§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My lords, I beg to move that a humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I should first like to convey my grateful thanks to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, for the honour which he has done me, an old soldier of the Indian Army, in asking me to move this Motion. I can assure him that those old comrades of mine, the British officers, the Indian officers and the Indian soldiers, for whom I have a real affection, and for whose deeds recently in Eritrea and Syria I have the greatest admiration, will take my selection as an honour done to them. I make bold to say that noble Lords present who, like myself, have reached, shall I say the evening, or perhaps the late afternoon, of life, will join with me in wishing that we could put back the hands of the clock so as to enable us once more to take our places in the fighting line alongside those best of fellows our comrades in the last war. But time is inexorable, and we know we cannot do that, and such legitimate longings lose the taint of bitterness while, sitting in something like the shadow, we hear of the gallant deeds done by the men at the front. Every passing hour we hear of them; not always heroism on its showier side, but heroism in its very essence, and heroism displayed in what, so far as this Empire is concerned, is little short of an heroic age.
Those of us whose services to the State have been chiefly rendered outside these islands, either alongside our fellow-subjects in the Far East or with our cousins in 4 the great Dominions, rejoice to hear—and to hear again and again—of the magnificent deeds and splendid gallantry of those who have hurried from far off lands to come to our aid, many of whom, by their magnificent service, have deserved and have won the most coveted of all decorations, the Victoria Cross. Figures are often very dull things, but hardly so, I think, when they remind us that, in addition to the almost unbelievable records of daring service done by the Royal Air Force all over the front, in recent months the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Australian Air Force have among them accounted for no fewer than 2,200 of the enemy aeroplanes in Libya, with a sacrifice of only 460 of their own. While we contemplate that almost incredible total of our successes in the air, we must never forget the less conspicuous, but no less devoted service of the ground staff, to whose ceaseless vigilance and meticulous care the safety of our airmen and our aircraft is so largely due, and especially in a country where driving sand can so easily and quickly demobilize our machines.
I believe your Lordships will agree that the idea in the early period of the war of starting a big flying school in Canada was an admirable one. From there proceeds a long line of pilots, trained to the nth degree and burning with zeal, equally with the sons of Australia and New Zealand and those from the twenty-four flying schools started by the forethought of that great soldier-statesman Field-Marshal Smuts in South Africa, to spread their wings and carry war into the black heart of the country now afoot to despoil all who do not bow to her will. One almost seems to hear the clang of the hammer of the great factories which have recently been established in India, Australia and elsewhere—factories which will, I hope, before long be able to supply a very great deal of the munitions necessary for our troops in the Near East and so relieve enormously our hard-pressed transport services. I have mentioned some of the Dominions, but I am sure that all of us will realize that we also owe a deep debt of gratitude to practically every one of the British Colonies scattered all over the face of the globe. I trust that the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, may be able to give us some definite information on that subject.
5 I think there can be very few of us who, at times, do not become extremely impatient on reading letters to the Press and accounts of speeches made in many parts of the country which are really a form of subversive propaganda, to the effect: "When is the Army going to do something?" I would remind such impatient fire-eaters that from the day our Army landed in France large forces have been, and still are, on active service conditions, and since our small force landed in Norway we have been constantly on the offensive. Think of it—Belgium, Libya, Greece, Crete, Eritrea, Abyssinia, Italian and British Somaliland, where we speedily recovered British territory taken by the enemy, and later Iraq, Iran and Syria! I wonder whether such people imagine that the War Cabinet and their Chiefs are blind to the opportunities of the hour. Have they expert knowledge as to when our factories are likely to reach the peak of output of equipment and arms? Have they forgotten Dunkirk, Norway and other places? Hitler, I think, could imagine no more acceptable present than for us to land another expeditionary force which was not fully equipped in every possible detail. It will be for those who know the facts, and can read them in true perspective, to judge the time, rather than the uninitiated and uninformed.
I say with deliberation that the conquests over the Italian troops in Libya, Eritrea, and East Africa were major operations in the effort of war in which the leadership has been brilliant and the soldierly qualities of the troops beyond all praise. I doubt if ever before have 400,000 prisoners been taken by such skilful and tactful handling and at such a delightful economy of the lives of our British, South African, Anzac and Indian troops.
While we were still contemplating these events, there have been unfolded to us the Dispatches of that gallant Guardsman, Lord Gort. Some noble Lords will remember that John Fortescue, the military historian, says:As a sample of the prowess of the British infantry, where the battalions retired, facing about in succession at every hundred yards, as steadily and proudly as they advanced, Fontenoy stands without equal in our history.One is tempted to think that if John Fortescue could rise from his grave and lend his pen to describe Gort's retirement 6 to the coast, he would say that British infantry with all other troops have never touched a higher level. Here was an epic which had for its epilogue the shrewdly-planned, dare-devil exploits of those "little boats of Britain" who restored to us thousands of our valiant soldiers to live and fight for us another day. Here is a bloodstained page in our story, but one which we shall read and re-read with a sense of deep gratitude and a sigh of intense relief.
