Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Miss Horsbrugh]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But, having regard to the urgent problems arising from the expansion of British armaments and the strengthening of national defences, regret that the Gracious Speech foreshadows no legislation to implement the Report of the Royal Corn-mission on the manufacture of and trade in arms."—[Mr. Kingsley Griffith.]
The Amendment that my right hon. and hon. Friends are asking the House to consider this afternoon deals primarily with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the private manufacture of and trade in arms. When the Royal Commission was appointed, the subject of its inquiry was felt to be of very great importance, and the public opinion of this country was greatly concerned with it. We hold that the conclusions of the Royal Commission, taken as a whole, are of vital importance in connection with the policy of this country at the present time and in relation to any scheme of supply and defence. For my own part, I feel that the conclusions of the Royal Commission are no less important than any other proposals in relation to the problems of defence which we have to face at the present time. To mention only one section of their conclusions, the idea that in peace-time the private manufacture of and trade in arms might be the source of great profit to certain sections of the community, and that in time of war, when individuals were risking their lives, other people should be in a position to enrich themselves, is repugnant to all decent-feeling people in this country; and it is quite clear that, unless some action is taken by the Government in order to give effect to the recommendation that the profit on the private manufacture of and trade in arms should be reduced to the level of a moderate remuneration, this country would not face unitedly any emergency which might arise. That is one of the aspects of the report to which we attach very great importance.
The Debate on Tuesday ranged a great deal over the question of supply, and the possibility of the establishment of effective control over all the sources of supply and the establishment of a Ministry of Supply. We on these benches attach the greatest possible importance, and think it is of the utmost consequence that effect should be given, to paragraph 6 of the conclusions of the Royal Commission, because, if this Debate has proved nothing else, it will at least have confirmed the belief of many of us that the task of co-ordinating defence is a tremendous one in itself, and that, if entrusted to a, Minister with adequate powers, it would leave him no time to grapple with the manifold and complex problems involved in the question of supply. These are some of the reasons why we have asked the House to consider this Amendment to the Address. Our Amendment has been drafted in wide terms, and, owing to the latitude which has been allowed, in the course of the Debate many matters of the utmost consequence have been raised, relating not merely to supply, but to strategy and policy. Unless it is possible to consider these matters in relation one to the other, the whole subject of defence can hardly be considered effectively.
I am bound to say that the impression left on my mind by the Debate up to now is not one of quiet confidence in an orderly plan of defence based upon a carefully conceived and precise policy. The impression left upon my mind is that there is a lack of decision in policy, and that there is considerable evidence of lack of control and dispersal of effort. We hear of a great variety of committees and bodies which in one way or another are devoting themselves to the question of supply. The Service Departments themselves are engaged in considering the question of supply on the lines of the Ministry of Munitions; the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence presides over a committee of supply officers; and Sir Harold Brown is chairman of a body which is the nucleus of a Ministry of Supply within the War Office itself. I am glad to hear that, because one has heard from time to time rather disquieting reports in industrial areas with regard to frequent changes of specification in relation to contracts for the War Office and other matters which seem to indicate that some special attention is required to these matters in that office.
There are, however, one or two matters in regard to which I should like to ask for a little more precision. On Tuesday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) raised a most important matter with regard to the future purpose and functions of our Army. He had no difficulty at all in pointing out, and obtaining agreement for the proposal, that we must have an Army, if we have an Army at all, for the purpose of defending our oversea territories. He then proceeded to ask for information, and challenged the policy, as to whether or not there was any possibility in the future of our having an Army which would intervene in Continental warfare on a large scale; as to whether it was conceivable that in the developments that have taken place in air warfare and the like, and the exceeding difficulty of maintaining communications, any useful purpose could be served by contemplating the operation of the British Army again in Continental warfare. That, indeed, is an important question. The First Lord, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, said it was our intention to have an all-purpose Army. That no doubt would include the prime purpose of our Army in defending our overseas possessions but it cannot be held to preclude, in the terms in which it was stated, the possibility of the Army being sent over to the Continent to engage in co-operation with a Continental Army.
I must confess that I was greatly surprised to hear the First Lord say that we had no definite commitments. It is true that a short time ago, when the Locarno Pact was in operation, we had very terrible commitments. We were committed to go to war to aid, on either one side or the other, the various signatories to that Pact. But we were at least free under that Pact from definite commitments. The mere fact that we were pledged to one side or the other precluded us from making any definite engagements with the signatories; but the moment the Pact was broken it seemed to me that we had much more precise and definite commitments. I do not wish to ask for information which it would be unwise to give, but we cannot forget that from the moment of the disappearance of the Locarno Pact there was another arrangement come to which involved staff conversations, and if no commitments were entered into then one wonders with what object the staff conversations took place at all.
At this point I would say that unless we have commitments it would be quite impossible for us to carry out the policy foreshadowed in the speech of the Foreign Secretary at the end of last week. The right hon. Gentleman in an important speech then set out a policy based upon an attempt to revitalise the League of Nations and to re-establish or to make effective for the first time a system of collective security. That speech met with a large measure of agreement in this House, and it is a plan which I hope will be adhered to, because I think it is the only policy on which it is possible to get any degree of unity in the country. But we cannot implement that policy without commitments within the system of collective security. I think it would help matters in the country if we could have a little more precision and definition in all these questions. They have been described as being fluid. I think that "fluid" is perhaps the description for it, but I wonder what is the line of demarcation between fluidity and confusion.
I pass to a brief consideration of the recommendation in paragraph 6 of the Royal Commission's Report. The Commission recommend that the Government should assume control and responsibility for the arms trade and manufacture in this country. I find very great difficulty in understanding exactly what is the attitude of the Government towards that proposal. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) the Minister for Coordination of Defence said the Government would require very cogent reasons for acting upon paragraph 6 of the report.
That is one point on which I hope for information. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his elucidation so far. It seems to me that the Debate has been considerably confused as between the recommendations of the Commission in paragraph 6 and the advocacy of a Ministry of Supply. It is very difficult to understand how it is possible to take action upon paragraph 6 without setting up what is in effect a Ministry of Supply. I am sure the whole House will be glad to have a little more light on that particular point. The, right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Coordination of Defence, after paying a compliment to his late chief, the Chairman of the Commission, who was selected with very great care by the Government of the time, did criticise the evidence of some of those who had given evidence in relation to the suggestions which were finally approved in paragraph 6. It was the duty of the Commission appointed by the Government to consider that evidence. They considered it and reached certain conclusions, and it is upon those conclusions that we ask for action by the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government would welcome an opportunity of considering the Commission's recommendations. Which of them had he in mind when he made that statement? Was it paragraph 6 or the question of a Ministry of Supply, or was it the recommendations as a whole? The right hon. Gentleman added that there was a body of men well qualified to consider these matters who were in fact considering them at the present time. The House would be glad to know who those gentlemen are, having regard to the importance of the matter. Are they one of the numerous committees of which we have heard, a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, or a subcommittee of the Cabinet I Who is it that is devoting time and energy to consideration of these important matters 7 We shall be glad to know precisely what it is they are considering.
Coming to the later stage of the speech of the Minister, I know he said that the Government would require cogent reasons before setting up a Ministry of Supply, that that question would;have to be considered and reviewed over and over again, that it would no doubt be considered within the next few weeks. I think we are entitled to ask just where we stand with regard to the matter. Are the Government now considering the question of setting up a Ministry of Supply? The First Lord at a later stage in the Debate said that if we set up a Minister or Ministry of Supply without adequate powers it would be worse than useless. The whole House will agree with him on that point. The First Lord went on to say that if a Ministry of Supply were set up now it would need to have such powers that it would revolutionise industry and throw the ordinary processes of commerce out of gear, and would in fact be most disastrous. That would, of course, be a misuse or an abuse of power. But the Royal Commission itself laid great emphasis upon the fact that if there is to be conscription of industry in time of war the problems related to that task should be faced and faced quickly, and it is very difficult to see what body can better face those problems than the body which will ultimately have to exercise the responsibility in war.
We are already aware from what has happened in the Nuffield incident that the present system is not working smoothly, that the dangers of interrupting the industrial life of the country are taking place. There are already evidences here and there of jams, which may have a serious result on the industrial life of the country. If we have to face again the calamity of war it will be of vital importance that plans shall have been made to enable the everyday life of the people to be continued as far as possible, and that the normal industrial processes of the country should be kept intact. On all these matters there seems to be great confusion and a great lack of precision. We have moved our Amendment with the idea of action being taken in these matters and we ask for further elucidation of them. I have mentioned briefly only one or two points of the Commission's Report to which we attach importance. There ire many others, such as that with regard to the transference of civil servants into positions in civil industry, on which I do not wish to delay the House. We attach importance to them but they are minor matters. What we ask for is action on the report.
I should very much have liked to have spoken on the subject of a Minister of Supply and about the shadow organisation of industry, but time is very short and to-night, if I may, I would like to concentrate on one point. It is a point upon which I feel very strongly—that of the Fleet Air Arm. The case has been stated with all the force with which it could be stated by two gallant Admirals here, and although it is a hackneyed theme I think it would be wrong in a Debate like this to let two such speeches go by default without an answer. I am one of those who have seen this fight going on for many years. I saw the birth of the Royal Flying Corps, which at the time comprised both Army and Navy. Yet the attitude of the Navy at that time was that they did not want anything to do with the air; they despised it and rejected it. It was not until war actually started, when they noticed that the Flying Corps side of the Army was going ahead, that they started competitive buying in building up a, type of air force which was prejudicial to the Army side, with the result that we found at Dunkirk many machines which we would very much have liked in the Army but were unable to get. That scandal was eventually solved by the creation of the Air Board.
I want to give an illustration of what I might call the battleship mind in the North of France. When the Navy decided to bombard the Belgian coast they had eight squadrons of aeroplanes at Dunkirk; and yet to observe the fire of monitors from the sea they put observers into the sea on tripods, to observe shells falling the other side of the hill, and all the time the eight squadrons were doing nothing. That was the Admiralty mind. It is the battleship mind and it is a mind that will never change. Why is it that there is this bitterness of the Admiralty against the Air Ministry? It goes far, deeper than merely having control over your own officers upon your own ships. One of our gallant admirals says he only wants control of the aircraft floating on the water. But the demand goes further than that. It crept across to the squadrons on land. The Navy asked later for flying boats. It wants the whole defence of everything flying.
I am quite aware of what the hon. and gallant Member said. What I am saying is perfectly true. One hon. and gallant Member wants control of the machines on ships and another one wants control of the squadrons on land. In the old days the defence of this country was vested in the Navy. They were the "sure shield." The Admiralty were the spoilt darlings of the gods, able to impose their will upon Governments and Cabinets because they held the safety of the country in their hands. That was the old blue-water school, with which the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) had so much to do. We have now changed to the grey skies school. Everybody knows perfectly well that no longer is the Navy our first line of defence, and it is an astonishing thing for the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence in a long speech to bring up an old anachronism and say that the Navy it still our first line of defence. It is out of date; and it is ridiculous that a Member of the Government should say such a thing. Everyone knows perfectly well that London and all our industrial areas could be disorganised at the start of hostilities, and our fleet, make it as big as you like, remain in the north of Scotland and be as much good to us as a lot of seaweed. Let us get these things perfectly clear. Everybody will understand except old Admirals.
The Admiralty will do anything to get their power back. We have had four inquiries into this matter since the War, and every one has ccme down on the side of not dividing our Air Force into three parts. Nobody will accuse me of not being an enthusiast of the air, but I have never said that you can win a war by the air alone. You cannot impose your will by the air That has to be done finally by the foot soldier. But everything depends on the first clash in the air. Things are not going to happen in the old-fashioned way. You cannot now mobilise for weeks, send your fleet here and there and assume this and that, for the whole thing will be a crushing calamity at the start, and whoever wins in that first clash in the air has this astonishing advantage, a progressive superiority. Once you can win that you can control the manufacture of your enemy's aircraft; and your control in the air becomes more and more complete. It is under these conditions that the older services will then have to work. If you lose the fight in the air your older services, the Army and the Navy, will never operate efficiently. These are considerations with which everyone must agree.
I do not think anybody among the older politicians has realised the peril of the air so much as the Prime Minister. He has always been alarmed at our position, and yet when we are struggling as hard as any country has ever struggled to produce the machines by every means we can, along comes the Admiralty and says, "Give us part of your Air Force to operate with the Fleet." That is to say, in a crisis we should divide our Air Force. It is a most astonishing proposal. I have read with great interest the pamphlet which justifies, apparently, the construction of two new battleships on the basis that other people are building battleships and we should do the same. I am not prepared to dispute that. Let the Admiralty have their battleships and take them as far away as possible so that they do not come to any harm—that is what they always do with battleships. But I should like the House to notice the somewhat unconscious humour of the Admiralty, that although nobody else can do any harm to our battleships from the air, they are keen to get a larger air fleet to harm enemy battleships.
I have referred to the speed at which this first clash will take place, and I hope that I have shown that the first clash in the air will really be the dominating factor in operations afterwards. At the time of that first clash we shall want every machine it is possible to get, and if we are going to pander to this desire of the Navy for a share of the Air Forces then there is no answer to the Army doing the same thing. They did make that claim once. We can be sure of this, that the last 200 or 300 machines will really turn the scale at the critical moment. If you can win in the air, the older services will be able to operate. You can then turn the whole of your Air Force to helping the Navy in their operations and to helping the Army in their operations, as was done in the last War, but to divide your resources at the beginning seems to me one of the most fatal mistakes you can make. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will not make any more speeches of the kind he made the other day. They may sound very nice within sight of the waves of Paddington Baths, but I hope he will realise that they are out of date.
