§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 4,2 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
When the House last met, we had a prolonged discussion on foreign affairs and we reviewed the circumstances which led up to the international crisis. I do not intend to repeat the arguments that were used then or to review again the past, nor indeed to enter into a general review of the international situation. I think it is for us now to consider the present and the future, but to keep the lessons of the past in our mind. I want to call attention to some of the consequences of the great defeat that has been sustained by France and Great Britain and, above all, by the cause of law and order and democratic government. I want to look not only at the political but at the economic aspects of what has happened in the last few months. To-morrow we are to discuss the proposal of the Government to ratify the Anglo-Italian Agreement. We shall have a full opportunity of stating our objections to the course proposed, and the Debate will raise very large questions of international policy, and particularly the vitally important question of Spain, and I shall not to-day in any way anticipate that Debate. On Thursday my friends intend to raise the question of the deplorable deficiencies in the provision for defence which the emergency brought into the open. I say "brought into the open"—not "revealed"—because they have been exposed very often, and again and again requests have been made urging the Government to take action.
But there are certain immediate issues arising from the Munich Agreement which the House should consider, and there are points on which I should like to have some assurances from the Prime Minister. In the first place, I hope he will give the House some account of what has been done since Munich by the British and French Governments on behalf of Czechoslovakia and the Czech people. The Prime Minister claimed that the Munich Agreement was a great advance on the Godesberg demands, and it must have been a great advance on those demands in his mind because it made all the difference between war and peace. We ought to examine and see exactly what has 64 happened to those advances which were supposed to have been attained at Munich. On the question of the delimitation of the new frontiers the Prime Minister admitted that Godesberg did not follow strictly the principle that only those districts should be transferred which had an essentially German nature, and the delimitation of the frontiers was entrusted to an International Commission. That Commission has delimited the frontiers, but we now find that they are even worse than those laid down in the Godesberg demands. The new frontiers go far beyond that criterion of German districts. It gives even more than Herr Hitler demanded then. A number of districts predominantly Czech have been handed over. I need give only one instance of a district with nearly 12,000 Czechs and only 500 Germans which has been awarded to Germany. We are entitled to know what, if anything, was done by our representatives on the International Commission. If a disregard of the question of the German character has taken place, there has certainly been a complete disregard of any other consideration. There seems to have been no regard whatever paid to what certainly should have been present in the minds of those charged with this duty, and that is as to the possibility of Czechoslovakia maintaining its own independent life, political and economic, within these frontiers.
The basis of the transference of these territories was a census nearly 30 years old. I should like to hear the justification for taking 1910 as the basis. The question was raised in the House, and no clear answer was given as to what the basis was to be, but when you consider the Great War and all the industrial and political changes since then, to take a census 28 years ago as a basis for delimiting the frontiers of the new State was obviously grossly unjust and absolutely ridiculous. In fact, it seems that the International Commission only functioned as a body to register the demands of Herr Hitler. With regard to economic possibilities, if you look at the map of the new Czechoslovakia you find that the railways are cut again and again. You find power stations taken away from their areas of supply. There has been, obviously, no regard whatever to any other considerations than the demands made by Germany. It is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent to accept even 65 what was accepted, and that is that States should be constituted solely on the basis of the character of their inhabitants or the language that they speak, but to disregard that, as it has been disregarded, and to disregard all the bases on which a State can live is a complete mockery. The conditions of evacuation were improved very little. The clause with regard to opting out, as everyone knows, under a totalitarian regime is illusory where there is no protection from terrorism. Summing it up, what seems to have been gained by the Czechs in the difference between Godesberg and Munich seems infinitesimal, and meanwhile Poland and Hungary have fastened on the corpse of Czechoslovakia, and it looks as if Czechoslovakia is to be divided and cut down to an extraordinary extent.
I understand that we had some kind of—I think "moral guarantee" was the phrase of the Minister for the Coordination of Defence. I do not know what has become of that moral guarantee. The division of the spoils now seems to be left to the decision of Germany and Italy. The question we have to ask now is whether, dismembered and fragmented, there is hope for an independent Czechoslovakia. I hope there is, but it looks extremely doubtful. What is the position with regard to the guarantee that this country was to give? Is it still proposed to give a guarantee to the new State? Who are to be the co-guarantors? Has that now been worked out? Is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to be one of the guarantors? Incidentally, I think it was deplorable that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should have gone out of his way to attack the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and cast doubt on it in a speech in the country. It hardly lay in the mouth of a member of the Government. I should like to ask whether when he spoke in those terms he was expressing the views of the Government. Who are to be the co-guarantors and what is to be guaranteed? Originally we understood it was to be a guarantee of the frontiers. Is it possible to guarantee these frontiers? Above all, could such a guarantee be carried out? I ask this because I am totally opposed to this country giving guarantees which it cannot carry out. If there is to be a guarantee, let us know its extent and let it be one that we can carry out. I am opposed to committing this country to 66 vague obligations outside the League of Nations. We are entitled to know what has become of this guarantee, whether it is in force to-day and whether it is intended to modify it by any instrument, and whether it is a guarantee that this country can undertake.
The next question that I should like to ask is with regard to the proposed loan of £30,000,000. When this was first proposed everyone thought it was a very good thing, and we all liked it if it was going to be a support for an independent Czechoslovakia. In that case, if we can have an independent Czechoslovakia, I think we should support it in every possible way. We owe so much to Czechoslovakia. If, on the other hand, Czechoslovakia is to become a mere vassal State of Germany, very different conditions will apply. It is no good giving expensive food to a chicken if a fox is going to eat it. If that loan were merely to finance Germany, it would be extremely foolish. I hope we shall have from the Government some detailed explanation of what we are going to do for the State, whether we can help Czechoslovakia to maintain itself as an outpost of liberty and not let it merely fall under the sway of some other Power.
The next point I would like to raise is with regard to the question of refugees. I believe there is enormous sympathy in this country for the plight of the refugees from Sudetenland. Many thousands of people have been placed in a terrible position. The people of this country have subscribed a great sum of money, and I think we ought to pay a tribute here to the Lord Mayor of London for his courage and activity in this matter. But we have here an enormous problem, a problem that it is extremely difficult for the Czech Government to tackle, and I should like to acknowledge the helpfulness with which we have been met by His Majesty's Government on the question of the refugees. But there is a question much wider than that of the refugees from the Sudetenland and much wider than the immediate question of the sustentation of those who have been driven out, and that is the problem that Europe is facing to-day. It is an enormous problem. All over Europe, with the spread of anti-Semitism and political and racial intolerance, you are getting enormous numbers of people who will 67 become Stateless, in Germany, Poland and Rumania, and the more German influence spreads in Eastern Europe, the greater will be the problem of the displaced Jews.
It is not only Jews who are displaced; there are all those who stand up against authoritarian views, and this refugee problem is an open sore in Europe. It puts the Governments in all those countries in great difficulties, and it puts the Governments of all other countries in great difficulties. In our crowded island we cannot absorb masses of refugees, and Palestine cannot take more than a fraction of the Jews in Europe. I should like to know from the Prime Minister what is being done by the bodies which were set up at Evian, and whether something greater cannot be done. A hundred years ago there were numbers of refugees who fled from despotic countries. They went across the seas and took up residence in the United States of America, and we had a great democracy rising up and redressing the balance in the old world. You have here masses of good citizens, and they ought to be absorbed somewhere in the world, so that they can continue to live the life they want. It seems to me that it is up to us, the British peoples, controlling so large a portion of the earth's surface, to take the lead in trying to find out where these people can go; and I would ask the Prime Minister, if we could get really active steps taken to find places in the world to settle these people, whether we might not get something like a standstill arrangement and prevent the cruelty that is going on now, of people who are driven from one country and not received in another.
I turn to the international outlook, and I would like to say just a word on the question of what is likely to come next. The indications are not very hopeful in the kind of line that is being taken in the German Press. It looks as if there were a good deal of rejoicing over victory rather than anything leading to appeasement, and there is a wide disturbance in the minds of many people over what is known as the Colonial problem, the question of these territories which we hold under Mandate from the League of Nations. They are not our territories. We, on these Benches, have for many 68 years put forward what we believe is the only possible solution of the Colonial problem, and that is the abandonment of the Imperialistic attitude towards Colonies and the holding of all of these territories that cannot have self-government on the principles of a Mandate for the benefit of the inhabitants of these territories first and then for the benefit of the whole world. It is one of the tragedies that that problem was not faced earlier. It is a fatal thing to wait until things become critical. We on this side have again and again put forward proposals for conferences and discussions for dealing with these possible causes of war before they became acute—the question of the Colonies, the question of raw materials—and year after year we have always been put off by the Government saying that the time is not ripe. Is the time ripe only when war is threatened? I suggest that it is not too late now for a reconsideration of these Colonial problems and that we ought not to wait until the demand is made by force.
Politically, we have to face the fact that Germany is now dominant on the Continent of Europe. We have a complete overturning of the balance of trade. But she is not only predominant politically, she is predominant economically, and we ought to consider very carefully what is the meaning of this new German system of closed economy and what is going to be the result of the activities of Herr Funk. We on this side have never suggested that Germany should not have a rightful share in the development of Central Europe—that is the natural sphere for German industry—but we have to consider very carefully what is the purpose behind this penetration eastward and south-eastward throughout Europe. Many people think that Czechoslovakia was a front trench and that Herr Funk is now occupying all the territory behind the line. What will be the effect on this country? It looks as if Central and South-Eastern Europe will become closed markets, and I should like to ask whether the Government acquiesce in this or whether we are going to take any steps to counter it.
With this economic penetration goes also political penetration. It has gone very far now, and it does not stop at the immediate neighbourhood of Germany. It goes right down to Bulgaria, right down 69 to Turkey. One gathers that steps are being taken to stem the tide. I do not know how much is being done, but I would remind the Government that the lesson in 1914–15 was that if you wanted to deal with the Balkan States, you had to give enough and you had to give it in time. I do not know at present whether there is a contest going on for giving various advantages to these States and whether there is anything like a state of economic warfare. But the fact is that you have to-day a Germany very highly organised as a single economic unit or autarchy. She can attack our markets all over the world, and she has now the resources of the Sudetenland, and we may see grave inroads into our trade. The coal trade is likely to suffer, and the textile trades are likely to suffer. If throughout this great area of Central Europe you are going to have this kind of closed trade agreements, you may be certain that German goods and German products will oust our goods, and as armament building reaches satiety in Germany the pressure will come outwards into other markets. The position is not confined to Europe. You have the same thing going on in the Far East, and I should like the Prime Minister to say something to us with regard to the situation in the Far East. If Japan is successful in her drive, another enormous market, and potentially the biggest market in the world, will become closed to any other Power, and I suggest that we shall have there a very serious position for our export trade.
If we turn now to our own position, our trade returns are none too good. There was a reduction last September in our imports of 14.6 per cent. below the figures for the previous September, and there is a reduction of 12.8 per cent. below our 1937 figures. We have in this country inevitably at the present time, in spite of Munich, a very widespread lack of confidence. We have a very high unemployment, and this country is practising what might be called a qualified system of free competition, but it is in a world of highly organised totalitarian economic units. The question is as to how that threat to our trade is to be met. I say that this country is quite unorganised to meet a drive of the kind that may very well come along. We have no economic plan whatever. We have 1,800,000 unemployed, an increase of 459,000 in the last year. We hear a 70 lot of talk of a national register. There is the national register, a national register of people wanting work, and we have to find work for them. We are not utilising our resources either in human beings, material, or finance; our immense potential strength is not being brought into play, and we have no economic General Staff whatever.
The thing that strikes one most about the Government's policy during the last few years is that there is no coherence in it at all. We have urged on our side that there should be national planning. We heard at Question Time to-day that a committee is still considering the location of industry. While that goes on things are changing all the time. The kinds of control that are vitally necessary in peace time are certainly absolutely necessary if there is a threat of war. That there is a danger of war is shown by the demand of the Government for vastly increased armaments. I am going to suggest that the fundamental failure of the Government in providing for defence, as in providing for the economic strength of this country, is a failure to decide upon priorities. In the defence of this country the crying need was defence against air attack, but actually air attack defence was not considered a priority. It was subordinated to the old traditions of the three fighting Services, and A.R.P. remained for a long time very much a Cinderella. As we know, the provision of anti-aircraft guns was left right behind when it ought to have been in the front rank of priorities. We believe that this is due to the fact that there is no proper organisation. For many years now in this House, not only from this side, but from other sides, a ministry of defence has been demanded. We have demanded a ministry of supply—the mobilisation of our resources with due regard to priorities.
I want to turn, not to those Defence questions which we will discuss on Thursday, but to the gravest deficiency of all in the Government's Defence organisation. That is on the economic side. If you take any study of the late War you find that the important factor, after all, was economic. We find German authorities say, "We were not beaten by the sword; we were beaten by hunger." I say that the foundation of all defence is a sound and healthy condition of the people, but that is the priority which this Government 71 has neglected. A sound and healthy condition of the people is the foundation of civil and military moral, but this is the Government of the means test. I do not know what the Government's view of priorities is now. We have had statements made by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transport, which they are now explaining away, which suggested, at least to the minds of journalists, that there would be a reduction in the social services. It has been suggested that orders have already been sent out for the cutting down of expenditure in ministries. I should like to know whether that is so, because to cut down social services—and there are plenty of people who will urge that—is entirely to disregard priority. To cut down, whether it be pensions, education, schools or unemployment benefit—any of these things—will do precisely the wrong thing from the point of view of the strength of this nation. It is to give priority to Ascot and the Ritz.
§ Mr. Attlee
I thought that would catch the Noble Lady. At the present moment we have widespread malnutrition in this country. We claim that the first thing for the defence of this country is a healthy, sound population. You will not get the kind of service you want in this country unless you base it on that. What happens? I say that human life is always put after profit. Let us take an example. What happened in the crisis? Profiteering in spades, in buckets, in timber and in sandbags. Because of the nation's needs prices were rushed up in order to make fortunes out of the nation. We have a right to complain. People on the other side have not, because they are only carrying out the Government's own philosophy. The organisation of this country is on that basis. I had a good example given to me this week. A friend of mine was staying at a watering place and she saw the conditions of the fishermen living in the direst poverty. They are leaving the sea now because of their poverty. They were wanted in the last War, and if there is another war they will be wanted again. She went to their cottages and saw their conditions. Then she went into a hotel and saw people with extremely expensive cars and extremely expensively dressed. "Who are those people?" she asked, 72 and she was told, "They sell fish at Billingsgate." There you have the contrast between the people who do the work and the people who take the profits. In agriculture to-day you will find the same thing—flourishing middlemen as contrasted with the position of the farmers and agricultural labourers.
The vital thing for the Government to consider is how we are to keep the morale of this people, and they can do it only on the basis of organising the country on priorities, the first of which is the health of the people. The weak spot in dictatorship countries is just this: it is the condition of the people. That is a factor too little regarded in the crisis. I believe it is essential that we should have a proper co-ordination of effort and a restraint of private profit if we are to strengthen this country, not only in armaments but in other things as well. This is, I believe, the lesson for us with regard to international affairs. We have this emergence of a highly organised economy like Germany, and it meets the democracies who are disunited and competing. The closed economic system may keep us out of every market in the world because it can dispose of its surplus when it chooses and we are entirely unprepared for defence against these methods of competition. We should meet this threat by close co-operation in the economic field between all democracies. I would like to ask the Prime Minister in that connection what is happening with regard to our trade negotiations with the United States of America? It is of the utmost importance that the question of trade relations with the United States should be settled. The economic potentiality of the peace Powers is enormously greater than that of the aggressor Powers.
We want to see an economic league, a getting of people together on the basis of the utilisation of abundance for all, not excluding those in hostility but eventually drawing them in. The way in which this country can give a lead is by showing that a democracy can organise itself properly, that it is more effective by democratic methods, and that it can give a better life to its people. At the present moment we are reproached by Germany because of our unemployment. The answer, obviously, is that their people are employed at starvation level. We can employ our people, if we will, at a high level. We ought to do it. I am going to ask the Prime Minister 73 what plans the Government have, because the economic organisation of this country is the most vital element in Defence.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I do not offer any apologies for intervening at this stage of the Debate because I think it would be for the general convenience of the House if I say what I have to say at as early a stage as possible. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was divided into two very well marked parts, the second of which appeared to me to have very little relation to international affairs and to be rather more suitable for an election platform than for the Debate that we are conducting this afternoon. I do not propose to reply to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which, perhaps, had better be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade who will be speaking later in the evening. There is, however, one question he addressed to me which I would like to answer at once. He asked me whether it were true that, as reported in the "Daily Herald," instructions had been sent out from Whitehall to all the Departments dealing with social services to cut down their expenditure in order to pay for armaments. I read the statement in the "Daily Herald" this morning, and it was the first I had heard of it. I have asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there was any action which had been taken by the Treasury which might provide the slightest justifiable foundation for such a statement. He informs me that no action of any kind like that suggested has been taken by the Treasury. The whole story, therefore, is entirely an invention.
To return to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He asked a number of questions and made a number of comments upon what he considered to be the consequences of the Munich Agreement. I find myself in agreement with a number of observations made by the right hon. Gentleman, but there was one statement with which he began, to which I must take exception. He described the Munich Agreement as a great defeat for this country and for France and to the cause of law and order. If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that, I am sorry that he should say so publicly. It is not one of the characteristics of totalitarian States, at any rate, that they 74 are accustomed to foul their own nests. I do strongly deprecate all the statements made by persons in responsible, or even in irresponsible positions, who take opportunities of broadcasting to the world or in other countries in particular that their own country is in a state of decadence.
§ The Prime Minister
I was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman in what I said then [Interruption].
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) continues to interrupt I shall have to ask him to leave the House.
§ The Prime Minister
Others have gone a great deal further than the right hon. Gentleman, but the observation which he has made gave me an opportunity of expressing an opinion which I think is very widely held. I do not regard the Munich Agreement as a defeat either for the democracies or for the cause of law and order. On the contrary, the Munich Agreement was an attempt to carry out by discussion between two Powers representing democracies and two Powers representing totalitarian States an agreed solution of a problem for which the only other solution appeared to be the use of force. Instead of using force the Agreement has been carried out in an orderly manner. It is quite true that there have been many things which none of us would approve of, which all of us would wish to have done differently—that is quite true—but hon. Members should consider that, as my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary said on another occasion, we had to choose between hard alternatives, and when you find fault, as you may justly find fault, with the solution which has in fact been carried out, do not forget what the alternative was and what the effect of the alternative would have been upon Czechoslovakia.
§ Mr. Attlee
The right hon. Gentleman says that the solution has been carried out. The whole of my point was that the solution was not carried out.
§ The Prime Minister
That may have been the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's point, but I hope I shall be able to say something which will refute that point of view. After all, the Munich Agreement, which was come to in the course of a comparatively short time, 75 measured by hours, could not be expected to deal in itself with every detail of the operation which was contemplated. All that we could do at Munich was to lay down certain general outlines, leaving to an International Commission the task of filling in details. The right hon. Gentleman criticises the International Commission in the carrying out of that task. I say again that though we may not like the solution I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to forget what the alternative was, and if he was not prepared to accept the alternative use of force—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—he must recognise that we had to accept the alternative, disagreeable though it may be in many respects.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke among other things about the boundaries which are to be laid down between the new State of Czechoslovakia and Germany. By the fourth Article of the Munich Agreement there was imposed on the International Commission the duty of determining the extent of the territories outside the four zones which were to be occupied by German troops by 7th October—territories outside those which, being preponderantly German in 1918, should be occupied by Germany by 10th October. The time was short, and the International Commission decided that in order to ascertain the limits of that territory they must get as near as they could to the position in 1918. That was in accordance with the methods under the plebiscite in the Saar district. The right hon. Gentleman says that they went back much further than 1918, that they went back to 1910, and that no justification has ever been given for going back to a period so long ago as that. I do not know that there has been any opportunity on any previous occasion of giving that justification, but, of course, the answer is very simple. There was no census in 1918, and as there were no reliable figures for that date the International Commission were obliged to go back to the last date for which there were reliable figures, and that was 1910. That was the reason why the census of 1910 was taken as a basis.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
Why were they obliged to go back to that time and not to take later figures?
§ Mr. Chamberlain
The reason was because the position in 1918 was to be taken as the basis, the argument being—I am not saying this is my view, I am only explaining the position—that the position had been deliberately changed since 1918 by the introduction of Czechs into areas which in 1918 were predominantly German, and therefore if a census had been taken later than 1918 it would not have met that particular objection. Once the Czechoslovakian Government had accepted that decision of the International Commission, which they did on 6th October, it became apparent that there was no longer any need for plebiscites. The Czechs agreed that the lines which had been determined in accordance with that basis should be the provisional frontier, but that it should be subject to examination and modification not only in accordance with strictly ethnographical lines but also taking into account the economic considerations, and it will be observed that in consequence of that agreement the line may be modified not only in those areas in which, under the original Agreement, there would have been a plebiscite, but the whole line from one end to the other may be reconsidered. As it had been decided not to have any plebiscite there was, of course, no occasion for any international force to occupy the plebiscite areas, and therefore His Majesty's Government were not able to avail themselves of the very public-spirited offer which had been made by the British Legion for this purpose. I should like, on behalf of the Government, to express our very warm appreciation of the offer and our confidence that had the need materialised members of the British Legion would have distinguished themselves as much in peace as they formerly did in war.
Another point to which the right hon. Gentleman addressed himself referred to the rights of optants. He said the clause referring to optants was entirely illusory. I do not know by what right he said that. I do not know whether he is aware of the present position. Under Article 7 of the Munich Agreement it is provided that a German-Czech Commission was to settle the details of this right of option. They were to determine ways of facilitating the transfer of those individuals who wished 77 to exercise the right, and also any question of principle which arose out of the transfer. This is a subject of considerable magnitude, because we are informed that there are something like 580,000 Czechs now in German territory and something like 250,000 Germans in Czech territory. That is a matter which is left to this German-Czech Commission, and they have not yet, I understand, formulated any conclusions, but when they do they will bring them to the notice of the International Commission.
Then I come to the question of the refugees. Here, at any rate, I do not think I need quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman. All of us, I think, are at one in approaching this problem of the refugees with a very sincere sympathy, not only on account of the ordinary humanitarian principles which are common to everybody but because it has always been a tradition of British policy to offer asylum, as far as possible, to persons who, on account of racial or political or religious reasons were not able any longer to live in their own country. At the beginning of October it was represented to the Government that there were in Czechoslovakia a certain number of individuals who were in danger if they remained where they were, and accordingly we authorised the temporary admission to this country of those individuals up to the number of 350, on the undertaking, given to us, that means would be found to maintain these individuals, if necessary, during their stay here.
§ The Prime Minister
Permission to enter was given only to the actual individual in danger and not to his family, but the Government are willing to admit the families of those individuals also if similar undertakings about their maintenance are provided. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the welcome which he paid to the initiative of the Lord Mayor of London in issuing an appeal for the relief of refugees. As he said, a considerable sum of money has been raised, and the Government are giving all the assistance they can to the Lord Mayor and to his representatives in Prague; and we have given similar assistance to other British subjects who have interested themselves in the evacuation or the relief of refugees. The House will remember that we have 78 placed at the disposal of the Czechoslovakian Government a sum of £10,000,000 for their urgent needs. We told them, when we announced this decision to them, that we had particularly in mind the demands which they would have to meet in respect of the maintenance and settlement of refugees from the transferred areas, and we expressed the view that if it were thought necessary for some of those refugees to emigrate their transfer elsewhere should be assisted by the Czechoslovakian Government by funds derived from this £10,000,000.