We soldiers must be, and indeed are ever, the first to remember that the Royal Navy and Merchant Service seem neither to slumber nor sleep. Their labours are as continuous as they are strenuous. Swift and silent to strike a blow wherever a blow may prove most effective, they carry our troops all over the world, they guard and guide those precious convoys which carry to us in startling abundance our daily food, and bring to us the weapons of war with which to confound the devices of a fiend in human form. And from our great and good sister across the Atlantic there are borne to us in ever-increasing measure those substantial tokens of her sympathy which will go far to work out our salvation, and crush to dust the system which for years has dominated the face of Europe.
Just forty years have passed since King George V of happy memory, as the guest of the First Citizen of London, made his famous appeal, "Wake up, England That was an appeal with special intent, but its echoes will scarcely die so long as this giant City holds pride of place among the Capitals of the World. Twelve years later came that even more urgent and more sonorous appeal, "Your King and country need you." The reply was that 3,000,000 men from town and village, field and factory, mine and moor—squire and yokel, Peer and peasant—without coercion or compulsion, leapt to arms to be locked in struggle through four long years of blood and agony and at the end to unfurl the banner of victory. But when the captains had departed and the tumult and shouting were silenced, easygoing and peace-loving Britain could not see the danger ahead—the danger which, if at first no bigger than a man's hand, began to take shape even before the ink was dry on the clumsy document signed at Versailles. As the cloud grew more and more threatening, there still prevailed a feeling that another great war was unthinkable. 7 There lurked an almost pathetic belief in the promises of a cruel and crafty foe-man whose most solemn pledges and promises have all proved to have been written on scraps of paper.
And then in one of the darkest hours that have ever brooded over us there sprang to leadership a statesman for whom history does not easily furnish a parallel. A man was to be matched with an opportunity—an opportunity so awful in its aspect, however grand may be its results, that one prays the good God its like may never recur. We were to be warned—a warning that still rings in our ears—that there must be no looking back and very little going aside to rest; that we must reserve nothing, spare nothing, shrink from nothing, and that Britain must strip herself to the bone and nerve herself to fight to the death. This we will do.
Since the Prime Minister gave us that warning, Russia has become our hard-fighting comrade-in-arms. Although each one of us must quickly recognize the nobility of a magnificent effort, history, and history alone, moving, we hope, with accuracy among facts and figures not now obtainable, will determine the precise value of Russia's contribution to the cause. History will also surely say that in this year of grace Britain registered a vow that, come what may, Russia should henceforth be our friend—Russia with her magnificent courage, her superb endurance, her disregard of the rigours of climate and the hardships of war. History will surely compare the conduct of our rugged but resolute Ally with the miserable poltroonery which has stained indelibly the fair name of Italy. It was the great Italian patriot Mazzini who said:The march of humanity is always onward and upward, and its goal is that identification with the eternal life of God which we call immortality.One may well wonder whether the pillow of Mussolini, who has dragged his country through the mire of ignoble treachery and ignominious failure, is haunted by the ghost of Mazzini, the proscribed refugee, who was yet the first to hail the vision of a free and united Italy and to foretell her coming, if fleeting, glories.
There is one country, where I have many friends, towards which we look with a confidence which is, for some, streaked with a little anxiety. Turkey for the 8 moment stands calm and ever-watchful, but surely in the full knowledge that isolation has more than once invited disastrous invasion. Circumstances may well arise to bring Turkey to our side, and transform a very benevolent neutral into a powerful and faithful Ally.
It has been said that, until the South African campaign, civilians took but languid interest in military operations, and that, though the last war drew into itself something near our entire manhood, it has remained for this titanic conflict to prove that, when necessity calls, men and women, boys and girls, can play a soldier's, and more than a soldier's, part. As President of the Officers Selection Board for some of the Western counties, and in other capacities, it has been my good fortune to see many fine units of the Home Guard, all of them fully alive to the grave responsibility laid on them and appreciating the confidence reposed in them. I look to supplies of ammunition up to the very margin of our needs being forthcoming for them, for, as knowledge of country must be of fifty per cent. value in time of invasion, men like these as well as the old soldiers of the British Legion, fighting in their familiar surroundings, will be invaluable.