The Prime Minister said some time ago that this question was settled. I hope he will say it again to-night, and will not be bullied. Ministers and Governments have been bullied on this particular question before by threatened resignations of First Sea Lords. I hope the Prime Minister will not be afraid of that sort of thing. And I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that at a time of crisis in the history of this country, when every machine is wanted, they are doing a great disservice by making speeches which would split up our Air Force in time of war.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) is always extremely interesting in these Debates. He has really staged a battle between the bomb and the battleship, and I think the bomb has the better of the contest. As he has dealt with several points with which I had intended to deal, I shall be able to curtail my remarks. The Debate has arisen on an Amendment dealing with the report of the Royal Commission on the manufacture of and trade in arms. It is not much use saying anything at this juncture, because the Government have not yet considered that report. I think it is a most disappointing document. Events are running ahead of theories. In France they are actually proceeding to take over the private manufacture of arms, and in Czechoslovakia the great Skoda Works are being taken over. In view of these events the Government perhaps will look upon this report with a more realistic outlook and will see that other people are moving. We had a long speech the other day from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. It was, to my mind, a speech mainly of a Minister of Supply. I cannot say that I was very satisfied with it. A great deal of criticism can be made with regard to the whole of the Government's plans for the provision of aircraft, and I am doubtful whether there has not been great loss caused by the failure to enlist the whole of the aircraft industry.
A great deal has been said already with regard to supply and I want, therefore, to offer some remarks on general policy. There is always a danger in these Debates that instead of discussing the technical question of defence we should discuss foreign policy, but I do not intend to fall into that trap. I want to regard this as a matter of the proper and most efficient provision for defence. I take it that the Government have resolved on making large expansions of the fighting services. I am not going to discuss that question now; I want to consider the way in which they are doing it. We ought to examine whether these forces are calculated to achieve the object, whether they are efficiently provided, and whether they are economically provided. The Minister for the Coordination of Defence made a speech dealing mainly with supply. In fact, throughout his speech one could realise that he does not regard himself as a co-ordinator of defence, but mainly as engaged in assisting in the business of supply. The line he took was that consideration of matters of defence should be left to the experts. He said that he did not want to appear as an amateur strategist; it was easy to criticise, and he suggested that everybody who criticised what is being done for defence from the point of view of strategy is an amateur strategist who is talking about things he does not understand. I daresay that is the case, but history has shown that very often experts do not understand either. It is our duty to examine these matters, and not shelter behind the supposed views of the experts.
It might have been different perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech had given us some general defence doctrine, some co-ordinated view as to how defence was being achieved. He did not do that, but gave us the reflections of controversies, echoes of which we have heard to-day, and a jumble of conflicting doctrines. Therefore, I make no apology for trying to examine, entirely as an amateur, the strategic conceptions behind defence. Before we indulge in this enormous expenditure we must have some general strategic conceptions. My first complaint against the Government is that they are making a purely quantitative increase of arms. They have taken the Services as they found them and have added a certain amount to the particular kinds of arms that existed. They have put forward the sort of idea that is expressed on the Continent—" Every extra man, every extra gun, makes you safer." That is not the case. It is not absolutely true, and it is not true when one considers what are the conditions of modern warfare. The mere piling up of numbers will not make us safe.
Let me consider what are the conceptions of the Government. The hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey dealt with one of those conceptions. In his speech on Tuesday last, the Minister for the Coordination of Defence said:
The Navy is the first line of defence." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 727, Vol. 317.]
I suggest that that shows at once a failure to realise the conditions of the problem which has to be dealt with. There are no lines of defence in the old sense: in an era of air warfare there is no such thing as a first line of defence. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that we must have an overwhelming Navy. That is the Government's first conception of defence, which, as the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey said, is the old pre-air conception of Britain with an overwhelming Navy. Then there is the Army. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House a description of the various tasks which the Army has to perform—tasks which cannot be performed by one and the same Army equipped for all the different tasks. But I was disturbed by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman obviously contemplated that
this country might again indulge in mass warfare on the Continent, because he said that we
would like to think that we could keep our Army at home to defend our shores, but our strategic position, if I am to be frank, does not permit us to do that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 732, Vol. 317.]
The right hon. Gentleman certainly based his conception on the fact that we have an Army which might expand and become a great Continental army again. Thirdly, there is the Air Force. The right hon. Gentleman said:
It is our aim and purpose to develop as a deterrent as powerful a striking force as we can in the air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1936; col. 727, Vol. 317.]
He also dealt with air defences. The new relation of these various functions does not present us with a co-ordinated plan of defence; on the contrary, I think it shows that such a plan is non-existent. In a scheme for co-ordinating defence, one must get a decision as to the outstanding danger against which it is necessary to guard. One must decide how that menace is to be met, and how provision can best be made. In pre-war days we had a clear decision in this country on that matter, and it was that the Navy was our defence. The vital thing was the protection of our sea communications and our commerce, and the inviolability of these Islands. Consequently, we never tried to build up fortifications on land in this country or large standing armies, nor could we afford to do so. But it seems from the speech of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that we now have to "go all out" in all three elements. In those circumstances, I do not wonder that he felt that the material strain on the country is stupendous.
I suggest that in any defence plan one has to consider what are the modern conditions. I notice that throughout the right hon. Gentleman's speech the general conception seemed to be that we stood by ourselves, and there was no suggestion that we might have allies in the League. But I contend that of the dangers which we have to face to-day, the outstanding one is the danger from the air. It is useless to talk in the old language about command of the sea. We can have command of the sea, we can have our commerce intact, and our lines of communication unbroken, but if we have no country to and from which those communications go, it is not much good having the commerce. I suggest that we can never become strong in any defence, whether we are standing for defence by ourselves or collective defence, until we have decided what is the vital thing that we have to aim at first of all. I do not think we have such a decision at present.
In all wars the one essential thing is the preservation or the destruction of the will of the contestant. In wars in the past there were fights by land and fights by sea, but the object was always to conquer the will of the contestant. I contend that we are to-day in an entirely different position from that in which we were before, because it is possible to-day to conquer the will of the contestant by direct action—by air action—in our case against London, and in the case of other countries against their capitals. Until that menace has been dealt with, it is useless to talk about the defence of the Empire or of preserving lines of communication. Everything goes if that menace is not dealt with, and I suggest that that has been proved ever since the end of the War. Yet, since the War, we have spent £776,000,000 on the Navy, £582,000,000 on the Army and £225,000,000 on the Air Force. That is what is called unilateral disarmament. But I am calling attention to the proportions which go to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. This year £81,000,000 goes to the Navy, £55,000,000 to the Army and £50,000,000 to the Air Force.
In these matters we have to be realists. If there is to be another war—and the whole of our work must be directed to preventing it—it will be a war against the civilian population. The Prime Minister has called the attention of the the country to that—he did it again the other night—and I think it is right to do so. During the last few years we have had the spectacle of what happened in Abyssinia, and we now have the spectacle of what is going on in Spain. I do not think that in pre-War days we would ever have thought that the time would come when there would be a country in which there are people importing an alien race from another country to cut down their own fellow-countrymen, bombing their own capital and killing their men and women in the most ruthless way. We have to recognise the fact that warfare has come to that, and in face of what has occurred in Spain and in Abyssinia we have to recognise that the air is the dominant weapon—the bomb is the dominant weapon. But is that recognized? I think the Navy still believes the gun is the dominant weapon, and I am not sure that the Army does not think it is the bayonet. We have had a belated Inquiry on battleships. It is extraordinary that that inquiry was not held long ago. I am bound to say that the most definite thing I can get out of the Report is that apparently a battleship may possibly be able to stand up to an air attack, but, incidentally, apparently no other vessels are reasonably likely to be able to stand up to an air attack. The smaller vessels are unprotected and the Mercantile Marine is unprotected, and I have seen no suggestion as to how they are to be protected.
What is the Government's plan for dealing with an air attack? When we come to deal with the air, we get a different conception—that of effective deterrents. It is said that the only way to prevent an air attack is to have an overwhelmingly superior force which will prevent that attack. Do the Government really believe in that doctrine or not? If they really believe in it, that is what they ought to be aiming at. If they really believe that the way to stop war is to have an overwhelming Air Force, they should be working to that end, and not spending all that money on the Navy. The controversy is still going on as to whether the air is the main thing or whether it is only subsidiary to the Army and Navy. I think there is very great danger in the theory of building up a great fighting Air Force with a view to holding in check some other great fighting air force. I disbelieve entirely the idea that peace can be obtained by having a number of armed forces becoming stronger and stronger and watching each other. Sooner or later the time will come when some expert on one side or the other will think that it is about time to strike before the others do so. I think there is a terrible danger in piling up forces in that way.
We ought to have a very clear answer in this matter from the Government, for the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has already said that we are to have this crushing burden of expenditure. Is that crushing burden of defence to go on and on, and crush us? We have had no real consideration of the problems of modern defence, but only separate consideration by the different Services. We have been told that it is all being done by the Committee of Imperial Defence. I do not believe it is being done by them and I do not believe it can be done by them; I do not believe the Committee of Imperial Defence is competent to do it—it is an advisory body. The right hon. Gentleman said that these problems of the three Services are being worked out jointly at every Staff College and at the Imperial Defence College. I dare say they are at the Imperial Defence College, but are they at the Staff Colleges? Are those colleges working in terms of defence by the three Services? If so, why have they on their curriculum the study of the Russo-Japanese war of 30 years ago?
How is it possible to prepare for defence in a war in which the air is dominant by studying a campaign which took place before air forces entered into the question? I do not think there has been any real consideration on those lines. I suggest that the same thing applies in the case of the Army. I think that any one who read the extremely able articles on the Army by the "Times" correspondent, or who has followed the course of events in the Army, will have grave doubts as to whether those who control the Army really know what they mean to make of it, whether they want a mass Army or whether they want a mechanised Army. They are still discussing the Cardwell System. It seems to me that all these things are allowed to drift because there is no co-ordination of defence problems. The result is that we do not get the strength we want, and there is enormous waste.
I would like to draw attention to one peculiar fact: it is that in all these discussions we hear nothing of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it is most surprising how, in this House, the British Commonwealth has faded out of the question and has strayed from our consideration of defence. I am almost amazed at the indifference of the old-time Imperialists to events of the last two years in the Mediterranean. They have ignored things that would have set them on their hind legs 20 years ago. And not only that—the conception seems to be that this country will stand by itself. I suggest that this country built up its Empire by the fact that it was invulnerable from attack except by sea, and that it had command of the sea. Now it has become the most vulnerable part of the whole British Commonwealth. It is extremely dangerous to have almost all your arms and your manufacturing plant in the place which is the most dangerous part of your Commonwealth, and in any properly co-ordinated plan of defence consideration ought to be given to the use of a greater depth of territory.
If you are to have an overwhelming Air Force, it would be far safer to have that Air Force held back and further away from the possibility of attack, because if your overwhelming Air Force is too near the possible source of attack it may be knocked out as the result of an attack upon it by a Power which is less scrupulous than you are. There is no attempt at the present time to build up your Commonwealth of Nations as a co-ordi-nated group of armed peoples, collectively engaged in defence. You are proposing to-day, in circumstances which are totally different from those of the past, a concentration of your most essential defences in the most dangerous part of the Commonwealth, that is, in the British Isles. I should like to know how far these considerations are being taken into account. It seems to me that latterly there has been a tendency to think of these islands as something by themselves and apart from the rest of the Empire.
My final word is this. We on this side believe that you cannot secure isolated defence of these islands. We think that you must work for collective security, and we are sure that the defence of the whole British Commonwealth depends ultimately on the defence of these islands. We are as much concerned as anyone to see that that defence is strong, but the strength of your defence depends, not upon numbers, not upon the mere piling up of forces and on being able to say "We have this" or "We have that." It can only be secured by a careful consideration of all your fighting Services and a careful consideration, too, of your foreign policy. I have said to this House before that I am profoundly dissatisfied with the organisation of defence. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I read all I can upon what I consider to be defence, and I certainly think that in all the discussions that we have had, the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence has come before us as a Minister for coordination of supply. I believe that your supply must be completely wasted, unless you have, first, made some provision for the co-ordination of strategy, and unless you have some common doctrine of defence.
I do not think that this would be the occasion on which to embark upon a detailed argument either upon the question of bombs versus battleships, or upon that of the Fleet Air Arm to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) has made reference. But I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend helped his cause at all. I have never heard the case for the Air Ministry stated in terms anything like so high as those which he used. As far as one can see, the Fleet would have to contemplate the possibility of the whole of their aviation being withdrawn from them at the moment when they were engaged in operations of the most serious character with other fleets which were thoroughly equipped. Anything more likely to arouse the admirals to collective security, I can hardly imagine. For my part, I had always hoped that if the Admiralty recovered control of the Fleet Air Arm they would, at this juncture, bring a new river or even rivulet of thought and of resources of expansion to bear upon the air, and that the total air resources of our country would be greatly strengthened thereby. However, I am not going into that question, because I think we shall find on the Navy or the Air Estimates opportunities to thrash it out in more detail.
I have, with some of my hon. Friends, put an Amendment on the Paper. It is the same as the Amendment which I submitted two years ago, and I have put it in exactly the same terms because I thought it would be a good thing to remind the House of what has happened in these two years. Our Amendment in November, 1934, was the culmination of a long series of efforts by various private Members and by the Conservative party in the country, to warn His Majesty's Government of the dangers to Europe and to this country which were coming upon us through the vast process of German rearmament then already in full swing. The speech which I made on that occasion was much censured as being alarmist by leading Conservative newspapers, and I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) congratulated the Prime Minister, who was then Lord President of the Council, on having so satisfactorily demolished my extravagant fears.