With regard to the guaranteed loan out of which this £10,000,000 will be repaid, that is a matter which we shall have to lay before Parliament in due course. We have not yet got sufficient information as to the necessary details, nor have we yet been able to ascertain what is likely to be the attitude of the French Government in joining with us in a loan of this kind. Therefore, we are not in a position to carry the matter any further at this moment, but in due course we shall have to lay before the House the proposals we shall have to make. In the meantime, we had been informed by the Czechoslovak Government that they would welcome any arrangement by which we could be informed of the methods and the progress of expenditure out of those funds. We at once appointed as our liaison officer in Prague Mr. R. J. Stopford, who was a member of the Runciman Commission, to obtain such information as may be available from time to time as to the number and types of refugees in Czechoslovakia and the conditions in which those who might have to emigrate might be enabled to do so.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out that we are here in the presence of a comparatively new problem which goes much beyond that of the Czechoslovak refugees. We are face to face with the difficulty that more and more persons are to-day finding themselves Stateless. They are being driven out of the countries in which they had settled, and other countries have not shown any great willingness to take them in. The inter-governmental committee, over which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster presides, has the duty of dealing with this question and has made it clear that involuntary emigrants of German origin, whose emigration has arisen out of the 79 transfer of Sudetenland, will be put in the same position as other involuntary emigrants from Germany with whom the committee is already concerned. As to whether it may be possible in the future to initiate a project of the dimensions which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadowed, that is evidently a matter with which I could not deal here. It is not one for this country alone. This is not a country which has the area or the opportunity for settling a large number of emigrants. The question concerns the world as a whole. I am sure that we shall all join in hoping that a solution may be found which will mitigate the sufferings of these unfortunate people. The right hon. Gentleman drew a gloomy picture of what might be called the economic consequences of the Munich Agreement, and he suggested that there was some sinister political motive behind the economic activities of Dr. Funk.
§ Mr. Dalton
Has not the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that my right hon. Friend asked him to make a statement as to the guarantees of the new Czechoslovakian frontier?
§ The Prime Minister
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I had forgotten the question, but, as a matter of fact, I have a note to come back to the question later on; but I will deal with it at once and say that I am not yet in a position to add anything, on the subject of guarantees, to what has already been said by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The position remains exactly the same and it cannot be cleared up until the whole question of minorities in Czechoslovakia has been settled. The House will remember that it was stated that Germany and Italy would be ready to enter into a guarantee on the question of Czechoslovakia when the question of minorities had been settled. Our original offer was to enter into an international guarantee, but what the terms of that guarantee will be and who will be the partakers in that guarantee is not a question on which I can give the House any further information to-day. Of course, before anything were settled, the terms of such a guarantee and the names of those who are taking part in it would be brought before this House.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
In dealing with the frontiers the right hon. Gentleman 80 has not dealt with the Hungarian frontier. Many people are asking why we are to guarantee a frontier vis-à-vis Hungary in the determination of which we and the French are excluded.
§ The Prime Minister
In speaking of a guaranteed frontier the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. We never guaranteed the frontiers as they existed. What we did was to guarantee against unprovoked aggression—quite a different thing. That did not mean that we gave our seal to the existence of frontiers as they were then or at any other time. Our guarantee was against unprovoked aggression and not the crystallisation of frontiers. The right hon. Gentleman alternates between violent indignation and insuppressible amusement, but I do not think that my answer could give rise to either of those expressions.
I was dealing with the economic consequences of Dr. Funk's activities. Again, I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to suggest that the activities of Dr. Funk, who is the Minister concerned with economic questions, should be concealing some political motive. It is this attitude of constant suspicion—nothing can be done by anybody but what somebody or other finds concealed in it something sinister or evil—which is very largely the cause of the want of confidence existing in Europe to-day. What, taking an economic view, is the position of Germany in relation to the States of Central and South-Eastern Europe? Geographically, she must occupy a dominating position there. She does now. As a matter of fact, in so far as those States are agricultural in character, the nature of the trade between them and Germany is complementary. They can supply Germany with raw materials and foodstuffs in return for articles of manufacture which Germany is so well fitted to supply, but I do not see any reason why we should expect that a fundamental change is likely to take place in those regions. So far as Czechoslovakia is concerned, the industries in the ceded regions were industries mainly exporting in character, and they suffered a good deal in competition from Germany. It is quite true that she has ceded also valuable supplies of raw materials, such as coal, lignite and timber, but so long as she is able to import those raw materials there is no reason, so far as I can see, why her industrial position should be worsened. 81 Exchanges of goods over the frontier between Germany and Czechoslovakia are likely to be mutually beneficial. I do not imagine that there will be difficulty put in the way of importing raw materials.
§ The Prime Minister
I am talking of the industrial position of Czechoslovakia. So far as this country is concerned, we have no wish to block Germany out from those countries or to encircle her economically. It is true that we have certain trade interests there ourselves, and of course, we mean to maintaio those trade interests; and indeed, in that respect, we shall have the good will of the countries themselves. Although, as I have said, their natural market is to be found chiefly in Germany, nevertheless, they can, as a rule, only obtain payment from Germany either in the form of goods—a barter arrangement—or in the form of blocked marks. That does not suit them. They want free currency so that they may import other materials and things which they cannot get in Germany. Therefore, they do desire at least a certain proportion of their trade to be done with other countries, and for that reason we shall have their assistance and good will in our efforts to maintain our trade.
Do not let us suppose that there necessarily must be economic warfare between Germany and ourselves. There must be some competition. Competition is a thing that we thrived on in the past. It is not in our interest to see any part of the world remain poor. If by means of international trade between Germany and these countries the economic position of these countries is improved, you may be quite certain that we shall get our share of the trade. They may not buy exactly the same things from us as they buy from Germany, but they will buy from us those articles which we are most fitted to supply. I finish what I have to say on this subject by the general observation that, in my view, there is room both for Germany and for us in trade with those countries and that neither of us ought to try to obtain exclusive possession of their markets.
With regard to the other minorities, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to indicate that it was very wrong that any further encroachment should be made 82 upon the territory of Czechoslovakia. Surely that is not a position that we can take up. What we are doing now, as was pointed out by my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, is witnessing the readjustment of frontiers laid down in the Treaty of Versailles. I do not know whether the people who were responsible for those frontiers thought they would remain permanently as they were laid down. I doubt very much whether they did. They probably expected that from time to time the frontiers would have to be adjusted. It is impossible to conceive that those people would be such supermen as to be able to see what would be the right frontiers for all time. The question is not whether those frontiers should be readjusted from time to time but whether they should be readjusted by negotiation and discussion, or be readjusted by war. Readjustment is going on and, in the case of the Hungarian frontier, arbitration by Germany and Italy has been accepted by Czechoslovakia and Hungary for the final determination of the frontier between them. I think I have said enough about Czechoslovakia.
I do not propose to talk about Spain, following the example of the right hon. Gentleman. As to China, I can only say that there again the right hon. Gentleman appears to me to be taking an unnecessarily gloomy view of the future. He spoke of China as one of the largest potential markets in the world. Potential—what does that mean? China cannot be developed into a real market without the influx of a great deal of capital, and the fact that so much capital is being destroyed during this war means that even more capital will have to be put into China in the future, when the war is over. Who is going to supply the capital? It is quite certain that it cannot be supplied by Japan. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman appears to contemplate a future in which Japan will have the monopoly of Chinese trade, and we shall be excluded from it altogether, I say that that is flying in the face of the facts. It is quite certain that, when the war is over and the reconstruction of China begins, she cannot possibly be reconstructed without some help from this country. [Interruption.] That is a matter for those who are asked to invest their money to consider at the time.
I want to turn to another aspect of the consequences that flow, I will not say 83 from the Munich Agreement, but from the events which led up to it. The House will remember that when I spoke last, on 6th October, I told hon. Members that I was proposing to make a thorough and complete review of our civil and military defences, in order to see what errors and deficiencies might have been revealed and to take the necessary steps to make them good. On the civil side that review has been made, and, of course, it has shown what, indeed, was well known before, that our preparations were far from complete. All the same, I am of opinion that, if they had been put to the test, they would have been shown to have worked a great deal better than many people seem to suppose from the accounts of the deficiencies which were in fact shown up. This country, sometimes, is rather slow to get to work, but, when it does get to work, it works in double quick time; and the amount of work which was actually carried out, and efficiently carried out, during the crisis, is, I think, an indication that these air-raid precautions would not have been the complete and utter failure which some seem to think they would have been. I need not go further into that matter now, since it is to be the subject of a Vote of Censure, I understand, in a couple of days' time. What seems to me to be of much more interest to the general public than the question as to what blame should be attributed and where, is what is going to be done now, in order that there may be no cause for blame in the future. We had our warning; we had some sort of rehearsal; and we are in a position now to get a better picture of the whole situation than we were before. I think the House will probably like me to give them some short account of the measures by which we are proposing to deal with air-raid precautions in the future.
We have come to the conclusion that the whole subject of air-raid precautions has assumed such gigantic proportions, and has developed such complexity, that the burden is really too great to be imposed upon the Home Office in addition to its ordinary duties. We want a separate Minister with special administrative and organising experience, who could devote his whole attention to this subject. Accordingly, I invited my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) to undertake 84 this task, and, as the House will be aware, his appointment as Lord Privy Seal has been approved by His Majesty the King. He will hold the office of Lord Privy Seal, but the duties of that office are not very onerous, and, in fact, this Minister will be the Minister of Civilian Defence. In that capacity he will have direct charge of air-raid precautions, and he will also be responsible, in consultation with the Departments concerned, for determining arrangements for national voluntary service.
With reference to air-raid precautions, hon. Members will appreciate that a large number of Departments are concerned in this work, and that they must be responsible in an emergency for functions which have to be exercised through their existing organisation. We have the Home Office, dealing with, perhaps, the major part of the work, especially police work, as well as fire brigades, gas-masks and so forth. Then we have the Ministry of Health, which is in close touch with local authorities, and is also responsible for the medical services, including nursing and ambulance provision. Then there is the Board of Trade, which must be responsible for the storage and distribution of food, and, of course, for the distribution of shipping and the decision as to where shipping is to be embarked and disembarked. There is the Board of Education, which must marshal the children in case of evacuation; there is the Ministry of Transport, which has to provide that railways or other forms of transport shall be available to carry out evacuation; there is the Post Office, which is responsible for communications and for the repair of such things as telephone or telegraph services in case of damage; and finally, of course, there is the Ministry of Labour, which has to see that labour is available for all the services as it is wanted. These services in Scotland are, of course, under the Secretary of State for Scotland. The House will see, therefore, that, in addition to the Home Office and the Scottish Office, all these other Departments have to play their part, and it is necessary that their activities should be co-ordinated, so that each of them may know beforehand exactly what is going to be expected of it in an emergency. For that purpose we shall set up committees of the Ministers of these various Departments and also of 85 the senior officials. Over both these committees, for the time being at any rate, while the organisation is being perfected, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Civilian Defence will preside. These committees will be part of the organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and their purpose will be to ensure a proper co-ordination between the civilian Services and the needs of the Defence Services.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is it intended that the Lord Privy Seal shall be a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence?
§ The Prime Minister
Oh, yes, certainly. That is a brief outline of the arrangement, which can be further developed. I feel confident that this arrangement will produce the results we require in the shortest possible time.
§ Mr. Attlee
Will the Lord Privy Seal be the responsible Minister in charge, or will he be merely a co-ordinating Minister, running round and bringing other people together?
§ The Prime Minister
He will be both; he will be the responsible Minister in charge and also the co-ordinating Minister. With regard to national voluntary service, it will be one of the first duties of my right hon. Friend to examine, with his colleagues, what will be the best way of availing ourselves of the general desire on the part of the public to help the nation. While the House is already aware that we have no intention of imposing compulsion in any form, we are satisfied that it is both desirable and practicable to meet the needs of civilian defence by voluntary action, provided that that action is suitably guided and organised.
With regard to the review of our military, naval and air defences, the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned again today the question of a Ministry of Supply, which, he says, he and his friends have long demanded. We have considered once more whether the time had come when it would be useful and desirable to set up a Ministry of Supply. In forming a judgment on that question, it is necessary to think very clearly what a Ministry of Supply would be expected to do which is not already done by the Service Departments with the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, whose title, of course, includes co-ordination of supply, 86 and with the assistance also of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. If a Minister of Supply were appointed merely to take over the designing and contracting staffs of the Defence Departments, without any additional powers, I cannot resist the conclusion that the first effect must be a dislocation to some extent of the existing arrangements, and that must necessarily result, not in an acceleration, but in a slowing down of the progress of our armaments. If you are really to produce any substantial result—and even then it would not come at once—you would have to arm such a Minister with compulsory powers, with powers of compulsion upon individual firms, and also upon individual men and women. I venture to say that, while you can easily persuade people to accept compulsion of that kind in time of war, it is quite another thing to ask them to do so in time of peace; and it would be all the more difficult to obtain agreement because those powers, if given now, would not require to be exercised universally, but would have to be exercised with discrimination. You would have to discriminate between one firm and another, and between one individual and another, and you would have to justify yourselves every time you proposed to put compulsion upon Firm A instead of Firm B, or upon Ben Smith instead of Tom Jones.
It must be remembered that we are not to-day in the same position as we were in 1914, in this respect: that we are not now contemplating the equipment of an army on a continental scale. Our requirements to-day are limited; our difficulties are chiefly concerned with the supply of certain classes of specially skilled labour. I am not satisfied that in order to obtain that supply of labour where we want it, or, alternatively, in order to put the work where that labour is—I am not satisfied that it is necessary to introduce compulsion. I am not satisfied that we cannot get what we want by voluntary co-operation of employers and trade unionists. When we have done everything that we can on voluntary lines, if we find that we still cannot fill our requirements, then it will be time enough to talk about a Ministry of Supply with compulsory powers. But up to then I am convinced that the most satisfactory course is to perfect and accelerate the methods we have been pursuing, and which have given a very large measure of success.
§ Mr. Attlee
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that those who advocate a Ministry of Supply do not accept for a moment the idea that it must have compulsory powers?
§ The Prime Minister
I said that it must involve compulsory powers if it was to produce an appreciable effect. If the right hon. Gentleman does not accept that, perhaps he will say, when he again intervenes in the Debate, in what way it will produce an appreciable effect without compulsory powers. I have never yet been able to discover how it can be done. Generally, on the military side we have not yet completed the consideration of the review which we have made, but, as I stated in answer to a question, there will be an opportunity in the new Session of Parliament to have a full debate on this subject. I would like, however, to make two general observations on the subject now. The first is this. I want hon. Members to remember that our programme of rearmament is a five-year programme, and we are now only in the third year of that programme. To argue that because everything had not been completed in the third year the programme had broken down is to lose sight altogether of the fact that it was never intended to be completed in three years. I doubt whether it would have been possible, if we had endeavoured to do so at the beginning of the programme, to squeeze a five-year programme into three years. But, to conclude, our review does bring up the special urgency of certain parts of that programme and the necessity for reinforcement of certain weak spots, which, if they were allowed to continue, might jeopardise the effectiveness of the whole system which we have built up. Therefore, we have to address ourselves to this point. The measures which it will be necessary to take will undoubtedly add to the total cost of armaments as we had hitherto contemplated.
That brings me to my second observation, which concerns the use which is to be made of these armaments. I tried on 5th October to give as clear an exposition as I could of the Government's policy; but I regret to observe that since then doubts have been expressed in some quarters, both at home and abroad, as to whether this review, this bringing up to standard of the scale of our armaments, is consistent with the peaceful professions which we are expressing at the 88 same time. I do not know why any different standards should be applied to this country and to other countries in that respect. But I do repeat here categorically what I have so often said, that we have no aggressive intentions against Germany or any other country. Our sole concern is to see that this country and her Imperial communications are safe, and that we shall not be so weak relatively with other countries that our diplomacy cannot enter upon discussions upon an equal footing. There is nothing further from our minds than entry upon a new armaments race.
In talking about the Munich results, it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman forgot the last act at Munich, which, after all, is not the least important one. That declaration which was signed by Herr Hitler and myself, and in which we recorded our belief in the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again, and expressed our own intention that the method of consultation should be the method adopted to deal with other questions which might concern us, and our intention also to continue our efforts to remove every possible source of difference—that declaration signed by us seems to have dropped out of sight lately. I myself feel that in that declaration, if it is properly and suitably followed up, lies the chance of a new era of peace in Europe. When I signed that document I meant what was in the document. I am convinced that Herr Hitler meant it too when he signed it; and I am equally convinced that those views are the views of the majority of the people both in Germany and in this country. Let there be no mistake, let there be no doubts as to our policy and our intentions; as to the desire, the firm determination, that there shall be no sitting still and waiting for peace to come, but that we must take firm and practical steps towards that end. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were to wait always until war threatened before we thought the time was ripe for discussion. No Sir. That is the whole point of the policy which we are pursuing, that we should not wait. Too often delays have taken place in the past. We should not wait until a crisis becomes acute before we try to settle it, but we should try to consolidate the good will of the four Powers when they assembled at Munich, and we should endeavour to 89 restore European confidence by the removal of fears and suspicions.
The ultimate aim of this Government, as I believe it must be the ultimate aim of every Government, whatever its complexion may be, is the improvement of the standard of living of the people. It is difficult to reconcile that with the continued piling up of armaments. We should always have that in mind. What we are aiming at is, first, the limitation of armaments by agreement—for unilateral disarmament will help nobody—and, in the end, the practical abolition. That is looking very far ahead: I shall not see it; but I do not see why we should not get the first stages of it if we pursue a consistent and persistent policy. We shall never get far unless we can accustom ourselves to the idea that the democracies and the totalitarian States are not to be ranged against one another in two opposing blocs, but that they can, if they choose, work together not merely for the settlement of differences after they have arisen, but also for the operation of a constructive programme, a programme which will facilitate the international exchange of goods and the regulation of international relations in various ways for the good of all. That is the policy which is sometimes called the policy of appeasement. That is the policy to which this Government intends wholeheartedly to devote itself.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The situation is so serious, and the need for finding the greatest possible measure of national unity is so urgent, that I do not want to spend much time on the past in the observations which I am going to make to the House this evening, but there are one or two things that the Prime Minister said about what has happened in the recent past to which I must refer. First of all, I want to refer to the arguments which he used to justify the use of the 1910 census as the basis for the drawing of the frontiers of Czechoslovakia. When it was agreed that whatever territories contained 50 per cent. of German-speaking population were to be returned to Germany, it was a clear and plain defiance of the principle of self-determination, even if the figures taken had been those of a recent election, because it is quite clear that of the 49 per cent, of Czechs all would have been in favour of 90 remaining in Czechoslovakia, and of the 50 and odd per cent. of Germans a substantial minority would have been in favour of remaining in Czechoslovakia—Jews, Democrats, trade unionists, Socialists, all of whom had every reason to view with horror the prospect of passing under the Nazi rÉgime.
To adopt the 1910 census, taken 28 years ago, a generation ago, was to reduce the whole scheme to absurdity. And, indeed, everybody knows that the 1910 census was taken by the officials of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in a most ruthless and unscrupulous way. It is well known that prominent Englishmen who were living in Austria at the time and were able to speak German, were asked whether they were able to speak German and written down as German-speaking inhabitants of that country. But self-determination, if it has any real meaning at all, means ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants. It must be based upon the wishes of the inhabitants, and the basis of the solution which the Prime Minister agreed to adopt was not self-determination at all. It was merely the racial theory of the Nazis that wherever there are 50 per cent. or more of the German race that population must come under the rule of the German Government. But that is not self-determination.
The Prime Minister referred to the optants. He said that, under the scheme which was going to be approved by the International Commission in Berlin, men and women who were brought now within the frontiers of the Reich, would have the option of going out of the Reich and coming into Czechoslovakia if they pleased. If, as I understand, the President of the Board of Trade is to reply to this Debate, I will put to him this question. Will an effort be made to offer this option to people who are now in concentration camps; people who have been taken hold of and put there to be kept, as Herr Henlein said, until they turned black? Will they be given the option of leaving the concentration camps and going into Czechoslovakia if they wish? I would like a definite answer to that question.
Then about the refugees. The Prime Minister said that of those whose lives were directly threatened if they returned to Germany, we had offered asylum to 350. I understand that there are altogether about 30,000 to 50,000 German refugees whose lives or liberties are in 91 danger if ever they return to Germany, but of these about 5,000 are in direct danger of their lives. That is to say, they are prominent trade union leaders, people who have made themselves prominent in the defence of the Czechoslovak State, and leading representatives of the democratic parties, and I urge the Government that they should consider making a more generous contribution than offering asylum to 350 of these people. I have seen it stated that we have done as much as or more than France, but let it be remembered that France has done an immense amount for other people. France has had the Saar refugees thrown upon her in great numbers, and she has had an enormous number of refugees, far more than we have had, from Spain, and I do not think that it is a fair standard of comparison for this country to take what the French have done, and I urge the Government to be more generous in their estimate of our responsibilities towards these unhappy refugees.
There is only one other thing more I want to say about the past, and I must say this because it seems to me to go to the roots of the perplexities and dangers in which we now find ourselves. The Prime Minister, since he took over the responsibility for foreign affairs from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), seems to me at every stage to have mistaken the real issues and to have misunderstood the real intentions of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler. During the last General Election—and, after all, that is only three years ago—the Prime Minister said:There is not one of the small countries of Europe which has not breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that at last we were going to put ourselves in a position to defend ourselves if necessary and to fulfil our obligations under the Covenant.I did not hear in the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon any reference whatsoever to our obligations under the Covenant. The sighs to-day from the small nations of Europe are more audible than they were when the Prime Minister spoke only three years ago, but they are not sighs of relief. They are sighs of anxiety and suffering. Again, the Prime Minister, speaking at that time deprecating a change of Government as a possible result of the General Election, said: 92Foreign countries would not know if in future they could rely on the British Empire or not.The Government were returned to power and now they do know. At least Abyssinia knows—and it was round Italian aggression in Abyssinia that the Election was fought. Austria, whose independence was declared to be an object of British policy also knows. Czechoslovakia knows, and is now entrusting her destinies to Germany. Spain has few illusions left. The Prime Minister rebuked the Leader of the Opposition for describing the Munich Agreement as a defeat for the democracies and for law and order. He contrasted the speech of the Leader of the Opposition with the speeches that are made in totalitarian countries. He said they do not attack their own Governments. For my part I have not this respect for such totalitarian tradition. I prefer the British tradition of free speech, and I tell the Prime Minister that the people of this country mean to keep it and not to accept his totalitarian standards. When he contrasts the speech of the Leader of the Opposition with the speeches in totalitarian countries, it seems to me that, if you look at the merits of the matter, the speeches of the leaders in the totalitarian countries are exactly on the same lines as the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, for all assert loudly and with confidence that undoubtedly Munich was a defeat for Britain and France and a great victory for Hitler. Herr Goebbels, a member of the Reich Chancellor's Cabinet, one of the closest to him of all the members of the Cabinet, says that Herr Hitler went to Munich with "Mein Kampf" in one hand and the sword in the other, and we know that, as a matter of fact, that is true. In the name of justice and self-determination we have added scores of thousands of Czechs, Germans and Jews to the flood of world refugees and condemned thousands of others to Nazi concentration camps and to lesser forms of tyranny and brutality.
§ Mr. Donner
Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that there would be fewer refugees if there had been no Munich Agreement and a war?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I certainly think that they would not have been refugees from Nazi tryanny, nor do I admit for one moment that war would necessarily have taken place if the policy of the right hon. 93 Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington had been maintained—the League of Nations policy. I believe that that was the only way to preserve both peace and justice and that, since that policy was abandoned at every stage, we have drifted nearer and nearer to war, until a few days ago we found ourselves, under the policy which the hon. Member supports, on the brink of it. It was the result which I have prophesied, of that policy which my hon. Friends have prophesied, which hon. Members on this side of the House have prophesied, the inevitable result of the policy which the hon. Member himself supports.
Now perhaps I shall be allowed to continue my speech, because I do not think that the interruption was very relevant. I was saying that thousands of refugees have been condemned to the concentration camps and added to the flood of refugees which is pouring over the world. One by one in the name of appeasement, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia and in Spain, we are handing over the keys of world power into the keeping of the most aggressive tyrannies since Napoleon's. In Austria, in Czechoslovakia, and now perhaps in Spain, the armies, air forces, great munitions industries, rich economic resources and connections of whole countries are being turned over in the balance sheet of power from the side of law and order to the side of aggression and destruction. To the 35 German divisions released from the Czech frontiers, add 12 Austrian divisions and the fresh divisions which will be raised in Austria and in the Sudetenland territories. Lord Baldwin declared that our frontier now is on the Rhine; and now there are 50 more divisions to attack it. The edge of our naval weapon is blunted, for the blockade is losing its power.
