§ Bill, pro forma, read 1a.5
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HIS MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH.
§ The King's Speech reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ VISCOUNT COWDRAY
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I greatly appreciate the honour which my noble friend the Leader of the House has done me in inviting me to move this Motion, but I would not be disclosing the whole truth were I not to admit that his invitation caused me also considerable trepidation. My task is, however, easier inasmuch as after such a long series of victories without any major setbacks the question whether His Majesty's Government are running the war efficiently is no longer a matter of controversy. Nothing succeeds like success, so the prestige of the Government is rightly very high. At the same time we must always remember that these successes could not have been achieved without the great courage and endurance of all the men of His Majesty's Armed Forces, which have never been lacking in good times and in bad.
There is, however, a certain impatience in the country. This is no doubt primarily due to the fact that whereas not much more than a year ago we were almost surprised if we were not retreating everywhere at a rapid pace, now we are equally surprised if we are not advancing just as rapidly. But it appears to those of us who are not in a position to know all the facts that the rate of advance in Italy is unaccountably slow and I have seen it aptly described as "inching forward." Assuming that we are there employing only a relatively small number of American and British divisions, we wonder what the rest of the Allied divisions are doing, and we wonder, too, what is happening to the Ninth Army, and whether that mystery Army is perhaps only a ghost after all. Certainly the few units that I happen to know as members of it find it hard to understand why they, fully trained and battle experienced as they are, are not allowed to show their worth. And one sometimes wonders as well what has been going on in the Dodecanese, and whether it was right to sacrifice our gallant troops at Cos and Leros to a seemingly hopeless cause.
6 These apparent shortcomings are no doubt exaggerated by the stupendous pace and success of the great offensive of our brave Russian Allies, who have fought so magnificently for over two years. At the same time, in fairness to ourselves, it must be remembered that their success must have been considerably influenced by the vast quantities of materials that have been supplied to them by the Americans and ourselves, and carried to them by the ships of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy and, no doubt, the American Navy. Most of us would like to know the answer to all these things, but we must abide in patience, for whatever we say now cannot affect the plans for the immediate future, which must be already laid and, doubtless, are already in progress. So I for one am content to continue my trust in His Majesty's Government under their great leader the Prime Minister, in the sure hope that before long all our doubts will be thrown to the four winds by the news of another great offensive operation, as they were at the time of the North African landings.
It is fitting that the most gracious Speech should lay considerable emphasis on post-war affairs, because the country is most determined not to be unprepared for the peace as it was unprepared for the war; and so, whilst we must always remember that the winning of the war is our first and overriding interest, we are entitled, nay it is our duty, to turn our thoughts for a time to post-war affairs, both at home and abroad. Two substantial milestones have recently been entrenched. The Moscow Conference was a most substantial milestone in foreign affairs and has, we all hope, laid the foundations of a better world order. But it is on post-war affairs at home that I would like to dwell. The substantial milestone at home is my noble friend Lord Wool-ton. The appointment of Lord Woolton as Minister of Reconstruction is a major move in planning at home, and I am sure your Lordships would wish to congratulate both the Prime Minister on his choice and the noble Lord on his selection. The noble Lord may well feel that instead of congratulating him we should condole with him because his is a gigantic task— one in which he has to sail uncharted and treacherous waters. But at least your Lordships should be well pleased at the appointment—firstly, because the noble 7 Lord by his previous record as Minister of Food has shown himself well equipped for his new task; and secondly, because a member of your Lordships' House has been entrusted with such a vastly important office.
The primary duty of the new Minister of Reconstruction will be, I suppose, to give effect to the four-year-plans envisaged by the Prime Minister in his great broadcast speech some months ago. It is therefore very satisfactory to learn from the most gracious Speech that plans will shortly be completed for the provision of food, homes and employment. If decent homes with reasonably assured employment and plenty of food at prices within the means of all classes can be provided, then at least the most elementary needs of our people will have been satisfied. But these are generalities and it would perhaps be right to consider the problems in greater detail. After the keeping of the peace, an assured employment for all men capable of and willing to work must be our primary aim. The "dole" is an essential part of our social security system, but its real object should be to take care of those people who are temporarily unemployed owing to the normal fluctuations of supply and demand in the various industries. That it had before the war to take care of millions of permanent unemployed was a terrible reflection on our inability to organize ourselves properly. May we pray that we can so organize ourselves after the war that the "dole" is truly an insurance against transitional unemployment and not an admission that it is only in war-time that we can use to the best advantage our great and skilled labour force.
The provision of housing and the rebuilding of our war-damaged cities is a slightly less difficult problem. Indeed the building programme which it will entail will of itself help to provide full and useful employment, which, I repeat, is the one essential around which our post-war planning must be built. The chief problem to be surmounted is to reach agreement on the important but somewhat controversial Reports issued by the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt Committees. I find myself in agreement with many of their recommendations, but, not unnaturally, there are some with which I do not agree. From 8 the somewhat cautious attitude His Majesty's Government have adopted towards them I suspect that they find themselves in much the same position. To go into these controversial matters further on this occasion would be out of place, but I feel that it would not be improper for me to state that in my opinion a primary aim should be to provide all dwellings, both urban and rural, with a piped water supply, inside sanitation, bath and electricity—not only the new houses which are to be built but also the existing dwellings.
I am not sure whether the provision of food comes within the terms of reference of the new Minister of Reconstruction, but if perchance it does he may find this one of his simpler problems. But what is to be our post-war agricultural policy? I confess I was a little disappointed to find no indication in the most gracious Speech of a long-term agricultural policy being produced in the near future. It is generally agreed that agriculture cannot be let down again after this war, and we have heard recently of a four-year plan for agriculture. But I do hope that His Majesty's Government will table before long a long-term agricultural policy. And I venture to say that, having read most carefully the many plans for agriculture after the war which have reached me, it is the report of a private committee of your Lordships' House that seems to me to be the most practical.
The most gracious Speech indicates that proposals will, shortly be laid before Parliament for the reconstruction of our national system of education. That our education system requires drastic overhaul is generally agreed. It is therefore good that the Government have found it possible to put forward their proposals. Further than this I shall not venture because to my mind the discussion of education, like that of India, is a matter for experts, and I am no expert on either. Nor do I claim to be a scholar and it is perhaps for this reason that I feel that the dead languages should take a lesser part in our education system, so as to give more time for practical and scientific subjects.
I have left to the last the Beveridge Report in regard to which I understand His Majesty's Government will put forward their proposals in due course. I do not know what these proposals will be, 9 but I expect they will go a long way towards accepting the Beveridge proposals though probably they will not accept them in toto. This I think is a wise course. Assuredly we must not allow undernourishment and want, unemployment and illness to flourish as they did before the war; but also we must keep our sense of proportion. Ideals are one thing; what is practical is unfortunately often another thing. Let us endeavour so to arrange matters that practicability is brought as near as possible to idealism, and above all let us remember that it is only by ensuring full and useful employment—as indeed Sir William Beveridge himself emphasizes —that idealism can be achieved. We are living in changing times and for the time being many of us have had to compromise our ideas for the sake of national unity and the common cause. But the greatness of our Parliamentary system is based on our readiness to compromise in time of danger. May we continue to retain our spirit of compromise in the difficult days that lie ahead.
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 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 had addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Viscount Cowdray.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF NORMANBY
My Lords, it is a great honour to have been asked to second the Motion which has been moved so ably by the noble Viscount. That I should have been entrusted with this responsible task is a demonstration of the thought and attention so generously given by your Lordships to all those who have been, and still 10 are, prisoners of war, and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, for this compliment to me as one of those prisoners of war of His Majesty's Armed Forces, who have had to suffer a check in their endeavours towards victory. In addressing your Lordships I am subject to the disadvantage of lack of experience, for this is the first time that I have had the honour of speaking in your Lordships' House, and I must ask for the indulgence which your Lordships extend to those who speak for the first time in this House. I suffer also from lack of knowledge of current thought owing to my confinement in a prison camp since the days of Dunkirk.
Your Lordships will have welcomed the stress which has been laid by the most gracious Speech on the first task of His Majesty's Government—the prosecution of the war until final victory is achieved. As the years have gone by we have learnt through bitter experience to appreciate and not to under-estimate the enormous force of the enemy which has been accumulated towards one end—the final and lasting annihilation of all opposition to the Nazi machine. It is difficult to assess with any accuracy the strength of the enemy from the narrow confines and limited horizon of a prison camp, and to maintain a balance between the very strange mixture of lies and truth which form the German newspaper propaganda. I am, however, most firmly convinced that behind the still existing military forces of great magnitude there do lie a determination and a faith based on a desperate instinct of self-preservation. Since my arrival in this country, I confess that I have remarked with some concern what appeared to be an undue interest in the morale of the enemy, but the words of the Prime Minister have relegated these unproductive though attractive speculations to their proper place. It would not be unreasonable, I think, to say that the mind of the average German has been accustomed, having no alternative, to the very severe hardships required by the totalitarian demands of its leader, in very much the same way as prisoners submit and grow accustomed to the hardships and restrictions of confinement. How long the toll of war losses, damage, ensuing hardships and restrictions can be sustained 11 must ultimately depend upon our opposing concentration of force. An instance of this force is now beginning to be felt keenly in Germany, through the destructive work of the Allied Air Forces in their intensified bombing attacks.