What would have been said, I wonder, if I could two years ago have forecast to the House the actual course of events I Suppose we had then been told that Germany would spend for two years £800,000,000 a year upon warlike preparations; that her industries would be organised for war, as the industries of no country have ever been; that by breaking all Treaty engagements, she would create a gigantic air force and an army based on universal compulsory service, which by the present time, in 1936, amounts to upwards of 39 divisions of highly equipped troops, including mechanised divisions of enormous and almost unmeasured strength, and that behind all this there lay millions of armed and trained men, for whom the formations and equipment are rapidly being prepared to form another 80 divisions in addition to those already perfected. Suppose we had then known that by now, two years of compulsory military service would be the rule, with a preliminary year of training in labour camps; that the Rhineland would be occupied by powerful forces and fortified with great skill and that Germany would be building with our approval, signified by Treaty, a large new submarine fleet.
Suppose we had also been able to foresee the degeneration of the foreign situation, our quarrel with Italy, the Italo-German association, the Belgian declaration about neutrality—which, if the worst interpretation of it proves to be true, so greatly affects the security of this country—and the disarray of the smaller Powers of Central Europe. Suppose all that had been forecast—why, no one would have believed in the truth of such a nightmare tale. Yet just two years have gone by and we see it all in broad daylight. Where shall we be this time two years? I hesitate now to predict. Let me say, however, that I will not accept the mood of panic or of despair. There is another side, a side which must be studied, because it in no way derogates from the urgency which ought to animate our military preparations. Here let me also say that I do not for a moment suggest that Germany has any idea of attacking France or Britain. I am not dealing with criticisms of the intentions of nations. I am dealing only with the actual balance of armed forces which, in no way, determines the intentions of nations, but may conceivably enable them to carry out any intentions which they form.
The British Navy is, and will continue to be, incomparably the strongest in Europe. The French Army will certainly be, for a good many months to come, at least equal in numbers and superior in maturity to the German Army. The British and French Air Forces together are a very different proposition from either of those forces considered separately. While no one can prophesy, it seems to me that the Western democracies, provided they are knit closely together, would be tolerably safe for a considerable number of months ahead. No one can say to a month or two, or even a quarter or two, how long this period of comparative equipoise will last. But it seems certain that during the year 1937 the German Army will become very much more numerous than the French Army, and very much more efficient than it is now. It seems certain that the German Air Force will continue to improve upon the long lead which it already has over us, particularly in respect of long-distance bombing machines. The year 1937 will certainly be marked by a great increase in the adverse factors which only intense efforts on our part can, to any effective extent, countervail.
I do not pursue that aspect of the subject. I only mention it because I am anxious that the House should see the frame in which I wish to place the picture which I am about to try to draw. But for the reason I have given I believe that the efforts at rearmament which France and Britain are making will not, by themselves, be sufficient. I believe that it will be necessary for the Western democracies, even at some extension of their risks, to gather round them all the elements of collective security or, if you prefer to call it so, combined defensive strength against aggression—the phrase which I prefer—which can be assembled on the basis of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Thus I hope we may succeed again in achieving a position of superior force and then will be the time not to repeat the folly which we committed when we were all-powerful and supreme, but to invite Germany to make a common cause with us in assuaging the griefs of Europe and opening a new door to peace and disarmament.
I now turn more directly to the issues of this Debate. Let us examine our own position. No one can refuse his sympathy to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. From time to time my right hon. Friend lets fall phrases or facts which show that he realises, more than anyone else on that bench it seems to me, the danger in which we stand. One such phrase came from his lips the other night:
Eheu! fugaces, Posthume, Posthume. Where are the years that are lost to me, lost to me.
I think my right hon. Friend used another phrase, and I think it characteristic that this heart cry should have come from him in the form of a Biblical text. He spoke of "the years that the locust bath eaten." Let us see which are these "years which the locust hath eaten," even if we do not pry too closely in search of the locusts who have eaten these precious years. For this purpose we must look into the past. From the year 1932, certainly from the beginning of 1933, when Herr Hitler came into power, it was general public knowledge in this country that serious rearmament had begun in Germany. There was a change in the situation. Three years ago, at the Conservative Conference at Birmingham—I apologise to the House for mentioning a purely party gathering, but it has relevance to a serious argument—that vigorous and faithful servant of this country, Lord Lloyd, moved the following resolution:
That this conference desires to record its grave anxiety in regard to the inadequacy of the provisions made for Imperial Defence.
That was three years ago, and I see, from the "Times" report of that occasion, that I said:
During the last four or five years the world had grown gravely darker.… We had steadily disarmed, partly with a sincere desire to give a lead to other countries, and partly through the severe financial pressure of the time. But a change must now be made. We must not continue longer on a course in which we alone were growing weaker while every other nation was growing stronger.
The resolution was passed unanimously, with only a rider informing the Chancellor of the Exchequer that all necessary burdens of taxation would be cheerfully borne. There were no locusts there, at any rate. I am very glad to see my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister restored to his vigour, and to learn that he has been recuperated by his rest and also, as we hear, rejuvenated. It has been my fortune to have ups and downs in my political relations with him, the downs on the whole predominating perhaps, but at any rate we have always preserved agreeable personal relations, which, so far as I am concerned, are greatly valued. I am sure my right hon. Friend would not wish, in his conduct of public affairs, that there should be any shirking from putting the real issues of criticism which arise, and I shall certainly proceed in that sense. My right hon. Friend has had all the power for a good many years, and therefore there rests upon him inevitably the main responsibility for everything that has been done, or not done, and also the responsibility for what is to be done or not done now. So far as the air is concerned, this responsibility was assumed by him in a very direct personal manner even before he became Prime Minister. I must recall the words which he used in the Debate on 8th March, 1934, nearly three years ago. In answer to an appeal which I made to him, both publicly and privately, he said:
Any Government of this country—a National Government more than any, and this Government—will see to it that in air strength and air power this country shall no longer be in a position inferior to any country within striking distance of our shores."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; 8th March, 1934; col. 2078, Vol. 286.]
Well, Sir, I accepted that solemn promise, but some of my friends, like my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and my right hon. and gallant
Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest), wanted what the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, in another state of being, would have called "further and better particulars," and they raised a debate after dinner, when the then Lord President of the Council came down to the House and really showed less than his usual urbanity in chiding those Members for even venturing to doubt the intention of the Government to make good in every respect the pledge which he had so solemnly given in the afternoon. I do not think that that responsibility was ever more directly assumed in a more personal manner. My right hon. Friend was not successful in discharging that task, and he admitted with manly candour a year later that he had been led into error upon the important question of the relative strength of the British and German air power.
No doubt as a whole His Majesty's Government were very slow in accepting the fact, the unwelcome fact, of German rearmament. They still clung to the policy of one-sided disarmament. It was one of those experiments, we are told, which had to be what is called, to use a vulgarism, "tried out," like the experiment of non-military sanctions against Italy had to be tried out. Both experiments have now been tried out, and Ministers are accustomed to plume themselves upon the very clear results of those experiments. They are held to prove conclusively that the policies subjected to the experiments were all wrong, utterly foolish, and never to be tried again, and the very same men who were foremost in urging those experiments are now foremost in proclaiming and denouncing the fallacies upon which they were based. They have bought their knowledge, they lave bought it dear, they have bought it at our expense, but at any rate let us be duly thankful that they now at last have that knowledge.
But even after the Government had realised that a world of armed and arming menace was springing up around them, no measures were taken for a long time equal to the situation or to make up for the years that were lost. Shortly after my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister, in July, 1935, he began to make very serious statements about the need for rearmament. He laid his case here
in the House, and he fought, and largely won, the General Election upon that issue, but there again it was very difficult to see what he really intended, because while, on the one hand, he somewhat exaggerated the weakness of the Navy and pledged himself to the creation of an Air Force equal to that of the most powerful country within striking distance, he also made the statement:
I give you my word there will be no great armaments.
And again he said, on 29th October, 1935:
There has not been, there is not, and there will not be any question of huge armaments or materially increased forces.
Frankly, I do not understand what that could have meant, because an Air Force equal to the gigantic force being constructed in Germany would certainly involve a huge expenditure on armaments and a vast increase in our force, and I confess that I, like other Members, was much baffled by those statements. In July, 1935, before the General Election, there was a very strong movement in this House in favour of the appointment of a Minister to concert the action of the three fighting Services. The House may remember the Debate, and after the Debate I believe nearly 200 Members of the Conservative party signified to the Prime Minister a very strong feeling that this step or something like it should be taken. My right hon. Friend, making an important contribution to the Debate, encouraged this expression of opinion and seemed at that time to be on the verge of taking a decision favourable to it.
Moreover, at that time the Departments of State were all engaged in drawing up the large schemes of rearmament in all branches which have been laid before us in the White Paper and upon which we are now engaged. One would have thought that that was the time when this new Minister or co-ordinator was most necessary. He was not, however, in fact appointed until nearly nine months later, in March, 1936. No explanation has yet been given to us why these nine months were wasted before the taking of what is now an admittedly necessary measure. The Prime Minister dilated the other night, no doubt very properly, on the great advantages which had flowed from the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. Every argument used to show how useful has been the work which he has done accuses the failure to appoint him nine months earlier, when inestimable advantages would have accrued to us by the saving of this long period.
Why, Sir, if the necessary orders for the machine tools and other measures which the Minister told us in July of this year he had taken had been put in hand before the General Election, when the Prime Minister, by all his public statements, was alive to the condition of our defences, we should have saved much more than nine months. In this particular case, moreover, no great expenditure was required. A couple of millions judiciously laid out upon the preliminary work would have been of measureless advantage to us now and would not have raised any serious issue either in the politics of this country or abroad. I cannot understand why this was not done, and I hope that the Prime Minister, in his speech this evening, will give us some explanation. I have heard it said that the Government had no mandate for rearmament until the General Election. Such a doctrine is wholly inadmissible. The responsibility of Ministers for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact the prime object for which Governments come into existence. The Prime Minister had the command of enormous majorities in both Houses of Parliament ready to vote for any necessary measures of defence. The country has never yet failed to do its duty when the true facts have been put before it, and I cannot see where there is a defence for this delay.
When at last, in March, after all the delays, the Prime Minister eventually appointed the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, the arrangement of duties was so ill-conceived that no man could possibly discharge them with efficiency or even make a speech about them without obvious embarrassment. I have repeatedly pointed out the obvious mistake in organisation of jumbling together—and everyone in the House is practically agreed upon it—the functions of defence with those of a Minister of Supply. The proper organisation, let me repeat, is four Departments—the Navy, the Army, the Air and the Ministry of Supply, with the Minister for the Coordination of Defence over the four, exercising a general supervision, concerting their actions, and assigning the high priorities of manufacture in relation to some comprehensive strategic conception. The House is familiar with the many requests and arguments which have been made to the Government to create a Ministry of Supply. These arguments have received a powerful reinforcement from another angle in the report of the Royal Commission on Arms Manufacture.
The first work of this new Parliament and the first work of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, if he had known as much about the subject when he was appointed as he does now, would have been to set up a Ministry of Supply which should, step by step, have taken over the whole business of the design and manufacture of all the supplies needed by the Air Force and the Army, and everything needed for the Navy except warships, heavy ordnance, torpedoes and one or two very small ancillaries. All the rest of the industries of Britain should have been surveyed from a general integral standpoint, and all existing resources utilised so far as was necessary to execute the programme. Such a Ministry would, of course, have required an Act of Parliament to clothe it with adequate powers. The first part of the Act would have regulated the powers of the Ministry and the conditions of industry during the period of emergency in time of peace. I do not think there ought to be at such a time the situation of the individual manufacturer saying he will not do this or he will not do that. Some interference with the normal trade of the country would be inevitable, but for myself I have never proposed to institute anything like war conditions in time of peace. The second part of the Measure would prescribe the conditions which would be brought into operation on the outbreak of war. The character of these conditions is very well foreshadowed in the report of the Royal Commission, and among them should certainly be the embodiment in legislation of the principle, "Take the profit out of war." This part of the Act would only come into operation upon the vote of both Houses because of supreme national emergency.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence argued as usual against a Ministry of Supply. The arguments which he used were very weighty, and even ponderous—it would disturb and delay existing programmes; it would do more harm than good; it would upset the life and industry of the country; it would destroy the export trade and demoralise the finances at the moment when they were most needed; it would turn this country into one vast munitions camp. Certainly these are massive arguments, if they are true. One would have thought that they would carry conviction to any man who believed them. But then my right hon. Friend went on somewhat surprisingly to say, "The decision is not final." It would be reviewed again in a few weeks. What will you know in a few weeks about this matter that you do not know now, that you ought not to have known a year ago and have not been told any time in the last six months? What is going to happen in the next few weeks which will invalidate all these magnificent arguments by which you have been overwhelmed and suddenly make it worth your while to paralyse the export trade, to destroy finances and to turn the country into a great munitions camp?
The First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech the other night went even further. He said, "We are always reviewing the position." Everything, he assured us, is entirely fluid. I am sure that that is true. Anyone can see what the position is. The Government simply cannot make up their mind, or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years—precious, perhaps vital to the greatness of Britain—for the locusts to eat. They will say to me, "A Minister of Supply is not necessary, for all is going well." I deny it. "The position is satisfactory." It is not true. "All is proceeding according to plan." We know what that means.
Let me give the House a few illustrations. When we last debated this matter the Minister for Defence, in effect, used the following argument against the Ministry of Supply. It is common ground, he said, that the bulk of the naval requirements should be left to the Admiralty. The air contracts are being so well managed that the process cannot well be bettered. There remains, therefore, only the munitions for the Army, the inference being that it would not be worth while to set up a Ministry of Supply for them. My right hon. Friend did not rely so much on that argument in his speech on Tuesday. One of its elements would no longer carry much conviction in the House. The revelations for which Lord Nuffield is responsible—I am not going into the personal aspect nor into the particular technical merits—and also the public complaints of a company called the Alvis Company are important, not so much in themselves, but because, like a lightning flash, they have illumined a confused landscape of Air and Army production. We do not even know at what period the Minister for the coordination of Government defence—[Laughter]—I mean the co-ordination of national defence—was aware of the dispute between Lord Nuffield and the Air Minister, or what efforts he made to ward it off before it became public property. Nor do we know how long ago it was that he knew the large capacity for aeroplane engines existing in Lord Nuffield's works.