Noble Lords may remember that Edith Cavell, as she was led out to face her judicial murderers, reminded us that with all its virtues "patriotism alone is not enough." She pointed to a land far greater even than our own great land of hope and glory, the landWhose ways are ways of gentlenessAnd all her paths are peace.And it is because our religion—religion, I mean, in its deepest and truest sense—points to that further country that to our last breath we will defend our religion no less than our country against the assault of something worse than paganism. There is still a bitter trial of strength—the trial which was forced upon us—to be fought out. But God, we believe, knows that we have our quarrel just. In time the struggle on which depends not only the fate of battles, but the very existence of Christianity and the destinies of the world, will have its glorious end; and humanity, tired but triumphant, will be able to say consummatum est. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—9
§ " Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Lord Birdwood.)
LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH)
My lords, it is a great honour to second the Motion which my noble and gallant friend has so elequently moved, and, in thanking my noble friend the Leader of the House for this honour, I would like to say that I appreciate it all the more in that I realize that I owe it, and owe it entirely, to the uniform which I am proud to be wearing. My noble friend who has just sat down has spoken with great knowledge and with great experience of the Armed Forces of the Crown, but be has not mentioned one body of men who, I fear have received more than their share of criticism and less than their share of praise. The Army that is in this country has been subjected to the greatest strain that any body of fighting men can he subjected to, that is to the absence of the enemy in time of war. But, when the opportunity arises, they are capable of taking it, as we have done before when the opportunity has arisen. It is natural to-day to think of that regiment of which my noble and gallant friend happens to be Colonel, the Cinque Ports Anti-Aircraft Regiment. There, my Lords, is a regiment which but yesterday consisted of amateurs and to-day consists of veterans who have blasted no fewer than 107 enemy aircraft cut of the sky.
Any one who casts his mind back over the course of this war cannot fail to be struck by the evolution of public opinion. On the first occasion that we met to hear a gracious Speech after the declaration of war, I think everyone of us here, and everyone throughout the country, appreciated that we had accepted the challenge of the greatest assembly of armed forces and military power that the world had ever seen, but so long had our minds travelled in the ways of peace, and upon thoughts of progress, that very few of us, I fear, had the slightest conception of what that challenge meant. Later when we met just after the close of the Battle of Britain, we realized that a blow had been launched at us that was intended to be 10 mortal. We knew that we had parried it, and we knew that we were still safe and had inflicted upon the enemy a shattering defeat in the very element in which he and we believed that we were most vulnerable. To-day how different is it when we meet again. The first stage of the Battle of Russia is drawing to its close. It is pleasant to receive the aggregation to one's strength of Russia; it is pleasant to receive the assistance of a new and powerful Ally when one is locked in a death struggle such as this; but how grand it is to sweep away the differences of a quarter of a century and to find that Russia and ourselves are to-day standing side by side.
But there is a graver spectacle than this. The situation has its graver side. As we watch the onward rush of this juggernaut, wading not through rivers or through lakes but through oceans of blood, we begin to realize at last the full nature and the full horror of this monstrous thing. The country realizes now that not only this country, but every country is in danger until the German army has been not only shattered, but utterly destroyed. Germany has loosed against civilization a war of machines, and it is only by machines that civilization can defend itself. A great industrial struggle is in progress. Throughout an entire Continent men are frantically fashioning the weapons of destruction. Throughout that Continent millions of men are driving themselves on with the fury of fanaticism, and millions more are being driven by sheer terror of the concentration camps and the firing squads of the Gestapo. Against this energy of fear and this energy of fanaticism is matched the virile vigour of free peoples, impelled by cold fury at the realization of the iniquity against which they are fighting.
This country, my Lords, is at last thoroughly aroused. It realizes that here home, life and liberty are at stake. The British fighting man is never more formidable than in conditions such as these. I believe the same to be true of the fighters on the industrial front. The country is prepared for sacrifices. It would welcome sacrifices, nay more, it is prepared to demand them as a right. I believe that we can win the battle of the workshops, but improvements must be made in organization, man effort must not be wasted and man hours in the factory must 11 not be lost by lack of materials or by lack of transport. I welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that arms are reaching us from the United States in unparalleled quantities, but I feel that we must not relax for a moment on that account; partly because I feel that the way of relaxation is the way of defeat, and partly because I believe it is becoming of this country to receive those arms in the spirit in which they were lent, as a contribution not to relaxation but to victory.
I welcome the stress that is made in the gracious Speech upon the maintenance of the health of the people. Your Lordships fully realize that that is a matter which is always urgent, but it is more than ever urgent to-day. I hope that it means the efforts of His Majesty's Government both to produce adequate supplies of suitable food and to ensure a just and an equitable distribution will be maintained. I hope that everywhere their efforts will be pressed forward and maintained to preserve the well-being of the people in the shelters against enemy action and against the ravages of disease, and that, as in the past, as our knowledge and experience accumulate most of them will be incorporated into the efforts made. I cannot help feeling also that those who rest in the shelters this winter will be able to rest the more securely realizing that not only is their own health being looked after but the health of the raiders overhead also is being looked after by our fighter squadrons and our anti-aircraft defences with even greater care and even greater enthusiasm.
