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Defence Loans

Volume 320: debated on Thursday 18 February 1937

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Question again proposed,

"That it is expedient—
(1) to authorise the Treasury, during the five years ending on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty-two, to issue out of the Consolidated Fund sums not exceeding in the aggregate four hundred million pounds to be applied as appropriations in aid of the moneys provided by Parliament for the Navy, Army (including Royal Ordnance Factories) and Air services for those years:
Provided that the amount so issued in respect of any service for any year shall not at any date exceed the aggregate of the amounts proposed to be so issued in respect of that service by the estimates upon which this House has, before that date, resolved to grant sums to His Majesty to defray expenses for that service for that year.
(2) to authorise the Treasury, for the purpose of providing money for the issue of sums as aforesaid or for replacing sums so issued, to raise money in any manner in which they are authorised to raise money under and for the purposes of Sub-section (1) of Section One of the War Loan Act, 1919, and to provide that any securities created and issued accordingly shall be deemed for all purposes to have been created and issued under the said Sub-section (1):
(3) to authorise the old Sinking Fund to be used in the said five years for providing money for the issue of sums as aforesaid instead of being issued to the National Debt Commissioners.
(4) to provide for the repayment to the Exchequer, out of moneys provided by Parliament for the said services in such proportions as the Treasury may direct, of the sums issued as aforesaid with interest at the rate of three per cent, per annum as follows:—
  • (a) until the expiration of the said five years interest only shall be payable;
  • (b) thereafter the sums so issued shall be repaid, together with interest, by means of thirty equal annual instalments of principal and interest combined;
  • (5) to provide for the application of sums paid into the Exchequer under the last foregoing paragraph, so far as they represent principal, in redeeming or paying off debt, and, so far as they represent interest, in paying interest otherwise payable out of the permanent annual charge for the National Debt."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]

    3.48 p.m.

    The Debate, which is lasting for two days, on the Government's policy in raising £400,000,000 as a loan to deal with the rearmament programme, is an event of unusual importance, because it marks in the sharpest possible way the dividing line between the policy of the post-war years and that which is now being adopted by the Government. Anybody who speaks in the Debate in the course of these two days must necessarily feel almost oppressed by the importance of it, and with the responsibility that one has to constituents and to the country. But that ought not to prevent whoever speaks in the Debate from stating very plainly and exactly what they feel about the very great and sinister implications of the Government's policy. During the Debate yesterday most of the time, at any rate, was given to an examination, more or less in a technical sense, of the financial merits or otherwise of the new proposals of the Government for financing their policy. It is true that at times there was a little of what I might describe as "infighting" in a political sense, and, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer essayed to reply to the very able exposition and technical arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), he could not resist his usual partisan outlook on the general political situation to enter into what Mr. Speaker called the cut-and-thrust of debate.

    I endeavoured in my own simple way to warn the House on two occasions in 1936 of the very serious general financial position created by the Government's policy as it was then known and as I thought then it was likely to be. The Chancellor seemed to think it was perfectly all right for him to borrow money in very large sums and, with a wave of the hand, to say, "Of course, it is not a final sum; it may be less or more." It did not seem to matter much if it was going to be more. It is all very well for him to put that position and to object when he is checked by Labour Members on the grounds of 1931. I am always interested in trite quotations, and I was very interested in the quotation from his daily calendar. I did not know that that was his general basis of reading and getting his quotations. He quoted from Ellen Terry:
    "There is all the difference in the world between departure from recognised rules by one who has learned to obey them, and neglect of them from want of training, or want of skill, or want of understanding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1937; col. 1214, Vol. 320.]
    I have always understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was supposed to be recognised in the last five years by his supporters as the great high priest of capitalist finance, the one who had restored the country, the one who, in fact, knew all the rules. In my experience those who are usually brought to judgment, who know all the rules, are worthy of greater condemnation when they are found guilty. Take a solicitor to court for a breach of confidence under the law that he is supposed to know and he gets a heavy sentence. Take an accountant—the right hon. Gentleman is in a sense the nation's accountant—who has been guilty of misfealty to his clients. He gets pretty heavy treatment. If the Chancellor's claims for the last five years have been correct as to what he and his colleagues have done for the Government, he is all the more worthy of condemnation for the direction in which he is now leading the country's financial policy, and it seems from the reaction on the gilt-edged market yesterday that that policy is already having its effect. Of course, really and truly when he is speaking with a little more anxiety about his actual Budget balances, he is not unprepared to give us the main case that my hon. Friends put up yesterday. I am sure he has not forgotten, and would not wish us to forget, because it was a very true and general statement of the case, what he said to the Unionist Association at Birmingham on 29th January, the day when the policy of the Government had brought us to such a state that he almost had to make a more or less abject appeal to Herr Hitler as to what he was going to say and what contribution he was going to make to European peace. This is what he said:
    "As I watch the figures"—
    that is the increased cost of rearmament—
    "mounting up, as I reflect upon the growing cost of the maintenance of this vast panoply when we have completed it, I cannot help being impressed by the incredible folly of civilisation which is piling these terrible burdens on the shoulders of the nation, burdens which, if something is not done to reduce them, are bound to pull down the standard of living for a generation to come."
    That is the real case, and I know the Chancellor knows it is the case, and I could not for the life of me understand the light boxing, the quick dancing about the ring, on the real case presented yesterday as to the cost of this, as to the effect on the cost of living and the general argument put up by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, for we know from his own lips that this policy of rearmament on this basis and with this method of finance is going to reduce the standard of living of our people for a generation.

