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."—[Mr. A. G. Walkden.]
When the axe fell yesterday while I was speaking, I was going to offer a bouquet to the Ministry of Pensions and to the Parliamentary Secretary. After a night's reflection I am still disposed to offer that bouquet, because I want to couple with it a little note of warning. The Minister of Pensions is not here, and I am not complaining, for he is normally very diligent in his attendance, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to convey to his right hon. Friend that there is an appreciation of what the Ministry has done in the past. It is appreciated that the Ministry has decided within the confines of the Regulations to be generous to those who come before it. The Ministry, however, is living on its past reputation. Reputations are not easily acquired, and they are much more easily lost. I want to suggest that it is about time that the Minister was up and doing in many matters concerning his Department, particularly with reference to the establishment of the appeal tribunals. The country will demand of the Ministry that it shall not continue to plod in the old-fashined way but shall offer-definite evidence of endeavour and bold adventure.
I am confident that the Minister of Pensions has only to come to the House and ask for greater powers for the House to grant them, because it is determined that the men and women who serve us so well shall be looked after in times of stress and ill-health. It is interesting to note that the principle of appeal tribunals has been accepted. There is, therefore, no occasion to argue whether they should be set up. The Minister for a long time has told us that he was in favour of them. It was assumed that there was certain opposition, but we were assured by the Lord Privy Seal in his speech yesterday that there is no opposition to the principle, that the Government are in favour of them, but that they do not know when they will be able to implement their promise. The country is getting rather impatient of this vexatious delay and wants to know when the tribunals will be set up. Some of the men who have been waiting to go before an appeal tribunal have been waiting not only for months but for years, and they are right when they say, "this year, next year, sometime, never." We are told that the difficulty is that of the shortage of doctors. The country will be astounded to hear that we have such a dearth of doctors that we cannot find a sufficient number to do the work that the appeal tribunals would demand. What steps are being taken to secure the doctors? Are the Government going to wait until the doctors emerge from the blue? What steps is the Minister taking to secure the necessary doctors?
The House would be interested to hear how many tribunals it is proposed to set up. Will there be one in each region? The House would also be interested to hear how many doctors are required. I am informed in some quarters that 26 doctors would be necessary for the purposes of the tribunals. It seems to me fatuous to say that there are not 26 capable doctors available in the country for this work. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) yesterday quoted from "The Lancet." I venture to repeat that quotation. On 24th October, not so very long ago, "The Lancet" said:
The number of senior officers of the medical services who have reached the age of retirement would alone provide suitable men for the work, and there are doctors retiring from other services who are also available.
I think we are justified in asking that this delay shall cease and that desperate attempts, if desperate attempts are necessary, shall be made to secure these doctors. We in this House cannot be content and I am sure the country will not be content to accept the statement that has been offered to us. We have no promise of when it is likely to be implemented. We are simply told that the Government are sympathetic, that the Government approve of the idea but that the Government are unable to secure the doctors.
I suggest that while this delay continues these men are suffering. They have been invalided out of the Services. Their lives are overcast with anxiety, doubt and distress. There is uncertainty as to their future and the very fact that they are receiving this treatment which they regard as abominable treatment, the very fact they that are being thus neglected, retards their restoration and recuperation. We cannot accept what the Lord Privy Seal said yesterday as the last word. We shall return to the attack and persist until we have got the promise implemented. It is necessary that at the earliest possible moment we should secure justice for these men who have served their country. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) in a roving speech yesterday referred to "the little man." I think it will be found that the little man, who is representative of the country, demands justice for those men who, having served the country well, have been invalided out of the Services. The little man will not be content to allow the Government to go on merely promising that, at some time, they will grant these appeal tribunals. If the Minister of Pensions wants to remain in popular favour and to retain public appreciation, it would be well for him and his Department to get stirring and to secure the necessary doctors for this purpose. I do not apologise for having repeated what has been said already in the House on the urgency of this problem. I would only repeat that this is not the last word on the subject, either from this side or the other side of the House. Men and women of all parties in this House are concerned about the well-being and welfare of these men; they are determined that the men shall have a square deal and shall be given the opportunity of going before appeal tribunals.
There is another matter which I wish to bring to the notice of the House. It is the case of the family in which the son, who has made no contribution to the household expenses except possibly his bare living expenses, goes out to fight. The father and mother have devoted their all to the education of the boy, in the hope of giving him a good start in life. Then the call of war comes, the boy goes and in the vicissitudes of war he makes the great sacrifice. The parents are not only bereft of their boy; they are also deprived of the possibility of some form of help from him in their declining years. I think a father and mother in those circumstances should have some consideration. I think they are entitled to some form of pension—not that a pension can in any way express the loss of their son's life, but it can express in some degree, the gratitude of the country for what that family has contributed. I hope that we shall not continue to enforce the condition about necessary dependency before awarding pensions in cases such as I have mentioned.
In this House from time to time tributes—not too high tributes for they can never be too high—have been paid to the heroism of the Fighting Services. We all marvel at the audacity, the daring, the courage of our modern crusaders of the air, who fly to attack and defeat the enemy. We marvel at the endurance and stoicism of the men of the Navy and the Mercantile Marine and the undaunted gallantry of our soldiers. But we must also give credit to the heroism of their families at home and we do not want any of those families to suffer from any physical want or any mental torture, because their loved ones, who have gone out to battle, have been invalided out of the Fighting Services and are incapable of carrying on in their normal occupations and are suffering as a result of their war effort.
I do not wish to detain the House long, because I know that many other hon. Members wish to take part in this Debate, but I would like to make a reference to a matter brought up yesterday by the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir), namely, the importance of education. I would say, in passing, that education and an educated people are the best guarantees of peace. A nation's status often depends upon its educational standards. We have had that brought vividly to our minds in the last 20 years. We remember the illiteracy of Russia under the Tsarist regime. We know what the educational standards of the Russian people are now, under their own system of society. The Russian people, having thrown off the yoke of Tsarism, have become enlightened and progressive because they have been accorded facilities for education, and they have bravely defended themselves and their country because of their love for the country which has given them that education. We find the same thing in the case of China. Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai-shek and other enlightened leaders of China saw that in order to awaken China, it was necessary to educate China, and the education of the young people in China has been in part responsible for the magnificent courage which they have shown for the last six years and are still showing against overwhelming odds. The young people of Russia and the young people of China have shown their faith and proved their courage. They have also proved that "it is better to die standing than to live on one's knees."
Education fosters a love for an ideal, and it also creates the faith that will realise that ideal. But education in certain forms can be a grave danger and a menace. That has been evidenced in Germany. We have seen how the minds of the children of Germany have been poisoned from their earliest years. It may be that when hostilities cease and when arrangements are being made to ensure that never again shall opportunity be afforded to Germany or any like nation to menace the world, we shall be compelled to have not only a military occupation and policing of portions or the whole of Germany; we may be compelled to have some supervision over educational training in that country as well. We cannot afford to have the minds of the young poisoned. In the consideration of postwar problems education will have to play an important part.
I have been rather amazed to notice in certain speeches of hon. Members and others who have assumed the role of critics, a tendency to take to themselves credit for having achieved the victories of the Eighth Army. It is amazing to me that they should think that their criticisms, which were made in the Debate on the Vote of Censure in this House, had materially affected the conduct of the operations in Africa. It is surely obvious that the preparations for those operations were made long before that occasion. Had it been possible then to disclose those preparations, the critics would have been answered effectively at the time. One is rather inclined to believe, and I think with a good deal of reason, that ignorance oftentimes goes with cocksureness.
I am not aware of that exact statement, but I am quite prepared to accept it, though I presume that as regards that decision the Prime Minister was not only in consultation with President Roosevelt but was an active partner himself in the decision. In any case I think it is ill-advised for the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), having himself discovered so many "mare's nests" in his life, to attempt to offer any more to this House. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom gave us an interesting speech in which he dealt with the repercussions of the little man. One admires the forthrightness of the hon. and gallant Member, and although one does not agree with him, one always believes there is a possibility of his conversion at some later date. But I submit that he is wrong in his interpretation of the desires of the little man. The little man is representative of the average person you meet, whether in the street, the tram, the train or elsewhere. You will find that the average little man says, "We are not going back to the bad old times of 1939." The average little man is not prepared to go back to a country with a decaying agriculture and a ruined countryside. The little man is not prepared to go back to a period in which he had bad housing, nor to the period of inefficient school-feeding and poor health services. The little man is demanding that as a result of the sacrifices of the war we shall plan a better world, if not for the little man himself, at least for the children and the children's children of the little man.
Last week in this House the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) expressed a desire that the status quo should be maintained, and yesterday the Lord Privy Seal rather tempered his previous statement—I think he did—by giving way to some extent and saying that the status quo could only be altered if there was common agreement.
I hope that I- am not misinterpreting what he said. My right hon. and learned Friend gave us a picture of an army of the Rights and the Lefts. They were all to march together, but the pace of the Left was to be retarded by the slowness of the pace of the Right. It may be possible that there will be no pace left in the Right. Does that mean that we are going to have what I may call a stand-still movement?
I submit that there will not be great objection to this, providing that when the army moves forward it marches off on its Left foot. The position is that we must all realise that things can never be as they were, that the position
in 1939 has gone, never to return. The Foreign Secretary, speaking a few weeks ago, said:
None of us can now escape from revolutionary changes even if we would. But so far as we are concerned there is only one safe way through the maze of post-war complications. That is a belief in ourselves as a nation, and a belief in our duties and responsibilities as a World Power and to the world at large.
I wonder how many right hon. and hon. Members would disagree with this:
We have got to have equal opportunity for youth and others, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of privileges for the few and the preservation of civil liberties for all.
I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal agrees with those statements, because those are his words. I am wondering if there is any Member of this House who would dare to get up and say that he disapproves of any one of those documents. If there be any Member who dares do so, it will be interesting to witness his courage and to know his answer. But if we accept those principles, then the duty follows to see that they are carried out. We have to plan for the future. We cannot postpone thought for the ideal world until the hour of victory. James Russell Lowell said:
We've got to fix this thing for good and all.
It's no use buildin' wut's agoin' to fall.
In conclusion, let me say that the brotherhood of blood which now exists between representatives of the Allied nations, that brotherhood of blood which is formed in war-time, should become the brotherhood of love, cementing the peoples of the world in time of peace. We must be united. We are securing unity while the war is on. When the perils are past let us face the problems of the future with unity among the nations of the world. We are working for a world of freedom and peace. Our men and women are giving of their best, they are giving of their lives. It is for this House to determine that when hostilities cease, as far as this country is concerned there shall await these people a new world, a new country, with greater opportunities for their self-expression, with security, with comfort, with health and with happiness. Unless we can make this new world, we shall not be worthy of the men and women who die so that we may be free, who make the supreme sacrifice for
the preservation of Truth, Justice and Liberty.
I listened yesterday with great attention and interest to what the Lord Privy Seal said with reference to pension appeal tribunals. I appreciate the fact that he has taken a personal interest in this matter, but I must confess that I, and I think other hon. Members too, are not entirely satisfied. I must accept his figures—he knows more about it than I do—but if they are as he has stated them, I think this issue is such an important one that the Government should make priority demands upon doctors, if that is the only way to get them, or if the Government do not see their way to do that, it would be worth while to set up a limited number of tribunals to deal with the worst cases, even at the risk, as he said, of offending or disappointing large numbers of other cases. I hope and trust that the Government have not said their last word on this subject, which I think is a vital and important matter. Everything that one says in this Debate must, of course, be dominated by the news. Not only from a military point of view are they events of outstanding importance, but their military importance is only equalled by the psychological effect the news has had, not only upon ourselves, but upon the peoples of the whole world. The only trouble seems to be that people in this country overdo it, when there is good news. They believe the war is going to end in a few months. I have often been asked in the course of the last fortnight when I thought the war would end. The question indicated the attitude of mind of a great number of people. The truth is that the war, in certain ways, is only just beginning. We have just administered a severe defeat in Libya to six German divisions, but until we have administered the same kind of defeat upon a minimum of 100, German divisions, the war will not end. That brief statement is, I think, true and puts in proper perspective what we have to expect in the future.
Let us now realise that in tactics, weapons and morale our troops have shown themselves not only the equals but the superiors of the enemy, and that inferiority complex has gone for ever which was eating into the heart of the British Army. All honour and glory are due to the generals who were in command. Some measure of appreciation and thanks should be made and paid to General Auchinleck, who commanded in Libya for a long time and who was the general in command who stemmed the tide when the Germans were only 60 miles from Alexandria. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) told us the story of the Eighth Army. We ail admire the great sincerity of those who fly in the air or go down to the sea in ships, but we have been apt to forget what the Army is doing day by day and night by night. When we hear that there was quiet on the front but that the patrols were active, the latter phase often signifies great feats of courage.
The reputation of the British Army in this war is going through exactly the same phases as in almost every other war in our history. I was reading the other day Fortescue's "Life of Wellington," in which he told us of the indecision, lack of supplies, incompetent generals and other criticisms that were made of the British Army in the early days of that general. Again, I read of the criticisms that were made of the Army in the opening stages of the Peninsular War, even by the Duke himself. A generation later, in the Crimean War, and 30 years later, in our campaign in Egypt, the same kind of criticism was made in Press, in pulpit and in other ways. After a variety of setbacks, success came our way. Victory was achieved, very largely by the efforts of the much abused British soldier. There is to be a Debate upon the Army, and so I do not want to enter upon details which may then be raised. I would only add a few words on the question of pay and allowances and conditions of service.
It is no good our trying to compete in matters of pay with our Allies, particularly with the Americans. I was with a naval officer, a lieutenant, the other day. He had served in our Navy in the first two years of the war and had recently been transferred back to his own Navy. Immediately on his transfer, in exactly the same rank, his pay became six times as much as he received when he was serving with us. I took round the House of Commons an American sergeant-major, and I asked him his pay. I found out that he obtained considerably more than is received by a Member of Parliament. I am not suggesting that this is a wrong valuation, but am stating the facts to show how difficult it is to compete in matters of pay with our Allies. I know that the Government have taken their decision. It is a pity that they did not make the 6d. into 1s., but it is no good raising that mattter now or asking the Government to reconsider the matter at the present moment.
There are anomalies and inequalities in these matters of pay and allowances, and many of them have been brought to the Government's notice. I believe they have given them sympathetic consideration. It has always seemed that, although we have many friends in the War Office, such as the Secretary of State for War, the Adjutant-General and others who put the serving man's point of view in fighting our battles, there is always the enemy, the Treasury, making it impossible to do what appears to everybody else the sensible thing. Is it not possible to create some form of Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee by which these questions could be considered and whose advice and opinion would be seriously considered by the Government? Such a Committee would give confidence to the rank and file and officers in the Army that their complaints were given impartial consideration. At the present time, complaints and grievances when put through the proper channel, go on a long journey from the regiment through the battalion, the brigade, the division, and the corps, but in the end they are considered by the very same people who originally proposed the existing conditions. Service Ministers in their battle with the Treasury would, I believe, welcome the support and the advice of such a Committee. In these matters we should use Parliament more. As the war develops, and when the war is over, these matters will be vital.
I would apply that suggestion to another matter mentioned in the Gracious Speech, Colonial development. How often have we started a Session and heard of the intention to pay particular attention to the Colonies. The day comes for the Debate, but invariably we are sidetracked by some question like the Constitution of British Guiana, or some Palestinian problem, and nothing more happens. A very short time ago £5,000,000 was considered more than all the British Colonies could spend in five or six years. Ministers must be over- whelmed by the detail of Colonial administration; why cannot some such standing Joint Parliamentary Committee as I have suggested keep before the attention of Parliament and of Ministers questions affecting Colonial Development, which I believe to be among the most important that we shall have to consider when the war is over? I look upon the Colonial Empire as one vast economic unit, and if it is to be a success, it must be made a going and a paying concern, in the sense that it pays all those who belong to it with a high and an increasing standard of life and the advantages of British civilisation. Where are we to find a market for our export goods when the war is over, if not in the rising standard of life which we want to see throughout the British Colonies and the whole of the British Empire?