As this country now moves from the defensive to the offensive it will, I know, be your Lordships' desire and endeavour to aid in the production of a still greater effort than any shown in the past, for the need for final victory increases as time proceeds. The peoples of Europe are suffering a state of existence scarcely to be believed by the majority in this country, and we know from fact, as also from the Nazi spokesmen themselves, that Germany does not hesitate to ransack and deprive all the captive countries to replenish her own resources. The heartening discussions and the atmosphere of combined trust of the Moscow Conference, will encourage His Majesty's Government to explore with renewed confidence solutions for the resettlement of Europe to which the gracious Speech has referred, and to plan upon a practical scale which can be successfully brought into operation, the relief for these occupied countries during the transition period between war and peace. We welcome whole-heartedly the report of the InterAllied Committee which publishes in definite figures the minimum requirements for post-war relief in Europe. The people of this and other relatively prosperous countries are ready to face the sacrifices necessary to supply these wants, and the publication now of facts and figures stimulates rather than depresses. The public realize more easily the gravity of the situation, and the need for these sacrifices through facts, which, when published, speak for themselves. The stemming of the advances in the East has been achieved, but far greater reserves of men and material will be required to launch and maintain the offensive of the United Nations, while the already numerous problems referred to in the most gracious Speech must increase in proportion with the duration of the war.
Your Lordships will have noticed that provision for training and employment of disabled persons will be asked for in the near future. This problem requires scientific and constructive investigation, and the experience gained from the needs of the wounded and disabled who have 12 returned to this country during the last few years must be utilized to determine future provision needed for their employment and rehabilitation. The difference in the immediate reinstatement to civil employment of persons discharged from His Majesty's Armed Forces on active service and those discharged from prison camps, will, I am sure, be marked. The former have lived a life of controlled activity towards a definite goal; the letter a life of enforced inactivity or of aimless work for the enemy. Many thousands of these prisoners of war in Germany will require a progressive training to re-accustom them to normal concentration and regular hours of work, if they are to hold the jobs which they obtain when they are discharged, and it may be surmised that the lot of those who are imprisoned in the Far East will require similar if not further assistance. I feel that your Lordships would wish to know that the loyalty and devotion to His Majesty of all prisoners of war in Germany has been, and is, of the highest possible order. It would not be out of place to mention separately the endurance of the Indian prisoners who have undergone additional hardships of food and climate and intensified propaganda. The welcome given to the repatriated prisoners of war came from the heart of the nation. I should like to say how it was appreciated by men of all ranks.
I have not been home long enough to examine the merits of the recent arguments about ex-Service men, but I have seen that there has been a certain amount of controversy. Considering the very substantial rise in wages which has taken place, I feel certain that your Lordships will view with concern the small rise that has taken place in the pensions which are being paid to those who were disabled in the last war and in the present war. I have noticed that as a result of Parliamentary pressure the Government have made substantial concessions earlier this year, but I warn them that there is still a considerable amount of discontent among ex-Service men about the rates of payment, the conditions under which they are paid and the delay over the settlement of claims.
The gracious Speech referred to the proposed reconstruction of the national education system in England and Wales. This educational programme will form the 13 main foundation for satisfactory maintenance of peace when this war is over and will determine the right trend of social legislation in the future. It is desirable to ensure that proper emphasis will be given in education to the relationship of the evolved individual to his or her environment and presented culture, which, at the present time, is only just beginning to receive attention. In the words of the Secretary of State for the Colonies there is a "tendency for emphasis to be placed on the value of education as the path to a job, rather than as an uneconomic benefit for the individual." Your Lordships have witnessed the results of education based on the suppression of the intellect for materialistic ends, and we are at present engaged in fighting this system brought to its logical conclusion by Nazi educationists. The maintenance of free thought can be of value only if we are concerned with training that ought to be clear and objective, and this is only facilitated, not created, by improved conditions and higher school leaving age.
There is a strong note of intensified unity and confidence in our increasing force when the gracious Speech refers to the devoted efforts throughout the Commonwealth and Empire which are producing a mounting scale of war effort. The appointment by His Majesty of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester as Governor-General of Australia is most warmly welcomed on all sides and is a demonstration of the earnest desire for closer relationship and co-operation between ourselves and the Commonwealth. Never before in history have we been presented with such an opportunity for strengthening the bonds of the Empire as at this time, for by the far-reaching attacks of the enemy the interdependency of its units has been acknowledged as a reality.
Aerial expansion has joined up vast areas of land and has prepared the way for developments where hitherto this was impossible. It would appear of first importance that full attention should now be given to the peopling of these lands, in order that a balanced and well thought out scheme for emigration might be prepared in conjunction and close co-operation with the countries concerned. The importance and necessity of post-war planning in houses, employment, industry, mining and agriculture at home can- 14 not be over-estimated, but these cannot be solved in a basic manner without the inclusion of the vast problems of the undeveloped lands of our Empire. This inclusion would in no way add to the task of post-war planning at home but would help to solve mutual difficulties between ourselves and the Empire, and in many cases their requirements would provide a complement to our own. If this problem could be included and viewed in the same perspective with our home reconstruction plans, His Majesty's Government would be able to present some form of concrete proposals to the many persons who do undoubtedly desire to make their future homes in the Empire when they have been discharged from their present wartime occupations. No more practical manner could be found in which to realize your Lordships' concern for the continuance in our Empire, by British subjects, of those standards of freedom and thought which we are striving and fighting to keep alive.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, I am sure it will be agreed on all sides of your Lordships' House that it was a happy thought on the part of the Leader of the House to call upon the two noble Lords who have moved and seconded the Address to open this discussion to-day. I think that everyone of us who has listened to their speeches has been impressed— certainly I have been impressed—with a sense of the nearness to realities which the two noble Lords presented to us. They have come straight from the strife and they have presented us not only with a picture of present needs but with a prospect for the future, and I would like to say that I am sure every one who has listened to the inspiring speeches which they have delivered to us will sincerely hope, seeing their age, that hereafter in the service of peace they will be able to render us an equal help.
I do not propose to introduce a controversial note into what I have to say on this occasion, although I shall have some questions to ask. I think we should have welcomed in the early part of the gracious Speech some reference to our great Ally China, particularly because there is, I believe, on the way now a Mission of good will from China to this country. We all remember the very interesting discussion which we had in this House, taken part in by noble Lords who themselves 15 had been members of our Mission to China. I am sure His Majesty's Government are concerned now in seeing that the best of British welcomes will be afforded to our Chinese friends when they get here.
I must draw attention to certain words in the paragraph in the gracious Speech relating to the settlement in Europe. As was shown in a recent discussion, every one of us welcomes the immense possibilities which must flow from the Moscow Conference, but I notice in the gracious Speech these words:My Government, taking counsel with my Allies and building upon the foundations laid at the recent Conference in Moscow, will devote continuous attention to the study of plans for the future settlement of Europe.It is to the last two words "of Europe" that I want to draw attention, because we must be aware that whilst Europe unfortunately seems to possess an unusual crop of the seeds of war, the prevention of war in the future, and the security of peace, must necessarily take account of things all over the world and not be confined to the continent of Europe.
I was rather glad that the noble Viscount who moved the Address made some reference to what has happened in the Dodecanese, and I hope the Conference at Moscow will form the beginning of inter-Allied Staff work of the best kind, but I confess to have shared the disappointment expressed by the mover of the Address regarding our recent experience in the Dodecanese islands. If the noble Viscount who will speak on behalf of the Government can tell us—if he thinks it desirable—anything about this matter, I am sure we should welcome it. I will not pursue the subject further now, but it is one which I am sure is prominent in the minds of all of us and it looks to be a regrettable piece of work.
There is another limitation of a very important character, to which I would direct your Lordships' attention, in the long paragraph beginning "At the same time my Ministers." But, in order that your Lordships may be clear as to what it is that I am going to refer to, I will venture to read the passage. It runs:… my Ministers will complete their provisional plans for the period of transition through which we must pass before the troubled times of war give place to settled conditions of peace. It will be the primary aim of my Government to ensure that in this 16 period food, homes and employment are provided for my people …and so on. Your Lordships will notice that the provision of plans and the indication of the actions to be taken are directed to the difficulties that will arise in the transitional period. And even so there are limiting words relating to the ensuring of food, homes and employment in the transitional period. I hope that His Majesty's Government are looking a little beyond the transitional period in some of these vital matters. In that respect I would like to associate myself with what the noble Viscount said as to the appointment of the Minister of Reconstruction and to join in congratulating Lord Woolton on being chosen for the post. I earnestly hope that Lord Woolton will achieve the same success in that position as he did at the Ministry of Food. I earnestly hope also that, should occasion arise, he will not hesitate to ask for necessary powers. I have had some personal, and perhaps, to some extent, painful experience of that business, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will insist on having necessary powers and the best staff that the Civil Service can provide; he will need them, I am sure.