In this country in the last few months we have learnt a great deal of the meaning of war, but I am afraid there are a great many who still believe that it can be conducted without any intellectual effort whatever. In Germany it has been for a long time realized that that is not so and every effort has been made to make use of the concentrated brain power of the country whether within the General Staff or outside it. That has been done because it has been stated, with a frankness that borders on audacity, that great campaigns, like the invasion of France and the invasion of Russia, and the still greater struggles that lie ahead, cannot be planned upon the experience of a corporal, even if the name of that corporal should happen to be Shickelgruber. Still less 12 can they be planned, or defeated, on the experience of armchair strategists who, judging from their contributions to the newspapers, one would imagine possessed no names whatsoever
I particularly welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to "confidence" that the "people will answer this call with the courage and devotion which our forefathers never failed to show when our country was in danger." I welcome the stern realism that tells the country that it is in danger. The immortal signal at the Battle of Trafalgar was the voice of England speaking through Nelson to a mere handful of men. To-day, in our hour of even greater crisis, that same voice speaks to every man and woman throughout the entire British Commonwealth of Nations. That great signal would have been of no avail if there had not been at Trafalgar a man who was a great fighter and a great leader of men. To-day in our Prime Minister we have such a man—a man whose leadership is excelled only by his matchless pugnacity, a man who has rallied the confidence of the freedom-loving world and has imbued them with his own unflinching and unshakable belief in victory, final and complete.
§ LORD ADDISON
My lords, in associating myself and my noble friends in support of the Motion before your Lordships' House, I am sure that your Lordships will all agree with me in paying a modest tribute to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who moved the Motion. Every one of us must have been moved, I am sure, by the eloquence that he displayed, knowing as we do the record of long and distinguished service which he has rendered to the State. It was comforting to me, as I am sure it must have been to many others, that he placed in the forefront of his tribute mention of the Indian troops. Their gallantry and heroism at Keren and other places, when the story is fully told, will, I think, be difficult to over-match. It appears to have been an undertaking of almost unthinkable physical difficulty. The heroism and endurance of the Indian troops with our own and Colonial troops in that enterprise, were such as the many cares and anxieties and dangers of the war have not enabled us hitherto to perceive as clearly as we shall in time to come. We associate ourselves also with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal in his tribute to our 13 gallant airmen and to the Royal Navy, of whose ingenuity and heroism we have had striking illustrations within the last three days—striking at the very roots and maintenance of the Italian and German forces in Libya. There must, I think, be few stories in our annals more strange than the dissolution of the Italian African Empire and the capture of hundreds of thousands of fighting men by forces infinitely inferior to them in numbers but clearly superior, just as greatly, in leadership and courage.
I would like also to associate my noble friends in my thanks to the noble Lord who seconded the Motion, and to say that I should think that in some of our subsequent debates will be heard the echo of some of the very significant things he said affecting our home effort. One can see at least three or four of them which will certainly form subjects of profitable discussion in your Lordships' House. We all must have recognized the force of what the noble Lord said as to the importance of our industrial activity in the tremendous effort which still must be put forth.
I would like to welcome particularly in the gracious Speech the mention of His Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia. It is, so far as I am aware, the first time that we have had a formal official statement of the recognition of His Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia and the statement that his country is the first to be "liberated and re-established"—a very significant, and no doubt intentionally significant, phrase. I would like to say how glad I was to hear it. I hope it means that we shall soon see the disappearance of the last remnants of the Italians from that land and shall be rendering help to the restored Emperor in bringing order and development into a much-distressed country.
I was very glad to hear, too, the tribute to the heroism of the people of Malta. It is only by sidelights—I happen to have had some myself—that one realizes what the people of Malta have been enduring all these long months. We have sometimes, I think, been led to believe that, apart from our garrison, the heroism and endurance of the Maltese themselves were not perhaps of a high order, but after the experience of the last few months that misrepresentation will have disappeared for ever. Only those who have inside information can get even a notion 14 of what these people have had to endure, living in their caves and under all manner of difficult conditions all these months.
In the first paragraph of the gracious Speech from the Throne one was glad to hear reference to the Atlantic Charter, which in time to come, no doubt, will be realized as the foundation of a co-operation which we all pray will endure long after the war—a great co-operation between the United States and the British Empire in promoting an organized better order in the world. I hope also that before long we shall see opportunities for obtaining, when the present bitter struggles have abated, the co-operation of the people of Russia because, as the noble Lord indicated, the welfare of Europe, and, indeed, the security of freedom, depend upon the working out of some practical co-operation between the people of those great States and ourselves in association with other members of the British Empire, and the United States. I hope, too, that, although it is not mentioned in the Speech, we shall not overlook the struggle of the great country of China, which, we hope, will soon be liberated from the horrible experiences which the people have been having to undergo. I take it that the remarkable statement of the Prime Minister yesterday signifies our resolution to continue facilitating the delivery of supplies to China by every means in our power.