    The financial policy and programme submitted to us bring to our minds once more—I hope none of my hon. Friends will ever let our people in the country forget this—the contrast with the general financial position of 1931. I repeat what I said nearly 12 months ago, that if any one of us stood at that Box and presented these proposals to the country, the City of London would be organising to throw us out on the ground of profligacy and unorthodoxy in finance. We were thrown out on three main grounds. The first was that our Budget was not balanced. What does the Chancellor say about that? On two separate occasions in the last 12 months he has said, "I know I cannot hope to meet expenditure out of revenue this year. There bound to be a deficit. The only question is how much the deficit is going to be." Fancy if we had put it in that way to the country! The second reason why we were charged with crimes which they said deserved our resignation was that there was a growing adverse balance of trade. I prophesied last July an adverse balance in 1936. It reached £347,000,000, and it reached that figure in totally different circumstances to 1931. The figure is higher and more serious than in 1931, and it is in spite of an increase of £90,000,000 per annum in fiscal impositions with a view to keeping goods out, and in spite of having given a hidden subsidy to exports by going off the Gold Standard. Apparently they will not have any new remedy to deal with this adverse balance of trade, and, unless I am mistaken, when the Board of Trade publishes its assessment of the situation next week or the week after, there will be an adverse balance of payments as well as an adverse balance of trade. The third reason was that we were spending too much money. Who is spending the money now? Here is a Bill presented to us for £400,000,000 of loan, unbalancing the Budget for the next five years. What a comment that is upon the Treasury Minute to the Labour Government in January, 1931:
    "These vast Treasury loans"—
    small loans in comparison with this—
    "are going to represent in effect State borrowings to relieve current State obligations at the expense of the future. This is an ordinary and well recognised sign of an unbalanced Budget."
    That was the Treasury Minute to the Labour Government. I wonder what the Treasury Minute is to this Government. Certainly their expenditure to-day is profligate. It is in no sense really coordinated, and it is far higher than was the case with the Labour Government in 1931. On that ground I should say it will be a very good thing if the Chancellor, before he comes to the next stage of the Debate on this very serious and important question of rearmament, will look a little more closely into the financial facts of the situation before he fires his shots at us across the Floor of the House with regard to 1931.

    There is one other aspect of the financial implications of this matter to which I should like to refer. It is that I am convinced, whatever may be the argument for or against the actual physical volume of the rearmament programme, that it could be obtained, even to the maximum physical provision which is aimed at, at a much cheaper rate than the Government are obtaining. We have every right, in checking this request of the Government for power to borrow £400,000,000, to insist that in the ordinary interest of State economy we should not be giving a blank cheque to the Government to spend how it likes. The quotation that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made yesterday from the speech of the late Mr. Asquith in 1906 was a very apt comment on this fact. It meant in effect that if you allow the provision of arms from loans it always leads to precipitate and wasteful expenditure.

    Of course I know that it has been traditional, and I think undeniable, that Tories when in office always look after their friends, and I suppose that in consequence we can hardly expect them to do as we should like them to do in really checking the profits of those who are now engaged in carrying out this rearmament programme. So far as we have been able to gather, from the questions we have put to the Ministers of the fighting Services as to the steps taken to check the profits of this business, we have had no indication whatever that there is any effective control of the profits. One has only to look at the first balance sheets of some of the companies—perhaps not new companies, and in some cases companies refloated with new issues of capital—to see the extent to which profits are being made out of what the Government say is the extremity of the nation— something which you must do, say the Government, in order to secure the future security and safety of the people.