We know, however, that Lord Weir was quite unaware of the productive capacity of the Alvis Company. That is a disquieting fact when we are assured that everything has been taken into consideration. I must say a word about Lord Weir's position. He is a man for whom I have the greatest personal regard, and I have known him for a quarter of a century. He occupies a very anomalous position where he has enormous influence, does an immense amount of work, and his name is paraded with great frequency by the Government without his having either formal authority or official responsibility. If there are public misgivings of any kind, they are dismissed with the assurance that Lord Weir has it in hand. If, on the other hand, things go wrong—and they are in some respects going wrong—and the public asks who is to blame, Lord Weir can answer with perfect justice, "I have no responsibility. I am only working in an honorary advisory capacity without any department or command." I have no hesitation in saying that neither the functions entrusted to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence nor those entrusted to Lord Weir are compatible with any sound system of organisation. I believe that they have sprung into being as mere expedients from time to time and as reluctant concessions by the Prime Minister to meet the movements of public opinion and the march of events.
Let me give the House another illustration of the confusion prevailing behind the scenes. A British firm some months ago received an order from a French firm for some large bearings which are used in gun lathes. The price was not tempting. The firm had an alternative order for similar bearings for use in civilian rolling mills from Germany, and they therefore declined the French order and accepted the German one—a perfectly normal procedure under the conditions which prevail in this country. Some weeks afterwards the director, by a pure chance, heard that the French firm whose order he had declined was, in fact, executing an order from Woolwich Arsenal for gun lathes. It was then too late to execute the work in England. However, the firm had a branch in the United States. With the greatest speed they accepted the order and succeeded in having it executed over there and delivered the bearings to the French firm, who will in turn deliver them to Woolwich Arsenal. That shows how British industry is being organised. Woolwich Arsenal places an order in France for machinery, the essential part of which has to be manufactured in Britain, but as the British firm is not aware of the British Government's intentions, they decline an order and eventually execute it in the United States, and all returns in the end satisfactorily to the War Office without their having had the slightest idea of the channels through which their action had passed. Then we are told that there is no need for a Ministry of Supply. If you are to use all the resources of this country, everyone giving an order must know exactly the reactions and the effects it will produce.
Let me give another instance. Another British firm is busily engaged in making machine tools for the British Government. Their books are filled for more than a year ahead. At the same time, they are making machine tools for other purchasers and foreign Governments. They are working on an order from the German Government, who are buying machine tools here, for they have such a vast military industry and ours is so rudimentary. This firm has American and foreign shareholders, and without a direct order from the Government they have not the right to break priority of any contract they are executing. I knew these people in the Ministry of Munitions days. They served us faithfully. Deeply distressed at the position, they came to me and put the facts before me. I may say that I shall be perfectly ready to give the names to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence so that he can see for himself what is the validity of these statements.
If my right hon. Friend will be good enough to give me the names I shall be very glad to inquire into the particulars, because I do not know anything at all about the facts. My right hon. Friend has, of course, given me no notice or I could have made some inquiries before he made his statement.
I am afraid it would be quite impossible to carry on debate in this House if no statement could be made in debate without previous notice being given to the Minister. Also, I am sure that it would cumber enormously the work of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence if before any speeches were made he had to go through the whole business of seeing what they were before he listened to them, in order that he might prepare himself to answer them. I shall be very glad to give the information to him. I have given this instance as typical—it is only typical, and not a great crime in itself—but typical as, possibly, revealing what is occurring over a much wider area.
Let me come to the Territorial Army. In March of this year I stigmatised a sentence in the War Office Memorandum about the Territorial Army, in which it was said the equipment of the Territorials could not be undertaken until that of the Regular Army had been completed. What has been done about all that? It is certain the evils are not yet removed. I agree whole-heartedly with all that was said by my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) the other day about the Army and the Territorial Force. When I think about what these young men who join the Territorials do, how they come forward, almost alone in the population, and take on a liability to serve anywhere in any part of the world, not even with a guarantee to serve in their own units; come forward in spite of every conceivable deterrent; come forward, 140,000 of them, although they are still not up to strength—and then find that the Government does not take their effort so seriously that it will even put the proper equipment in their hands, and give them proper weapons, I marvel at their patriotism. It is a marvel; it is also a glory, but a glory we have no right to bestow if, by taking practical measures, we can secure proper and efficient equipment for those who come forward as volunteers.
A friend of mine the other day saw a number of persons engaged in peculiar evolutions, genuflections and gestures in the neighbourhood of London. His curiosity was excited. He wondered whether it was some novel form of gymnastics, or was a new religion—there are new religions which are very popular in some countries nowadays—or whether they were a party of lunatics out for an airing. On approaching closer he learned that they were a Searchlight Company of London Territorials who were doing their exercises as well as they could without having the searchlights. Yet we are told there is no need for a Ministry of Supply. In the manoeuvres of the Regular Army many of the most important new weapons had to be represented by flags and discs. Attention has been drawn to this by the very able military correspondent of the "Times." When we remember how small our land forces are—altogether only a few hundred thousand men—it seems incredible that the very flexible industry of Britain, if properly handled, could not supply them with their modest requirements. In Italy, whose industry is so much smaller, whose wealth and credit are a fraction of this country's, a dictator is able to boast that he has bayonets and equipment for 8,000,000 men. Halve the figure, if you like, and the moral remains equally cogent.
I say the Army lacks almost every weapon which is required for the latest form of modern war. Where are the anti-tank guns, where are the short-distance wireless sets, where the field anti-aircraft guns against low-flying armoured aeroplanes? We want to know how it is that this country, with its enormous motoring and motor-bicycling public, is not able to have strong mechanised divisions, both Regular and Territorial. Surely, when so much of the interest and the taste of our youth is moving in those mechanical channels, and when the horse is receding, with the days of chivalry, into the past, it ought to be possible to create an army of the size we want fully up to strength and mechanised to the highest degree in the world.
Look at the Tank Corps. The tank was a. British invention. This idea, which has revolutionised the conditions of modern war, was a British idea forced on the War Office by outsiders. Let me say they would have just as hard work to-day to force a new idea on it. I speak from what I know. During the War we had almost a monopoly in, let alone the leadership in, tank warfare, and for several years afterwards we held the foremost place. To England all eyes were turned. All that has gone now. Nothing has been done in the years that the locust has eaten to equip the Tank Corps with new machines. The medium tank which they possess, which in its day was the best in the world, is now long obsolete. Not only in numbers—for there we have never tried to compete with other countries—but in quality these British weapons are now surpassed by those of Germany, Russia, Italy and the United States. All the shell plants and gun plants in the Army, apart from the very small peace-time services, are in an elementary stage. A very long period must intervene before any effectual flow of munitions can be expected, even for the small forces of which we dispose. Still we are told there is no necessity for a Ministry of Supply, no emergency which should induct us to impinge on the normal course of trade. If we go on like this, and I do not see what power can prevent us from going on like this, some day there may be a terrible reckoning, a very terrible reckoning, and those who take the responsibility so entirely upon themselves are either of a hardy disposition or they are incapable of foreseeing the possibilities which may arise.
Now I come to the greatest matter of all, the air. We received on Tuesday night, from the First Lord of the Admiralty, the assurance that there is no foundation whatever for the statements that we are vastly behindhand with our Air Force Programme. It is clear from that statement that we are behindhand. The only question is, what meaning does the First Lord attach to the word "vastly"? He also used the expression, about the progress of air expansion, that it was "not unsatisfactory." One does not know what his standard is. His standards change from time to time. In that speech of 11th September about the League of Nations there was one standard, and in the Hoare-Laval Pact there was clearly another. One does not know what the standard is. There are many different tests by which the strength and progress of an air force may be judged. I will not attempt to unfold them to the House, except to say: pilots, machines, the power to replenish pilots and machines, the formation of squadrons, the question of equipment, sites, instruments, and bombing gear, and let me add, especially machine-guns in very large numbers. Modern aeroplanes are quite useless for war without all those costly, complicated ancillaries. Are they all properly in step with one another? There is the question of the range of aeroplanes and the bomb-carrying capacity of our aeroplanes, a question which affects not only strategy but, as anyone who has thought about the subject must know, foreign policy as well.
In August last some of us went in a deputation to the Prime Minister in order to express the anxieties which we felt about national defence, and to make a number of statements which we would prefer not to be forced to make in public. I, personally, made a statement on the state of the Air Force to the preparation of which I had devoted several weeks and which, I am sorry to say, took an hour to read. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister listened with his customary exemplary patience. I think I told him beforehand that he is a good listener, and perhaps he will retort that he learned to be when I was his colleague. At any rate, he listened with exemplary patience, and that is always something. During the three months that have passed since then I have re-checked those facts in the light of current events and later knowledge, and were it not for the fact that foreign ears listen to all that is
said here, and if we were in secret session, I would repeat my statement here. And even if only one half were true I am sure the House would consider that a very grave state of emergency existed, and also, I regret to say, a state of things from which a certain degree of mismanagement cannot be excluded. I am not going into any of those details. I make it a rule, as far as I possibly can, not to say anything in this House upon matters which I am not sure is not already known to the General Staffs of foreign countries; but there is one statement of very great importance which the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence made in his speech on Tuesday. He said:
The process of building up squadrons and forming new training units and skeleton squadrons is familiar to everybody connected with the Air Force. The number of squadrons in present circumstances at home to-day, is 80, and that figure includes 16 auxiliary squadrons but excludes the Fleet Air Arm and, of course, does not include the squadrons abroad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 741, Vol. 317.]
From that figure, and the reservations by which it was prefaced, it is possible for the House, and also for foreign countries, to deduce pretty accurately the progress of our Air Force expansion. I feel therefore at liberty to comment on it, and I see that it has been commented on today in the "Daily Telegraph." Parliament was promised a total of 71 new squadrons, making a total of 124 squadrons in the home defence force by 31st March, 1937. This was thought to be the minimum compatible with out safety. At the end of the last financial year our strength was 53 squadrons, including auxiliary squadrons. Therefore, in the 32 weeks which have passed since the financial year began, we have added 28 squadrons, that is to say, less than one new squadron each week. In order to make the progress which Parliament has promised, in order to maintain the programme which was put forward as the minimum, we shall have to add 43 squadrons in the remaining 20 weeks, or over two squadrons a week. The rate at which new squadrons will have to be formed from now till the end of March will have to be three times as fast as hitherto. I do not propose to analyse the composition of the 80 squadrons we now have, but the Minister, in his speech, used a suggestive expression, "skeleton squadrons"—applying at least to a portion of
them—but even if every one of the 80 squadrons had on average strength of 12 aeroplanes, each fitted with war equipment, and the reserves upon which my right hon. Friend dwelt, we should have a total of 960 first line home defence aircraft.
What is the comparable German strength? I am not going to give an estimate and say that the Germans have not got more than a certain number, but I will take it upon myself to say that they most certainly at this moment have not got less than a certain number. Most certainly they have not got less than 1,500 first line aeroplanes, probably more, comprised in not less than 130 or 140 squadrons, including auxiliary squadrons. It must also be remembered that Germany has not got in its squadrons any machine the design and construction of which is more than three years old. It must also be remembered that Germany has specialised in long-distance bombing aeroplanes and that her preponderance in that respect is far greater than any of these figures would suggest.
We were promised most solemnly by the Government that air parity with Germany would be maintained by the home defence forces. At the present time, putting everything at the very best, we are, upon the figures given by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, only about two-thirds as strong as the German Air Force, assuming that I am not very much understating their present strength. [Interruption.] I do not know what the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman means. I said "understating."
Oh no. The proportion is two-thirds unless I have understated the German strength, in which case our proportion will be smaller. How then does the First Lord of the Admiralty think it right to say:
On the whole, our forecast of the strength of other Air Forces proves to be accurate; on the other hand, our own estimates have also proved to be accurate.
I am authorised to say that the position is satisfactory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 826, Vol. 317.]
I simply cannot understand it. Perhaps the Prime Minister will explain the position. I should like to remind the House that I have made no revelation affecting this country and that I have introduced no new fact in our air defence which does not arise from the figures given by the Minister and from the official estimates that- have been published.
What ought we to do? I know of only one way in which this matter can be carried further. The House ought to demand a Parliamentary inquiry. It ought to appoint six, seven or eight independent Members, responsible, experienced, discreet Members, who have some acquaintance with these matters and are representative of all parties, to interview Ministers and to find out what are, in fact, the answers to a series of questions; then to make a brief report to the House, whether either of reassurance or of suggestion for remedying the shortcomings. That, I think, is what any Parliament worthy of the name would do in these circumstances. Parliaments of the past days in which the greatness of our country was abuilding would never have hesitated. They would have felt they could not discharge their duty to their constituents if they did not satisfy themselves that the safety of the country was being effectively maintained.
The French Parliament, through its committees, has a very wide, deep knowledge of the state of national defence, and I am not aware that their secrets leak out in any exceptional way. There is no reason why our secrets should leak out in any exceptional way. It is because so many members of the French Parliament are associated in one way or another with the progress of the national defence that the French Government were induced to supply, six years ago, upwards of £60,000,000 sterling to construct the Maginot line of fortifications, when our Government was assuring them that wars were over and that France must not lag behind Britain in her disarmament. Even now, I hope that Members of the House of Commons will rise above considerations of party discipline, and will insist upon knowing where we stand in a matter which affects our liberties and our lives. I should have thought that the Government, and above all the Prime Minister, whose load is so heavy, would have welcomed such a suggestion.
Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger greater than has befallen Britain since the U-boat campaign was crushed; perhaps, indeed, it is a more grievous period than that, because at that time, at least, we were possessed of the means of securing ourselves and of defeating that campaign. Now we have no such assurance. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences. We have entered a period in which for more than a year, or a year and a half, the considerable preparations which are now on foot in Britain will not, as the Minister clearly showed, yield results which can be effective in actual fighting strength; while during this very period, Germany may well reach the culminating point of her gigantic military preparations, and be forced by financial and economic stringency, to contemplate a sharp decline, or perhaps some other exit from her difficulties.
It is this lamentable conjunction of events which seems to present the danger of Europe in its most disquieting form. We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now. Surely, if we can abridge' it by even a few months, if we can shorten this period when the German Army will begin to be so much larger than the French Army, and before the British Air Force has come to play its complementary part, you may be the architects who build the peace of the world on sure foundations. Two things, I confess, have staggered me, after a long Parliamentary experience, in these Debates. The first has been the dangers that have so swiftly come upon us in a few years, and have been transforming our position and the whole outlook of the world. Secondly, I have been staggered by the failure of the House of Commons to react effectively against those dangers. That, I am bound to say, I never expected. I never would have believed that we should have been allowed to go on getting into this plight, month by month and year by year, and that even the Government's own confessions of error have produced no concentration of Parliamentary opinion and force capable of lifting our efforts to the level of emergency. I say that unless the House resolves to find out the truth for itself, it will have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel in its long history.
It is always a somewhat saddening thing to be the spectator, however willing, of something in the nature of a family quarrel, but I am personally not going to interfere or endeavour to mediate between the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister. I was very sorry to note that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was using almost the same words as were used on another occasion by the Prime Minister, who said in effect: "If my lips could be unsealed, what a story I might tell to the House." I want to give the House, for what it is worth, a point of view which, so far as I am aware, has not so far been expressed in this or in preceding Debates. I want to point out how, in my judgment and I believe in that of other people, both the Government and the right hon. Gentleman are taking an erroneous view of the whole position in regard to rearmament.
I should like to preface my remarks by reminding the House that almost every speaker on the Government side, and certainly the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, have gone out of their way to say what I believe to be true, that we intend no aggression against any other nation; but the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence went further. Other speakers have done the same. He said that we are not in any sense provoking a conflict with others. I submit that almost the whole of the Government's rearmament programme is, in fact, aggressive in character and provocative to the last degree. The Minister for Defence said, two days ago:
It is our aim and purpose to develop as a deterrent as powerful a striking force as we can in the air."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 10th. November, 1936; col. 727, Vol. 317.]
What does that mean? It means provocation. It means a force of offence and not defence. It means a striking force. I would remind the House that so long ago as July, 1934, the Under-Secretary of State for Air told the House that it was then contemplated that the proportion of bombers (which, I submit, are essentially offensive and provocative
weapons) would be in the proportion of two bombers to one fighter. Incidentally, the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping to-day was for more bombers. The fighters are, of course, for the purposes of interception. I understand that the proportion of bombers to fighters to-day is very much greater.
What does that mean? It surely means that this country is developing arms of attack, provocative armaments. That is what long-distance bombers are. Following upon that, other nations are obviously likely to do the same thing. Nations are more and more concentrating upon the threat of retaliation, and they equip themselves for attack and not for defence. The pressure will become unbearable, and it will become a question of who gets in first, in the hope thereby of rendering retaliation impossible or comparatively ineffective.
If I wanted to produce a war, the policy that I would choose would be precisely that of His Majesty's Govern, ment. I should equip a particularly vulnerable country such as our own, the centre of a coveted Empire, with terribly menacing armaments. That policy is the most dangerous that could be followed. It combines on a large scale the three principal incentives to aggression, namely, opportunity, a great prize, and fear, and that is what the Government are doing to-day.
Such a policy of competitive rearmament, mainly with terribly offensive weapons, is bound to go more and more against Great Britain. The present policy, as was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, is based on the theory that even the strongest Power within striking distance of our shores will not dare to attack if we confront it with a force of bombers equal in numbers and equipment to its own. I should like the Minister for Coordination to say, if he proposes to reply, whether that in fact is not the policy of the Government. I submit that that theory is an entirely false one, because it is not the numbers and equipment of the force of bombers that would be the real deterrent to attack, but the damage they could do. This country is so much more vulnerable than any nearby great Power that, even if we had an equal force of bombers, we could not do to it nearly equivalent damage to that which could be done by any other nation to us. Indeed, the greater the air forces on both sides—and all nations are building great air forces to-day—the greater the comparative disadvantage will be, and the greater, therefore, the temptation to attack us.
There is a second and almost equally important inference to be drawn from the policy which the Government have adopted, namely, that of competitive rearmament with special attention to provocative offensive armaments in the form of bombers. That inference is that the Government are convinced that there cannot be even partial immunity in defence against air attack—that is to say, that the bomber will always get through; and therefore it seems to me that they have, if not wholly, at any rate very largely, given up their job of defence as defence. They have preferred to give priority to preparations for attack rather than preparations for defence.
I could offer other proofs than have been put forward to show that to provide, as we are doing, for retaliation, is a fatal error. It would be quite possible to-day, as has been shown to me by air force officers, for another country to send such a fleet of bombing aeroplanes over here to effect a surprise attack that there would be no question of retaliation; our retaliation would be comparatively ineffective. What retaliation does the hon. Gentleman think there might be if a force of a couple of hundred bombers were sent every half-hour, with incendiary bombs or poison gas bombs, over London from 8 in the morning till 12 noon? Does he think that this country could do much in the way of retaliation against that, particularly if they were sent to other towns, such as the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Bradford and elsewhere? I must not, however, be drawn away from the point that I want to make, which is that the Government are neglecting the problem of real defence and are concentrating on attack.
One instance of that fact is in regard to the question of anti-aircraft guns. It will be within the recollection of Members of the House that, I think on the 8th January this year, the chairman of Messrs. Vickers, in evidence before the Royal Commission, said that his firm had an extremely up-to-date form of antiaircraft gun, that they had offered it to the Government, but that the Government had declined to give any orders, being apparently content to carry on with the old form of anti-aircraft gun which was in use in the Army in 1918, nearly 20 years ago. That is to say, the Government prefer to provide bombers to attack other countries rather than to provide defence in the form of anti-aircraft guns for this country. That means that practically speaking the nation is to live under the perpetual threat of instant destruction, with the small consolation of being told that we shall be able to inflict by way of retaliation some similar destruction upon the enemy. I have not time to develop that argument as fully as I should like, but would refer the hon. Gentleman to a recent publication, which I think is extremely valuable, entitled "Alternative to Rearmament." It contains a mass of incontrovertible facts supporting the view which I have just put forward.
What is the alternative? Obviously, the problem is to steer between the danger of inviting attack and the danger of provoking attack, and the only way to do that is to combine adequate collective security with non-provocative national defence. I am not going into the matter of collective security to-day; I doubt whether it comes quite within the four corners of the question that is before the House; but I want to deal for a moment with the matter of non-provocative national defence. What do I mean by that? I mean concentration of the authorities on measures which would make this country less vulnerable, but which would not constitute a threat to other nations. One of these measures would be to reverse the present policy of His Majesty's Government, and to reverse the proportion of bombers to fighters, because bombers are more likely to provoke than to deter attack, especially if they belong to a vulnerable country such as this.
A second measure might be to give orders for the improved anti-aircraft guns which I have mentioned, instead of for bombers. Thirdly, the Government might acquire the latest form of search light. I understand that there is a very wonderful new searchlight which can be obtained; and I know that a tremendous amount of research is going on in regard to covering a large area in the form of a chessboard rather than by a direct ray of light, and there are searchlights which make use of infra-red rays, being able thereby to penetrate fog. Another course which the Government might adopt would be to duplicate, to disperse and to protect essential public services and public buildings in this country—food stores, power stations, railways, telephone systems, waterworks and fire fighting services. They could prepare for blackouts of essential places, and I think a great deal might be done in research into methods of producing rain or fog, either real or artificial. Those IA us who have had any experience of the air know that the weather is really the arch-enemy of the aviator, and it might be possible in a limited area to produce rain, and perhaps also fog.
Then we ought to take steps to protect essential buildings, as is being done in Germany, by reinforcing them with concrete. There are authorities who say that that can be done, and that such buildings can be made very largely bomb-proof. There ought also to be plans for the evacuation, and even the rebuilding, of towns in this country. Finally, and almost more important, steps ought to be taken at once to organise food stores in all parts of the country, so as to reduce the ever-present danger of starvation. In my submission we ought always to have a year's food supplies in this country. Such supplies could be stored in scores of places which aircraft could not get at. We must make a fresh start in the effort to obtain collective security, and show that, while we are prepared to defend ourselves, we are able and willing to make our contribution, both by arms and by consideration of the question of colonies—into which I cannot go now—and by our willingness to agree to the submission of disputes to equity tribunals and to the provision of an international air force. In all of these ways we should make a fresh start in the matter of obtaining collective security.
The measures which I have briefly detailed may not seem very impressive taken one by one, but can anyone deny that, with a. year's supplies of foodstuffs in hand, with fire fighting services, with evacuation orders, with essential services safeguarded, with research, not on bombs and bombing, but on anti-aircraft defence and cognate matters, Britain would be incomparably less likely to invite or provoke attack than is the case to-day? Such a policy, in my submission, though it obviously would not guarantee complete immunity to people in places directly attacked, would at least prevent the effects of an air attack from extending so as to involve hundreds of thousands of people in other places not directly hit, would reduce the comparative vulnerability of this country to a point where an enemy could not be assured of decisive victory by sudden aggression, and, therefore, would render an enemy victory less likely and less decisive if war should unhappily come. Finally, I believe that this is a policy which, if the Government would undertake it on the lines I have indicated, however briefly, might, and probably would, rally all the peace-lovers of this country, including right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. I urge the Government to consider it and adopt it in some form before it is too late.
The discussion on this Amendment has ranged over a very wide field, and we who put this Amendment down are glad that that has been so, for we deliberately worded the Amendment so as to enable a wide discussion to take place on all the problems of defence. Nevertheless it is my duty at this stage to bring the House back to the Amendment, and to the issue that is going to be decided in the Lobby to-night; hut, before doing so, I would like to make one or two short references to the speeches of those Members who immediately preceded me, and particularly to the interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down. He, I know, served in the War, as I did, and I can assure him that my loathing of war is no less than his can be. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that he drew a rather false distinction between arras of defence and arms of attack. He suggested that there was something particularly provocative in the possession of bombing aeroplanes, and nothing provocative in the possession of fighting aeroplanes. It seems to me that the real difference between defence and attack is not in the character of the weapons, but in the use that is made of them. When he turned to an hon. Member opposite and asked him what he would do if squadrons of bombing aeroplanes were coming over London from eight in the morning to midday day after day, I could not help thinking that such a peril was more likely to be averted if we had the power of retaliation than if we had merely to depend upon those schemes of passive defence which the hon. and gallant Gentleman described.
I believe war is a calamity which it is impossible to measure or describe, and I think, therefore, we must be certain that the peace-loving and freedom-loving nations of the world have in their power such force as will deter an aggressor from inflicting these calamities upon us. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman said he thought that what the Government ought to be concentrating upon was apparatus for the production of fogs, real or artificial, I could not help reflecting that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence had already shown some aptitude in that direction, and when he said the policy that he favoured was one which would include among other items plans for rebuilding our cities, I could not help hoping that we might be able to take some effective steps beforehand to prevent their destruction. Where I entirely agree with his defence plans is in this, that I hope the Government are considering the question which I raised—and it was also dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. j Churchill) and a number of others, in one of these debates On the co-ordination of defence—the defence of our cities against air attack. We understand that a committee was appointed to consider; this subject and the whole House will be interested to know from the Prime Minister what progress is being made by that committee. We have pressed for information on more than one occasion, as recently as last summer. We failed to get much information and I hope the Prime Minister will be able to tell us something on the subject.
But my main task to-day is to bring the House back to the consideration of the issue that is to be decided in the Division Lobby to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping gave us a very powerful and sombre speech on the larger issues of policy. We shall all listen with interest, and even with anxiety, to the reply which the Prime Minister is, no doubt, going to give to that speech; but, if we are not satisfied with it these issues will have to be raised again on a definite Motion on which the House, if necessary, will have to divide. They cannot be adequately discussed and dealt with merely by a general and academic discussion. There must be an opportunity for the House to take a decision on them. Meanwhile the subject upon which the House is going to divide to-night, unless the Prime Minister can give us a reply very different from that given us on Tuesday by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and the First Lord of the Admiralty, is the question of the Government's handling of the report of the Royal Commission on the manufacture and the trade in arms.
There is one misapprehension under which the Minister of Co-ordination of Defence was labouring which I wish to clear up, and that, is as to the attitude which my friends and I have adopted towards this question of nationalisation. It is not the case, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that the Liberal party is disappointed at the main recommendations of the Royal Commission. It is not the case that we have advocated the immediate nationalisation of the arms industry. It is true that if the Royal Commission had seen its way to recommend it we should have rejoiced, because the more drastic the action that it is feasible to take to eradicate the evils of this industry, the better we should have been pleased. Nevertheless, in my speech in November, 1934, on this subject I dissociated myself from the demand that was made by members of the Labour party for nationalisation because we on these benches knew the practical difficulties in the way and we also knew that the root of the evil is in the international trade in arms and, therefore, that action on an international scale is incomparably more important than anything that one country by itself can do. The attitude of the Liberal party at the last Election is correctly stated in the quotation on page 86 of the Royal Commission's Report from the statement issued by the National Liberal Federation.
