I beg to move, "That Vote A be reduced by 100 men."
In rising to move this Amendment, I may mention that it is the formal and time-hallowed method of lodging an objection to the Estimates. The last time I heard it moved, it was moved from the Opposition benches by the present Prime Minister. I went into the Lobby in support of it; so did the Secretary of State for War; so did the Minister of Defence. I hope they will support it tonight. Here I must say that I am appalled by what is going on in the House. We are told that we are unable to stand on our own feet, and yet we are maintaining an Army out of all proportion to the economic conditions and situation of the country. At the General Election, foremost in all the campaigns that were made were peace and homes for the people. Homes are urgently required, but men are taken into the Forces regardless of the conditions of the people of the country. It was Goering who got a name for saying, "Guns before butter," but here today in this country it is guns and armies before homes, hospitals, and schools.
The most appalling thing is the unity that exists between the Tory benches and the Labour benches on these questions. To an old Socialist like myself, that is an absolutely appalling situation. I have sat here all day, and on other occasions, and I have got the feeling that I was listening to Tory Tories and Labour Tories. I challenge anyone to look over these Debates and show from the speeches made any political difference between those taking part. The other night the spokesman for the Opposition was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). He
is a Tory—an open, blatant, unashamed Tory. Never in his life has he deviated a hair's breadth from Tory interests, and yet he can say in the House:
If I may sum up: the line we take upon these benches is that we support wholeheartedly in its main essentials the foreign policy of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 578.]
Is it a Socialist foreign policy he is supporting? Of course, he says they must support the expenditure for the arms for maintaining that policy.
We are told there is a possibility, a danger, of immediate or near immediate war. From where? The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) cordially supported him—said that the enemy is the Soviet Union. The enemy of this country is not the Soviet Union. The Socialist Soviet Republic is not the enemy of this country or the people of this country. Every Member on this side of the Committee knows that American Tory militarists and British Tory militarists are the enemies of the Socialists of this country and the Socialists of the countries of Eastern Europe. Every hon. Member on this side of the Committee knows that. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton says that there is only one possible war—a war with the Soviet Union. There is already a war in Malaya, and, judging by the way things are going, it looks as if there may be another war in Transjordan.
From my political judgment—not from any inside information, but from what happened in the last war—I say that there is not a country in the world which has a greater need for and a greater desire for peace than the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union will never under any circumstances participate in an aggressive war. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Finland?"] I dealt with Finland in this House at the time it happened. When there was a Fascist gang in Finland preparing a base for the Fascists of Europe, that was a situation that had to be dealt with. We had a similar situation when the Navy of this country went over and sank the Dutch Fleet without warning of any kind. There is no question of the Soviet Union participating in an aggressive war. Even John Foster Dulles, who is not a friend but an enemy of the Soviet Union, has said that no responsible official in any country would dream of saying that the Soviet Union is contemplating an aggressive war.
In view of all this mendacious and lying propaganda which is going on, let me refer to other evidence. There have been trials in Hungary and Bulgaria, involving a cardinal, a prince and Free Church parsons. Read the correspondence between those people and Americans. Read the evidence. They wanted to get the old conditions back. They wanted the land back; they wanted their old standing back. They depended on war in order to get those old conditions back. Is that true or is it not? Who was to make the war? These people were not friends of the Soviet Union; they were enemies of the Soviet Union. There was not the slightest doubt in their minds that an aggressive war was being prepared, not by the Soviet Union, but by America and American satellites. Unfortunately, we happen to be one of the satellites. Those are the people who are preparing the aggressive war—the American imperialists, with their bases in every part of the world. What a pitiful situation for this country to be in under a Labour Government. What does the Leader of the Opposition say the Atlantic Pact is for? For peace? No, for changing the situation in Eastern Europe and getting his old pals back again. That is what he said at Brussels. Hon. Members can read it for themselves. Therefore, I say that there is no question of an aggressive war by the Soviet Union.
Let us consider one phase of this mendacious propaganda in relation to this Debate. I am sorry the noble Lord the Member for Horsham has gone away; many of us heard his impassioned peroration. Last year at the meeting of U.N.O. in Paris the Foreign Secretary declared with great emphasis: "In the democracies we publish full information about our Armed Forces"—do hon. Members remember that?—" but the Soviet Union keeps her armed forces secret." Was he telling the truth? What have we heard today? What was the impassioned conclusion of the right hon. Member for Horsham? no information; no knowledge of any of the forces we have. Nearly every hon. Member who has spoken has said "No information." There is in the House the amazing situation that nothing is known about the strength or character of the British forces, but everything is known about the forces of the Soviet Union—the number of divisions, the number of bombers, the number of submarines. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell us what they have."] Hon. Members opposite have been telling us all the time. [HON. MEMBERS: "You tell us."] I am not an authority. Why am I being asked?
The right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) gave the number of submarines the other night. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton has given the number of divisions they have. [Interruption.] I am not an expert. I am only drawing attention to the tricky, mendacious character of the propaganda that is being carried on in this country. The people are being led to believe that everything is open and known as far as Britain is concerned, that everything is hidden as far as Russia is concerned. There is not a word of truth in it. The Minister refuses to give any information about the make-up of the forces in Britain. So was the Foreign Secretary telling the truth?
We have Armed Forces here and in other countries. We have them in Malaya, protecting the tin and the rubber interests—not protecting the working class. The Secretary of State for War indignantly repudiated the suggestion that he was a conscientious objector in the 1914–18 War. It seems to me that was somewhat of a reflection on his comrades on the Front Bench who were conscientious objectors. There is one thing he cannot repudiate. This afternoon he referred to Malaya, and talked about murderers and the rest of it—people who fought against the Japanese, and since have been fighting for their independence, for the right to run their country in their own way. The right hon. Gentleman says they are murderers. In 1920 exactly the same language was being used by the Tories in this House, and by the Press of this country, about the Irish, about Michael Collins and De Valera. What were they? Murderers, gangsters, every foul name was used against them.
The Secretary of State for War was at that time in Glasgow, as I was. His sympathies and my sympathies, his moral support and my moral support, were with the Irish in their fight for independence. I ask him whether that is right. In view of the fact that his sympathies, like those of the rest of us, were with the Irish when they were accused of being murderers and gangsters, how is it possible for him today to talk about the Malays? Of course he says "Chinese Communists"; he brings in racial prejudice to take away attention from the fight for independence. I ask any Labour man here, old and young, particularly those who were associated with Keir Hardie and Smillie, pioneers of the Labour movement—"Have the Malays the right to fight for their independence?"
Is the hon. Member suggesting that it is the Malayan people who are attacking the British Forces in Malaya just now?
The hon. Member is wrong.
They are mostly Chinese.
In the East End of London Moseley said it was the Jewish Communists. Here, there, and everywhere it is the Jewish Communists. In Germany, with Hitler, it was the Jewish Communists. So, in Malaya, it is the Chinese Communists. It is all the same dirty game of introducing racialism to divert attention from the real question. We are told that Malaya is our possession, and therefore we have a right to be there; Indonesia is a possession of the Dutch and her soldiers are there; in French Indo-China the French have a right to have soldiers because it is their possession. And in Britain, America has soldiers. Why?
Because it is her possession.
What are we reduced to but servility and the acceptance of foreign troops in this country? Where are we getting to? This once great, mighty country, is now humbled before the great god, Mammon.
Is the hon. Member suggesting that there are no Russian troops outside Russia?
There are none outside, no Russian troops anywhere, except under conditions laid down by the Four Power Control. The Government Front Bench has been unable to submit any evidence of such a thing. I know how bad the situation has become, and how those who were my comrades in days gone by have new friends—the multimillionaires of America. Let me quote these words from "The Times" of 2nd March:—
Wisely, perhaps, the Prime Minister would add nothing yesterday to the tale of Mr. Mayhew's maladroit speech at Lake Success and its sequel. The consequences of those unguarded remarks, with the risk of reduction of American Aid to this country in 1949–50, are a salutary reminder that a country receiving gratuitous assistance has to be careful not only in what it does but in what it says.
When you are on the parish council you must be meek and humble. That is an impossible position for the people of this country. The people of this country, at the General Election, were aroused by a great spirit not only of enthusiasm but of desire and hope. When the results of the Election were declared, and a Labour Government was formed, they believed that we were going to advance along the road to Socialism, peace and prosperity. Never did they believe that we were going to advance to a combination with the Tories; nor did they ever dream for a moment that a Minister would get up and make a speech in this language: "I know the atom bomb was dropped by them, but I am speaking of general aircraft attack. In a future war, the Atlantic might become like the Mediterranean in the last war, with England taking the place of Malta." What a future! Think of it. Lunatics—that is what they are. Only a lunatic, completely divorced from the realities of contact with the people, could make a statement like that. Never would one get a working man, anywhere making a statement of that kind.
