War Situation.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 25th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I would like to say how much I agree with the remarks of my right hon. and gallant Friend with regard to production, particularly in Scotland. I must also thank him for his reference to the lack hitherto of sufficient Scottish speakers in this Debate, because I think it may perhaps have influenced you, Sir, to call me, and may lead you to call more Scottish Members. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree with me that, from the point of view of strategy, one of the most interesting and arresting speeches in the Debate was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). I do not know whether every Member here was present during that speech. My right hon. Friend developed a formidable case against the R.A.F., and accompanied this by a categorical demand that the Army should have its own Air Force, under its own command. With many of the views expressed by my right hon. Friend, I am, in principle, in agreement; but I suggest that the remedy he proposes is a counsel of despair. I would ask the House to consider whether the proper method of tackling this problem is not to go all out for far closer co-operation between the three Services than exists at present, rather than to give the Army its own Air Force, which will, of course, be immediately followed by demands from the Navy for its own, thus widening still further the gulf between the three Services. The problem, I suggest, should be tackled from the completely opposite angle; we should impose on all three Services greater co-ordination and co-operation from above, and see that that extends right through so that in the end we shall have, for operational purposes, one unified Service.

I shall be referring to the other aspects of my right hon. Friend's observation on the Air Force in a moment or two. But he referred specifically to Brest, as an indication that Bomber Command was not serving a sufficiently useful purpose; and he repeated, what is much heard in the country, that we ought to put a greater emphasis on fighters and torpedo-carrying aircraft. In the case of the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau," there were two obvious methods of dealing with that particular situation. One was a close naval blockade; the other was the invasion of Brittany. For obvious reasons, we could not take either course; but that Bomber Command alone could deal with those two ships from a great height at night, unless they had an inconceivable stroke of good fortune, was never claimed. What was claimed—and achieved—was that for a considerable time the ships were kept blocked in that port, and rendered incapable of taking part in commerce-raiding activities.