    Although it is an easy and a short answer for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be able to get up and say, "Do not be misled by quotations on the Stock Exchange. No one can prevent the fool from his folly in speculating," if a long period of quotations month after month on the Stock Exchange is taken, the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that things find their level pretty well. You may get booms and slumps for six months, but take a period of 12 months and take the average prices, and the rise or fall in the profits of an industrial company are pretty well liquidated in advance by the jobbing on the Stock Exchange. The prices of these armament firms' shares for the last 12 months are a good index of the extent to which the orders are being placed without any adequate check upon the rate of profit. I see that the Chancellor is mentioning this point to the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence. I hope he will tell us, because we have never yet had the information, what effective steps are being taken to check the profits. We have heard about costings departments, not new ones, not special ones organised to deal with this huge and unusual armament programme, but costings departments in the service Departments. I am afraid that we are entitled to say, until the Government have proved the contrary, that we could obtain the actual physical requirements of this rearmament programme at a much more economical figure than that which is at present likely.

    One other point. I notice that in the course of the various Debates on this matter, and particularly yesterday, hon. Members opposite, who in their hearts are quite clearly appalled at the prospect of this very heavy expenditure, use was made of the argument that after all it may not be so bad because this programme is going to put money into circulation. One hon. Member said yesterday that it was going to attack the hard core of unemployment, although I have not noticed very great enthusiasm yet on the part of the Government for diverting into the depressed areas any adequate expenditure of a kind that will really tackle the hard core of unemployment there. But if we look at the question from that point of view we see how easy it is for the country to be misled. I guarantee that if I could take some of the people from residential and rural areas into parts of the city of Sheffield to-day and let them look at them, and then tell them the history of Sheffield since 1919, they would have some doubts to express about the effects of expenditure on armaments of this kind. In 1920–21, after the last great armament boom, we were in such a dire position in Sheffield that we had to borrow £1,250,000 in 15 months from the Ministry of Health for Poor Law assistance to be given to those who could not be assisted out of the rates, and we are still paying a special 6d. rate to liquidate that debt.

    Instead of this programme being a really effective contribution to the permanent employment and security of the industrial worker, it is going only to add to the boom and then to provide a slump. I say to my workers in Sheffield, as I am entitled to say to the Government, that the way in which this thing has been engineered and carried out can be stated thus. "Come in and help us with this armament campaign. 'Eat, drink and be merry'"; but they leave out the last few words of the scriptural injunction "for to-morrow we die." That is the position, and with regard to the effect upon the life and homes and security of the workers at large, I can find nothing about this armament programme specially to enthuse over or praise.

    I now come to a brief examination of why we have come to this situation to-day. It is a melancholy occasion. The nation is being asked to pay a bill which represents the collective ineptitude, the folly, and in some instances the dishonesty, of a Tory Coalition Government in foreign policy. I agreed entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) when he said last night that in 1931 the foreign prospect, not of course without its difficulties, was reasonably promising. Ever since this Coalition Government—it has no claim to be a National Government—took office in 1931, things in the international sphere have gone from bad to worse. I know that we ought to say that this country is not the only country concerned with foreign relations. Of course it is not. But right hon. Members opposite are supposed to be the Government of all the talents, leading the principal country at the heart of the greatest Commonwealth in the world, and they ought to give the greatest lead. Yet if we look at their record in the past few years we can find case after case of the folly and ineptitude, and I say the political dishonesty, of this Government in foreign affairs. Take the first subject, in which we are all interested now. As I am talking retrospectively I am very glad that I speak in the presence of the Home Secretary, who had full and long responsibility for policy at the Foreign Office. Take the Government's attitude to the Disarmament Conference. The more I read about it, the more I take notes of the actual records—they are very voluminous and one cannot get through them all in a hurry—the more I study them, the more I am convinced that we had a large measure of responsibility for the comparative failure in the first year of the conference and ultimately for its failure. When one thinks to-day of the immediate danger to our people here, perhaps now the country most vulnerable to air attack of any country in Europe, one realises that but for the folly of representatives of the party opposite at the Disarmament Conference, we could have abolished the use of the bombing plane.

