§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ EARL BEATTY
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. It is a great honour to be asked to move this Motion, and in thanking my noble friend the Leader of the House for having asked me to do so, I thank him also on behalf of the Service to which I have the honour to belong. I feel particularly fortunate in being permitted to speak at such a time as this, as it affords me an opportunity to pay my humble tribute to a sister Service. During the course of the last ten months my daily duties have led me into almost continual contact with units of His Majesty's Army, and I have often felt that the fortunes of war have dealt harshly with this Service. Their spirit is the same, their desire to get to grips with the enemy has been the same all along, as those of the other Services. Yet their burden of misfortunes has been such that their share of praise has been small whilst their share of criticism has been unduly great. Today, however, with the news of the glorious and significant victory in Egypt, we give whole-hearted praise to the British Army and with pride we thank them. In the light of great events to come, which have indeed already commenced in North Africa, let us never forget that the first blow was struck in the Battle of Egypt, and that this battle was a British victory and a glittering triumph for our soldiers.
It would be unjust when speaking of the Egyptian victory not to mention the splendid and important part played by the factory and munition workers at home. 5 For all their work in the past three years, until these early days of November, there has been little to show of solid achievement, but now the lesson is learnt that with equipment and with supplies we can, and will, win. Inevitably it must be a source of encouragement to those, men and women alike, on the Home Front, and a spur to them to redouble their efforts to ensure a constant and ever-increasing flow of supplies. Surely the words of our great leader and Prime Minister are vindicated to-day: "Give us the tools and we will get on with the job."
I am deeply sensible as a serving naval officer of the gracious reference to the work of the Royal Navy which will be deeply appreciated throughout the Service, more particularly because it may help to convince the public that, as the Prime Minister said in a recent notable speech, sea power is the foundation of all the efforts of the United Nations. This is a fact which is not altogether realized, partly, perhaps, because much of the work of the Royal Navy is carried out far from the public eye and partly, perhaps, because of a certain reticence, not in my opinion entirely necessary or wise, on the part of the Admiralty. It is not fully appreciated, either, that, owing to the neglect of the advice of expert advisers by succeeding Governments of the past twenty years, the Navy was able only by dint of supreme exertions and endurance, both by ships and men, to preserve us from defeat in the early days of the war. For example, a cruiser steamed 102,000 miles in twelve months, an average of 8,000 miles a month. Many ships have been at sea for over 300 days in the year, and many of those ships, alas ! were of an obsolete type which had seen hard service in the last war.
Neither is it fully realized how every effort of the United Nations depends ultimately upon the maintenance of sea power. The resistance to the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, the defence of India, our successful campaign in Madagascar, the supply and support of our courageous Allies in Russia the maintenance of our bomber offensive and the early defence of these islands, and last, and most important, our offensive in Egypt and now the opening of a Second Front, all depend fundamentally upon sea power. We have seen to our cost what it has meant to Japan in the Pacific. We have had many 6 rude shocks. We held our breath as we watched their lightning drive across two or three thousand miles of sea. Yet, in a typically British way, we take it as a matter of course that we can launch an offensive 14,000 miles away from these islands because it is across the sea. Let us never again, in the days of peace to come, forget this lesson:I but recall these things lest, lulled in peace,Ye sleep again…The gracious Speech referred in particular to the growing calls which the extension of the war has made upon the Services. I sometimes feel that the general public do not fully appreciate the extent to which we have had to expand to meet our present requirements, particularly in the case of small craft such as minesweepers, patrol vessels, escort vessels, motor torpedo boats and now the large fleet of landing craft which have had to be built since the collapse of France. The majority of these ships, unmentioned day by day in the B.B.C. bulletins, keep the seas in all weathers and very often in constant contact with the enemy. That has meant a vast expansion of man-power, far in excess of that of the last war. And here I would like to pay a special tribute to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, of whom I speak with particular knowledge because all the officers and men of my Command come from that force. Before the war the R.N.V.R., if I may say so, was a small, rather select body of yachtsmen, small boat sailors and amateurs of the sea. Today it is a force including men of every profession and trade, men of every occupation, stamp and class, and to me, as a naval officer, it is amazing to see how, after little seagoing experience, they have not only been willing but have shown themselves able with the shortest possible instruction both to make themselves useful seamen and to bear the burden of command in innumerable small craft upon which our life depends.
And now, my Lords, a word about the Merchant Service, which even more than the Royal Navy is the basis of our sea power. I believe that it is true to say that, in comparison, the Merchant Navy in this war has so far suffered greater loss in personnel than any other Service. The work of officers and men, their devotion to duty, are beyond all praise. They, like the Royal Navy, were despised and rejected 7 before the war, despite persistent and powerful warnings by my predecessor as President of the Navy League, the late Lord Lloyd, who often, in this Chamber, spoke on the subject. The Merchant Service was left by the Government to fight practically unaided a losing battle against subsidized State-aided foreign competition, and its work between 1914 and 1918 was quite forgotten. There was no apparent recognition in high places that the Merchant Navy is, as I have said, the essential basis upon which our sea power depends. It is a tribute, I think, to the courage and persistence of British ship-owners, officers and men that, virtually unaided until just before the war, they kept their flags flying and their ships at sea and so played their part in maintaining our capacity to defeat the enemy's challenge by sea.
It was a welcome recognition of the heroism of the Merchant Service officers and men to give them awards for gallantry upon the same basis as those of the Royal Navy. But this is not enough. As a naval officer, I ask for an explicit assurance by His Majesty's Government that when this war is over they and their Service shall be regarded as an integral part of the sea power on which this country does and always will depend; that British merchant ships shall be kept at sea, and that the employment of officers and men shall be assured under the best possible conditions. This is no more than their due and just reward, and it is all they ask for. It is not for me to suggest how this should be done. But it is for the industry as a whole to work out their own salvation and to advise His Majesty's Government.
It is not my wish to become controversial in moving this Address, but I feel I should not be doing my duty unless I raised a matter which is exercising the minds of many in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. When I first spoke to your Lordships some years ago I supported a Motion for establishing a separate Fleet Air Arm. This was conceded after a stern fight and has surely proved itself under war conditions to-day. The same arguments which were applied then, and won the day, apply equally now to the Coastal Command aircraft. It is difficult to see how a senior naval officer charged with the duty of protecting our trade 8 routes can fully exercise that command without the full control of all the forces put under him. This must apply in the same way with aircraft as with ships. Surely the Admiralty must be responsible for the design and disposition of the aircraft, and for the training and discipline of their crews, which are at present the responsibility of the Air Ministry through the Coastal Command and are only operated by the Admiralty. It is no answer to be told that the system is working now. It may be said to be, but surely to have two separate Departments of State engaged on the same problem, and two separate and distinct authorities partially controlling one force cannot ensure 100 per cent. efficiency. We are, now, only at the commencement of this problem, and it is more than evident that aircraft for sea warfare must develop along lines different from those of shore-fighting aircraft. Therefore this question must be faced.