Do let us think about it. What does it mean? Malta, with its scattered population, and this country, with the greatest industrial population in the world, and yet it is to become as Malta; millions decimated and desolated—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who is going to make it so?"]—I am only talking of the conception in the mind of a lunatic. [Interruption.] What is the matter with hon. Members? Do they not realise that one cannot understand how it is possible for any hon. Member on this side to talk the way they do about war? One would think that it was a game of cricket or football. After all the experiences of the First World War, and then the second, we should know that war again, if such a catastrophe came about, would mean practically the end of civilisation. I say it is complete madness to talk of it. From where is the danger to come?
No, I cannot give way. It is claptrap from alleged Socialists. Let them read the literature on which the Socialist movement was built; let them talk with the pioneers who laid the foundations of the movement. They will find it was made clear all the time that modern war was the outcome of capitalist greed for profit; and there were never such great capitalists in the history of the world as the American capitalists.
I am sure the hon. Member will give way now. Will he say whether it is fact, or not, that, according to Marxian theories, war is inevitable so long as there are States in the world which are not Communist?
There were never any Marxian writings which suggested anything of that character.
Then the hon. Member ought to read it up again.
No, that is all wrong. Marx said that a stage was reached in capitalism where the fight for markets becomes so keen that one capitalist State has to fight another to get the monopoly of the markets. Capitalists are responsible for war; look at the history books. It takes the form of competition—
I hope you will excuse me, Mr. Bowles, but hon. Members wanted to know where the aggression was coming from. [Laughter.] The attempt of hon. Members to snigger indicates the fact that some Members at any rate are smitten by their conscience. No one who calls himself a Socialist and who has a real belief in the principles of Socialism can support what is going on between the Labour Front Bench and the Tory Front Bench. No one with those beliefs can support the proposition that the miners, the railwaymen, the engineers and the transport workers should be lined up with the big multimillionaires of America to fight the workers of Eastern Europe.
We shall see what the railwaymen say tonight.
Never mind about that. I am dealing with those in this House who claim to be leaders of the working class movement, and who have a responsibility towards the working classes. It is shameful that the workers of this country should be lined up with Forrestal, Truman, Vandenberg and the great group of American monopolists are prepared not only to exploit the people of America but the people of Europe and, indeed, of the world. The C.I.O. leaders—
That has nothing to do with this Vote either.
I am going to finish. It is a shameful thing that men who claim to be Socialists and followers of Keir Hardie and other pioneers—
And of freedom.
It would be very much better if hon. Gentlemen did not interrupt this speech because then it might come to an end a little bit earlier.
It is a shame that those who claim to be followers of the pioneers of the Socialist movement, who claim to be Socialists, whose job is to fight and get rid of the capitalist class and to bring in a Socialist state in this country should be associated with the Tories of this country and of America. Because of that my colleague and I decided to put down this Amendment, which we hope will be supported by some other hon. Members.
The proceedings in Committee have been enlivened by a characteristically vituperative speech by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who, in accordance with the practice of his lords and masters, has tried to drive a wedge between his own Front Bench and its supporters. The hon. Member for West Fife has told us from what he calls his political judgment that the Soviet Union will never participate in an aggressive war. One is bound to comment upon that, Mr. Bowles, that one cannot place much faith in that hon. Member's political judgment, which so often in the past has been found at fault. We cannot but recognise that ever since the end of the war in Europe, Russia has deliberately minimised the help which this country and which the United States of America gave to the magnificent victories of her land forces; that ever since the end of the war in Europe she has at conference after conference frustrated every attempt at international agreement; that she has consistently rejected an agreed policy towards Germany, and that she has been engaged during the last four years in building up behind the iron curtain an exclusively Soviet zone.
And if that were not evidence enough of her intentions, we have to regard the fact that ever since last July she has been blockading Berlin, which is not only a crime against humanity, but is an attempt, if ever there was an attempt, to overthrow everything for which we in Britain and in the United States of America and in the other free countries stand for and in which we believe. I think we do right in these circumstances to support the Secretary of State for War in claiming that we should vote him this sum without deduction for the building up of the Armed Forces of the Crown.
I think many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee must have been very much struck by the speech which was made earlier this evening by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), speaking from the Government benches, who gave as his view and as the view of members of what he called the Services Committee on the Government side that the immediate task of the British Army was to build up as quickly as possible a highly mobile and efficient striking force, well-equipped, and ready to take its part, and it would have to be, he said, a generous part, in the action which would need to be taken by the Western Union States to keep Russia, in the event of an outbreak of war, from spreading westwards across the whole of Europe, and that the task of that Western European force, formed largely, one gathered, of a mobile striking force of British arms, would be to keep the Russian forces as far East as possible, to give the French time to mobilise behind the Rhine—the Belgians, the Dutch and so on—and the great American people time to mobilise their resources and throw those forces into the weight of the land battle. Perhaps I would not go as far as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, but I would say that I agree that we must as quickly as possible build up a mobile striking force.
I gave an undertaking in the earlier Debate, when we were sitting as the House and not as a Committee, to devote myself to one subject and one subject only, and I do not propose at this late hour to depart from this undertaking. I hope that what I am now going to say will be entirely helpful and constructive, and not in any sense critical. I do not expect a reply from the Minister, but I hope that he will give me a favourable reply by taking action at some future date.
I want to suggest one course of action which I think will be helpful to the objects which we all have in view. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should build up as quickly as possible what I would call—for want of a better name—a Territorial Staff Corps. I remember only too well how in the early days of the war we were deplorably deficient in trained staff officers. I believe that shortage was also experienced in the early days of the war of 1914–18. With mobilisation, the embodiment of the Territorial Army and the expansion of the Regular Army, a great many static formations had to be brought into being quickly, and expanded. Headquarters of Home Commands were divided into areas, as they were called, and sub-divided into sub-areas, with garrisons and so on—each with large staffs and all badly in need of trained staff officers.
Before the war there had been at least one correspondence course for Territorial Army officers, and as soon as war began students who had passed in the course—a comparatively short one—were pulled away from their units and given third or second grade staff appointments. As soon as war began—in fact, a day or two before it began—the first war course was started at the Staff College. From that moment onward the Staff College was working as hard as it could with a junior and intermediate wing at Camberley and, later, a senior wing at Minley Manor, turning out staff officers at the highest possible rate.
Do not let me be understood to suggest that staffs, particularly those of static formations at home were not too large. At the time when the war began in earnest I was serving on the staff of the headquarters of one of our Home Commands. Just before the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Army commander decided to hold daily conferences. I remember the first of these very well. It was held on the morning of Intercession Sunday, which I believe was on 26th May, 1940, just before our troops were brought away from Dunkirk.
At that first conference there were only 12 present, and yet on 1st July, five or six weeks later, there was a perfectly enormous army of officers, including naval and air liaison officers, the military liaison officer with the regional commissioner, and a whole host of others. The nominal roll of officers at Command headquarters had to be seen to be believed—a tremendous and growing list. We were completely immobile—in one unit at any rate—and so large did we become that we had to divide up, with a so-called battle headquarters going, like one of the regions of the Coal Board, into a very lovely country house to hide itself away, and a second and later a third echelon, with people like G. (Pubs.), G. (Camouflage), the Education and Catering Corps, and psychiatrists and agriculture and welfare officers galore. I do not say that to detract from the fact that everyone knew there was a great and increasing demand for trained staff officers in the early stages of the war, and that the proportion of unsuitable officers on the staff was much higher than should have been the case.
The Secretary of State, in one of the lyrical and more fanciful passages of his speech, said that in the event of need there would be a sufficient stream of reserves pouring into the moulds which were already available. I do not believe that is true as regards the staff. My object in taking part in the Debate is to express the strong hope that someone at the War Office is looking ahead now and planning for a supply of trained staff officers in the event of emergency. I notice that a correspondence course is to be started for Territorial Army officers. I saw an announcement in the Press a little before Christmas. I inquired about it and was informed that the scheme was in the planning stage.