These are the circumstances in which, for the first time, we are being asked to undertake an onerous and dangerous commitment, a specific guarantee against unprovoked aggression of a frontier in Central Europe. To have given it before the crisis was one thing when the frontiers of Czechoslovakia were in the mountains, when she had a fine army with high moral, splendidly equipped, and also with a great munitions industry behind it, and when we might have had the full support of Russia and France, and perhaps of other nations—that was one thing. What 94 does it mean to give it now? This is the question which I am putting to the Government, so I would ask the President of the Board of Trade if he would kindly answer that when he comes to reply. The Prime Minister said that it was a guarantee not of a specific frontier, but against unprovoked aggression. Was not the Polish irruption into Teschen an act of unprovoked aggression, and had not the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence said that the guarantee was already morally in operation? What happened? How did we fulfil it? You say we shall fulfil it if similar circumstances arise in the future, or if there is an act of even more flagrant aggression. Even if you can excuse the Polish aggression—I do not know if you can or not; I can think of no excuse for it—but if there was an act of even more flagrant aggression how are we to fulfil this guarantee? We ought to know now and not wait until an act of flagrant aggression happens and then be told, "You must realise that it is very difficult for us to do anything. The totalitarian Powers stretch between us and Czechoslovakia. What is it in our power to do?" Do not let us wait for that situation to arise. Let us know now. Let us be told now. How is it expected that we are to fulfil this guarantee? Is it to be a joint or a several guarantee? Is an effort to he made to get Russia in? The Prime Minister said that it was too early to ask for details as to who were to be the guarantors. Are we going to try and get Russia in? Are we going to exert our influence with Russia and ask her to come in? Let the Government tell us that.
The Prime Minister said, towards the end of his speech, that we were not contemplating the equipment of an Army on a Continental scale. That has always been my view, but the situation has greatly changed in recent weeks, and I would ask the President of the Board of Trade whether His Majesty's Government can assure us that, in the opinion of their military advisers, we should be able to fulfil our commitments under this specific guarantee without an army on a Continental scale. On the day that the Prime Minister went to the Munich Conference I pleaded with him to go there to ensure the economic survival and the complete freedom and independence of Czechoslovakia. Rightly or wrongly, he did not 95 do so, and with increasing rapidity that country is falling under the influence and control of Germany. The Czechs do not seem to attach very much importance to our guarantee. At any rate, when they found there was a difficulty about the Hungarian frontier it was not to us that they came. They went to Germany and Italy to settle it. In these circumstances we ought to think very carefully before we decide to give this guarantee in these new circumstances that have arisen since the Munich Conference. Let the Government tell us exactly what it involves before we decide.
On this vital issue and also on the main principles of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government the Prime Minister's speech left me puzzled and bewildered. He said that he was taking active and positive steps towards appeasement. We are entitled to ask, what are they? I hope the President of the Board of Trade will tell us what they are. It is a painful fact that Britain and France no longer count east of the Rhine since Munich. If that be so, then I suggest to the Government that we must do our utmost to support France, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland, who now badly need our support. We know perfectly well that a violent Nazi agitation is being conducted not only in Alsace-Lorraine but also in Switzerland.
If these be the circumstances, it is obvious that Spain will be of vital importance for the defence of the democracies; Spain, which lies across our communications with the East and across the communications of France with North Africa. There is no doubt in France about the importance of this question. The Congress of the Radical-Socialist party has just been held in Marseilles, the party from which almost the whole of the present French Government is drawn, and they have passed a resolution stressing the necessity, from the standpoint of French security, of having all foreign fighters without exception withdrawn from Spain. It seems to me that that is equally true of Britain. Does His Majesty's Government accept that view? If so, why do they now seek to bring the Anglo-Italian pact into operation? Signor Mussolini has categorically stated that he will not tolerate a Government in Spain of which he disapproves. Does that statement stand? Do His Majesty's 96 Government recognise Signor Mussolini's right to dictate who should govern Spain?
I do not want to pursue the Spanish problem to-day because it is to be discussed to-morrow, but I say that Italian troops, airmen, military specialists and technicians should all be withdrawn from Spain, Majorca and all Spanish territories before the Anglo-Italian Pact is brought into operation. The obligations of those who signed the Non-Intervention Agreement are very specific. They have undertaken not to have troops in Spain and not to import war materials, such as guns and rifles, into Spain. The Prime Minister tells us that he believes the word of Herr Hitler. He believes the word of Signor Mussolini. Here is a simple test. Here are the signatures which have been given to the Non-Intervention Agreement, and I say to the Government that they have no right to ask us to respect the signatures of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler until Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler have honoured the signatures which they have put to the Non-Intervention Agreement.
Everywhere the results of Munich and the disastrous events of the last few weeks have encouraged the friends of the dictators and everywhere they have been a blow to British prestige, not only in Europe but in Palestine and the Far Fast. The very week of the Munich Conference General Ugaki who was well known to be an advocate of a moderate policy, left the Foreign Office and the Japanese launched their attack on Canton, which they knew was bound to touch British interests. Before Munich they did not dare to do that. It was Munich which gave them that encouragement. In these circumstances two things are urgent as regards China. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to tell us the intentions of the Government with regard to China. The first essential is to give financial help to China in the desperate straits or, rather, I would say, the extremely critical straits in which she finds herself. When I raised this question in July the Government said that they would not give a loan but that they were considering other means of helping China financially. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to look up the assurance that was given to me in July and tell us what has been done to fulfil it, and what financial help is now being extended to China. In the second place, the Japanese have 97 threatened the French that if material continues to reach the Chinese forces through Indo-China a grave situation will be created. I would ask the Government whether they are going to tell the French that if they find themselves in difficulties there we will stand by them. It seems to me vital that we should do so if we are to show ourselves loyal friends of the French people and also to ensure that trade between China and the European Powers is not subject to further interruption.
On the last occasion that we discussed these matters the Prime Minister said that the difference between himself and his opponents was that he wanted to negotiate with the dictatorship countries and we did not. That is not the difference. We on these Benches have never said we would not negotiate with the dictator countries. On the contrary, we have frequently made specific suggestions to the Government that they should negotiate with the dictatorships on a large range of subjects, including economic questions. What we do say is that when we have negotiations with the dictatorships about any particular problem all the countries interested in that problem should be there and that the negotiations should not simply be with the dictatorship Powers. The effect of the Prime Minister's policy has been enormously to strengthen the dictatorships while in one country after another the course of freedom and democracy is being betrayed. Even in France and Britain Herr Hitler is now presuming to interfere with our domestic policy. He is indicating in regard both to France and Britain that he is willing to deal with certain Ministers and that it would be impossible for him to deal with other Ministers. This is not a policy of peace; it is a policy of scuttle and defeatism. This is simply storing up for the successors of the present Government a hard choice between war and complete submission to the dictators' will.
We were entitled to be told more clearly by the Prime Minister what is the policy that the Government are going to pursue. Peace is not a policy; it is the aim of policy. Peace, as the Prime Minister said, would be the policy of any Government in power in this country. How are the Government pursuing peace? What are the steps that they are taking? How are the economic problems to be dealt with? Is the van Zeeland 98 Report to be taken out of the pigeon hole? Is the Prime Minister going to wait until compliance with the demands of Herr Hitler is again extorted by force, or is he going out to meet these problems? When the Prime Minister was asked this afternoon at question time what conversations had taken place between His Majesty's Government and the German Government, he hardly seemed to understand the question. If this policy of appeasement is really being followed there ought to have been conversations going on all the time since the Munich Conference. The Government ought to tell us on what lines these conversations are being conducted and on what lines they will be conducted in the future.
Let us consider our friends first. Let us consider the United States of America and the vital importance of friendship between ourselves and the United States of America. Let us get the Anglo-American trade treaty negotiated. Then there is the vital importance of our friendship with France. When the Leader of the Opposition said that the economic and the financial aspect was vital, the Prime Minister said that it had very little to do with international affairs. I say that it is vital that we should give to France the economic and financial support of which she very sorely stands in need. I hope that the rumours that are going around that we are thinking of giving support to other countries who have not proved themselves to be the friends of peace and law and order, are not true, and that if we are to give financial or economic support or credits to any foreign countries they will be given to those in whose good faith, devotion to peace and to the rule of law we have confidence. Then there is Russia which we ought to grapple to us if we are going to rally the friends of peace under the rule of law.
The Prime Minister said nothing about colonies. Is nothing going to be done about colonies? We should know what the Government's policy is regarding colonies. We know that Herr Hitler says that the question will not wait; he is not being silent. Why cannot we be told what the Government's policy is? I ask the President of the Board of Trade to tell us. Are we going to raise the question or are we going to wait until Herr Hitler raises it? I am not going to take up the time of the House by saying what I think would be an ideal solution of the 99 problem of colonies, because I do not suppose that the statesmen of all countries concerned meeting round a table would accept the solution which I should suggest, but I would ask the Government whether they agree that a solution of the colonial problem must be found on the basis of three principles. First, trusteeship for the interests of the natives, with guarantees for their welfare and against the militarisation and conscription of the natives, and trusteeship in the interests of civilisation, that is to say, free access to the raw materials and food supplies to be found in these countries to the merchants and traders of the whole world. I know that there is a difference of opinion between hon. Members opposite and myself about the proper interpretation of the principle of trusteeship, but I think we are united in saying that these twin principles should be the foundation of colonial policy and not the contrary principle of exploitation. I want to know whether the Government are holding firm to the principle of trusteeship.
Secondly, will the Government agree that all Powers with colonial interests must be consulted and that the smaller Powers must not only be told after consultations have taken place between the four big Powers what they have to contribute but that they must be in at the beginning of the conversations, and also that all Powers with colonial claims should be there too so that the whole question can be thrashed out. Then, whatever the solution is, it must not really amount to the offer of a mandated territory in order to buy a few months' peace from Germany. If there is to be any solution of this colonial problem it must be as part of a general settlement, and the acid test of that general settlement must be a measure of general disarmament. That is the test of the sincerity of any peace settlement. Further, I would ask the Government whether they do not agree that the basis of general disarmament should be the remaining in force of the Anglo-German Treaty limiting the size of the German navy to one-third of ours, while on the other hand, I would agree that the size of the British army should not be more than one-third of the size of the German, and, in the third place, seeing that this country offers the most exposed and tempting target to air attack of any country in the world, I 100 say that we must demand, as Lord Baldwin said that a national Government of all conceivable governments must demand most persistently and resolutely that in the air we must have air parity with any air force within striking distance of our shores. If the Prime Minister goes out for peace on these lines we are with him. It must not be a peace of compliance with the tyrant's will but a peace based on justice, on the principles of the League of Nations; a peace of the sincerity of which the acid test will he disarmament.
§ Mr. R. H. Morgan
The right hon. Gentleman has said Great Britain and France no longer count. Seeing that Great Britain and France are the mainstays of the League of Nations at the present time, are not all these things which the right hon. Gentleman deplores due to a breakdown of the League of Nations rather than to any default by this country?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
If I were to answer the hon. Member fully I think it would take up a good deal of time, but let me say that I did not say that Great Britain and France did not count. I said that they are not counting now East of the Rhine, and I think that is true.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Donner
Before I attempt to give an answer to some aspects of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I should like to offer an apology to the House because a previous engagement this evening will prevent me from staying to the end of the Debate. I want to make the apology now lest any hon. Member should think I have no interest in listening to the rest of the Debate. The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) has on many occasions given me the impression that he assumes the possession of a sense of international morality superior to that of any one else in the House. Again and again, as he has done this evening, he brings up the old question of Abyssinia, which I thought was dead and buried by now. When the present Home Secretary, then the Foreign Secretary, delivered his personal explanation to this House on the occasion of his resignation on the question of Abyssinia, he showed in his speech that not a single Power save Australia and New Zealand took any precautionary military measures whatever. These two 101 Dominions sent cruisers across the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea into the waters of the Mediterranean. It was evident from this fact that the League of Nations from that moment failed to function, and I held, and still hold, the view that there was a moral obligation upon the League and upon every hon. Member when that happened, to recognise the fact and to do something to compensate, if I might use the word, Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Abyssinia.
The only endeavour to save a part of Abyssinia for the Emperor was the Hoare-Laval pact which saved him something from the wreck, but the right hon. Gentleman was not one of those who supported it. He denounced it and those of us who supported it, despite the fact that many of us regarded such an endeavour as a moral obligation which should be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of 30 divisions which had now been released from the Czechoslovakian frontiers and which can now be turned upon France. That is the spirit which cannot possibly lead to appeasement, and which will never bring peace in Europe. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman deliver many speeches in this House. I should like to say, not too offensively I hope, that that is a sentiment which lies like a stone on the spirit. He says that we cannot trust the word of a dictator.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The difference is between those who are loyal to the rule of law and those who regard the national will as the sole motive of their policy.
§ Mr. Donner
I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but I understood from his speech that he made it perfectly plain that he does not trust Herr Hitler's word. I say that the best way in which to make a man keep his word is not to throw doubt upon it. When the Prime Minister came to this House in the recent special Session and delivered his speech, every hon. Member jumped to his feet and wished him Godspeed. I do not remember the right hon. Gentleman saying that it was no use going to Munich, on the grounds that we could place no reliance on Herr Hitler's word. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the encirclement of Germany, although he did not use that word. I believe that the day of the encirclement of Germany is past and over. We must approach this 102 subject in a new spirit, with a new mental orientation. The right hon. Gentleman's whole speech from the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia to the point when he thought that 30 divisions would be moved to the Western front revealed that he distrusts Germany and believes that Germany desires war and that the best way to deal with Germany is to encircle her. The question whether you can permanently keep in subjection a great nation of 80,000,000 people is practical politics or not is over. That belongs to the past. The right hon. Gentleman thinks in terms of a war of prevention. Those days are over long ago. It might have been the right policy in 1925 as some people in France believed, but it cannot be wise to wait until Germany is fully armed and then adopt a policy of encirclement.
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded and spoke of the Polish irruption into Teschen. I do not desire to make any excuses at all for what has happened, but I would remind him of the history of that incident. In the year 1920 Poland was fighting Soviet Russia and the Bolshevists were at the gates of Warsaw. The Czechoslovakian Government taking advantage of Poland's hour of danger and difficulty, seized Teschen and even prevented equipment and supplies reaching Poland from Hungary. I do not say that I agree with either action, nor do I justify either, but I say it reveals and represents the kind of spirit which I believe still lives in the right hon. Gentleman, a spirit which cannot lead to peace and can end only in war.
Reference was made earlier in the Debate to the economic results of the Munich Agreement. I suggest to the House that if it is possible for Germany to expand economically in South Eastern Europe, that is a matter which should not cause us anxiety, but is rather a development which we should welcome. I believe that German economic expansion in South Eastern Europe is natural, just as our economic expansion in the Dominions and Colonies overseas is natural. If we can help Germany to increase her trade in South Eastern Europe, we shall be assisting her to raise the standard of living there as well as her own, and I believe that if there is a contented Germany, which does not merely exist, but in which there is a decent standard of living maintained and made possible, then there will be a greater chance of living in Europe 103 side by side with a Germany which can live contentedly in peace, rather than with a Germany that is starving and in despair. Therefore, we ought not to be over-anxious if Dr. Funk's great drive into South Eastern Europe succeeds.
I do not believe we shall lose these markets entirely, for, as the Prime Minister pointed out, many of the countries in South Eastern Europe, many of the Danubian countries, require foreign exchange, and they can obtain it only by trading with Great Britain and France. But just as it is natural for Germany to trade with South Eastern Europe, so it is natural, surely, for us to increase our trade with the Dominions and Colonies. I express the hope and belief that the Munich settlement will represent a new chapter in our history. If it leads to greater German prosperity, that will be a factor on the side of peace. I believe that one of the results of it will be that we shall turn more to our own Dominions and Colonies than in the past, and do our best to extend our trade with them and develop the territories within the British Empire. If that should happen, then even greater good will come of that Agreement than we see to-day.
There is one obstacle which still remains to such progress. I should like to make an appeal for the formation of a small committee or commission to examine the whole question of inter-Imperial trade, because I think that the facts and figures which are really essential to us are missing. What is needed are statistics to show what the Dominions produce and in what quantities and where, how much they sell and to whom they sell it, how much they buy and from where, and lastly what are the transport and communications which are available. If we had those data and statistics, it should not be beyond our capacity to build up a great Imperial trade on a complementary and not on a competitive basis of production. If that policy were coupled with a great policy of fostering at home the domestic power of production, then we should secure an even higher standard of living in this country. I believe that by carrying out such a policy we should be able to maintain and increase the standard of living in England.
Before concluding, there is one other aspect to which I wish to draw attention. 104 I believe that the solution of many of our economic problems, and many of the economic problems which will face this country after the Munich Agreement, lies in the lesson provided by the example of one man, Lord Nuffield. Let the House consider what has happened in regard to him. We find that a great industry has been built up as a result of the establishment of the McKenna Duties. We see not only an improved article produced for the consumers, but we find that the price has been lowered; and we see that Lord Nuffield has accumulated a great fortune which he has given back to the people. That is the point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. Not only has he secured much for Oxford economically, but the great bulk of his fortune has gone back to the people who made it. I suggest that ought to prove a great lesson to all of us. If we were to recognise that we are faced with immensely high tariff barriers all over the world and that there is little or nothing that we can do to reduce many of those barriers, and sell in those markets denied to us to-day, and if we accepted those conditions and facts and heightened our own tariffs and made greater use of them, by protecting ourselves, we could create a higher standard of employment and living in England.
§ Mr. Donner
Yes, it is. I believe that if one took, over the last five years, an average of the profits of all companies in England—index them individually, for the sake of argument, at 100—and increased the protection for those industries, one could estimate quite easily the increased profits produced by the higher tariffs, and if one were to return that extra profit in the shape of, say, 10 per cent. to the State, for giving the benefit of the tariff, 10 per cent. to the shareholders, 30 per cent. for the renewal of equipment and machinery, and 50 per cent. to the people who created it, not only would it create a higher standard of living and greater employment in this Country, but it would create a new spirit of co-operation between the Government and the employers and the employÉs.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not follow the hon. Member's argument. He was arguing a little earlier in his speech that it was in our interests to do what we could to 105 raise the standard of living and increase the prosperity of Germany, and I gather of other European countries. Does he suppose that a steep increase in our own tariffs would conduce to that end?
§ Mr. Donner
I do. I explained at the beginning of my speech that I believe that the natural expansion of German trade is in South-Eastern European, just as the natural expansion of English trade lies, in the first instance, in fostering the domestic power of production, and secondly, in increasing trade with the Dominions and Colonies on the lines I have suggested. If a policy on those lines were carried out, I believe it would create a new spirit of national unity and of good will and co-operation among the working people of this country. Such a policy could be carried out simultaneously with the Prime Minister's policy of appeasement. I believe we should make it plain that we are not prepared to fight in Europe or anywhere else except in a cause more essential, more vital and more important to the interests of this country than is the maintenance of peace itself to this country, and by fostering such a spirit at home, by stimulating trade within the Empire, this country would be able to look forward to a great, happy and peaceful future.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
We meet to-day in circumstances different from those in which we met a month ago. Then it was a day of tension, and when Ministers and the Front Opposition Bench came in at 2.45 for prayers, one Member said: "Are things as bad as that?" We wished the Prime Minister Godspeed when he went to Munich, and when he came back I told my constituents that I was glad of the respite. Representing as I do the vulnerable city of Hull, with its teeming population, I contemplated with horror what would happen to Hull and to London in the event of war. I was glad of the Agreement, but since then I have found myself saying, as did our great weekly humorous magazine, that it was a peace we were glad of, but not very proud of. I suggest to the Prime Minister that the German Government have badly let him down by not showing a more accommodating spirit and greater magnanimity. They have made his position and that of the Government more difficult. Although the House may 106 wonder what that matters to a Labour Member, I feel that as long as the right hon. Gentleman is Prime Minister, and as long as he was doing what he thought was right in his policy of appeasement, the Fuhrer might have behaved better than he has done, especially to Czechoslovakia.
I suppose that I am the only Hussite Member of the House. I am rather proud to be what is known as a Moravian Brother. The Hussites owe their inspiration to a man whose memory we honour in St. Stephen's Hall, John Wyclif. In Czechoslovakia there are both Sudetens and Czechs. As a result of the persecution which these people, especially the Czechs, have suffered in Sudetenland, I feel that it was the duty of the German Government to stand by Article VII, which was signed by the Fuhrer as well as by the Prime Minister, Signor Mussolini and M. Daladier. We have a right to complain. Moreover, the German Government are missing a great opportunity by not implementing the large measure of good will which was created when the feeling of revulsion at the prospect of war was turned into a feeling of gladness when the respite came. If the German Government possess any psychologists, I suggest they have made a grave mistake in not making better use of the opportunity which came their way by implementing Article VII, by which they promised to give Sudeten, Czech and Jew the option of saying where they wished to live. The German Government have not made our position easier by the expulsion of thousands of Jews. If the Fuhrer had wanted sincerely to help the British Prime Minister and to save him from the criticism of his own party in the country, he could have done so. I have spent the last five weeks in defending the Prime Minister against Conservatives. Incidentally, I am glad to say that some of those Conservatives are going to vote Labour at the next election—but that is by the way.
I speak in general terms because I do not wish to be personal, but the German Government is making the position of this country more difficult because of this persecution of minorities and especially of the Jews. At the same time there is an insidious movement against this country, a sneering at the English people and statements are made publicly to the effect that we are persecuting the Arabs in Palestine. 107 Unless our Foreign Office is to be subject in every particular to the whims and desires of the German Government, I think we are sufficiently strong yet to be in the position of telling the Germans where they get off, instead of being told by them where we get off. We should be able to tell the Germans that they have no right to criticise our treatment of our minorities as long as their own concentration camps are so plentiful.
The Prime Minister has invented a new policy which he calls appeasement. For the life of me I could not give the dictionary definition of "appeasement" without looking it up, but I can give the House the Yorkshire definition. There is one interpretation of appeasement in the Old Testament. There is the appeasement which consists of throwing burnt offerings to Moloch or some other god in order to make him look more benevolently upon those who are paying him their worship. But there is another meaning of the word which we have in Yorkshire. If a child is a nuisance, and if you give the child a "dummy tit," or drat the child and send him out to the pictures or give him sweets—we call that appeasement. Is that the policy of His Majesty's Government? Is it their policy to sacrifice Czechoslovakia and similar places as burnt offerings to this new god or is it their policy to try to appease the German Government by offerings in the way of some form of sweets or plasters in order to try temporarily to close the mouth of that government?
We cannot hope for much success if we continue such a policy as that, but I am hopeful about the Prime Minister's reference to "the last act" of Munich, although I hope that the curtain is only going up and not going down upon that last act. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government are continuing now the policy of trying to bring peace, as he said, in our time and, as some of us hope, for all time. We have, however, an uneasy suspicion that the Government are doing no such thing. We have had no satisfactory reply this afternoon from the Government to show that they are doing anything at all to meet the situation. Their attitude on the Colonial question reminds one of the darky parson in Virginia who said "Brethren, we will look this difficulty in the face and pass on to the next question." That is exactly 108 what has happened this afternoon as regards the question of colonies.
