Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 16th March 1938.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Simon Mr John Simon , Spen Valley

As a piece of Parliamentary rhetoric that may be all very well, but I certainly should have thought that it might be classed in the category of hard words. The right hon. Gentleman says now, if I do not misunderstand him, that he does not advocate that we should send arms to one side, namely, the Spanish Government, from this country. But, as to supplying arms, I remember that only yesterday the former Under-Secretary of State for Air made a very great complaint that there was any export of arms from this country; he pointed out that we needed more and more of these weapons. If I am not mistaken—I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong, but I have not the quotation before me—I think I am right in having read in the "Daily Herald" this morning that Mr. Ward, of the Amalgamated Engineering Union—[Interruption]. I am sorry to have given the wrong name but I do not see that it much matters. This gentleman indicated that, as regards trade unionists at least, their co-operation in response to what the Prime Minister said the other day would necessarily depend upon this, that their production was a production which was devoted to the service of this country.

I ask the House to reject this condemnation by a large majority. When hon. Gentlemen opposite, exercising their perfectly legitimate rights of criticism, accuse the Prime Minister in these harsh terms, and impeach the policy which has been adopted with so little appreciation of the real difficulties of the situation, I feel, without wishing to provoke hon. Gentlemen opposite, that a departure from this policy would involve a definite running of risks which this country would not, I think, expect the Prime Minister to do in these circumstances. An hon. Member said just now that he was waiting to see whether or not the Government would show ordinary courage. But is that not courage in the head of the Government who deliberates before he puts the country in a position which he thinks would expose it to unnecessary risks? Some of us remember a speech he made not long ago, the concluding passage of which, I think, did receive and deserve the sympathy of everybody in the House, when he said that there was no more terrible responsibility than the responsibility that might rest on a man who is the head of the Government of this country, and who might one day have to decide that this people should engage in war. The policy we have adopted is a policy we have deliberately chosen because we believe that it is the best policy in the long view in the interests of this country, and I believe that the mass of our fellow countrymen are of that opinion.