The scheme contemplates a correspondence course, combined with a short central course at the Staff College. We arc told that vacancies are bound to be strictly limited, but Commands have been notified of the number to be allocated to them respectively and are to submit names of suitable candidates when the scheme comes into operation. It seems to me that that does not go nearly far enough. There is already an inadequate number of Territorial Army officers. I know perfectly well that commanding officers do not allow their best officers to go on a course of this kind. I do not blame them, because they know that should war break out the officer will be whisked out of the unit and put in a chair in an office, and that he will not be able to fight. It is all wrong that a Territorial Army officer should be taken out of his unit at the present time, when officers are so badly needed, to be trained for the staff. I do not think it goes nearly far enough, because it denies an opportunity of drawing from a much wider and more fruitful field.
I want to explain quite briefly what I mean by that. There are at the present time a great many non-Regular officers who served with distinction on the staff during the recent war and who qualified at the Staff College. These, in many cases for various and for the most part perfectly valid or at least perfectly understandable reasons, are unable to take their part in the combatant ranks of the Territorial Army. Some of them may have been first grade staff officers, and have been so long away from regimental duty that they feel conscientiously that they could not pull their weight as regimental commanders, or even as battery or company commanders in a Territorial unit. Others feel themselves to be too old to start on a comparatively low rung of the ladder, while others have achieved and are working in important posts in trade, commerce and in the professions, and are unable to attend regularly at Territorial drills.
I am not concerned to justify or to defend that attitude, but I do state it as a fact which I know to be true from my own observation. It seems to me that if only we could get these trained staff officers who served in the recent war and passed the Staff College, and utilise their services in a Territorial Staff Corps, we would, in the first place, release Territorial officers to do their own job without having to be called away to a correspondence course on staff duties. Secondly, it would provide a valuable nucleus of experienced staff-officers ready to step forward in the case of an emergency.
I envisage this Territorial Staff Corps as consisting initially of trained staff officers who, as I have said, either served in the last war as such or passed the Staff College, or both, who would undertake at least a three years' engagement, with a correspondence course and an annual refresher course at the Staff College or elsewhere for a period of 10 days or a fortnight in every year. I think that course might well be supplemented by a recommended course of reading so that who ever was in charge of this scheme would send round a list of recommended articles in the "Army Quarterly," the Journal of the R.U.S.I., articles such as the two which appeared recently in the "National Review" by General Lyne, the late Director of Military Training at the War Office on "The Army We Require," which it would be useful and helpful for these prospective staff officers to read over so that they might be kept up to date with the latest trends and ideas.
There is another point. A unified command makes unification of staff duties essential. The Secretary of State told us this afternoon that we have provided already for Western Union some of our best and highly trained staffs. We should make provision for recruiting and training liaison officers, particularly those who are skilled in languages and who would be ready to work with other Western Union countries, and we should earmark the most promising officers for exchange visits. Later selected parties might be flown to possible sources of operations. That sort of thing would have been invaluable if we had done it before the war. It would have been invaluable if we had done it in the case of Norway before the war. It can be done now. While it would doubtless be possible to train some general staff officers in a corps such as that, I believe that the most promising field would be in the field of administration.
I remember being told at the Staff College that the three requirements of an administrative staff officer were intelligent anticipation and timely preparation, a thorough knowledge of the organisation, functions and capacity of the administrative services, and a tidy mind, accuracy in detail and the ability to work hard. It seems to me that that is exactly the kind of qualification which is expected in a competent business man.
The morning milk, the daily newspaper, the 'bus or the train to the office, clothing, feeding, amusements—all these are examples of administration in a highly developed form. Yet these are not mysteries to a competent director of a large concern. They are his daily experience—just as dealing with men is the everyday task of a director of personnel of a large concern, as it is the daily concern of a high grade "A" staff officer. It is, in the main, among the business men of this type that we should expect to find our higher grade administrative staff officers. We ought to be earmarking them now. I believe that recruitment to the staff corps could be by individual invitation. We should certainly handpick some of the ex-Indian Civil Servants for a task like that. I believe that there we have some magnificent material. I am saying this in all seriousness. It is a suggestion which ought to be followed up.
I apologise for keeping the Committee so long, but I should like briefly to recapitulate, and to say that I hope the Secretary of State will think again about this Territorial Army correspondence staff course. By selective recruitment initially from ex-officers who filled staff appointments during the war or who passed through the Staff College, let us build up a corps of staff officers against an emergency. Let the Military Secretary's Department keep a tab on all of them so that they may be graded according to whether they are suitable for work with mobile or static headquarters, whether they are suitable for "G," "A," or "Q" work or for liaison duties. Let this be done with imagination, and let it be done at once.
I am glad that I have caught your eye, Mr. Bowles, just after the speech of the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). I am perfectly certain that I can use his speech as a model and that I shall not be out of Order if I follow in his footsteps. I am sorry that I have not got sufficient notes to enable me to speak for so long; I shall not be able to give any personal reminiscences, but apart from that, I shall do my best to make a useful contribution to this Debate.
During the speech of the leader of the Communist Party there seemed to be considerable doubt about who was to blame for the position we find ourselves in, in common with other countries. As I see it, it largely depends on what part of the world one is living in, and what view one takes; but in this country, and as far as our responsibilities in this Committee are concerned, the fact is that we are in great danger—and this four years after the end of the Second World War. If any testimony as to that danger is needed, these Army Estimates give it.
Many hon. Members on this side, during this and other Service Debates, have been in the habit of taunting hon. Gentlemen opposite with not being prepared so well for a previous war. I dare say there is a certain amount of justification for that point of view. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not hesitate to agree. But I would remind the Committee that the position in 1949 is not the same as it was four years after the end of the First World War. The responsibility of this Government, in relation to their point of view in these matters, is vastly different from that of any previous Government. Four years after the First World War, this country was controlled by hon. Members who now sit in Opposition. Quite naturally, as a matter of tradition, custom, family ties, and all the rest of it, they would never dream of not continuing to maintain the Armed Forces. It was a matter of form, part of the tradition of this country.
But today it is very different. We have a Government in power representing a party which has never held these traditions. Right through the propaganda that led up to the obtaining of power, the party on this side refuted and repudiated these traditions. It is only because—and this is where we are different from four years after 1914–18—we have got today a clearly sighted enemy facing the people of this country that this Government is being forced to take these steps with regard to the Armed Forces. I would also say this. If we had got a clearly defined enemy in the U.S.S.R., it would be impossible for this Government, or this party, to defend these Army Estimates, the amount of money being spent, or the number of men being drawn into the Forces. It is a fortuitous circumstance for those people who believe in war and in armies, and in army contracts, that this enemy has come along.
I beg hon. Members to study carefully the propaganda that is going on, attempting to strengthen the idea that we in this country and in Europe have to face the possibility of another world war. It may be that the traditional interests of the armament producers, people who believe in armies and in commanding men, that these forces and influences have something to do with this continual preaching of the possibility of war and the need of preparing for war.
There is another thing which has struck me as very curious during this Debate, and my attention was again drawn to it in the reply of the Under-Secretary. Hon. Members opposite have drawn attention during this and similar Debates to the lack of information. They have suggested that there is secrecy. The Under-Secretary admitted that that was the case, but to placate hon. Members opposite he pointed out that the Prime Minister had undertaken publicly, in letters published in the newspapers last weekend, to inform the Leader of the Opposition about these matters of which we in this Committee have no knowledge.
I draw attention to one sentence in the letter of the Leader of the Opposition in which he stated that on receiving this information he would pass it on and con- sult with his colleagues. This means that the present position is that the Government are giving to the Leader of the Opposition certain information which the Leader of the Opposition is going to give to his colleagues but which ordinary Members of the House of Commons will not have. I object on that point alone. I am elected as a Member of the House of Commons, and I am as much entitled to all the information which is available as is the Leader of the Opposition or his colleagues.
There is a second point in this matter. Most hon. Members who support this armaments programme do so because they say that only by the flourishing of armaments can we hope to obtain peace. That is the argument—that we can keep the peace by being efficiently and heavily armed and so making it clear to possible enemies that it would be an unfortunate thing for them if they started a war. If that is the point of view, we ought surely to publish every possible advantage which we have and make clear to the world what our real strength is. It seems to me that the Government, in confining its confidence to the Leader of the Opposition and certain of his colleagues, is doing a disservice to the world, if there is any validity in the argument that one can frighten a potential enemy.