I was a little disappointed, but I am not surprised, that reference was not made to India and Burma. One can well understand why it is so, but I am sure it is not unseemly that one should express the hope that, notwithstanding the terrible anxieties of the war, we shall not lose any opportunity of promoting a better understanding of free development in the future both in India and Burma, doing everything we possibly can to abate the present unrest and to get the active co-operation of many responsible parties in India which at present is withheld.
It is not, of course, the usual practice, nor is it, perhaps, within the region of activity of this House to take an active part in discussions on finance, but I hope that before long there will be opportunities for discussing a number of very important financial matters. There are some which urgently call for examination, particularly some matters affecting the incidence 15 of taxation and the prevention of development, for I believe that in some respects the present systems are preventing the progress of development. Particularly I am thinking of the subject always near to my heart—land. Before the Session is far advanced, we shall invite your Lordships to consider that subject. I was glad, as I am sure we all were, to see the emphatic declaration in the last sentence of the Speech about maintaining the health and well-being of the people, and we all welcome the steps that are being taken in providing more milk for school children, and in other ways, by the Department of the noble Lord who sits opposite. But I think that the war has provided opportunities for developments in the active promotion of improved nutrition which peace-time, hitherto, has never yet made possible, and we shall look anxiously for other extensions. That also is a subject which my noble friends will invite your Lordships to consider at a not distant date, I hope. Finally, in associating ourselves with this Address and with the speeches of the gallant Field Marshal and the noble Lord, we would like to pay our tribute not only to the heroism, ingenuity and endurance of our Armed Forces but also to the willingness to endure and to work of the civil population.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My lords, in the past it has sometimes been my privilege, from both sides of the Table, to congratulate noble Lords who have moved and seconded an Address in reply to the gracious Speech, on their infant efforts and their endeavours to find their first steps in the art of oratory. To-day, no such task falls upon me. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal who moved the Address has often addressed us before to our great profit. He spoke of himself correctly as an old soldier, but we Cambridge men are glad, also, to remember his academic distinction as Master of an ancient College. Therefore he came to his work to-day with no lack of experience. Neither has the noble Lord who seconded failed to make his mark in the House before. He has the rare, but not unprecedented, pleasure of sitting side by side with his father in your Lordships' House. I do not know—and unluckily I cannot recall—whether my noble friend the Earl of Powis was 16 ever called upon either to move or to second the Address, but if he had been asked to do so to-day I am convinced that he would have done so with the same force and persuasiveness that his son has shown.
The first paragraph of the gracious Speech really sets the note for the whole Speech in speaking of the determination which we all feel for the prosecution of the war to victory. It sometimes happens, indeed it often happens, in King's Speeches that there is a list of forthcoming legislation representing the views of the Government of the day to which in time it is hoped to obtain the Royal Assent. But this is a different matter. This is I think, in the strictest sense, a King's Speech, His Majesty's own Speech, this paragraph of which I am speaking, as well as that of His Majesty's Government and of his own people. I trust that the King and Queen realize the inspiration and the encouragement which their periodical visits to factories, shipyards and hospitals give to the people of the whole country, with the display of their inexhaustible sympathy.
All the noble Lords who have spoken have alluded to the mention which is made in the gracious Speech of the generous assistance which we are receiving from America and of the magnificent defence of the Russian people. With those words I am sure that we are all in complete agreement. The gracious Speech also mentions what I imagine may be regarded as the stable and benevolent attitude of Turkey. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, has alluded to one noticeable paragraph, with regard to the Empire of Ethiopia. There is a point there on which I desire to express a word of caution. In speaking of the re-establishment of the Empire of Ethiopia, I hope that it will be made altogether clear that there can be no question of any special position to be claimed by this country there in matters of administration, finance or commerce. For us to accept, or indeed not absolutely to reject, the notion of any special privileges being extended to us there, would be a contradiction of the principle which has been so clearly announced both by ourselves and by some other countries, that the restoration and rehabilitation of the world after the unprecedented cataclysm which has over-taken 17 it must be the work not of any individual country, but of the united good sense and the united forces of all the civilized countries of the world.
I join with the noble Lord, Lord Addison, in expressing appreciation of the paragraph relating to Malta. That island, with its noble harbour, interesting and beautiful old buildings, and its industrious population, is undergoing at this time the most severe trial of any part of His Majesty's dominions. We cannot, I am sure, overstate our sympathy with the people of Malta. By race, by history and by sentiment, they have never had a desire to be linked with their Italian neighbours; they have desired to be good neighbours, but nothing more. That has always been the case, but, after what is happening now, I hope it will be quite clear to Signor Mussolini and his coadjutors that there is no more prospect of their obtaining any control over the island of Malta than there is of their obtaining control over the Scilly Isles.