There is one other matter. I know how difficult it is in war-time to draw the line between what is considered contentious legislation and legislation which has a good deal of support. I listened to the Lord Privy Seal in his discursion on the walking and trotting race by which we were all to keep in step and agree upon everything and so on, but I take it that all legislation is an object for criticism, and the more it is criticised in this House before it is passed the better, I believe, the Bill eventually becomes. I do not think the Government should be unduly nervous, just because it is war-time, about introducing and passing legislation they believe to be right. My own point of view is that it is only in war-time we can get certain things done. If we say we must do this afterwards, and we wait, what will happen is that a thousand other problems and vital matters will occupy our minds when passions are unrestrained by the sense of emergency which exists to-day and the things which have been left will not be done.
I am not referring to legislation about the catering industry. I do not know the details of it. I refer particularly to the Beveridge Report. It is generally accepted, I think, that these proposals include at any rate what may roughly be called an all-in insurance scheme. That has always had great attraction for me. It will be impossible in war-time to put the whole of that Report in the form of legislation, but I hope that the Govern- ment, if I am right, and the Report does contain some such suggestion, will not be deflected or diverted by vested interests, or arguments that it is too contentious in war-time, from putting it into execution, maybe into practice, at the first available opportunity.
One final point. We have heard a good deal recently outside this House of criticism of Parliament and Members of Parliament. That is nothing new. There has always been criticism and always will be in free countries. How many of these critics would really like to change the system of government in this country? I quite realise that many would like to change some of us and that they think that if they could take our places it would be a very much better institution. That may well be so, but I believe that our Parliamentary institution has fulfilled a useful and vital function during the war. A great American jurist of distinction, who is a close follower of the OFFICIAL REPORT, closer than many of us, I am afraid, assured me that in his opinion—he noted the instances—in the first two years of war Parliament had influenced the policy of the Government on a greater number of Measures of great importance than in any similar period in pre-war days.
I have no doubt that we have in this country, in the conduct of the war, made a great many mistakes. I am quite certain we shall make a great many more. It is the duty of Parliament and individual Members, when they see these mistakes, or when they believe these mistakes are going to be made, to criticise them. If they do not do that, they have no right to sit in Parliament at all. I am sure that so long as free Parliamentary criticism continues to exist we shall never, whatever other mistakes we make, make mistakes as great as those of a totalitarian régime such as Hitler's has made, and may be making to-day. In the last few weeks or so what can be described as droves of generals have either resigned or been dismissed in Germany. We have our problems with our Allies. May I add how deeply many of us sympathise with General de Gaulle and the Fighting French in the sequence of events recently in North Africa? I do not wish to pass any comment upon it; I do not know enough about it, but those of us who feel about it as I do should take this opportunity of expressing our views.
What are our problems compared with Hitler's? Hungary and Rumania straining to get at each other's throats; Bulgaria not at war with Soviet Russia; Finland an unwilling partner: Italy, in spite of the fact that she has been given the great privilege of occupying the Riviera, is also, I believe, every day enjoying to a great degree the privileges of being an occupied country. Our democratic Parliamentary system may be less efficient in preparing for war in peace-time. It may be less efficient in getting certain things done in war-time; but it is incomparably better than any other system in maintaining morale in times of defeat and setbacks. I claim that the fact that, throughout these three years of war, after all the vicissitudes through which we have passed, Parliament has remained free and unfettered shows that as an institution she is worthy not only of survival but to be an architect in the shaping of events and things to come.
I want to pay my own humble tribute, sincere and whole-hearted, to the Prime Minister and to all who have taken part in this great victory in Egypt and North Africa. Without a doubt not only has that been a local triumph, but it is likely to change the whole course of the war. For the first time since the war started the enemy is on the defensive. He has failed now for the second year in succession to attain the object which he set out to achieve against mighty Russia. He has now lost the Battle of Egypt; he is losing the Battle of North Africa. Not for one single moment throughout this war, and even before it, had I any doubt about the ultimate victory. I sincerely believe in the doctrine, so far as a doctrine can be stated in one cryptic phrase, of right being might, and I was certain that if this country exercised to the full the powers it possesses there could not be the slightest doubt about the ultimate result. That is the reason why, in spite of her victories, Germany is weakened instead of gathering strength. In spite of the conquests she has achieved over the arms of the peoples whose lands she now occupies, the people themselves have refused to acknowledge defeat, but prefer to die as free men rather than accept the new order.
That is why I, like the previous speaker, welcome this victory, not because of the changes it has brought about in North Africa, but because of the new hope it has brought into the lives of those men in the occupied countries who are struggling for liberty. May I say in passing, while referring to that, Let the Government beware lest by any association they do something to diminish that hope or their faith. Let them remember that the might of Europe can throw out Hitler when the chance is given to those people who love liberty as they do who, to-day, are struggling for liberty. I have criticised the Government, not only this Government, but its predecessor. I have said that I had no doubt about the result. My criticism was not directed against the people or its power or ability, but against each Government in turn because of the lack of that leadership and driving power which should be possessed by a Government. Of course, we have done mighty things. We have built ships, naval and mercantile; we have produced aeroplanes and tanks; we have mobilised a large Army, and we have mobilised men and women for industry. But that was not the test. The test was, were we doing all that could be done in this country? If we were doing less, we were failing in our duty, not only to our people and to the people in every other country fighting with us, but to the people who will come after us. Everything that could be thrown into the balance, in men and material, should be thrown in.
In this very victory we have evidence of what could be done if one had, as one had in this case, a unified strategy. This has been a local unified strategy, but see what it has accomplished. It has been the unified strategy of two out of the four Powers. We had a unified co-ordinated Army, Navy and Air Force, under one command. That, coupled with a sufficient power in materials, from the air and from our guns and our tanks, brought the inevitable victory for us, and defeat for Rommel. Those were the very things we were asking for not only during this year, not only during the Debate on what was known as the Vote of Censure, but in September and October of 1939. Those were the things we were asking for, which brought down the previous Government, in 1940; and it was those very things that we thought were going to be changed, and on which new hopes were raised, in May, 1940. It was because those hopes were disappointed that we went on asking for those things. There is no need to apologise; there is nothing to apologise for. It is quite obvious that even yet enough is not being done. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Col. Cazalet) even, indeed, with what the Prime Minister himself has said, that this is only the end of the beginning. There is a long road to travel, a difficult, arduous road, and there are tremendous barriers to overcome. It behoves us to march along that road, putting in all the effort we can. That is why I shall continue to ask for a unified strategy; I shall continue to ask that the policy of this country shall be guided by a few men, untrammelled by ordinary details of everyday work; I shall ask for a Minister of War, under the War Cabinet and under its direction, and for a real Minister of Production, and not a shadow one such as we have to-day, so that our production may be brought forward. In that way, I can see not only the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end.
I regret that the Lord Privy Seal is not in his seat at the moment. The most interesting part of these proceedings until the end of yesterday's Sitting had been what was said on the first day, not as part of the Debate but on the procedure of the House. What was said then was repeated yesterday by the Lord Privy Seal when he dealt with the future programme of the Government. That was not only a doleful speech, dolefully delivered, but it was to me one of the most distressing statements ever made from that Box. A change has undoubtedly come over those benches since the events of Egypt and North Africa. I refer not only to changes of the kind described by the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham as occurring outside, where people are thinking that the war will soon be over, but to a noticeable change of attitude with regard to the future. Things are being said now which no one would have dared to whisper during Dunkirk, and which did not even bear thinking of during the whole of 1941. I have heard expressions, public and private, from Members on those benches opposite to the effect that it was all wrong that under our past system you had tremendous riches side by side with poverty, that want in the midst of plenty was intolerable, and that, that should no longer exist. I felt then that they were giving utterance to those expressions not because they were reasonable, but out of fear. Now that that fear is departing the old idea is coming back, and those people will be saying when this war is over, "What is the use of talking about planning? Why do people like the Member for Montgomery talk about organisation? We have won the war by our old methods of muddling through, and we want no planning for the future. We will go back to the system which was in existence in 1939."
Can they go back to that system? For years, in fact since before the last war, with the growing population, our ordinary, visible exports were not enough in value to purchase the imports without which we could not carry on. Since 1920 that gap had grown, until it reached a figure which frightened us all in 1931 and brought down the then Labour Government. It has grown to something like £400,000,000 on certain occasions. That gap between our actual exports and what we had to import in order to continue was made up of two things. It was made up in part of the interest which we received on our investments abroad—that is, the interest we were receiving on the exports which we had been capable of making, leaving a surplus during the, for us, prosperous Victorian years. They were made up in part of the services for which we were getting paid—in the main, mercantile marine services carrying goods. The investments have gone, they have been liquidated, not to come back, and that source of revenue for closing that, gap has gone. It cannot be built again until our ordinary every-day exports are overtopped by what we require in England. What is happening in regard to our mercantile marine service? In the last war we fell from our proud position of carrying two-thirds of the merchandise of the world to a much lower level. Our ships were sunk by the Germans in the last war; they are being sunk to-day. The new snips that we are capable of putting on to the water here to-day are not enough to meet these losses. We have to depend upon America. Who will be carrying when this war is over? Who will be running these services? How is the gap between what we require and what we are exporting to be made up?
Let me remind the House of one other thing now that I see the Minister of Health sitting here. We have 5,000,000 more mouths to feed to-day than we had in the last war, but the ages are very different too. The system which has prevailed has meant that there are 1,000,000 fewer children to-day between the ages of under one and 14 than there were. That is what the system has produced. How are we going to close that gap? Can we do it under the old system? Can anybody doubt but that we can provide for the 45,000,000 in this country? It is nonsense for anybody to ask, "Where is the money coming from?" There is the money, and there is the production. Production can be brought up to meet the needs of consumption. What is happening to-day? Millions of people are engaged upon making war goods—guns, munitions, aeroplanes. These men have to be turned to making consumption goods when the war is over. How are we to do it, and when are we to begin?
Now I come to the Lord Privy Seal. The picture he brought to my mind as I listened to him yesterday when he was delicately walking the tightrope was that of a sort of Blondin walking across Niagara Falls. When he began to draw his analogy between a man walking quickly and another man walking more slowly I thought that he, as the Leader of the House and the Lord Privy Seal, was rather visualising a sort of coachman driving a pair of horses, one of them high mettled and high spirited and wanting to get on, and the other long in the tooth and a bit over at the knees, with rather a patchy coat. What does he propose to do with that pair? Cruelly curb down the high mettled horse and give a gentle prod, which could not do much harm, to the older animal? That is not the way to drive the carriage of State. That is the sort of thing coming from the Lord Privy Seal, who goes to the Albert Hall and to St. Martin's Church and from the pulpit addresses the youth of this country and puts before them a picture of a new world. In this House he says the time is not yet; we are told, After the war. He does not say that to his audiences outside. These men are fighting for us to-day and looking towards the promised land. What does the Lord Privy Seal give them? The promised land? No. He puts before them the vision of a land of promises. There is a world of difference. It is a different planet. The land of promises is not on the same planet as the promised land.
I was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chippenham referring to the necessity for doing these things now. I have already called attention to the question in this House. I said that promises made during a war and not implemented during that war are never carried out when that war is over. But a greater authority than I gave utterance to that same statement. The late Mr. Fisher, to whom the youth of this country could never pay a deep enough tribute, stood at that Box during the last war and introduced his Education Bill. I see from his "Life" that when he was asked about it he said, "If I could not have carried it through during the war, it would never have been heard of when the Armistice came." Mr. Rupert Brooke wrote a poem which remains in all our memories asking us to keep faith with the men who are lying in Flanders fields. We broke faith with them once, and in breaking, faith with them we had unemployment, suffering, misery and slums, and we failed to build homes for heroes. We cannot break faith a second time. The moment that the last shot is fired and the bells are ringing on armistice day for peace, you will let out an avalanche of men demanding work. What are your preparations? What are your housing arrangements? What are you going to do to abolish squalor, want and idleness? What are you going to do for the education of these people? You have to do it now. If you do not and you postpone it until after the war, then—I hesitate to use the word, but I am compelled to use it—you will be drifting headlong to a revolution that will sweep us away, because these men will demand a decency of life which we have failed hitherto to provide for them.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has resorted to the pastime of twisting the tail of the Tory lion, and he has painted a picture of vast, sinister, reactionary forces in the Tory Party planning to launch a counter-offensive against the forces of progress. That is not the picture I see. Frankly, I feel that in the country to-day people are a little suspicious of all parties. They fear that there are vested interests of the Right as well as vested interests of the Left. I would say that there is a frontier, a dividing line, but it is rather between youth and age. More and more I find an intellectual ferment among young people of this country. They want to come back to a land where the interest of the country will come first, where the country will be devoid of vested interests, but where reforms will be carried out by British traditional methods, according to that long experience gained over centuries of self-government.
I do not want to argue this point—there are many speakers who wish to talk—but I would like to take up one point which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) made. He appealed that the House should look upon the victory in Egypt in its right proportions. Undoubtedly we have gained a great initial victory. Rommel's armoured forces have been routed, and he is retiring fast to his bases. But in Africa we are first and foremost building up a spring-board for the final battle, the attack upon what Hitler calls the "Fortress of Europe." The big fight is yet to come. We really must not go around too much asking ourselves, When is the war going to be over? When I was recently in America I had the chance of talking to a submarine officer who had taken part in operations against the Japanese fleet after Pearl Harbour. Unfortunately, his periscope was sighted, he had to do a crash dive, and presently depth charges started to burst round him. In the tense silence during which every member of the crew-was holding his breath, wondering whether the next crash would mean his last minute, the coloured cook shoved his head out of the galley and said, "Say, Captain, we are certainly giving those Japs a hell of a time, aren't we?" Poor man, he thought that the Japanese depth charges were American torpedoes striking Japanese warships. So I say that we must not delude ourselves too much about the blows we are inflicting on the enemy.
One point strikes me when one talks to those who were in a responsible position in the last war. Nobody then realised the exact date when the war would end. In March, 1918, Germany launched a great offensive, the Allied Army was almost torn asunder, and various generals, like Pétain, for instance, even wished to retire on Paris and expose the Channel ports. But who could have thought that, only some six months later German troops would be retiring on all fronts and that the red flag of revolution would be flying over the dockyard in Kiel? Therefore, I do feel, as other Members have said, that we must not be as unprepared for peace as we were unprepared for this war. I am not one of those who believe in fixed and rigid plans, but I believe in the wisdom of the old military axiom, "No time spent in reconnaissance is ever lost." I believe therefore, that the qualities we shall require to win the peace will be far more testing than those we require to win this war; far greater qualities of heart and character will be needed. If I may, I would like to try to illustrate my point with this simile. Imagine the Grand National winner, having drawn ahead of his competitors, nearing the winning post-He sees the cheering crowds and hopes that within a few seconds he will be in the paddock, surrounded by the congratulations of his friends. But a voice suddenly announces, "Once more round the course before the race is over." Off he goes again, past the canal bend and Becher's Brook in the mud and rain—just slogging on. It will be that quality of slogging on which we shall have to exercise after the war against what will seem to us almost intolerable delays and disappointments.
One hon. Member opposite said that the first problem will be that the ordinary man will be coming home, and that he will want security, or, in the words of President Roosevelt, "freedom from want." What does that mean? Translated into terms of everyday life, it means the prospect of a job. But he will be afraid, after the experience of the last war, that, after a boom period, he will see a notice on the factory door saying, "Closed until further notice." Likewise, he will dread the prospect of walking the streets in search of a job. I am no economic expert, and I regard economists in much the same reverential way as a native in the Congo regards his witch doctor. I listen to their mumbled incantations with much respect; but it seems to me, in my simplicity, that before the war we had solved the problem of production. We all know that wheat was burned on the prairies of Canada and that coffee was dumped into the Atlantic. Why? Because the machinery of exchange was entirely at fault. One nation cannot reform this machinery; two, three or more nations must do it, and the first point I want to make is that I hope that members of the Administration in this country and in the United States of America will consider carefully how to improve the machinery of exchange and finance and avoid that awful rhythm of boom and slump which cursed the world before the war.
