§ [THIRD DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament." —[Captain Marsden.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
It is the intention of my hon. Friends to-day to raise various matters relating to the international situation, but it is I think impossible to begin a speech on this subject without making reference to the private notice question asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and answered by the Prime Minister. My hon. Friends have already given some consideration to these events, at a meeting before the Assembly of the House to-day. In our view an act of aggression has been committed by a great Power against a small and democratic country, and in our view such action is indefensible. We particularly regret one aspect of the matter, namely, that the offer made by the United States Government to mediate between the Soviet Union and Finland has not been accepted by the Soviet Government. That is all I propose to say now. I have made our position perfectly clear, and we shall now read with deep concern the further news that may come from the latest scene of armed conflict in Europe.
It is not inappropriate that at the beginning of this new Session we should ask that a statement be made on the diplomatic activities of the Government in so far as they can properly be revealed, and that we should know what contribution the Foreign Office is making at the present time towards winning and abbreviating the war. This would naturally fall under two heads —in the first place our relations with our Allies, 292 and in the second place our relations with neutrals. With the enemy the Foreign Office has no relations. So far as our Allies are concerned I wish to emphasise the greatest importance, with which I am sure the Government will agree, of not falling out of step with France at this time or at any later time. It is no exaggeration to say that the survival of civilisation in Europe now depends upon close, continuous and cordial co-operation between this country and France. We welcome in particular the evidence which has recently been given of close economic co-operation between this country and France, in the joint planning of many economic as well as military and diplomatic activities. I hope it may be possible for something more to be said about that to-day, and I also hope that the close union of this country and France in the economic field may be only a first step towards a still wider scheme of co-operation into which other countries also will enter.
Nor when we speak of our Allies can we forget those two comparatively small Slav nations —small compared with the Nazi colossus —the Poles and Czechs, who are now the immediate victims of that atrocious Nazi oppression, as recorded from day to day in the Press. I trust that the closest contact is being kept with the representatives both of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. It was, I think, a happy chance, or a happy arrangement, which brought together in London, only a few days ago, General Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister, and Dr. Benes, now an honoured resident in this capital, the only man who deserved high praise for what happened at Munich. It was indeed a happy thing that General Sikorski on his visit here should have met Dr. Benes and that these two proved democrats should have concerted together plans for the resurrection of their countries and the restoration of liberty and democracy in Poland and Czecho-Slovakia.
I have already referred to the United States in relation to the Soviet aggression against Finland, and I am sure that the offer of the United States Government of their good offices was appreciated wherever men are civilised and sane. I also wish to say that we owe to the United States deep thanks for the amendment of the Neutrality Act, which, as President Roosevelt said, restores the 293 traditional neutrality policy of the United States, although the President himself added, in a pregnant phrase, that "it was impossible that American citizens could to-day be neutral in thought."
I hope that the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who I understand is to reply to this Debate, may be able to tell us something about our relations with Turkey. The Anglo-Franco-Turkish pacts are the most solid fact that has emerged in the Mediterranean area in the last month or two, a solid fact on which less solid bodies might break. I hope that military, economic and financial co-operation between this country and Turkey, and between France and Turkey, is now being worked out in detail and that the cold hand of the Treasury is not being laid on hopeful and necessary schemes. But perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say something about the present discussions that are in progress with the representatives of the Turkish Government; and, although here we are on the border line of the activities of several Departments, of which the Foreign Office I hope is one —perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may be able to tell us something about the arrangements being made with other States in south and south-east Europe for the promotion of trade and other common interests. The stoppage of German exports at sea, which we welcome and would have welcomed earlier if it had been done earlier, obviously raises new problems of an economic order —for example, the supply of British coal to Italy —which I hope are being carefully studied at the Foreign Office as well as other Departments.
I want to urge that what is sometimes called the policy of pre-emption should be vigorously pursued in these areas. It is easy to recognise in a general way the importance of purchases by this country, or by our friends and Allies, of the produce of the countries in question, especially of those in South-East Europe, in the Balkan area. It has been said, I think well, in the language of our democratic politics, that every ton of metal, every bushel of wheat, every gallon of oil, every pig which is bought by us in South-East Europe counts two on a division —we win it and the Germans miss it. This consideration does not apply with equal force to trade with other parts of the world. That is a special reason why the trade with these areas 294 should be vigorously pressed forward. In addition to that, it is not necessary to emphasise that the future political tendency of these countries in relation to the great struggle now proceeding may be partly affected by the amount of trade which they can now develop with us and our friends.