In conclusion, I am glad to note that plans for measures necessary when peace returns are being worked out by His Majesty's Government. Furthermore, in endorsing the principles of the Atlantic Charter, I should like to add but one word. November 11, 1918, was a hallowed day in the history of this country, and indeed in the history of the world. To-day, twenty-four years later, let us and all the United Nations take a solemn pledge that the disastrous mistakes of which every country was guilty between that date and this shall never be repeated. Let us in this hour, when the first light of victory is shining, send a message to be carried to the four corners of the world. Surely it is the least that we can do to pay homage to those who are fighting far from their homes, in dangerous seas and skies and on parched deserts. Surely we owe them this, for paramount in the minds of those men is the wish truly to believe in the words of our naval prayer—"That we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land with the fruits of our labours."
I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth: "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 9 Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
§ "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."—(Earl Beatty.)
§ VISCOUNT WIMBORNE
My Lords, in rising to second this Motion I should like first of all to thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for entrusting to me, who only once before has had the privilege of addressing your Lordships, this most responsible task. I am sure that your Lordships must have been impressed, as. I was, by the quiet confidence and even the optimism of the most gracious Speech, a confidence which is amply justified by the stirring events which are taking place at this very moment. I feel that, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the war, we may now look forward without fear to the eventual outcome. Reverses and even disasters we have experienced; setbacks we may expect in the future; but I am quite convinced that the United Nations may look forward with confidence to the eventual triumph of their cause.
Your Lordships will have noticed those passages in the most gracious Speech which referred to our Allies and to the Empire. I think that in this hour of satisfaction we must not forget, and I am sure we shall not forget, that it is very largely due to the stubborn resistance of Russia, to the incredible fortitude of China, and to the help of the United States of America, that we are in a position to-day to face our foes undauntedly. It is also due to the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the Dominions, which command our greatest respect. A few weeks ago Field-Marshal Smuts arrived in this country to take his place amongst His Majesty's advisers, and to give that counsel which, on account of his great experience, has so much value. That is, I think, an earnest of the close co-operation which exists within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
10 I think, however, that it was in those passages in the most gracious Speech which referred to the situation which will have to be faced after the war that that atmosphere of confidence which I have mentioned made itself most felt. The Atlantic Charter has laid the foundation on which to build that new world which we hope will emerge from the struggle in which we are engaged, a new world which will have to be planned so that in the fullness of time the victors and the vanquished may live in peace, a world in which one hopes that those artificial economic barriers which strangled world trade before the war will be swept away, and in which the great wealth which the application of science to industry makes possible will be made available to all. The first thing that will confront the Allied Nations on the morrow of victory will be those measures of relief, mentioned in the most gracious Speech, for those peoples who are at present under the domination of Germany and her Allies. One of the most tragic things in this war is the appalling sufferings which have been and are being endured by the subject peoples of the enemy. No doubt when the tyrants begin to see their rotten régime crumbling they will redouble their persecutions, and it may be that, when the war is over, the plight of these unfortunate peoples will be desperate. Food, drugs and comforts will have to be ready and available to be sent to them immediately, and I am very glad, as I am sure your Lordships will be also, to see from the most gracious Speech that His Majesty's Government, in concert with the other United Nations, are giving this problem their consideration.
Here at home when the war is won we shall have many difficulties to face. We know them well, for we have experienced them in the past—demobilization, the reabsorption into the economic structure of peace of the soldiers, sailors and airmen returning from the Armed Forces, and of the vast body of men and women undertaking war work in this country. Those problems we know; but this time there will be others to face. Many thousands of people who have been evacuated may wish to return straight away to their old homes, and it may be difficult to cope with that large movement of the population. The housing problem which will have to be faced to rebuild the 11 homes of the people staggers the imagination. I am sure, therefore, that it is very important that plans should be made well in advance, so that we shall be able to rebuild the new Britain when the time comes. I fear that it will still be necessary to endure those restrictions which are gladly endured in time of war, but which are apt to be resented in time of peace. I think it would be helpful if some forecast could be made of what will be expected of the nation when the war is over. I am quite certain that our people will loyally co-operate in building up their new country, but it would make it much easier for them if they knew what to expect.
There is reference in the gracious Speech to land control, betterment, compensation and the use of rural areas. I sometimes think that planning, in the modern sense of the word, can be fraught with as much danger as laissez-faire, but, there is one point: we must do something after the war to prevent and to restrict that haphazard and unsightly development which took place in the twenty years between the two wars—development which in most cases disfigured the countryside and did not always provide the type of house that people wanted. And, complementary to wise urban development, there is the safeguarding of the agricultural industry. I hope that never again shall we neglect agriculture as it was allowed to be neglected during the twenty years preceding this war; and I am quite sure that, if only for our own safety's sake, we must somehow manage in the future to rely less upon imported food—to say nothing of the value of a prosperous countryside to the nation as a whole. I like to look forward to a progressive farming community side by side with, and reaping the benefits of, a healthy and intelligent urban development.
Your Lordships will have seen the reference in the gracious Speech to education. No one who has seen at close quarters a great number of the products of the elementary and secondary schools, as one does as a regimental officer, could fail to be aware that there is much left to be desired in our present educational system. I do not intend to make the mistake of getting myself involved in educational problems, which I think are the province of experts, but I should like to 12 say that that great contribution to education in general which is made by the public schools of this country must at all costs be retained.
§ VISCOUNT WIMBORNE
It must be retained because it is, I think, a great contribution; but I was going to say before the noble Lord interrupted that the system must be altered so as to bring the public schools more within reach of those whose parents are not at present in a position to meet the expense which a public school education entails.
It is heartening to see that amidst all the preoccupations which total war brings, the great fight against disease is not being allowed to lapse. I think it is remarkable how well the population has stood the strain of the last three years. Shelter life, fewer doctors, change of diet—all these things must make the people less resistant to illness, and I think it is a great tribute to those responsible for the health services of this country that the health of the nation is as good as it is after three years of war. I am also very pleased to see that the gracious Speech takes notice of the great housing difficulties caused by the war. These are, indeed, acute. I am told that in some industrial districts the night worker, returning home, has to occupy the bed just vacated by his colleague who goes back to take his place in the factory by day. We must do something, either by erecting huts or hostels, perhaps by providing prefabricated houses, to improve the housing conditions of those workers to whom we owe so much, and to whom so much of our success is due.