I suggest that our experience shows us that there is no validity in that argument. It has never succeeded. It would be all right if only one side were doing that sort of thing; but the people in the U.S.S.R. are taking exactly the same viewpoint. They are arming and they are attempting to intimidate us. It was obvious in the Debate on the Navy Estimates the other night that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) had been intimidated, because he was telling the people of this country how many submarines the U.S.S.R. had built, and that it was absolutely hopeless for us to attempt to stand against her. In fact, the Civil Lord went so far as to accuse him of being—
On a point of Order. May I ask whether we can continue the Debate on the Navy Estimates?
The hon. Member is in Order in referring to the Debate of two days ago. I think the Debate has been very wide.
In that case it is open to us to discuss the whole question of defence, naval, air and everything else.
I am only using this incident as an illustration. The thing went so far as to cause the Civil Lord to accuse the right hon. Member for Bournemouth of having visited Russia, and with being a "fellow-traveller," or a "crypto" or something of that sort. That is the position we are being drawn into as a result of this armaments race. That is what we are indulging in at present. I say that this method of preventing war has never succeeded in the past and, for obvious reasons, is not likely to succeed on this occasion. In almost every country the pace with regard to rearmament is getting hotter and hotter; great sums of money are being spent, and more and more men are being trained and drawn in, and gradually the economy of most countries is becoming a war-time economy.
There is secret consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and that, to my mind, proves that we are preparing the way for a coalition which is to be part and parcel of the arms race which has already started. We are very close to, if we have not already arrived at, a coalition of this Government and the Opposition so far as foreign policy and defence are concerned, and in a modern State, once one gets that amount of control and interest involved, it will not be very long before the influences of that coalition are felt with regard to home affairs. We shall see all sort of questions which we thought were in the domestic field being drawn into this great task of preparing for war.
If this type of development goes on, as it is going on in every country of the world, the time will come, as it came in Nazi Germany, when it will be impossible to draw back. That was a country which attempted to prevent war by preparing for war; ultimately it was driven into war, and ultimately it was defeated. That is the way development is taking place at present.
It seems that we are on a sort of rake's progress. We go over this subject every year; we have Debates on Foreign Affairs. They are very short Debates, and very little is said. We "knock off" at ten o'clock, presumably to please the Lord President of the Council, who likes what he terms a nice, tidy Debate. But we have certain commitments—and we have every justification for the next step. The Minister of Defence has a Debate on Defence; that is sheer bluff, and we do not give anything away. We know perfectly well, the Minister of Defence, the Secretary of State for War and all the rest know, that in modern war defence is impossible. Their real object is to prepare the attack, but they placate people and let those people who believe that war is an iniquity think that we are only defending ourselves. These solemn Debates and these White Papers simply hide the work which is going on.
Then there is the third stage. We have had that tonight. We are voting the men and the money. Goodness knows what we are getting for it all. They have too many men on their hands at present, and do not know what to do with them. They are not calling up all they can. The Minister told us, in a previous speech, of the discoveries he made when he arrived at the War Office as Secretary of State for War. I am not a bit surprised at those discoveries. He went to the War Office with a great record as Minister of Fuel and Power. He did a magnificent job in that office, and the Government made a very wise appointment in sending him to the War Office, because they knew that that place wanted cleaning up. My right hon. Friend very soon put his finger on the fault. He told us in that previous Debate that the time of the men in the Army was wasted, that the married quarters were of poor quality, and that the relations between officers and men were bad.
Considerable dissatisfaction about re, cruiting has been expressed in this House. Is it to be expected that an Army with that record and those conditions would attract men? Obviously not. Men are reasonable and well educated. They returned a Labour Government in 1945, and tonight they have done something else. They have returned another Labour Member of Parliament. Men are not going to be led away by bad conditions. I do not think we ought to be surprised that men are not coming into the sort of Army we have at the present time. Suggestions have been made about giving them higher pay. We have tried to get them in under conscription, and although we have got them, we know that it is perfectly useless. It is now suggested that we should bribe them by offering them jobs in the barracks at the end of 21 years in the Army. It is believed that that will entice them to come in. I do not believe a word of it, because it will not work.
One of the reasons why we have a Labour Government at the present time was because of the time at which the Election took place. It was in 1945 immediately after the Second World War was over. A great many people at that time said to themselves, "The Labour people are putting themselves forward. We do not know a lot about them, but we will give them a trial. One thing will not happen with a Labour Government and that is a third world war." In many of the constituencies it was the votes which came from the boys overseas and the recommendations which they made to their parents at home that led to this great Labour majority. In 1945 the people of this country had had enough of war. They have had enough of it today. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) ought not to be surprised that the fighting capacity is not all that he would like it to be.
We have arrived at the third stage. We are voting the money. As the hon. Member for West Aberdeen went into the details, I propose to go into details of one section mentioned in this Vote, the Royal Army Medical Corps. That corps is getting a grant of nearly £9½ million. Part of its duties are mentioned on page 12 of the Estimates—the medical care of the sick. Many of us thought that when a Ministry of Defence was set up steps would be taken by those people who believe in the existence of the Armed Forces to co-ordinate certain of the Services. Matters connected with the care of the sick in the Forces provide a fitting opportunity for co-ordination. It would, at any rate, give the Government an opportunity of getting the whole thing reorganised.
Matters to which my constituents have drawn my attention show me that there is a good deal needed in the Royal Army Medical Corps. I will give one example. We are forcing young men into the Army. Many of them, however, go quite willingly with an intention to do their job, and I have had my attention drawn to a case of a boy whose parents are in my constituency, a boy 18 years of age, 6 ft. 2 ins, in height, 13 stone in weight—a magnificent example of young manhood, never having had a day's illness since ordinary childhood ailments. He entered the British Army, and within four weeks he was in a T.B. ward in a hospital as a result of chronic neglect on the part of the Army authorities. He reported on a Saturday and he was said to have bronchitis. He was given light duty and medicine by a doctor, although there is some doubt as to whether he actually saw a doctor. He was given light duty, and medicine three times a day by an orderly. As far as I can discover, the doctor made no arrangements to see him again. In 14 days' time, that boy reported again with pneumonia and some other complication, and a shadow on his lung, and was hurried off, as I say, to hospital.
I say that if the Army can take no better care of the young men who are obliged to go into it, than that, this Royal Army Medical Corps should be immediately looked into and reorganised. There have been other cases of a similar character, and from what I hear from my constituents there is general dis-satisfaction on the part of parents at the way their young men are looked after when they get in the Army. If the Government really want full-time soldiers, I suggest that if they got down to practical matters of that sort and made the Army fit to take young men into, they might get some better result.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was speaking, an hon. Member opposite rather jeered at him and said that had it not been for the existence of Armed Forces in this country, it would not have been possible for my hon. Friend to have made the speech he did. I am getting on in years and I have had some little experience of wars. I will admit that I have a very great admiration for soldiers, sailors and airmen. I got that early in life by reading a certain book by John Ruskin, who made the comparison between the grocer and the soldier. He pointed out that a grocer was not expected, and did not expect, to die in order to keep the population fed, but that, on the contrary, the soldier was ready always to make the great sacrifice and to die in order to carry out his job. I have never forgotten those words, and for that reason I have always had, both as the result of an acquaintanceship and knowledge, a very high regard for the soldier.
But a new aspect is coming over the position. We are all getting involved in that particular matter with regard to war. During the Boer war, which I can remember, I felt perfectly safe in this country, but in 1914 to 1918 things were vastly different, and in the last war every man, woman and child, civilian or soldier, was just as much in the front line as a young soldier. That is what is happening in the world today. We are organising, building up armaments and arms, but in the final result the people whom all this is to defend are in greater danger than they have ever been before. We ought to realise that the proposals which we are making and advocating are, in the final analysis, not going to defend the people of this or any other country from the result of a war which will be even more terrible—and there is no denial of this in any section of the community.
I suggest that, whatever the wickednesses of Russia may be—and for all I know they may be many—and whatever the sins of the United States of America—and they may have none—we know that the methods being pursued by this country and by those countries to defend the helpless are bound to fail. For that reason we should treat this matter far more seriously than we have done today, or than we generally do in this country, and should reconsider the whole question facing us with a view to starting again on entirely different lines. It is certain that the lines on which we are working at present are bound to lead to death and destruction.
I think that it has been worth while prolonging this Debate if only to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock). It is the sort of speech which would have been delivered from both benches if a Conservative Government had been in power. It has been said that the Lord President of the Council will be dissatisfied because this has not turned out to be a nice, tidy debate. Nothing would please me better than if it were continued until it merged into the Debate on the Air Estimates.