About a year ago some 55 Members of this House were in Germany. A few Labour Members were among them and were looked upon as prize rabbits. The "gauleiter" of the various districts which we visited were very nice to us and could speak English to us. We were in Berlin and we were in Munich and I had the honour of staying in the same hotel as the Prime Minister. I do not know whether I had the same bed or not, but that again is by the way. On that occasion we were asked, What about colonies? I said, "My personal opinion about colonies is that your ally, the other member of the axis, Signor Mussolini"—who was there in the Berlin Stadium, I suppose, in order to impress us—"has not made our position in Palestine any easier either by his propaganda or by subsidising the Arabs against us." I pointed the moral that we could never agree to give up even mandated territories, if those territories were to be manned and armed and fortified. I pointed to the treaty which we made after the War between ourselves and the United States as a result of which some 3,000 miles, I believe, of frontier was left without a gun or a fort or a gunboat. If we could have such a peace as that with the Germans, everybody would be ready for it and some of us got the impression in Germany that the ordinary, decent people there wanted peace as much as we did.
I remember a festival to which the Prime Minister was invited but which he could not attend. Some of us went to that festival. It was the October festival and 10,000 or 10,000 people were gathered in a huge hall. I forget what it is called, but it has something to do with lager beer. We mixed with the folk there, many of whom could speak English, and I could feel the friendliness of those Bavarian folk, just as much as we felt it when we paid our visit to Berchtesgaden and danced with the local Bavarian lasses. I want this country to draw upon that spirit of good will, because I believe that that is the only way to find the true solution of our present difficulties. Whether you call it moral rearmament or by any other name, there will have to be a completely different approach to the question from that which has been adopted ever since the present Chancellor 109 of the Exchequer was at the Foreign Office.
In the old days, whether we call them good or bad, there was continuity of policy in foreign affairs, and I wish that it was not possible to make party capital out of foreign affairs. I wish we could have some considered, united policy to which all parties in the State could agree. I hope there will be such a policy in the future, but it will mean a change of heart for many of us, and it will mean a change of heart also for those on the Continent. If any words of mine could reach across the water I would emphasise what every back bencher here knows. In our constituencies we are "seven for sixpence" as it might be said. We are not like Front Bench Olympians such as the right hon. Gentlemen whom I see before me. Our constituents do not leave us alone. They leave us in no doubt about what they are thinking. They tell us, and tell us pretty straight, and if we try to put on any airs and graces we quickly have to come off our perches. I wish that the people across the water could understand that nothing but good will is felt towards them by the ordinary decent men and women of this country. If they could realise that fact, if the governments of those countries, totalitarian or whatever else we call them, could realise that and assemble not at the horseshoe table invented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) but at a round table, to talk "gumption" and common sense, then there would be a chance of peace, at any rate in our time.
§ 6.56 p.m.
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
It is interesting to hear from the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) that he, fortified I have no doubt by a great deal of "moral rearmament," strenuously deprecated the opinions of those whom he expects to vote for him for the first time at the next general election. Truly there is no limit to political honesty. I am glad that the hon. Member mentioned the Germans' treatment of those who have fallen under their control in Sudetenland, but I wonder whether the hon. Member is really surprised at it. Has the German treatment of minorities at home been no indication of the evil which animates the contemporary German Government?
110 I have waited, Sir, for seven months to catch your eye in a Debate on Foreign Affairs. I have at last had the good fortune so to do, but I am not going to abuse my good fortune. I intend to be down in my seat before the minute hand of that clock has passed through a right angle. I helped to have that clock put there with a definite purpose in view, namely, to discourage my hon. Friends from making long speeches; and I do not intend myself to set a bad example. But I have to recall, with some bitterness, that in my last speech here on the international situation in March, I made two pleas. The first was for speedier rearmament and the second was for a specific pledge of Czechoslovakian integrity. With all humility I think I can claim to have been wise before the event.
I repeat what was said in the Debate on the foreign situation three or four weeks ago, that you cannot limit the Government's responsibility to the last two months. The Prime Minister has access to great knowledge—more knowledge perhaps than anybody else in this House—but, if I may say so, he seemed this afternoon to have forgotten in what a profoundly serious situation the country is to-day. In seeking to explain our unreadiness the other day, he observed that our programme of rearmament was a five-year programme. What is this country or any other country to infer from that statement? Does it mean that Germany is to be allowed to do anything she likes until we are fully rearmed in 1941? Again, the right hon. Gentleman defined the use of our armaments and I observe that as the months pass, the declared possible use of our armaments becomes narrower and narrower. He said to-day that they were merely to protect our Empire and to strengthen our diplomatic power. I observe a very remarkable and original omission. There was no indication at all from the Prime Minister of what would happen if a friend of ours, to whom we are committed, were attacked. How, for example, does France stand to-day? Everybody knows that France is an early victim on Hitler's list. I should like to know whether in these new circumstances the Government are prepared to defend her if she is attacked.
I am glad that Parliament is in Session. I believe that, if we had been sitting through September, the Government 111 might not have pursued the course of suicidal indecision which they, in fact, pursued. I believe we might have arrested the shameful retreat started by the "Times," which has recently acted like an English edition of the "Angriff." I only wish to mention the past in so far as it may enable us to apprehend the future. I ask leave to quote from three letters from a Czech friend who fought on our side under General Sirovy against the Germans and then against the Bolshevists across Siberia. Until lately this man, a fine scholar, and an ex-soldier, has regarded England with something like idolatry. Here are two or three sentences from a letter of 19th September last:Shall we be let down as in 1618? How criminal even to think of disrupting the old Kingdom of Bohemia! It would place us at the mercy of the darkest reactionaries in history. But your Empire is equally threatened.Here is a sentence from another letter dated 2nd October, after the Agreement:England, the cradle of democracy, the promoter and helpmate of brown Fascism. It seems a nightmare! … This is the bitterest day of my life. On my birthday my native Bohemian forest was presented to Germany by that England that I have loved all my life so much.Here is an extract from a letter dated 10th October:To-day also the other bank of the Danube which had never belonged to Germany was occupied by German forces. One can see the swastika flags from our side. The last outpost of democracy is no more, destroyed—a paradox of history—by allies and friends.No wonder that the message from the Czechoslovak Parliament to the House of Commons and the French Chamber of Deputies, which was not read to us, ended:We bequeath our sorrows to the French and English people.The House will understand that, since having that last letter from my friend, I have been too ashamed to write to him.
This then, is "peace with honour," when Munich exceeds Godesburg; when young women Jewish refugees are, I am told, lying exposed to pneumonia on the damp ground between Sudetenland and the new unfortified Czechoslovakia, and I do not know from the Prime Minister's speech whether the Government intend to guarantee the new Czechoslovakia; when 112 even the "Times" asserted two or three days ago that the Czech fortifications surrendered to Germany were impregnable to shell-fire; when to-day Hitler, whom many of us regard as the enemy of civilisation, controls the finest armament works in Europe.
The Prime Minister said he was sure the alternative to his action was war. It is, surely, open to us to ask whether we are always to submit to injustice when force is threatened; because we shall soon be faced with fresh dilemmas and new alternatives. I wonder if it can really be said that the alternatives since March have been war and surrender. I am virtually quoting from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's Division of Westminster (Mr. Cooper) when I say I believe that the alternatives since March were surrender and firmness. Or it may be, of course, that the Government always intended to bewilder our friends and to strengthen—shall I say to encourage—our enemies. I feel somewhat fortified in that conjecture by certain memories. One of them was a rare smile which crossed the face of the Prime Minister when I had the hardihood to refer to Czechoslovakia during Question Time as "a bastion of democracy." I am the last to grudge the Prime Minister his little joke. In all conscience the life of a Prime Minister to-day must be bleak enough. But I do not think that phrase about Czechoslovakia was very grossly inaccurate. She was a self-governing community, resolute, determined to defend herself and well-armed for the purpose. Another memory which unfortunately confirms me in this conjecture is the Biggleswade speech of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. There was, again, the elaborate vagueness of the Prime Minister's speech in March, which now seems to have been so two-faced that it might have been drafted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
But suppose that theory is wrong and that the Prime Minister regrets what has happened. His action can then only be explained by knowledge which he had that we were too weak to win or not powerful enough to deter. Whose fault is that? For three years the Government have been pouring out our treasure on rearmament. [Interruption.] As 113 there are only two Members of the Cabinet present I wonder if I might have the attention of both of them. In our policy there is absolutely nothing to show for it. [Interruption.] Does anyone deny that, although we have spent so much on rearmament in the last three years, during that period matters in the international sphere have steadily deteriorated? We were not even able to call the bluff of the most evil Government in Europe although that Government had been successfully isolated by the mobilisation of the British Fleet. [Interruption.] If we do not at some moment stand firm we have only before us a procession of surrenders until we finally reach a position where we are faced not only with war but by inevitable defeat as well. I believe, too, that there is abundant evidence that the German confusion during the crisis greatly exceeded our own. The same excuse that we were unprepared was made for our behaviour towards Mussolini at the end of 1935. It was then studiously whispered that the Navy had only enough ammunition for one first-class battle in the Mediterranean. Since that day we have voted upon rearmament hundreds of millions of pounds. Where has the money gone? The House and the country are entitled to know.
I feel that we have not only been diplomatically defeated but that we are impoverished and weakened as well. If, as the Government must think—because there could not be any other motive for our rearmament—that we are in danger from contemporary Germany I should have thought that it was the policy of common sense to have on our side all the friends we can possibly muster. But the Chancellor of the Duchy lately chose to criticise the alleged weakness of Russia which is by land by far the greatest single deterrent factor against German aggression. I can only say how glad Dr. Goebbels must be when his work is so faithfully done for him by an Irish peer.
Having successively peeled off our outer coverings, the Government say their future policy is one of appeasement. I listened with great attention to the Prime Minister for a clear definition of what "appeasement" might mean. I wanted if in terms of practical politics. What exactly does it mean? Does it, for example, mean more concessions of other people's territory? Does it mean the permanent exclusion from our Government of our 114 most courageous and competent statesmen? I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour need mind that implied comparison between himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Does it mean our accepting a condition in the air of enduring inferiority to the Nazis? Or, most probable of all, I suppose it may mean colonies. For this reason more than any other I am heartily glad that Parliament is together. When we separated in July I feared that a colonial surrender was in the air. Instead we have been made parties to the parcelling out of other people's property. But no doubt Hitler, who is nothing if not cunning, will now begin to sustain his demand for colonies by this kind of argument—"You have given us Czechoslovakia, which never belonged to you or to us. Now hand over something that you are entitled to dispose of." If we are minded to use his own language we are able to retort that, if we can dispose of something we are also entitled to keep it; and I hope we shall make that the answer.
But if it is now the purpose of the Government to begin the dismemberment of the British Empire—because that is, I believe, what colonial concessions will eventually mean—why were not colonies given to Stresemann or Bruning? Why not give colonies to Russia or the United States or to Poland, which, I understand, has lately uttered a desire for colonial territories? Why was not this whole policy of appeasement adopted before the bully in Germany jumped into the saddle? Colonial concessions will not make things a jot better. They will only make things worse. Before the War the same Germany which is now threatening civilisation had 3,000,000 square miles of African territory and yet she went to war. No one is going to say that Germany was guiltless of what happened in 1914, although I understand it has become rather unfashionable to say that she was wholly to blame; but at least she bears a pretty heavy portion of the blame for that catastrophe. And does the House really imagine that if Germany gets one single token colony she is going to rest content? I believe that if she gets one she will immediately proceed to a demand for parity of colonies, and why should she not, so strengthened, demand parity at sea with ourselves? I earnestly 115 entreat all parties not to allow the Government to begin, as it were, the strangulation of the British Empire by colonial concessions to Germany.
Because I feel that this country and our Empire are in the very direst danger, I am going to take leave now to say something which hon. Members may regard as highly indelicate. I have heard it said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may succeed to the Premiership. In 1932 the same right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when Germany was still reasonable and civilised, and yet during those early and promising days of the Disarmament Conference the right hon. Gentleman found ample reasons for having no policy at all. He must be regarded to-day as the main architect of our present ruin. I do not expect my hon. Friends in the Conservative party to dispute that proposition, because in 1935 they will remember we compelled his promotion to the Home Office.
Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Abbey Division (Sir S. Herbert), I would like to see a Government of National Union, including the Leaders of the Opposition. It does seem to me a most absurd thing, in this hour of our national danger—for it is nothing less, even though the crisis to-day may have been understated in this Debate—that the right hon. Members for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), Leamington (Mr. Eden), St. George's, and Epping are outside the Administration. So far from causing Herr Hitler to go to war, I believe that the inclusion of those right hon. Gentlemen in the Government would cause to think twice a man who understands the use of force and respects those who would be able, if necessary, to use it. In what vital particular over the last five or six years has the reading of German motives by the right hon. Member for Epping been proved wrong?
I would suggest that we need to-day men in all parties, men with the wit, the wish, and the will to stand up for a stronger Britain. If this nation is to survive as a great nation, as a leader of freedom, flying the banner of liberty from this island, visible to all the world, the days of surrender by this country must be ended. If we want peace, peace with honour, peace for the time not only of those who are perhaps reaching the end 116 of their lives, but also peace for the time of those of us who are under 40 and for the time of our children, we must take the last resort, which is this—rearmament on a scale hitherto undreamt of, excluding no possibility of general national service, to meet and, if necessary, to defeat Germany. In this crisis there is nothing else and nothing less for us to do. We are indeed forced back in this emergency on to the Tacitean paradox which in happier days we could afford to ridicule: Si vis pacem para bellum. So long as the Nazi rÉgime persists in Germany there is no hope of preventing war except through vast rearmament by Britain.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
We have had from the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) a characteristically vigorous speech, with the last part of which I, personally, found myself in a good deal of agreement, but I must point out to him that he has slightly exceeded the right angle to which he referred. I do not propose to say anything about the Munich Agreement, or indeed about what has happened in the past. I am one of those who think that, in the circumstances of the time, and under the conditions which then prevailed, the Prime Minister had no alternative at Munich but to make the best terms he could. I think that those conditions ought not to have arisen, and need not have arisen; but there they were, and it was not entirely the fault of the Prime Minister that they existed; and I am one of those who feel very strongly that he had no option but to take the action he took, that that action was courageous, and that he deserves the profound gratitude of the people of this country for what he did. There is one other thing I would like to say, which I do not think has been said enough in this House to-day, and that is how much we all welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) to the Cabinet and to be in effect Minister of Civilian Defence.
Apart from that, I think the Government must have been aware of the very considerable uneasiness which has pervaded this House throughout the Debate, not greatly diminished since the four days' Debate a few weeks ago; and I think there is real cause for that uneasiness still. It is not confined to any one party. The House as a whole is uneasy, because this 117 House has a collective responsibility, and a very direct responsibility, for the safety of this country. We have failed adequately to discharge that responsibility. Why? Because we have been continuously and grossly misled by Ministers, over a period of several years, as to the true state of our defences. You cannot get away from that. To listen to the speeches of some Ministers, at different periods, you might have thought that guns and aeroplanes were flowing in on them in such an avalanche, like rain, that it was almost a source of embarrassment. Indeed, there were moments when one felt quite sorry for the Germans. But when the much heralded crisis, of which we all had ample notice, arrived, we discovered that the condition of our defences was in fact absolutely deplorable—and that has since been admitted by Ministers themselves and by the Civil Service—although nothing that the Government have ever asked for our defences has been refused by this House at any time during the last four years. I think that, if the full list of the gaps and deficiencies were disclosed—which I hope it will not be—it would be a very astonishing document. But attention must be drawn in this House—and I am rather surprised it has not been drawn so far—to the observations of Mr. Eady:We are not prepared; we have hardly begun to prepare; we do not know how all the failures that occurred during the crisis can be avoided next time.Mr. Eady went on to say that the regulations issued to the local authorities were the sloppiest ever produced by a Government Department. This was a high civil servant. We all have our own experiences of what happened during the period of the crisis, with regard to shelters, sand bags, hospitals, arrangements for the evacuation of children, fire brigades, police, production generally in the country, voluntary service of all kinds, the shoals of offers that came from different people all over the country, the total inadequacy with which they were dealt with, no use being found for them at the last moment, and the confusion which arose. The hon. Member who has just sat down said that the confusion in Germany was greater than in this country. All I can say to that is that Germany must have been in a very confused state indeed at the time of the crisis
Similarly we have heard—and there is no good in concealing these facts—about 118 the gun deficiencies. I took the trouble to look it up, and I found that the War Office alone has spent £43,000,000 on artillery. I do not know the exact number of anti-aircraft guns of modern type that were available for the defence of this country at the time of the crisis, but if it was 20 per cent. of the establishment I should be very surprised. In many cases it was far below that. Similarly, with regard to aeroplanes, we spent £110,000,000 on aeroplanes, and that, at £15,000 apiece, ought to work out at 7,000 aeroplanes. Who in this House supposes we had 7,000 efficient fighting aeroplanes three weeks ago? Did we have 1,000, did we have 500, did we have even 100? I do not know what the precise figure was; but all this goes to show that after four years of alleged rearmament, and an expenditure totaling £1,000,000,000, the results were very unsatisfactory indeed. I would like to ask what has happened in this respect during the last four or five weeks. One would have expected—I think all of us hoped after the last Debate—that a terrific effort would be made; but I have not seen any sign of it. There appears to have been a certain amount of examination, and we have had one or two interesting speeches from Members of the Government, but that is all. There was one speech particularly, by the Home Secretary, at Clacton-on-Sea, which was of considerable significance and importance. He said:If this country could be so organised as to make it impossible for a knock-out blow to succeed, we could face the future with the certainty that we could never be defeated.And there was another extremely interesting speech, by the Secretary of State for War, at Cardiff, from which I will give this quotation:To obtain appreciable acceleration, or an appreciable enlargement within the given time of our rearmament programme, it would be necessary to revive our war-time method under which every other consideration is subordinated to this. A Ministry of Munitions to be effective must have full powers to allot orders, to assign priorities, to control the supply of materials, and to make arrangements for diversions of skilled labour.If this speech means anything at all, it means that if we are to have effective rearmament "within the given time," we must have a Ministry of Supply. The speech has otherwise no meaning at all; and it has been strongly reinforced in that very orthodox financial newspaper, 119 the "Economist," the "laissez-faire" capitalist newspaper, which is in principle opposed to any kind of interference with industry if it can possibly be avoided. The "Economist," after pointing out that the existing method of Treasury control over contracts is far too rigid and that—what everyone in this House knows—there is a war going on all the time between the Departments and the Treasury under the present system, continues:Those who have been advocating the creation of such a Ministry ever since the inception of rearmament have been told by the Government that it would be an unnecessary interference with the normal course of industry. The Government have preferred the alternative course of co-ordinating the activities of the independent Ministries through a Minister with Cabinet rank, but without executive powers. It may fairly be said that the system associated with the name of Sir Thomas Inskip has failed. It is precisely because interference with the normal course of the armaments industry is required that a Ministry of Supply has now become a necessity. What was formerly an objection to the proposal has become its very marrow.It is no insult to the Defence Departments to say that they are not equipped for the mass production of armaments. They are staffed by officers, by civil servants and by technical experts; the one character who never penetrates their portals is the business organiser or the big industrialist. They are hampered at every turn by Treasury control. This mechanism cannot compete with the totalitarian domination of industry in Germany. Sir Kingsley Wood has recently announced that 20,000 to 80,000 man-hours of work are now required to produce an airplane. This figure in itself is a conclusive condemnation of the present system. Germany is believed to be turning out 600 machines a month, and she is certainly not devoting 48, or even 12, million man-hours to the job. Doubtless our methods of production turn out excellent machines; the Russians in 1916 made shells that were engineering masterpieces. But they lost the war because their shells were too good and too few, and we shall lose the peace if our aircraft are too good and too few.I believe that to be profoundly true. The article goes on:One of the most urgent tasks before the Government is drastically to reduce the number of man-hours per airplane, per gun, per shell turned out. It is not a task for which the officer, the designer, the civil servant has any qualifications. It is a task for the industrial manager. He must be enlisted, as he was in the war, in a special Ministry, led by a human dynamo, and equipped with the legal powers necessary to organise the production of arms as the biggest mass production industry the world has ever known.120 Nothing less than that will meet the case. I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade here because this was supposed to be something in the nature of an economic Debate. There has been very little talk about economics so far; but before I come to my concluding sentences I would like to say one or two words about certain economic aspects of the situation. I think the Prime Minister is genuinely worried about the financial aspect of rearmament, and that two of the things which make him hesitate to set up a Ministry of Supply are the cost, and the interference to industry which might be great enough to diminish revenue.
All I can say in this connection is that we ought seriously to ask ourselves a question which, incidentally, we ought to ask ourselves with regard to many other aspects of the present situation, namely, How have the Germans done it? They have nothing like our resources, although it is wrong to say that they are at starvation level. On the contrary, they are fully employed at a tolerable standard of life. They have done it in three ways. They have done it by the creation of credit, by the issue of long-term loans, and by taxation. We can do it by these three methods much more easily if we choose to do so. Their current rate of State expenditure is over 35 per cent. of their total national income. Ours is only 25 per cent. Their loan expenditure is 10 per cent. of the national income. Ours is less than 3 per cent. They have no unemployment. We have 2,000,000 unemployed; and, therefore, a considerable leeway to make up of unemployed and of productive capacity. Their resources of productive power are fully employed. Ours are nothing like fully employed, and are infinitely superior.
We could carry out the armaments programme quite easily, and with considerable benefit to the economy of this country and to the working classes if we had a measure of controlled domestic inflation, for which I have frequently pleaded in this House. An eminent economist, whose qualifications are not disputed, Mr. Harrod, of Oxford, has repeatedly advocated this policy in a series of able letters in the "Times," which have never been adequately answered. He advocates an increase of bank investments, and, as a consequence, 121 a further cheapening of money, a reduction of the rate of interest, followed by loan expenditure until the slack has been taken up, and until the majority of those unemployed are in full employment, and then, and only then, an increase of taxation. At the same time he advocates an adjustment of the exchange rate of sterling in accordance with the price levels prevailing in this country and in foreign countries at any given moment. The technique of controlled inflation is now well enough known. The arguments against it have never been put with any great force, and I have never seen the arguments in favour of it adequately answered. An expansion of internal activity in this country would create additional purchasing power, increased demand, increased imports, and increased exports. Mr. Harrod says:The time is economically propitious for the operation of a great drive in defence works,and he believes that our defence expenditure could reasonably and beneficially be doubled during the next 12 months. I think that is profoundly true, and if my right hon. Friend has any arguments to put against it, I wish he would put them. We have the experience of 1932–37, when we had controlled inflation; and we can compare it with 1937–38 when, as a result of action taken in this country and the United States, we had a period of deflation. These recent experiences stare us in the eye, and go to prove that the arguments of Mr. Harrod are fundamentally sound.
I would like now to say a word about the point which the Prime Minister made on the question of export trade. Our export trade is falling off with alarming rapidity. It is no good pretending that a great deal of our prosperity is not dependent upon export trade, because it is. The prosperity and the economic life of this country were built up fundamentally upon the export trade, and also our industrial population. We cannot go on watching with equanimity our export trade falling, and doing nothing about it. But it will go on falling unless drastic and constructive steps are taken quickly. Swift action is essential in this matter, if we are to save some of our remaining markets. The Prime Minister dismissed this trip of Dr. Funk as being of little account. He rather scouted the idea that 122 there was any sinister motive behind it. I do not think there was; but I do think that there was a definite objective to get us altogether out of the markets of South-East Europe. This must not be done. If you survey the whole field of exports you naturally take the Empire first of all. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) made an eloquent appeal for Empire trade. I agree with him. But in the natural order of things the Dominions are bound to become increasingly self-supporting in the years that lie immediately ahead. Our Colonies are first of all largely dependent for their purchasing power upon the level of world commodity prices at any given time. The markets in our Colonies are also definitely limited; and if rumour is correct they are likely to be still more limited in the near future. Take the Far East. Whatever the Prime Minister may say about future capital investment, the Chinese market has gone for the time being. And now we are being hustled out of the markets of South-East Europe.
