Orders of the Day — Re-Armament

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd July 1951.

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Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 23rd July 1951

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu). I know that he has considerable experience in the matters which he has been discussing, but I think that he is out of touch with the practical side of industry. I wish to declare my interest in the aircraft industry. I think it is known to the House, but I make a point of declaring my interest in making any speech on the subject.

Perhaps I have not the hon. Member's theoretical knowledge but in the aircraft industry, with which I am connected, great experiments are being conducted. They are made known to other companies in this country but they are not published in the technical journals, where they could get over to the Iron Curtain countries; but I assure the hon. Member that progress is being made, that we are not lacking in the design or manufacture of jets or even of aircraft. I wish there were more of them, and that orders were being placed more quickly, but that is another point.

I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). I thought he really damned the Government. I hope that many of the things that he said will be said in the autumn when the political talks will perhaps become more intense. I shall certainly quote much of what the hon. Member said today. We listened to him with great interest. We know that he spoke more often in the earlier days of the last Parliament on the great achievements of the Labour Government and the Labour Party. He has been speaking in an entirely different way this evening.

The hon. Member referred to coal, and said that his great concern was whether there would be sufficient coal to carry out the re-armament programme. Only this afternoon some of us on this side of the House put Questions to the Minister of Fuel and Power on whether he intended to purchase coal from the United States in the coming winter. We received a most vague reply—that it was under active consideration or that the Minister was thinking about it, or something of that kind. Here we are, towards the end of July, and the Government are not at all clear in their minds whether they will buy coal from America or not. If there is to be a fuel crisis, the question of purchasing coal from the United States should have been considered weeks ago, and not left until the late summer or early autumn before the Government make up their minds.

We have to decide whether this rearmament programme is really necessary. Most of us—there are perhaps one or two exceptions—think that it is necessary if only as an insurance policy. Even if we never have a war, which none of us wants, it would be cheap at the price to manufacture these armaments, aircraft and tanks. If they are never used, it will be a very cheap insurance policy for this or any other country in the free world.