Ministerial Changes.

Part of War Situation. – in the House of Commons on 24th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I do not propose to-day to go over once more the ground I covered in June last year and again in the Debate of 8th January. I took to heart very much a remark that fell from the Chair the other day that there is a Standing Order against tedious repetition. At the same time I want to say that I have not in any way altered my opinion, expressed frequently in this House and elsewhere, with regard to the disastrous series of events which have apparently followed the taking over of control by this Government, culminating in the loss of Singapore, explanations with regard to which have seethed with miscalculations and contradictions. I have emphasised that it is essential, in my opinion, that the strategical control of the war should be changed, and I should like to make it clear here and now that if there is a division and there is no indication from the Government Front Bench that the strategical control is to be changed, I shall certainly go into the Lobby against the Government, because I regard the present Minister of Defence as a strategical Jonah.

In opening the Debate to-day, the Prime Minister endeavoured to satisfy the House that it was desirable that he should occupy the two positions of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. He rode off with what seemed to me a series of part-truths, or at any rate an inadequate explanation. We realise that the Prime Minister must be at the top and have the final decision, but the whole argument presented by those of us who feel strongly on this point is that he should not be arbiter on his own judgment. The situation was admirably put in another place by Lord Chatfield, and I propose to quote what he said, which was—