Now I turn from these considerations to the matter which was discussed in the Debate on Tuesday, the question of peace aims, which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and which has been referred to by the Prime Minister both in his broadcast last Sunday and in some remarks in this House the day before yesterday. I think it is useful that this Debate on peace aims should continue both in the House and outside, especially now, when the war effort of the country is launched and the war aim of the country, as distinct from the peace aims, is understood and generally accepted. When there is still some obscurity and doubt about some aspects of our peace. aims, this can without any disadvantage be cleared up in further debate. This moment, when the war to some extent is hanging fire and Herr Hitler is hesitating, before war passions have been stoked up and men's sight and judgment have been overclouded, is a particularly good moment for the continuance of this Debate. The Prime Minister in his broadcast on Sunday spoke in more detail than he has done before about peace aims, but he still showed a certain timidity and some fear that further discussion of this subject in this country would somehow militate against the successful prosecution of the war. I do not believe that is true. Dr. Goebbels may count on a black-out of thought in Germany, but we are not Germans and we can discuss without endangering—indeed, we can discuss and thereby strengthen—the foundations of the national effort.
In the Prime Minister's speech in the House on Tuesday he truly said that the peace aims which are to be achieved when the war is over cannot be laid down by this country alone, but that there will be others to be consulted. That is an obvious truth and a good reason for starting the consultations now, rather than delaying the establishment of proper contacts and exchange of ideas until a later and less propitious moment. It is most desirable, in our view, that there 295 should be frank and friendly consultations with the Government of France and the Dominions, and with the Poles and Czechs. Later the circle might be extended, but surely discussions might now begin within the narrow circle of those immediately concerned. I have referred to the great importance of keeping in step with France. It is important that there should be no appearance in any public statement of disagreement between us and them. I noticed the other day that, when President Lebrun replied to the peace proposals of the Queen of the Netherlands and the King of the Belgians he went into rather more detail than His Majesty's Government did. He referred specifically to the restoration of freedom to the Poles and the Czechs and a freedom of choice to the Austrians at the end of the war as to their destiny—detailed points that were not found in the British reply. I do not assume that His Majesty's Government disagree with President Lebrun's statement. I assume they agree, but I suggest that constant discussion on these matters between the two Governments would prevent even the outward appearance of disagreement which might be exploited by malignant and ingenious persons in order to try to prove that disagreement exists.
So far as the Poles and the Czechs are concerned, I take it that every hon. Member will agree with me when I say that a Pole has as much right to a Poland in which to live and that a Czech or a Slovak has as much right to a Czecho-Slovakia in which to live as a German has to a Germany or an Englishman to an England. I take it that these Slav peoples, with their distinctive civilisation and character, are entitled to have just as much sovereignty in the future layout of Europe—although, let us hope, every one will have less than in the past—as the French or we claim for ourselves. Therefore, I assume that on this subject, although it is premature to discuss details of frontiers and the like, we would be in agreement with the declaration of the French President. With regard to Austria, surely the right policy, which can be stated now without any disadvantage, is that the Austrians were swept into the Reich through the breach of a treaty and through the use of force without a proper plebiscite having been taken—indeed just because it was 296 proposed to hold a plebiscite and Herr Hitler did not want it. That being so, it should surely be one of our peace aims to let the Austrian people choose their future in some free arid democratic fashion. I do not make precise the exact method, whether it should be by plebiscite properly organised, or whether by a vote of an Austrian Assembly properly and democratically elected, but by one or other such means the Austrian people should be free to decide at the end of the war whether they wish to remain in Germany or whether they wish to leave Germany and have again independent and free institutions. I would only say that they should be assured that in either case arrangements would be made in Europe to give them the economic basis of a prosperous life.
Let me add this that part of the value of the discussion of peace aims may be of a preventive character. It may he useful to set aside and to discourage certain unofficial agitations which, in the absence of a Government statement, might gain more weight and force than they deserve. There is, for instance, a certain agitation proceeding in purely unofficial circles for the restoration of the Hapsburg dynasty in Austria, a dynasty which has been out of action for 20 years and is a little out of date. Let me express the opinion that the great majority of Austrians desire neither Hitler nor the Hapsburgs. If they were given the narrow choice, they would no doubt choose the Hapsburgs, but in a wider choice I believe they would prefer neither, but would choose a free and democratic Austria. My contention is that they should be given the opportunity to choose when the time comes, but meanwhile no official cloak should be thrown over this unofficial agitation for the restoration of a dynasty which has been in hiding since 1919. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has not been very prominent on the outward surface of things, but we have heard a good deal about various agitations behind the scenes, and I thought it well to bring them in front of the House in order that it might be made clear that this agitation is unofficial and is not supported by His Majesty's Government. If the Government support it, we shall no doubt hear when the right hon. Gentleman replies.