But, apart altogether from the merits of the conclusions at which the Royal Commission have arrived on this question of nationalisation, the issue is really now an academic one. No one supposes for a moment that this Government would, in present circumstances, nationalise the armament industry, nor is there any likelihood that it will be turned out of office for the next three or four years. The value of this report is that it recommends action which would not only remove proved and admitted abuses, but action which the Government could quite well take within the ambit of its present policy. It, therefore, affords firm ground on which public opinion can be rallied in support of urgent measures of reform and, therefore, amply fulfils the intentions that we had in mind in pressing for the appointment of the Royal Commission. Moreover, it has been welcomed and praised by Members of Parliament and by newspapers which support the Government. The "Times" newspaper described it as an admirable and conclusive report and, while the Leader of the Opposition bas said to-day that he found it disappointing, Dr. Addison, who as Minister of Munitions during the War and as a keen advocate himself of nationalisation speaks with peculiar authority for the Socialist party on this subject, has welcomed the report. Our attitude, therefore, is that, having made out a case two years ago which justified, in the Government's opinion, the appointment of this Royal Commission, and our case having been submitted to the Tribunal to which the Government itself appealed for ascertainment of the facts, and important recommendations having been made by that Tribunal, we are entitled to receive from the Government a pledge that measures will be brought before Parliament during the present Session to give effect to the main recommendations of their Royal Commission.
The Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, after paying some compliments to my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, proceeded in a comparatively few sentences to deal most perfunctorily with this important report. He said that my hon. Friend had dwelt upon many points in connection with the manufacture of arms which require and receive consideration from time to time. Quite true! They received consideration at the time of the Versailles Peace Conference. They received consideration from the Temporary Mixed Commission of the League of Nations 15 years ago. They received consideration from the Disarmament Conference. We have been assured by the Government in successive Debates in this House and in another place that they are constantly receiving consideration. Meanwhile the French and the United States Governments have passed from the stage of consideration to that of action. Our Government lags behind, and it is because we think it ought to be prepared to go further than a mere promise of continued consideration and give the House a definite pledge of action that we have moved this Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman made it a complaint against the Royal Commission that they did not tell the Government in what way control of arms manufacturing capacity was to be exercised. I could not help wondering whether he had read paragraph 130 of the Report. It begins like this:
In principle, however, we think that there should be established by the Government a body for the purpose of controlling supply and deciding questions of priority. Such a body should have executive and not merely advisory powers over supply manufacture, costing and the authorisation of orders from abroad. It should be presided over by a Minister responsible to Parliament. Its main duties would be—
Then follows a carefully considered catalogue of the duties which this body ought to be expected to carry out. It goes on:
We recommend further that the Government's own manufacturing establishments should be fully equipped for the production in sonic measure of naval, military and air armaments.
Then there follows a catalogue of all the advantages that would flow from the adoption of that recommendation and of the further functions which such factories should be expected to discharge. As the Royal Commission themselves say, details of administration and organisation are far outside the scope of their terms of reference, and I do not believe for a moment that, if the Government had had in its mind that it expected from the
Royal Commission a carefully drawn up and detailed scheme for the establishment of a Ministry of Supply, it would have selected these particular ladies and gentlemen to carry out that task. We are not, indeed, asking the Government tonight to produce their detailed plan. We are not asking them to give us an assurance that they will produce it this week or next week; but the mere assurance that these matters require and are receiving consideration from time to time will not satisfy the House or the country. They have been the subject of repeated discussion and searching and expert investigation for years and this report has been in the hands of the Government for nearly six weeks.
Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to try to drive a wedge between the advocates of a Ministry of Supply, headed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, and those who are supporting this Amendment and, indeed, between him and the Royal Commission. There is, I believe, no difference of opinion as to the character of the Ministry or as to the scope of its functions. The right hon. Gentleman said:
I am doing those who make this last proposal no injustice when I suggest that what they want"—
he is referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping—
is not the limitation of arms manufacturing capacity but the expansion of capacity. They want to create new sources of supply, to conscript industry, to control labour, to manage finance and generally to divert certain trades now engaged upon peaceful pursuits to the manufacture of weapons of war. I propose to say something before I finish about the proposal to establish a Ministry of Supply, but I am quite sure the Royal Commission did not contemplate a plan of that sort."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; cols. 725–26, Vol. 317.]
But the Royal Commission made it clear that these are the very problems which they had in view in making their recommendations. The conscription of industry in war time; they have a section of their report dealing with that very problem. Moreover they urge the adoption of their proposals for the setting up of this new body upon this ground, along with two other grounds—to ensure the rapidity of expansion in a period of emergency. I cannot help doubting whether the right hon. Gentleman has read the Report. If he has, he has already forgotten it. Therefore, we ask the
Prime Minister to say whether the Government are prepared to accept in principle the recommendations of the Royal Commission, or to tell us what are the other measures which they propose to strengthen their present system of price control, a system of control which they submitted to the judgment of the Royal Commission, and which the Royal Commission find is weak and inadequate, and what measures they propose to take effectively to plan their expansion of armaments in the present emergency and to prevent profiteering in time of war. Conscription of industry does indeed raise problems of immense difficulty and complexity, but that is no reason for shirking them or for delaying consideration of them. On the contrary they ought to be considered by an expert and authoritative body at once, a body such as the Royal Commission recommend should be set up.
The omissions from the speeches of the Government spokesmen on Tuesday are even more remarkable than what they said. For it is generally agreed—and indeed it is declared by the Royal Commission—that the evils and abuses connected with the trade in arms are much more important than those connected with their manufacture. In the past the Government have assured us that the present system of export licences is an effective safeguard against abuses in the British share of this international trade. We on this side of the House have constantly and assiduously challenged those statements, and now our case is substantiated by the report of the Royal Commission. I therefore ask the Prim Minister, will the Government accept the proposals of the Royal Commission for the discontinuance of open general licences for the export of arms, and also will they accept the other proposals of the Commission for the reform of the export licensing system? And in particular do they accept the proposals of the Royal Commission that the trade in surplus and second-hand arms and munitions of war should be completely and finally banned?
Of course, it is an international trade, and international action is essential. I therefore ask the Prime Minister—and T hope that he will be able to give us before this Debate ends an answer to these really vital questions, which go to the root of the abuses of this system of the international trade in arms; these vital questions about the reform of the export licensing system and the trade in second-hand arms and munitions—I ask him, do the Government accept the Royal Commission's recommendation of the proposals of the United States Government? Other governments are pressing for action on those lines. On the initiative of the French Government, the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference is being summoned to discuss this and two other subjects. The provisions of the United States Draft Convention have already been incorporated in legislation in the United States of America, as far as that can be done without international agreement. It is a fact which perhaps is not generally recognised, and which certainly finds no reflection in the speeches from the Government supporters, that a national munitions board has already been set up in the United States of America, and that registration of arms manufacturers and export and import licences have been made compulsory. And what is very important, a duty has been laid by the United States Congress upon that munitions hoard to report to Congress, so as to ensure full publicity about the manufacture and trade in arms in the United States of America.
Those provisions have had immediate effects, for it is remarkable that although the United States Government have no power to forbid the export of arms to Spain, no such export has in fact taken place direct from the United States of America, and nobody can doubt that this is clue to the fact that the manufacturers shrink from the publicity which the American system now involves. That is the system which we are pressing the Government to say that they will approve in principle, as is recommended by the report of the Royal Commission, and carry into effect before the end of the present Session. There is indeed some suspicion that some small consignments of arms may have reached Spain from the United States of America through transhipment from other countries, but that only emphasises the need for international agreements. Other countries are moving, and the British Government lag behind. It is astonishing that the Government should show so little respect for that public opinion, which, as Lord Halifax said, is so profoundly and sincerely moved by the moral aspect of this problem, that they have not even thought it worth while to declare their attitude towards or even to comment upon these vitally important recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Before the end of his speech the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence criticised the speech which had been made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith). He said:
I shall show him … that the younger generation is not backward when it has heard the call.
What was his proof? Ten thousand recruits for the Navy, and 60,000 applications for the Air Force. And what about the Army? The Regular Army, as we know, is between 30,000 and 40,000 short of its establishment and the Territorial Army between 80,000 and 90,000 short. A call was issued for 17,000 recruits for the Supplementary Reserve, but after two weeks only 286 men appeared to have heard the vociferous calls of the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman called the speech of my hon. Friend censorious of our young men. There was another speech I heard or read not long ago that there are a vast number of young men doing too little in the service of their country. That was not my hon. Friend, but the Secretary of State for War. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks the speech of my hon. Friend was censorious, it would be interesting to know what he thinks of that of the Secretary of State for War. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment was, as I shall try to show, in error in his rather sweeping generalisation as to the backwardness of the younger generation being due in part to their suspicions about war profits. I shall show him in a moment that the younger generation is not backward when it has heard the call. It is easy for men of my age to be censorious of the younger generation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1936; col. 734, Vol. 317.]
Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the recruitment of 70,000 men out of the whole of our population disposes of the argument that large numbers of plain people in this country are
sincerely and profoundly moved by the admitted abuses of this trade in arms, and, above all, by the unwillingness of the Government to take any action to end them or even to adopt in principle the deliberate recommendations of the Royal Commission whom they themselves appointed? Why, you want not merely to maintain that flow of recruits into the Navy and the Air Force and perhaps increase it, but you want to find nearly double that number for the Army. There was another speech made a few weeks ago by the Adjutant-General to the Forces. He said:
We are really fighting for the voluntary system. The question is a national one and not a party question, and if we are to keep up the voluntary system we must get recruits. We shall not get recruits unless we have public opinion behind us.
There was more sound political sense in that general's speech than there was in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman from the Treasury Bench on Tuesday. More than that, you not only want these recruits in all the three Services, but you want the willing work of hundreds of thousands of men and women all over the country—leaders of opinion, writers, speakers, skilled workmen, trade unionists; you want the whole nation welded into the same unity of purpose as we had in this country 20 years ago. There is an immense reservoir of courage, energy, patriotism and idealism in the young people of this country, and they are not afflicted with deafness. The question is not their difficulty in hearing the call. The obstacle is that the right call is not being sounded from the Government benches at the present time. My hon. Friend was abundantly right, as Lord Halifax has shown that he knows, and as the Royal Commission themselves declare, in saying that you will not get that unity if people think that others are going to make huge profits out of their sacrifices, if you refuse to accept the recommendations of your own Royal Commission which would destroy harmful but well grounded suspicion, as the report of the Royal Commission says, and if you refuse to lift the national purpose on to a higher plane of effort where we can rally to defend not only, as the right hon. Gentleman said, our national and Imperial interests, but also freedom, democracy, and the reign of law against aggression and dictatorship.
This Debate is unique in one way in that there has intervened between the two days the remembrance of the Armistice. I became more than ever convinced in the course of my meditations yesterday—and I expect many other hon. Members were too—of two things—one, that every endeavour we could use in our diplomacy and in our foreign policy and in every way possible should be directed to keeping the peace in Europe; secondly, that if that peace be unhappily broken we shall be prepared. These two things to-day are not necessarily contradictory, but I believe that the country as a whole would be of my opinion in that matter.
I should like to make one observation in answer to the speeches from the Liberal benches. I regret that when they put their Amendment down it was quite impossible for us to say more than has been said. Were I able to issue myself in triplicate I might possibly have been in a position to have said more. These questions are not too simple and require very careful examination. That careful examination they will have. They are now being examined, as most proposals are examined, Departmentally first, and in due course they must come to the Cabinet. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, although I give no pledge, because I have not given my own attention to this matter, and it has not been before the Cabinet, that it is having and will have our earnest and serious consideration, such consideration as the importance of the subject naturally warrants and demands.
I should like to make one or two observations about the speech of the Leader of the Opposition earlier to-day. There were at least two important things on which he desired information which it is impossible to give—what is our defensive strategy and what is our plan for meeting air attack? If there are any things that would be welcomed in a good many foreign countries it would be a clear exposition on those subjects. No one, however, must draw the conclusion from that reply of mine that these things are being neglected. The question that was raised about the Empire is not an easy one. The Empire relations are less simple to-day than they were in the old days before the War, but I think it is fair to say that the Dominions throughout are anxious about the state of world politics and they have discussed with us their own defences. In regard to what the Leader of the Opposition said about utilising the Dominions for manufacture, I hope very much that in Canada steps may be taken to bring that very desirable end to pass.
I do not propose, and it would be impossible in the time at my disposal, or in the time during which anyone could listen to me, to deal with everything that has been raised in this Debate, or to discuss in detail the numbers or quantities of particular weapons. There are difficulties about that; difficulties in the giving of information which I do not think it wise or safe to give. Apart from that, the field to be covered is so wide and the several parts so inter-connected that to stress or over-stress this or that particular might tend to make us lose the true perspective which we must always try to keep. There was a most interesting speech from my old friend the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) who raised a question that would require a day's debate in this House, a question that completely alters the whole subject of military training and military organisation in this country. It is a most important question and one which must be debated but on which it would be impossible to say anything to-day profitably.
We are, and some of the speeches have shown this, because of our geographical position, our Imperial interests and our Imperial communications, so placed with regard to both offence and defence that we have to look at more than one Service for our protection. I am not going to enter into a discussion, into which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) entered earlier to-day with such devastating effect, as to the relative merits of the Navy and the Air Force. Suffice it to say that so long as there is an Empire both these Forces will be required. Just as the one Force will have to protect the heart of the Empire the other will have to protect our communications.