I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that our objective need never be to try and check legitimate German and Japanese expansion in the markets of Europe or of the Far East; but I submit with all due respect to my right hon. Friend that there is an absolute need for this country to maintain a footing in the valuable markets of Europe and of the Far East. We have to be prepared to consider measures much more unorthodox than we have ever employed hitherto, if we are to do that, and stand up against the methods employed by Dr. Schacht with any hope of success. I outlined some of these methods to the House a few weeks ago, and they are well known to my right hon. Friend. But we can offer to these countries three things which the Germans cannot. We can offer credits and sterling and, therefore, we can offer a choice to these countries. They will give a lot not to be completely dominated economically by Germany, and to have free access to raw materials and manufactured goods in other parts of the world. A free currency alone can give that to them. But if we are to exploit these advantages against Germany and Japan the Government must be prepared, in certain circumstances, to shoulder some of the risks which no individual can be expected to do as long as the world is in its present state. This is where the 123 Germans are scoring, because their Government assume the whole risk on behalf of their traders. Our Government have got to assume some risks if we are to hold our own, still more expand our trade in some of these foreign markets.
May I say this in conclusion? The Prime Minister believes that he can come to reasonable terms with the totalitarian States. I think he sincerely believes this, and all of us would wish him success in his efforts to do so. But reasonable terms are not necessarily Hitler's terms. Munich was something to be profoundly thankful for, and I agree with the Prime Minister that it is nothing for us to be ashamed of. I do think, however, that it is nothing to cheer; and if something far worse than Munich is to be avoided, we must negotiate, in the future, not from weakness but from strength. Otherwise there is absolutely no chance of our getting reasonable or fair terms from the totalitarian States. Here is the crux of the problem. If we cannot gain the necessary strength in time, there is no point at which we shall ever be able to make a stand, and we shall sink slowly but steadily to the status of a third-rate Power. The Germans are well aware of this. I would ask hon. Friends of mine who are always accusing us of not taking Hitler at his word, and of saying that he cannot be depended on, to consider one or two speeches made by responsible German statesmen since the Munich agreement. Dr. Goebbels, speaking at Hamburg, said:Hitler was not modest or timid. No, he was very astute, cheeky and sly. We knew these Parliamentarian tricks, their dilatory tactics. We had to say, 'By such a day we get what is ours, or we draw the sword.' That worked. So now the German man-in-the-street is asking quite casually, 'Well, then, when will the Colonies be served up?'Let me quote a speech of Dr. Ley at Essen, reported to-day in the "Times," which is not generally considered to be an anti-Nazi newspaper:To obtain a sphere of existence equal to that of other nations, German effort and production must be increased 100per cent. We must not only maintain our lead in aerial armament and other fields, but increase it many times. Other nations must learn that nothing can be done against this people. If the Kaiser in 1910, 1911 and 1912 had done what the Fuhrer has done on the Western front, we would probably never have had a world war, or at least should have won it.124 My final quotation is from Herr Terbhoven, the local Gauleiter, at the Essen Conference, who, again reported in the "Times," said:We are clear, my comrades, that if Mr. Chamberlain found himself ready to sign the Munich Agreement it was not because he felt within himself an irrepressible urge to help the Sudeten Germans to attain their national living rights If he signed it was because of two quite simple considerations: first, because he had to acknowledge that the Fuhrer, and the whole 80,000,000 people of the nation, were determined, if it must be, to use arms to establish the natural rights of our Sudeten German brothers; secondly, because this will was expressed not merely in words and negotiations, but behind it—and this affected England especially—there stood an air force which, under the determined leadership of Field Marshal Goering, was ready to prove to the English nation within a few days that so-called splendid isolation had for all time ceased to exist.These speeches have all been made since the Munich Agreement; and I only say, in face of them, how can we consider it possible not to rearm with all the strength in our power? It is the only language to use to Germany; it is the only language they understand, and the only language for which they will ever respect us. A democratic State is impotent unless it is led with energy and conviction. Operating on a normal peace-time basis, how can we hope to compete with a totalitarian State like Germany, efficient to the nth degree and operating on a war-time basis? I was amazed when the Leader of the Opposition said he did not advocate any form of compulsion in this country. We must have many forms of compulsion, not only with regard to labour, capital and profits, but over the whole field. I am not talking about military conscription. I am talking about a Ministry of Supply, which to be effective must have compulsory powers. If we do not ultimately make the necessary effort and sacrifices, I think it will be the end of the British Empire. The other day I was reading an article in the "Manchester Guardian" by my old tutor at Oxford, Professor Namier, of Manchester University, in which he used these words about the democracies:Sated and sophisticated, civilised, sensitive and war-weary, the democracies have a conscience and no faith—the most dangerous condition for individuals and nations. Hitler, on the other hand, is single-minded, and ready to take risks which makes him supreme over those who do not know their own minds and cannot control their fears … Berchtesgaden is now the emotional centre of an incalculable German policy.125 It is too true. What is required in this country—I do not know whether we are going to get it, but it is what is required—is something in the nature of a social and economic revolution, and that quickly. Great sacrifices will have to be demanded of all classes of our people if we are to get through. Will they respond? I believe that the people of this country would respond if they got effective leadership, and courageous leadership, and if they were told the truth, which they have not been told during the last 10 years by any political party. We have all sheltered them, largely for the purpose of obtaining votes. That remark applies to both sides of the House. We have all sheltered them; we have all encouraged them not to face facts or to make efforts. Hon. Members opposite are just as much to blame as we are. This country has been encouraged to be lazy during the last 10 years by its political leaders on both sides. At Munich the Prime Minister paid the penalty, with great courage, of five years of indolence and ineptitude on the part of the Government of this country; and we who are always inclined to abuse the Germans and complain of their methods, might at least pay some attention to the example that Germany has set us in two things, in the sacrifice and hard work, and in the real faith and genuine sincerity, of a large proportion of the German population. Against that we have to put scepticism, prevailing to far too great an extent, and—committees. I wish we could have a few less committees. They do not have committees in Germany. We set up committees by the score—committees on trade, on the evacuation of school children, on the location of industry, and all the rest of it. They meet, I suppose, once a week or once a month, and report after two or three years, and the Minister writes a little preface and signs it, and their report is circulated by Command of His Majesty to the House of Commons, and that is the end of the whole thing. We cannot compete with German methods by means of committees and White or Blue Papers circulated to this House.
I must say to my hon. Friends who sit behind me that I do not like to hear them cheering speeches made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I have sat in the House for 14 years with the hon. Member for Bridgeton and I 126 know his motives, and they are profoundly sincere and profoundly wrongheaded. When I first came into the House Members on this side used to get up and go out, purple with anger, when the hon. Member for Bridgeton made the sort of speech we heard from him the other day; and I am wondering why they should cheer him on this occasion when they used to be so rightly angry. I remember that Ribbentrop has been telling Hitler for the last six months that the governing class in this country is more interested in its cash than in the country. That is what he has been saying; and all I would say to my hon. Friends is that when I hear them cheering a genuinely pacifist speech made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton it gives me a queasy feeling in my stomach, and I do not like it, for I am uneasy about their motives.
I say to the Government and to hon. Members that they have no mandate from the people of this country to betray the people who were killed between 1914 and 1918. They have no mandate to give away this Empire.
§ Mr. McGovern
Will the hon. Member show me where the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was pacifist? Surely there is a great difference when a man says, in relation to a capitalist war fought between two Imperialist rivals, "I will not advocate support for that war" and says, "I am prepared to defend working-class standards and prepared to assist in the overthrow of capitalism." That is what one might term pacifism towards a capitalist war, but in working-class action revolution.
§ Mr. Boothby
All I can say is that when I hear Members of the Conservative party cheering a proposition to overthrow capitalism I am astonished, and what the hon. Member has now said has only increased my disquiet. I say that we have no mandate to give away the British Empire, to betray the people who fought for it between 1914 and 1918; and if it is not to be given away we have to make a terrific effort to rearm. I should like to conclude by quoting some words which I read on Sunday in the "Observer," which seem to me to sum up the whole thing:In the existing world we have to keep close company with danger, and no leadership worthy of the name will ever allow us to forget it.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has delivered a characteristic speech in which he has proved that everybody in the world is wrong except himself, and I could almost hope that he had had a little more time to consider some parts of his speech before he delivered them, because I think his condemnation of the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) might very well be applied to some of his own remarks. I was astonished this afternoon at the line taken by the Prime Minister on one or two matters, and in particular surprised to find that he resented the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that Munich was a defeat, because I well recall that after Berchtesgaden, which we were given to understand represented something worse than Munich—[Interruption.] There were three pilgrimages to Germany, and they have been represented as a succession of victories for the Government, but my own view is that they represent a series of defeats, each greater than the one before. But after Berchtesgaden Mr. Garvin who, let us admit, did not know very much about what had happened, because nothing had been disclosed, said that the terms there demanded from the Prime Minister would have given the Germans more than 20 ranged battles would have given them as regards access to Czechoslovakia. Can there be any doubt that in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of the subject races of the British Empire, and in the eyes of small nations, Godesberg and Munich were, as described in the American Press, the greatest diplomatic defeats that great nations have ever suffered in the history of the world?
I believe that throughout this country there is the most profound misgiving as to the effect that the negotiations will have upon our prestige as a nation, and I see nothing in anything that has passed since to cause me to revise the verdict that Mr. Garvin gave. I was not surprised to see that the "Times" this morning, in commenting upon the changes made in the Government, referred to this as "Not too strong a Government." After all, that is rather praise for them, because one of the extraordinary things that they have done is that, having reduced the number of their friends in the world, they have endeavoured to lose one of the few 128 which we had left. I am very glad to see that the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is present. At Shoreham, in his constituency, he made a speech in which he referred to a country which is generally mentioned with bated breath in this House by Members opposite. When they expect to get a little out of it they are not quite sure whether they are in good company or not, but there were occasions duting the three critical weeks in which we appeared likely to get into serious trouble when Russia was always quoted as one of the sources of strength to which we could look. However, when things appeared to take a turn for the better Russia was again dropped, and the Noble Lord is reported in the "Times" to have said that Russia did not offer help in the Czechoslovakian crisis but only made vague promises owing to her military weakness.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised this point in his speech this afternoon and asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Noble Lord represented the views of the Government or whether he was speaking for himself. In the latter case it does not matter very much. When he is speaking to the people who return him one can understand that they will have become used to hearing very strange statements in the past, and that something a little more strange in the present only adds a little variety, and may even arouse hopes of something still more exciting in the future; but if the Noble Lord was speaking as a Member of His Majesty's Government—so important a Member that he is given one of the sinecures, so that he can be there to help with his wise advice those right hon. Gentlemen who have to discharge serious office duties—it is indeed a matter of the gravest concern that the military preparedness of a nation which was likely to have been an ally in the event of matters coming to a crisis should be referred to so lightly. The Soviet Embassy issued a categorical statement on the subject—the Noble Lord appears to be amused—detailing the steps which they alleged were taken by M. Litvinoff in relation to France and Czechoslovakia and at the League of Nations, the assurances they gave and the consultations they offered to have between their General Staff and the General Staffs of France and Czechoslovakia.
129 In reply to that the Noble Lord, speaking at Horsham, repeated his previous statement. I thought the only fitting reply to that way of conducting an international discussion was made by the Soviet Embassy. I hope sincerely that the President of the Board of Trade, when he replies to-night, will be able to tell us whether the speeches of the Noble Lord represent the Government's attitude towards Russia or whether they are the kind of irresponsible talk that was welcome from the Noble Lord when he sat on the back benches but ought not to be repeated now that he is one of the ornaments of the Front Bench. I rather think he holds the view which was satirised in the "News-Chronicle" during the crisis:Better to lose the Empire shred by shred,Better by blackmail to be slowly bled,Than have the slightest truck with any Red,Or save the Empire with, as one's ally,Some bloke who doesn't wear the old school tie.I see in the "Times" this morning a letter from somebody at Mapledurham, one of the choicest resorts on the River Thames, complaining about the possible evacuation in time of war of mere proletarians into his aristocratic house, and suggesting that if there is to be an evacuation he should choose his own friends and relatives. We are now getting the aftermath of that kind of thing. A recent issue of the "Eastbourne Herald" said:Among the many distracting features of the recent international crisis, none caused greater consternation among a large number of Eastbourne people than the prospect of 30,000 refugees—children and adults—from the congested areas of London being billeted upon the householders of the town. Eastbourne is a high class residential and health resort. … It is a town which a very large number of successful professional and business people have chosen as an ideal place for their retirement, in which they can spend the evening of their lives in the comparative quiet of a refined and well-ordered borough. It is also a town in which an unusually large number of children of the well-to-do are sent for their early education. Reference has already been made to the consternation caused in hundreds of Eastbourne homes occupied by elderly retired people who were rather tactlessly threatened with the prospect of having six or seven strangers billeted upon them. And it need scarcely be added that unless some steps are taken to prevent the recurrence of such a disturbing state of affairs they will assuredly leave the town and take up residence in a less favoured place.If that represents the feeling of any substantial number of the people who 130 normally support hon. Gentlemen opposite let us not have quite so much talk of the need for national unity. Such statements are disgraceful. If we had been in trouble together it would not have been the spirit of the working class that would have let this country down. In the long run it is upon the spirit of those people, in the armament factories, on the field of battle or in the home, that the maintenance of our standards will have to be depend. The kind of thing that was written from Mapledurham and that, apparently, passes muster in Eastbourne, is doing the greatest possible disservice to the nation, irrespective of what party may happen to be in power.
We are now supposed to be living in peace. The Prime Minister made a great point of that. It seems to me that we have the kind of peace that reigns in a saloon in the Wild West when men sit there playing poker, each with a couple of six guns at his hips, with the knowledge that the jackpot will eventually go to the man who is quickest on the draw, unless one of his opponents happens to be able to slip an ace off the bottom of the pack without being seen. If this is peace, there have been few periods in the history of the world that ought to have been called periods of war, when we consider Spain, China and recent events in Abyssinia and Czechoslovakia. There was no victory of peace in Czechoslovakia. The threat of armed force settled the issue. Germany openly boasts that it was another bloodless victory, and, as Mr. Garvin said, without firing a shot Herr Hitler has made himself the greatest ruler in the history of the world since Charlemagne. I doubt whether history will seriously dispute that verdict.
The world being in this serious position I can imagine nothing less helpful to a solution of our difficulties than the speech which was made by the Prime Minister this evening. There was no leadership in that speech. He passed from subject to subject and we were at last left with this, that we must pin our faith on the new Lord Privy Seal. What is to happen to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department? I regret very much that he is not here, because I would prefer to make my remarks to his face. In the difficult circumstances of the past 12 months the hon. Gentleman has been courteous and, within the limits imposed upon him, helpful to local authorities and 131 to everyone else concerned with the business of air raid precautions. As far as the relationships of Government Departments with local authorities depend upon the personality of Ministers in charge of the services, I believe that the hon. Gentleman has built up an amount of good will and belief in his own desire to see the work well done that would have stood the Government in good stead. While it is not for me to assist the Prime Minister in the difficult task of shuffling his pack from time to time, I should have welcomed the hon. Gentleman being given some greater responsibility in the work than he has hithens had. I hope, for the sake of continuity, that he will not be entirely withdrawn from that work. He has managed to build up relations that are of the very highest value to local authorities and, I imagine, to the Government.
The Government failed to realise the truth that was so clearly expressed by Milton when he said:The fidelity of enemies and allies is frail and perishing unless it be cemented by the principles of justice.No one pretends that what has happened during the past month has been in any way connected with justice. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly said that there was no triumph for law and order in dealing with this matter at Munich, or for justice. Does anyone pretend that the wretched people who have been lying between the frontiers of Poland and Germany believe that there has been any consideration of justice for them in the talks of statesmen? We have seen the triumph of the threat of force, so complete that the German rulers now do not believe that they will ever have to use force to get what they want. I share the view that was expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in the "Tribune" for the current week, and in no circumstances would I be a party to handing over one additional person to the terrors of Nazi rule. I believe that this country still has the duty, clearly put forward by the poet to whom I have just referred, of seeing that the oppressed and the persecuted in all quarters of the world have a friend and supporter in this country. To suggest that we ought to hand over in any part of the world even one additional person to 132 the terrors of that rule, with its denial of the rights of knowledge, of utterance and of argument, is to suggest complete desertion of everything for which the British people have ever stood.
We are in our present plight because the Government ran away from their own election pledges. In the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon not a word was said about the League of Nations. I see that the French Radical Socialists have decided that it is dead; I should have thought that so soon after that proclamation of its death, the Prime Minister might have provided a wreath, but there was not a single mention of the League of Nations. In the Government election pledge they said:The League of Nations will remain, as heretofore, the keystone of British foreign policy. … We shall, therefore, continue to do all in our power to uphold the Covenant and to maintain and increase the efficiency of the League. … Our attitude to the League is dictated by the conviction that collective security by collective action can alone save us from a return to the old system which resulted in the Great War.It is not as though the Government have sinned in ignorance. Having so clearly proclaimed what was the only possible policy for this country, they have deliberately turned their back upon it and have spent three years in deserting the principles which they have placed before the electors. To-morrow we are to be faced with another of the surrenders which have made the history of the past three years the most lamentable and deplorable in the whole history of the British people. There is nothing to compare with it, except the few years of the personal rule of King George III, and, after all, he only lost things that belonged to this nation. We have sheltered ourselves by giving away the liberty, the integrity and the hopes of democracies other than our own.
I sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when this Government, proclaimed this morning by the "Times" as not too strong, will be replaced by a Government that will enable this country to return to the principles on which the Government secured their election. My hon. Friends and myself on this side of this House had great difficulty at the last election in persuading people that we really stood for the League of Nations. I was questioned many times as to whether I could stand for the League of Nations 133 when the Government had proclaimed their faith in it. I suggested then that the proclamation of the Government's faith was a great deal louder than the support which they would give to the League once they had secured election, and I turned out to be a true prophet. We have to get back to the belief that this country, as the leading domocracy in the world, owes to the world leadership in the paths of peace, even at the cost of sacrifice, to maintain law and order. Wherever I go in the country I find increasing realisation of the extent to which our prestige has been lowered and our opportunity for good destroyed by the actions which had, not their last but merely their latest, exemplification in the terrible surrender at Munich. Yet, as was so rightly said by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, the Prime Minister was in a position in which he ought never to have been placed.
The pilots who bring vessels into the Tyne live in my constituency, and a story is told about one of them in the early days of the War. He was asked by a wealthy American to bring a yacht into the Tyne, but when the American saw the somewhat rough-and-ready looking man who came on board he was rather perturbed at trusting the vessel to him. The American took him down into the chart room and conducted an examination regarding all the reefs and shoals that make the navigation of the mouth of the Tyne difficult. He asked the old pilot whether he knew, one after the other, where they were, and on each occasion the man said "No." Greatly alarmed, the yacht owner turned to him and said: "What do you know?" "Well," said the pilot, "I know where the deep water is, and that's where I want to be." The Government know where the deep water is and they have known it all these last three years after their election address, and that is where they have consistently refused to be. The condemnation of them is not that they erred because forces were too great for them, but because, knowing the right, they deliberately chose the wrong.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
I should like at once to say how much there was in the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) with which I agreed, but on no point did I agree with him more 134 than when he said that he would refuse to hand over a single British subject to Nazi rule.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
It may be that there are other people whom it would not be in our power to save from being handed over to Nazi rule, but it certainly is within our power to prevent the handing over of British subjects to Nazi rule, and I think that that might well be taken as one of our standards, something on which we could make a stand such as was demanded by the hon. Member. After all, we shall have to make a stand somewhere. It seems to me that, if we give away this and give away that, each time leaving ourselves a little weaker, we may at last find ourselves with nothing to give away but our own liberty. It seems to me that we can make a stand on that point, and that it is a stand to which the whole British Empire would respond.
There are one or two points that were taken up by the Prime Minister in his speech to which I should like to refer. He spoke of the census upon which had been based the partition of Czechoslovakia. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, had complained of the fact that the census upon which this partition has been based was that of 1910. On that point I am entirely at one with the Leader of the Opposition. I can see no justification whatsoever for having given way to the Germans on that point, and it is an extremely important point, because the wretched country of Czechoslovakia has been torn to pieces on the basis of this 1910 census. I think it has already been mentioned in this Debate that in the 1910 census, when those lands were under Austria, the basis was what was called the language of intercourse, that is to say, the common language spoken by people when communicating with one another. But in the house of an Austrian official the Czech servants would be counted as Germans, because they spoke German as the language of intercourse, and, of course, the Austrian officials were counted as Germans. Moreover the Jews were counted as Germans in 1910, and are so counted by the Germans to-day, though we know what they do with them once they have served their purpose.
135 The Prime Minister said that the Berlin Commission were attempting to get at the conditions of 1918, and there was no census in 1918, so they went back to 1910. But why not have taken 1920, when there was a census of pnpulation by nationalities? Why is there this constant weighting down of the scales against these wretched people? It is said that in later years the Czechs planted a good many of their people in the Sudetenland; it was called "Czechisation." That would have been effective by the time the 1930 census was taken, but it certainly was not effective in the 1920 census. If you are going into that sort of thing, you ought to go back to the Thirty Years War, when the Sudetens first came into that country, planted there by Germany.
The Prime Minister, and I think the Leader of the Opposition also, dealt with the question of opting. That is a very important question. The Prime Minister reminded the House that there was a German-Czech Commission whose duty it would be to settle who could opt, and the indication was that the 580,000 Czechs left in the Sudetenland—I think that that is an under-estimate by at least 100,000 —could opt to go into Czechoslovakia. But I beg the House to ask themselves for a moment how is it possible for 580,000 people to opt to go into this small country which has been deprived of 40 per cent. of its industry? How can skilled workers, who have worked all their lives in the industries of the Sudetenland, go and find a living in the small, diminished, largely agricultural country which Czechoslovakia is now going to be? I think it is absolutely absurd.
Then the Prime Minister spoke of the readjustments that were taking place in the frontiers of Czechoslovakia. That sounded as though the readjustment of the frontiers laid down in 1919 was something that was easy to do, but what is actually being done is, as we all know, that the wretched Czechoslovakia, deprived of all defence, is simply handing over what she is told to hand over. We cannot get away from that. And I must say I feel a little humiliated when I think that, when Hungary makes a new claim on Czechoslovakia, she does not appeal to us or to France, but turns to arbitration by Germany.
136 The Prime Minister, speaking of Munich and the criticisms that have been levelled at the Munich settlement, asked what was the alternative? To what was Munich the alternative? We are told that Munich was the alternative to Godesberg, and that it was a good and favourable alternative as compared with Godesberg. It is quite clear, however, that from the Cezch point of view Munich is worse than Godesberg was, and Godesberg was stated by the Prime Minister at the time to be unacceptable. May I quote from the Prime Minister's speech on 3rd October last? Speaking of Munich he said:The line up to which German troops will enter into occupation is no longer the line as laid down in the map which was attached to the Godesberg Memorandum."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd October, 1938; col. 43, Vol. 339.]But in fact the land occupied by the German troops to-day includes more purely Czech areas than were included in the Godesberg map.
There is another point that has not been referred to, I think, in the Debate. Under the Munich plan the Berlin Commission has allocated to Germany an area on the South bank of the Danube, opposite Bratislava, which was never on the Godesberg map at all. It was never Sudetenland. Before the War it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. That, to my mind, shows what a puppet body that Berlin Commission turned out to be. If the frontier laid down by the Berlin Commission is made permanent, according to my information, over 700,000 Czechs will be included in the German Reich, of whom 270,000 are in compact Czech districts in Moravia and Silesia containing only 30,000 Sudeten Germans. There was an assurance given by the Prime Minister in his speech on 28th September that Hitler had stated at Berchtesgaden and repeated at Godesberg that he had no wish to include in the Reich people of other races than German. Will the Prime Minister make representations to Herr Hitler to obtain a rectification in the sense of Herr Hitler's declarations to him, in which the Prime Minister assured the House he believed him to be sincere.
I would also ask him to make representations under Clause 6 of the Munich Agreement in order to rectify economic injustices. For instance, the water supply of the town of Brno, the capital of Moravia, is just inside the new German frontier, and a very small rectification 137 of the frontier would put this right. Again, in many instances districts with large Czech majorities have been taken by Germany apparently simply to allow the frontier to cut Czech main railway lines in a number of places. There is another point—it may be said to be a small one, but my attention has been drawn to it. There is a kind of island which includes the estates which belong to Count Kinsky, a rich and powerful gentleman with Nazi tendencies. It seems a permissible surmise that that gentleman hoped by returning to Germany to get back the land which was divided by the Czechs under their Agrarian laws. The Count has many friends in high places in many countries.