My noble friend who moved this Motion paid a very graceful tribute to the Army and I should like, in return, to say that he certainly made me realize—and I am sure he made your Lordships realize—the great part played by sea-power in any operation of war undertaken away from the shores of this country. The great victory in Egypt is due to the determination of the workers and to the closest cooperation between all arms, but I think my noble friend will agree with me that it is perhaps primarily a triumph for the Army; and those of us who are in that Service feel now that the British Army of to-day, after great difficulties and much ill-informed criticism, has proved itself in an unmistakable way worthy of its ancestor's. Whatever name it is decided 13 to give to the battle which resulted in the defeat of Rommel, that name will, I am sure, rank with those great deeds of arms that have become household words. I must confess I was a little disappointed to find no mention in the gracious Speech of any measure to remove those anomolies which, I believe it is agreed, exist with regard to the remuneration of the Army, but I am quite certain that nothing so much as this victory could have given hope and encouragement to all ranks of the Army, and especially to those who have done their soldering in this country and have not yet had their chance.
There is a reference in the gracious Speech to the Colonies. I should not like to let this opportunity pass without mention of that Colony which is much in our minds at the present time—namely, Malta—and I am quite certain that the noble Viscount who leads the House must feel touch pleasure when he thinks what a great contribution has been made by Malta, which comes under his jurisdiction, to the winning of the battle in Egypt. The gracious Speech ends with the warning that our enemies are still formidable and that our task is still difficult. We know well the craft and resourcefulness of our enemies, both in Europe and in Asia, and no doubt now they will redouble their efforts to bring about our downfall. But the victory in Egypt and the events now taking place at the other end of the Mediterranean seem to point to the fact that the grand stategy of the United Nations is beginning to bear fruit, and that our eventual victory is assured.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I hope it will not seem a trifle presumptuous for a very junior officer in the Array to offer his congratulations to his seniors on speeches which have been cordially welcomed in every quarter of the House; but I can plead as an extenuating circumstances that, like so many of us in these days, both noble Lords lead double lives, and I am commending them for the manner in which they have discharged their responsibilities as members of this House on an important and always most nerve-racking occasion. At the same time I would not wish to gloze over the fact that we attach very special importance to the words of the noble and gallant Earl on account of the distinguished and daring part he played in the raid on Dieppe. I should 14 like to associate myself with the noble Viscount who has just spoken in thanking him for the graceful tribute he paid to the Army, and to add that we realize that whatever measure of success has been lately achieved is due to the most intimate co-operation between all three branches of the Service on land, on sea, and in the air. Many of us still remember the days when the noble Earl's father used to occupy his seat on the Cross Benches, and it is gratifying to have had striking evidence to-day that he, too, feels as much at home in the council chamber as he does on the quarter deck. We all hope that when the time comes for the virtues of the statesman to be more highly prized than those of the man of action, the noble and gallant Earl will resume his political activity in local and national government in which he has already achieved no mean record.
The noble and gallant Viscount who seconded the Motion has repeated, if I may say so, the success that he scored with the maiden speech that he delivered only a few weeks ago. Our only complaint against him is that one who speaks with such fluency and thorough knowledge of his subject should hitherto have intervened so seldom in our debates. I should like to express the hope that after his recent performance the noble and gallant Viscount may no longer be inclined to hide his light under a bushel, and that in future we shall benefit more frequently from his contributions to our discussions.
It is natural, when scanning the lines of the gracious Speech, that our thoughts should turn first to its references to the splendid achievements of the Armed Forces of the Crown. We on this side of the House should like to express our gratitude and admiration to the officers and men of all three Services for their brilliant successes in Egypt and North Africa and our appreciation of the wise and gallant leadership to which they and we owe so much. It is fitting that stress should be laid upon the spirit of determination to carry on until our arms have won us a successful decision, and the refusal to accept any half-measures in place of outright victory; but it is a pity that more space could not have been devoted to the future conduct of the war, so far, of course, as this can be done without divulging our plans to the enemy. It is now a commonplace, which has been vividly 15 illustrated by the campaigns in progress in Egypt and North Africa, that the outcome of military operations in modern warfare depends on the complete co-ordination of land, sea, and air forces by a single commander who directs what is, in effect, a combined striking force. The necessity for unified control at the centre has been recognized in the military sphere, but it is questionable, at least, whether a similar degree of co-ordination has been reached between the Allied Nations who share the political direction of the war. My friends desire to draw the attention of the Government to this problem at the earliest convenient moment. This is one of the numerous aspects of the higher political direction of the war about which concern has been expressed and to which attention has been directed on several occasions in this House. The subject is of such supreme importance that we shall continue, quite impenitently, to offer our suggestions and advice until we find that the political High Command is a perfect instrument for winning the war.
There is one other matter of a similar character to which no direct reference is made in the gracious Speech. I refer to it now, not in order to elicit information about policies, because these cannot be disclosed without providing valuable information to the enemy, but in order rather to make certain that this problem is uppermost in the minds of His Majesty's Government and that they are pressing its paramount importance upon our Allies. I refer to the problem of maintaining the supply of foodstuffs and raw materials from overseas—a task which requires a great increase in Allied merchant tonnage, combined with a more efficient system of protection for our convoys at sea. We cannot allow shipping to become, as it threatens to be, the bottle-neck of the Allied war effort. This can only be avoided if the security of vital sea routes and the production and repair of merchant shipping are given the highest priority in the councils of the seafaring nations among the Allies—and in their plans for war-time production. It is gratifying to observe that the gracious Speech refers explicitly to the possibility of social reform during the war and to the widespread reconstruction at home and abroad that will begin directly hostilities have ceased.
16 I note with the utmost satisfaction the reference to the improvement of economic conditions in the Colonies which, as has already been pointed out, have made such a handsome contribution in men and money to our cause. It would be interesting to know whether the noble Viscount who leads the House is in a position to say if he has any fresh proposals to make, in addition to the offer which has been so cordially welcomed of financial assistance to Malta, in order to repair the damage done by attack from the air. The problem of the Colonies is political as well as economic, and we shall, I fear, fail to draw them into that close comradeship that we share with the Dominions until they feel that they are really and truly regarded as equals and that they are fighting, day in, day out, for their own freedom as well as for ours.
It was a little disappointing to find silence on the subject of India. While everyone recognizes that the first duty of the Government is to maintain law and order and to safeguard Indian territory against the encroachments of the Japanese, it is regrettable that nothing apparently will be attempted to terminate a deadlock so obstructive to our war effort in that part of the world. We seem determined to leave to the other side the initiative and responsibility for the next move. It is admittedly doubtful that anything we might now propose would succeed after so many efforts made in all directions have already failed, but our refusal to make a further effort can only perpetuate the present unhappy conflict and render our policy even more suspect in the eyes of all those who invariably taunt us with imperialism.