    The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of addressing the Committee, I am sure, as he often does on these questions, and perhaps he will demonstrate then that there is no word of truth in it. I believe the evidence of my own eyes when I read the words of Lord Londonderry, former Secretary of State for Air, after he came out of office. Take the question of Manchuria, the first wavering from this country's known allegiance and leadership in respect of collective security. In August I was talking to a leading Chinese gentleman in California. We had been debating with Japanese representatives and others, and I asked him how it was we could not get them to take a better view and to get into conference with the Japanese. His reply was "Because they will not be controlled by the League, and we have now no faith in the League, and no faith in your promises." It was that gentleman who reminded me of a speech made by the Foreign Secretary in this country in 1933, in which he said:

    "I am sufficiently a pacifist, at any rate, to say that my country ought not to get into any trouble about it."
    The scorn with which the Chinese who were left to face the situation now regard this country in this matter is, I think, deserved, because of the position then taken up. Take the Stresa Conference, which has had a great effect on the armaments position. We come away from a Conference in which there is practically agreement amongst representatives of the War Allies that they will not separate but will act together, and in a few weeks we have the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, virtually white-washing Herr Hitler for reverting to a policy of armament on a basis of more than four times the strength, in the Naval sphere, that Germany was allowed under the Versailles Treaty. Take the experience of Abyssinia. I do not know yet whether the Government realise, when they talk about the defence of the Commonwealth, how much their policy has undermined the feelings in the Dominions—very seriously undermined it. Take the Hoare-Laval Pact and the betrayal of the policy of sanctions. When we think about the Chancellor of the Exchequer coming down to the House and asking for £400,000,000, we cannot forget 10th June, 1936, his speech about midsummer madness, his revelation in advance of what he hoped would be the position of the Government in the scrapping, before the other Powers knew of the policy, of sanctions, and the full retreat from the policy of support of the Covenant of the League.

    I have met some very influential representatives of the Dominions in the last few weeks. On the other side of the Atlantic one of them said to me a few months ago, "We have had a very severe set-back in regard to collective security within the Commonwealth. If Haile Selassie had stayed with his troops and Mr. Anthony Eden had resigned when his Cabinet would not accept his policy, Canada would still be in favour of collective security." [Interruption.] I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will get it before long. I do not think that it is beyond the intelligence of so able a representative of journalism as the one who says that he cannot quite follow. I say that to-day, but for this duplicity in regard to collective security and but for the political dishonesty of this Government in foreign policy, we would not have been faced with a situation such as that with which we are faced. Nor can we let the Prime Minister escape from his personal responsibility. I am told that he is a great student of Disraeli, and reading the other day of "The Gentleman in Downing Street," I was very much interested in this passage by Disraeli, because I think that it explains a lot of the attitude of the Prime Minister:
    "Frame and explicit'—that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to confuse the minds of others."
    We have had a good many speeches of frankness from the Prime Minister during the last few years. We had the one with regard to the menace of aerial warfare. When I listened to some of the statements which were made yesterday, I remembered one statement that was very frank, and that is, that the bomber will always get through. We had his explanation with appalling frankness on 12th November of why he put safety and security and the hope of the peace of the country second to the desire which he had of winning the General Election. I remember that after hearing that speech, I looked again at the copy of the appeal which the Prime Minister made on the wireless to the country, and at the manifesto of the Conservative party, for which he was, no doubt, responsible, and I found only the frankness of which Disraeli speaks—to conceal what was in their mind and to confuse the mind of the electorate. The electorate had no idea in October, 1935, that the Government intended to spend £1,500,000,000 in five years—not the slightest idea. If I might refer the Prime Minister to Disraeli once again, there was a great occasion when Disraeli came back from Berlin and was greeted with great applause by his fellow-countrymen for, he said he had come back with "Peace with Honour."

    It may be argued by some hon. Members opposite that the policy of the Government in the last few years has prevented any special entanglements. That is what they may argue. They may say they have kept the peace for a year or two. But in doing it they have lost their honour. They will not receive the applause that came to Disraeli when he came back with peace and with honour. We have to face the circumstances created, in large part again, by the Government. If I may again quote this statesman, he once said that man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men. The position with which we are faced to-day has certainly deteriorated—I am not going to hide this for a moment—and we need in certain circumstances a certain measure of rearmament. I have never shut my eyes to that necessity, but when we come to look at the basis upon which rearmament is to be built and the methods to be applied to carry it out, I am appalled to think that we are likely to have to suffer under the leadership of a Government like this while it is being put into operation.