Then there is the question of our national security. In the first place, if we are to have a secure world after the war, Britain, the United States, Russia and China must collaborate. I want to make one point in particular about collaboration between the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations. If we are to have good relations, we have to remove the causes of friction, and the main causes of friction in the past have been trade wars. There have been rubber, oil and shipping wars. Take the case of shipping, Britain is a great exporting nation, and needs ships to carry goods overseas. Britain is a great naval Power, and naval power needs a merchant marine to support it. In peace-time we can operate our ships more cheaply than America, but when war came and France fell, America realised that the British Navy was the first line of defence of the Monroe doctrine. So America started to help us, and Mr. Kaiser started sending ships off the American coast yards with the utmost speed. That is one type of problem which will face us after the war—America with a large mercantile marine, but unable to operate it as cheaply as we can. Mr. McCormack, in his interesting book, "America and World Mastery," has proved that American-British trade can be made, not antagonistic, but complementary. He points out that the British Commonwealth and Britain, in particular, form America's best market, and that each supplies to the other goods in a quantity that cannot be obtained from other sources. America sends us cotton, tobacco petroleum, machinery and chemicals; while we supply America with rubber, tin, nickel, wool and various materials needed in the processing of iron and steel. I think the time is ripe for us to think carefully about the particular trade problems which may arise after the war and thereby lay a solid foundation for Anglo-American co-operation.
What about ourselves in relation to Europe? I remember Mr. Baldwin getting up and making his famous statement:
Since the day of the air, the old frontiers are gone. When you think of the defence of England, you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover; you think of the Rhine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1934; col. 2339, Vol. 292.]
That was said on 30th July, 1934. Those words seemed fairly revolutionary to some of us at that time, but, in fact, they were merely lagging behind events. When Mr. Chamberlain gave our guarantee to Poland, he might have added "the Vistula," and our present Prime Minister could add to-day, "The Volga." The very air has now tied us to Europe. The British citizen in the 18th and 19th centuries knew, when the country went to war, that a hundred ships of the line stood on guard at Portsmouth, or Dover, or Sheerness. Behind that naval shield the citizen army drilled on its barrack squares. We obtained Allies in Europe by subsidies. But to-day all of us sit down to our evening meal knowing that on the coast of France bombers are tuning up at that very moment which an hour later, will rain bombs on our own heads.
But if the air ties us to Europe, it ties us equally to the New World. I had an opportunity this summer of flying both ways across the Atlantic in a bomber—ten hours from coast to coast. This fact means something very important to the post-war world. Thus I feel that, while the air ties up both equally to the New World and to the old, it also opens up to us new possibilities in our foreign policy. We are a great European Power, and yet at the same time we speak the natural language—English—of America. Thus we can play a valuable part as the honest broker between the New World and the old, as a minter of the currency of good will, and as a clearing house of ideas and difficulties. We possess one asset for the great post-war world which I think, is too little appreciated both here and abroad. We have far more political experience than any other country. In the British Commonwealth of Nations we find all forms and varieties of government, from the great self-governing Dominions to the rule of the native chieftians in Colonial dependencies. Thus I believe that we can draw upon that rich store of political experience and, above all, contribute politi- cal ideas to the reconstruction of the post-war world.
I hope this will be our main idea, namely, that unity is absolutely essential between the Allied Powers. The slightest rift, as happened after the last war, the slightest tendency for America, Russia and ourselves to draw apart, and the German machinery will start to work again. We shall be drenched with charming pictures of Tyrolese peasants singing over their beer, and castles perched on romantic crags above the Rhine, and asked to visit the home of the lovable and reformed people of Germany. But as we go there, guide-book in hand, we shall certainly not see other things. We shall not see men with spades, ostensibly to dig up potatoes but really to train for war, or apparently innocent peramulator factories turning out machine-guns, or in the depths of the Black Forest and the Thuringian Forests aeroplane hangars springing up destined to be bases for attacks upon the cities of England. Whatever may happen, I hope we shall cling to the idea of complete and absolute unity. Surely, if any of us, on waking up on that morning when the Rhineland was occupied had heard that units of the French Army and the British Air Force had entered the Rhineland, and from the East Polish units had moved likewise, what should we not have saved ourselves? No Warsaw, no Dunkirk, no fall of France, no Battle of Stalingrad. One whiff of grapeshot on that morning would have saved us from this Walpurgis night of terrors from which we are only just emerging into the first light of another day.
I do not propose to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), because I have not had the experience he has had of going to foreign countries, and so on. Therefore, I hope he will not take offence if I do not follow him. Sitting here during the last few days I have been rather amused in one sense; I have been amused at the volte-face of many of the speakers who have taken part in the Debate on the King's Speech. It reminded me that three weeks or a month ago, one Saturday afternoon, I met a man who said to me, "George, what are you doing down yonder?" I met him a fortnight afterwards, and he had been attending one of the clubs and had just got too much to carry. He was only just managing it. He stopped me—I could not get by—and he said to me, "We have got him on the run now, haven't we?" First of all, he had wanted to know what we were doing because things were a bit dark, but when he felt there was a victory, when we were advancing in Libya, he turned round and did not say, "What are you doing down yonder?" but, "We have got them on the run." I have been reminded of that very much this week.
There was a Motion of Censure in July. The Government were damned to all eternity. We were losing everything. One hon. Member said that the Prime Minister could win every time in Debate but had lost every battle up to then. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) is not here now, but I want to say a word or two about him. I have been here for nine years, and I have seen the hon. Member for Kidderminster suffering from different types of diseases, politically. When I came here first, he had "Chinese-itis" very badly. Then he was made Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure in 1939, and ever since he has had "expenditure-itis" very much. I have been wondering whether the Treasury would get out for us the total amount this Select Committee on National Expenditure has itself spent in ferreting out different things. The hon. Member for Kidderminster has also had another "itis," and that is "censor-itis." He has stood up in the House, and the attitude he has adopted has been, "Now listen—all the House must be quiet, mine is the last word." His was the last word when he spoke in this Debate. I never saw a man in a bigger pickle in all my life than he was on Tuesday last. He wriggled every way. He congratulated the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Government, on having won this Egyptian victory, and then he said, "But, you know, you would not have won it if we had not had the Motion of Censure. It was through the Motion of Censure that the Prime Minister went to Egypt to find out about what we said, and he found it was true. Therefore, instead of congratulating the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, what you ought to do in the House is to congratulate us, because we have won the victory, not the Prime Minister."
That has been the attitude of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies). Nobody has been more vicious against the Prime Minister practically ever since he has been in office than the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. To-day he got up and poured his holy unction on top of the Prime Minister and poured his scorn on the Lord Privy Seal. I hope that those prophets who have been proved not correct, but incorrect, will not try to twist on a threepenny bit in future and say, "It is us."
I would like to say a word or two about the Lord Privy Seal. I am sorry he is not here now, but, like me, he has to have something to eat sometimes. I have been following the Lord Privy Seal a good long while. I followed him very closely in the 1931–1935 Parliament. When I came to the House nearly nine years ago, I sat right behind him, and I shall never forget the fights he and the late George Lansbury put up when we were a very small battalion here. Surrounded by the enemy, every day he fought from this side, and my faith rose. I felt that I could follow Stafford, as we called him then, anywhere. But there is no doubt about it—and everybody has got to admit it—that there is not a man in the House who could walk the tightrope better than the Lord Privy Seal did yesterday. He balanced perfectly. There was the outside right and the outside left, and those outside the right and those outside the left altogether. I asked myself, "Are we listening to the Stafford of the last eight years, or are we listening to a new man?" I was very sorry. I believe, with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, that we have to get more speed on as far as legislation is concerned. If we do not, there is no doubt about it that when the war is over, if we are not prepared, this country will be in a state of chaos and revolution greater than we have ever known before.
I shall not talk about the war front. I want to talk about the home front. I want to say a few things to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has a very important position in the Government. I have been putting Questions to him ever since he has been Minister of Health. [An HON. MEMBER: "And never getting replies."] I have got replies, very polite replies, but the Minister of Health has always said, "We are considering this." That is his text, in the pulpit and out of it. He is always considering things.
I want to direct my remarks to the latter part of the King's Speech, which says:
My Ministers will continue to take all measures open to them to promote the health and well-being of My people in war-time by securing the better care of young children, by the prevention of disease, by the treatment of the sick and by the alleviation, where possible, of housing difficulties consequent upon the war.
One of the most alarming statements of the Minister of Health in his Annual Report is that during the past year 27,000 persons died of tuberculosis. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day, "We are going to tackle tuberculosis." Anyone representing miners in this House knows the curse of this disease, and knows that there is a crowd of men who work on to the very last, knowing that, if they do not, it means starvation. The Minister says that in future when it is diagnosed the Government are prepared to rind finance for the home so that the patient can get into a sanatorium. I believe it is possible to cure tuberculosis if it is caught early. The medical men may not say so, but sometimes you have to face facts. My youngest daughter, who worked in a dirty, filthy office, told me one day that she had tuberculosis. We went straight away to the county medical officer, who found a bed in a certain sanatorium, and she went in on the third day. Now she is a doctor's wife. There is no trace of T.B., and in the near future I am expecting to be a grandfather. If we can catch the disease early enough there is a possibility of the victims being restored, instead of being a burden upon society. The origin of tuberculosis is bad housing, and the right hon. Gentleman must not sit with his feet across the fender. We cannot afford to wait until the war is over. If the home front is wrong, the war front will not be right. If the people at home are unhealthy and cannot produce the stuff for the war, the war will not progress and it will be prolonged.
I believe that housing conditions to-day are worse than they have ever been. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for South Poplar (Mr. Guy) say we want to re-house the race and not warehouse them. No one knows better than the Minister that people to-day are warehoused. I have had deputations and letters galore from the four local authorities in my division, asking me to press the Minister to obtain permission for them to build houses. The Hemsworth rural authority, in whose area there are five big collieries, have asked to be allowed to put up temporary housing, but the Minister would not allow it. There has been an influx of miners from the Army into the district, which was overcrowded before, and the overcrowding, no doubt, is increasing the tuberculosis. I had a letter the other day from Cudworth about two girls of 20 or 25 who had died of tuberculosis. Twelve months ago they were passed to go into munition factories. They were healthy and apparently strong, but to-day they are in the grave, owing to bad housing and bad ventilation. Can we afford to lose the young lives? I am getting on, and, if I was to pass tomorrow, it would not amount to very much, because I am looking back. These young people are looking forward, and we have to do all we can to save them. I ask the Minister not to take "No" from the War Cabinet, but to insist that there shall be housing. Let him do his very best for these tubercular people, and, if the Government will not grant his request, let him throw his checks in and leave them altogether.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the fact that there are 300,000 people who have not had due consideration from the Government, and those are the diabetics. The diabetic State-insured person can get his insulin and needles free. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to note, however, that he can only get a note from his doctor for a fortnight's supply. I would like the Minister to look into this and state that these persons can have a month's supply. When the fortnight's supply runs out the diabetic has to go to the clinic again, and he often has to wait four or five hours in a long queue. These people are producing. Some folk think that because a person is diabetic he finishes work, but that is all moonshine. With the great discovery of insulin a man with diabetes can still go on with his work and be a producer. He does not want to be hanging about in a queue for long hours, and that would be obviated if he were allowed a month's supply of insulin. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that people who are not State-insured can get insulin from public assistance, but they can only do so if a means test is applied. In the case of tuberculosis cases the State sees that there is no financial difficulty. The State looks after them, and I want the State to look after the diabetics too with as much interest.
The dependants of men in the Forces can get insulin free, but the dependants of State-insured persons cannot. The Diabetic Association is asking that these should be put in the same position as dependants of men in the Forces. The Association gave evidence before Sir William Beveridge's Committee. I dare not be a prophet. There have been a lot of prophecies about the Beveridge Report, and I wonder sometimes whether the prophets had an advance copy of it, because they prophesy with so much certainty about what will happen. In their evidence the Diabetic Association made a strong claim that the State-insured persons' dependants should have insulin free. Let me mention a case of a woman who lives about five minutes' walk from my home. She is paying 14s. 10d. a week for insulin. Her husband is a surface worker at the pit. The minimum wage for a surface worker is £3 17s. 8d., and his stoppages run to about 4s. 6d. The price of insulin has gone up alarmingly since the war. The Parliamentary Secretary and I have had dialogues about prices two or three times, and she has stated that the prices are so and so, but I have here the actual prices over the counter. The price of hospital-packed insulin was 3s. 9d. when the war began, and it is 4s. 10d. now. That is for people who are almost on the poverty line. The ordinary insulin has gone up from 2s. 10d. to 3s. 10d. Insulin in zinc suspension has increased from 4s. 6d. to 5s. 10d.
I am pleading with the Minister of Health to be bold, to deal with the housing problem as it ought to be dealt with and to go forward with a scheme and regulations with regard to tuberculosis. Let us send forth a clarion note throughout the country that no person who gets the dread of disease has any need to hang his head and say, "The grave digger has thrown his spade at me," but that he will be able to say, "I can conquer with medical aid and live my full life." The diabetic person should be able to do the same. I was going to deal with the question of compensation, which concerns the Home Secretary, but we shall have a chance of dealing with that later.
I conclude with this personal note. About seven and a half years ago, when I was in the House—I have been here over nine years—I went to Manor House Hospital and saw the physician. He asked me to have an examination, and he made a test of my blood and my sugar. He asked me whether I knew old Sam March. I said that I did, and the doctor said, "He had the same complaint as you, and we kept him alive until he was 75." I said, "If you will do that for me, I will manage the next 10 years myself." My point is that we should look after the diabetics and see that they get this wonderful stuff, insulin, irrespective of their incomes, because it means life and joy and happiness not only for themselves but for their families. I hope that I am not appealing in vain and that the Minister will not sit in his corner during Question time and say, when he is asked about this matter, "We are considering it." We do not want any more consideration-itis. We want activity-itis, without delay.
I crave the indulgence of this House while I address it for the first time. I regret that I have not the eloquence of the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), and therefore it is with increasing diffidence that I approach my task. Tribute has already been paid to the Ministry of Food, and rightly so, and tribute has been paid to the magnificent work of the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine. They have enabled us to maintain a very wonderful standard of living in the face of world-wide war. But there is another factor. How many people realise that we are very much dependent for many of the material things which we enjoy upon the help of our friends from overseas? When this war is over we cannot expect to have a continuance of that aid, and therefore we shall be thrown back upon our own resources to maintain even the present standard of living, and this means—this is the only solution I can see o—that we must all realise that we shall have to work, and work hard. Let us face the fact that the pre-war standard has gone and that it will be difficult to maintain the present standard. One of the great comforts I have is that youth is to have a chance in the future. To my mind there are two degrees of youth. It may be paradoxical, but when a man of 60 or over is comforted by the thought that he is a comparatively young man then I bring in my two degrees of youth to cover the 40's as well as the children and the adolescents. I remember speaking many years ago as one of a lost generation, and my remarks were caught up by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliott). He was then the Minister of Agriculture, and he gave me a chance. I was given a chance to take part in public life. He put me on to various Government committees. Whether or not I have taken that chance is another matter, but such chances must be available to our men when they come home if they show a desire to help in the welfare of the community. The point is that those in a position to help must not be selfish.