The gracious Speech concluded by referring to the points which were touched on by the noble; Lords, Lord Darcy (de Knayth) and Lord Addison. We all, I am sure, feel that the forces of destruction arrayed against us are so powerful and so unscrupulous that it will demand every possible effort of every one in this country to resist them and to bring about their final defeat. As the noble Lord, Lord Addison, remarked, this is no occasion for entering into detail, or for any form of criticism; but, on the question of the utilization of all the power in the country, I cannot help asking whether His Majesty's Government are taking into full consideration the use which can be made of the woman-power of the country, and whether they are entirely satisfied with the stage at which the use of that power has arrived. I have nothing more to add, but on behalf of my noble friends here I join heartily in the Address which has been moved and seconded in reply to the gracious Speech.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
My lords, I ask leave to be allowed to say a very few words with reference to the statement in His Majesty's gracious Speech with regard to Russia. A short time ago I came across a report in the Press that in some locality in France it 18 had been mooted that my co-religionists were not properly entitled to support Russia in the present conflict. My impression is that that report was a piece of Nazi propaganda; but, whether that is so or not, I wish to repudiate it absolutely and entirely, because the position as regards the present conflict in Russia was very clearly stated by His Eminence Cardinal Hinsley in the broadcast which he made in September last on the Day of National Prayer. He then made it quite clear that Catholics were not only entitled to support, but from the Christian point of view ought to support the Soviet Government in the present conflict. It is true that that was a new departure, and we cannot either retract or go back on any of the condemnation we used to deliver against the Soviet Government in days past. It may be that we may have to do so again, but I do not think so. There are signs of a change of policy coming over Russia in this respect. It is probably too much to hope that Stalin himself and his immediate associates will change their own personal views, but however that may be, and however desirable that may be, it is not so material as the question of the policy of the Government in Russia.
Now the change, I imagine, is chiefly due to the influence of the peasantry. The peasantry in Russia, as we all know, are a deeply religious people, and the Soviet Government no longer continue to ride rough-shod over their feelings. As an example of this, I am told that a paper called Godless—an unhappy name—has ceased to exist because nobody continues to buy it. That is one phase of the change. Another example. Formerly marriage and family life and the ties of children to their parents were not only discouraged but condemned by the Soviet Government. That is now a thing of the past, and marriage and family life are accepted once more as proper institutions. Do not let us forget Poland in this connexion. The Polish Government are the Government of a people intensely Catholic, and they have decided to support the Soviet Government in the present conflict. It must not be supposed that in doing so they are weakening in any sense in their religious feelings, for which they have suffered so greatly in the past, but, like us, they realize that the vast conflict now raging is a conflict with armed forces for evil, aiming at the enslavement of the 19 mind and body of the people and, what is far worse, the domination of their souls. In these circumstances we have no hesitation whatever in supporting the Soviet Government in the very gallant fight they are making.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD MOYNE)
My lords, the Nazi efforts to destroy the City of Westminster have not interfered with the traditional ceremony with which His Majesty opens Parliament. As befits our present state of war, to-day's proceedings have been shorn of some of their traditional pageantry, but never can Parliament have met the Sovereign with a deeper feeling of loyalty and devotion. As the noble Marquess reminded us, we shall never forget the way that during this year the King and Queen have shared to the full the anxieties and dangers of their people, and have never spared themselves in encouraging the nation in its effort.
In normal times the proposer and seconder of the humble Address have generally been found among new recruits to this House. During the war, however, it seemed fitting that our business should be opened with speeches by representatives of the fighting Services. Both the noble Lords whom we heard to-day have brought fresh and lively treatment to a task which is always rather difficult because of a certain inevitable formality. The noble Field-Marshal spoke to us from a long and distinguished Army career. The title by which he sits commemorates the glorious achievements of the Anzac trrops who fought under his command. He reminded us of his long connexion with the Indian Army and it was due to that—for I think he originally joined the British Army—that he was able to bring the precious tradition of that Army to the Anzacs whom he commanded first in Gallipoli and then in France. He must to-day feel proud that they have added qualities all their own to the traditions which they inherited, and which have been proved again and again in Greece and the Near East.
Probably there are present many others besides myself who had the honour of serving under the Field-Marshal in Gallipoli and in France, and who remember how he was idolised by his troops. The charm of manner and the felicity of phrase 20 with which he has performed his duty today supply, I think, part of the explanation. The Army has changed greatly since the noble Lord was first a subaltern in a cavalry regiment, which then had horses and did not depend on motor engines. But although mechanization and added speed have brought revolutionary factors into warfare, the science of war remains unchanged in its basic principles, and his long experience has given weighty authority to the Field-Marshal's words to-day.