To revert, however, to the criticism I was making with regard to the words "period of transition," I am sure that our plans for industry, and certainly our plans for agriculture, must look far beyond a period of transition. Certainly, it must be the case in providing homes for the people, although it is true of course that the period of transition may be said, perhaps, to cover a long time. At all events, it will take a long time unless drastic methods different from those used hitherto to provide homes for the people are adopted. It is a long business, and therefore I hope we shall obtain some assurance that in these vital matters relating to the provision of food and homes for the people, His Majesty's Government are not unduly limiting themselves, in their thought to the transitional period. Certainly it is essential also that there should be no such limitation with regard to the provision of work, and I was so glad that noble Lords just now referred to the removal of the causes of wholesale unemployment as being essential in our post-war plans.
Your Lordships will notice that there are only two matters definitely promised 17 for legislation. There is first, we are told, to be legislation affecting education, and secondly legislation conferring special powers with regard to the redevelopment of areas damaged by enemy action and so on. I have no doubt that opportunities will arise for the discussion of both these matters. Indeed, I am quite sure that opportunities will arise, and in that respect, perhaps, it would not be out of place for me to mention that I believe notices are already on the Paper to initiate discussions on these matters early next month. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be afforded an opportunity of saying what he has to say on the subject, but I for one shall not embarrass him by expecting very much, at that stage, from him, though we are disappointed—at any rate I am—that His Majesty's Government, after this long period, in respect of certain matters can only promise legislation on those two.
I would now draw your Lordships' attention to a delightful paragraph which if it were not in the gracious Speech I should perhaps animadvert upon in different terms. Let me read it:My Ministers will present to you their views and proposals regarding an enlarged and unified system of social insurance, a comprehensive health service and a new scheme of workmen's compensation ….Your Lordships will notice that we are promised an expression of the Ministers' views and proposals. The paragraph goes on:and they will decide, in the light of your discussions what specific proposals for legislation on these matters can be brought forward at this stage.At all events, that is not what you would describe as very heroic. It certainly promises quite a crop of White Papers; it certainly means ever so many White Papers, and when they Have been published they will be the subject of Parliamentary discussion. We have had quite a number of White Papers on each one of these subjects already and prolonged and repeated Parliamentary discussions upon them. As I say, it does not seem to me to be very heroic that after two years all we can be promised is that we shall be provided with various White Papers, which we shall be privileged to discuss, and that His Majesty's Government will think about it afterwards. That really is all that that amounts to.
18 Perhaps the noble Viscount will be able to give us a little encouragement, but as an old Parliamentary hand I should say that there is very little in it so far as that paragraph is concerned. I would direct your Lordships' attention to the next sentence but one. It is perhaps a little more promising, and it relates to a subject in regard to which this House, I am sure, is historically very conscious.My Government will lay before you the results of their examination of the Reports which have been made recommending the assumption of further powers to control and direct the use of the land of Great Britain.There again we are not promised any proposals. We arc promised the result of their examination of the Reports. That might mean very little, or it might mean a lot. I hope that the noble Viscount will tell us something of what it does mean, because this is a fundamental matter. These Reports, the Uthwatt Report and others, have been before us for a long time, and no progress can be made with respect to planning or re-equipping agriculture, or determining the suitable location of industry, unless a clear and definite policy with regard to the land is arrived at and embodied in legislation. That is absolutely fundamental. I hope that your Lordships—although there are divergencies of view between us, no doubt, as to the methods which might be adopted— will not lose any opportunity of urging upon the Government the necessity of coming to a decision of some kind on this matter.
There are two omissions in the gracious Speech to which I should like to refer, though I do not propose to dwell upon them. There is no reference to the subject of India, and there is no reference to another subject which I believe is of great importance—the decisions with regard to post-war policy on matters of transport, and especially with regard to shipping. It is of great consequence that as soon as possible decisions should be arrived at as to policy in those matters.
It is quite evident, from a very cursory review of this most significant Speech, that there will be abundant opportunity in the near future for your Lordships to make your characteristic and valuable contributions to the public examination of great matters. Those matters are very numerous, and some of them are very urgent. Although I have tried to express, I hope not with any measure of acerbity, 19 a certain amount of disappointment in some respects, I do welcome, and I think that we all welcome, this perhaps tardy and insufficient indication that the Government are resolved forthwith to prepare for dealing with the urgent problems which make the future ominous and yet so full of promise. The disgrace of wholesale unemployment and needless poverty and all that belongs to it can be removed, and I think the nation has proved that it is worthy of our best efforts. The tasks which lie before us assuredly will require, and I hope will receive, the same courageous, broad-minded, and united resolution that the war has called for.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, it is in accordance with precedent that a few words should be said from this quarter of the House in tribute to the mover and seconder of the Address, if indeed they merit such a tribute. My words will be very few, but not because in this case the mover and seconder have failed. Indeed, in the course of what is almost as long an experience of Parliamentary life as that of my noble friend Lord Addison, I have never heard two better speeches, nor two speeches which have affected one so much when one reflects what the speakers have been through before they addressed us. They give us a vivid realization of what our Forces on land and sea and in the air are going through at this moment. I think that it is in the mind of every member of this House to say that these two noble Lords may rest assured that we do most heartily congratulate them on being here safe and sound after the terrible ordeal through which they both have been. It is not much fun to have one's arm shot off by a machine gun—at least, so I am informed by those with experience—and to see the mover none the worse for the experience, and indeed all the better from the point of view of speaking, is a great pleasure to all his friends and colleagues. I would also add my tribute to the seconder. The way in which he has pleaded the cause of the prisoners of war, when the time comes for them to return, and the fact that, as we all know, he threw himself whole-heartedly into the work for blinded prisoners, work which we acknowledge here with gratitude, show that he is just the man to help 20 your Lordships in the future consideration of these problems.
When I read the gracious Speech— which I had an opportunity of seeing a moment or two before it was delivered— the same point occurred to me that has been mentioned by the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition. I would put it in this way. This is not an occasion when we make serious criticisms of the Government, but I feel sure that the Government intend to give the impression that they know that the war is now going so much better that we must be ready for peace, and that they, a resolute band of men, are determined to go forward without delay to provide homes, food and work for all. I hope and believe that that is so. I should like to join with everyone else in paying a tribute to the Government for having chosen the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, to carry out this work; and I would say to the noble Lord that in all my long Parliamentary experience I never knew a Minister who almost at one stroke achieved the confidence of the people as he did. He talked to them on the wireless as if he knew each one who was listening. He has "a way with him." He never uses a long word when a short one will do. He undertook the most unpopular job possible, and emerged the most popular man. If he will give even half of those brilliant gifts which he showed as Minister of Food to this task of reconstruction, he may rest assured that all of us on these Benches, and no doubt elsewhere, will be united in giving him all possible support in the great task which lies before him.
With infinite respect, however, to my noble friend who will reply, the Government have not made a very good start in the paragraphs to which reference has been made. I discussed them with Lord Crewe, who is unfortunately unable to be present, and we kept on wondering exactly when legislation is going to be introduced. There is a strange phrase to the effect that what the Government do afterwards is going to depend on what we say here. That is a very dark saying, a really deep mystery. I hope that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will make it plain that in this matter of reconstruction the Government are not going to wait until we have finished talking about it here before they make their proposals, but that they have made up their minds about such matters as houses 21 and how to build them, and water-supply and how to give it. We hope that this band of resolute men is determined to do these things, and if the noble Viscount can tell us that that is so we shall be very grateful.
I shall say no more, because I do not think that your Lordships would wish anyone to prolong the proceedings. After the speeches to which we have listened from the mover and the seconder, to which well-deserved tributes have already been paid, we feel very much in our hearts to-day that we are here to try to help the men who are fighting in this desperate struggle, often in circumstances of the most terrible stress, a stress to which mankind has hardly ever been subjected before. Perhaps I may be permitted to say, however, how glad all those who have had to do with the Royal Navy will be at the special reference made in the Speech to the mastery of the U-boats. I suppose most of your Lordships have friends or relatives engaged in that arduous service of hunting U-boats, and, my word, to see these young men of all classes, as I have done, apparently quite oblivious of the immense dangers they are running, and equally oblivious of the wonderful services they are rendering to the State, makes one realize that they do merit a special word of commendation in the gracious Speech. We rejoice that it has been given, and we are glad, too, that reference is made to the achievements of all our fighting men. We feel it only just to say that, although there are setbacks, like those at Samos and Leros and elsewhere, they only bring into higher relief in these last few months the fact that the Allied strategy has been well conceived, and carried out with great vigour and courage by the Army, Navy and Air Force. We commend the Government for what they have done, and we hope they will continue and prosper.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
My Lords, the opening of a new Session of Parliament is always a distinguished occasion, and to-day our meeting, I think, bears especially the mark of the times in which we live. Both the noble Lords who have moved and seconded the humble Address have fought in this war, as was said by Lord Addison, and both of them give 22 proof in their persons of the sacrifices which they have made for their country. They are evidence, living evidence, that members of this House, no less than the other elements of the British nation, are making contributions to the common effort and to the common sacrifice. The noble Viscount, Lord Cowdray, we have already heard on an earlier occasion, and to-day we heard him for the second time. Again he made a most admirable speech, thoughtful and sensible, under what I think he himself confessed was a rather trying ordeal, and I should like to congratulate him on behalf of all your Lordships on the notable way in which he acquitted himself. I hope very much that he will continue to be a regular contributor to your Lordships' debates.