I welcome the reference to education in the King's Speech, and I trust that the Secretary of State for Scotland will endeavour to make education as wide in scope as possible. It is certain that Britain will need all the well-educated people it is possible to have in the years to come. We must instil into the children and adolescents the necessity for hard work; it should be part of their education now. The education position is sometimes difficult when schools are taken over for other purposes. There is a case in my own constituency now, and though I will not go into the details of it, briefly the facts are these: A school has been closed, and little children have to go considerable distances to attend another school. On cold days mothers are anxious about them, and the children are getting only part-time education, and when later they go on to secondary schools they are backward. I think the Secretary of State for Scotland knows the particular case to which I refer. I hope that he will be successful in finding a solution for the difficulty arising from the occupation of schools for other purposes and leave them available for the education of the children.
Another point in regard to education is that if in the future the school-leaving age is advanced to 16, there shall be no hesitation about using the interval between 14 and 16 years to give a rigid technical education to those boys and girls who are not going into the professions. I know that to-day there are available for them workshop and other facilities for learning a trade, but in my humble opinion the subject is only being played with. Technical education ought to play a very real part in the future of our youth, and I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will take note of that, because I wish to emphasise my views upon it. I have laid stress upon the task that lies before us. It may well be that we shall have to give up many of the pleasant things which we enjoy to-day, and if we want to get them back, surely it is no great thing that we should be asked really to work for them. In the future there should be no place for the indolent, and every opportunity should be created for those who show determination and enterprise.
I regret that in the King's Speech no mention was made of housing in Scotland. In many cases the conditions are difficult to defend. I particularly plead for a development of housing, not only for those with families, but also for those young married people many of whom are at present in the Forces. There ought to be houses for them when they come back. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is fully aware of the situation, but it will do no harm to let him know that all parties are deeply concerned about it. If I may offer a suggestion regarding housing, it is that there should be some simple specification for certain types of houses, whether built by private enterprise or by municipalities, and that particular attention should be given to securing privacy. However much we may condemn certain of the old tenement houses, it was the fact that when a person got inside and shut the door he did not hear very much from out-side. Those houses were substantially built. In present-day housing schemes one finds four families living in a type of self-contained house each with its own entrance and bit of garden. It is all very pretty; but let me give the House my experience of going into one of those houses. Lots of people know what it is like. There is no privacy. The walls of the house I went into were so thin that there was no doubt that the man and the woman next door were having a row, there was no doubt that the Highland police- man upstairs was practising on the chanter, and no doubt about another man playing the gramophone. What privacy is to be found there? If houses could be built to some specification in which particular attention had been paid to the question of privacy it would help the occupants very much. I know that in the matter of housing there is the question of urgency on the one hand and of permanency on the other; and that the task is tremendous, but given good will on all sides, it should surely be possible to find a solution.
First I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Beattie) upon his initial entry into our Debates, and I hope from the intelligence displayed in his speech that we shall hear him on many other occasions. I have sat through this Debate for a long time, and I wish to bring Members back to the fact that it is a Debate upon the King's Speech. Right down the ages of our long and glorious history monarchs have at various times made speeches to their people. In circumstances similar to those which exist to-day, many of these Speeches have inspired our people to hold on until they got through difficult days to victory. I wish to examine this Speech to see whether we can see the same elements in it as were in some of those to which I have just referred; in other words, to see whether it is not only a King's Speech but a kingly speech. I believe that implementation of the legislation which it promises will mark it as a right down regular Royal speech. In my analysis of the Speech I find that the first part of it is taken up with addressing the folk of the homeland, the Empire and the United Nations during the war. The second part is a brief reference to the post-war international situation. The third deals with post-war Britain and the programme of the Government to deal with the problems that will then arise. Taking the divisions of the Speech in the order I have outlined, I find that His Majesty refers to the home people as looking forward
with unshakable courage…determined to fight on to complete victory, with no thought of parley.
Our parleys ought to have ended at Munich, when it was found impossible to agree with a crab. Aristophanes wisely said that you cannot make a crab walk
straight. Our experience of Hitler was that no matter how much we parleyed with him, we could not get him to walk the straight line. As for his Italian colleague, the words attributed to Boadicea by Tennyson rightly apply here:
Lo, you precious Roman bantling.
The Gracious Speech goes on to refer to our Fighting Forces, praising their courage and devotion. They are now facing a very serious situation in this war. I think the words of Henry IV in Shakespeare will aptly apply:
Our Navy is addressed, our power collected, And everything lies level to our wish.
Such can be said of our Forces at the present time. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are as tough as the Britons of old. Not only are the actual Fighting Forces referred to, but our total power to-day, which includes all the miners, quarrymen, factory workers, transport workers and land workers, and also our wonderful Civil Defence workers who protect us in times of blitzes. We must also include in our Forces the women, who have emulated and beaten the records of British women of the past and have emulated, and in some cases beaten, the records of the men of the present.
Then His Majesty goes on to praise the peoples of the Empire and specially to refer to the comradeship and unity which have been forged. The people of the Dominions readily came to our help. They were not compelled to do so, but they have given of their very best to us to assist the Motherland, as dutiful daughters should do. We are indeed very proud of the assistance we have received from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. His Majesty refers to the people of the United Nations. What of the magnificent assistance of the United States of America? There has been for a long time an attempt, a groping attempt, in the mists of misunderstanding and lack of understanding, to shake hands across the seas; but groping time has passed away, for ever, we hope, and the grasping time is now come, when we take the hand of our fellow countrymen of the United States of America and stand firm, not only in war but in peace as well.
What eulogies can we pay to the heroic Russians? Who is able to estimate comprehensively the wonderful steadfastness they show at Stalingrad? We must also remember the long-sustained efforts of China, which has withstood for nearly six years the onslaughts of the latest Axis partner, Japan. What of the other small States, too numerous to mention? I call them small in no derogatory sense, for although they may be small in size and population, or even in power, they are large at heart. They are sound in their principles and strong in their convictions, and they are staunch in support of the Allied cause. We hail with gladness the growing assistance we are to receive from France. I have nothing to say about Darlan. He seems to be nobody's baby at present, although he seems to have been temporarily adopted by the United States and this country.
The next part of the King's Speech refers briefly to the international situation after the war and to its first foundation, the Atlantic Charter. That Charter may have been planned, written and signed on the Atlantic Ocean, but to do full justice to it it must be regarded as world-embracing, in its offer of freedom to all liberty-loving nations. Consultations with Governments of the United Nations are taking place, to prepare for the after-war international situation, and this country will be expected to give a lead. After the war, food, clothing and shelter will be needed in the occupied lands, and there will be a vast problem there, only a domestic problem to each of those nations, but still a vast problem. It will be followed by the vaster problem of the political settlement necessary to a lasting peace.
Finally, we come to that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to post-war Britain. We know that coming events cast their shadows before them, and we also realise that current events leave their shadows behind them. We have had experience of that during the last war. The gloomy shades of unemployment that came after the last war must not be allowed to appear again. At the present time the young men and young women of this country are forging a bridge from the old world to the new, and forging that bridge with their very bodies. We must not betray them by refusing to cross the bridge from the old to the new, so that the country, home and State they have visualised for so long will really be put into practical reality. As the King's Speech says, not in those words, but in
unmistakable language, something better is to be done after the war is over. Again I quote Henry IV, who says:
Now lords, if heaven doth give successful end
To this debate that bleedeth at our doors, We will our youth lead on to higher fields.
Surely that is the meaning which underlies the promises of the King's Speech at the present time. We are going to lead our youth not to battlefields but to those higher fields of peace and contented happiness.
The problems which will beset this country and Government are all set out in the Speech, the questions of land and of the old age and widowed pensioners. I am glad to note them, because I have been speaking at quite a few meetings in my division lately on that point. The veterans of industry are looking to this Government with gratitude for what they have done and with expectations that they are to do something more for them. By dealing fairly and generously with those old people we will be assisting in solving the problem of unemployment which will arise after the war, because we shall be taking out of industry all those old people and letting the younger and more virile people take their place.
On education I could talk a long time, as I was engaged in it for so long. I content myself with making one minimum demand on education, that all schools must be as well equipped in buildings, amenities, teachers, playing fields, as approved schools. We have to-day a long black list of what I might call disapproved schools which have been condemned. I cannot ask for less than the kind of schools we are giving to the delinquents for the law-abiding children of our towns and villages. My hon. Friend who has just sat down has referred to the questions of health and housing, on which I say nothing at all. I leave that to other Members or to a later part of the Debate, on reconstruction.
Finally, the King's Speech concludes with a warning. Henry V. said:
Well have we done, thrice-valiant countrymen;
But all's not done.
The same idea is expressed in the King's Speech when it says:
Our enemies yet remain powerful, and we can look forward to no easy task.
So we must strive that each man must regard himself as the chief cause of victory, and to achieve this grand consummation each man, and each woman too, must reinforce their every effort, must extend their endurance, and must invigorate their faith. It will not be enough to take the negative side, not to relax. We must take the positive side of increasing our warlike efforts, so that we may attain that great victory to which we are looking forward. When that great victory is won we must prevent in the future this hedge-hopping of war from one generation to the next. I repeat that the full implementation of the King's Speech will ensure the beginning of social and economic justice and become a harbinger of a lasting peace.
I do not intend to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member who has just sat down into the earlier historical periods with which he was dealing, but I am in entire agreement with him that a return to the Gracious Speech is desirable, and with a great deal of what he says concerning that Speech. I do not think the hon. Member or anybody else would agree with what was said the other day from that side of the House by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) concerning the Gracious Speech. He said that there was nothing in the Gracious Speech that would hold out any hope to the working-class. I would like to comment on that remark, because it was reported rather widely, and I submit that it was a most unrepresentative remark. First of all, I doubt very much that there will be any disagreement with me if I suggest that there is no class whatever in this country at the present time which is not working whole-heartedly in support of the war effort. Secondly, there is no question whatever that there is not a class of any sort in this country which cannot and must not essentially benefit by the swiftest and most vigorous prosecution of the war, and a speedy and victorious conclusion. It is to that end that I think the Gracious Speech can be, and can only be, interpreted—that the Government are doing all that is possible to attain and achieve that end. The more swiftly that end comes the greater will be the blessing to all the people of this country. We have recently heard a remark made from a source which can only be considered most highly authoritative, that although we may not be able to consider the present as the beginning of the end, nevertheless it may be taken to be the end of the beginning. I think that remark gave us great confidence and great hope for the future, because there is one thing of which I am perfectly certain, that there will be no middle in this war. Once we start, the end will be very near. There will be no middle period to it as there was in the last war.
There are two things which appear to me to stand out particularly during the recent events which have taken place in North Africa. That campaign has been referred to by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I do not propose to refer to it myself, but two conclusions, I feel, can be drawn, and are due to be stressed at the present time. The first is the ability which has been displayed by the General Staffs to co-operate both internationally from the point of view of Allies and from the point of view of Services in inter-Service co-operation. On both sides of the House Members have urged a greater integration of the war effort. I submit that the operation which has just taken place has shown that not only integration but co-operation to the point of fusion already exists. The second point which appears to me to stand out is the steadfastness which has been shown by the High Command in refusing to be hustled, in refusing to be diverted from their strategy, from their main effort, by ill-informed criticism, and refusing to be jostled into ill-advised action. That, I submit, is a point from which we can gain great confidence. It would be disastrous for our war effort, disastrous for our country, and a criminal tragedy for our Forces if the direction of this war were allowed to be swerved from its true course by ill-informed criticism, clamour, or demands. Another thing which may be commented upon is the criticism we have heard in the past of the Minister of Defence. One has heard from time to time that the Minister of Defence takes too great power in the military direction of the war. On the other hand, we have heard from time to time that the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, are open to criticism for not prodding the Minister of Defence sufficiently. It is difficult to see how these two lines of criticism can be resolved. I submit that they cancel each other out.
The events which have taken place we can recognise as a foretaste of still more momentous things to come, but there is a lesson which must be learned. It was asked yesterday why this operation did not take place last July. The answer is very clear. There have been many things to consider—not only the planning of the strategy, but the concentration of the ships, the concentration of supplies and stores, and the concentration of reserves, in this country, with the shipping to bring them here. Another matter is the length of time which is required to plan operations of any sort. We should learn a lesson about that. I am not one who has ever advocated easy optimism. I remember that in September, 1939, I ventured to express the opinion that the war might last from seven to 10 years. After the battle of Britain I became more optimistic, and I reduced my estimate to from five to seven years. I mention that because what I am going to say might be considered premature; but, in view of the lesson we have had, I ask whether steps are already being taken and plans being made to ensure that when the end of the actual fighting comes arrangements will be made for the political and economic regeneration and education of Germany after her final collapse. Many mistakes were made after the last war, many false policies were put in hand. I believe that the great reason was that the matter had not received due consideration, and we were caught unprepared. No one will deny that we entered this war unprepared, and I hope most sincerely that we shall not enter the armistice period unprepared also.
Another thing to which I wish to refer particularly has rather escaped attention in the Debate, although it was referred to by the Mover of the Address. That is the most important subject of agriculture. We have heard about the position in Scotland, in a very eloquent speech recently, and I hope that that speech may apply to the southern part of the country also. We have heard many industrial and manufacturing points of view, and I hope that the House will bear with an agricultural point of view. In West Sussex we have not, thank God, sustained the devastation which some built up areas have had to suffer, but we have suffered tragedies from time to time. Recently there was the very sad case in which a small boys' school was annihilated at Pet- worth. We are rather apt, in the midst of many greater tragedies, to overlook the effect of such occurrences in the rural areas. In a small village the annihilation of a school of that description brings mourning and sorrow into the homes of probably every family. I should like to acknowledge the wonderful assistance given by men of the Forces, who rallied around with spontaneous help to the utmost possible extent.
There is no doubt in the mind of any person, I think, that fanners have responded to the needs of the war effort in the most tremendous manner. Agriculture entered this war as one of the depressed industries. Farmers were unable, on account of the prices they received, to pay the wages which their labour was entitled to expect. Farmers were unable to put back into the land as much as they took out, and they were unable to earn the amount to which they were entitled as a reward for their services. Farmers had been living on their capital, the capital of their land. By its very nature, agriculture is not an industry which can suddenly turn over to new methods and increase its output, as many of the mechanised, industries can do. Nevertheless, as a result of the efforts of the farmers, production has increased out of all knowledge, and, notwithstanding the drain of skilled labour and the difficulties to which I have referred, the agricultural community has made a very great contribution to the war effort. The country in its urgent need has recognised this fact, and has given agriculture, in consequence, a square deal. Agriculture is looking to the time after the war, and is expecting to continue to receive a square deal then. Indeed, farmers have been promised that they will not be let down again. Farmers are accustomed, of necessity, to plan ahead, not only for one year but sometimes for five or 10 years. They are asking whether the Government, too, are thinking ahead, and what the Government propose to do to enable them to continue to have a square deal after the war.
I do not think that any farmer will ask for more than that to which the House would consider he is entitled, and that is, that a good farmer should be able to be certain that he could earn sufficient to pay proper wages, to farm his land properly, to earn a proper interest upon his capital and to obtain a proper reward for his own efforts. That is not a very great deal to ask. Agriculture is looking to the Government, not for general assurances, but in order to plan ahead, so that it may be certain of its future after the war. In considering this, we should recognise that by their efforts in exceedingly difficult conditions, through very long hours, in very trying circumstances, in many parts of the country suffering in the same way as others from enemy action, farmers have contributed very largely to the excellent health of the nation as it is at present. They have contributed very largely, indirectly, to the war effort as a result of being able to save shipping space for carrying over here munitions of war from abroad and for bringing into this country the raw materials for the home manufacture of these munitions. Finally, as a result of their efforts and of having saved by their own products so much shipping space, they have very largely contributed to the practical vision we-have seen coming into view of the offensive spirit which is now taking place in the war.