There is another matter on which I should like to say a word, and in order 297 to back what I have to say I will quote from the Prime Minister's speech on Tuesday a passage with which, for once, I am in complete agreement, and, I believe, my hon. Friends are in agreement with it, too. This is the statement he made:We have not entered this war with any vindictive purpose, and, therefore, we do not intend to impose a vindictive peace. What we say is that, first of all, we must put an end to this menace under which Europe has lain for so many years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 28, Vol. 355.]We all agree with that. Speaking at greater length on a similar aspect of the matter in his broadcast, which I quote in full in order to get it on the records of the House, the Prime Minister said:Our war aim … is to defeat our enemy, awl by that I do not merely mean the defeat of the enemy's military forces. I mean the defeat of that aggressive, bullying mentality which seeks continually to dominate other peoples by force, which finds a brutal satisfaction in the persecution or torture of inoffensive citizens, and in the name of the interests of the State justifies the repudiation of its own pledged word whenever it finds it convenient. If the German people can be convinced that that spirit is as bad for them-selves as for the rest of the world they will abandon it. If we can secure that they do abandon it without bloodshed so much the better; but abandoned it must be.My hon. Friends on this side of the House accept that statement. There are other parts of the speech which, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, were a little disappointing, but we accept that. I suggest that the substance of it should be put over effectively into Germany, into that land where men walk in the darkness created by the rulers who have got power over them. We must do a little counter propaganda to that of Dr. Goebbels, and something of this kind should be put over in German on the air and through all the other channels that are open to us. If I might put in other langauge the thought which is conveyed in that passage from the Prime Minister, I would say this, and I think that in saying it I speak for my hon. Friends. I would say that we must let the German people know that we do not intend to destroy Germany nor to tear her to pieces when the war is over. There are stirrings within Germany which may lead, sooner than perhaps some expect, to the liquidation of this accursed Nazi system and its bestial and bloody instrument the Gestapo. Let us do nothing to discourage those stirrings.
298 Let us, therefore, lose no opportunity of making our true intentions clear. When this storm of war is past, we desire to see a free and civilised Germany taking her place in a free and civilised Europe, as a good neighbour and as an equal with other nations, and not as a perpetual menace to their peace or as one who seeks to bully and dominate. I believe that that represents the view of the great majority of the people of this country, especially those who have given study to recent events in Europe, and, perhaps, most of all, those who realise the importance of countering with the truth the lying propaganda which Dr. Goebbels is putting out without intermission. Therefore, I ask the Government to take effective steps to put over to Germany the substance of what the Prime Minister said in the quotation I have made. I have spoken of that free and civilised Europe which we hope will come when the war is over.
In planning that new Europe we must learn from the past, and I propose to say something about some of the lessons which we can learn. The League of Nations was a brave effort, but it failed because it was not brave enough, and, in particular, because successive British Governments at critical moments were not brave enough. There was a constant fear of so-called commitments and entanglements in Europe, a constant shrinking away towards isolation. Many Governments must carry their share of blame for that in the 20 years since the last war ended. It was never firmly realised by public opinion in this country that we were now part of Europe, for good or ill, and could not dodge our responsibilities and leave the Continental Powers to fight it out among themselves. It was never recognised that the fact that we were neighbours to these nations was true not only in a narrow geographical sense, and not only in a moral sense, but also very true in the strategical sense, and during those years we should have been pulling our weight much more regularly and steadily in the affairs of Europe, east as well as west. Looking back at the errors made, I only wish to recall them in the hope that when the Government plan the new Europe, and the peace aims within which the new Europe will be embodied, they will remember those things and avoid those errors.
299 The first and gravest error was, I think, the action of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he was Prime Minister in 1919 and ran out of the guarantee that had been given jointly by Britain and America to France. That was the first wrong step taken. It was true the Americans had run out, but that was no excuse for our following. We were nearer; we had a greater interest. If we had plainly told France, France still bleeding from that last war, "If Germany attacks you again we shall be at your side," and had given her a sense of assurance and security such as nothing that we said and did ever succeeded in giving, we should have been able to exercise a steady friendly influence on French policy which at certain moments would have been most helpful to the long-range objectives of peace. Therefore, I hope that from now on it will be made quite clear that we and France stand or fall together, and that there can be no running out of firm guarantees to be given in the future against any repetition of these abominable aggressions from further east.