Before I come to the Debate itself—and I shall try to deal with as many subjects as I can—I want to put before the House something of the work—if I did not misunderstand him I thought the Leader of the Opposition spoke a little
slightingly of it—of the Committee of Imperial Defence, because there are a great many things outside armaments that must necessarily be prepared for in time of crisis, and some of them are things from which in the past we have suffered through not being prepared. The problems to be dealt with, largely because of the modern development of the air, are complicated and baffling. It may be said that there is a certain number of these problems for which a solution has been found. There are a certain number of a second category which are still in process of examination, on which progress has been made but which have not yet been solved in every detail. There is a third category of difficulties and problems that have only lately appeared and which are still being worked out and of which the solution is not yet in sight. There is nothing new about that. That was the position before 1914, just as it is the position to-day. A great number of the problems of 1914 have been solved satisfactorily. I have two quotations which I wish to read to the House. The OFFICIAL HISTORY says:
Given the scale which we deliberately chose to adopt, there is no doubt that the machinery for setting our Forces in action had reached an ordered completeness in detail that has no parallel in our history.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in "The World Crisis" said:
The work of Ottley and of Hankey and generally of the Committee of Imperial Defence was now put to the proof. It was found in every respect thorough and comprehensive, and all over the country emergency measures began to astonish the public.
Nevertheless, I am sure that those who were responsible for the direction of affairs during the War would admit that the War itself soon disclosed a great number of vital problems that had not been tackled before. We have to-day to learn from that. Perhaps the most important of the things that had never been considered was the whole question of manpower. The result was that key-men from many industries and from the land went out in the earliest drafts to the War, many were killed and we had infinite trouble later in the War in bringing many of them back to do their work on munitions. There was no scheme when the War began for the development of
munitions and war material, with consequences with which we are only too familiar. Even in the technical sphere of the Navy there were great defects. I remember particularly what one heard about the inefficiency and inadequacy of our mines and of many of our torpedoes and armour-piercing shells.
All these difficulties that we went through at that time ought to be remembered when we are thinking perhaps to-day that everything in the past has been perfect and that it is only this unhappy Government that is fumbling along. We have to-day, by methods similar to those employed before the War, reached a position—I am not speaking of armaments at this moment—of organisation considerably in advance of where we were in 1914, because the problems that were omitted before the War have been tackled by successive Governments, Such a question is man-power. In regard to man-power we have a whole volume of information now which was not available in 1914, and we know pretty well how the man-power could immediately be distributed. Questions of supplies and essential raw materials and munitions have been and are being worked out, the problems that were dealt with by the Ministry of Munitions, the distribution of imports, the problems of the Ministry of Blockade—insurance of shipping, the distribution of imports in case of diversion of traffic to other ports—all these things have been or are being worked out. In these respects our arrangements are incomparably better than they were in 1914, although they have to be constantly adjusted to meet changes in the situation. There is a changed situation to-day which did not exist in 1914 and that is the increased radius of air power. All these activities are under constant examination by skilled brains.
The new system of a Minister for Coordination, acting as deputy-chairman of that committee and the Defence Requirements Committee, is in my view working admirably. I think that his tact and his work under conditions where he has no Defence of the Realm Act behind him and his judgment in handling the problems that he has to meet, have been such that he has achieved all the success that I hoped and believed he would achieve. Right hon. Members opposite and other Members of the House may think that what we are doing is insufficient. That is a question of opinion, but I do not think anyone can dispute that the work that is going on to-day is proceeding with the smoothness that was hoped for and that it might not have got had we not had the advantage of the personality of the present Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence.
The completion of the programme for meeting the accumulated deficiencies of many years was in itself a tremendous task. We have had to make adjustments and accelerations to meet the ever deteriorating international conditions. That has been no small task, and we have not been left to pursue it in that atmosphere of detachment in which it would have been comparatively simple. We have had to carry on that process subject to a number of grave disturbances. For many months we have a succession of crises; the difficult situation in the Mediterranean demanded almost daily consultation with London, and daily consideration; the re-occupation of the Rhineland, difficulties in Palestine, troubles in Spain—all overlapping, reacting one on another, and some of them, particularly the Mediterranean trouble, interfering with and retarding the development of our programme of defence. But in spite of all these difficulties the defence programmes are launched, well launched, and making on the whole good progress.
Monthly reports are received from all the Departments engaged in these matters, not only from the Service Departments but from the other Departments concerned. These reports are exhaustively reviewed by my right hon. Friend. He reviews them with a Cabinet Committee, and every possible step is taken to remedy whatever lag may become visible. There are questions from time to time between the Services. There was a question that gave us a good deal of trouble as to the place of aircraft in coastal defence. That was settled two or three years ago by a Committee over which I presided when I still attended regularly the Committee of Imperial Defence. More recently there has been an investigation into that very great question of the battleship and the bomb, and the House has been made acquainted with the result of that inquiry. Another question on which there is still acute controversy, as was shown on Tuesday and to-day, is the question of the Fleet Air Arm. To certain details, on which divergencies of view were most acute, the Minister for Co-ordination has already given his attention. His recommendations are with the Defence Ministers, and at the moment it would be premature to say any more on that subject.
Then there is a most important question not yet completely solved, but in a partial state of solution, the question of the food supply of the country in time of war. The main functions of the Defence Services for the protection of our food supplies have been defined, and in certain aspects where they may overlap, for example in the narrow seas, the staffs concerned are engaged in working out these problems. The plans for the coast defences and the anti-aircraft defences of our ports of entry have been drawn up. They too are constantly under review, for the same reason that I mentioned earlier, because of the constantly increasing range of aircraft. Allusion was made in a most interesting speech by the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) to the machinery for the distribution of imports in case of the diversion of shipping. I am glad to say that great progress has been made on that subject. An appropriate organisation is being drawn up and is well advanced; it has been approved and is being completed in detail.
Before I leave the question of food supply in time of war I would mention that a scheme of rationing has been drawn up which could be used if the emergency arose. The Ministry of Agriculture has drawn up a general scheme for increasing production in the event of war, and it is now engaged in working it out in detail. There are other aspects of the question, the investigation of which involves the most delicate and difficult economic problems. We have not yet completed them, and they may take some time. They include the general question of what I may call feeding policy. That includes such things as the creation of stocks of food and possible arrangements for food control. There are few more difficult or complicated subjects in time of war than this, as was discovered 20 years ago, but fortunately we have the experience of the last War to guide us. I do not think there is any question which has been raised in recent debates on the subject of defence on which we have not brought to bear the best brains at the disposal of the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley seemed to think that some of these matters which I have mentioned are worked out or could be worked out by the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is a complete misapprehension. What happens is that although the Secretariat cannot do that work themselves they have to see to it that the work is done, and to assist the Committee in arranging that the responsibility for action is allocated. It would interest the House to know how many men have been working on these and similar problems in the course of the last year. No fewer than 532 individuals, including 29 Ministers of the Crown, 179 officers of the fighting Services, 283 civil servants, 11 representatives from the Dominions and 30 persons outside the Government service participated in that work, and each of these individuals is either the head of some Department or section of a Department or a special expert on some aspect of these questions, such, for instance, as experts from the port authorities, railways and canals. It will be seen, therefore, that the work of the Committee of Imperial Defence on this side has covered an enormous range, and that range has been focused into a concerted scheme of national preparation for defence. So far as the results of these inquiries involve action in time of war, they are embodied in a document familiar to Ministers who function at that time, that book so useful at the outbreak of war, and which is known as the War Book, a great index of all action to be taken for transferring the activities of the Government and of the nation, perhaps overnight, from peace to war.
I will turn now to some of the matters which have been most prominent during the Debate, and I will begin by saying something about the various references that have been made to the air, and to our defensive and offensive air preparations. I make no apology to the House for going into some detail in the matter of supply, because it is a matter of very great importance, and although I sometimes feel hampered in the knowledge that it is impossible for me to give figures, or many figures—there are many things on which I dare not touch—yet here, in saying something about the practice, I think I can give the House as full information as I have in my power. As has been said in the Debate, the production of engines in the 1937 programme is entirely satisfactory. As regards completed aeroplanes, these are in some cases behind the delivery that was originally hoped for. There is nothing surprising or alarming in this. The Secretary of State for Air has on more than one occasion explained the policy which the Government decided, and I am sure rightly decided, to pursue with regard to certain new types.
It was, I think, a courageous judgment on the part of the Government, and it has been proved to have been a wise one. It used to be the practice to order prototypes of new machines, to try them out and prove them completely, and to place production orders only when the type was fully proved. This practice made production a comparatively easy matter, but it was open to a just criticism, which has often been mentioned in the House, that it involves a very long delay in the production of new types. The expansion of the Air Force under that programme, what I call the 1937 programme, came at a time when new types of aeroplanes of greatly improved range and performance were being designed. We felt it to be of the utmost importance to get these new machines into production as quickly as possible. Under the old system prototypes would have been made and tried out, and then production orders would have been placed. We took the risk of giving production orders in the absence of that proof. Anyone familiar with aircraft production knows that you almost always have difficulties, teething troubles, with new types and especially with the first machines of a new type.
These new-type machines involved many novel features and some difficulties were inevitably encountered. They are all being satisfactorily overcome. But under the new system we have this great advantage, that while proof of the new types is going on, work is taking place on bulk orders. Material has been delivered, machinery has been installed, jigs and tools have been made and work on the initial batches carried forward, the net result being that as the initial difficulties are overcome bulk production comes forward immediately behind. I do not think any hon. Member will doubt the wisdom of that course. Having dealt with these new types in this way, not waiting to prove them out before we ordered bulk production, we have halved the time in which the machines can be built. It would have been easy to place large orders for existing types. We could then no doubt put in the shop window a larger number of machines at a rather earlier date, but we should not have had nearly as effective a force as we shall have by accepting some postponement of the full deliveries, and we secure machines of a considerably higher type of all round performance.
The Government's policy with regard to the construction of aero engines in shadow factories has been fully stated in the White Paper. The more that plan is studied the more general is the conviction that it is right. It must always be remembered that a large and increasing production of engines will be coming forward all through the programme from the regular engine firms, and the shadow plan supplements that. But it does much more. It serves the double purpose of securing a supply of additional engines for the programme and greatly strengthening what has been called the "war potential." Under the plans already laid down by the Supply Board various great civil firms are allotted in war to produce munitions of various kinds for the three services. Under that plan some of the great motor firms are allocated to aircraft. We decided that the execution of the 1939 programme afforded an admirable opportunity of giving those firms an experience in producing aero engines with the minimum interference with their civil business.
"Shadow" factories, as they have been called, are being erected by the firms on Government account and will be managed by them. As hon. Members have seen from the White Paper, having decided on this course, the Secretary of State for Air took the very practical course of inviting the firms to meet him, discussing with them all aspects of the problem, and asking the firms, in association with the Bristol company, the designers of the engines, to advise on what they considered the most practical way of doing the job. They unanimously advised on the method which has been adopted. They are firms of great experience; they are working as a team, and they are confident, as we are, that they will see the job through.
Two criticisms have been made and they have, I think, been answered. The first criticism is that it is an unsound engineering proposition to entrust the making of different parts to different firms. There are two answers to this. First, that it is already the common practice. The great aero engine firms have, for a long time past, with complete success, been employing a large number of sub-contractors to work for them. Secondly, no one is more competent to advise on what is or is not a practical engineering proposition than the firms who have put up this plan and who take full responsibility for working it. The other criticism is that it would be unsafe to rely on a single chain of manufacture. This argument may be pressed too far. You cannot, if you are to take advantage of modern industrial practice, make all your units self-contained. But the force of the argument was recognised from the start, and the Secretary of State for Air made it plain to the firms that in war the links of the chain would have to be multiplied. There should be no difficulty in doing this, for it will be observed that should the whole of the great civil factories turn over to war work, a considerable part of their plant and machinery could be used in engine and aeroplane construction, and that plant could and would be supplemented by other machinery. I would remind the House of the considered view expressed by the motor firms that in the present circumstances it is desirable and indeed essential to avoid the difficulty and delay which would arise from the multiplication of orders for jigs, fixtures, gauges, tools and other plant; and I am confident it will be found, both from the point of view of the present programme and from the point of view of long-term policy, that the course which we have adopted is right.
Having spoken of that I think this would be a suitable occasion to make one observation on a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. My right hon. Friend did not speak so much to-day about priorities but he has often laid stress on priorities—priorities which should determine the order in which our numerous needs should be dealt with. Of course it depends very much on how you look at these things, but I can quite understand that he with his temperament, and even I myself with a very different temperament, must feel at times that there is not a single article of munitions or anything connected with war which has not priority. I admit that my right hon. Friend, whether it be in the air list or items in the gun list or whatever the item may be—I do not quarrel with any of them—would put everything in the first line of priority.
I am not disposed to quarrel for a moment with my right hon. Friend. The practical difference between the right hon. Gentleman and those who take that view and ourselves is that such action would increase the pace more and more, irrespective entirely of the effect on commerce, industry and finance. We are fully determined to press forward the plans already worked out, to modify, to extend them if necessary in the light of developments, but we do not feel justified in bringing about the dislocation of trade which must follow any attempt to proceed upon the more lavish scale advocated in some quarters. We started late, and I want to say a word about the years the locusts have eaten. I want to speak to the House with the utmost frankness. There can be no difference of opinion in this House, either on those benches or among my own supporters or among my hon. and right hon. Friends who have been taking a prominent part in this Debate, on this point, that in those years, from 1924 to 1929, when we did cut down the Services, we all did it, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after due and full consideration, and we did it because we still had hopes of disarmament, because we believed that there was no danger of a major war within a decade and because we were very anxious to conserve the finance of the country.
The difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and myself is in the years 1933 onwards. In 1931–32, although it is not admitted by the Opposition, there was a period of financial crisis. But there was another reason. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken more than once about the anxieties which were caused after the events in Germany in 1933, and the neglect of the Government to do anything or make any preparations in 1933–34. He was more modest to-day; he spoke of a couple of million pounds. I would remind the House that not once but on many occasions in speeches and in various places, when I have been speaking and advocating as far as I am able the democratic principle, I have stated that a democracy is always two years behind the dictator. I believe that to be true. It has been true in this case. I put before the whole House my own views with an appalling frankness. From 1933, I and my friends were all very worried about what was happening in Europe. You will remember at that time the Disarmament Conference was sitting in Geneva. You will remember at that time there was probably a stronger pacifist feeling running through this country than at any time since the War. I am speaking of 1933 and 1934. You will remember the election at Fulham in the autumn of 1933, when a seat which the National Government held was lost by about 7,000 votes on no issue but the pacifist. You will remember perhaps that the National Government candidate who made a most guarded reference to the question of defence was mobbed for it.