I do not know what the Lord Privy Seal meant exactly yesterday by his allusion to what may be called the three-legged race between Left and Right. To me some of his words seemed to have the calculated ambiguity of the 39 Articles; but whatever he meant; I hope that he was not preparing the way for a surrender by the Government to the powerful interests who are already trying to pre-judge and sabotage in advance the Beveridge Report. There is plenty of evidence that such a campaign is being worked up and is being extensively financed by those interests.
I am going to deal very briefly with only one move in that campaign. Last week we were surprised to see in the "Daily Telegraph" an interview with Sir William Beveridge. We were surprised for several reasons, first because it was unlikely that Sir William would have given an interview to a single newspaper saying anything in advance about the details of his Report, and secondly because the "Daily Telegraph" was not the most likely place in which to find an interview that was ostensibly friendly to Sir William Beveridge. On the contrary, it is from that quarter that much of the opposition may be expected to come.
This week in a Supplementary Question an hon. Member picked out the key phrase from that interview, in which it was alleged that Sir William Beveridge had said that his Report would take us "half-way to Moscow." He picked out that phrase and showed clearly that the opposition to the Beveridge Report are going to make as strong a weapon of that phrase as they can. Yesterday the "Daily Telegraph" printed a short and mild disclaimer by Sir William; but last evening I heard some gentlemen outside this House, Conservative opponents of what they think the Beveridge scheme will be, talking about it and using that same phrase "half-way to Moscow," thus showing that they had not seen the disclaimer. And, indeed, such denials and disclaimers very rarely catch up with the damage done by the original misstatement. Therefore I want to state as firmly and to make as widely public as I possibly can my belief that that interview in the "Daily Telegraph" was so gross a distortion of what actually took place as to be almost a complete fake and as dishonest a piece of yellow journalism as has even been perpetrated even by that other great enemy of the British people, Mr. William Randolph Hearst. What actually happened was this. The interview was obtained from Sir William Beveridge on the understanding that it was to be a personal sketch of the man himself and the study in which he works. In the course of the interview there was some desultory conversation between the interviewer and Sir William, which was intended to be off the record, concerning the general subject of unemployment and not concerning Sir William's Report at all. In the course of that conversation Sir William remarked that he admired the way that the Russians had dealt with their unemployment problem. It was during those remarks that the phrase "half way to Moscow" was used, and it was not applied at all by Sir William, or in that conversation by the reporter, to the Beveridge Report.
It is extremely distasteful to me as a journalist to make this grave allegation against a fellow member of my own profession—and I presume a fellow member of my own union—but I think that it is up to journalists to do what they can to maintain the standards of integrity of their craft, and I am also aware that the gravamen of the charge must probably be laid not on the individual reporter, but on the editorial or proprietorial direction which devised this stratagem to entrap Sir William Beveridge. I agree with the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), who said that we cannot prophesy about the Beveridge Report. We do not know yet what it contains, but some of us hope that it will prove to be a blue print for Freedom from Want. Much will be said for and against this Report when it appears, but I hope that I have said enough to-day to make sure that whatever is said against it no further use will be made of this particularly malodorous red herring.
Many of us, like the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), are looking forward to the Report from Sir William Beveridge with great interest. It would be wise for all parties in this House not to commit themselves in advance to opposition to it or in support of it, but rather to receive it as a valuable and constructive report on the national future composed by an economist. But equally the House should have sufficient confidence in itself to believe that in its collective wisdom it will be able to accept or to reject in whole or in part, and above all to improve, a system which may be put forward by people who are outside this House. It is in these terms that I welcome the approach in the Gracious Speech to practical measures of reconstruction.
The hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) has referred to the great work that has been done by farmers and farming communities, and I would like to ask the Government, Are they looking forward? We have to admit that the critics of this Government, on the wider spheres, have been confounded. A journal started its Sunday edition this week with the phrase "Rommel and the Government critics in full retreat." No more apt phrase has ever been printed. Having seen how the critics on the Imperial front, as it were, have been put to rout, I am sufficiently brave to ask the Government whether they are looking ahead on the home front. I do not intend to speak about the fanning front, because we know the Government are pledged there, but farming is not the only sphere of rural life which should have our interest and support at the present time.
I want the House to look at the question of rural housing, because it is bound up with the whole future happiness and health of the English countryside. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) properly drew attention to the close relations between the incidence of tuberculosis and bad housing. I was ashamed when I read just before the war of the bad conditions of housing which obtained in my division, where many people work on the land. These things must be put right. Many houses how being occupied are really not fit for decent people to five in, and I am afraid that the position is not improving. For three years no houses have been built in rural areas, and conditions are getting worse. There is no reason why in the near future the Government should not lift the ban on rural housing and allow a start to be made. I am a little concerned when I hear the Minister of Labour talking about the large number of people who will have to be drawn from the building industry for the Armed Forces. I agree that in all probability the Armed Forces need more men, but let us comb and re-comb the many people engaged in office work. What is the position that obtains at the present time? Firms now engaged upon Government work have bigger clerical staffs filling in forms than they did when they were sending out and collecting accounts before the war. Here is a source of labour which has not yet been looked at. To go to the building industry and draw off many men will result in serious trouble.
I am glad my Noble Friend has pointed that out, and I hope he will add his powerful influence in this House to the efforts being made to impress upon the Government that the first step in the successful prosecution of the war is to maintain proper housing standards for the people of this country. We must have a certain number of builders available to repair whatever damage may be caused by enemy action. We must also have builders to train young men in all branches of the craft. Nobody can say how long this war will last but one thing is certain, and it is that the building industry will provide permanent and regular employment in this country for many years to come. The place to learn building is on the job. Interesting schemes have been completed, but what we want to see now is a start being made with rural housing. We know it is not possible, owing to the heavy demand for materials and labour, to make a start with great housing schemes now. That may have to be delayed until after the war, but we know that conditions can be improved in rural areas by building eight to 10 houses in each parish. We believe that labour is available, granted permission, that materials can be found and that old men could turn out and do this job near their homes. I hope we shall regard this as a first step in the war effort. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture should support it. After all, we are getting more food from the land than ever before, and the three essentials are machines, fertilisers and, above all, labour. Machines are coming into short supply, and so are fertilisers, although we may get more now as a result of the events in North Africa. But if you are to put men on the land you must have somewhere for them to live and sleep. As I have been through the countryside of England lately, I have thought that at last it is beginning to look as though somebody cared for it. We are proud of it and determined that it shall not drop back to the old neglect and decay. But more important than the land itself are the people who live on it, till it and love it, and we ask the Government that just as they have shown an interest in agriculture, so they should push along with this question of the repair and reconditioning of rural houses and the training of young men in villages to build houses, so that we may be worthy of the people who work on the land.
What has been the reaction of the people of this country to the offensive in Egypt and Africa? It has aroused them as nothing else could possibly have done. This is evident from the terrific intensity of production which is now going on in factories and in the new feeling that exists in the Armed Forces. All the talk about being "browned off"—that peculiar term—has faded away. If the same kind of offensive action was taken on the home front on the question of reconstruction, you would get the support of the masses of the people of this country beyond the possibility of any doubt. There is something I would like to draw attention to in connection with the offensive in Africa which has not been mentioned: Many tributes have been paid to the Eighth Army, and I join in them, because this has been a remarkable demonstration of skill, daring and courage. Six weeks ago Hitler marched on to a platform in Berlin to make one of his usual speeches. Usually, he marches on alone, but this time he was accompanied by a new field-marshal, Rommel, the Nazi superman. He was lifted high above his fellows. He was a living monument of military genius. The Eighth Army, supported by the men and women in the factories, mines and industries of this country, have knocked the plinth from underneath his feet, and landed Rommel in the gutter. It is very necessary that he should be kept there. The Anglo-American Army, coming in from the other side, will help to complete the job.
What do the offensive and victory of the Eighth Army demonstrate? They demonstrate that if vigour and initiative are shown, nothing is impossible, all things can be accomplished. This is not the second front that many of us demanded, but while there may be differences of opinion regarding the general strategy that has been developed, nobody can do other than welcome this offensive. It is necessary for me to make a remark on the second front and on the talk about the clamour of fireside critics. Some people have said that this is a second front in Africa. It is not a second front. It is an African front. As a matter of fact, there are two fronts in Africa, that presented by the Eighth Army and that presented by the Army coming from the other side. There is a front in China and a series of fronts in the Pacific.
The question that faces everyone, whether he be the greatest military critic that ever lived or whether he be the most hopeless fireside critic that ever lived, is, can Hitler and the Nazis be defeated, can the war be won, without another front in Western Europe? There is not an hon. Member, whatever side he sits on, who would dare for one moment to suggest that the war can be won without a front in Western Europe and that the whole of the fighting in Europe should be left to the Soviet Union and the Red Army. It is clear to everyone, it is clear to Hitler just as it is to the Prime Minister, that there has to be that front in Western Europe. What I say, and what is said in the Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) and myself, is that everything possible should be done to speed up the creation of that front in Western Europe. Hon. Members must understand that if preparations for a second front in Europe are not speeded up, our soldiers on the African continent can be put in a very difficult position because of the intensified U-boat and dive-bombing warfare that will be carried on from the Mediterranean seaboard of France. Therefore, we hope that everything possible is being done, and that every consideration is being taken into account, in order to speed up the creation of a second front in Europe.
There is one thing of which we have to take note in connection with the victory in Africa and the ringing of the bells. Last week I met many people, particularly women, who had been so affected by the terrors of the war and the taking away of their boys. They had the feeling, which was expressed to me in different parts of the country where I happened to be, that somehow or other the worst of the war was over and that there were much easier days ahead. We have to guard against anything of that sort, because clearly, very bitter and very hard days lie before the people of this country. Another thing of which we have to take note is how hon. Members opposite are now talking, as was said by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies), in a way in which they would never have dared to talk at the time of Dunkirk. Some of them are getting the idea that if only they can hold off change until the war is over, they can re-establish themselves. The Government must also take note of the fact that some of the pro-Fascist elements in the country are becoming more and more active. They are becoming very active and dangerous, and attention should be given to them and everything done to put a stop to their activities. One thing we must get in order to put an end to pro-Fascist activities is unity of the people of this country. The Prime Minister, in his speech, made an earnest appeal for the sinking of political differences and for unity among the people of France. There is as great a need for an understanding of that principle here and for sinking political differences and bringing about me utmost possible unity in order to ensure the speediest, and therefore the least costly, victory in this terrible war.
If we are to get unity we come back again to the question of reconstruction. Time does not divide itself into separate periods. It is not a case of our working together now to finish the war and then, when the war is finished, starting a new period of time—the period of reconstruction. History does not move in that way. We are paying the price to-day for policies that were pursued in the past, and what we do to-day will determine the character of the future. The Lord Privy Seal should turn words into facts and not simply use words as though they were facts. Let us face now the question of the lines that reconstruction must take. There is no possible hope for progress in this country or in Europe unless we defeat Fascism, but equally there is no possibility of defeating Fascism unless we travel along the road of progress while we are carrying on the fight. That is how to bring in all the people of this country and of Europe.
I suggest it is possible to make a start with reconstruction not only in this country but in the Empire, and to give a demonstration of the new view we are going to take of things by making a new approach to India. It is absolutely deplorable, in a situation such as we are now facing, that we cannot sink political differences in a way that will allow us to make a bigger, wider and finer appeal to the masses of the people in India. We want to win the Indian people as allies in this great struggle, but if we are to do that we shall have to make an approach to the National Congress. It is no use the Prime Minister saying that the National Congress does not represent the majority of the Indian people. No other body in India has the same power and influence, or represents the masses of the Indian people to such a degree, as the National Congress. Why should we hesitate to face the position and once again meet the leaders of Congress and make the biggest effort ever made to solve the problem of India and win the masses of the people of India as allies in this terrific struggle?
There is another question that can be taken up right away; it is a question that we discussed some time ago, but one that continually burns among us—the pay of the soldiers and the treatment of their dependants. Not a day passes when I, and I am certain other hon. Members, do not get letters from the dependants of soldiers or from the soldiers themselves about the treatment they are getting. Why should there be this pinchbeck attitude towards the dependants of soldiers? Why should there be all this costly procedure of examination, quizzing and one thing and another to discover whether a mother is entitled to 1s., 2s. or 3s.? I have received a letter to-day about one case. After great and elaborate examination it was discovered in calculation that the mother of one of our fighting lads, one of the few, one of the lads in the Royal Air Force, is entitled to 1s. a week from the Government. This is a shameful business, and it does not convince the dependants of soldiers or the soldiers themselves, or the people in the country, that there is any real intention to build a new world. I was interested in what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery about how the lads were betrayed after the last war. During the last war glowing promises were made—much finer promises than we are getting now—because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had a livelier and more vivid imagination than anyone here has at present. We had the most wonderful promises, but they came to nothing but bitterness and despair for masses of people. It is terrible to look back and contemplate the bitter years that people had to live through when so many fell, incapable of living through them. Hundreds of thousands had to die in poverty, misery and despair.
Therefore a start should be made now, and we should start right away with the soldiers. The question of the women is always coming up. Why should there be any differentiation between women and men, whether it is payment in industry or compensation for injury? In these directions we can make big advances on the road we mean to travel during the war and when the war is over. I have sug- gested before that soldiers should get 5s. a day, their wives £2 a week, with 10s. 6d. for every child up to 14, and 16s. for children between 14 and 16 still going to school, 25s. for mothers with sons or daughters in the Forces, without a means test of any kind. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government, whatever they do in connection with the Beveridge Report, to decide now that this abomination, the means test, shall be removed. We heard to-day of someone at Wimbledon getting a pension of £2,400 a year. I will guarantee that he has any amount of money in the bank and that if he has sons or daughters, they are in good positions. There are thousands of men drawing pensions of £500, £1,000, £2,000 who have never been asked a question about their means, but when it comes to ordinary workers it is, "How many shillings have you in the savings bank?" "How many sons and daughters have you working, and what is their income?" It is a scandal. It is something that we should never tolerate—two types of people. We are fighting the Nazis because we do not believe in the theory of two types of people—those who count and those who do not. You cannot make a start on that basis. Having carried out the great initial task of launching this daring and courageous offensive in Africa with such great success, and with the most inspiring effect on the people of this country, I ask the Government to carry the same courage and daring into the building of a second front in Europe, the same courage and daring into the fight against the evils which oppress our people—into the work of reconstruction. Start now, and the masses of the people will be with you.
I am sure the House has listened to the hon. Member with great interest. I do not know whether he has made a calculation as to what would be involved in the form of pension that he envisages, but I think no one will disagree with him in one respect. We all receive letters showing the distress in many of the homes of the wives and families of Service men, and a better insurance system for the wives is a matter that ought to be taken up at once, because if employers in civil life have to make their contribution, it is equally right that the Government, employing men in the Service, should make theirs, so that their families shall be eligible for the same benefit.
On one matter which I am very anxious to mention there are many who will not agree with me. There is an Amendment that is to be debated in Secret Session in the next series of Sittings. The terms of the Amendment are that there are no proposals for improving the organisation and training of the Army in the British Isles. I feel that the House has a very great responsibility and duty towards the Fighting Services. This business of having Secret Sessions is inclined to make people outside think that there is something radically wrong. That is not fair on the officers who are put in responsible positions, it is not fair on the commanding officers of units, and it is something the House must consider very seriously. I should have thought there had been ample evidence in the last few days of the fighting efficiency and the training of the three divisions which form the backbone of the Eighth Army. If the organisation was faulty and they were badly trained, they would not have been able to inflict that crushing defeat on Field Marshal Rommel and his troops. There is no greater trial than for troops to be kept at home guarding this country while they see others go overseas to fight, and it is essential that we should back up those in command and give them every possible support. To have a Secret Session, when no one knows, and all kinds of rumours may be spread by mischief makers, is not performing the duty that the House should perform to the Army. Whenever we discuss the Army and the War Office it is nearly always on the lines of complaint. This, that and the other are wrong. I think we ought to realise that in the last few months there has been a complete reorganisation of the War Office system and that there has now been instituted a Secretariat of the Army Council, which has led to decentralisation and has been extremely effective.