I, personally, am particularly ashamed of the way the Berlin Commission has failed so completely to secure a minimum of justice for the Czechs. It has, in fact, proved to be a more effective means of meeting unjust claims than Godesberg itself. I will give one or two examples. There is the town of Policka. It has 6,000 Czech inhabitants and 149 Germans. It has gone to Germany. The town of Breclav has 13,500 Czechs and 1,500 Germans. It has gone to Germany. But this is the record: the town of Hodslavice, with 1,900 Czechs and one German, has gone to Germany. That German cannot claim that he is going to reproduce his kind one day to form a German settlement, because there is only one of him. But this town is of industrial importance. Here is another town, Kopravnice. It has 4,000 Czech inhabitants and only 600 Germans, but it includes the Tatra automobile and aeroplane works. All hon. Members remember what Czechoslovakia looked like —a long country with rather a thin waist. The Germans have been at pains to narrow that waist still further by taking over large territories with purely Czech majorities. They have made that waist still smaller so that they can separate Bohemia and Slovakia whenever they choose.
I am sorry to say this, but it is evident that the British representative on the Berlin Commission has been singularly unsuccessful in preventing Czechoslovakia from being carved up. If he protested at it, no rumour of that has reached the outside world. [Interruption.] I am very glad to hear it. We all know what M. Daladier, the Prime Minister of 138 France, said on the subject. [Interruption.] I would prefer not to say what he said on the subject, but, in view of what my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence said on 4th October, that His Majesty's Government felt under a moral obligation to Czechoslovakia to see that the integrity of Czechoslovakia is preserved, I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government will take steps to carry out that pledge.
There is one point, which may seem a very small one, but which I think is important. It is now reported in the Press that the rolling stock, locomotives, etc., of Sudetenland which have been removed by the Czechs should, it is now claimed by the Germans, be paid for or returned. This is an important point, one of the few points we can deal with in the House, because it is in contravention of the assurances of the Prime Minister that, in the view of the Government, installations which might be removed should include rolling stock. I think we are entitled to hear something on that point. I have never seen the least reference in the Press, incidentally, to the Germans either offering or being asked to pay for anything they have taken.
I listened to the Prime Minister's speech with a good deal of sadness. There seems to be a fundamental difference of opinion between him and some hon. Members on this side of the House. His speech was one call to trust Hitler. I cannot trust him, and I do not think the people of this country trust him either. I wish I could share the Prime Minister's optimism, but the whole burden of the remarks I have made merely tend to prove that certain undertakings were given by Herr Hitler to the Prime Minister at Berchtesgaden and Munich, and that every one of them has been broken. Every one has been broken, so that really, though there may have been something to be said at first, I find it entirely impossible as a reasonable man to trust Hitler to-day.
The question of armaments has been touched upon already. Our one excuse for what happened was that we were terribly weak. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said that this House was blameless in this sense, that it had never refused supplies for arms, and that is true. Last March we 139 were, in fact, given to understand by the Prime Minister that our armaments were growing in such a measure that, in his own words—and they are the words he used to-day—they were sufficient to support our diplomacy. It seems to me that in view of the deficiencies revealed last month this House would be failing in its duty if it did not institute an inquiry into what has been happening in armaments. I look upon this as a very serious matter. I have told my constituents that I am going to do my best to obtain such an inquiry, and I think that the House of Commons would be failing in its duty if it did not do so.
My last plea to the Government would be this, and it has been echoed in many quarters this afternoon. Great efforts are to be asked of the country. It seems to be impossible to ask those efforts of the country unless, at the head of affairs in the Government, all parties are represented. I hope that, as soon as possible, steps will be taken to enlarge the Government as a first step for dealing with that national effort which we know is absolutely essential for our safety.
§ Sir Robert Tasker
May I ask my hon. and gallant Friend what he meant by saying, "the unjust claims of Hungary"? Is he not aware that 62,000 square kilometres were taken from Hungary and given to the Czechs?
§ Brigadier-General Spears
I am fully aware of the position in Hungary. I know that some of the demands by Hungary are justified, whereas some others are not justified, but I do not think that it is fair to the House at this time to start a long controversy on matters of detail.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
It may be that a few very well-informed people were aware of what was going to happen in the closing days of September, but certainly, as far as the general public were concerned, the realisation that we stood on the brink of war came as a very profound shock. Not unnaturally, once the crisis was passed, the first feeling, I think, of most ordinary people was one of great relief that there was to be no war after all, and of great thankfulness to the man who was most responsible for the peace being kept—the British Prime Minister. Then, in a little while, all over the country, people began to ask themselves and ask each other what 140 steps could be taken here in this country by ourselves to ensure that some similar crisis should not arise again. I believe that that question is being asked with increasing insistence all over the country. We in this House last month spent four days principally debating that very question, and I think that those of us who heard most of the speeches will agree that during those four days there were really only three alternatives that were put before us as a means of the prevention of some similar crisis in the future.
The first was the suggestion that we should rely upon the League of Nations. However bitter the disappointment may be to those of us who, like myself, thought that the League of Nations was one of the very few good things that came out of the last War, nothing is to be gained by hiding from ourselves the fact that at the present time, as far as security is concerned, all that the League can offer to its members is a form of collective insecurity. I really cannot see how more, in present circumstances, can be expected, with four out of the seven great Powers in the world not members of the League. Therefore, however good a case is made out—and a very good case can be made out—for endeavouring to strengthen the League in future, or endeavouring in the meantime to get for the world such benefit as we can from the League, even with its limited membership, it is really hiding our heads in the sand to suppose that we can prevent the occurrence of other crises like the one at the end of September by relying for security upon the League of Nations.
The second alternative that was put forward was that we should rely upon armaments, our own armaments and the armaments of such other countries as we could bind to ourselves in alliances or some friendly understanding. There again there must be very few in this House who would not to-day say that it is not obviously and urgently necessary that we should strengthen our armaments. I use the term "armaments" in the widest sense, for just as a modern warship requires armourplate as well as big guns, so a modern State requires refuge against attack from the air as well as aeroplanes. In that wide sense, including air-raid precautions, there must be hardly any in this House who would deny the urgency of the need for the extension of our armament. I cannot for the life of 141 me regard armament, however strong, for this country, as being more than a palliative. I cannot see how it can ever be a cure for the disturbed state of Europe out of which the risk of another similar crisis arises. Moreover, we must pay some regard to the terrible burden of rearmament on the scale that is envisaged to-day. A worldwide race in armaments on the modern scale would be, in its effect, so terrible as to be only a less evil than war itself. Therefore, while I regard it as abundantly plain that now, immediately, whether we like it or not, we must endeavour to strengthen ourselves in the face of possible foes, we would be most unwise to regard that increase in our armaments as being a possible cure for the troubles of Europe and a protection for ourselves from a situation such as that in which we found ourselves in September.
It seems to me that the other alternative which has been suggested, and which was referred to by the Prime Minister to-day, is the only one that really holds out any hope of, shall I say, complete immunity from crises such as that of last September. It is that we should succeed again in establishing really friendly relations between this country and those other great Powers in the world with whom we are now at variance. I know that for many reasons that is a course which is exceedingly distasteful to many hon. Members in this House. For my own part I can see no other alternative between that and war, and war in the not very far distant future. It may be asked, how can we do it? How can we improve relations between ourselves and, most important of all, Germany? I suggest that it can be done only if we are really willing to live and let live.
Take, for example, the very vital question of trade. If we are to have a peaceful and contented Germany with whom it is possible to hope for stable and peaceful relations, it must be possible for Germany to trade abroad. Whatever benefits we may have gained from the introduction of Protection in this country and Imperial preference in the Empire, we must realise that these things have not made it easier for countries like Germany to trade abroad. They have restricted their trade to about one quarter of the world. We have been told recently, in connection with events in Czechoslovakia, that Germany has now much greater opportunity 142 of trading in Central and Eastern Europe, and we are told what a dangerous thing it is. It seems to me that, far from being alarmed or angry, we ought to be very glad. We ought to welcome any opportunity for Germany to extend her trade abroad and to become prosperous.
The question of colonies, which has been touched upon to-day, should be approached in the same spirit. I cannot help having a certain sympathy with the idea expressed by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and, in a more restricted form, by the last speaker. I know that it is distasteful to cause someone else to pass under a government under which we would not care to live ourselves, but we are dealing with a very great issue—peace not only for this country but probably for the greater part of Europe and possibly for many other parts of the world. We must face the unpleasant necessity of being active partners in transferring other people to a government we none of us like. I cannot see how we can hope to establish really friendly relations with Germany unless we are prepared to give up the equivalent of what we took from them at the end of the last War. I would remind hon. Members that we did not want the added territory; we did not go to war for it. It was there at the end of the War. Why did we take it? Principally to punish Germany. There might be some disadvantage in handing back precisely the same territory that was then taken. It is very likely that in negotiation with Germany she might prefer to have other territories elsewhere, possibly collected in one area rather than scattered about. We should make an offer in some such terms to Germany, and make it now. If we do not do that, I cannot see how we can hope to re-establish really friendly relations with the Germans.
If we are to grudge the Germans every trade advantage they can get, if we are to be jealous of them and obstructive of them in their external trade, then we shall most certainly bring the calamity of war upon ourselves. If I might sum up, it would be in this way: The best hope for the future peace of the world lies in the horror and destructiveness of modern warfare. That makes even the strongest nations pause. But desperate men can be driven to desperate courses, and as it is with individuals so it is with nations. Therefore, I would say to the House 143 to-night that in my opinion, for whatever it may be worth, the real key to the peace of Europe is a prosperous Germany.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
I cannot help feeling, in relation to this Debate, which is a continuation of the previous one of a few weeks ago, that it reminds me of a settlement in relation to an industrial dispute. During the period of a strike which has gone on for a long period men become financially exhausted and those within the home and the industry are keen on some form of settlement, until the position reaches a stage when almost any settlement would be welcome in order that people might get the economic means to purchase the necessities of life. In these circumstances the leader of the men finds himself in a position where he has not only to bargain but almost to accept the dictation of the employing class. When he has concluded a settlement which everybody is glad to have, an inquest begins and the workers discover, after the strike has been brought to an end, that they could have made a much better settlement. They then condemn the leader and for a period he is subject to attack because of the settlement which everybody had welcomed.
In relation to the peace which was made at Munich, I should like to say that I never consider that any peace is a perfect, satisfactory peace, and I never consider that any war is a justifiable war, because I have come to the conclusion that within the realms of capitalism war is a product of rivalry between groups. In the situation that developed a few weeks ago, when war seemed imminent, people said to me at meetings and in different parts of the country that if we had stood up to Hitler he would have succumbed. I am quite prepared, as I have always been, to reason that out. I believe that war would have taken place. If Hitler did not cower before the threat but shook his fist in return and said that he was going to invade Czechoslovakia come what may, then I want to know what the situation would have been. Were we to gamble with the lives of millions of human beings, were we to throw them into the struggle? I put that question to a Member of this House when he said that our attitude to this question was wrong. I asked him whether in those 144 circumstances he was prepared to join up and help to push Hitler's armies out of Czechoslovakia. He said: "You are asking me a very pertinent question. I have views that a public representative ought to be immune from service of that kind." He was a member of the Labour party. I said, "It is a new philosophy to me that we have to order men on the means test, in the mines and factories to go on to the battlefield and sacrifice their lives in a struggle of our making."
The Prime Minister was faced with a situation fraught with the possibility of grave disaster. I believe that war would have taken place, and, further, I believe that France and Great Britain would have been defeated in that war. Hitler has so mobilised his forces in Germany in the way of labour service, the "strength through joy" movement, labour camps and military service, that he can put into the field 9,000,000 to 10,000,000 men. From the evidence I heard on the Continent I believe that he has at least 8,000 front-line bombers with a 20,000 striking force, and if war had taken place we should not have been debating this Agreement except under the threat and terror of bombing raids conducted by hundreds of aeroplanes. That war would have been one of the greatest terrors that mankind has ever known. It would have been conducted with the utmost terrorism in every way in order to bring the population to plead for an end of the war. The Prime Minister knew this. Whatever may be my views, I say frankly that the Prime Minister knew that the planes were not in this country; he knew that we were not prepared for war. He knew that the arms and guns to conduct that war were not there. He was faced with the possibility of losing his Empire, the Empire of the ruling classes. Therefore, because of these three reasons, first the unpreparedness of the country to meet an attack, secondly the danger of the loss of the Empire, and, thirdly, the terrifying prospect of war itself, he concluded an agreement with Hitler.
I am opposed to Hitler. I have all the antagonism which any man can have who believes in being allowed to use his mind in an intelligent way and who sees all the cultural, intellectual and spiritual desires of the people of Germany put into cold storage and subordinated to the will of the Fuhrer. I object to Hitler and to the rule of Hitler, but the Peace Treaties 145 which were forced upon a Germany on her knees at the end of the last War were unjust and imposed in the same way as Germany has imposed her will on Czechoslovakia within the last few weeks. It has been argued on almost every Labour platform in this country that the Peace Treaties were wrong and that modifications should have taken place. It has been said that hundreds and thousands of Sudeten Germans who were in Czechoslovakia ought never to have been incorporated in the mixture of a State which was set up. The only argument to-day against a modification and rectification of boundaries is that Hitler is in power, not that it is unjust to hand over certain tracts of land to Germany, but that Hitler being a dictator, being brutal and not allowing freedom of thought or expression of opinion, we should prevent his getting any modification of boundaries.
That is the attitude which created Hitler. It is the attitude which refused to modify and rectify the wrongs of the Peace Treaties. It is the attitude which refused the hand of friendship when Germany was pleading for a reconsideration of the Peace Treaties. It is the attitude which said that we must keep our feet on the neck of the German people; they must stand and deliver coal and war reparations, and must endure the Peace Treaties which they were terrorised into agreeing with in 1918. Therefore we come to a situation in which we ask ourselves this question: Are we going to war with Germany to smash Germany as is in the minds of a large number of people? A man, a Communist, said to me, in the City Hall, Glasgow, about a week ago, "Why should we not have gone to war with Germany so that there might be a hope of the Jews and Socialists and Communists emancipating themselves from the rule of Hitler by world revolution?" I said, "We have it nakedly now," although it has been kept in the background throughout the campaign to stand by Czechoslovakia. For ulterior motives we must gamble with the lives of 20,000,000 workers. The philosophy to-day is that in order to free German workers we must murder German workers.
Are we going to gamble with the lives of the people? An hon. Member has referred to the aid of Russia. If Russia is able to give such tremendous aid why is she not defeating Japan? Why is she 146 not defeating Franco? Is the struggle in Spain less a working-class struggle than the struggle of Czechoslovakia against Germany? I am not prepared to gamble with the lives of 2,000,000, 3,000,000 or even 5,000,000 of the working classes. There are men on these benches who came into political power because of their denunciation of war. They were conscientious objectors. Although I am not a conscientious objector, never having been a pacifist, I have the greatest admiration for every man who is a pacifist and who refuses to kill human beings at the behest of the employing class. To-day, these men are enunciating a doctrine and philosophy that clamours for war and makes them a warmongering party in this country. It is a shocking state of affairs when Labour men tell me that if there were a General Election they would vote for the Tories rather than for the Labour party, because the Labour party would have led us into war. That is a shocking state of affairs for the working-class movement to get into.
Hon. Members opposite professed to have faith in the League of Nations, but when the League was broken they passed it on to the Labour party, and left them with it. After they had got the country into a mess, the Conservatives began to say, "They are the people who want war; we are the people who want peace." The Government did not go to war, but I am under no delusions. They hand over Czechoslovakia. In fact, one hon. Member suggested that we should give Germany, not the colonies which she wants, but some composite tract of land, and one hon. Member near me said, "Give her France." That is the outlook of the ruling class of this country. They would sell their grandmothers. They will give away everybody else's property, but they will not give away their own. If it comes to a final "showdown," if Hitler in his aggression says, "Stand and deliver part of your own territory," the dogs of war will be out, and the peace party of to-day will be the war party in defence of their own investments in India, Africa, and elsewhere.
I am told that a blush of shame comes to the cheeks because of the way poor little Czechoslovakia was surrendered. A blush of shame comes to my cheeks when I know that Indians are plundered by the people of this country, when I know that 147 the people of Trinidad have been subjected to shocking treatment and exploitation, living lives not fit for the brute beasts of the field, in order to give certain prominent Scotsmen, the Duke of Montrose and others, fabulous profits at the expense of the poor. A blush of shame comes to my cheeks when I am told that I belong to a nation that denies democracy to the people of Newfoundland and puts a small agricultural and fishing community under the heel of four or five financial dictators because the interest was not forthcoming to the Park Lane parasites. Somebody said that certain rich people in Germany and in this country have Fascist tendencies. All rich men have Fascist tendencies. They are prepared to tolerate democracy as long as their interest is paid regularly, but if their interest, their profit or their rent is menaced, then democracy is an illusion and has to be smashed in order to protect that which is dear to their hearts.
We are told that we must prepare for war. I say to certain Members of the House, not in an unfriendly way, that if they believe in an Empire and are prepared to defend it, the way to defend it is to get guns, to get planes, to get the men. It means embracing conscription and doing away with the working-class rights. If I believed that it was in defence of the nation and our freedom, I would be prepared even to hand away my individual liberty, because anything would be justified for that end. I come now to the crux of the situation—the struggle between two sections, Hitler and Mussolini, and France and Great Britain. One hon. Member said that he would not hand away any colonial territory to Hitler. Some hon. Members talked about democracy and plebiscites for Sudeten Germans. Do they believe in extending that democracy to India? You could not hold India if you applied to it the self-determination of Munich. You could not hold Africa if you allowed the natives to determine whether they would be in or out of the Empire. These glib phrases about democracy are easily used when they suit the purpose of those who use them.
In the struggle between these two sections, we are told that we must put up a fight for democracy. I believe in peace, but I would put up a fight for democracy. There are people in Germany who, if they had a decent opportunity, would put up a 148 fight for it in Germany, just as there are people who would do so in Trinidad and India. I have met some of those people in Germany. Theye are no lovers of Hitler. During the time I was in Germany and in Vienna, there had been two strikes at factories two weeks previously. At every street corner in a working-class area there was chalked up this inscription: "Nazis, remember that we Socialists are still here." The Nazi reply was put under it: "Socialists, where are you?" Two days elapsed, and then again there were inscriptions: "Nazis, the Socialists are just under you." That is the spirit which still lives there, and that is the spirit which animates the working classes all over the world.
I am told that there are good rulers and bad rulers. That is a new philosophy to me. I believe there are only bad rulers. It is a question of the degree of the crisis under capitalism. If the workers here were surging in the streets, if there were an economic crisis and it threw up a real Socialist opposition of almost equal numbers to the Government of this country, the ruling classes would say "Democracy is ended." They would say that because democracy would be about to begin, and a working-class democracy would be coming in. Then the guns, batons, bombs and tear gas that are always in the background would be brought out in the struggle, as in Spain, to suppress the workers in the street. I can imagine the hon. Gentleman at the Box going out and saying, "We are now engaged in a fight for Christianity in this country"—a new name for rent, profit and interest. The struggle would be on that. The ruling class gives rein to the workers when capitalism is working smoothly. It allows the rein to hang loosely, it can extend the amount of freedom; but when a crisis comes, the rein is tightened, the individual feels the bit in his mouth, the rein is shortened. That is the beginning of the end of the struggle. There is no difference between Hitler and the rulers of this country.
If I believed in capitalism, I would favour the Hitler method. It is the more efficient form of capitalism. But Hitler restricts profits to 6 per cent. in industries in Germany. A.R.P. people there do not get the chance of running up sandbags at ten times the cost. They are not allowed to play fast and loose. The hon. Member 149 for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) condemns Hitler's method but in my estimation he approves of the Hitler method and without having the courage to say so, is suggesting that we must adopt the Hitler method in order to fight it. I can conceive of a great struggle for democracy. I can imagine going into such a struggle and within one week finding ourselves under a military dictatorship organised against Hitler. If I believed in capitalism, I would believe in organising this State to the last man and woman in defence of capitalism and the Empire. The Fred Karno method is not going to carry you through in the next struggle. I have heard it said "We do not dream of putting millions of men into the field." Whose men do you intend to use? Are you going to use the French soldiers? Are you going to use the blacks of Africa and the Gurkhas of India?
I saw the other day a statement by the Minister of Health—and he has sand-danced a lot since, in trying to explain it away—about armaments and social services, but he will never convince me that the question of curtailing housing and health and pensions and other social services was not discussed in the Government. You have a situation to-day in which capitalism has robbed the worker of the wealth which he produced, and the capitalists, not being able to use that wealth for their own personal needs, have invested it in India and Africa, and Hitler says, "I am for a share in this swag and this exploitation" Then the capitalists say to the man whom they have robbed, whose unpaid wages they have invested, "We will take your son who is on the means test and throw him out on to the Continent to give his blood and his life in order to defend the loot which we have stolen from his father and his grandfather. Further, in order to conduct this struggle we will take your old age pension or part of it to finance the struggle in defence of our bondholding interests." That is the stage which we have reached. Well, I am not in that struggle.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen talked about the "pacifist speech" made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I interrupted at the time and tried to explain. That was not a pacifist speech. We want peace and we are prepared to ask the150 working class to enforce peace and not to fight in a war. Because we advocate that, when the Prime Minister makes peace, when the Prime Minister does exactly what we wanted done, even though he acted from different motives from ours, nevertheless we welcome the fact that peace has been secured. It gives the working class a breathing space, in which they may try to profit by the experience of the past. We do not want to indulge in mock heroics about going out into the streets to overthrow the system. We say to the ruling class of this country that our method is the method of getting the people of the country converted to the necessity for change. If we get a mandate, in co-operation with others, to effect that change, and if the ruling class do what they did in Franco Spain and say, "You shall not have that change," then the struggle will be forced upon us and we have democrats who are prepared to see democracy carried to its logical conclusion, when the people themselves are prepared to do it.
Therefore it is not a question of pacifism. It is, if you like, a refusal to serve in a capitalist war, but in the last extremity there are people who are prepared to serve in the working-class struggle for power, if it is backed by the will of the people of this country. I say frankly that if a fight for Czechoslovakia would have been right, then the fight for Belgium was right. It would have been the same struggle. That was a struggle to "down the Kaiser." That was the excuse. It was a struggle to smash German militarism. It was a struggle for small nations. We opposed it, and a large number of people in the Labour party opposed it.
What do we find to-day? When I came over from Germany, I stood in Whitehall and I heard a shout of "Stand by Czechoslovakia." I am always sorry to see any form of brutality against any section of the working classes, but when you say "Stand by Czechoslovakia" what does it mean? If there had been war over Czechoslovakia there would have been no Czechoslovakia to-day. It would have been overrun. The Czechs would have been murdered. Even if those who shouted "Stand by Czechoslovakia" had been willing to join the British Army, there would have been no Czechs left by the time they had been trained. Probably the Communists would 151 have been seeing us off at Victoria Station and carrying on the struggle on the home front. No. I am not gambling in that kind of struggle either for world revolution or for the chance of smashing Germany—because behind all this there is the feeling of a large number of people who say "Go out and smash Germany. This is the opportunity." That is the spirit which has continually led the working class into disaster. It is the spirit of revenge and hostility.
I have been told, even by people in Germany, that the only way to get Hitler to modify his policy is to try every means of bringing him within the ambit of the civilised Powers of the world, to bring him into touch and relationship with the other nations. I asked Jews in Germany whether, if war came, they would not welcome it as a chance of getting out of the hideous nightmare in which they lived, and they said "No, if war comes we will be the first victims. Every disaster will be blamed on us and before the war has gone on for very long, between beatings and shootings and imprisonments we will suffer even more than we do now." I say that Hitler with all his intolerance of mind has the ruling class grouped around him. You have Fascism in Germany under Hitler but the Indian worker is under British Fascism. The worker in Trinidad and the worker in Newfoundland are under the dictatorship of the money-bags of London.