The thing I want to know is where the Chancellor of the Exchequer is. We are passing Votes amounting to £304,700,000, and further Supplementary Estimates. At one time a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned rather than agree to extravagant Estimates of the Army. He was Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of the present Leader of the Opposition, and when the Army was spending a fraction of what it is today he thought that it was asking too much. In his letter of resignation he said:
If the foreign policy of this country is conducted with skill and judgment, our present huge and increasing armaments are quite unnecessary and the taxation which they involve perfectly unjustifiable.
Rather than agree with what he considered to be swollen estimates, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer threw up his job and gave up his political career. I should like to know where the Chancellor of the Exchequer is when this money is going to be thrown about and when we have actually been told by the Father of the House that he does not know what the money is for, and that there is some great secrecy which cannot be revealed even to the right hon. Gentleman who has been the longest term of years in this House. As a member for a Scottish constituency, I object to giving blank cheques to anyone. I object to over £300 million being given to the Secretary of State for War when the case which he has put does not justify giving him threepence.
The Secretary of State has told us that he does not know anything about military strategy. Then what is he doing in the job? Surely, if we are going to entrust 500,000 men in his hands, that is a terrible confession to make and we should not be called upon to give this ignoramus £300 million of our money? The hon. Member for Mitcham has raised a very important constitutional point, a point which I tried to raise myself at Question Time today, and that was what sort of information is to be conveyed to the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister has said it has been the practice to convey information of a secret nature to the Leader of the Opposition, but it does not follow that it should be continued by the Socialist Government. If the Government object so much to the iron curtain, why should they draw an iron curtain round Downing Street?
At Election time Members of the Government denounce the Leader of the Opposition and say that he is a political danger. They say that they do not want him back and do not want his policy or his party; but then the Leader of the Opposition goes around to the backdoor of Downing Street and is given information which is denied even to the veteran Member of the House. I have the greatest sympathy for the brigadiers. They are also among the ignoramuses. I have listened to four brigadiers in this Debate confessing their ignorance, which is an indictment in effect of the Government's policy. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) made an excellent case against conscription, but he was not so good when he got on to economics. His military strategy was perfect.
When the Leader of the Opposition gets all the secrets from the Prime Minister, is he going to take the four brigadiers into his confidence? If the brigadiers are to have the information, surely Members of the Labour Party should have the information; otherwise how are they going to defend the Government against the charges of extravagance which will be made. "Will you come into my parlour?" said the fly to the spider. Once the spider gets into 10, Downing Street, it is goodbye to the fly. In due course we shall have a heated controversy between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. How will the Secretary of State for War, who presumably will be kept in the back kitchen at Downing Street, the four brigadiers and those of us who are completely outside the secret circle, be able to make up our minds whether the £300 million is being wisely spent? I do not know. I thought the Foreign Secretary would have condescended to put in an appearance, because I think it is unfortunate that the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War have been left behind—two not very impressive boys on the burning deck—while the rest take up an aloof position.
We old soldiers do not get an opportunity of discussing these Estimates more than once a year, and so I want to pursue some questions. We have been told that the campaign in Malaya is costing a great deal in men and money. I have a statement made by the Governor of Malaya in which he says that the campaign is now costing £220,500 a week. How long is it going on? No one dares say that the condition of Malaya is getting better. The fact is that it is getting steadily worse, and with this mounting campaign of men and money, if it is getting worse, where is the manpower needed in Malaya, in the Territorials, on the Western Front, and on the economic front as well to come from? We cannot conduct these highly elaborate organised activities on the manpower at our disposal at the present time, and that is the headache of the Cabinet.
I want to turn to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton, when he argued, quite rightly, that if we are to have soldiers and officers we have to give them decent accommodation. I have been pleading for the privates of industry for a good many months in the House, and I interrupted the hon. and gallant Gentleman to ask him where he was going to get the building labour to build the houses when the men were being conscripted by the Secretary of State for War. They cannot be doing military exercises and they cannot be building houses at the same time.
I believe, from my experience in Scotland, that we have not got the labour force for building the houses with the people available now, and if we take them away from building the houses needed for the civilian population, we are going to get strong opposition to the Government's policy. I know the apprentices are not called up, but I tried to get an assurance from the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Labour that no other building workers are to be called up in Scotland in the present year. They both refused. They know they are going to call up workers from the industry which has not the labour force it requires. How are we going to build the barracks and quarters with the men in the Army and no labour and materials?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should pursue that problem. I want to know when these brigadiers are going to forget Sandhurst and learn something from the London School of Economics, because we cannot possibly have an enormous economic machine going, trying to recover our export trade to build up our economic status in the world, and at the same time have these millions of men in the Army.
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech he would recognise that the whole point was how to succeed in stimulating military recruitment so as to give something back to the economic manpower by gearing down on the terms of service of the National Service men.
But how long is this process of stimulating and gearing down, to last? Another brigadier, who is not here now, made a very able speech in which he talked about the recruiting campaign. We have had a lot of talk about the recruiting campaign in this Debate, and the absent brigadier—the deserter—argued that if the Leader of the Opposition had been the first in the series of speakers in this campaign, the campaign would have been a magnificent success. He cannot get votes, but apparently he is going to get recruits. I have tried to ascertain from the reticent Minister of Defence exactly how many recruits have been obtained as a result of this massed oratorical attack on the British public. There has been an increase of, I believe, 500,000 in the Secret Service. The Secret Service cannot find out how many recruits enlisted as a result of the combined oratory of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the Opposition and future oratorical efforts—
Before that statement is quoted on the Moscow radio, would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain that he was referring to £500,000 and not 500,000 people?
Certainly. I thought military gentlemen knew what I was talking about. As for the number of people involved, that is another thing hidden by the iron curtain. There is no justification for this Committee assuming that the people want us to go ahead with the recruiting campaign, but there is plenty of evidence to show that the country is practising an effective sit-down strike so far as the campaign is concerned. The absent brigadier called the recruiting campaign a flop, and said it was impossible to resurrect a flop. Perhaps he would be interested in the finance involved in this flop. I put a Question to the Minister of Defence recently, and I asked him the cost of the recruiting campaign in 1948. I will say this for the Minister of Defence. He very courteously put some mathematician on the job, and at last I have had a reply.
These are figures which I think the Committee should know. I am giving to the brigadiers information which they do not seem to have. In 1948 expenditure on recruiting publicity for the Regular and Women's Forces was about £325,000. That is a lot of money. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) called attention to the Press officers. I am sure he would be interested in the expenditure on this recruiting campaign. The total number of recruits on Regular and short-service commissions or engagements in the year was 88,500, and the cost per recruit, therefore, works out at a little under £3 15s. Recruiting publicity in 1948 for the Auxiliary Forces, by which I mean the R.N.V.R., the T.A., A.T.S., Royal Auxiliaries, and so on, amounted to £210,000. During the year 46,500 recruits were obtained, and the cost works out at about £4 10s. a head. These figures show that there has been enormous expenditure, with the minimum result.
I challenged the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) about the recruiting campaign in Scotland. There was a recruiting exhibition in Glasgow and in that populous industrial area from 20th to 28th February. According to the figures I am given by the Minister of Defence the cost was about £2,100; 131,000 people attended; and 146 recruits were obtained —from the whole of the city of Glasgow and that populous industrial area. There were some cadets found, too. It works out at about £14. I asked about Winchester. There they had Lord Portal, an exhibition of some kind, and a vote of thanks moved by the Labour Member from the constituency. The total expenditure was £30, and the number of recruits was nil.
I understand the Secretary of State for War has been very energetic in this recruiting campaign. How has he done? He went to Aberystwyth. He reviewed the troops. The students took great interest in this review. I have here a Welsh paper which shows the slogans the students brought with them to assist the Minister for War. Hon. and gallant Members who have been at Sandhurst will remember General Carnot. One of the slogans was "Join Carnot's Army," but in anticipation of legislation, I suppose, they did it in the simplified spelling—"Join Fred Karno's Army." The Minister made an impassioned oration. There was one slogan, "Have a go at Joe." I understand from local information that the number of recruits was two A.T.S. girls. It was not the oratorical powers of the Secretary of State for War—it was his sex appeal.