There is another matter which is worth mentioning. The House ought to realise that after the discussion we had about improved pay what was actually done was done by the War Office very expeditiously, and there has now been a sufficient period to enable us to see how it is working. We have to admit that it is not working very well. There is what is called in the Army a field allowance, which was invented, I think, in the Crimean War, whereby a barrack officer can put a poker, a table, a wash-basin and a bed in any quarter which is considered furnished and the officer who is so supplied no longer draws field allowance. One can imagine that there has been a tremendous rush by the barrack officers to put these utensils into quarters, and the wretched officers find they are worse off than before. That is a small matter, but it causes a sense of great frustration to the individual who has been drawing the allowance. He may not want the poker, table or bed, for he may have his own field equipment, but he suddenly finds himself mulcted of so many shillings a day. These are the sort of things which are more important for this House to consider than to discuss in Secret Session the training and organisation of the Army. We are responsible in this House for expenditure, and in that field we ought to do all we can to see that these mistakes are corrected. Yesterday the hon. Member for. North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin), in an extremely interesting speech, made some statements which, although made in good faith, were not strictly accurate. If he would read the 18th Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure he would find that some of the statements he made were explained.
There is one other matter in regard to the Service I would like to mention, because in the Gracious Speech it is stated that the main concentration of the Government must be speedy victory, which is what we all want. The Canadian troops in this country have been here a very long time. They are magnificent men, and they have been highly trained under a most able commander. We ought to recognise that they did not join up, in their view, to protect this country and do nothing else. They have, however, done it most excellently, and now they have seen American troops, well organised, coming here long after they came and going out long before them to come in contact with the enemy. For British troops it is hard enough to remain in this country and to keep their patience, keenness and energy. It is far harder for Canadians who have been divided from their homes all these years and are having to stay in this country because it is considered the right policy. The House ought to recognise very fully the magnificent service rendered by the Canadians and the way in which their commanders have kept them exercised and trained. Everyone of us, not only in the House but in the constituencies, ought to go out of our way to make this Christmas and the days to come as happy as they possibly can for these men.
There is another matter of a kindred kind with regard to the Allied troops in this country, notably the Poles and the Czechs. These are magnificent men. They are now wearing British uniforms, but they keep intact their enthusiasm, language and customs. Some of us were privileged to visit a camp of the Poles in Scotland. There they have brought into the firwoods much of what they were accustomed to in Poland. Incidentally, they make far more use of British rations than even the best A.T.S. cooks can do, and they say that they have never had such food all the time they have served. In a little wood they made a sort of gateway which led to an alley in the woods, and as you looked along it you saw an altar with a Cross and lights. Great reverence is shown by the men. That is the spirit that we have to catch. These men do believe in a crusade. They believe in their faith, they know what they are fighting for, and they patiently wait for the time when they, too, can go overseas. It should be remembered that the Poles have made their contribution not only in the Army, but in the air and at sea. The magnificent record of the Polish ships is something which I hope will be circulated in some form of book at the earliest opportunity.
I want to ask the House to be good enough to consider one other matter, and that is education. In the Army there has been a most interesting scheme initiated, called A.B.C.A. It is a great experiment, about which there was considerable doubt when it was first initiated. With its booklets, however, it has had an amazing effect in keeping the men interested in and understanding all that is going on and what it is really all about. One of the things that strikes everybody who studies this movement is the pathetic fact that not until men get into the Army and have these problems put before them do they know much or anything about them. I have asked men what makes them interested in these subjects and whether they have studied them before, and they tell me that they had never thought about them before they joined the Army. Cannot we learn something from that and make our schools more interesting and places where men and women can learn of those facts and problems which only when they go to the Army are put before them for the first time. I am all for going forward. I recognise that the old world that I knew has gone. The good old days were good for a few people and we have to make the days of the future happier for more people. We shall not do that, however, by disturbing or destroying faith or belief in certain things. I want to see thrift encouraged. I want to support the Beveridge Report all I can—
They have been penalised, if you like to put it like that. The point is that in any new order we want to encourage those who are thrifty. We want to encourage enterprise and the desire to get on. The Minister of Health will play a large part, in reconstruction. One thing about which I feel strongly was mentioned by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) just now. Rural housing is a disgrace to the country. Rain is pouring into the roofs of cottages through no fault of the owners because the men who could repair them have been taken by the Ministry of Labour. Owners cannot get the material or the men to do the repairs, and unless steps are taken urgently the cottages will get beyond repair and the situation will be desperate. The more isolated the farm, the more important it is that the houses on that farm should be good. The Minister, I know, has that matter very much in mind. If men are near a village, they will have other amenities, but it is essential that in isolated districts everything should be done to make their lot comfortable, because otherwise it is obvious that we cannot hope to go forward.
In the Gracious Speech there is something about education. There are many plans and many theories, but I hope that hon. Members will believe that many of us who do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church do belong to another Church in which we believe as strongly as the Roman Catholics believe in theirs; and I hope it will be recognised by everybody that religion must be part and parcel of the school teaching of this Christian land, if it is to be a Christian land, though there are too many people who are indifferent to its being Christian and are quite prepared to see it pagan. If we are fighting for conscience sake and the freedom of conscience, I suppose one of the most precious things we are fighting for is that a parent shall have the right to see that his child is taught the faith in which he himself believes. After a time the child must make up its own mind, but in the initial stages it is the absolute right of the parent, to my mind, to have his child taught the faith in which the parent believes. There is a terrible lack of discipline among children. I do not think it is their fault; it is largely the fault of the system. We must remember that those schools where religion is taught very often have teachers who are much travelled persons, with a knowledge of the world, and can benefit the children by their instruction, but if we always recruit from pupil teachers who have never travelled and have no great experience we shall not provide the children with the equipment they need to face the world under modern conditions. I believe that just as Polish soldiers set up their altars and are not ashamed of doing so, we must set up our altars in all the legislation we prepare, and realise that the one thing that matters is faith and belief, no matter how stupid it may sound to some people. Let the Church concentrate upon giving to all of us that support and help that will make this a Christian land, because without that we shall not leave the world in the way we should after the war.
I think I ought to take up the challenge which was thrown down by an hon. Member earlier in the Debate to-day. He was putting forward his view of a wonderful new world in which there is to be complete freedom from unemployment and complete security from want, and said that no Member would deny that those were ideals which must be put into practice immediately the war is over. I ventured to raise my voice in disagreement, and my reason is that anyone who has thought out these matters, as I have for many years, must know that if we were to guarantee everyone freedom from unemployment and freedom from want it could only be in a state of abject slavery. It is utterly impossible to guarantee people against unemployment unless the State can say at what occupation a man must work, where he shall work, for what remuneration he shall work, and with what intensity. In no other circumstances, as it has been found out in Germany and in Russia, is it possible to bring about a security attainable only in a state of complete slavery in which every activity of a man's life is subject to overriding dictatorship. Therefore I say that I felt justified in raising an objection to what was said by that hon. Member.
But I have risen to-day to ask the House to remember the Debate on the Address a year ago, when, greatly daring, I ventured to try to bring the House for a few minutes to a consideration of what I regard as the major issues in this war. The House then, as always during the last 23 years, treated me with such patience and forbearance that I am tempted to enlarge a little upon the theme which I took upon that occasion. I am encouraged to do so for two reasons: the first is a letter which I received from a young officer in the East during the last few days, and the second some remarks which were made by Field-Marshal Smuts on that historic occasion when he addressed both Houses of Parliament. In the letter to which I have referred, one of a series which I have received from that young officer, there occurs this sentence:
We still feel out here that the ultimate battle is being won or lost in England.
I hope the House will appreciate what underlies that statement. I have taken it out of its context, which perhaps makes the sentence less understandable than it might appear to those who have seen the whole letter. It bears out what I have heard from young officers in all three Services during the present war—that there is a sort of feeling that the real battle is the one being fought at home rather than the hostilities in which they themselves take part. The battle being fought at home is the battle for an England worthy of those who are serving abroad at the present time, but there are features in the present situation which undoubtedly raise the gravest disquiet in the minds of young men of all ranks in our fighting Services.
Take one example. From the purely economic point of view, what is being prepared for them after the war? I venture to say that one of the things which arouses more disquiet in their minds than anything is that there is a strong movement in this country towards having the life of every man and woman planned out by some superior authority, and there is no doubt they regard that with the utmost distaste. Again, there is a section of the community which we call "big business." Big business has nothing to do with legitimate commerce and industry, nothing whatever; it is a purely parasitic growth, living upon the lifeblood of industry and of the workers. It is obvious that big business, in collusion with the labour boss of the syndicalist type, is preparing a brave new world for these young men when they come home. Many hon. Members will have seen a manifesto by big business recently. What did it mean? It meant that great monopolistic bodies will be set up in each industry, vested with statutory powers whereby they may crush every form of independent industry by making one great monopoly. By collusion with the labour boss they would always have a majority on the council for each industry and, by their statutory powers they could enforce their will upon everybody else. If I may misquote a familiar Latin quotation: "Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." That means, that these people would make a monopoly and call it peace.
That is not the first time we have had to fight against this sort of thing. Many hon. Members will remember the "peace in industry" stunt of the late Lord Melchett some years ago, which was exactly the same thing as is being prepared in this country to-day. The idea was to set up large councils for each industry on which the-big monopolistic firms would always have a majority and, if they could work with the labour boss, as they intended to, would be able to crash out any chance for any of these young men who are now fighting for us abroad to make their own way in life and to contribute in due course their enterprise, energy and brains to the production of the common wealth of the nation. When I started in business 40 years ago it was comparatively easy for a young man who had guts and enterprise to set up for himself, even without money, as I set up for myself, and make a success of an industrial concern. To do that is now becoming more and more difficult. If we allow big business and the labour boss between them to close up all the openings for enterprise and brains and energy, we shall betray all these young men in the lowest possible fashion.
Again, there is no doubt that among those in the Fighting Services there is a feeling that they are being let down in other directions. They are told again and again by Government spokesmen that the war is a crusade. They ask, "A crusade for what?" They are answered that it is for the Christian faith. Unhappily they then ask, "What is the Christian faith?" They want to know to whom they go for guidance on these matters. They ask, "Are we to believe those who preach to us that a high standard of living is an essential preliminary to spiritual progress? Is that the Christian faith?" They do not believe it. To some extent they have read the books which laid down in the earliest days what was the Christian faith, but they cannot see anything there which says that nobody can be good unless possessing an excellent house with three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a little garden in front and behind. There is very grave misgiving among the young people of today as to whether what is officially told them as being the Christian faith has anything at all to do with that faith.
I am not exaggerating. I have in my pocket a report of what was said by one of the foremost ecclesiastics in this country only last week-end. He is reported to have said:
We shall insist that the child is born into a house that is suitable to be the home of a family.
Nothing is said about the parents or about anything except the material environment, which is all that is regarded as necessary to make a home. That house may be a magnificent modern house, but it is not a home unless the parents are such that they are capable of making it a home. That child has no more chance in life, and particularly of moral and spiritual progress, in that magnificent house than he would have with other parents in the most miserable hovel in the land. I maintain—and I am backed by the vast number of young people that I come across—that that is hot the Christian faith, and it is wrong that those in authority in the Church should put such a form of so-called idealism before the young people.
Nay, more. What do these ecclesiastics tell us about our duty to our neighbours? They would say that it a man going down the road to Jericho found lying by the wayside some poor fellow who had fallen among thieves, perish the thought that he should put him on his own donkey, and pay the bill out of his own purse at the inn, because that is the old-fashioned idea of private charity. They say, "That is anathema to us progressives of the present day. What he ought to have done was to collect a crowd big enough to form a majority so great as to be able to pursue the priest and the Levite and make them put the man on their donkey and compel them to pay the bill with their two pennies." Mark you, that is the Christian faith which is put before our young people to-day from some of the highest ecclesiastics in the land. The young people will not have it and do not believe it, and they do not want to believe it, because in their hearts they know that the Christian faith is something very different from that.
In other respects we must do our best for those who are away and who, we hope against hope, will return. In our political life I have always been a revolutionary, and I hope I shall continue to be one to the end of my days. Where I differ from my colleagues above the Gangway is in my interpretation of what a revolution should be. As far as I can gather from them, their idea of a revolution is simply exchanging one tyrant for another, exchanging the tyranny of wealth which exists at the present moment for that of the frozen hell of Socialism. They do not realise that the reason why the rich now have such preponderating power in this country, and practically throughout the world, is the love of money on the part of the poor. As long as the poor love money and worship money and believe that it is the summum bonum of life, so long will the rich man dominate the poor as he does to-day. The young people are beginning to realise it. They realise that revolution does not mean change of tyrants but means a change in our way of looking at the problems of the day. It means looking at things from a very different aspect from that from which we look at them at present.
These young people feel that they are being let down in politics as well, and they are realising what perhaps the wisest man in the world—needless to say I mean Plato—told us many centuries ago—realising that the whole secret of politics boils down to one thing. In his "Republic" Plato sets forth a most elaborate system for the political constitution of a city, worked out skilfully in every detail. And, having done so, he contemplates his work, and almost in despair he says that the conclusion of the whole matter is this, that:
Or, if I may be allowed to translate, the whole passage:
Until philosophers are kings, or the princes and rulers of this world have the spirit of philosophy, so that political power and wisdom meet in one; and until those commoner natures, who follow the former to the exclusion of the latter, are compelled to stand aside; till then, cities will never cease from evil; No, nor the human race as I believe. And never will this, our City of God, behold the light of the sun.
That is the whole secret of politics. No matter how ingenuous or wise your wisdom, everything depends upon those who are placed in authority and upon the way in which they regard their duties and responsibilities to their fellow citizens.
I am not such a pessimist as the hon. Gentleman. I have never believed it impossible for men and women to improve. I know that Socialism is the acme of pessimism, because it is the creed of those who believe that material prosperity is the whole of life and that money and nothing else in life is worth while. I have tried to express what I think of the views of the young generation that is growing up, and to them I would say this, if my words go beyond this House, that they must realise that men and women of my age may pride themselves on a little more understanding than our progenitors had of the feelings and aspirations of the young. Young people of the present day believe that the characters in Galsworthy's books are mere caricatures. They say that people could not have been like that. I am old enough, as you are also, Sir, to remember when people were actually like those people in Galsworthy, when, as soon as a man reached the age of 50, he immediately acquired all wisdom on every possible subject, and his duty in life was to point out to the unregenerate young man how very superior his senior was and how necessary it was that the young man should follow closely in his footsteps. I say to the young people of to-day that we have got over that, and that men of my age and generation are very much more humble than our predecessors were.
After all, age after age the rising generation has found built for it very much what the previous generation thought was the best thing for it, without any consultation with the unfortunate generation which was to inhabit the building they erected. The result has been that each generation in its turn has had to spend its whole time in pulling down the Bastille erected for it by its progenitors, and has never had time to build anything substantial for itself. I hope the young people will understand that people of my age do realise that now and all we want to do is this: If you young people will give us some sort of idea as to what sort of building you want to erect, we will clear the site and possibly, if we are spared long enough, we will lay some of the foundations for you, and then you can devote yourselves to building up a world such as you want, which may be completely different from what we think may be good for you. After all, after 60, a man's thoughts begin to turn only to the future—or should so turn. To recall the past is but to revive the memories of his own faults and follies and failures; to look at the present is merely to contemplate their results; but to see young people happy, with the prospect of further happiness, is to realise the past which might have been, and the future which is to be. And that, I say, to men of my generation is the most important thing, and it is well that young people should realise that those are our feelings.