The development of our Social Services at home in war-time is severely limited by the priority requirements of war production, but we welcome the promise of early legislation which implements the assurance given by the Minister of Labour in another place on the subject of old age and widows' pensions. The vital need of the moment, as I think the noble and gallant Viscount has just emphasized, is to have our plans prepared and our administrative machinery ready mounted for a mighty expansion of all these Services directly fighting has ceased. In this respect the Beveridge Report, which will be the first comprehensive survey to be made of the entire field covered by our Social 17 Services, is likely to be a mine of fruitful suggestion, and I venture to hope the Government will give it cordial and genuinely sympathetic consideration. We are given an assurance that the proposals of the Scott and Uthwatt Committees are receiving the attention of the Government, but no legislation apparently is in prospect, not even for the establishment of the administrative machinery to make land available and plans for buildings as soon as the war is, over, and that in spite of the very frequent promptings to action which have come from many quarters in your Lordships' House. If these delays continue, and if nothing effective is done in the meantime to prepare the ground for a building programmme, of unprecedented magnitude, it will take many years before our "blitzed" people get rehoused and before we can provide decent accommodation for those families still living in over-crowded and slum conditions. Housing will be the most urgent of our immediate post-war social problems, and it is, therefore, essential that every obstacle shall be removed during the war period in order that the process of building may start immediately peace comes.
We share the keen hope expressed in the gracious Speech that agreement may be speedily reached upon schemes for the expansion of our educational system. Here again the vital need is for the period of discussion and negotiations to be concluded, and for the plans for post-war development to be cut and dried by the time that we are ready to resume the forward march of education. There is no indication in the gracious Speech that similar steps are being taken towards the preparation of any scheme of family allowances, which might be implemented as soon as our financial resources can be applied in that direction. The principle of family endowment has now been accepted by the Made Union Congress and by all of the political Parties, and there should be no doubt that public opinion is now ripe for effective action on the part of the Government. Let me conclude by assuring the House that we on these Benches share to the fullest extent the determination expressed in the gracious Speech to see the war through to a successful conclusion, and it is this spirit that will prompt any advice and suggestions that we may venture to offer those in authority during the new Session.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, it is always a gratification to those of us who are allowed on these occasions to represent different sections of opinion in your Lordships' House to be able to offer sincere congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Address in reply to the gracious Speech. It is still more agreeable to do so when as in this case, I am able to claim an old family friendship with both and the remembrance of many pleasant hours spent in the company of their fathers. The noble and gallant Earl who moved the Address has followed in the great profession in which his father made such an illustrious name. It is not altogether a new fact, because we are always pleased when we see in the Navy list the recurrence of names like Hood and Broke, and we are equally glad to know that the noble Earl is gaining distinction in his profession. My noble friend Lord Wimborne speaks for the Army, and I feel he should be one of the most popular figures in that Service since on the last occasion, when he made an admirable maiden speech, he pressed the claims of further remuneration for all ranks of the Service. I am afraid from what he has just said that he has tot so far received a quite sufficient response to his appeal, but I thought I noticed in the Press the other day that His Majesty's Government were prepared to make some kind of concession applying to officers enjoying temporary rank, which, I think, was one of the subjects that my noble friend raised; but in any case I hope he will be more and more successful in obtaining some further concessions.
Both noble Lords have in one sense been fortunate. Had they had to fulfil their task a few weeks, or even one may say a few days ago, the gracious Speech would have been otherwise worded, and their speeches in moving and seconding the Address would have been in a somewhat different tone; for then, though there was no doubt about the ultimate result, it would not have been possible to speak with any great confidence of the immediate prospect. In Russia the immortal defence of their assailed towns was being carried on with the utmost bravery, but it could not be felt that they were doing much more than holding their own. In the Pacific the balance appeared to be swaying somewhat evenly between the Japanese forces and those of the Allies, 19 and in Africa there seemed to be a complete pause and people were almost beginning to grumble at the fact that nothing was happening. There was a good deal of wild talk of the necessity of immediately opening up a Second Front in Europe. Now the curtain has risen for the fourth act of this stupendous drama, and the aspect of the stage is much more cheerful than we should, even a few weeks ago, have felt able to hope it could possibly be. How soon we may look forward to the opening of the fifth act I will not venture to predict, but we may perhaps hope that its opening may not be so distant as at one time it appeared to be.
In all the three speeches we have heard mention has been made of the remarkable organization and the perfection of combinations to which the successes have been due, and there has been a chorus in the Press and everywhere raising a similar note. Naturally we think first of the perfect cohesion of the various Forces in the different operations. Too much of that cannot be said, but, at the same time, I think we ought not to forget the careful organization and co-operation which have taken place at home. For instance, we ought not to forget the part which the Imperial General Staff has played in forwarding these military successes. I think I am right in saying that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff had the advantage of visiting Cairo in company with the Prime Minister, and that of course must have been of most direct assistance in the framing of the coming operations. A similar word ought to be said with regard to the Admiralty and to the headquarters of the Royal Air Force. Of the part taken by the Mercantile Marine and by the factory workers at home, something has already been said with which we must cordially agree. The same perfection of co-operation has surely taken place with regard to the presence of our American Allies in North Africa. The way that was brought about was made abundantly clear by the remarkable speech of the Prime Minister at the Mansion House. At the same time, we must not, I think, forget to pay a tribute to the vast help which has been given now and for some time past from the United States in the great provision of supplies and munitions of all kinds which has so aided our efforts.
20 May I be permitted to say one word about a subject which I think your Lordships will understand specially appeals to me—the effect on France of this recent African operation? As your Lordships will understand the military collapse of France came home to me with a deeper feeling of distress than it would to many of your Lordships. Other members of your Lordships' House who have had the privilege of being Ambassador in Paris would, I am sure, bear out what I am saying with the same sentiments of regret—sentiments of regret, but now, I trust, sentiments of hope. We all regard with much grief the distorted sentiments of patriotism which could make a soldier like Marshal Pétain, who played a great part in the last war, take such a hopelessly erroneous view of his duty to France. Now, I am glad to think, one of the most eminent and skilled of present-day French Commanders, General Giraud, has taken the opposite view and has seen that he can take a part in determining the future of France, because I am certain that the Allies all feel that the integrity of the great French Empire, which on the whole has been well administered in the past, can be assured by our victory and that it would be hopelessly compromised by the success of the Axis. That, we may hope, will in time come home to public opinion in France with the result that the present opposition to our plans, fostered by the unhappy Vichy Government, will be altogether swept away.
I shall not attempt to touch on many of the points raised in the gracious Speech to some of which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has alluded. I agree with him that in the allusions to the Scott and Uthwatt Reports His Majesty's Government have displayed perhaps a rather unexpected degree of caution in withholding any kind, I will not say of promise but of prophecy of possible legislation on the subject. I hope, however, that that reticence does not mean abandonment of the hope that, after due and full consideration, measures may be brought forward for the consideration of Parliament, because it is obvious that, raising, as they must, many issues of some controversy, they will require most careful and prolonged investigation by both Houses of Parliament.