I suggest that the greatest liability of the recruiting campaign is the Secretary of State for War. He got two A.T.S. girls, and innumerable raspberries. We do not pay anyone £5,000 a year for going round the country collecting raspberries. But that appears to be the present function of the Secretary of State for War. The Prime Minister would be doing a national service if he placed the Secretary of State for War in a position where he could use his energies and abilities and industry, as he did when he was Minister of Fuel and Power, in some other sphere of activity, and so end what can only be a ludicrous continuation of these ridiculous recruiting campaigns. I do not wish to pursue the point any further. I think it was in reply to an interruption that the right hon. Gentleman explained his military activities in World War 1. He stayed where he was. He was organising the Seamen's Union in Glasgow, and preferred to do that rather than join up at that time. I do not blame him, because I think he was doing useful work. I do not know exactly where he was, but I do know where he was not—he was not in the Army. Naturally, the first question which is asked if one takes part in a recruiting campaign is "What did you do in that particular war?"
Do I understand, Mr. Bowles, that you will permit me to reply to this?
I want the Secretary of State for War to reply fully and explain in detail, if he wants to, why he was not in the Army. I am sure the House will be interested to learn. I argue seriously that the present Secretary of State for War is a hopeless misfit—that he has absolutely no idea of the anti-Army feeling he is creating throughout the country. There was a written question yesterday about the Huddersfield Trade Council. It appears that the Huddersfield Trades Council had unanimously declined to have anything to do with the recruiting campaign. The Secretary of State for War said that this had been a statement made by the vice-president, but that a circular was being issued saying that the T.U.C. was in favour of the recruiting campaign. So, apparently, the T.U.C. is being brought in to coerce the trade councils. I know what the right hon. Gentleman would have said if, when he was president of the Glasgow Trades Council, the T.U.C. had been brought in to use its influence to get him to take part in a recruiting campaign at that time.
A large number of trade councils throughout the country have refused to have anything to do with the recruiting campaign. They say that the recruiting campaign is regarded by some speakers as anti-Communist and anti-Socialist, and even anti-Secretary of State for War propaganda. That was the case at Perth. The trades council there objected to a speech made by a general and because a lady known as the "Red Duchess" had come along and delivered what was considered to be an anti-working class speech. In Edinburgh the same thing took place. I understand that a large proportion of the trades councils throughout the country, the people in close touch with the Labour rank and file, are antipathetic and hostile to the campaign because they want to know why they are to be called upon to enlist in a war against Communism.
The Foreign Secretary is to speak on the wireless. I saw in Monday's newspaper a very interesting thing by Harry Pollitt, the Leader of the Communist Party. I have nothing to do ideologically with the Communist Party, but I find that Harry Pollitt was asked by someone what his attitude was likely to be if there was war with Russia. He replied, "I would do exactly as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs did when he tried to stop war with Russia in 1920." There is no doubt that at that time the Foreign Secretary was one of the leading members of the T.U.C., and he took a very active part in stopping war with Russia. I suggest now that this feeling among thousands of working class people in this country that they would not go into a war with Russia, which is reflected in the attitude of the trade councils, is a result of the activities carried on by the Secretary of State for War and other members of the Government Front Bench for generations.
The "Star" had a leading article recently—on 17th February—on this recruiting campaign, and stated that letters to the "Star" continued to come in, all telling the same tale of boredom, idleness, and a desire to get out of uniform for good. I suggest that that is the plain truth, and we can organise recruiting campaigns for all we are worth, but we will not get the working people enthusiastic about a war with Soviet Russia because they realise what such a war would mean. I have said I do not agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I entirely disagree with the idea that Russia is entirely blameless. The Russian Government must share the responsibility of all Governments; but if we conscript people in this country, we cannot logically object to people being conscripted in Moscow or anywhere else.
Let us get this Russian argument in some kind of proper perspective. I have a statement here by a marshal of the Soviet Union—Marshal Govorov—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is the name?] Hon. Members may laugh at the Soviet marshals and their names today, but a few years ago they were very glad to pay respectful tributes to them; and if that was so a few years ago, we should listen to their arguments today. Here is what Marshal Govorov says of the Soviet Army: "The armed forces of the Soviet Union stand on guard for peace and unity." Why Russia keeps a strong army, navy, and air force is explained with just the same arguments as those used in this country. When I was in Moscow, I went round a military museum, and the officer conducting me took great pride in the House of the Red Army; he showed me guns and military material captured from the White generals. He showed me pictures, hanging on the wall, and—
Order, I really do not think that the hon. Member's remarks are at all in Order or relevant in this Debate.
I am coming to a conclusion very shortly. What I am trying to say is that the same arguments that have been used about having to have preparedness for war if one is to have peace have been duplicated, almost word for word, in other countries. They are used by Marshal Govorov. If the rulers of the States of this world pursue this in diplomacy, with the cold war developing into the hot war, we are going to reach the final catastrophe.
We should consider this very carefully. We have not an army efficient for war; all the efforts to persuade the people of this country to organise into a gigantic military machine will fail. We have to look beyond the possibility of war, and the man who has shown the way is not Marshal Stalin, or the Leader of the Opposition, but a man who was prepared to give his life for his ideals, just as the soldier is prepared to give his—and that man was Gandhi. Do not let the Socialists think, now that they have power, that they should adopt military ideals. Do not let them accept the leadership of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Do not let our spiritual leader be the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. Before hon. Members go into the Lobby to give a blank cheque to build up a huge military machine, they should think twice about where they are leading the people of this country.
Perhaps I may be permitted to bring this Debate back to its original purpose, which was to consider primarily the provision of finance for men and material for the Army. Although the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has enjoyed himself hugely, in my opinion he has indulged in more irrelevancies than I have heard in any single Debate in my experience in this House over a period of years. Major Milner, your predecessor permitted a general Debate on the Amendment.
On a point of Order. I understood that your predecessor, Major Milner, allowed me to make my remarks, which were relevant to the Debate, and I feel that the remark of my right hon. Friend was a reflection on the Chair.
I am not making any reflection on the Chair, but I was merely pointing out that your predecessor, Major Milner, declared we could' have a Debate on this Amendment on general defence matters. If that is so, hon. Members, including myself, are entitled to roam all over the place. I should not have supposed that at this time that was desirable, but obviously if the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is permitted to take a certain course of action I judge that I shall not be precluded from doing the same myself.
I must reserve for the Chair full right to determine what is in Order and what is not, but the right hon. Gentleman is certainly entitled to reply to any personal animadversions upon himself.
I am in some difficulty about this matter, and it ought to be cleared up. [Interruption.] Do I understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite are impatient? They listened with great delight and exultation to what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire said.
And we want to hear the answer.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect any general Ruling on the matter. I shall listen to what is being said, and if it goes beyond the purpose of the Debate then, of course, I shall call the right hon. Gentleman to Order.
Let us see precisely where we are. There is an Amendment before the Committee which asks that we should agree to the reduction of the Army by 100 men. I must resist that Amendment, and ask hon. Members on this side of the Committee to support me in the Lobby if necessary, because the British Army cannot afford the loss of 100 men. What I want to know is—and this applies not only to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) but to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and to the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock), who spoke in the same vein—if in their opinion it is undesirable to have included in the Army figures the 100 men to whom they refer, then I should have thought that they would propose to abolish the British Army altogether. That would be logical. That I could understand, but that is not their position at all. I am not prepared to propose that we should make no financial provision at all for the Army. What does it matter, then, from that point of view if the Army is reduced by 100 men?
As regards the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, I am in the utmost difficulty in trying to understand why he is worrying about our inability to obtain recruits. I understood that was the concern of the hon. Member. He wants to know why we cannot get recruits after this expenditure of money, why, in spite of the oratory at Aberystwyth and elsewhere, we are unable to get the recruits. But the hon. Member does not want recruits for the Army. He is against the Army—and why should he concern himself in this matter at all? That is the position as far as he is concerned. He is either for the Army or against it. Apparently he is against it. Then why worry about recruits? He can leave the matter to us.
I propose to address my remarks to the hon. Member for West Fife rather than to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.
Only for a moment.
Never mind whether he has gone or not. I think there ought to be a reply to the hon. Member for West Fife and I am going to make a reply.
I shall answer if necessary.
As far as the Member for South Ayrshire is concerned, however, I am bound to say I heard this sort of speech before over and over again, and in my judgment it is not worth replying to, except on the personal issue; and I want to say this about the personal issue. It is not the first time the hon. Member has indulged in attacks. Not long ago he made a declaration on the radio in which I was accused of having, at one time, inspired murder and treason, a statement he had to withdraw and a statement for which he had to apologise. In these circumstances, I am not disposed to bandy words with an hon. Member who is guilty of accusations of that kind.