    What is the teaching of the last White Paper about the Government's policy? What is the basis of rearmament policy? It was pointed out yesterday that it does not contain a single mention of the League of Nations. I know quite well that the Minister, in replying, may say "We did refer to general security in a previous White Paper, and we have referred to it once more." But is it not true to say that the Government are not planning their rearmament programme on the basis of security? If they are, I cannot understand some of the references which have been made in the past. In May, 1936, the present First Lord of the Admiralty was speaking, I believe, to a corps of Unionist canvassers, and he said that certainly, in future no British Government ought to have its hands tied; it ought to be able to choose the vital questions on which it would fight. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise his views?

    Any democracy has to choose the issue on which it is to fight.

    I thought by his interruption the right hon. Gentleman was not recognising the passage, but I looked it up this morning in a historical book on international affairs, where the speech is quoted. He said that no British Government ought to have its hands tied, and that it ought to choose the vital issues on which it would fight and to choose them on their merits. That may well be argued. But taken to its logical conclusion, that does not mean working within a great international scheme of collective security. It means that this country must always be judged in its own case, and use armaments for purposes of national policy. If that is the attitude of the Government—and I gather that it is from the interruption of the First Lord—the sooner the country knows that it is for that that this expenditure is being asked, the better. As far as I can see, that is the real position to-day.

    Take the actual plan of carrying it out. I have looked in vain for any real evidence of co-ordination, apart from some nice and pleasing speeches from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. We are to-day ordering capital ships at a price unprecedented in the history of the building of capital ships in this country. They have been ordered at that price long before this House has had a chance of checking the price. The "Nelson" and the "Rodney" cost round about £7,000,000. We are told in the White Paper that the ships which are being ordered will cost £8,000,000 each, although, compared with the day when the "Nelson" and the "Rodney" were ordered, prices, and in some instances wages, an; lower. And the calibre of the gun has been reduced from 16 to 14, a very important influence in cost, not only in the costing of the gun, but in the ordering of the equipment of armament for the gun. What sort of co-ordination was there for the fighting Services before these ships were ordered at that cost? Some were ordered even before they had had a report as to whether the capital ship was justified on that basis or not. What sort of decision has been arrived at as between the Navy and its Fleet Air Arm and the Air Force control? We have been pressing and pressing, and we have obtained no information. Certainly, there is no evidence of real, scientific co-ordination, but when it comes to organising the administration of this rearmament programme, I confess that most of it seems to be conspicuous by its absence.

    I have heard hon. Members opposite press, and press again, for some statement of fact to be made with regard to the defence problems in relation to the Vote. A Supplementary Estimate has been issued for the sum of about £6,000 which will be the token which will be expended on the Vote for the Defence Department by 31st March. Nobody has heard very much about it, or would have hoped to have heard. I heard only in the last few days of another example of how co-ordination has not been reached. I understand that some of the Departments particularly concerned with the rearmament question have urgent need, in view of their expansion of work, for people of experience who are in the Civil Service and have been in the Service or equipment Departments before. I heard this morning of a circular being sent from the Air Ministry to the various Departments asking for volunteers from really experienced men? What is happening? The Departments concerned, even when the men are not engaged on particularly important work, but because they know a particular job and they do not want to lose them, are refusing to release them. Perhaps the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence will say what he is really doing to effect any improvement in that regard.

    Let me take the question of recruitment and see if there is any co-ordination there between the Government Departments. I see the Secretary of State for War seated on the bench opposite. He is anxious about recruiting, and I have no doubt he has cause to be anxious, having regard to the calls upon him by the Government. It is said in the White Paper that they are going to arrange for somewhat better conditions to be offered, but is the Minister doing everything really to enthuse the democracy of this country for military service in defence not merely of their country, but of the principles of collective security and justice? What sort of co-ordination is there in the Government's policy in that respect? The more I look into this matter the more I feel that the Government are just letting things drift.