We were reminded, my Lords, in the speech of the opener that this is the 21 eleventh of November. Looking back over the years in which that date has been a significant date, we have, I fear, to recall many vanished dreams and unfulfilled hopes. To-day no formal celebration of this anniversary has been possible, for reasons which, I think, we all probably know. But we can all of us, surely, celebrate it in our own minds by a realization of thankfulness for the recent events which will assist the triumph of the cause of right. And those who are able to look forward to many years when peace is declared can celebrate it by resolving that they will play their part according to their different powers in bringing about a better state of things in Great Britain, in the whole Empire and in the world at large.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I should like to join those who have already spoken in paying tribute to the felicitous manner in which the mover and seconder have presented the Address to your Lordships' House. In one of these speeches reference was made to the appalling suffering which now afflicts the nations under Nazi domination. I should like, if I may be allowed to do so, to say a word or two upon that subject and the way in which I think it might affect ourselves, and to draw attention to one particular aspect of the suffering. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement of the Government in the guidance of our affairs during the war has been the feeding of the people of this country. Those who visit our shores from overseas are commonly quite astounded to find what is still our standard of living, especially if they come from anywhere in Europe. But while we have every reason to be most deeply grateful for that, and while, no doubt, it is preserving the strength of the people that we shall still need for the achievement of victory, it may have the effect of dulling our sensitiveness to the extraordinarily grim seriousness of the struggle in which we are engaged. Not only do those who visit us from overseas find us astonishingly well nourished, but they also, sometimes, think that we are, as a people, taking the war, as a whole, with insufficient seriousness, and that it is possible that if our whole people could realize the kind of suffering that afflicts so many in the world there would be an even added effort put forth leading to a speedier end of that suffering.
22 The special section of sufferers to whom I wish to call attention for the moment, if I may, are those unhappy refugees from Nazi oppression who are again placed in circumstances of peculiar danger. Recent events have entirely altered the setting of this picture. No doubt the position of those in North Africa—where a great many of them are—should be improved. There are, for example, several thousand refugee Jews in concentration camps in French Morocco. There are something like one thousand former members of the International Brigade in Southern Algeria. It is, perhaps, possible that in the thrilling events of these times, these unhappy people may almost be forgotten, and events which could well work out for their great advantage, and perhaps for their deliverance, may lead, on the other hand, to their being more neglected than ever if their needs are not prominent in our minds. This is in one sense a small issue as compared with those great events of which we are reading day by day and which are filling us with new hopes. But there is a claim here upon sympathy which I think it would be wrong that we should ignore.
Along with this there is the position—once again altered—of the refugees in what has hitherto been Unoccupied France. Their position was indeed most pitiable for, under the pressure of the German authorities, their deportation had been taking place at a great rate. It is very hard now to know what numbers have been affected. That deportation is commonly carried out in circumstances of callousness and great cruelty. There were to have been some 15,000 persons ordered for deportation shortly after the end of August—I do not know if that came to pass or not. Those ordered to be deported were packed together in cattle trucks, with a little straw on the floor and so sent off, sixty in each. Sometimes they were given a little food if the period was very long. On one occasion, at any rate, they all died of starvation before anybody brought them any food At that time the children were exempted, but later orders have required that the children from two years old and upwards should also be deported.
This is a horror which is going on almost at our doors, and which all of us would wish to alleviate if it were at all possible. I wish to ask whether it is thought possible that we may be able to 23 do something to bring some relief to these sufferers—first to those for whose welfare we shall have more opportunity of acting now in North Africa, and then for those for whom we probably have less opportunity of acting now in what was Unoccupied France. There are some vacancies, according to the schedule, for immigration to Palestine, and perhaps some of that space could be utilized. The Swiss Government have shown amazing generosity. The Swiss frontier has been technically closed but actually open, and those who have managed to make their way across it have never been returned, the Swiss Government accepting the liability. Might it not be possible for us to undertake to give some aid to the Swiss Government in the support of any of those who can make their way into safety there, and especially the children, whom the gallant French people are trying to befriend, and whom they might be able to convey over the frontier?
Then I should like to ask whether there is any possibility of some coming here. I think the number is likely to be small enough, but can visas be offered for their entry? I hope that we should not in. such a case waste our time in considering whether we have done as much as or more than other nations for people who are in this kind of distress: the only question which matters is whether we have done all we can, whether it is less or more than other people have done. Again, I hope we shall not waste time by considering whether these people fall into the categories which have been drawn up to regulate such matters. Categories are nothing but administrative headings, and can be altered, if we wish, to include some who do not fall under them. Could we not include a category for children whose parents are taken away and who would otherwise be deported or left destitute, and for the parents of those who are actually serving in our Forces? We have in this country a most honourable tradition of friendship to those who are suffering oppression, and of readiness to offer asylum. I know that this is, in one sense, a small matter, but it is an urgent one, and made more urgent by the events of these recent days; and it is one which must make a great appeal to the generosity of our people, which is always 24 great towards those who are suffering affliction.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE)(Lord Cecil)
My Lords, we meet this afternoon to vote that an humble Address of thanks be presented to His Majesty for his most gracious Speech to Parliament, and in the first place I know that your Lordships would wish me to express what is surely uppermost in our minds, our deep sense of loyalty and devotion to our King and Queen, who have honoured us by their presence here today and whose courage and selflessness have inspired and sustained their people through these long and difficult years.
I think it is fitting that in strenuous times like these the mover and seconder of such an Address should be noble Lords of the younger generation, who are themselves serving in the Fighting Forces of the Crown. Although your Lordships' House has undoubtedly grown in public estimation—if that be possible—since the beginning of the war, and though its wisdom and authority are, I think, everywhere recognized, it still remains true that inevitably in war-time we are rather an elderly body; and I think that all of us, whenever there is an opportunity, welcome the younger generation to our counsels. The noble Earl, Lord Beatty, who moved the humble Address, has, I think, special claims to do so. He is, as has already been said, the son of one of the most renowned commanders of the last war, who had in a pre-eminent degree those qualities of dash and courage which are so characteristic of the Royal Navy. The late Lord Beatty takes, I think, a notable place in that long line of Admirals which stretches down from Drake and Nelson to men like Sir Andrew Cunningham to-day. Moreover, the noble Earl himself who moved the Address has played, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has said, a worthy part in a story of naval heroism which I think has never been surpassed at any time in our history. I was glad to see, if I may say so, from the remarkable and penetrating speech which he made this afternoon, that his membership of the Silent Service has not taken away his powers of speech. We certainly wish to congratulate him most warmly on his contribution, and to say that we hope to hear him very often on 25 future occasions, when his other duties will allow of it. I would assure him also that his remarks about the Merchant Service will receive the close and sympathetic attention of the Government.
The considerations which I have mentioned with regard to the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, apply also in an equal degree, I think, to the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, who seconded the Address. He also is serving his country. The noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, comes from a family with a long Liberal tradition, and I think I may describe him as a very welcome Guest on this side of the House to-day. He has served an apprenticeship in another place, and both in the speech which he delivered to-day and in that which he made to your Lordships a week or two ago he has shown qualities of oratory and ability which have greatly pleased your Lordships' House. I hope very much that we shall hear a great deal more from him too in the future.