This is an irrelevant matter but it is a personal one. As I said on the radio—and I did not apologise on the radio—I quoted a statement that the Minister of War had been tried at Edinburgh for murder and high treason. These words occurred somewhere in that indictment; the right hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), showed me the indictment. But he cannot deny he was in Edinburgh in gaol for five months for incitement to riot or something like that.
It is obvious the hon. Member does not know what he is talking about. To come along with a statement of this kind after having agreed he made a mistake on the radio only indicates that the hon. Member is in a most unbalanced state of mind and therefore I am prepared to leave it.
When it comes to a question of military record, I confess quite frankly I did not serve in the Army. But I reject the suggestion quite definitely that at any time I was a conscientious objector—and that was the accusation made against me by the hon. Member. Indeed, accusations have been made against other hon. Members on this bench in the same way, but contrary to the general impression, and if it is a matter of interest to the Committee—and apparently it is because the hon. Member was listened to with great attention—in the First World War I was associated with a seamen's movement, and in being associated with that movement I was actually engaged in carrying out work on behalf of the Gov- ernment, and was excluded from military activity because of that work I had undertaken.
Although subsequently I had to come before the tribunal in connection with my exemption because I was making certain political speeches, it was the Government of the day, inspired by George M. Barnes, who was a member of the Coalition Government, who himself arranged through the Government for my continued exemption. I resent this suggestion that at that time I was a conscientious objector. I want to make this quite clear. Those who have conscientious scruples against war are quite entitled to their opinions, and I have no complaint on that score. I hope we shall hear no more of this matter in future.
Now I want to go into the allegations of the hon. Member for West Fife. I want to say this definitely and categorically: No one in the Labour Party or on these benches wants war with Russia. We have no aggressive designs and, so far as I know, no member of His Majesty's Government has made any declaration which indicates that we desire to engage in hostilities against Soviet Russia. On the contrary, we want peace with Soviet Russia and with every other nation in the United Nations organisation. The hon. Member for West Fife accused the Labour Government of associating not only with Tories on the opposite bench but of association with American imperialists and multi-millionaires, as he described them. The hon. Member for West Fife must be careful because Soviet Russia is still a member of the United Nations organisation, and in that organisation are capitalist and so-called imperialistic nations. I think we ought to have his explanation of why Soviet Russia continues to be associated with those "imperialistic" nations in the United Nations organisation.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that no member of His Majesty's Government desires war with Russia. His Majesty's Government have close associations with the Tories. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that none of the Tory leaders or none of the Tories desires war with Russia?
If it comes to associations with certain sinister elements, sometimes I wonder—I say this with the utmost goodwill and with no hostile feel- ings against Soviet Russia or anyone connected with her—who are the associates of Soviet Russia. After all, we must not forget that in the early days of the late war there were influences in Russia not very far removed from Fascist elements. I dislike reviving these historical episodes, but if we are accused and provoked then I am afraid that we shall have to say rather more than we desire. We want peace with Russia, and do not want to exacerbate feelings. It is hon. Members like the hon. Member for West Fife and those associated with him who are much more likely to provoke hostile relations between this country and Soviet Russia than members of the Labour Party. Now I will deal with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me—
No. I shall deal first with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, because he had a lot to say. There is something I want to ask him which is, after all, the crux of the whole matter; in my judgment the rest is irrelevant. Are we being asked to abandon our defences? That is the question which I want him to answer. Does the hon. Member for South Ayrshire ask the Labour Party to brine, about a complete abandonment of our national defences?
I believe in and am always appealing for non-violence and non-aggression. I stand by that.
Then the hon. Member wants us to abandon our defences—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and, presumably, the Civil Defence—even in an emergency. What does that involve? It involves in the event of hostilities against this country leaving the civilian population—men, women and children, including those in the hon. Member's constituency—unprotected and without any safeguards at all. I want to say quite frankly that we of the Labour Party are more concerned about protecting the men, women and children of South Ayrshire than the hon. Member.
I am quite satisfied that if the hon. Member wants us to abandon our defences while we refuse to abandon our defences, they are more likely to look to us for protection than to the hon. Member. I want to know whether that Is also the position with the hon. Member for West Fife. Why should we abandon our defences, leaving ourselves unprotected and without any safeguards, while Russia continues to retain her defences in a most adequate fashion?
I leave myself in the hands of the Committee. The plain question has been put to the hon. Member, and, incidentally, in putting that question I was also putting it to the Communist Party in this country.
Apparently there are divisions in the Communist Party. Probably that is the reason why their candidate has lost his deposit in St. Pancras today. Let me take up the answer given by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin). He says: "No, the Communist Party do not want the British Government to abandon the defences of this country," but we are to abandon our defences in Malaya, in Greece and elsewhere. Are we to understand that we are to withdraw our forces from Germany and that simultaneously the Soviet authorities will withdraw their forces from Eastern Germany, at the same time withdrawing her influence from the satellite countries?
Does the Minister claim that we are defending Britain in Greece? Does the Labour Party claim that? As regards the withdrawal of forces, the Soviet Government have withdrawn all their forces from Northern Korea while the American forces are still there with our consent. The Soviet Government have offered to organise a peace treaty with Germany and to withdraw all forces within a year. The Minister can accept that if he wants.
I might properly ask the hon. Member whether the Soviet Government will withdraw their influence in the satellite countries. I imagine that the answer to that question would be "No." Let me be positive in this declaration. Whatever Members may think, and whatever the Communist Party in this or any other country may think, so long as there are British interests to be protected in any part of the world where our interests lie we are going to protect them.
There is nothing Tory about it. We believe in the efficacy and value of the United Kingdom and what is called the British Commonwealth of Nations, if I may be permitted to use the term British—and I see nothing wrong about it. There is great value and great virtue in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
In my judgment it has made already and will continue to make a great contribution to democracy, freedom and civilisation. That is a Labour principle and I was not aware that the pioneers of the Labour movement in the old days, Keir Hardie, even Hyndman, or even members of the Democratic Socialist Federation to which the hon. Member for West Fife at one time belonged, were opposed to the British Commonwealth, although they undoubtedly, as we do now, violently objected to the exploitation of native peoples.
As in Malaya.
The British Government are not exploiting the native people of Malaya.
Of course they are.
That brings me to the accusation made by the hon. Member for West Fife about the statement made by myself early on in the Debate that there was a policy indulged in by the Chinese in Malaya of systematic murder, and he denied that murder was taking place.
With great respect, that is precisely what I thought at the time. I thought it was quite irrelevant and had nothing to do with the Debate, but the accusation was made, and my simple reply is that undoubtedly there has been murder by Chinese against planters, civilians and others in Malaya.
To burn down villages.
—to assist the civilian authorities to put down sabotage and murder. We shall continue to do so. I was also told that away back, many years ago, I sympathised with the Irish when certain Irish rebels were committing murder.
I did not.
I never sympathised with Irishmen committing murder. At one time, like members of the Labour Party, I may have been a friend of Ireland, but I never condoned murder, either by Irishmen or anyone else. I resent those suggestions.
It is a lie.
The hon. Gentleman must withdraw.
I withdraw immediately, and I want to explain what I said. I did not mean what the right hon. Gentleman was talking about was a lie, but that he was deliberately misquoting the hon. Member for West Fife. Therein was the lie. I withdraw.
If I have misunderstood the hon. Member for West Fife, and I have known him for over 40 years, it is the first time. The speech delivered by him is a tribute, and a remarkable one, to our democratic institutions. It is one of the few assemblies in the world where such a speech could be made. I regret to be at loggerheads with the hon. Member. I have known him for over 40 years, and I know he is capable of indulging in a great deal of humbug, but nevertheless one does expect him to dis- play common sense and intelligence on occasions of this sort. I am deeply disturbed to find that he was unable to do so in the course of his speech.
Now I come to my final point. We have had a most interesting Debate. I am bound to say in my defence that I did not seek to provoke any hon. Member in my opening speech. I set forth the position of the Army as I see it. Something has been said about my ignorance of military strategy.
The right hon. Gentleman himself said it.