The noble Lord who seconded has, of course, often been heard in our debates and I suspect that his contributions in former times have often given anxious moments to those who sit on this Bench. I am glad that his speech to-day was on our side, and I am sure that he has added to his reputation by the way in which he treated his subject. We are especially proud to remember him among the younger Peers who have taken up frontline tasks of danger and honour by serving as pilots in the Royal Air Force.
The gracious Speech referred in almost every sentence to the war, and it departs from peace-time custom in making no mention of any programme of legislation. Its phrasing brings home to us that all normal life and interest must now be completely subordinated to the task of victory. Since we met a year ago a great change has come in our fortunes. We then stood practically alone; to-day we have by our side in arms the great might of the Soviet State, and we are doing everything possible to strengthen their effort by straining every nerve to intensify the production of war supplies which they need. The House will, I am sure, have heard with great interest and appreciation what the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, has said about the religious development in Russia, and I feel sure that the war effort of our two great countries will profit by the closer sympathies which will inevitably develop in our outlook on other problems of life and organization.
A year ago the great industrial power of the United States was not yet harnessed to war purposes, but now she is sending vast quantities of supplies under the unexampled generosity of the Lease-Lend Act. Both Houses of Congress have given preliminary approval to the repeal of certain sections of the Neutrality Act, and the final vote is expected this week 21 as to whether merchant ships of United States ownership may be armed and possibly even enter belligerent ports and combat zones from which they have hitherto been excluded by law. Meanwhile, without waiting for this legislation which is under discussion, American warships have been convoying American supplies to this country, and some have even fallen victims to Nazi submarines. The battle of the seas has gone more and more in our favour. The quickened output of German submarine; has been outstripped on the oceans by the courage, invention, and skill of the Navy, and a huge tonnage of German and Italian shipping has also gone to the bottom in the Mediterranean.
I am sure we heard no passage in the Prime Minister's speech on Monday with greater satisfaction that that in which he told us that, in spite of Germany's long start, we had now drawn level with her in the air, not only in fighting power but in productive output. The improvement in the supply of equipment to the Royal Air Force and the mechanization of our Army must depend on the most efficient use of our man-power. It is true, as Lord Crewe told us, that women are not yet finally settled within our system, and there are various difficult problems to be solved. These matters are under the immediate consideration of the Government, and the Minister of Labour has every expectation that by the methods of persuasion which he has hitherto followed, reinforced perhaps by a little coercion, we shall be able to deal with this rather difficult problem. New factories have come into production and already ever-growing numbers, not only of men, but of women, are finding their way into them from nonessential industries. In every direction current output is showing a great advance. The Minister of Supply states that in October four times as many tanks and guns were made as a year previously, and month by month the production of aeroplanes beats all previous records. But much remains to be done. The need for greater effort and greater output is strengthened not only by our own needs but by the needs of Russia.
The noble Field-Marshal made a generous reference to the work of Colonial troops which I am glad to acknowledge, because Colonial and overseas Dependencies are so far away that it is not always sufficiently known what they have 22 been doing. A great expansion has taken place in our African troops, and tens of thousands of men of African races now supply man-power not only for infantry but for the technical services as well. They man all the heavy and light artillery, anti-aircraft guns, and the engineering, signals, transport, and ordnance units which are needed for brigade and divisional establishments. Their achievements in Abyssinia, Eritrea, and Somali-land showed their efficiency and their gallantry and how well they have been trained. It is the same story throughout the Empire. Palestine, Cyprus, Malta, Malaya, Hong Kong, Fiji, Ceylon, Mauritius, Seychelles, the West Indies, and other remoter Dependencies both in the Atlantic and the Pacific, have raised units according to their resources and needs. Several days each week I welcome at the Colonial Office parties of volunteers of many races who have come over as individuals, often at their own expense, to join the Royal Air Force and other fighting units and we have also been reinforced by hundreds of technicians, timber workers, and other skilled personnel. The great resources of man-power available in the Colonial Empire must be used not only for our war effort, but in the constructive work of peace-time development.
I look forward with confidence to a progressive increase in the part played by Colonial peoples themselves, not only in maintaining the public services of their separate Administrations, but in contributing to the common stock of experience which is at the disposal of the Colonial Services as a whole. Some Colonies have already reached such a point of education among the population that they can provide for the running of their administrative machine from local resources with very little help from outside. Most Colonies are still at various stages on the road to this achievement, and it must be our policy so to press on with the improvement of education, cultural and health facilities that full scope shall be given to the Colonial people to employ their talents and abilities in the interest of their own communities and the Empire generally. In earnest of this I have in the last few months been able to recruit to the Colonial Office staff in London two men of African race. This is only a small beginning, but I hope that this process will expand and continue.