I should also like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the noble Marquess, Lord Normanby, for the impressive maiden speech we heard this afternoon. It was one of the most remarkable maiden efforts we have heard in your Lordships' House for many a long day. I know that the House listened to the noble Marquess's account of both the conditions and the problems of the British, Dominion, and Indian prisoners of war in Germany, and also to the conclusions which he himself drew, as a prisoner of war, with regard to the situation in the Reich, with that attention which it always accords to those who speak with the conviction of personal experience. I am sure noble Lords will wish me to express here our gratitude to him for the part which he has personally played in alleviating the lot of his fellow prisoners. He has made to-day a contribution worthy of the highest traditions of your Lordships' House, and I hope we shall hear him, too, again on an early occasion.
It is the custom for the spokesman of His Majesty's Government, who speaks on the occasion of the debate on the most gracious Speech, to give a short review of the situation both at home and abroad, and in particular to discuss those items in the gracious Speech to which reference has been made in the debate. It may seem rather paradoxical for me to say so, but in present circumstances there really is not very much new that I can say to your Lordships. In time of war, as we all know, this House is mainly occupied with debates on Motions on various questions of public policy, and so active are the minds 23 of your Lordships, and so catholic are your interests, that there is practically no aspect of public affairs which has not recently been the subject of a declaration of Government policy. I lately looked up the debates of the last two or three months, and what did I find? I found that, among many other subjects, the debates covered the following questions: demobilization, education, agriculture (we had three debates on various aspects of agriculture), planning powers, the war situation, post-war civil air transport, inland transport, the structure of the Government of the Commonwealth and Empire, coal, the Uthwatt Report, and last but not least, the Moscow Conference. In addition, I understand from what the noble Lord, Lord Addison, said this afternoon that he is proposing to table a general Motion on the question of reconstruction, so as to enable the new Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, whom we all so warmly welcome in his new position, to expound his views, and I am quite certain that the House will not expect me, with much less authority, to anticipate what he is going to say.
As a result, that does not leave an enormous amount for me to talk about this afternoon, at any rate on home affairs. It may, of course, be said that there is always something new about the war. In a great struggle of this character, of course, the situation is continually developing; it alters from week to week, from day to day. But in fact there have been no very startling changes since the House met. The first paragraph of the most gracious Speech gave your Lordships a brief and vivid account of the present position. I can amplify what is said in the Speech, but I cannot effectively add anything. In Italy, as your Lordships know, the British and American Armies are moving steadily forward. It is not rapid progress of the type we used to be accustomed to in North Africa. That is inevitable, because the terrain is utterly different. It is mountainous and unsuited for the mobile mechanical warfare which was the medium of the victories of the Eighth and First Armies earlier this year. Moreover, in winter the climate, especially in the mountains of Italy, is detestable, with snow, rain and floods, more even than we have in this country. Nature, in fact, is all on the side of the defender. But in spite of those 24 handicaps the Allied Armies are advancing, and they are now within seventy miles of Rome. I understand the military authorities on the spot are entirely satisfied with the progress. They think it is the best that could have been hoped for in the circumstances.
Equally, on the Russian Front the German Armies are being steadily driven back. Even if the Russians have some local setbacks, just as we have had setbacks in the Aegean—setbacks of which I propose to say a little more later on— still, at the end of each week, I think the Russians are, broadly speaking, always to be found, over the whole length of the front, further forward than they were before. Indeed, the progress of the Russian campaign speaks for itself. Day after day we get full communiqués painting a vivid picture of the brilliant strategy of the Russian generals. They show how the German High Command who are frantically moving their forces from north to south, then from south to north, have been unable to stem the flood of the Russian advance, although they can, of course, as it were, dent it in certain areas. That Russian advance has reminded me, and I expect has reminded your Lordships, of a sight we often see along our own coasts when the tide is coming in, creeping on, now here and now there. First it fills the creeks and channels, the lower levels, leaving behind sandbanks and shoals, like islands in the flood, and then the tide comes up and submerges them all. Your Lordships will remember some lines of Clough very much to that effect, which the House will perhaps allow me to quote:What though the tired wave, vainly breaking,Seems here no painful inch to gain,Far back, through creeks and inlets making,Comes silent, flooding in, the main.That is the impression which this great Russian advance makes on us in this country.
How long the Soviet Armies will be able to continue at the present rate—they have already liberated two-thirds of German occupied territory—we cannot of course tell. But there is definite evidence of anxiety both on the part of the German Government and of their satellites, and this anxiety is growing. There is talk— your Lordships will perhaps have read it —by German military experts of the 25 "overwhelming strength" of the Russian Armies, a very different story from what we used to hear two years ago, and there are even suggestions by the Germans themselves of an analogy with 1918. We all hope very much that may be true; but it would be most unwise to bank on it. Drawing analogies between the last war and this has in the past proved a very unprofitable occupation. They have been falsified again and again. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister pointed out only the other day, Germany still has immense forces in the field, and they are not liable to crack. As experience in Tunisia showed, the Germans continue to fight until they are ordered to stop fighting, and certainly it is most improbable that Hitler will give any such order. He knows exactly what it would mean to him and his regime. Therefore we must proceed on the assumption that the war will continue for many more months—I was almost going to say for many more years, but that would be going too far: but certainly for many more months. Our course is clear. We must integrate ever more closely our military and political collaboration with cur Allies.
The noble Lord, Lord Addison, in his speech this afternoon expressed some anxiety about China. He regretted there was no mention of China in the most gracious Speech. Perhaps I might say in passing, if it is necessary to do so, that of course there has been no intention to omit China. The United Nations, which are referred to in the speech, include all those who are fighting for liberty. The greater includes the less—though one can hardly describe China as among the less —and I should have thought that His Majesty's Government had too often expressed the admiration which they have for China, and the satisfaction they feel to be fighting by the side of the gallant Chinese people, for there to be any mistake on that score. At any rate, if there has been any misapprehension, I hope what I have said this afternoon will remove it.
To return to Europe and the fronts in Europe: there is, of course, much that we can do and much that we are doing in this country to assist the common struggle against Germany, the most immediate task before the Allies. That we are doing this has been frankly and generously admitted by Marshal Stalin 26 himself in the speech he recently made. By maintaining pressure on the Italian Front, by continuing our northward advance, we are pinning down divisions which are urgently needed to-day in Russia; and by continuing and intensifying the air offensive which is based on this country we and the Americans are holding on the Western Front the great bulk of the German fighter planes which are urgently needed in the East. It is the measure of the fear and panic inspired by our air offensive that only one-fifth of the first-line fighter strength of Germany can at present be spared to assist the hard-pressed German Armies in Russia.
And indeed it is no empty fear. The power of our bombing offensive is relentlessly increasing week by week. I shall give your Lordships a few figures. During the first ten months of 1943, Bomber Command released over the whole of Occupied Europe 130,000 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs, of which 85 per cent. fell upon Germany herself. This weight of attack on the Reich 112,000 tons in ten months—compares with 37,000 tons for the whole of 1942 and 23,000 tons for the whole of 1941. In the last two night raids on Berlin—I do not include the raid of which we have heard to-day, but refer only to the two previous raids on November 18 and November 22—nearly 4,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Berlin. That brings the total tonnage dropped on the capital of Germany to 11,000 tons. Berlin thus becomes the most heavily bombed town in Germany in 1943. It has now received a greater weight of bombs even than Hamburg, and your Lordships know what happened to Hamburg. Since these figures were given to me, we have had news of a further successful raid last night. The enormous havoc to the German war machine which has been inflicted by this year's onslaught has resulted in no fewer than seventeen of Germany's chief cities being so badly damaged that they are now more a liability than an asset to German's war effort. All this is in addition to—it does not include—the skilful and daring daylight attacks by the United States Air Force, which, like our own, are steadily increasing. So much for our own contribution to the defeat of GerGermany—that is to say the contribution of the Western Powers, if I may so describe them.