That was the feeling in the country in 1933. My position as the leader of a great party was not altogether a comfortable one. I asked myself what chance was there—when that feeling that was given expression to in Fulham was common throughout the country—what chance was there within the next year or two of that feeling being so changed that the country would give a mandate for rearmament? Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming and that we must rearm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to that cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain. I think the country itself learned by certain events that took place during the winter of 1934–35 what the perils might be to it. All I did was to take a moment perhaps less unfortunate than another might have been, and we won the election with a large majority; but frankly I could conceive that we should at that time, by advocating certain courses, have been a great deal less successful. We got from the country—with a large majority—a mandate for doing a thing that no one, 12 months before, would have believed possible. It is my firm conviction that had the Government, with this great majority, used that majority to do anything that might be described as arming without a mandate—and they did not do anything, except the slightly increased air programme for which they gave their reasons—had I taken such action as my right hon. Friend desired me to take, it would have defeated entirely the end I had in view. I may be wrong, but I put that to the House as an explanation of my action in that respect.
There is one other thing I will say. I shall always trust the instincts of our democratic people. They may come a little late, but my word, they come with a certainty when they do come; they come with a unity not imposed from the top, not imposed by force, but a unity that nothing can break. I believe today that, whatever differences there may be among us in the country on various questions—as there must be—the conviction is biting deep into our country, with all its love of peace, that there must be no going back on our resolution for such rearmament as we deem necessary to meet any possible peril from whatever quarter it may come. That feeling is coupled with the feeling which we all have that we are as anxious as ever to see all the countries of Europe considering disarmament, especially in the air. But until that day comes, nothing will shake the resolution either of the Government or of this House or of our people.
I am afraid I must trouble the House with a few words more about a Ministry of Supply. This is the real point of difference between my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping and the Government. The attitude we have taken is not particularly my attitude or the attitude of any individual; it is the considered judgment of the whole Cabinet. In the light of all the facts there are before us, we take the full responsibility for it, and I think I might very briefly allude to the principal reasons. That has been done once, twice, three times, but I would like to run through those reasons again. Before doing so, however, I would like to deal with one question which I do not think my right hon. Friend mentioned to-day, but which I know has been in his mind. I do not know whether he still attaches importance to it, but some little time ago he did. He said that the Ministry of Supply, if there was one, could set up a council of business men to advise it. I appreciate as fully as anyone the value of the advice which business men can give, but all my experience goes to show that that advice, if it is to be to the point, must be directed to specific matters, matters about which a man with business experience can speak with practical knowledge.
Now, we can get all that without a Ministry of Supply and without a council of business men. Let me take the case of aircraft. What did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air do? He did what I told you a few moments ago. He did not set up a council of business men, but sent for the motor manufacturers, put before them the specific problem of the production of aircraft engines, both now and in time of emergency, and asked them to address their minds to the specific question, What could the motor industry do by way of contributing to the solution of the problem? Concurrently, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, realising that, as is common knowledge, the question of the supply of machine-tools is a key question, did not wait for advice from business men in general; he sent for the machine-tool makers, put to them the problem of the supply and asked them to formulate the steps necessary to supply what is needed for urgent munitions work, paying attention, as far as possible, to the needs of the private home and export trade. Those are two examples of plain, practical, common-sense action, based upon the precise needs of the moment for the Forces of the Crown. I do not believe that a Minister of Supply or of Munitions could take more effective action—he might take very similar action—unless we had reached the stage at which the situation called for measures of the kind demanded only by an actual emergency. That is the broad line of difference between those who want to see a Ministry of Supply or Munitions set up immediately and those, like ourselves, who do not.
One suggestion has been made which, if ever it was valid, I think is not valid to-day. It was suggested in a previous Debate that a Minister of Supply is needed because there are conflicting demands on the part of the Service Departments, but that is not the case. Through the Supply Board, and through the operation of the effective system of co-operation which has been established between the three Supply Departments, there is, in my view, no conflict of demand that cannot be settled. The real conflict is not between the three Service Departments, but between the demands of private industry and the demands of the Service Departments as a whole. I do not deny that there is some conflict here, and in particular cases it may constitute a real difficulty; but I feel that the right course to pursue in the circumstances is to put the problem to those actually engaged in the particular trade concerned, and where there are difficulties, to enlist their aid in devising arrangements, which, while they will give us as far as possible what we need for defence, will do so with a minimum of dislocation of our ordinary and particularly of our export trade. We do not need a Minister of Supply for that. We can and we are achieving results through the work of each of the three Departments, aided where necessary by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. Nobody knows better than my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, with his great experience as Minister of Munitions, that those questions of supply are very detailed subjects involving very matter-of-fact and day-to-day questions, such as, raw materials, factory equipment, labour strength and so forth. They do not necessarily involve questions of major principle; they are in the nature of executive action, and what is needed for their effective treatment at any rate for the present, is a due degree of driving force at the top and adequate co-operation below.
I have only one or two more observations on this subject. The Government are engaged, as the House knows, in carrying out an extensive and expensive programme. Its size involves heavy demands on industry; the cost must make heavy demands upon our resources. The question is which is the best way in the present circumstances of carrying out our programme. Our method may be described as one of voluntary co-operation between all concerned, while coordinating our efforts and interfering as little as possible with normal civil industry. The other method is to ask Parliament now to confer on the Government compulsory powers forthwith. But I do want the House to realise how extensive those powers if taken would have to be. The powers of the Ministry of Munitions in the War covered pages and pages of D,O.R.A. Regulations. The scope of the powers must extend to industry as a whole. You cannot do it in fragments. It must extend to industry as a whole. What I fear, in fact what I feel confident of, is that if that were done now, it would create such uncertainty and uneasiness throughout the whole trade of the country that it would check the development of enterprise and stop the trade expansion and I hardly dare to reckon how it might react on finance.
These are grave risks and at the moment the Government are not prepared to take them. It is very easy to be led into supposing that dictatorial methods are necessarily more effective than the co-ordination of free effort, but we must not imagine that other countries whose governments do not submit their plans for defence to Parliament and do not require the approval of the legislature for the power which they exercise, whose Ministers are never criticised and have not to explain themselves, therefore escape all trouble. The last War showed one thing plainly and it was that at times when we might have suspected that the enemy was prepared to the last button, that all was going happily with him and that he had no difficulties, he was, even then, struggling with handicaps and confusions of which we knew nothing. It is a mistake to suppose that our methods are necessarily inferior to other methods which are largely concealed from the public gaze. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping seldom speaks nowadays without a quotation from the Latin tongue and I rejoice that it should be so.
He gave us one to-day, and I, at this point, would like to give another:
Omne ignotum pro terribili.
which I might translate thus:
Things you know nothing about are always bogies.
Experience in the House of Commons has taught me the lesson that more is to be gained in this country by relying on willing co-operation than by adopting dictatorial methods, until they are forced upon you and become essential. The House of Commons and the British people are very alike. The exercise of compulsory powers inevitably involves, at any rate at first, a most serious dislocation of industry, a dislocation which may be out of all proportion to the benefits obtained. It may well be that, instead of being hastened, production for some time may be retarded. But it is certain—and I must repeat this—that it would so dislocate the ordinary free working of industry as to reduce our effective financial strength; and that financial strength, so carefully nursed and looked after through all these years, is one of the strongest weapons we have if war ever comes upon us.
I have said earlier that I am not prepared to discuss in detail the number or quantity of particular weapons of offence or of defence. The reasons for this are well known and no one knows them better than my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. When he and his friends came, as everyone knows, to see me in July last to give me their views upon the situation and lay before me certain information which they had as to what was going on abroad—views and information which I was very glad to have—they made it perfectly plain that all they had in mind was to convey their knowledge to me. They did not ask that I should, subsequently, tell them anything I could not tell openly to the House of Commons. I think my right hon. Friend knows that we hope to have the pleasure of seeing him and his right hon. and hon. Friends again when we can give them the results of the careful examination which we have made into all the points of detail. I should like very much, once more, to say to the Opposition that if the Leader of the Opposition and any friends of his want, at any time, to come to discuss with me or with any of my colleagues some of these problems, whether they wish to give us information or to ask for information, they will be equally welcome.
It is common knowledge that the rulers of the totalitarian States are in the happy position of not being criticised for what they may do or fail to do. They are under no obligation to make their plans known or to disclose their progress or lack of it. I am the last person to want to be in a similar position. I have made known on many occasions my views on democracy. But I think it not unreasonable to ask that, in these matters of defence, where necessarily we are not at liberty to discuss details, there should be extended to us, and particularly to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, a certain measure of trust and confidence. I do not want to magnify or to minimise the seriousness of the position. I am giving the assurance to the House that I aim reasonably satisfied with the progress that is being made. If, for any reason, whether through a shortage of labour or a shortage of material or any other difficulty, the time should come when I and my colleagues feel that sterner steps are necessary to complete the programme that we have in view, I shall not hesitate to come down to this House and ask for all the powers I need, whenever that time may come. I promised my right hon. Friend to say a word on another matter. I am in a position to say that my right hon. Friend's estimate of the German metropolitan first-line air strength is definitely too high. That is the best information we have. I regret that I cannot give exact figures.
I am grateful to the House for having listened to me for so long. I do not often trouble them with a long speech, but I felt that to-day I must give them such information as was in my power and tell them frankly the position of the Government with regard to certain questions. I would only repeat—and I do so for the third time in this speech—the words with which I opened. I know they will find an echo in every breast in this House. The whole of our efforts in the field of diplomacy and foreign policy will be aimed at bringing agreement and peace to all foreign Powers. At the same time all our efforts will be devoted to this great question of defence—the protection of our own people—and we will not relax our efforts for one moment, because we know that while we shall work for the blessings of peace, there can be no peace, in Europe certainly, unless
|Divison No. 5.]||AYES.||[7.55 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Groves, T. E.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall. J. H. (Whitechapel)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hardie, G. D.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ridley, G.|
|Amnion, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Riley, B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland. N.)|
|Barr, J.||Holdsworth, H.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F.||Jenkins. Sir W. (Neath)||Rowson, G.|
|Benson, G.||John, W.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brooke, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Short. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Chater, D.||Kirkwood, D.||Simpson, F. B|
|Cluse, W. S||Lathan, G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, E. (Sioke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees-(K'ly)|
|Daggar, G.||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dalton, H.||Macdonatd, G. (Ince)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mander, G. le M.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Marshall, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Messer, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Milner, Major J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Montague, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Whiteley, W.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibbins, J.||Naylor. T. E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Parker, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Potts, J.||Sir Hugh Seely and Mr. Acland.|
|Griffiths, J. (Lianelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Blair, Sir R.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Blaker, Sir R.||Cary, R. A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. I. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Boothby, R. J. G.||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Bossom, A. C.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Apsley, Lord||Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)|
|Assheton, R.||Bracken, B.||Channon, H.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Choriton, A. E. L.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Christie, J. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Churchill. Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Clarke, F. E.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Bull, B. B.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Burghley, Lord||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Burton, Col. H. W.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Butler, R. A.||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk. N.)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)||Hopkinson, A.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Petherick, M.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Pilkington, R.|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||plugge, L. F.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Critchley, A.||Hulbert, N. J.||Power, Sir J. C.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Crooke. J. S.||Hunter, T.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Purbrick, R.|
|Cross. R. H.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Radford. E. A.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jackson, Sir H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||James, Wing-commander A. W.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rankin, R.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Joel, D. J. B.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Keeling, E. H.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Remer, J. R.|
|Dawson. Sir P.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skip'on)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|De la Bère, R.||Kimball, L.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Latham, Sir P.||Rowlands, G.|
|Doland, G. F.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Ruggies-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Donner, P. W.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Runciman. Rt. Hon. W.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Lees-Jones, J.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Leigh, Sir J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Drewe, C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Salt. E. W.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Levy, T.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Dugdale. Major T. L.||Lewis, O.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Duggan. H. J.||Liddall, W. S.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Duncan. J. A. L.||Little. Sir E. Graham-||Sandys, E. D.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Llewellin. Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Lloyd, G. W.||Savery, Servington|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Scott, Lord william|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Loftus, P. C.||Selley, H. R.|
|Eden. Rt. Hon. A.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Ellis. Sir G.||Lyons, A. M.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Elliston, G. S.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Emery, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's u. B'lf'st),|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon M. (Ross)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Evans. Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Everard, W. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Smith, Sir R. W, (Aberdeen)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||McKie, J. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J,||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Maitland, A.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Spender-Clay Lt.-CI. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Spens, W. P.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Maxwell, S. A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Gluckstein. L. H.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Granville, E. L.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Greene. W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-(N'thw'h)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Stuart, Hon. J, (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Morgan, R. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Guest. Maj.Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Guinness, T, L. E. B,||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Thomas, J. p. L. (Hereford)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'sfr)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hannon, Sir P. J, H.||Munro, P.||Touche, G. C.|
|Harbord, A.||Nail, Sir J.||Train, Sir J.|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Heilgers, Captain F F. A.||O'Connor, Sir Terrence J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Turton, R. H.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hepworth, J.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Patrick, C. M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Peake, O.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. w. (Ripon)||Peat, C. U.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Penny, Sir G.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Perkins. W. R. D.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Well, S. R.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)||Wragg, H.||Captain Margesson and Sir James|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.||Blind|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Young, A S. L. (Partick)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.