    My time has gone much more rapidly than I expected, and, before I sit down, I must spend a moment or two upon the position, as I see it, of the Labour party in Opposition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday referred somewhat scathingly, I think, to what he felt was the general attitude on these benches. I do not know that there is anything of which to be ashamed in being sufficiently pacifist to seek peace. There is nothing of which to be ashamed in that, but when it comes to hurling canards at the Labour party with regard to it being unwilling to provide the necessary armaments for the defence of this country, I say that such a charge is completely unfounded. I do not want to be unfair to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The last reference I made was not to an actual quotation of his speech, but I was speaking on the more general question. The Member of the Labour party whom I meet day by day is no less a lover of his fellow countrymen and no less desirous of peace, happiness, and safety in all circumstances than anybody else in this country, and when it comes to the defence of them, he will not be backward in defending them. What he is concerned about is. What are we doing to prevent defence being necessary?

    We say that the Government have let this country down badly. They had the greatest opportunity of any Government of modern times in 1935, when they might have had the great majority of the working classes as well as other classes in the community behind them in supporting collective security, and yet how did they treat it? When the Labour party, by a majority of 20 to 1 at the Brighton Conference in October, 1935, came down in favour of sanctions, and sanctions properly carried through, we were told on all the platforms right up to the time of and through the General Election that we were war-mongers. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are."] I hope hon. Members opposite will say whether, when we were being charged with that because we supported collective security, they were telling the nation at that election that they proposed to introduce in 1935 a loan for £400,000,000, making £1,500,000,000 for armaments, and to have on their Front Bench Ministers like the First Lord of the Admiralty who were prepared to use those armaments for national policy and not collective security. That is the case, and that has to be answered.

    Our attitude here on this matter will be that we are prepared to support whatever Vote may be required for collective security within the system of the League of Nations, and we have never wavered in our official policy on that matter. We shall oppose at all stages any attempt to stampede this country into wholesale armaments for the purpose of use for national policy.

    If the hon. Member wants an answer to that, I will say to him that those who are in the Labour party to-day have no more need to be ashamed of how they have defended their country than has anybody else. What we are concerned to do is to adopt a policy which is going to prevent war, and not to precipitate it, and if the hon. Member, with his Liberal traditions, examines the days before the War and from 1914 to 1918, and sees what the expenditure on armaments was then, how much security that competitive race brought, and how much it cost in life, in misery, and in financial ruin to the working classes after the War, he can hardly blame us for saying that when we vote for armaments to-day, we want them for collective security and not for a national policy for capitalists.

    Had it not been for the fact that we were adequately armed in 1914, there would not be a Labour party to speak at all in an independent nation.

    That seems to me to be ridiculous in the light of the experience of the War. The real fact was that although we built the largest Navy in the world at that time, we had to turn practically the whole of the citizenship of this country into a war camp before we could deal with the matter effectively; and if you are really trying in this policy to arm this country on a unilateral defence basis, and suggesting that we can vote the money and organise to defend the British Empire, all that I say is that you are exceedingly foolish. You have never fought a major war yet without allies, and powerful allies, and you have no hope of defending the whole of the far-flung stretches of the British Commonwealth with unilateral defence. If that is the line that hon. Members take when they say, "Will you defend your own country?" they are backing a very poor horse indeed. I say that we will vote at any time for anything which is really required for defence provision in this country under collective security, but we shall refuse, and I think rightly refuse, to vote a blank cheque to this Government at any time to provide unlimited national armaments to be used for national policy and mainly for national policy alone. We propose, on our side, to use all our time and endeavours to rehabilitating the League and to restoring the confidence of the people in a process which leads to international justice, for without international justice there never will be peace.

    4.36 p.m.

    The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Hillsborough Division of Sheffield (Mr. Alexander) in his opening sentences referred to what he described as the partisan speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think, after hearing the right hon. Gentleman, I prefer my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his role of partisan to the right hon. Gentleman opposite in his role of impartial commentator, for he has exhausted himself in his efforts to find epithets with which suitably to be labour the Government and everybody connected with them. Of course, that is what we should have expected from the right hon. Gentleman, and that part of his speech gave much more satisfaction in the ranks behind him than did the closely knit arguments which followed it. Yesterday we were assured by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) that it was improper to discuss any other question than that which is indeed the question in this Debate, namely, the particular method of raising a sum of about £400,000,000. He said that this was not a vote for or against any armaments at any particular level, and he insisted upon the fact that the Labour party were not going to vote upon that question. He had, I think, forgotten that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) had, in almost the opening sentence of his speech, declared that it was impossible to discuss the financial questions involved in vacuo, and he proceeded to examine the performance of my task and the responsibility of the Government in that connection.

    Whereupon the GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

    Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.