We are beginning to-day the labours of a new Session in an atmosphere, I think I may say, of sober but enhanced confidence. Too often during recent months and years it has been your Lordships' experience to meet in circumstances of great anxiety, under the shadow of a deteriorating situation, or even of some lamentable disaster. It seems only a few weeks since we were discussing the serious defeat which led to the loss of Tobruk and to the retirement to the EI Alamein line, with all the vital dangers to our Middle Eastern position which that defeat involved. To-day the atmosphere is very different. We see a sky that is clearing; we meet in the glowing light of a great victory, of a famous victory, of a victory which may play its part in moulding the course of history. The safety of Egypt is to-day secure. We have inflicted casualties upon the enemy which are, I understand, estimated to be, in killed, wounded and prisoners, over 59,000. We have captured or destroyed 500 tanks and not less than 1,000 guns, in addition to numberless aeroplanes. That is victory on a grand scale.
As your Lordships were not unduly cast down by our former setbacks, so we shall not. I know, be unduly elated by such a spectacular success. Time alone will show how far-reaching will be the results which will flow from this battle. But this I think we can say, that for the 26 first time in this war a nation has met the formidable and hitherto unbeaten German military machine under the command of one of their most renowned Generals and has shattered it and driven it into head-long retreat. I must confess that it is a great relief to me at last to be able to speak frankly on events in North Africa. I suppose, as many of your Lordships know, that there can be no more unhappy experience for a Minister in war-time than to have to appear before his colleagues in Parliament, to see their troubled faces, and not to be able to relieve their anxieties. Many of your Lordships, I know very well, have been most naturally perturbed by the apparently long period of inaction in that theatre of war. Questions have been asked in this House, Who is to blame? Is it the Government or, alternatively (as Lord Strabolgi said the other day) is it the Generals? And all the time we, sitting on this Bench, had to remain silent, knowing how mighty a striking force was at that time being built up yet unable to say anything about it. Indeed, already at the time when that debate on the defeat took place men, tanks, guns and aeroplanes were actually on the way, which have played their part in winning this victory. Now that Force has struck with irresistible power. I think we must all feel that our most heartfelt thanks are due both to General Alexander and to General Montgomery, and perhaps even more to those innumerable unnamed fighting men whose courage and resolution have surmounted all the trials and setbacks of recent months and sustained them until victory.
It has been, I think, a remarkable battle from every point of view. I do not want to go into great detail about it to-day. You will all have read the reports in the papers. But I would like to make this one general comment. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this remarkable battle was the plan of attack decided on by the British commanders. The main features of this plan involved to an out-standing degree the qualities of deception and concentration, and in fact the enemy were utterly deceived both as to the time and as to the place of the main effort. Then, when they had been bewildered by feint attacks and by our movements of troops, the full weight of the Eighth Army was launched in the north, where alone there was a chance of annihilating the 27 enemy by gaining control of the coastal road and cutting off his retreat. That plan of attack involved quite obviously a tougher fight than any other. It meant an increased risk of failure. But if it was successful it gave a real chance of destroying at one blow German power in North Africa.
General Alexander and General Montgomery took that risk: they went for the big thing, and they brought it off. They massed their whole forces, they assembled overwhelming sea and air power, not only to pound the back areas but to sink the supply ships which carried the sinews of war to the enemy. Then they drove their spearhead (if I may use a medieval metaphor) straight through the breastplate to the heart of their enemy. It was a dashing conception, which will I think go down to history as one of the great feats of the British Army. I am glad to announce this afternoon that in honour of this notable success the church bells in all the churches of the United Kingdom will be rung on Sunday morning, in order that the British people may be reminded to give thanks for the great victory which has been granted to our arms.
And now, since that battle, another heavy blow has been struck at the enemy at the western end of North Africa. The arrival of a powerful American Expeditionary Force in that area is already well known to your Lordships. I think you will agree that it was brilliantly planned, that it was brilliantly synchronized with our Egyptian attack, and that the greatest possible credit is due to the United States' and British Staffs who successfully devised what is probably the biggest combined operation yet known in war. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said that his Party—so I understood him—were thinking of taking this occasion to raise the question of the need of closer international co-ordination of command. I should have thought the events of the last few days proved that such a co-ordination of command and planning is already being admirably conceived and admirably executed. At the same time, we shall, of course, look forward with the greatest possible interest to the remarks which he and his Party wish to make upon this subject at a future date.
Apart from the brilliant conception and brilliant execution of these operations, there is one other aspect to which I would 28 like to draw attention. The secret was brilliantly kept. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork, not very long ago very properly raised this question of secrecy in this House, and he will be glad to know that at the time he spoke the loading of this expedition had already been proceeding for some time, and that some ships had indeed already sailed; and yet their destination was so carefully camouflaged that no leakage occurred. I think that is satisfactory, and I hope that the House will feel that the remarks that have been made in this House at various times have been carefully and properly taken to heart.
As to the operations themselves, your Lordships will have seen the accounts in the papers. The position yesterday, roughly speaking, was this. The Allied landings had been successfully effected, and effected with no very substantial losses, at Casablanca in French Morocco, at Oran, which is now in Allied hands, and at Algiers, where, as your Lordships know, resistance has completely ceased and an armistice has been agreed and signed. Certain naval brushes have taken place both at Casablanca, at Oran, and at Algiers, but the Allied losses have not been severe in any of those actions. Airfields have been successfully occupied. Some of them are already in operational use, and enemy aircraft, as I understand, have already been successfully attacked from those airfields. Unfortunately in spite of the eloquent appeal of President Roosevelt, who made it plain that the Allied objective was the freedom of France and freedom for French territory in North Africa, the Vichy Government decided to offer resistance. I think that the arrival of General Giraud in North Africa and the broadcast which was made by General de Gaulle show clearly that the views of the Vichy Government are not the views of most right-thinking Frenchmen. At any late, I do not think that any words of mine can adequately express the deep regret which all of us in this country feel at the decision of the Vichy Government. They have, I think, missed a great chance of coming down upon the side of liberty and right.
This morning, as the House knows, we have had further far-reaching news. The Germans have decided to occupy the whole of France on the excuse that we are meditating an attack on Corsica. I think 29 that this clearly slows how very nervous they are at the situation which has developed. What the full implications of these events will be are not, I am afraid, vet known. What will be the position of the Vichy Government? What will happen to the great French naval arsenals and harbours, and the ships of war which are in them? These questions are clearly of fundamental importance to us, but I am afraid it is impossible for me to make any statement about that at the present stage. But this we can say: the situation in North Africa, at any rate, remains excellent and is developing further in our favour. In the meantime we shall, I am sure, all of us, take to heart the encouraging words about France which were spoken by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, speaking with all the authority of one who has been Ambassador in Paris.