Another terrible error was made in 1924, when the Geneva Protocol was rejected by the Government here after that great measure had been organised, largely through the efforts of the late Arthur Henderson at Geneva. We then neglected an opportunity, which never came back in full measure, to consolidate in the most complete and unqualified fashion a scheme of collective security in which all would have been involved. Had that happened in 1924 the whole subsequent history of Europe would have been different; but there was on our part a continual attempt to slink away into an imaginary pseudo-insular isolation. On the other hand, on the part not only of ourselves but of other States, there was a jealous clinging to a national sovereignty which impeded all projects of inter-national co-operation. It was the Archbishop of York who said recently—and I thought it a striking phrase—that for the future we had to choose between sovereignty on the one hand and security on the other. The more sovereignty there was for each the less security there was for all. I hope, therefore, that the Government will apply themselves to a 300 scheme for a federal Europe after the war. That is the phrase which is now fashionable, even though its content has not yet been closely studied, and it is the duty of the Government to study it and work upon it. I trust that any scheme which they may evolve for embodiment in the peace treaty, after consultation with our friends and allies, will make some provision for the abatement of that national sovereignty which has led us where we are.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister praise the Bruce report on the possibilities of the development of the work of the League of Nations in many directions, and I should like to emphasise a point that was made on Tuesday by my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) regarding the International Labour Office. My hon. Friend very truly said that the International Labour Office had very great potentialities, not only in its own constitution but also in the fact that the United States now take a prominent part in its work and that the director of it is now an American citizen of great distinction. My hon. Friend proposed that the I.L.O. should be asked to work out now schemes and detailed plans—not merely what the Prime Minister rather contemptuously called "essays" but practical schemes—whereby the standard of life of the nations of the world can be uplifted, and labour standards in particular improved. He said the I.L.O. should be encouraged to undertake an inquiry within very wide terms of reference—as wide as its own constitution permits—into the possibilities of its playing its part in the building up of a better economic and industrial system than that which we now have. I hope that my hon. Friend's proposal will be taken seriously, and that the British Government representative at the next meeting of the who in the past has often played a poor, meagre and obstructive part, will come forward and propose something constructive along these lines.
One word upon our peace aims in relation to armaments. I hope that the Prime Minister will excuse me if I say that I found his reference to armaments in his broadcast a little naive. I think it has been contradicted by history that armaments ever drop away of themselves. The Prime Minister said he thought they 301 would be gradually dropped. That was not the experience of the period we have just gone through. There is 20 years disproof of that behind us. When one country's armaments dropped another's rose; and sometimes it was the other way round. I think the conclusion we may draw from these events is, if I may put it shortly, that national armaments have been at the same time too much and too little—too little from the point of view of establishing the security of the various countries concerned against an outbreak of war, because war is now here, and, on the other hand, too much in the sense that an arms race has gone on with a great diversion of labour, materials and wealth from peaceful production into competitive preparations for war. But it is also clear that mere psalm-singing does not keep the peace. Therefore, if both those conclusions are accepted, we are led to the further conclusion that what is required is a powerful armed international force. Here I desire to quote some words from the very striking speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition upon Labour's peace aims, which has been widely published by the Labour party. Under the heading of "International Force" he said:If aggression is to cease there must be some force by which the aggressor can be compelled in the last resort to desist. If there is to be the rule of law there must be the means of enforcing the law. The experience of the last 20 years has shown that to entrust the duty of enforcing the rule of law to individual States operating with their own armed forces has in practice proved unworkable. There must, therefore, be an international force of such overwhelming strength that no would-be aggressor would dare to challenge it. For many reasons an international air force is the most appropriate instrument.I am sure that that view is increasingly accepted by those who have studied the lessons of the past 20 years, and I hope it will be accepted as a basis of study for one of the elements of the peace treaty that must one day be made.
If I may cast back one more lingering glance of retrospect, how wise the French were in proposing, when the League of Nations was first set up that it should be an armed League, and how foolish was the British Government of that day, under the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, when it ran away from that question. Is it not clear that if, 302 in the first days after the last war, when men's minds were still fluid, when new ideas might have won easier acceptance, the League of Nations had been armed, the course of events, with its succession of unpunished aggressions, would have indeed taken a very different line? One reason why the League of Nations failed was that it was not armed, and if in the future an international society—or even a regional society within Europe—is to succeed it must be armed overwhelmingly against aggression. Let me say one word in elaboration of what my right hon. Friend said in the passage I have quoted regarding the air force. He said, truly I believe, that an international air force was for many reasons the most appropriate instrument. It would be fascinating to speculate at length on why that is so, but I will content myself with putting forward two illustrations. The other day there was a curious little ceremony, which it would be very difficult for some in Germany to understand, at which British airmen entertained at dinner a German airman whom they had brought down and who was convinced from what he had heard in his own Fatherland that he was going to be tortured as they torture people out there. One has only to move about among airmen to realise that there is a queer spirit of chivalry and comradeship, transcending national boundaries, among those who run the dangers of flight and battle in the air.