27 Equally on our side we must frankly recognize—I know everyone will be ready to do so—that it is only the magnificent achievement of the Russians that has made possible our successful campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Inter-Allied collaboration, although often it may appear loose-knit and incomplete, is actually working. The war is going well in Europe, in the Far East, and against the U-boats on the high seas. Unless Germany can produce some entirely new method of warfare, it is clear that we are moving forward slowly but surely towards victory. It is, of course, inevitable that there should be setbacks in certain areas. It is impossible in war to have an unbroken series of successes. As we know, on the Russian Front Zhitomir has—we hope only temporarily—had to be abandoned, and as your Lordships also know, and as Lord Addison and the mover of the Address have already said, we ourselves have lost control of certain of the islands in the Ægean. Noble Lords may wish me to go into rather more detail about the events in this particular area. I am very ready, I can assure the House, to tell your Lordships all I can, though I am sure you will understand that there are certain things which cannot yet be said for security reasons.
I have been asked the reason for the fall of Leros. It is very natural that such a question should be asked. I know very well that the situation in the Ægean has been preoccupying the minds of many noble Lords for some considerable time. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, a week or two ago expressed to me a desire to put down a Motion on this subject. He only held his hand, at my earnest request, in view of pending operations, and I should like to express my gratitude to him for meeting me in this matter. But now that the island has fallen it is clearly necessary that a Government statement should be made on this event, although it would be a mistake to over-stress its importance in the whole war picture. We must beware of losing our sense of balance in these matters. Still it is important, because, after all, the loss of these islands, I fully agree, stands out in dark relief against the general glowing picture of Allied success. As I have explained, it is impossible yet to tell the whole story, but I will do what I can, and I will be as full as I can possibly manage to be.
28 The advance in the Dodecanese, as your Lordships know, took place at the time of the Italian Armistice. The first essential fact which we must recognize is that this attack in the Ægean must not be regarded, as has so often been done, and as was indeed done by the mover of the humble Address this afternoon, as an independent campaign entirely separate from the invasion of Italy. It is quite wrong to look at it in that way. It was part of the same operation. It was realized by those responsible for our Mediterranean strategy that the landings at Salerno were bound to be hazardous and precarious in the extreme—were bound to be an extremely difficult operation. Therefore it was vital that we should take every practicable step to cause a diversion of enemy forces, especially in the air, and reduce the weight of the enemy air defensive directed against our troops and shipping along the coasts of Italy. This object, it was thought, would best be achieved by facing him with other commitments in neighbouring areas, commitments sufficiently serious to prevent the movement of reinforcements to the main battle. That, my Lords, put very shortly and simply, was the main purpose of our movement into the Dodecanese.
But, equally, it was regarded as sound strategy to take advantage of the collapse of Italy—which was known to us but at that time was not known to the Germans —and to stretch our tentacles into the enemy positions and occupy points d'appui from which we might harry his communications. Had we failed to do this we should certainly have laid ourselves open to very legitimate criticism both in your Lordships' House and outside. I can imagine what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would have said if we had not moved. He has always been an advocate of a forward policy, and I think your Lordships will probably remember that in almost the last debate we had on the Mediterranean position, he was rebuking the Government very severely because we did not sail straight into the Gulf of Naples instead of pusillanimously limiting ourselves to a landing at Salerno. He assured us, I remember, that it would have been absolutely safe to have gone straight to Naples, that the Germans were on the run, that the Italians were on our side, and so on. One can imagine what arguments he, and, if not he, other critics of the Government, would have used about the Ægean. They would have pointed 29 out, with great truth, that at Rhodes there were four Italians to every one German; they would have pointed out that in the other islands of the Ægean there were no Germans at all; they would have asked why the Allied military commanders did not take advantage of this unique chance, a chance never likely to return. In fact on this particular occasion, the Allied military commanders took exactly the same view as was taken on other occasions by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.
I did not know this point was going to be raised. The whole difference is this, they were three weeks too late.
No, I do not at all agree that they were three weeks too late. But perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to develop my argument, and he will see what I mean. They were anxious to move as far and as fast as possible, though they recognized fully that certain risks were involved, as they certainly were. Every strategic consideration favoured a forward policy in the Eastern Mediterranean at that juncture, in combination with a landing in Italy. It was an assistance to the invasion of Italy, and we had certain chances at that moment which were not likely to recur.
The position in the Greek Islands at the date of the Italian capitulation was as follows. In Crete there were 55,000 Axis troops of which 30,000 were Germans. In Rhodes, which was the key of the Do-decanese undoubtedly, there were 40,000 Italians and 9,000 Germans. There were also Germans in certain of the larger islands of the Northern Ægean. But in the smaller islands of the Dodecanese there were only garrisons of Italians. Obviously the main prize was Rhodes, if we could get it. Therefore on the 9th September, the day of the unconditional surrender of Italy, the day on which General Alexander landed on the beaches at Salerno, General Wilson, who was commanding in the Middle East, sent a small party to Rhodes with the object of rallying the Italians to our cause. Had the Italians, been ready to co-operate, there is no doubt the island might easily—I think we should all agree it might easily—have been brought over to the Allied side, for the Germans would have been overwhelmed by mere numbers. But in fact the Italians were unwilling to turn against the Germans, and the British 30 party which was sent on the 9th September was refused permission to land. It was clear, therefore, that the reduction of Rhodes would require a major expedition, which was not practicable at that moment. Our attention was, therefore, turned to the smaller islands, and troops were landed at Cos, Leros, Castelorizzo, and Samos. Of these, as your Lordships know, Cos was clearly the most important, because it contained the only airfield in the Dodecanese. A squadron of Spitfires was introduced into Cos, and steps were taken to strengthen our garrisons there and in the other islands we had occupied.
This British initiative produced exactly the result which had been expected. The Germans were compelled to retain in the Eastern Mediterranean considerable forces of first-line aircraft which otherwise they would have sent to Italy. In fact they had to bring some aircraft from the Western Front and from Russia, and over the period in question we succeeded in containing in this area, the Eastern Mediterranean, no less than 35 per cent. of the total German Air Force in the Mediterranean. Moreover, these German aircraft suffered extremely heavy casualties both on the ground and in the air at the hands of our air squadrons based on North Africa and the Middle East. In all the enemy lost 150 aircraft destroyed, and 100 damaged. There is no doubt that this diversion of German strength to the Eastern Mediterranean imposed an extremely heavy strain upon our naval, military and air forces in that area; but the immediate object, the first object of the operation, was achieved. What we lost in the Ægean we gained in Italy. Indeed, so great was the embarrassment caused to the Germans by these operations, that they were driven to undertake an operation to remove the menace. As your Lordships know, on the 3rd October the attack on Cos began. Had the 4,000 Italians who were on the island taken part in its defence, the result possibly, one might say probably, would have been different. But they did not give us any assistance. Faced with a combined seaborne and air attack, 1,500 British troops who were there, though they fought with the greatest gallantry, were gradually driven back and broken up, and eventually took to the hills, from which later a number of them were evacuated. So Cos was lost.
31 Next the Germans turned their attention to Leros. It has been suggested that after the fall of Cos we should have abandoned the other islands. But there were in fact powerful reasons for holding on if we could. While it was evident that the loss of the airfield at Cos made the position of the other islands more difficult, the presence of British troops at Leros and Samos represented a painful thorn in the side of the Germans. We were sitting astride their communications, and were a great tactical embarrassment to them. Moreover, our light naval forces continued to harass their shipping and inflicted heavy casualties upon them.
The Germans therefore found it necessary to attack Leros. The first German attack on Leros took place on October 7. It failed: it was broken up by the Navy. Six landing craft and two merchant ships, all packed with troops, were sunk off Stampalia and the attack was defeated. Moreover, Leros was a strong place: it was not like Cos. The Italians before the war had converted it almost into a fortress and there was good reason to suppose that it might hold out. If it had survived a second attack—and, my Lords, it very nearly did, it was touch and go, what I think the Duke of Wellington speaking of the Battle of Waterloo called "a damned nice thing"—if it had held out, the losses, naval and military, which the Germans would have suffered would have precluded them from mounting a further attack with the shipping at their disposal for some considerable time, perhaps three or four months; and a great deal can happen in three months. That was the view of the Middle East Command, and it had the full support of His Majesty's Government here. In fact, it was a very near thing. Even two days before the end, we were receiving encouraging reports from those in control in the island; and these have been confirmed by some reports which your Lordships may have read from a war correspondent who left the island only two days before the end and said he was extremely surprised to read of the surrender of the island. At one moment, the enemy were driven back almost to the very beaches on which they landed. But ultimately the exhaustion of the garrison, under continued air attack, proved too great a handicap and the island was compelled to surrender.
32 It is very easy to be what is called wise after the event and to say that the attempt to hold the island should never have been made, but I still believe this to be a short-sighted view. The defenders inflicted very heavy casualties on the enemy's aircraft and shipping and also on their man-power. In addition to the enemy planes, which, as I mentioned earlier, were destroyed—I think 150 were destroyed and 100 damaged—the enemy's naval losses from September 9 to November 19 amounted to at least 30,000 tons. They included eleven merchant vessels, eight escort vessels, ten Siebel ferries, each craft carrying 150 to 200 men, and fifteen cargo or smaller vessels carrying up to forty men. The list does not include vessels damaged. The enemy in fact lost a substantial proportion of their available shipping in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that at least 4,000 enemy troops were drowned, in addition to those killed fighting on the island.