Yes, I said it. It would have been very absurd indeed, and almost ludicrous, if I had pretended to have a knowledge of military strategy. Hon. Members opposite may display their great knowledge of military strategy; I have no pretensions in that connection. In matters of military strategy, I am quite prepared to leave myself in the hands of military advisers with the necessary qualifications. I agree that there must always be ministerial responsibility. That is the reply to the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) who complained that we were trying to dissociate ourselves from responsibility. We accept our responsibility. We cannot put our military advisers in the dock. We have to come before Parliament and we are answerable to the country for matters of this sort. We do not pretend to have a knowledge of matters in which we have not been fully trained, and for very good reasons, but as for the strategy associated with Western Union, and, indeed, the general military strategy of the country, we take the advice tendered to us, or we use our own judgment when the advice is given to us, and we accept responsibility for what occurs
Yes, ministerial responsibility. The hon. Member has been long enough in the House to know we cannot dissociate ourselves from responsibility in matters of this sort. Nevertheless, we have had an interesting Debate and we have brought out certain facts in relation to the Army which I thought the Committee ought to know.
May I summarise in a few final words the position as I see it? There is much still to be done in order to put the Army on a sound footing, as regards men, materials, accommodation and conditions. I accept that, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will agree wholeheartedly that that is so. The same might be said of the other Defence Services. Over the past year we have effected substantial improvements in formations, training, general organisation, the provision of equipment, the maintenance of equipment including vehicles of various types, and in particular as regards accommodation and general conditions in the Service. I make that claim. But, as I say, much remains to be done, and we shall continue to do all we can in order to improve the conditions of the Service.
This is my final word to the Committee. We are not entitled to spend money unless we can prove that we are spending it wisely and efficiently. I accept that at once. Of course, in a transitional stage there is bound to be some expenditure which, while it can be accounted for, may not be disbursed in the proper fashion. That cannot be helped in a transitional period. Nevertheless, we claim that generally speaking, the expenditure in the Army is being used to great advantage and we hope that in future it can be used to even greater advantage.
We do not want war with anybody. We want to be at peace, but we must protect ourselves should an emergency arise. That is the policy of the Labour Party—the declared policy of the Labour Party at annual conferences, subscribed to by the majority of trade unionists, by Labour supporters in the country, and, I am glad to say, by a vast army of millions of electors up and down the country. It is the policy subscribed to by His Majesty's Government, and it is the policy which I ask the Committee to accept.
I only wish to detain the Committee a few moments. I have been here in the Committee a very long time and I think the Secretary of State knew I wanted to get up. I do not complain that he got up before I did. Nevertheless, I have no intention of foregoing my right as a Private Member, particularly on my thirty-fourth birthday. I am very glad that we have seen the spectacle of the Secretary of State for War attacking the Communists. I have wanted to see that for a long time, and it is a very good birthday present to me. I entirely support what he has said, but I want him to go a great deal further. It is about time there was a sense of indignation in this country. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) made a speech with which I had great sympathy, because he stuck to a point of view which many hon. Members had some time ago. I would point out to him, however, that in relation to the victory which he proclaimed, not only did the Labour Party win by 5,000 votes—
I was trying to point out that the Communist Party have moved an Amendment which raises the same point of view as was expressed in the by-election in which it lost its deposit and received only 800 votes. It was a perfectly relevant point to the matter under discussion. I was trying to say that it is time we had a sense of indignation about these matters.
About two months ago we had a British battalion in Salonika, the 1st Lincs. Within 1,000 yards of them 40 people in the American farm school were taken away by night, and many of them had their throats cut. I am not becoming any more friendly to hon. Members in this House or the Press of this country than I have been in the past, but I think they ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves because they lack the indignation they used to have. On this Amendment, whether the number of British troops should he reduced or not, we ought to say that wherever British troops are in the world they must be in a position to maintain the dignity and traditions of our country. It is a monstrous thing to reflect on the fact that within 1,000 yards of British troops—
It does not seem to me that that matter has any direct relation to this Vote. The hon. Member must address himself to the Vote.
I do not wish to enter into any kind of dispute, but I do want to point out to you, Sir, that the widest possible Ruling had been given tonight that all subjects of defence were in Order.
That may be, but at the moment I am the judge, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks, unless he relates them more directly to the matter before the Committee, are relevant.
I bow to your Ruling, Major Milner, but I must point out that it is in entire conflict with the Ruling of your predecessor. I wish to turn to the subject I really intended to discuss, courts martial. I want to say to the Minister of Defence that I think the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) might now go into permanent retirement. Here we have a Committee, the Lewis Committee, of which I was an insignificant member—[HON. MEMBERS: "Never."] —which sat for something like 18 months on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I think, for a period of four hours on each occasion. At the end of that period the committee produced a report which related to the Army and the Air Force. After that report had been produced, the Minister for Defence came to this House and said he could not implement the report until a similar report in relation to the Navy had been obtained.
I do not want to embark upon a subject which was debated the other night. But I want to ask this question because it is a matter for administrative action in the meantime. The report dealt with a subject called the unanimity rule. Under this rule, it is possible for a member of His Majesty's Forces who is court martialled to be convicted by three votes against two. If the person concerned were a civilian, he could only be convicted by a jury of 12, who would have to agree. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head.
I think my hon. Friend has forgotten the existence of Scotland.
I admit that there are different rules for Scotland, but so far as England is concerned, none of us, no ordinary person, can be convicted of a serious crime unless 12 people, collected more or less at random, who are the jury, return a verdict of guilty. But today, a person who is court martialled can be convicted by three votes against two. That is to say, two people out of five people forming the court can consider him to be innocent, yet he can be convicted. On one or two occasions during the war I served on courts martial, and I discovered afterwards—I admit that one should not have done so, but one does—that men had been convicted by three votes against two.
Will the Secretary of State at any rate see by administrative action, as I think he can, that from now onwards no one in His Majesty's Forces is convicted by a court martial unless the whole of the court agrees that the person concerned is guilty. That is a perfectly fair proposition to put forward. It is merely asking that, as people are being conscripted in peace time, the Secretary of State for War will see that there shall be no conviction of a person for a crime unless every member of the court concerned with the case is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty. I ask that seriously, even at this late hour. After all, once the time has passed midnight there is little reason, from the point of view of many hon. Members on this side of the Chamber, why time should worry us so much. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
Whatever the time may be, I do think we are entitled to an answer to this question. It seems to me that I have every right in this House, and speaking from the Labour benches, to advocate at any time of the night or morning the cause of people who might hereafter be found guilty despite the fact that two people out of five forming a court consider they are innocent. That seems to me to be a perfectly proper point of
My last remark is on another subject. So far as conscription is concerned, I am, perhaps, in a different position from any other hon. Member who has spoken today. I voted for the Government when the original proposal of 18 months was put forward; I voted for the 12 months' period, and I voted for the extended period. I have voted consistently with the Government because I thought it was within the competence of the Government to know what the period ought to be. But now I think that the extra six months does not give any period for overseas service, and the period should be reduced.
The hon. Member cannot discuss that; it would require legislation.
May I finish upon this statement?—[Interruption.]—I will finish, not because of but in spite of jeers of hon. Members behind me; I feel that the whole policy of conscription ought now to be reconsidered in the light of remarks made both on this, and on other occasions, and I hope that the Minister of Defence will realise that the case he originally put forward is no longer valid; and by an amendment to it, he will be able to give a great deal of comfort to many people.
|Division No. 79.]||AYES||[1.38 a.m.|
|Platts-Mills, J. F. F.||Pritt, D.N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Gallacher and Mr.Piratin.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Low, A. R W.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Mackay, R W. G. (Hull, N.W)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Mellor, Sir J|
|Anderson, A (Motherwell)||Grimston, R. V||Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hale, Leslie||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Head, Brig A. H||Nichol, Mrs. M. E (Bradford, N.)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Boardman, H.||Hogg, Hon. Q||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holman. P.||Peart, Thomas F|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Popplewell, E.|
|Collins, V. J||Keenan, W||Price, M. Philips|
|Conant, Maj R J. E.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Corbet, Mrs F. K (Camb'well, N W.)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Shawcross, C. N (Wrdnes)|
|Diamond, J.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E|
|Simmons. C J||Symonds, A. L.||Whiteley, Rt Hon W|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)||Wigg, George|
|Smith, S H. (Hull, S.W)||Thomas, D E (Aberdare)||Wilkins, W. A|
|Snow, J. W||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Woods, G. S|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Thomas. J P L (Hereford)|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon J (Moray)||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Studholme, H G||Wallace, G D (Chislehurst)||Mr. Pearson and Mr Bowden.|
|Swingler, S||Wheatley, Colonel M. J (Dorset, E,)|
Question put, and agreed to.