What is to be the result of these very far-reaching operations? If they are successful, as we may hope and believe they will be, first of all they will mean the denial of North Africa to the Axis. That in itself is very important. It was indeed the immediate purpose of these operations. Then there is the further effect of rallying these territories to the Allied cause. These two results in themselves should entirely transform the strategic situation which existed before this week. We should be able in time—perhaps not immediately—to open the Mediterranean to our warships and merchant ships, and save them the immense journey round the Cape. We should be able to provide bases for the bombing of enemy ports and centres of war production. But even those great gains, important though they are, are only half the battle. What to my mind is the most important aspect of this occupation is that it should prove a jumping-off place, a springboard, from which we may stage further blows—vital and even mortal blows—at the enemy in occupied Europe. One of our greatest difficulties up to now has been to find a place from which we could hit the enemy in Europe. North Africa should provide a springboard for a European Second Front at some time in the future. These things are perhaps far ahead, but at the same time they are the issues implicit in the present operations. So much for the thrilling events of the last few days. We shall all of us wait with bated breath to see how the situation develops.
30 I should now like, if I may, to pass very briefly to rather wider issues. It seems to me that the debate on the King's Speech provides an unrivalled opportunity for a general review of the situation of this country which may enable us to take a long view of the progress of the war in which we, as well as the rest of the world, are now engaged. It is an opportunity of great value. We live in times of storm and stress. The clouds of war hang low about us, the tempest rages, and, to use what I believe is a naval expression, visibility is normally very low. As a result, we are apt in our debates to concentrate entirely on the passing events of the day. To-day we have an opportunity to look forward and—what to my mind is even more important if we are truly to assess our position—to look back and remember what the situation was one year and two rears ago compared with what it is to-day. Although there is nothing in our present position which could justify any com—placency or remission of our greatest efforts, yet it would be foolish and wrong not to recognize the astonishing change for the better which has come over our fortunes. These encouraging features are to be seen not only abroad but on the Home Front too. The production situation is better, the man-power situation is better—that is to say, we are more fully mobilized. Even the national health situation, as has been already pointed out, remains extraordinarily good. For that happy situation our thanks are due, not only to the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, but to my noble friend Lord Woolton, who has so skilfully and so charmingly persuaded us to eat less and feel better.
This improvement which we see in the domestic situation is also great in the international sphere. I have been during the last few days looking through the speeches of my predecessors in winding up the debates on the King's Speech—the speech of my noble friend Lord Halifax in 1940 and that of my noble friend Lord Moyne in 1941. I can assure your Lordships that it has been a salutary and comforting experience. The chief conclusion one draws from these two speeches is not what great errors we have made—though no doubt we have made many errors, some of them, perhaps, great errors—but the appalling blunders which have been made by our enemies. When 31 Lord Halifax spoke in 1940 we were at the very nadir of our fortunes. We stood absolutely alone in the world. It is quite true we had the sympathy of every right-thinking nation, but that sympathy, and especially the sympathy of the United States, was only just beginning to be expressed in practical form. It was in the main still merely sympathy, and it was the sort of sympathy which we feel for a man who is mortally sick and of whose recovery there is very little hope. Indeed, one cannot wonder at the attitude of other countries at that time. There was really nothing between us and defeat but the narrow waters of the Channel and the indomitable spirit of the British people. As for Russia, whose valiant fight against a brutal and savage aggressor will go down as one of the great epics of history, Russia was still neutral, and it was clear from my noble friend's speech at that time that the chief preoccupation of the Government then was in what manner the situation to the east of the. German-occupied territories was going to develop.
By the following year, 1941, a great change had come over the situation. The Axis Powers had made their first and most criminal blunder. Without warning, without only valid excuse, they had attacked Russia, with whom they were in diplomatic relations. As a result the Soviet Union became our Ally and began that heroic resistance which is still stirring the world. But even then the German Armies were still advancing. The fate of Moscow was still uncertain. Great and rich territories were being occupied, and it looked as if the blood of the brave Russian people might be shed in vain. Moreover, the United States, although she had already moved far and, like a great giant, was beginning to rouse herself, and although far-seeing people in that country were beginning to understand that this was a conflict of the vastest kind and that Nazi ambition had neither boundaries nor limits—the United States of America were not yet in the war. Then came, as your Lordships know, the second great cardinal blunder—the attack by Japan on the United States of America at Pearl Harbour, which in one day united the American people, convinced doubters of their peril, and brought them, horse, foot and artillery, into the conflict on our side. And to make more certain that that blunder 32 was absolutely complete and to ensure that the United States should not concentrate her whole efforts on the Pacific war, Hitler and Mussolini themselves also declared war upon her. I think historians of the future will find it very difficult to find reasons for such monumental ineptitude except on the basis of "Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat"
No doubt, if one was to take a short view, the Axis Powers gained considerable advantages by their treacherous behaviour. The entry of Russia and, of the United States into the war did not herald any immediate turn in the fortunes of the conflict. On the contrary, for a time, the Axis gained increased territories and increased conquests. That, after all, is not surprising. For any criminal always has initially a start over the forces of law and order. But our experience, in this country at any rate, has been that the forces of law and order always lay him by the heels in the end. That is the process which I hope is now already beginning. If we look at the situation to-day what do we find? We find that apart altogether from the important military successes in Africa, to which I have already referred, the German summer campaign in Russia has utterly failed in its main objects. Your Lordships will have read an exceedingly interesting speech by M. Stalin, a week or so ago, in which he pointed out that the strategic plan of the German High Command was to capture Moscow and to occupy the Caucasian oil fields. They have utterly failed in both those aims, in spite of an almost incredible expenditure of blood and treasure. And if the situation is better in Russia, the situation is, I think, better also in the Pacific, to which one noble Lord referred this afternoon. No doubt, the position in the Solomons and in New Guinea is more favourable than seemed probable some week ago.
And if the Axis has failed to achieve their objectives in military operations, they have also failed to weaken the bonds that link together the United Nations. In the speech to which I have already referred, M. Stalin, while stressing his anxiety, which everybody can understand, for a Second Front—an anxiety which I hope will be already beginning to be relieved—emphasized Russia's faithful adherence both to the Anglo-Soviet Treaty and to our agreements with 33 the United States of America. I should like to say to-day that His Majesty's Government fully share his view as to the essential importance to the world of both these instruments. Equally important are our relations with the United States of America, on which to most of us it must seem the future of peace or war must ultimately depend. Here, too, I think, we have every reason for satisfaction. The Atlantic Charter, the Mutual Aid Agreement, the presence of great numbers of United States troops on British soil and, finally, the visit of Mrs. Rcosevelt, whom we have so warmly welcomed during the last week, are all evidences of a unity of view and of the close co-operation which exist to-day between our two countries. I think this is in no small measure due to the personality of President Roosevelt himself. His courage, his wisdom, his broad humanity have undoubtedly made him one of the outstanding figures of modern history.