I do not want to dogmatize on these events—it is far too early, I think, to do that—and I quite realize that different views may be held, but I would emphasize once more that we must not look on this as an individual episode, apart from the rest of the Mediterranean campaign. It must be regarded as part of the general assault upon the under-belly of the Axis. Moreover, the Ægean operations occupied a considerable portion of the German Air Force during a very important phase of the Italian campaign. The operations in the Ægean assisted the Italian invasion and if we could have held these islands— which, as I say, we very nearly did— they would have been a thorn in the German side, just as Tobruk was in North Africa. No one criticizes the operations in Corsica and Sardinia—at least I have not heard criticisms—but these operations, which were undertaken at the same time, were very similar in character and were undertaken with equally light forces. The only difference is that one happened to succeed and the other happened to fail. But the chances were about equal in either case. The circumstances of these two attacks were very similar. I want to make that clear. I have taken great trouble to find that out. I believe therefore the attempt was worth making. But I wish to be completely frank with your Lordships' House. Of course, as matters turned out, it does represent a setback, although a local setback, to our arms. 33 For the present I believe noble Lords will be wise to suspend judgment. In the meantime, I am quite certain we shall all wish to pay tribute to the very brave men who put up so gallant a fight, a fight which was worthy of the finest traditions of the British Army.
Now I would like, if I may, to turn to another part of the Middle East. As your Lordships know, a difficult situation has recently arisen in Lebanon. As the result of elections which were held during the summer a strongly Nationalist President and Legislature were elected, and the Government which was formed was also of a very Nationalist complexion. A dispute arose last month between the Lebanese Government and the French authorities regarding the manner in which progress should be made towards implementing the promises of independence given to the Lebanon. Your Lordships will recollect that when Allied Forces entered the Levant States in the summer of 1943, and removed them from the control of Vichy, General Catroux, acting on behalf of General de Gaulle, promised to terminate the Mandate and to give independent to the Lebanese people subject to the retention by the French authorities of certain powers regarding defence, internal security, communications, etc., necessary for the war effort. The grant of independence and termination of the Mandate were to be formally embodied in a treaty between France and the Lebanon. In a public statement made at the tine and since confirmed, His Majesty's Government endorsed this promise.
The present dispute, as your Lordships I think probably know, arose out of a Bill regarding constitutional reforms affecting the position of the French, which the Lebanese Government took steps to pass without French concurrence. The French Delegate-General retaliated by arresting the newly-elected President and most of the members of the Lebanese Government. This action was regarded as unjustified by the circumstances both in the Lebanon itself and in other Middle East countries, and very considerable public excitement and concern, as your Lordships know, were aroused. His Majesty's Government have a dual interest in this dispute. First of all His Majesty's Government have endorsed the promises of independence given to the Lebanese people, as I have described, and 34 they have followed with interest and sympathy the subsequent development of constitutional government in the Lebanon. Secondly, the Lebanon is of great military importance to the war in the Eastern Mediterranean, owing to the ports and communications within its boundaries, and any threat of a breakdown of law and order is, therefore, of direct concern to us.
We have made it clear to both parties that our only anxiety is to see a peaceful solution of the dispute which will enable calm to be restored and constitutional progress to be resumed in an orderly and agreed manner at the earliest possible moment. Our views have been explained to those concerned and I am glad to say that the President and the Ministers have now been released and the President has been reinstated. In addition, information has come in this morning that the Lebanese Ministers themselves have resumed their functions. We may therefore hope that a rapid and agreed solution will now be found for such outstanding questions as remain. It is unreasonable that the war effort should be hampered by local disputes of this violence and intensity, and in our view both sides owe it to the United Nations to reach an understanding at once which will enable calm to be restored in an area where it is vital for the united war effort. I should like to add a tribute to the statesmanship which the French Committee of Liberation has shown in making possible what we hope may prove a solution of what has been undoubtedly a troublesome and potentially dangerous situation. I am sure the House will not wish to press me further in this matter at the present stage. It is surely one of those occasions upon which least said soonest mended. I would like, however, to tell the House, because I think they will wish to know, that the American and Soviet Governments have throughout been kept fully informed by my right honourable friend, the Foreign Secretary, in view of the potential complications of this dispute.
I have spoken a very long time, and I have not yet come to home affairs. But, in fact, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, there is very little to say about home affairs which has not already been said in recent weeks by responsible Ministers. There has been reference in the gracious Speech to reconstruction, mining, agriculture, education, social insurance 35 and national health service. On all these questions we have had, or are going to have, debates. There is, however, one point about which I may perhaps say something without, as it were, treading upon the toes of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, who is going to address your Lordships in a forthcoming debate. That word refers to the paragraph about which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, spoke. I will read it again.My Ministers will present to you their views and proposals regarding an enlarged and unified system of social insurance, a comprehensive health service and a new scheme of workmen's compensation; and they will decide, in the light of your discussions, what specific proposals for legislation on these matters can be brought forward at this stage.The noble Lord poked a good, deal of fun at that paragraph. He said with regard to the procedure proposed that it was not heroic—I think those were the words he used. Well, I do not think it is heroic, but I think it is eminently sensible, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so. Here are questions of extreme difficulty and complexity, as everybody agrees. The Government have been considering them for some time. If your Lordships will believe me, the Government have been considering them very hard. I have sat on some of the Committees concerned, and I can assure your Lordships that these matters are not nearly so easy of solution as they may appear to some noble Lords. As I say, the Government have been working continuously, and they have now got to the stage of proposals which they desire to make. I should have thought that the natural action to take in order to ensure that the proposals should be acceptable to the people of this country would be to put them before Parliament to get the sense of the House upon them. That is exactly the sort of procedure which we always adopt in your Lordships' House. The general complaint which I have always heard against dictatorship is that under it there is never any reference, in time of war, to the freely elected representatives of the people. What the Government now propose to do is to ensure that reference. I think it a little hard that the noble Lord should take such an opportunity to jibe at them. This is surely the proper and sensible method of tackling these difficult questions. I would suggest that we shall get far easier and more rapid agreement 36 that way than by any other form of procedure which might be suggested.
I should also like to say something about the transitional period, to which reference was made by Lord Addison. At the beginning of the war I think that we tended—or rather many people in this country tended—to simplify too much. Such people used to talk merely of war and peace, and seemed to anticipate some sort of immediate change-over from hell to heaven. But now, as victory draws nearer, I think we are all of us beginning to realize more and more how difficult it is going to be to pass from war to peace, to get from the one point to the other, and how carefully we shall have to feel our way, step by step, over the morass which is going to separate those two stages. A moment will come, later or sooner, when the guns will cease to fire, and when all we are doing now will become useless and futile. Yet we shall not be able to sit down and fold our hands and rest. We shall have, immediately, to begin to turn our hands to other tasks. There must be no slackening off, no hiatus; otherwise the country will starve and all this great effort which we are now making will have been wasted.
Those who bid the Government plan for the future—I see Lord Balfour of Burleigh there in his place—are right. Of course they are; absolutely right. And indeed Ministers are in fact already working, as I have said, day and night in preparation for the change which is coming. But I must confess—and I hope Lord Balfour of Burleigh will not think that this refers to him—that some of the planners frighten me. They look so very far ahead. I am dreadfully afraid that if they got their way they, and we, would suffer the lamentable fate of little Johnny Head-in-Air, of whose sad demise your Lordships are well aware.
In this transitional period we shall not, in fact, be able always to put into force ideal schemes. We shall inevitably be living to some extent from hand to mouth. By all means, let us have great plans for the future, and let us put them into operation as soon as we can. Some will be practicable immediately, I hope. For others we shall have to wait. But let us recognize that one obligation lies upon us before all else. When this battle ends, when demobilization begins, the ex-Ser-vice men and the other workmen—for all 37 alike are mobilized in total war; the position in that respect is different now from what it has been in the past—all these great masses of Englishmen will have to be given work to do, food to pat and somewhere to lay their heads. Inevitably, at first, some of the houses which we shall have to provide will not be those which we should ideally choose for them. It is also, I think, quite possible that some of the factories in which they will have to work will not be in the places where we should ideally wish to see them. But at any rate our people will have a chance to set up homes and to lead a decent life. That is the immediate necessity in my view, and to that we must all apply our minds
There is a very famous French saying to the effect that the better is the enemy of the good. I do hope that in this country we shall not fall into that error. Some of us like State control; some of us do not like State control. Do not let us allow theoretical political beliefs to warp our action in the emergency which is coming. Let us do without delay whatever immediate necessity requires. Let us judge each case on its merits. That, in my belief, is the only way in which we shall get through this difficult transitional period. After that, when the world is on its feet again and our industries are humming, when new methods of production and distribution are being used for the benefit of mankind, we shall be able to accomplish all those things which now seem so hard. I am not a pessimist about the future. I am a flaming optimist. I believe that if we can avoid another war there is a time of unexampled prosperity coming to the world. But for the moment, while we must abate none of our future aims, we must keep in the forefront of our minds first the war—which has yet to be won—and secondly, the transitional period. If we do that we shall, I believe, not only deserve but receive the thanks of our fellow-countrymen in this generation and the next.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I should like at the outset of the very brief remarks which I wish to address to your Lordships to associate myself with the tributes which were paid by all the speakers to the mover and seconder of the Address. I cannot help thinking that it is an exceptionally happy thought that we should have, as mover and seconder 38 of the Address, two noble Lords who are representatives of that not inconsiderable number of your Lordships who are fortunate enough to be able to share the burdens of war in the field.
