for improvisation, this tangled thing does work. The local authorities work amicably together, and the life of London is on the whole sustained, but for a crisis such as we are now faced with that machinery is altogether out of dale and it can never be thoroughly satisfactory until there is one regional authority. I am probably getting into trouble by making these prophecies as to what is necessary but that has been my own close experience of London government for many years past. The thing that we must notice in passing about London is the extraordinary way in which it has stood up to the trials that it has had to face. The people of the North and the Midlands and in the Welsh valleys have also revealed that whatever faults our national system may have it does give an enormous reserve of unused moral and practical power. That is a justification of our free institutions, a justification of our educational efforts and a justification of our belief in the nobility and the capacity of the ordinary man.

Now I want to say a word in answer to the comments of my noble friend Viscount Elibank about the question of the Dominions and a War Council. The noble Viscount suggested that the time has come when we should attempt to broaden the basis of the War Cabinet by the inclusion in the War Cabinet of representatives of the Dominions. He argued that point with considerable force and it is a point to which every noble Lord should give very close attention. May I direct the noble Viscount's attention to a reply on this same matter which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Caldecote, gave to a question put by my noble friend Lord Davies on August 8 last? The desirability of personal discussions with Dominion Ministers was said then to be constantly in the mind of His Majesty's Government. Whenever Dominion Ministers visit this country the opportunity is always taken to consult them about relations with their Dominions. But the United Kingdom Government thought then, and the situation is not altered to-day, that the present moment is not opportune for Dominion Ministers to visit London for an Imperial War Conference or for discussions, though His Majesty's Government will certainly welcome such discussions if occasion offers.

My noble friend Viscount Elibank mentioned the experience of the last war when General Smuts was a member of the War Cabinet. So long as it is remembered that General Smuts was not in the War Cabinet as representing a Dominion but was there owing to his own eminence and very great capacity for helpfulness, then that is right, but it would not be right to allow your Lordships to believe that in the last war the Dominions were in fact actually represented in that way.


Will my noble friend allow me to remind him that there were two War Cabinets then—an Imperial War Cabinet containing representatives of all the Dominions, which only met very rarely of course, and the ordinary War Cabinet of which General Smuts was a member but not specifically as representing South Africa?


I thank the noble Viscount for clearing up that point. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is in constant touch with the Dominion High Commissioners in London for the discussion of the various aspects of the war situation, and advantage is also taken of any opportunity afforded by visits of Dominions Ministers to London to have discussion of their particular problems. We have at the present time a delegation of Canadian Ministers and officials in London under the leadership of Mr. J. C. Gardiner, the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and National War Service. The importance of taking every practical step to keep the Dominions informed and to secure the advantage of their advice is always in mind, but beyond that at this moment His Majesty's Government are not able to make any statement.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, spoke about the provisions which were necessary to meet the anxieties of soldiers and your Lordships will, I am sure, be agreed that whatever can be done should be done without delay and done efficiently. The only other point I desire to comment upon is that advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and others in regard to the Bill making provision for householders' damages and so on. The Bill is already in being and its contents will be available for your Lordships' consideration at no distant date. I think, therefore, it would be better to leave discussion of it until we actually know what are its provisions. Arising out of what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said, I should like to conclude by expressing what I am sure your Lordships will have uppermost in your minds and that is the enormous satisfaction that we all have in this spirit of the common man, as he is called. Yesterday many of those who are doing valiant service as soldiers or airmen were only amateurs—some of them even untaught at all—yet to-day they are performing prodigies of valour and building for us a future which it will be our responsibility to see is right. This quality we believe is inherent in our people. It is the product of our system, the product of our training, the product of our faith. When peace comes to us that same quality will be available to rebuild on a nobler plan the at present shattered fabric of our nation.

House resumed.