Ministerial Changes.

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

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Photo of Mr Cyril Culverwell Mr Cyril Culverwell , Bristol West

I would like to echo the congratulations offered to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) on his appointment to the important office he now holds. Great hopes are centred on him, and I am confident that he will live up to the expectations that he has aroused. I would like to apologise for intervening at this late hour, when everybody is anxious to get home. I do so because I have not spoken on the war effort since November, 1939, and I doubt whether I should be called on the next Sitting Day, when more important people than I will occupy the Floor. I need not remind the House of the different atmosphere that prevails to-day from that which prevailed when I last spoke. At that time we were anticipating with relish hanging up our washing on the Siegfried Line. Anyone who suggested that there were difficulties ahead of us and that it was not going to be an easy job to bring the war to a successful conclusion was regarded as a defeatist. I am thankful to think that at any rate those illusions are shattered. I have no wish to dwell upon the past except to say that no other Government could have survived the series of disasters which they have suffered during their term of office. Their survival is solely due to the faith and confidence which the country has in one man, the Prime Minister, in their belief that he will somehow null them through, and in the fact that there is no obvious alternative to his leadership. I am afraid that Mr. Chamberlain, whose statesmanship, I am confident, history will someday recognise, would not have survived. Indeed, he did not survive one such disaster as we have had in one long series. Except for a brief spell after the fall of France we have lived for the past few years, not only since the outbreak of war, but before the war, in an atmosphere of unreality, complacency and wishful thinking. A blind faith in ultimate victory has dulled our senses and blinded our efforts and our energies. We have been living in a fools' paradise, not only in the country, but in this House of Commons as well. I think Ministers have made a great mistake in encouraging this idea. At any rate, in spite of what politicians and the Press have told the people, the disastrous march of events is at last showing them that we can easily lose this war and that victory is not inevitable or automatic, but must be won by our own efforts.

This is a very hush-hush war. People are not told what is going on. The Members of the House of Commons are not told how the war is progressing. I often think that it would be an excellent thing if Hitler could be invited to address one of our Secret Sittings and inform us as to the real position of our military situation. I am confident that the peoples in enemy countries know far more of what is going on in the different theatres of war as far as we are concerned than do the people of this country. The hush-hush policy is even carried to the extent that when I want to see the translated report of enemy broadcasts, a fat volume of papers; with perhaps 50 or 100 pages per day, carefully translated and copied by the B.B.C., I have to ask the Librarian for the key in order to get it out of the secret cupboard in which it is locked so that Members shall not see the reports of what goes over the ether to which they themselves could listen or which they might be able to translate. That seems to be typical of the manner in which every endeavour is made to keep the truth from the people, and indeed, from Members of Parliament.