23 The Colonial Empire has given us great financial support and contributions in money of over £26,000,000, have poured in at such a rate that I finally had to check the generous impulses of many of the poorer Colonies, who made free gifts, because they were going so far that it really began to endanger their financial future. I am now arranging that where there is a surplus of Colonial funds they shall be lent, if the Colonies so wish, to His Majesty's Government free of interest, and be available to the Colonies after the war for the work of reconstruction. It is probably not generally realized that our Colonies now are very important manufacturing factors in our war effort. I have taken at random a few instances of what they are making—anti-gas respirators, electric torches and batteries, mild steel plates, nuts and bolts, web equipment, collapsible rubber boats and many other products, ranging up to great ships with engines locally built.
The Government have decided that, in spite of the war, they will go ahead with the policy of Colonial development and welfare. Under war conditions the scientific and general committees which were originally proposed under the Act were never set up, but, now that the policy has been restarted, proposals are coming in from all parts of the Empire, and I have arranged with the noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin and Ava, to become Chairman of a small official Committee to examine and press on with schemes with a view to the new system being launched on sound lines. When the noble Marquess was Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time of the passing of the Development and Welfare Act, he took a very great and valuable part in its consideration and framing, and I look forward to a great advantage from his again being associated with that work.
Although no legislation is foreshadowed in the King's Speech, vast changes in our own organization are coming about to meet our necessities. The noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, referred to national finance, and of course we must all realize that it has had to bear an unheard of strain under our present expanding needs. Upon the outbreak of war, my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, Lord Simon, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, fortunately, took immediate 24 steps to hold in check the danger of inflation with its trail of loss and inconvenience, especially to the poorer classes of the community. My right honourable friend Sir Kingsley Wood, the present Chancellor, has continuously urged war against the same danger, and in his last Budget provided for raising about half our expenditure from taxation and the other half from savings. In the same way steps have also been taken to provide against a disastrous competition between wages and prices by a policy of subsidies to stabilize the cost of living, and the index figures since the Budget indicate that this bold policy has achieved its object. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's present expectation is that expenditure will be higher than was foreseen last spring, but not sufficiently higher to interfere with the general structure of his finance. As far as can be judged at this period of the financial year, the yield of taxes will give a larger outturn of revenue than had been anticipated, and, on the other side, savings are going ahead even more remarkably than they did last year.
The noble Lord, Lord Kindersley, who has given such an inspiring lead to the National War Savings campaign, has given me the figures of the achievements up to date. Up to the present time in small savings a sum has been raised of over £600,000,000. The number of Savings Groups at work at the end of this month will reach a total of 250,000, with a membership of 15,000,000 persons saving regularly week by week. This is an increase of 75,000 groups and 4,500,000 individual members during the year. During the first twelve months of the War Savings campaign ending November, 1940, the total subscribed through those loans which were specially devised for larger savings, including loans free of interest, amounted to £660,000,000. During the second campaign year, up to the 4th November, that figure has more than doubled from the larger savings, and the total in this class, including loans free of interest, has amounted to the colossal sum of £1,259,000,000. That is a very wonderful achievement, but it is, I am sure, realized that more and more must be done in this direction to strengthen our financial position
25 Side by side whir the appalling sufferings and waste of war, we have seen improvements in our Social Services on the Home Front. The remarkable record of national health is probably due very largely to the wise food policy of Lord Woolton, which, while checking unnecessary consumption by rationing, has at the same time brought nutrition on the best scientific advice within the reach of many of those who were previously suffering from some deficiency. To-day we have read the announcement that children up to the age of two are to get free supplies of vitamins, but my noble friend tells me that if any one over the age of two wants to indulge his taste for cod liver oil he will have to pay for it himself. There has also been a very great improvement in the efficiency and output of our home food production, both for direct home consumption and the keeping of live stock. In two years over 4,000,000 acres have been ploughed up, and the area under crops has been increased by about 45 per cent. At the same time we have well maintained the number of beef and dairy cattle. Although the bad weather robbed us of the bumper harvest which was expected at one stage, the results in the end have been reasonably satisfactory. Owing to our increased arable acreage we have achieved an increase in cereal crops of 50 per cent. over the last pre-war year.
The gracious Speech ends on a note of confidence in the courage and devotion of our people. Never in our history have we been more united in our purpose. Before the war many liked to think that the Nazis could not really mean the black doctrines which they preached. No illusions on this ground are left to-day. We all know that Hitler's boasted New Order has nothing new about it. It is merely a reversion to the blood-stained tyrannies and servitudes that we hoped had been left behind for ever in the evolution of human progress. Free men will rather die than submit to such conditions and our great Allies are showing the same unbreakable resolution. The policy of scorched earth, the willing destruction by millions of people of their life-time's work, prove that no sacrifice is too great for our Allies to undertake. Hitler's atrocities have created a mighty and, we believe, an irresistible confederation for liberty.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.