I wish to dissociate myself and those of my generation from what are called Youth movements with a capital." Y." There is nothing on earth that irritates the young more than Youth with a capital "Y." For there is a tendency for these movements to fall into the hands and under the direc- tion of old women, mostly of the male sex. Therefore, on behalf of my generation, as far as I can carry them with me, and in face of the demands from the youth of to-day, I repudiate Youth movements, lock, stock, and barrel. They need not be considered to be more than a temporary pimple on the body politic.
I wish to refer to a passage from the speech of Field Marshal Smuts, on the occasion of which I have reminded the House. He, with a modesty to which, unhappily, I myself cannot lay claim, did little more than hint at what he meant. Hon. Members perhaps will remember the passage in which he drew attention to what is really the aim of this War. He referred to the idea of the Superman, and more particularly the German idea of the Superman. That so definitely links up with what I ventured to say to the House a year ago that I think I may be pardoned if I recall it for the benefit of Members. I take it that the House agrees with me that the essential feature of this war is that it is a biological struggle, which is going to decide the future development of the whole of the human race for thousands of years to come. It may well decide whether the present human race is to be the progenitor of what is to come afterwards, or whether it is to die out and some other branch of the animal kingdom go forward in its place. [Laughter.] Hon. Members should not laugh. This is very serious. It has some meaning, if hon. Members will only think a bit. As Field Marshal Smuts pointed out, there is before the world today an idea of the Superman, the German idea, but what he did not say, although I believe he had it in mind, is that there is a completely different idea of the Superman, which has been before the eyes of the world for at least 2,000 years. The struggle is between the two ideas of the Superman, the German idea and what we believe to be our own idea.
Hitherto, the whole of animal and human development has been instigated and driven forward by one urge only, the urge for material security, which has developed the human race from its non-human ancestors through untold ages. In all progress that has been made, both physical and intellectual, the spur has been all the time the desire for material security. Man has now reached the point when, if that same motive continues to prevail, degeneration must inevitably be the fate of the whole race. It is obvious, as the experience of Europe has shown, that the most complete material security can be obtained only by the sacrifice of everything that makes men different from the animal race. Material security, as Russia, Germany and Italy have proved, means the complete destruction of liberty and of the individual mind, the deliberate making of a mass mind, eliminating the individual, and to that extent degrading men to the position from which they have gradually been emerging for ages and ages. The ideal of Nazism and Communism, as it is practised to-day, is the ideal of the beehive, where every individual has a certain material function in the community, and must carry out that function, and then the dictators can guarantee him a standard of material security. To what end? To the end of eternal death. The Superman of our enemies to-day is the man who in other countries has made himself the leader, who has had yielded to him the whole of the liberties and the possibilities of progress of the people, and who in return has guaranteed them this material security. That Superman is the quintessence of self-assertion in material things. He crushes the weak, he boasts, he bullies and marches triumphant to nowhere but to eternal death.
There is another form of Superman, and it is that ideal which I think lies in the mind of all that which is best in our nation at the present day. His ideal is undoubtedly that message of our race, and there are few people who can bring themselves, as I am doing to-day, to speak of things of such immense depth and intimate interest to everyone of us. It is only a crisis like this that can induce one of us to break through that reticence which nature and training and custom have hallowed, and, dragging his very soul from its solitude, expose it, it may be, to sneers. That is my excuse for saying this: that the Superman whom this nation may ultimately produce and who will justify our nation for ever is the exact opposite of the Superman of the Germans of the present day. The Superman which we wish the human race to develop in the time to come is he who is "despised and rejected," who goes forward ultimately to crucifixion and becomes that Son of Man, who is the end to which the whole creation moves.
Everybody is propounding some scheme for spending our post-war income, but to me a much more important point appears to be that there should be a post-war income. No reconstruction could ever alter the fact that this nation must remain dependent upon foreign trade for its prosperity, indeed, for its very existence. We must manage somehow or other to get markets in order to take the place of those that have been destroyed by the war. I do not doubt that there will be a boom just after the war is finished. Trade will probably be good, perhaps for a fairly considerable time, but after that we cannot look without profound anxiety upon what is then in store for the world. If I may say it without presumption, I feel a very real pride in a fellow Wykehamist, the Lord Privy Seal, saying that we should all work together, with party more or less submerged, for the general good. It is far pleasanter, in the first place, to co-operate with those who have been elected under another label than to fight with them. I find a great deal with which to agree in the speech recently made by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), with whom I once had the privilege of speaking on the same platform in the Potteries. I do not see any very great difficulty about the parties working together. Is not the greatest tradition of this House after all that the Left shall plan and the Right shall carry out the plan? It may be perhaps that the Left are better thinkers and the Right more practical men of affairs, but however that may be, we must realise in all seriousness that the problems that lie ahead are far too big for any section of the State, for any single party or any single thinker. We have to face a very great world problem, the greatest that has ever confronted mankind.
We are the first that ever burst Into an unknown sea.
I was once in the United States at a conference at one of the Western universities, where there was given one of the best addresses I had ever heard on this subject, by a person who began by telling us that a professor of economics was expected to say what everybody knows in language that nobody could understand. Undoubtedly, there is something in that. After all, economics is a rather vague sort of thing. Nobody knows exactly what it is.
Well, those who think they do are, perhaps, rather to be envied. If we survey the world at the present time, we cannot help being impressed by the fact that those who were our principal customers in the days before the war are getting more and more industrialised. We do not complain; it is a good thing that Canada, South Africa, Australia, our Dominions, and many other lands are learning to do for themselves what formerly we did for them. But I think I may be excused for feeling the gravest responsibility in my mind, representing, as I do, an area that has always been dependent to a large extent on foreign markets. The greatest thing we must do after the war is to keep our vast industries busy. Everything depends upon that. Different constituencies have very different problems. We have heard a good deal about the housing difficulty, and it demands sympathy. At the same time—and I say it with great pride—that problem is not far away from being solved in the area which I represent. If this war had not taken place, Bilston would by this time have practically finished the great work of clearing out the slums and rehousing the population. We are not satisfied, but we are very proud of the lead the Black Country has given to Britain in that particular respect.
But far more important is that somehow or other we must arrange for the future trade of the world. Sometimes I see England in danger of suffering something like the fate of Austria—a land far too small to keep its vast industries busy or to support its enormous cities. We have an opportunity of doing one of the greatest tasks of all time, and I ask the Government to make a serious attempt, in co-operation with the United States of America, Russia and our other Allies and other nations, too, to try to organise the whole trade of the earth. First, let private enterprise have its fullest scope. Let all the trade that can possibly be arranged in the old way be carried on. But there will be a large remnant. Raw materials must be shared equally and fairly among all nations of the world; every country must be given the opportunity of living in a satisfactory way. I cannot help thinking that we might be able, using the British and American foreign consular services, or some newly formed organisa- tions, to make a complete survey of the world, to try to get an idea of what is wanted in every country, of what every country can produce, and somehow or other to bring them together in a manner that would cure unemployment and give to the whole world at any rate the outlines of a really satisfactory means of livelihood. We all realise that it is extremely difficult. The future, if exceedingly dark, at any rate does give us enormous opportunities. The world is plastic to-day as perhaps it has never been before, and it is probably true that what we do after this war will dominate the life of mankind for a very considerable time to come. I would hardly talk about thousands of years. After all, history cannot be planned. Nobody can really know exactly how long the edifice he is building will be allowed to stand. But I do feel that world trade must be planned. Before we arrange to improve our social services—and nobody is more enthusiastic about that than I am—we must make sure that they can be paid for. We must have the income with which we are to carry out these most necessary works.
We are the English nation. We are the people of the world. We, particularly, are Members of the House of Commons, of all parties. I hope we shall never again emphasise our differences. I hope we shall set an example to the entire world by getting rid of merely making debating points against each other. I hope we shall be able to co-operate to take advantage of this enormous opportunity so to regulate the trade of the world that the future may give to every nation reasonable opportunities of showing what it can best contribute to the world. I do hope the Government are trying in every possible way to provide for the future trade of the world.
I am sure the House was profoundly impressed-by the speech of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), because of its wonderful combination of an intimate knowledge of economic life, looked at from the point of view of a great employer who has had to struggle along in a world that is not always kind to the individual employer, and a most interesting disquisition as to the objectives which the House and the country ought to have in mind when taming their attention to the very important question of reconstruction. I feel, as I believe the whole House feels, that the great success that was achieved in Africa a few days ago has turned the attention of the country, quite naturally, to the problems that will follow immediately the war is won. A great deal of the Debate has centred on some of those problems. There is, however, one matter in connection with the battle in North Africa and its significance that I would like to emphasise. As is well known, our transport has had to go right round the Cape, and there was great difficulty in securing sufficient transport for an operation involving so many thousands of miles.
Even before the war there were, I believe, two schools of strategists in this country. One school pointed out that it would be impossible to hold the Mediterranean if we had not control of both sides. That school advocated even the abandonment of Malta. I am sure we are very proud that it did not get its way, for some reason or other. Malta has been one of the determining factors in the struggle for the conquest of North Africa, and we are particularly proud of the great contribution that it has made. But an inland sea affords splendid opportunities for the operations of submarines, and I was interested to note, in a report on the havoc wrought by submarines during the last war, that the Mediterranean was, from a naval point of view, our blackest distressed area in the great war, when Italy was not opposed to us but was our Ally. To the very end we never succeeded in scotching the U-boat menace, and our shipping losses there through submarine attacks were proportionately far heavier than in any other war zone. Out of a total of nearly 13,000,000 tons of British, Allied and neutral merchant shipping destroyed by the enemy throughout the war, 5,000,000 tons were destroyed in the Mediterranean. Consequently, it is a victory not merely from the point of view of getting North Africa under our control, as we hope may be the case very shortly, but it undoubtedly means a considerable check on the activities of the submarine in that sea.
We are particularly glad that the Government have indicated that they are going to do something about education. This is one of the thorniest questions that any Government can tackle, and I am sure we wish them well. Some speeches that we have heard to-day have laid emphasis upon the importance of the training of character. I do not know that we all agree about its being an essentially Christian character. I take it that there are differences of opinion. I regard the Christian character as the finest the world has ever known, but I recognise that there are fellow Members who take rather a different view. I think, however, that we should all be agreed that character is the fundamentally important thing as far as the future of the country is concerned, and I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Mossley that the future of the country does not depend upon the amount of wealth that it produces but upon the character of the men and women it is going to produce in the future. The foundation of the character of men and women is increasingly being laid in our schools. The great increase that has taken place in nursery schools and the increase that will take place in future means that the child for a greater number of years of its life is taken away from the influences of home. Consequently the influence of the school becomes a dominant factor. We are glad to learn that the Board of Education is negotiating with the parties to this difficult question, and we sincerely hope that some agreement will be come to.
I would like to suggest to the President that he should not expect complete agreement. We ought to work in this matter, as we already work on some other matters in this country, on a percentage basis. If the President achieves a large measure of agreement I suggest that he should go on and consider the question of putting our educational system for the first time on a national basis. It is scandalous that at this time of day we should be purchasing education, so to speak, from various associations or bodies that are not primarily concerned with the question of education at all. The provision of schools, for example, is the concern of some ecclesiastical body or other. That is not the position in which we ought to be at the present time. I do not want to exaggerate or to say anything about the character of these schools. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) knows the quality of some of them in the rural areas. If we can get away from that condition of things it will be a considerable achievement.
The other question to which I understand some attention is to be paid is that of the land and its future use. This is a particularly thorny question, and I am afraid that it will lead us into considerable controversy, because both in the case of education very unfortunately and in the case of land there are deep vested interests. There is no doubt, for example, about the survival of a kind of feudalism in the more rural parts of the country. We ought to face up to it and make up our minds that once again the land should belong to the people. We have all been tremendously impressed by the struggle which has been put up by the Russian peasants. The explanation is that they are fighting for their own land. How many of our men can come back and say, "I have fought for this bit of land which is mine"? There cannot be that consciousness in our country when we find the landowner dominating large areas of the rural parts and making even the improvement and extension of cities and towns an impossibility. I hope that the Government, when they consider this question, will be bold in their outlook because, as the Lord Privy Seal suggested yesterday, there is a considerable body of opinion in the country in favour, not of the joint march that he spoke of, but of a determined step forward being taken here and now for the participation of all in the peace to which we are looking forward. It is important that the Government should deal with these questions immediately because there are other questions on the horizon which will dominate for a long time the thoughts and discussion of this House.
There is the difficult question of Europe. We shall have to do something to rehabilitate Europe, physically, morally and politically. Europe is the seething pot which periodically boils over into war, and it will be the duty, and the privilege too, of this generation to try to get over that difficulty. It is tragic to think that in a Continent with common traditions, in a Continent that has inherited from the same sources the Christian religion and the tradition of Greek philosophy—which the hon. Member for Mossley combined so beautifully in his speech—it is tragic that we who have been nourished in these rich traditions of the spirit should find ourselves at war with one another every 30 or 40 years. It will be the responsibility of the Government to try to get over that difficulty, and we shall have to see that Europe is put on its feet.
There will be an even greater problem, and one more intimately connected with us, and that is the problem of the Empire. Let us never forget that the wars in Europe in the last 300 years had their origins in the scramble for empire If we glance at the history of Europe since the time of the Reformation, we shall find that almost every war has been determined by the desire of some nation or other to secure for itself an adequate empire. It is the claim that Germany is making at the moment. Starting with Spain when she conquered America we come to the time when we found ourselves at war with Holland, and in another generation or two we were at war with France, and latterly we have been at war with Germany. We shall have to face the question of Empire in a way in which we have never faced it before. It has been remarked that our Empire was founded in a fit of absence of mind by the people of this country. We shall have to get rid of absent-mindedness, we shall have to think about the Empire and we shall have to justify its existence, particularly to our Allies.
It is obvious that the Empire has grown to such an extent that we ourselves are not able to defend it in the modern world. Were it not for America, were it not for Russia, it is obvious that the Empire might have been completely lost to us. We have lost very considerable areas of it. We hope they may be returned to us, but I think we shall have to stand at the bar of humanity to justify our claims to those territories that are to be restored to us, as also to the territories that we have managed to preserve. I do not think there is anything to be ashamed of in this, because if I understand the principles upon which we have been working recently in the history of our Empire, there is every encouragement for us. After all, behind the Empire there is a great and a noble tradition. I am not an Imperialist in the narrow sense of the term, and I am entirely against an Empire which is used for the exploitation of subject or other races, but when we find an Empire which gives an equal opportunity to other nations, as the British Empire does, and when in addition we lay down that our ultimate object is to train the people of those countries to the practice of self-government, I feel that we have a great deal to say on behalf of the principles that have underlined the administration of the Empire during the last 50 or 60 years. I am certain that that will be one of the questions which will be discussed again and again, and we shall occasionally hear an echo of it in this House when peace returns.
The Debate followed the even tenour of its way until we came to the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, which has caused concern to some of us. I realise the difficulties with which he is faced, but I really did feel that there was an echo of the Coalition argument and of the coupon election about it. We ought to avoid that at all costs. That kind of argument which was used in 1918 at the end of the last war was one of the greatest disasters that this country ever experienced. It led to the political eclipse of possibly the greatest political genius of our generation. That was a tragedy in itself. In addition to being a great political genius and a wizard, as people used to speak of him, he was one of the greatest social reformers we have ever had. The Lord Privy Seal is much more inspiring and invigorating when he is accompanying the Primate than when he is substituting for the Prime Minister. I seemed to hear in his speech the appeal, which I well remember hearing, made by Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald to have what he called a State Council. Mr. MacDonald had it, and he became Prime Minister of that State Council. Although he talked about going up and up and up, he was going down and down and down, and he soon found himself in the limbo of political extinction. I do not think much consolation is to be found that way.
Our salvation, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery so eloquently put it, must lie in men of deep conviction forging their way and demanding reforms that this country, after this tremendous struggle, is entitled to have. I pin my faith in the men of real valour who really care for things. A great many men on both sides of this House are determined that they will carry their views forward, however strong the opposition may be.