I have a great advantage in following the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, in that I have heard the reply to the criticisms which were made by the Leaders of both the Parties opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, had on home affairs two criticisms. One was a criticism of the procedure which is to be adopted by the Government in connexion with social reform. He described it as not very heroic. If I may say so, I think that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, made a complete answer to that criticism; I found his argument quite satisfactory. In these very controversial matters which have been the subject of a good deal of discussion, I see no objection to the laying of a White Paper, and to further discussion, and then, assuming we get right decisions, to the introduction of legislation. If I may respectfully say so, I thought that the noble Viscount made a very fair reply to that charge.
On the other count, I confess that I am not so happy. I listened with perhaps more than usual interest to the gracious Speech, because I had so vividly in mind the debate which took place in your Lordships' House only a fortnight ago, when the Government were so good as to accept the Motion after a debate which showed, I think, unanimity in your Lordships' House. I looked with great interest at the gracious Speech, therefore, to see what was contained in it which bore on this matter, and there are some things which I heard and saw with very real pleasure. There is, for example, the sentence:You will be invited to pass legislation conferring special powers for the redevelopment of areas which, by reason of enemy action, overcrowding or otherwise, need to be re-planned as a whole.That is a direct reflection of the debate in which so many of your Lordships took part a fortnight ago, and as far as it goes it is very satisfactory. The next sentence is also of very great interest:My Government will lay before you the results of their examination of the Reports which have been made recommending the assumption of further powers to control and direct the use of the land of Great Britain.There I must admit that my satisfaction 39 is mitigated by the fact that there is no indication of the intention of the Government to make national planning a reality.
The Government are committed, as far as speeches are concerned; to make national planning a reality, but so far nothing has happened to give practical effect to that determination. The main point which emerged from the debate a fortnight ago was that work and homes are interdependent, and that both postulate a national planning policy. In a leading article in The Times on the day following the debate, it was stated that that point stood unequivocally established by the debate, and I do not think that anyone would dispute that. National planning, therefore, is essential. So far, the Government have paid lip service to national planning, but they have done nothing, as far as one can see, to turn that theoretical adherence to national planning into a reality. It is perfectly true that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, may say that a Ministry of Town and Country Planning has been set up. That is the biggest piece of lip service which has been paid to national planning so far, because as far as one knows the Minister has not done the first thing to make planning national. So far as one can see, planning might just as well have remained with the Ministry of Health, and therefore one waits with great anxiety to see what is going to happen.
My anxiety is increased because I find in the gracious Speech this sentence:In certain fields it is already possible to look beyond the transitional period and to frame proposals for social reforms designed to confer lasting benefits on my people.The one point that I want to make to your Lordships to-day is that this idea of provisional proposals for a transitional period will not do in the provision of employment and homes, because what is necessary is that at the very beginning the decisions of principle must be taken on which the success or failure of the whole programme will depend. The main decision of principle lies in the field of the main Uthwatt Report—the question of compensation and betterment. I am going to try to illustrate to your Lordships in a very few sentences why this decision of principle on the question of compensation and betterment is a necessary condition préalable of a successful housing policy. Imagine an important county borough 40 with a large population, the centre of which has been destroyed by enemy action. We will assume that that centre —a shopping centre, business centre and residential centre—was congested, as was the case in so many of these towns. There are now satisfactory proposals for the globular purchase of that centre by the local authority, or by the Treasury on behalf of the local authority. That centre will be redeveloped, we hope, on more open and less congested lines. There will therefore not be room for all the interests that were there before the war, and so there will be an outward spread of values; and I do not think it can be suggested by anybody that it would be proper, if public money is used for the globular purchase of the area, that the betterment which is going to ensue should entirely escape. It follows, therefore, that we have here a problem of shifting value which must be dealt with on a national basis. There must be a national conception of the location of industry. It will not do to wait, in the words of the noble Viscount, until "industry is humming" to get the ideal arrangements. Unless we can have our planning based on a national conception and on a solution of the compensation and betterment problem, we shall never get satisfactory planning, either in the long or short run.
I should like to illustrate one other technical difficulty in this question of value. I have tried to describe to your Lordships shifting value, but there is also the question of floating value. The borough of which we have been talking may have a green belt round it. You sterilize at great expense that green belt, and the value which would have descended upon that area simply moves somewhere else. It does not disappear but it alights somewhere else. And of course that is the explanation of why the sum total of the market value of land, taken individually, may be twice or three times the sum total of the same land if it were all in one single ownership. That problem has got to be dealt with. And therefore I find it alarming that so far as the use of land is concerned what the gracious Speech promises is to lay before Parliament the results of the examination of the Reports, and that is in contrast to the statement that "in certain fields" it is "possible to look beyond the tran- 41 sitional period." I think that is a most dangerous antithesis, and it really does fill me with alarm.
The noble and gallant mover of the Address referred to the appointment of my noble friend Lord Woolton as a "milestone." I derive, if I may say so without disrespect, more comfort from the appointment of Lord Woolton than I do from the phrases of the most gracious Speech. Since the speech of the noble and gallant mover I have been turning over in my mind what are the characteristics of a milestone. A milestone is solid, informative, and, as a rule, reliable.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
It is stationary, as the noble Lord says. The qualities of a milestone, however ad-mirable, are rather of a static kind, and I think your Lordships will agree that the qualities which my noble friend will want for his new post will partake rather of the dynamic. I am quite certain that the noble Lord will come to his task with an open mind, ready to seize the essentials. That is the only point I want to press upon the Government to-day—that a provisional programme for a transitional period will not do in the question of work and homes. Right decisions of principle have to be taken, they have to be taken now, which is indeed the eleventh hour.
My Lords, although I share the disappointments and feelings of frustration of the noble Lord, Lord Ealfour of Burleigh, I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments on reconstruction. I gather from what fell from the Leader of the House that we are going to have our time very fully occupied in the future wrestling with Lord Woolton on questions of reconstruction, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I take this opportunity, which is the last opportunity for some time, apparently, to refer to one or two matters concerned with the war, which has still to be won. And may I offer my congratulations to the noble mover and seconder of the humble Address on their very admirable handling of a most difficult task?
The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, was kind enough to give us some account of the events in the Ægean and I thank him for doing so. I should be very sorry to have to give such an explanation my- 42 self and I am sure the noble Viscount felt his own position most keenly, for a more laboured and lame apologia for such an extraordinary affair I never before heard in my life. However there it is. We shall have to have another opportunity of discussing it in greater detail. I will only venture to say this. If those troops who were sent in penny packets to half a dozen different islands had all been sent to Rhodes earlier instead of on this little political mission, things might have been different.
What does the noble Lord mean by earlier? Does he mean before the Italian capitulation?
At that time the whole garrison of Rhodes would have been against us. Instead of having 9,000 Germans we should have had 49,000 active enemies against us. I do not think that would have been much better.
There was a period, a hiatus, between the signing of the Armistice and its publication, a period of six days, from the 2nd to the 8th, and we apparently did not appear for the first time before the 13th. We should certainly have appeared on the 10th.
At Rhodes, yes; but why did we not appear in force at Rhodes on the 9th? We appeared in some force at Leros and Cos on the 13th. Instead of sending a political mission why did we not send two or three brigades of infantry? That would have made all the difference. The Italians, or many of them, did fight in Rhodes; the trouble was they were betrayed by the Fascist Governor. However, as I say, the noble Viscount made the best of a very difficult task. I wish he had told us when it was that the Germans reinforced their garrison on Rhodes. I understand that most of those 7,000 went after the fall of Mussolini while we were havering and hesitating and allowing the Italians to stew in their own juice. That was when the Germans reinforced Rhodes. That is why I say we were three weeks—or actually six weeks— too late. However, I had not intended to discuss this matter in detail, but the noble Viscount so interested me by his statement that I had to make those comments.