Then there is the position of the Republic of China, the first of the great Powers to enter the lists on the side of liberty. Savagely attacked as she has been, and docked as she has been of some of her richest provinces, her resistance has continued absolutely undaunted. Noble Lords will have seen within the last week or so that His Majesty's Government, in collaboration with the United States of America, have recently announced the intention of relinquishing the extra-territorial rights which they enjoy in Chinese territories and that negotiations ace already proceeding in Chungking for that end. I think we all of us feel that thee rights have now become an anachronism. It is the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government that these negotiations which have been started shall reach a satisfactory conclusion and may prove to be one more link between us and our great Ally.
Apart from these three great Powers, we have standing at our side the Allied Governments established in London. Exiled from their own countries, watching their own lands oppressed and tortured, these Governments have shown a courage, a constancy and a dignity which have won the admiration of the world. I hope that it may soon be their fortune to return to their countries, for the liberation and freedom of which they have made such sacrifices. I would also remind your 34 Lordships of the South American countries. Since last year there has been a great improvement in that area, and to-day almost all those great countries are now standing in the ranks of the United Nations. We warmly welcome their adhesion to the Allied cause.
Last, and to us much the most important ant of all, come the countries of the British Empire, the self-governing Dominions of His Majesty overseas and those Dependencies which have not yet obtained self-government. Of these I do not propose to speak at any length to-day. I hope to have the opportunity to pay a fuller tribute at an early date. But I would say this: It is not in times of peace and prosperity, it is not in the good times, that the greatness of a nation or an Empire shows itself. It is in bad times, when things are hard and difficult. That is the fiery test through which the British Empire has passed and it has pàssed that test triumphantly. In 194o when, as I have said, all the world except ourselves believed us beaten, neither the great self-governing Dominions of the King nor the non-self-governing territories showed any sign of breaking away, of division or even of weakness. On the contrary, one and all were hardened in Weir resolution. The common danger to the British way of life, the way of life which they have learnt to value, welded them all closer together. And the nearer they were to the enemy the stauncher became their spirit, as is shown by the glorious story of Malta to which the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, referred so eloquently this afternoon. So far as the Colonial peoples, for whom I am for the moment responsible, are concerned, I regard it as a solemn duty to see, to use the words of the gracious Speech, that their standards shall be raised and their conditions improved. My Lords, the British Empire is not dead, it is not dying, it is not even going into a decline. The British Empire is not a static institution; it is a dynamic institution. It is constantly developing; it is constantly growing up. And now, I firmly believe, it is entering on a newer and fuller life, in harmony with those principles which inspire the Atlantic Charter. A great time is coming for the British Empire, and I hope that all British people who care for the Empire, as I know your Lordships do, will lose no opportunity of sustaining it.
35 Such is the mighty army which has been marshalled against the enemy. It comprises, as your Lordships know, nations of all races, all creeds, united by their love of liberty. But that great combination—and I would emphasize this—has only been made possible by the fact that we stood firm in 1940. If we had not made that stand, that glittering company would not have existed. The Axis would have overrun Europe and Africa and a large part of Asia, and the remaining Powers would have had no jumping off place from which they could return to the attack. I think it right that we who live in this country should remember and recognize that fact.
The battle is not yet won. We are surrounded still by many and great dangers. There is the submarine danger. That remains serious indeed. The U-boat menace is by no means defeated and must remain one of the chief preoccupations of the Government. Moreover, though the German military machine may have been battered, it certainly has not been shattered. It still straddles a very large part of the world; it still presses on occupied countries, and still perpetrates unimaginable horrors on the miserable peoples under its sway. The most reverend Primate has drawn attention this afternoon to the unhappy plight of the Jews in France. I need not assure him of the deepest sympathy of His Majesty's Government for the motive which inspires him. But I am not clear what the most reverend Primate would like His Majesty's Government to do. If he suggests that visas should be given to unlimited numbers of people to come to this country I should he most unwilling to give him any guarantee on that point. He must know, as every noble Lord must know, the complexity of this problem. We. live on an island dependent on outside supplies. We have a huge population, which has been increased by Dominion and United States troops, and we have already in this country over 80,000 refugees of over sixteen years of age. With the best will in the world it is not possible in such circumstances to offer asylum to a further unlimited number of people. It just cannot be done.
We have already, as I have explained, made a great effort. Nor has the effort of the Empire as a whole been less impres- 36 sive. I do not think it is generally realized that India alone is maintaining over 400,000 evacuees at the present time, and that the East African Colonies—who have normally a white population of 30,000—are now maintaining close on 100,000 additional white people, principally refugees, but including also a number of Italian prisoners. There is a limit to what is practically possible. I can, however, tell your Lordships that His Majesty's Government have now agreed that, in addition to those who are already here, they will admit Jewish children from Occupied France—this decision I may say was taken before the events of this morning—who have lost their parents and who have a near relative here to whom they can come. In addition, I myself have been in communication with the High Commissioner of Palestine to find out whether he can take any more, and I have received a reply from him saying he is willing to take 1,000 children if they can be got there. It is a very difficult problem, as I know the most reverend Primate recognizes, and it will unfortunately be made more difficult by the news we have heard tins morning. But I can assure him that what can be done, will be done, and that His Majesty's Government, as I say, have the utmost sympathy with the motive which inspired him to raise the question this afternoon.
I have spoken a very long time. I have dealt with the past and the present. But it may be said that I have said nothing about the future. Indeed, I think he would be a rash man who prophesied when or how victory will be achieved, or what exactly will be the situation after the war. But I can assure your Lordships that His Majesty's Government are giving attention to this situation both in the international and in the domestic spheres. Of that there is evidence in the Atlantic Charter, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, referred in eloquent terms. There is evidence also in the negotiations which are taking place between the United States and ourselves and other Allied countries on post-war relief and other aspects of the post-war situation. There is, finally, also evidence in the examination which is going on by His Majesty's Government, through the Paymaster-General's organization, of various domestic problems affecting reconstruction in the post-war period. This includes such subjects as compensation 37 and betterment in respect of public control of the use of land and land utilization in rural areas, and the all important question of education, to which reference is made in the gracious Speech. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said he regretted that no mention was made of legislation. To him I would reply that legislation is not ruled out. But surely it is necessary first to have adequate consideration of the important Reports on these subjects. To announce that the Government are going to produce legislation without having given full consideration to the Reports would certainly be putting the cart before the horse.
At any rate, I agree with him and other noble Lords that whatever are our preoccupations as to the present we cannot afford to ignore the future. We were not ready for the war; we have got to be ready, as far as we can, for the peace. We may have passed the turn of the tide or we may not, but at least we may hope that the poisoned waters of Nazism will not rise any further. We in this country haw endured, in the last three years, a terrible and a testing time. There are some things for which we must be humbly grateful; there are Borne things of which we may be humbly proud. In this fourth year of war I hope that these things will not he forgotten.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.