I have for many years held the conviction that if order is heaven's first law, variety is its second. That conviction has been confirmed to-day by the course of the Debate. I am sure that I shall have the sympathy and indulgence of the House. No Minister could deal with all the points; indeed, it would take almost the whole War Cabinet and all other Ministers normally of Cabinet rank to reply to the various points that have been raised. I shall say something about my own problems. Fortunately, issues have been raised, one particularly, that I think the House may be interested to hear about from the Minister who is here, namely, housing. It was raised by five or six Members, but I must say a word or two about the general Debate first. While I undoubtedly would have hon. Members' sympathy if, in half-an-hour, I attempted to reply to all the varied points that have been raised, I ought to be congratulated upon having done duty for the Government on the bench for nearly the whole of one of the most interesting and helpful Debates I have ever listened to in the whole of my Parliamentary life.
As a matter of fact, the Debate was marked not merely by several speeches of outstanding ability, but by one memorable speech. One may agree with or differ from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), but Members who did not hear his speech are to be commiserated with. I personally do not think there is quite that clear dichotomy between those who want collectively to organise and those who want what is vital in individual enterprise. Nevertheless, when there are those who talk wholly in collective terms, it is well to have an astringent and, to-day, a lovely voice raised so that we may be called back to the fact that the Gospel has an element of the full belly in it but the whole Gospel is not the Gospel of the full belly. That does not lead me to agree that every Christian man ought not to work for conditions in which men and women should be able to live their lives as we ourselves would ideally like to live our own lives.
Since I, like the hon. Member, am 61 past, as they say in Scotland, perhaps I may be allowed for a moment to look forward to the future as well as to look back to the past. A good many speeches have been concerned with a Debate that will take place on two days, and therefore the House will not expect me to make any pronouncement about the problems involved in what we term comprehensively reconstruction. It is an interesting term, for we used to begin with reformation. Then we went on to talk about revolution, and it is interesting that I have only heard the word "revolution" mentioned once in this Debate, and this was not in a material but in a spiritual sense.
Not only once but twice; I beg pardon of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). He did raise it, in the other connotation. If I may be allowed to put this in my own way, I would say that it would be a false view of the effort to win the war that did not realise that unless at the same time we are bending our efforts to win the peace, we shall not truly win the war. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), in his vigorous and interesting speech, talked about North Africa, encouragingly from our point of view, and raised the question of ringing the bells, and hon. Members have spoken about the difference between Left and Right. I would put it this way. I think it will not be difficult to get agreement about Left and Right, though, myself, I am always rather dubious about abstractions and metaphors. They are tricky things. For instance, it may be said by an old military man in the ranks that if the left and right are in alignment and the pace of the left is greater than that of the right, the result will be a right wheel. That is where metaphors in the end, if taken to their logical and literal conclusion, will always lead one.
Therefore, I am quite sure that the Lord Privy Seal wished to have his metaphors regarded, indeed as he expressed them, not as suspected by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) and one or two other Members, as referring to reconstruction at all. What he was referring to was the period now, when we are mostly agreed in this House, with the exception of a small handful of people, that it is vitally necessary for the winning of the war that we should have the maximum amount of unity among all parties in the House. Therefore, I do not think there is any contradiction in any Member of the Government expressing his faith outside in any company he wishes according to his deepest convictions, and he ought not to be expected to express himself, when he is carrying responsibilities of an important nature, in precisely the same terms as he does when he is freer to talk in other circumstances about the ideas that every man is entitled to cherish in his heart and mind. Indeed, it may be possible that the ideals cherished and beautifully expressed outside this House might not come to pass if the dry-as-dust and heavy and difficult work in this House were not done by loyal and courageous gentlemen who work one with another, although they do not always in every detail agree with one another. I hope the House will not be misled by this element in the Debate. I said, long before the Labour party came into the Government, quite early in the war, that we could not win this war unless all parties were sharing responsibility. I think we must all bear that in mind in the days ahead.
That does not mean that, except when we are making Government pronouncements, we need always express ourselves formally, with precisely the same phraseology; and when we are doing our duty in this House, we need not use the microscope and suspect that things that happened 25 years ago are brewing again to-day. It is not enough to have the bells ring on one Sunday in one country; what we have to do all of us is so to work, so to think, so to plan, so to sacrifice, and so to act that we shall help the bells to ring in every country in Europe, and in the world. While we are able to talk in this delightful fashion, everyone expressing his own opinion, both on the Government benches and opposite, the United Nations are speaking to two groups, one consisting of men who are free to speak their minds, without undue regard to the views of others, while the other is under the heel of the oppressor; so that when we pray, as we do every day, for all prisoners and captives, we utter that prayer with deeper poignancy than ever we have done before. We ought not to let hasty thoughts and suspicions break the unity which, in my judgment, and, I think, in the judgment of this House, is vital to the carrying out of that desire to make the bells ring everywhere.
Let me turn to some of the speeches which have been made. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. H. Beaumont) raised the pensions issue. I do not propose to go any further into that except to say that I will bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions the particular point about sons and daughters who do not contribute to their parents, and so I will any detailed points affecting any of my other colleagues in the Government.
It was interesting to notice that four successive times in this Debate the House said what the country wished it to say, a sincere word of thanks and appreciation for the services of the fighting men and the men of the Merchant Service; for it is not merely machines which do the job: it is men. That wants saying now. Therefore, I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) say a special word for the Army, for those of us who used to belong to what we called, in our old barrack-room way, the "P.B.I." had a warming of the blood at the thought of the Army coming once more into its own.
You cannot win this war without a great cost in life and treasure. I do not think it is true, as has been suggested, that the country is not aware of this. You may meet individuals who say that they think the war is going to be quickly won, but I do not think that is the general opinion. You cannot have a country mobilised to the extent that ours is, with millions of men and women in the Fighting Services, spread out over the seven seas and taking their parts in five continents, and have any casual or light thinking about the cost of this war before it is done. It is so easy to talk. I remember being down in West Wales some months ago, when things were very quiet, and a man said to me, "They do not know there is a war oh down here." I had, as it happened, just been talking to a farmer who had had four children. One was in the Air Force, one had been killed in the Navy, the third was in the Army, and the fourth, a girl, was left at home. Because it was quiet there in the country, because things looked peaceful and prosperous, because it was well out of the way of air attack, a casual observer might think that they did not know that there was a war on. But such a suggestion does harm. Our people measured their task. They went into the war, and they know that before we bring this modern tyrant down there will be a terrific cost in blood and treasure to pay.
It is our duty to do one thing more, not merely to think in terms of the future, not merely to say what we think ought to be elements in our system and not merely to do as we have done to-day. In a number of very interesting speeches we have heard of world forces, world economics, world finance, world trade, world exchange and the relation to industry of modern and new machinery. It is not enough to do that. It is our duty also to point out that it will cost as much in brain power and in effort to win the peace in terms of reconstruction as it is costing in effort now, though happily it will not then cost blood and life. In my judgment, and I am sure in the judgment of the House as a whole, we ought to learn the lesson of the last war referred to by the hon. Member for Wrexham, and not to consider this war well won unless the peace is well won too.
I must come to my own tasks. Several Members have raised problems which I ought not to evade. Housing, in my judgment, will not merely be one of the great post-war tasks, but it is a task which is of immense importance now. I am grateful to hon. Members like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Lieutenant Butcher), who referred to the question of rural housing, and I welcome this opportunity of saying a word or two on how my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I view it. The matter was also raised by the hon. Member for Cath-cart (Mr. Beattie) in an admirable maiden speech, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery, who never fails to raise housing, as indeed he is bound to do when he considers the problem that I was surveying in Wales last week, namely, that of tuberculosis; and in that very happy and vigorous speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths). I have spent a good deal of time since I have been Minister of Health outside "in the field "—not in the great cities alone; in small towns and little villages too—and I know from personal observation, as a result of my visits to widely different areas, the bad housing conditions under which people are living. They are conditions which we would not and ought not to tolerate in peace-time. Every Member of the House will share my anxiety that something should be done to alleviate these conditions as quickly and effectively as possible.
Before the war houses were being built at the rate of 350,000 a year. During the three years of war it has been possible to bring into use only 135,000 houses. The majority of these were under construction when the war began. This number has been offset by dwellings destroyed or irretrievably damaged by enemy action. Before the war slums were being swept away at the rate of 60,000 dwellings a year, a very remarkable performance. Incidentally, I hope that when we are considering the future we shall not leave out of account the large social reforms that this generation has seen accomplished. There are two remarkable things. First, the 25 years' wonderful progress in social services. As a matter of fact, we have seen part of the dividend in the standard of health and life of our people, especially the young people, in this war period. Second—and this is the answer to those who suspect the Government of being lackadaisical about social reform—it would show a remarkable result if you prepared a list of all the things which have been done in the social field since the war began. [Interruption.] I am sorry I cannot give way; I have confined myself to half-an-hour, and I must get on. I have to go to Manchester tonight, "in the field." I am staying near Manchester, and I intend to go into the field outside, to Bootle and then on to Darwen. But that is all in a week-end's work.
Since the war began few slum dwellings have been demolished. The position in some areas has been such that we have had to authorise local authorities, by Defence Regulation powers, to issue licences to enable slum houses to be re-occupied. As a result many people—I give the low estimate of 100,000 families—are continuing to live in houses which, three years ago, were legally condemned as unfit for human habitation. This is a grim fact. A few houses, including those which have been licensed, have had the minimum necessary repairs done to them. Also, before the war a large number of houses were being regularly kept in good repair, but they would not have been in good repair had this work not been regularly done. During the war we have had to concentrate on first-aid repair of houses damaged by enemy action, because, as I pointed out last week, some 2,750,000 houses have been damaged, apart from damage to glass. This is the background against which we have had to face a large-scale movement of the population and a splitting-up of families, and this has multiplied the demand for accommodation. One of the greatest mistakes that economists and statisticians made in the period before the end of the last war was to underestimate the larger number of families in relation to the total population as compared with 25 years previously. I am bearing that in mind.
In face of the need for directing all our effort to war production, it has been necessary to make the utmost use of existing accommodation. We have moved people under official evacuation schemes and have billeted them or accommodated them by requisitioning houses of one kind or another. Transferred workers have been similarly housed, and although some relief has been given by the Production Departments in special cases by the provision of hostels and married quarters, they are no substitute for a house. The pressure on accommodation in rural areas has been particularly intense, not merely because of the introduction of factory workers, but also because of the increased number of agricultural workers, men and women, in the rural areas. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is concerned about that problem in terms of his programme for the forthcoming year. On the whole, we have found it possible, thanks to the building of 4,000,000 houses between the two wars, to deal with these major movements of population without incurring serious trouble. But in some districts there is now serious overcrowding, and this is aggravated by different families being compelled to share the same house. It is not an easy thing for two different families to share the same house. We have managed so far, but the situation must become steadily more difficult unless new houses are built and existing houses are kept in tolerable repair.
I was just about to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have our Housing Advisory Committees and we have sub-committees hard at work on the technical aspects of the problem so that we can be ready for whatever is coming. Let me call the attention of the House to one particular problem which ought to have priority in the use of building labour and materials as soon as they are available. It is this. There are many houses which, although not war damaged, are becoming dilapidated and unoccupiable because of lack of ordinary maintenance. Although local authorities have ample powers under the Housing and Public Health Acts to ensure repairs to working-class houses, the difficulty of securing labour and material makes the powers often unenforceable. I am already receiving representations from local authorities concerned with this problem, emphasising their difficulty in getting essential work, such as roof-repairs and water-supply, which are necessary for the health and comfort of the tenants, carried out to houses. They say that willing owners are unable to obtain the necessary labour and materials and that unwilling owners, where serious nuisances exist, hide behind the difficulty.
The crux of the problem is labour and material. Much labour which might have been available for the ordinary repair of houses has been utilised in the gigantic task of first-aid repairs to war-damaged houses. The bulk of the labour which is now left after the demands for manpower from the Services is engaged on what I have described in answer to Questions as strategic necessities—camps, aerodromes and Service hospitals. For some months to come it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find additional labour for other purposes. When conditions permit, the question of whether an increasing number of men cannot be made available for the repair and maintenance of houses, without impairing war production and the efficiency of the Armed Forces, will become eligible for consideration. Already, in consultation with my colleagues, I am examining the possibilities of labour and material being made available for the extended repair of empty houses in order to bring them back into use, and I still cherish the hope that even before the war ends, we may be able to make a start on a modest programme of building new houses.
Eighteen months ago I reconstituted the Housing Advisory Committee. It is a very strong and powerful Advisory Committee. We have, as I have said, sub-committees hard at work, in consul-sultation with all concerned, on particular aspects—technical problems of types and designs methods and material—and the conditions in which both local authority housing on the one hand, and private enterprise housing on the other, can successfully operate to the maximum, so that we may really be ready to start when the war ends, on a big and ambitious programme. We are busy working out estimates of a programme for the first 10 to 20 years after the war, but I am bound to say that if we are to get a good start on that programme we must run in the machine. We must make a limited start inside the nucleus of building labour available, in order to provide the opportunity for training apprentices. Whatever we may do in training elsewhere—and I know a good deal about that as a result of my experience as Minister of Labour—there is no better place for training apprentices in house building than on the job itself. That is what I meant when I spoke about running in the machine.
Our immediate problem is only a part of our long-term problem. I realise the many difficulties, immediate as well as future, confronting all those who have so much at heart this great health service, for housing is primarily a health service. It is a local government service. It is bound up with all the other local government services. The fact that that note has been so strongly struck will give me greater confidence and renew my resolve, and that of the Secretary of State for Scotland, that the offensive against the evils of bad housing shall not be delayed one day longer than vital war needs demand.
I was interested in one passage especially in the speech of the hon. Member for Mossley. He talked about planners and planning, and, when he wanted his definition of the philosopher statesman, he came back to the greatest planner of all time—Plato, the philosopher. But it has been pointed out that Plato made one great mistake. He had no use for the poet. We want not merely the plans but the poet, and I am sure this House will rally again that feeling of unity in all ranks to win the war and then to carry on to win the peace.
Is the right hon. Gentleman considering converting empty shops in the provinces for immediate use, in view of the great housing shortage through the influx of munition workers? Some could be converted, and I wonder whether he is seriously examining that problem.
That is one of the problems that I am concerned with. While I am on my feet, may I say, in reply to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), that a circular on insulin is being sent to local authorities, and I will give him particulars after the Debate.
My heart really warms towards you, Sir. I have sat here for some five days listening to practically every speech, and I was regretfully thinking that my egg would be addled. Now the opportunity is offered me of bringing it to life and to full fruition. We have heard a very stirring speech from the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I would have given a lot of money to follow him directly, for the theme that he struck was surely one which moved the feelings, and the right feelings, of all of us. That is not to say that we should necessarily agree entirely with his philosophy or his point of view or with his method of conducting affairs, but it struck me that the Debate could have continued almost indefinitely on that footing, with advantage to the whole country. I was struck by his fear of planning. I entirely agree with him about that, and I would call attention to the findings of a great Chinese philosopher, Lao-tze, who at the end of a long life was asked to write down his deliberations. He said:
Nations should be governed as we cook small fish, without much business.
I felt sympathy with the hon. Member in his fear that, in this desire to plan with economy and success, we should turn people into robots and forget that the chief object of life is to live a free life and to feel, when we come to the end of it, that we have exerted those God-given gifts which exist in every man for the purpose for which God created each one of us. I do not agree with him quite so much on
his method of dealing with the situation. He seemed to me to envisage a life of what I may call Christian squalor which is not inevitable with Christianity. I can sympathise with his feelings about the Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom I personally to a considerable extent agree. He played about with the interference of the clerics in our political life. I would say at once that I see a difference between the functions of the cleric and the politician. The cleric's function is to teach the truth and philosophy of life, and the function of the politician is to remove the economic barriers to that philosophy.