That is the same financial dictatorship and the same ruthless brutality that has existed in the past against the people in the British Empire, and I am not prepared to fight for that Empire and I am not prepared to defend that Empire. If Montagu Norman or the Duke of Sutherland or the Marquis of Bute want to defend their possessions, let them get on their kilts and get out their guns and go out to the front. I am not going to defend them. I want to take possession of this country. I want to free the working class, and the German people are the people who have to free themselves from Hitler. It is not to be done by the people of this country. We have our own job. I heard a man the other day—it almost made me sick—who came to me with a means test case. He had 17s. a week and had a house to keep. He was a widower and he could not even get clothes. He was almost "down on his uppers," but 152 after we had discussed his case for a while he asked me, "What about these poor Czechs?" Here was a man reduced to the lowest standard of poverty and he was thinking in terms of somebody who was, he thought, worse off than himself. That is the humane spirit of the worker but it does not affect the ruling classes. You would expect to use a man on the means test, driven out of his father's home, without an income, to defend your gold mines in South Africa. If he was an intelligent man he would say to you, "Defend your own gold mines." That is my attitude. I welcome peace because it gives us a breathing space, but you are coming up against one of the most difficult problems that you ever imagined.
I can find nothing inconsistent in the Prime Minister saying, "We will negotiate with Hitler but at the same time we are preparing for armament so that, if the hand with the glove on is not effective, there is always the mailed fist in reserve." That is the policy of capitalism, and it is consistent. We shall not encourage that struggle, but we hope it will present an opportunity to end the nightmare of war by ushering in a humane and civilised system. If we could muster in this country an anti-war working class who would refuse to subscribe to the policy of war and who would be prepared to attack the Government hip and thigh, they could be driven out of office in six months. The strength is not the strength of their own position but the weakness of the opposition. They have manoeuvred the working-class movement into the position of being a war party. I welcome the peace, but you are drifting towards a more dangerous period when you will not he able to hand away the property of your friends but will be asked to stand and deliver some of the goods that you own, and then will come a terrific howl from the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and others. In that struggle we say to the German and Austrian workers and to the workers of the world, "Try to develop, even by illegal and underground methods, a working-class movement, a discontent, an intelligence which will rise in revolt against the Hitlers and the Montagu Normans and overthrow their systems and collectively own and control the raw 153 materials and the means of life and distribute them according to the service given by the workers in a community which will communally produce and distribute the goods of life, and when you have rid the world of the economic causes of war you will have ushered in the foundations of lasting peace and a decent order of society."
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Astor
I have listened to speeches on the other side of the House with considerable disagreement, but there was one remark by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) with which I should like to associate myself, and that was his criticism of the people of Eastbourne and Mapledurham who did not like the possibility of working-class people being evacuated from London to their vicinity. That attitude causes as much indignation on this side as it does on his, but it would be unfair to assume that that in any way represents opinion in the areas to which these people were to be sent. One must, while deprecating the manifestations the hon. Member mentioned, pay a tribute to the immense number of people all over the country who cheerfully and willingly prepared themselves for the reception of the children and women of London.
I intervene because I have just returned from a fortnight in the ceded territory in Czechoslovakia and the former Austria. It is impossible to go to the ceded territory of Sudetenland without forming the conclusion that, while many Germans would have preferred autonomy within Czechoslovakia, they all preferred the Anschluss with Germany to remaining within Czechoslovakia in the state they were in before. One might almost compare the atmosphere in Sudetenland at the moment with that of the Jubilee here. There were flags and decorations and cheers for the German troops whenever they appeared even many days afterwards. We are asked what is the difference between Godesberg and Munich, but it has been forgotten that the Godesberg proposals not only contained a suggested boundary line for immediate occupation but also a further plebiscite area. By the work of the International Commission this plebiscite, which might have taken further areas out of Czechoslovakia, was abandoned and the result is far more favourable than if you had the Godesberg line plus the plebiscite.
§ Mr. Astor
I am quite aware of that, but the Czech and German Governments are pleased to have reached a line without having the inevitable disturbance that this plebiscite would have involved. Both Czech and German armies have behaved with the most admirable restraint and moderation. One must pay a tribute to both for the manner in which this cession has taken place. There is immense relief in the Sudeten areas. The Germans had real fear of what might happen at any moment. They were disarmed and many of the Czechs—not only the regular forces—were armed. Many Sudeten Germans, not only Henleinists, were seized and imprisoned in horrible conditions as hostages. You had on the German side the nefarious activities of the Freikorps. You had about 30 per cent. of the Germans who ought to have mobilised taken to the hills and being hunted there and apprehended wherever possible by the Czech military and gendarmerie. There was a complete censorship of newspapers, letters and communications into the area. It was a period of the most acute anxiety.
There is no doubt about the relief that is felt in the Sudeten areas. The German troops have behaved not only with moderation but with tact for local feeling. To give one instance, there was a place, Teplitz, where the flag of a former Austrian regiment had had to be kept hidden for 20 years. When it was produced, the local German officers arranged that it should be carried at a church parade of the German troops in front of the church and that Mass should be celebrated. On another occasion I was in the crowd when a visiting German Minister was speaking. Before he came on the German band played, not a German march but the old Austrian Radetsky march, and the whole crowd broke into spontaneous applause. Much more important than those tactful gestures to local sentiment has been the fact that General von Reichenau put up proclamations all over the Sudeten area to the effect that denunciations by private persons were forbidden, that they reflected more on the person who made them than on the person denounced, and that people making them would be summarily punished by the German Army, and that anyone who took private 155 vengeance would be summarily punished by the military authorities. It was said, though I cannot personally vouch for this, as I can for all the other statements, that when some Henleinists at Aussig took an opportunity to beat up the Czechs they were summarily shot by German troops for their conduct.
May I mention the question of refugees from that area? The position is that the Germans are encouraging the rank and file of the Social Democrats to remain or return. That is not from any altruistic motive, but from the fact that in Germany there is not a surplus of labour as there is in this country, but a shortage of labour. This year they imported 30,000 Italian workers, and it is to their interest that the industrious and skilful Sudeten German, whatever his political beliefs in the past may have been, should be encouraged to remain or return. It would be most unwise for their leaders to return, but they believe that, when there has been a distressed area in the past, so distressed as to cause the Quakers in this country to conduct relief among Sudeten Germans for the last few years, if they can provide work they need not fear disaffection in the future. Similarly, they tried to encourage the Czech mineworkers, and certainly for the moment, though this may not be permanent, Czech agricultural colonists to remain.
The refugee problem where there is the most need is that of the Social Democrat leaders and the Jews. Most of the Jews of that area fled long before the German troops arrived, and rightly, too. It was the most awful tragedy, because that was in an area where there was no anti-Jewish feeling at all until the last few years, when it was worked up. It will be a difficult question for this country to help those Jews, because they are mainly small shopkeepers. For instance, the Czech relief authorities told me they thought there were something like 6,000 Jewish commercial travellers as refugees, and to colonise a commercial traveller, whose main stock-in-trade is his tongue, in an area where he does not understand the language will be extraordinarily difficult and will need the greatest help on our part.
It is tragic that the unwise policy of the Czech Government in the past has resulted in the cutting-up of the historic Kingdom of Bohemia. Bohemia has 156 always been a mixed German and Slav State. If you take the feathers and motto of the Prince of Wales, they are the feathers and motto of the Kings of Bohemia, which the Prince of Wales assumed because he captured the King of Bohemia at, I think, the Battle of CrÉcy. That motto is not in the Czech language but is in German—"Ich dien." It has always been a mixed State, and if the emphasis had been laid on the historic past, you might never have had the present situation. It was the excessive racial feeling of the post-war Czech Governments which produced the racial reactions of the Germans, and it is tragic to see how many were the small vexations that created discontent. In the War the Austrian equivalent of a V.C. was won by a certain resident in the Sudeten area. He has not been allowed, under penalty, to wear his medal for 20 years, and when he was asked to join the Reserve of the Czech Army and he offered himself he was immediately reduced to the ranks—not that it mattered, because he was not called up for training, but it is that sort of insult which did more than anything else to create the present situation. I went from Sudetenland to Prague by car, and there are no troops on the frontier, which is quiet. There were about five or six German police and Customs men and the same number on the Czech side. You could have crossed quite easily by walking 200 yards off the road across a field. There was no barrier of any sort.
A few days spent in Prague fills one with admiration for the way in which the Czech people have gone through the present ordeal. They have shown an immense pluck, calm, and discipline, and they are facing their problem in a realistic way. One of the Ministers of the Czech Government said they must go back to the policy of that great Saint and King whom we commemorate at Christmas time, Wenceslas, and realise that it was impossible that Bohemia should be in a permanent state of hostility to the surrounding Germany. On the whole the relations between the new Czechoslovakia and Germany have not been so bad. At the beginning, in the International Commission's deliberations the Germans were asking for a rigid interpretation of their claims, but since then the German Army have evacuated many villages where they found themselves unable to understand a 157 word said by anybody in the villages. There have been rectifications in favour of the Czechs.
On the economic side, the Germans have been, on the whole—I am only quoting what the Czechs said to me—reasonable in their demands. There has been no demand for a Zollverein, and they have left Sudetenland and the new Czech State tariff-free for the present, before working out an equitable system of preference. I hope we shall not assume that because of the new conditions we must wash our hands of the new Czech State on the ground that they have become a province of Germany, as the Leader of the Opposition thought might have to be the case. They are facing their task with realism. They are now a homogeneous State. They are going to maintain their democratic system. There is a rallying to the new Czech State of the ancient families of Bohemia, which have in the last 20 years been left aside. Although they felt no particular loyalty to the new Czechoslovakia, when the crisis came they felt loyalty to the ancient frontiers of the kingdom of Bohemia, and they are now rallying round the new Government. They are making a gallant and a realistic effort.
English prestige has been increased by the Lord Mayor's fund for the relief of refugees, but that is only a palliative, and they are asking that we should take their claim for financial help, not on a sentimental basis, but on its merits. They point out that they have been excellent debtors in the past whenever they have had to borrow money. They maintain that with the £10,000,000 and further sums they can get their railway communications readjusted and their roads altered, that they will be able to get the necessary raw materials to keep their economic life going, and that they can give the necessary financial assistance for the new autonomous Slovak Government to prevent that Government and the Ruthenian Government submitting to the tempting attractions which certain of their neighbours are offering to them now. They do not desire to go back to a state of permanent hostility to Germany, but they believe that they can be a neutral, independent and good-neighbourly State. I hope we shall not wash our hands of them, but that, in a time of need for reconstruction, we shall help them on a 158 strictly business basis, which is all that the new Czech State desires.
Before I went there I spent a few days in Germany, and the main sentiment one found there was relief. One found no expression of vain-glory, but the deepest relief that peace had been preserved and extraordinary gratitude towards the Prime Minister. I think one cannot take an exaggerated optimistic or pessimistic view. Nothing that I saw contradicted the assumption of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) that the effort we have to make to get equality in armaments has to be deep and strenuous. Nothing that I saw in Germany made me believe that there was any bluff on their side. I found no evidence whatever to support that. One has only to see the thoroughness of their preparations. When you can see that since March every bridge between Austria and Czechoslovakia, however modern and new, has been pulled down and a new and wider and stronger bridge built in order to take the heaviest tanks and guns, one can see that they are people who are not preparing merely for a demonstration of force, but for its use. But we must not talk of inevitable war. During the nineteenth century two wars were thought to be inevitable. In the time of Napoleon III a war with France was thought inevitable, and yet it was averted. During the time that Kipling was writing his early stories in India, everyone thought that a war with Russia was inevitable, and yet it never took place.
Herr Hitler has done one thing for this country. He has imbued us with some of the qualities he has given to his own people; he has made us defence-conscious and has made us keener to perform national service in the defence of this country. I am sure that any demand that the Government make on the people will be joyfully borne. I have been immensely impressed by the numbers of people who have written to me asking that there shall be some form of national register and voluntary service. I have had more letters on this subject than on any other since I have been a Member of the House. I welcome what the Prime Minister said about the importance of the Anglo-German declaration. Let us not make the mistake we made with the Italians. Ill-feeling between England and Italy became much greater after sanctions than during 159 sanctions. During sanctions it was a straight conflict in which both sides understood each other. Afterwards the Italians got the idea that we in a period of weakness had taken a setback and that we were going to build up arms for a revenge. Ill-feeling got much worse until the Prime Minister took decisive measures to end it. Let us not make the same mistake with the Germans. I was interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said about Germany. He said they were on a starvation level. One did not see signs of that. Their standard of living is not so high as in this country, but if you met, say, people who had been in work camps and so on, one found their physical condition on the whole good. They have done away with unemployment but at great cost of liberty. People who say that Germany should be an example to us in that respect should remember what it means. One hears talk a bout an economic general staff and planning, but it is no good having a general staff unless you have a disciplined army which you can order about. I was outside Vienna on Friday and met a couple of young men from a village who had been sent to the other end of Germany to work on some fortifications. They had been unemployed before and were rather pleased but whether we would be prepared to try and abolish unemployment in this country by methods of that sort, is an entirely different question.
§ Mr. Astor
I only know that these people were a good deal better off than when they were unemployed. I made it clear that the standard of wages and living in Germany taken on the average is a good deal lower than in this country. The workers get many non-financial benefits such as cheap tickets, cheap holidays aid holidays with pay, but to pretend that the employed worker there is on the same level as here is absurd.
§ Mr. McGovern
I was in the labour camps and I was told the wage is 2d. a day and that each man is given a quarter of a 1b. of white lard and no butter.
§ Mr. Astor
That may be true. But I am not arguing in favour of that system. I am only trying to point out that the 160 people who want to abolish unemployment by German methods must realise the universal conscription which those methods mean. The feeling that one gets from being in Germany is, first, one of relief and the desire for peace; secondly, that we must be strong; thirdly, that we must make it clear to the Germans that the one touch-stone in negotiations is willingness to end the armed race. Up to now they have had every cause to feel that the only way in which they can get anything is by the use or the threat of arms. If we can show that it is possible to get them, not by the increase in arms, but by the decrease in arms, then there will be a chance of getting proper appeasement in Europe. Going through the Sudeten areas as I did, I could not feel any humiliation or regret because it was perfectly clear that most of the people in those areas are pleased with the change in their conditions.
§ 9.53 P.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the course of a challenging speech this afternoon my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked certain questions of the Government. So far there has been no satisfactory response, and on certain important issues which were raised during the Debate we are still far from enlightenment. Nor can we say that the mists of confusion which surround the Government's foreign policy have been removed. Certainly the Prime Minister's speech has thrown little light on that subject. Beyond a few generalisations about appeasement we have had no elucidation. The lead which the country is entitled to expect from the Government is not forthcoming. The Government have abandoned collective security if, indeed, they ever believed in that principle. They no longer rely upon the League of Nations, which lies scattered because of the insincerity of the Tory party and the folly of successive Foreign Secretaries. They now take refuge in vague talk of appeasement and place themselves unreservedly in the hands of the Prime Minister in whose head lurks the quaint conviction that the promise of enduring peace resides in the assurances of Herr Hitler, ignoring the fact that the head of the German Government has betrayed every promise he ever made to our nation.
One thing is abundantly clear to us after hearing the Prime Minister. While 161 the Munich Agreement went far beyond Godesberg, the present revision of frontiers, assisted by an International Commission who seem to have been more concerned to placate Germany than to act justly, has gone further than the Anglo-French plan, Godesberg and Munich combined. The fact is that Herr Hitler has obtained more than he could ever have hoped to get. It is, therefore, a misuse of language to speak of peace as the Prime Minister has ventured to do this afternoon, in face of the treatment accorded to Czechoslovakia, the fate of thousands of Czechs and others and the existence of profound minority problems in the territory ceded to the German Reich. The dispute arose over an alleged minority problem, but a minority problem still remains. When the Prime Minister flatters himself that peace exists we remind him of the unhappy fate of the Social Democrats, the Jews, and of the spectacle of thousands of refugees driven from pillar to post. This is not the Labour party's conception of peace. Of one thing we can be sure, that morals in international relations have completely disappeared. Whose word can we trust, and who trusts our word? That is what Munich has done.
The Prime Minister expressed himself in strong language upon the statement of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that Munich constituted a defeat for this country and the rule of law and order. That, apparently, is not the view of the Prime Minister. Then what is it? A victory? If it is not defeat what does it represent? Surely it will not be denied that a vast change has occurred. The situation differs considerably from that which existed prior to the Munich Agreement. How the Prime Minister can maintain that this is not in the nature of a defeat is really beyond my comprehension. Anyhow, it is not the view of the Czechs. Moreover, it is not the view of Herr Hitler himself. Apparently there is but one person who believes that Munich represents no defeat, and that is the Prime Minister. Further the Prime Minister claims that the Munich Agreement was carried through in a peaceful manner, but he ignores what led up to the dispute. He overlooks the threats, the intimidation the bullying methods of the German Reich. Though in the end the Agreement, for what it is worth, was 162 consummated in an apparently peacerul fashion, it was not based primarily on peace but on force.
The Prime Minister asked my right hon. Friend a question, which he had not the opportunity of dealing with, which was whether we supposed that the frontiers arising out of the Versailles Treaty would never be changed. It is, I admit, a pertinent question, but he ought not to have put it to my right hon. Friend, he ought to have replied to it himself. It is a question which ought to be put to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches. What was their view? This party has consistently declared that a revision of frontiers was rendered necessary by the course of events, but every time a demand was made along those lines it was resisted by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. Of course we agree that frontiers must be revised, but if they are to be revised it ought to be by peaceful means and not under duress. Has this occurred? No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself that that is not the case.
We have been reminded frequently in the weeks following upon the crisis of what was the alternative to the Munich Agreement. We were informed, and are still informed, that it meant war. The right hon. Gentleman shields himself behind that claim; but at one point he was ready himself to advise drastic action. He declared that Godesberg was not acceptable, and we all recall his declaration that if he thought there was a nation ready to dominate the world by force he would be ready to resist; and over and above all there was the mobilisation of the Navy. Apparently there was in the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends the thought of the alternative of war. Therefore, how he can claim that all along he was concerned primarily with peace and never contemplated the alternative is beyond my comprehension.
I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman, When do we reach the point when action should be taken? Surely that is a question which ought to evoke some response. Or do we never take action in any circumstances whatever the insult? Suppose Russia had been involved. We almost went to war with Russia in the palmy days of a particular Home Secretary, now unhappily deceased, on 163 the mere question of a trading organisation representing the Soviet in London, and we all recall what happened when certain British engineers were prosecuted in Russia. It is surely time that the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government, told the country exactly what we are prepared to fight for, and where we make our stand. What have we learned in the course of this Debate about the international guarantee of which the Prime Minister has made so much? After all, Czechoslovakia suffered, she was sacrificed, she was betrayed; but there was to be an international guarantee and all was to be for the better. After the consummation of the Munich Agreement and the revision of frontiers, her integrity was not in any way to be interfered with. Very well, but the Prime Minister has now informed us that the international guarantee is to be invoked only when there is unprovoked aggression. Surely that calls for clarification. Is a threat of mobilisation aggression? Where a Government inspires terrorist bands to operate upon a frontier, is that unprovoked aggression? The Prime Minister might very well have amplified what he said on that matter.
I pass from that subject to a further important consideration which has arisen in the course of this dispute. When Government spokesmen are in difficulties they adopt a familiar technique. They challenge the Labour party to produce its alternative policy. Several speeches have been made by Government spokesmen in the past few weeks indicating a desire to hear what the Labour party have to offer as an alternative policy. I read in the "Sunday Times," a newspaper devoted to the interests of the Government, in a leading article last Sunday, the following:Opposition leaders will he under the necessity—as elsewhere too often they are not—of stating precisely what alternative policies they would follow if they stood in the Government's shoes. There lies their difficulty. For while it is easy enough to dilate on the problems and dangers by which the country is beset, it is another matter to indicate any immediate way out of them other than that which the Government are pursuing.I admit that there are difficulties, but why do these difficulties exist? Because of the foreign policy pursued by the Government.
There was a time when a solution was possible, when the League of Nations was 164 stronger than it now is. Will it be unfair to suggest that when this Government went to the country with an election manifesto based upon the principle of collective security, was the appropriate time to present a constructive policy in support of peace? Of course, there are difficulties, and they are greater than they ever were before. I would not contend otherwise, but we have suggested certain alternatives to the policy of the Government. My right hon. Friend in the speech which he delivered a few weeks ago from this Box, advocated, on behalf of this party, the conception of a world conference. That conception has been rejected by the Prime Minister, although there is support for the idea throughout the world. The speeches of President Roosevelt, perhaps the greatest moral force in the world, indicate support for it. Russia and France would come into it. There is little doubt that if the United States of America joined in, the confidence of the smaller nations would be restored. It was shocked by the policy that we pursued. Such a conference would have a greater chance of success before than after the conclusion of the Four Power Pact. After such a Pact we should be dominated by Germany and that hope would be gone.
I ask a further question. Are the Government ready to form an alliance with Russia? There has so far been no reply to that question. The Prime Minister was presented with an opportunity on the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the amazing utterance of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It would be interesting to know the views of the Government upon that speech. We ought to know. Does truth reside in the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as to the military position and the intentions of Russia during the recent crisis? If so, we ought to be informed. I dare the opinion that, on the question of a possible alliance with Russia, there are some Tories, and possibly Members of the Government, who would rather lose the Empire than enter into relations with Russia. I take leave to doubt whether much is to be gained by debating these matters with the Prime Minister because he appears to have made up his mind. Therefore I think I had better leave the point.
We must face the fact that Czechoslovakia is now disrupted and that her 165 economic existence is shattered. She will become, in due course, unless we are careful, a vassal of the German Reich. What will be the position of the United Kingdom? The Prime Minister said this afternoon that Czech trade would not suffer. That may be, but the question I ask hon. Gentlemen to consider is: Are we in a stronger economic position in consequence of the Munich Agreement? The Prime Minister is not alarmed about the consequences, and says that there is nothing to worry about. Is that the view of the President of the Board of Trade? Is it the view of our industrialists, of the textile industry or the coal industry? Are they not concerned about the formidable position of Germany, more formidable now than ever before? It will certainly be more formidable in the future, as I shall try to prove. The Prime Minister says that Germany must always have a dominant position in South-East Europe. That may well be so, but that is not the problem. I shall state the problem.
However much we sympathise with the truncated Czech State and its unhappy people, we are forced by the turn of events to consider the consequences to the industry of this country. Nothing could be more foolish than to under-estimate what the absorption of the Sudeten area into the German economic system really is. Germany is enormously strengthened by the Munich Agreement. She has acquired considerable territory and is able to utilise the services of a vast army of additional workers, many of whom are unskilled. She can dominate the economic life of Central and South-Eastern Europe. Germany has for some time had an unfavourable balance of trade. Immediately before the Anschluss there was a favourable balance, but mobilisation plus the dislocation of industry owing to war preparations, forced her to curtail exports. That led to an unfavourable balance of trade. Now she is demobilised or in the process of demobilisation, and has mineral resources newly acquired. She has two million additional workers, skilled in industry, in the territories, which are mainly industrial. It is necessary to buy very large quantities of foodstuffs, which may be paid for by greater quantities of manufactured goods.
Before the Munich Agreement, Germany was pursuing a policy of self-sufficiency. Now, because of her 166 domination over the agriculture and industry of Europe, she can afford to abandon self-sufficiency and embark on a policy of exporting goods, and it may be raw materials, including coal, at prices which will place the industry of this country at a serious disadvantage. Some time ago we heard a great deal about the Opel car. The President of the Board of Trade will recall the Debate we had in this House, and the concern expressed in all quarters of the House about the excessive importations of that car. It was significant, though it may have been overlooked by hon. Members, that the imports of these cars diminished. Why was that? It was due to the need for producing armoured cars owing to the situation arising from the Sudetenland question. That is over, and we can now expect a resumption of those exports. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; he does not agree; but that is the information I have, and from unimpeachable sources.