43 In the gracious Speech there is only a very brief mention of the heroic struggle of the resistance movements in Europe. The gracious Speech says that "The captive peoples of Europe are everywhere preparing to throw off the yoke of the oppressor." I think that is rather too much of an under-statement. They are fighting very hard in several parts of Europe. In Yugoslavia and Greece large bodies of men are under arms; in France there is a very active and an armed resistance movement which I am sure we all admire. Corsica, mentioned in the gracious Speech and by the noble Viscount, is a case of a yoke having been thrown off. I share the noble Viscount's admiration for the French patriots and for the leaders of the Committee in Algiers for their great success there. Corsica and Sardinia are some compensation for our own setback in the Ægean. When we congratulate ourselves, as we do in the gracious Speech, on having cast the enemy out of Africa, do not let us forget the great advantages we received in that campaign from having the adherence of French Equatorial Africa. The noble Viscount is in as good a position as anyone to bear me out in what I am going to say and I know he will agree. The coming over to us of French Equatorial Africa in 1940 after the capitulation of the French Government in Bordeaux, gave us lines of communication of the greatest value—the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, knows this—in our Middle East campaign.
Without the help of French Equatorial Africa there would have been no victory of Alamein, or not when it took place at least, and it is doubtful if we could have held Egypt. It is an old saying, and I believe it is true, that he who controls the Chad controls Africa, and the people who brought the Chad to us were those who were then known as the Free French. They also brought us the French Pacific Islands, which have been of tremendous value in the holding campaign against the Japanese. We have a great deal to thank these Free French for, and I am particularly glad that in his remarks about the unhappy events in the Lebanon the noble Viscount did not depart from his invariable courtesy and good feeling for the sentiments of other people. I particularly thank him. It is the only word of praise we have had for some weeks for the French Committee of Liberation from a 44 member of His Majesty's Government. They have had a rough time recently and the chivalrous remarks of the noble Viscount will be fully appreciated. The casting out of the enemy from Africa was very largely assisted at the time of the initial landings by the adherents of General de Gaulle already in North Africa.
This French Committee of National Liberation, referred to so generously by the noble Viscount, is, I suppose, as near a Provisional Government representing the Anti-Nazi forces in France as we can look for at the present time. All friends of the real France, the France who fought with us in the last war, and of the French who fought on so many stricken fields in this war—I am sorry the mover of the Address has gone out because I am sure he would pay tribute to the gallantry of the French divisions who fought in the hinterland of Dunkirk—all friends of France must have been saddened by the events in the Lebanon. The French have gone through a period which has left them sensitive, proud, very jealous of their prestige. They are still struggling against the defeatism and despair of that terrible year 1940. It may be that they are too anxious to re-establish their prestige and General de Gaulle, who is subject to a lot of criticism nowadays in quite unexpected quarters, is no doubt not anxious to assist at the liquidation of the French Empire.
As the noble Viscount has said, successive French Governments have been committed to the independence of the Lebanon and the present French régime is really suffering for the procrastination of previous French Governments who of course, we now know, should have followed our example in Iraq and surrendered the Mandate after entering into a treaty with the new Government of the Lebanon before handing over the government of that country. That was not done in the past, and these unhappy people have now to suffer, I repeat, for the procrastination of former Governments in Paris. Apparently they did wish to secure a treaty as we did in the case of Iraq and as we did before giving up the condominium in Egypt. Your Lordships would never have tolerated, and I am sure the other place would not have tolerated—because I was a member of that House at that time—any arrangement with Egypt which did not provide for a treaty agreeable to 45 both sides safeguarding our interests there.
In all the circumstances, these arrests referred to in tones of condemnation by the noble Viscount—and his condemnation was justified—these arrests of the President and most of the Cabinet Ministers at Beirut were a blunder. Of course they were a blunder, but there had been provocation. I am sorry that the noble Viscount only very lightly touched on this fact. On October II—as long ago as that—the newly-elected Lebanese Government presented a Bill depriving the French of most of their existing rights. While negotiations were in progress an attempt was made to face the French with an accomplished fact. That was the provocation, and that it was which led to the arrests which, I repeat, were a blunder. But was it really so necessary for us in the face of the whole world to side so openly with the native Government against the French? We could have made our representations, we could have brought pressure to bear behind the scenes. Was it necessary to flaunt to the whole world our hostility to the National Committee in Algiers on this question? I am afraid that, for once, we allowed our good manners to be forgotten—not the noble Viscount who, at any rate, has shown courtesy; but the Press campaign was as violent against the French as any by Dr. Goebbels. The propaganda campaign initiated and stimulated by certain section; of His Majesty's Government was as hostile to the French as—
I am sure my noble friend cannot have read some of the newspaper comments or listened to the wireless.
I say, as regards the British campaign, it has been done by His Majesty's Government.
May I ask my noble friend what reason he has for stating that His Majesty's Government initiated this? Can he state the facts, because it is a. very important matter? I am not a member of His Majesty's Government, but I am very interested in this.
The noble Viscount surely knows well enough that when suddenly the British radio programmes, and the greater part of the Press come out with an extremely hostile attitude towards our French Ally that can only be done with the agreement of His Majesty's Government, and I go further, because I am challenged, it would not have been done without the Government's stimulus and initiative.
It is unpardonable that the noble Lord should say that. He has got no evidence for this, not the slightest shred. He says "everybody knows," which means that he thinks—that is all it means. We scrupulously guard here the freedom of the Press. It is one of our greatest prides that throughout the war the Press has been able to say what it wishes. It is quite possible that the Press should take a unanimous view on some subject, but that does not mean it has been stimulated by the Government.
In that case I accept the statement that this was entirely spontaneous. I will accept that. The British Government had nothing whatever to do with it. In that case, why was no sort of official pronouncement made on behalf of the Government other than these pronouncements—to put it mildly—of unfriendliness to the French Administration? I began by saying that the French Administration committed blunders, but the previous Governments in Paris were most to blame. Could we not have been a little more discreet, a little more understanding, a little more sympathetic to men who have suffered greatly and are perhaps over-sensitive in their pride of recovery?
But the matter has been liquidated for the time being. As the noble Viscount stated, we have the news that the President and the Ministers have been released, and the Lebanese Ministers have been reinstated. We have all read accounts of the populace in Beirut hoisting the flag of Lebanese independence. So the matter has been liquidated for the 47 time being. But we did not succumb to violence in Palestine before the war. That is a neighbouring country, and the population and the problems are in some ways similar. We do not mean to succumb to violence, at any rate during the war, in these countries in the Middle East. Certainly these events, I prophesy, will not make our position easier in the future. It is all right for General Spears to be carried shoulder high by the mob in Beirut, and for us to have messages of congratulation from Middle East potentates; but I am thinking of the future. It will not make our position easier. The Arab world, of which we hear so much at the present time, and which does not exist as an entity at all—the States of the Arab world are seething with nationalism of a very extreme kind which is not over friendly to us. It is nationalism—nobody knows this better than Lord Cranborne—which is anti-European and anti-Christian. We are responsible for very important lines of communication by sea and by air passing through these very regions. There has been a lot of coming and going lately and a lot of talk in connexion with a pan-Arab movement or, as some people call it, a programme of federation of the Arab States. They even talk of a revival of the Caliphate. I wish the noble Viscount could have answered me, but perhaps he will do so on another occasion. Is some future wielder of the Sword of Islam to be the guardian of the Suez Canal and the air routes of the Middle East? I am all for some international authority to guard the vital lines of communication of the peacefully-inclined peoples of the world in future. That is one of the great problems we shall have to tackle, but in the meantime we are responsible for, and we are going to guard, these lines of communication. I am sure there is no doubt about that.
I am not defending Imperialism of the old-fashioned type. I have spent a good many years attacking Imperialism in different parts of the world, and I hope I shall go on attacking it for a good many years to come. So much am I not defending Imperialism that I hope very much, as a result of these events, the United States of America will in the immediate future play a much greater role with us 48 and with the French in guarding the interests of the United Nations in those regions, the regions of the so-called Arab-speaking world, or the Middle East as it is called, during the course of the war. In that connexion there is talk of commercial spheres of interest, and new oilfields in the Arabic-speaking world. I reject all such suggestions altogether. They are absolutely unworthy of the cause for which we are fighting. I believe that the solution of the immediate difficulties, and there will be difficulties in the Middle East, is to be found in the closest possible working together of ourselves, the United States of America and France. We are all three members of the United Nations who have the immense responsibility of guarding these lines of communication and preserving order in a very difficult part of the world.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I do not rise for one moment to enter into any controversy with my noble friend who has just spoken. If I may say so, whether I agree with him or not I admire the courage with which he puts forward his points of view on such matters. The only thing that came to my notice was this. These affairs in the Lebanon being so difficult and so anxious, I think it is most important that no single word of criticism or of condemnation of the conduct of the British Minister in Beirut should go out from this House. It does appear to me that our Minister there has had a most difficult and a most anxious task which, to say the least of it, has not been facilitated by the failure of his French colleague to consult him or to keep him fully informed. I do hope that in any opinion which your Lordships' House may have about these matters in the Lebanon it will not be thought that there is any criticism of the conduct of our affairs by the British Minister in Beirut. Affairs in regard to the Arab world are most difficult, and are of very grave concern to us at the present moment. Those affairs cannot possibly be facilitated or helped if it were felt that in any way there was criticism of the conduct of our staff there.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
May I ask a question which I hope the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will answer if he can do so without embarrassing the Government. I should like to know whether any aircraft carriers were used at Cos or Leros.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.