Indeed, the Munich Agreement, with its surrender, the dismemberment of the military power of Czechoslovakia, and the complete abdication of the democratic countries, have given Herr Hitler precisely what he has been seeking all along, namely, the acquisition of sufficient economic strength to proceed with the greatest trade drive the world has ever seen. Already we see signs of that in Europe and in South America. Nor should we forget the methods that accompany it; the manipulation of currency, the curious clearing arrangements—I use polite language—the process of barter, plus intimidation and possibly the threat of force. How is that threat to be countered? How are we to meet and withstand the shattering blasts which soon will confront the industries of the United Kingdom? Can we afford to be undercut and undersold in the markets upon which we have depended? Can our exporting districts stand it? It is not of any use to remind us that the bulk of the trade in South Eastern Europe was in the hands of Germany and Italy. I am well aware that we had only a small percentage of that trade, possibly about 6 per cent., as against Germany and Italy's 75 per cent. That is true; but it is in our Scandinavian market—a market of supreme importance—in South America, and it may well be in some of our Dominions, for I am not unmindful of the position in South Africa, where the blow will fall.
167 What are the Government going to do about it? Has the matter been mentioned in Government circles? Is the Board of Trade getting busy? Or are we to rely upon appeasement, upon Herr Hitler's good will? If so, it will bring cold comfort to our major industries, where there are already indications of depression. I shall not occupy the time of the House by relating the facts; we are all more or less familiar with them. Our exports are declining. Our Mercantile Marine is in a condition of depression. We have 2,000 fewer vessels than we had in 1914, and the tonnage building now is 300,000 tons less that at this time last year. The tramp shipping industry contemplates a scheme which will lay up many vessels, which means more unemployment and reduces the prestige of the Mercantile Marine of this country throughout the world. The Minister of Labour said to-day, in reply to a question I put to him, that unemployment had reached a figure of nearly 1,800,000. That is a very serious situation.
Let me make it perfectly clear that no one on this side desires to prevent the German nation from engaging in trade. I say that advisedly, because of what the Prime Minister said this afternoon. The German people have to live, and we wish them well, whatever our views may be about totalitarian States and the methods employed by Herr Hitler. But in this Debate we are considering the effect of Munich. It is no use pretending that the position now is better for us than it was before. It is worse, and, unless we take proper measures, we shall find ourselves in a desperate position. In these new circumstances, in my view, we must proceed to reorganise our industrial and economic forces in the most efficient fashion if we wish to retain our trade, much less add to it.
I attach some importance to the Anglo-American Trade Agreement, but it will take more than that to counteract the evil consequences of Munich. There are two possible lines of approach. One is the economic policy of this party; the other a policy, less valuable in my view, which may prove more acceptable to this House. We must develop a new technique, however unpalatable it may be to certain interests is the country. If we had our way we should bring essential industries and services under public control. 168 The first step to national efficiency is to create a single economic unit, to ensure that nobody makes profits out of national needs, particularly armaments; and that our resources in coal and power, transport, iron and steel and textiles no longer remain in private hands, and that every idle acre of land should be brought under cultivation. I am not concerned now about the kind of mechanism required, whether it be State ownership or some form of public utility.
But, as I recognise that this policy is unacceptable in the present state of opinion in this House, I pass to consider the alternative. It will be agreed that Germany is a complete economic entity. We are not. Can we do anything in this direction? First, I maintain that manufacturers might be induced to agree to a larger measure of control over their operations than it has yet been possible to introduce in our industrial affairs. We should create a Government Department equipped with power to direct and, within limits, control trade. We could establish import boards. We should refuse to tolerate harum-scarum methods of buying, not related to national needs or the state of our own industry. There are many articles imported which we could do without, and this should not be left to the arbitrary decision of private individuals.
Moreover, we should be prepared to assist our exports if necessary. What other hope is there for textiles and for coal? There is a challenge for the right hon. Gentleman. What is the solution for the depression in the textile industry other than some kind of State assistance, which is more required than ever in view of the economic situation which has emerged? Industrialists must be ready to agree to priority in production. If it is in the national interests to produce steel for home industry rather than for export, for example, it must be done. The matter is one for the State to decide. It ought not to be left to the discretion of private trade interests. Our imports and exports are not the sole concern of private traders, but the concern of the State. In short, the methods which suited us in the past are no longer effective, least of all since the Munich Agreement. If all this looks like the approach of the regimentation of industry, as indeed it does, I must remind the House that we are in a new situation, and that fresh and radical measures are 169 necessary. The best safeguard aginst undue dislocation of industry is the Parliamentary forum, where adjustments may be made, not in the interests of any particular section, but in the interests of the State. That is precisely the difference beween the methods of democracy and of the totalitarian States. In this connection the co-operation of the trade unions should be sought.
That brings me to the question of a Ministry of Supply. I shall not discuss the merits of the question itself. That will be a matter for another Debate. The Prime Minister said that compulsion was essential if a Ministry of Supply was to be created. I beg to differ from the right hon. Gentleman and to point out that so far no attempt has been made to enlist the industrial man-power of the country by voluntary means. There has been no approach to the trade unions and no definite proposals have been placed before them. The right hon. Gentleman ought to try out that voluntary method by an effective approach to the trade unions. That, surely, does not prevent the creation of a central organisation, with power to direct on the basis of voluntary agreements reached both with the employers and the workpeople in the various industries.
There is one vital matter to which I invite attention. An appeal has been made in the course of the Debate by more than one hon. Member for national unity. As I understand it, national unity is a corollary of another National Government, but we have had a National Government for the past seven years, or is it really a National Government? Why are there these appeals for another National Government? What is wrong with this one? [An HON. MEMBER: Holdsworth."]
§ Mr. Shinwell
We think an appeal of that kind will meet with little success. I will state the reason very shortly. What is it that keeps us apart? It is simply explained. We hold a different conception of how society should be organised, of how the workers should be treated and of the principal implications of democracy. We cannot see the least justification for maintaining at one end of the social scale a few thousand people whose wealth is enormous, while at the other end there are millions whose lives are filled with 170 problems and whose whole existence is insecure from the cradle to the grave. These are facts which cannot be disputed. Once that gulf is bridged we can have national unity, but any appearance of national unity, in face of conditions of social injustice, would be spurious and temporary. We recall that those who speak of national unity increased the length of the miners' working day, introduced the Trade Dispute Act which limited the rights of trade unionists, imposed the means test, and we remind ourselves that they are now speaking of reducing the social services. When we detect a change of heart followed by appropriate action, then we shall consider national unity and not before. That does not mean that in a national emergency we should let the country down. Give us a just cause and the workers will respond, but the workers are suspicious of the Government all the more since the betrayal of Czechoslovakia.
The Prime Minister spoke this afternoon of fouling one's nest. I ask him not to confuse criticism of the Government with criticism of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman attacked my right hon. Friend on the ground that we had been broadcasting the alleged decadence of this country. We have done nothing of the sort. We may have said something about the decadence of the National Government, but we have a profound faith in the ability of this country and its people to rise above the existing difficulties. Therefore, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the nation is sound at heart; it is the Government who have failed. If we are to have real national unity to deal fundamentally with the problems that imperil our trade and the country as a whole, the best advice we can give is that the Government should make way for a Government more concerned with national interests and less with the interests of a small section of society.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I hope that in the rather controversial atmosphere raised, as it very often is, by the hon. Member who has just spoken, the House will not think it inappropriate of me if I feel that I cannot pass over in silence the speeches that were made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and 171 by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) earlier this afternoon. Not only were those speeches eloquent and sincere but the manner in which they were received in all quarters of the House will, perhaps more even than the speeches, bring consolation to those who are left. It is always a satisfaction to realise that one whom one has known intimately has in a wider circle made exactly the same impression as he made on those who were nearest and dearest to him, and it will be a great consolation to us to know that his simplicity of character and his kindliness of nature were as much valued in the wide circles of this House and in public life generally as they were in the circle of the family.
We have during the course of to-day's Debate covered a very wide field. We have gone from Spain to China, from China to Italy, and from Italy to Czechoslovakia. We have discussed not only foreign policy but rearmament and air-raid precautions. We have had the Prime Minister's smile criticised by an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Leeds and we have had references to speeches made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour a year or two ago. It would need a Foreign Secretary, a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and a hypothetical Minister for Supply all rolled into one to reply adequately to all the questions raised in the course of the Debate. I want to confine myself to one of the points dealt with by the last speaker and to a point which is more appropriate to my Department, and that is the economic consequence of the political and social consequences which have been discussed at great length.
Before I come to that matter, it is only courteous that I should reply to one or two points which have been raised in the Debate. First, may I reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who put a question as to the position of the Anglo-American Treaty? There was a Question on the Order Paper to-day to which I should have given an oral answer, but it was not asked. I will read the answer, which will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow:Since the summer, when agreement was reached over a large part of the field, the negotiations have been concentrated on a limited list of items some of which have 172 proved intractable. Our delegation has recently defined the United Kingdom position on these outstanding matters, and we expect a reply from the United States very shortly.There is only one thing I can say in implementation. Ever since I went to my present office I have had constantly in my mind as one of the most important of my tasks a new Anglo-American Treaty, and I should welcome it very heartily. On the other hand, I realise, as I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will realise, that if a treaty of this kind is to have anything but fleeting benefits, it must be a treaty which is fair to both sides. We know the position of our trade balance with America to-day. I am not sure that the existence of such a large discrepancy is not even now a threat not only to the trading stability of this country but through that to the trading stability of the world as a whole, and hon. Members will, I am sure, realise that however desirable a treaty is, a treaty which would increase that disparity could not lead to any genuine appeasement or economic advantage to either side, but in the long run only lead to a loss. While I am as anxious as ever to obtain an Anglo-American Treaty, it must be a treaty fair to both sides, giving advantages to both and being biased towards neither.
I must warn the right hon. Gentleman opposite that if he shares my anxiety to see an Anglo-American trade treaty brought about, he will have to speak to his hon. Friends because when the hon. Member opposite says that the new technique which has to be adopted to cope with the new circumstances, is to include the exclusion from this country of goods which he says we do not want—by which I believe he means the placing from time to time of an embargo on certain articles of luxury or of non-necessity—then we must not embark on any policy of a trade agreement of this kind which would make it impossible to put into effect this new technique during the period of the treaty. The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland made an eloquent speech which he prefaced by saying that he wanted to do as little as possible to destroy the unity in the country. The thought passed through my mind as to what would happen when the right hon. Gentleman chose not to do as little but as much as possible.
173 One or two other thoughts occurred to me during the course of his speech. He referred to the time when the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) left the Government as the end of what he gave the impression was the golden age of unity in foreign policy, which the departure of the right hon. Gentleman destroyed. When I look at the attacks which the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington had to suffer in this House, the votes of censure which were moved upon him almost day by day, and the eloquence of the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, I find that by merely substituting the word "Spain" for "Czechoslovakia" and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington for the Prime Minister, they are almost word for word the speech which he made to-day. I could not but feel that people seem to take on a very rosy hue as soon as they leave the bench from which I am speaking.
There are one or two of the right hon. Gentleman's points with which I would like to deal. I will not refer to the matters he raised with regard to the Anglo-Italian Agreement, for clearly they are matter for discussion to-morrow, nor with some of the questions he asked concerning Defence which, as the Prime Minister said, will be discussed on a later occasion. However, the right hon. Gentleman asked a question about the position of those people now in concentration camps who might wish to make use of the article regarding option in the Munich Agreement. I think the Prime Minister pointed out that the difficulty of the means of the exercise of that article is at present under discussion between the German and Czech Commissioners, and that in due course no doubt the result of their discussion will come before the full conference. Until the terms are settled, it is impossible to say what the exact power of option will be.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
This is a very important matter. The difficulty I foresee is that the Czech representative may not be very greatly interested in the fate of the Germans who may wish to opt out of the Reich. Could there not be an instruction to our Ambassador, when the matter is referred back to the International Commission, to take great care that the rights of these Germans who may be in concentration camps are safeguarded?
§ Mr. Stanley
Certainly, we will bear that in mind. The right hon. Gentleman then asked a question about the position in China and the giving of assistance from this country. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that there was an announcement in the House, I think on 14th July, that the Government had not seen their way to introduce the special legislation which would be necessary in order to grant a loan to China. That does not mean, however, that the Government have been neglectful of the undertakings given at Geneva to consider what support States might individually extend to China, and in this connection they have expressed their willingness to assist, as far as lies in their power, in any scheme which might be put forward. Certain proceedings of this kind have been proposed, and they are at present under examination or on the way to fruition; but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not desirable that the details of these proposals and the circumstances connected with these matters should be gone into here at the present time.
We also heard a very interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) who, as recently pointed out, certainly does possess a golden tongue with which he appears to exercise complete control over the electors in Aberdeen. His speech, which covered a good deal of ground, most of which will be more directly connected with the Debate upon armaments when it comes next week, raised some extremely interesting points. I am always interested in the hon. Gentleman's views on finance and economics, because although I do not always agree that they are right, they are always original and courageous. I must say that I did feel a little difficulty in going all the way with him on what he called the financial aspect of rearmament.
I cannot, I am afraid, agree that rearmament, even to the extent to which we have embarked on it at the moment, and still less an accelerated and increased armament in the future, is the one and only way to prosperity for this country. I am perfectly prepared to recommend not only the armaments which we are now making, but increased provision in the future as a necessary sacrifice which this people has to make for its security, but I am not going to celebrate it as a good way of making the economy of this 175 country profitable. I should hesitate to do so, because within the next few weeks I hope to pass through this House a Bill dealing with share-pushing, and I might feel some reluctance in recommending certain of its Clauses. But I think it is a pity to let the idea get about that rearmament is a way to prosperity. I do not believe it. I believe that rearmament does not call for rejoicing. It calls for sacrifice, and when I see some probability of armament expenditure being relaxed, as the Prime Minister hopes may sometime result from his efforts, I shall not look upon that as the closing of the road to a prosperous future. I shall look upon it as a relief from a sacrifice which is becoming almost intolerable. If we are to look upon it in a light-hearted way as a new method of attaining prosperity, I am afraid we shall overlook a consideration which I believe all of us however strongly we hold views as to rearmament, should bear always in mind and that is that the financial and commercial strength of this country is one of our greatest assets in war.
In the whole course of our history, when we have been fighting European Powers, I cannot recollect a time when we have ever won a short war, but I can hardly recollect a time in history when we have ever lost a long one. That is because the deployment of these great financial and commercial resources has enabled us to outlast our enemies and to get the decisive position at the end of a long war. Therefore, we must put finance and commerce among our military assets when we are discussing the question of future rearmament.
§ Mr. Boothby
In order that I may not be misinterpreted may I say that I would very much prefer to see an expansion of public works of a useful character, rather than an expansion of works of a destructive character, if I had my choice?
§ Mr. Stanley
Even so, the hon. Gentleman still maintained that this expenditure on armaments per se was a way to the rehabilitation of the economy of this country and that, I am afraid, is a doctrine with which I do not agree. There is one other point with which I wish to deal and that is the point raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He was dealing with the question 176 of evacuation and in particular the arrangements for the billeting of civilians, and he read out an article from a paper the name of which I forget——
§ Mr. Stanley
That is an article, the tone of which I, myself, find distasteful in the extreme, and I do not believe that it represents the feelings of a fraction of the people of this country. I was in my constituency last week-end and had some talk about the arrangements in my area. It is an area to which civilians from the North of England are to be evacuated. I had some talk with those responsible for the arrangements, and certainly that was not the kind of spirit which was represented to me as being the spirit in which these arrangements were being received. It is, of course, a difficult problem. It needs great common sense and tact. But I believe that if a crisis were to come, it is a burden which the people generally of this country would realise to be essential, and that they would shoulder it willingly as part of the common effort to get over the crisis successfully. I think the hon. Member has done a service by allowing hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House to express their disapproval of the sort of spirit contained in that article.
I pass now to some of the remarks which were made with regard to trade and the effect of Munich upon trade conditions in this country. The effect seems to me to fall into two parts. There is first of all the actual effect of the cession of the particular territory on trade between Czechoslovakia and ourselves and on trade between ourselves and the districts which will now be transferred to Germany. It is clearly very difficult so soon after the event to get anything more than a rough estimate of what the effect of this change-over will be. There are many things that we do not know yet. We do not know what are likely to be the Customs arrangements between Germany and the new Czechoslovakia, and between Poland and the new Czechoslovakia. As there has been no census of production it is difficult to get any exact estimate of what was the production in the Sudeten areas as compared with the total production of Czechoslovakia. But I must say, with all allowance for the difficulties of making any definite estimate, I do not believe that the Munich Agreement and 177 the cession of the territory are going to have any great effect upon trade.
Last year our exports to Czechoslovakia were about £2,500,000 while our imports were over £7,000,000. In so far as the goods imported from Czechoslovakia came from the Sudeten area and will now come from Germany instead of from Czechoslovakia, that is all catered for in the Anglo-German Payments Agreement, and those imports into this country will have to be paid for by Germany by an express ratio of our exports to them which is considerably higher than the ratio of about two to seven which was the ratio of our trade with the old Czechoslovakia. On the other hand, of course it may well be that, in so far as our exports went to the part of Czechoslovakia which remains in the new State, the greater economic difficulties will leave them with less to be exchanged, and that we may to some extent lose part of our exports there. On the whole the probability is that we shall gain by the amount of the imports to this country which are transferred to the Sudeten area and we shall lose to some extent on that part which remains within the boundary of the new Czechoslovakia.
With regard to coal, one of the most important items, it is difficult to assess the direct effect. The greater part of the Czechoslovakian coal—I am not sure I should not be right in saying all of it—has been used either internally or in supplying the markets directly alongside—Austria, Hungary and the co-terminous States. Those are markets which we do not reach with our coal owing to their geographical situation, and it is not likely to have very much effect on our coal trade because it seems to me that the probability is that it will still go to the same markets that it was going to before.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman has missed my point. The point that I was making was not the effect of the Munich Agreement on Czech-United Kingdom trade. I agree that trade generally in Central and South-Eastern Europe with Great Britain was comparatively small, but if Germany is now in a position, because of the acquisition of new territory, to liberate exports, will they not percolate into our existing markets outside Central and South-Eastern Europe and injuriously affect our trade?
§ Mr. Stanley
I was going to deal with that, but there are really three points. 178 There is the direct effect on our trade, there is the penetration in South-East Europe, and there is the third and major problem of the general relationship between our trade and the trade of the totalitarian States. Let me pass to the question of penetration in South-Eastern Europe. I agree with the Prime Minister when he says he does not think we need look for sinister and ulterior motives in the recent visits of Herr Funk to the capitals of South-East Europe, but I think it right, when considering this problem of German penetration of South-East Europe, to make up our minds definitely what it is that is complained of and what it is that you want. I do not think that we are entitled to, and I do not think we do, object that Germany should be the chief trader in those areas. They are her natural markets and she has the advantage in many cases of language similarity. I do not think anybody either could or wants to enter into an economic war to prevent her natural development in those areas. Indeed, a policy of that kind would be extravagant, impracticable, and, I think, unjustified; it would be a real dog-in-the-manger policy.
But there is another thing. It is different to say that Germany is entitled to the major share in those markets and to say that she is to have exclusive control of them. I see no reason why we should be completely disinterested in the potential trade of an area of this kind, and I believe it is quite possible that even while Germany increases her trade in those areas, we should maintain and increase our trade as well. If you compare the figures for the Danubian countries in 1936–37, you will find that although Germany, according to her own figures, largely increased her exports, so at the same time did we. We intend to give every assistance to the industries of this country to maintain, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, a footing in those countries and to take advantage of what, after all, in the long run must react to the credit of this country.
It may be that we cannot purchase goods from those countries either to the quantity or at the price the Germans can. Many of these goods are competitive with goods which come to us from our own Empire. Also the Germans, through their particular methods, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, are enabled to 179 purchase and do purchase many of these commodities at above the world price, a thing which we cannot, with our free currency, attempt to do, but we have, even in the last few months, given in one or two ways considerable assistance to trading in those areas. There is the credit to Turkey, there has been a recent opportunity, which we had in turning over wheat under the Food Defence Plans Department, to buy a considerable block of Rumanian wheat; and I can assure traders that while we certainly will not attempt an economic war to drive Germany out of markets which are for her a natural outlet, we shall be prepared to give industries of this country every possible assistance in maintaining a normal and proper trade with those countries.
But the third point to which the hon. Gentleman referred was much the most important. It has nothing to do with merely South-eastern countries.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.
§ Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Mr. Stanley
I apologise for detaining the House, but the point which the hon. Gentleman raised is an important one for the future of our trade, and one to which, I think, everybody in industry must have been giving a considerable amount of thought in the past few years. It has really nothing to do with the peg on which the hon. Gentleman hung his argument. It is a problem of the old open economy practised by such countries as ourselves and America, who have to live now in the world with the closed economy of the totalitarian States. The problem is not confined only to living with Germany. The Russian economy presents, too, many difficulties to the old system. Somehow or other we have to find a way. Just as we have to find a way in the political sphere for democracies and dictatorships to live together, so in the economic sphere we have to find a way for the old-fashioned 180 economy such as ours to live with the totalitarian economy of the dictator States. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we are not going to find that modus vivendi by simply sitting down and allowing ourselves to be put out of market after market in the world. On the other hand, we are not out to try and turn other countries out of their markets. I do not agree with what the hon. Gentleman considers the ideal solution, but he said many things with which I do agree.
I think it is possible to meet this competition only by doing what I believe we ought to do, and that is to come to a sensible arrangement with these countries for the allocation of the markets on the basis of the markets which we can each serve best. I do not believe we can compete with these countries unless to some extent we learn a new technique. We have prospered for many generations on a system of free competition in the markets of the world. When the individual firm in this country had to compete with a single firm, whether in Germany or America, or wherever it might be, it was competition which they were not afraid to face, and which they faced successfully. It is a very different thing when the single firm in this country has to face, first of all, the competition of a whole industry abroad, and when behind the competition of that industry is the power also of the whole State. That ceases to be competition, because the basis of it is so unfair. I do not believe that you can meet competition of that kind without to some extent adapting your methods in this country. To meet a challenge of that kind the first thing necessary is a greater degree of organisation on the export side in particular in dustries, so that an industry may speak as one and be enabled to devote its full strength to it if it comes to fighting for its existence and fighting for its fair share in a proper market.
The hon. Gentleman referred to two commodities, coal and textiles. I should say that coal was one of the industries in which that new technique was already being evolved and that some parts of the Bill which was passed last year were forced on the industry by the consideration to which the hon. Member has drawn attention and were directed to meet exactly those difficulties. With regard to textiles, what does the hon. Gentleman think is really the basis for the campaign 181 in Lancashire in favour of the Bill which is now being prepared? It is the same view, that if we are to maintain our exports in face of the new form of competition there must be some form of unity in the industry which will enable it to direct its exporting power at its strongest wherever we wish it to direct it. There is a great deal we have to learn in dealing with this competition, and I can assure the House that the Government are fully alive to the dangers of an unhindered development of a reckless competition of this kind. We believe the ideal solution is an arrangement between industries in the various countries which will fairly allocate the markets and enable competing countries to do the maximum of trade on the soundest basis possible, but we realise that we are never going to get an agreement of that kind unless, if it should come to a fight, we are in a position to fight. Therefore, we are prepared, in order to try to get an arrangement of that kind, to give whatever assistance we can to the industries of this country to put themselves in a position to fight, if fight they must.
I have dealt as well as I could with the economic effects of the Munich Agreement 182 and the broader questions arising from the new system in Europe, because I take no part in a Foreign Affairs Debate as an expert. I have only one other thing to say. The hon. Gentleman said that the Prime Minister was the only person in the world who did not regard Munich as a defeat. As I say, I am not the expert on foreign policy that the hon. Gentleman is, but I have heard something of the feelings of ordinary people in this country and in other countries in the world, and I believe that there are millions of people all over the world who do not regard the preservation of peace as a defeat.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.