§ Mr. Dalton
Air Commodore Fellowes, who is remembered in connection with the flight over Everest, wrote a letter to the "Times" on 23rd June, 1933, in which he said:The danger of flying has, like the risk in other dangerous sports, a uniting effect among those who fly, and this should promote a sufficient esprit de corps to cancel out any international friction. There would, no doubt, be many difficulties to overcome, but none should be allowed to prove insuperable if by such means this danger to civilisation can be averted.The context of that was a discussion then proceeding about the possibility of an international air force on the one hand and an international organisation for civil aviation on the other hand.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Does not the hon. Member think that fighting in the infantry is also a dangerous occupation?
§ Mr. Dalton
Going down a mine is a dangerous occupation. Having a baby is a dangerous occupation. I beg the hon. Member not to misrepresent the argument, which I am sure was clear to him. I was giving reasons why, in my judgment, my right hon. Friend was right in saying that in the air it was particularly easy, or at any rate less difficult than elsewhere, to organise an international police force. I was not desiring to stir up any sectional jealousies and I regret it if I have done so. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is to wind up to-day, is, I suppose, going to expound to us the peace aims of His Majesty's Government in the colonial sphere. We are very glad that he has been chosen with that evident object and we shall await with great interest what he has to say. I would merely express in one sentence the hope that he will give support to any policy which, while safeguarding the interest of the native populations, will remove even the shadows and shreds of grievances from certain propagandists in other countries. I hope that he will tell us that His Majesty's Government will be willing after the war to accept a wide extension of the mandate system for the dependent Empire, for those Colonies the inhabitants of which have not acquired the status of self-government. I hope he will perhaps tell us that, upon reflection, it is felt that the scheme of Ottawa preferences which His Majesty's Government introduced into the dependent Empire, on imports into the Colonies—I am not speaking, of course, of the Dominions now—was a mistake. I hope he will tell us that, partly in order to produce a favourable effect upon neutral opinion, he is, on the advice of the Foreign Office, going to scrap that scheme, even in the midst of the war.
Finally, I hope that, not only in the Colonial Office but in other Government Departments, there will not now be either reluctance or delay in working out detailed schemes for building this world-after-the-war. In peace-time very prudently you made a war book; now in wartime it would be prudent to make a peace book and to look and plan ahead. It is not too soon to begin. We must be prepared equally for a long war or a short war. It may be that the war will be long. I shall not prophesy that it will be either long or short. But there, may be collapses and changes in conditions in 304 the enemy country. If we achieve our war aim after only a short war—if we can mercifully so achieve it—let us not be caught unprepared to build a peace which shall endure.
§ Mr. Denman
I think the hon. Gentleman would not like to mar his speech by an historical inaccuracy. He referred to the Protocol as being in the main the work of Mr. Arthur Henderson. I think the hon. Gentleman meant Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.
§ Mr. Dalton
No, Sir, I meant no such thing and I should make no such statement. I am well acquainted with what happened. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald attended the opening of the League of Nations Assembly and he made an eloquent speech. He then left and came back to London and, not on that occasion only, left the work to Mr. Henderson.
§ Sir Stanley Reed
May I say the hon. Member is correct? I was present at all the Sessions of the Fifth Assembly. I sat on the Second Commission where the Protocol was hammered out. It was in the main the work of Mr. Arthur Henderson.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
The hon. Gentleman asked me to give him an account of our diplomatic activity at present undertaken by the Foreign Office. He asked me to give an account of that activity in order that the House might judge whether we were helping to win and to abbreviate the war. I will certainly accept the invitation, and if I devote the greater part of my remarks to an account of that activity I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that I do not wish to slur over the important points which he raised in his speech in connection with the war and with our peace aims. I hope to say something about them before I sit down.
From the number and complication of the questions involved at the present time one can gain an understanding of the extent of the responsibility of British diplomacy. During the last war Lord Grey defined the aims of British diplomacy as the preservation of Allied solidarity. We have not only maintained Allied solidarity, but we have made Allied unity. In regard to our relations with 305 neutral countries, Lord Grey described the task as follows:So varied and so complex, turned on so many different pivots, varying with the course of the war, complicated now by one incident, now by another, arising out of contraband control, that any writer may well despair of giving a connected account of it.I shall certainly find it difficult enough to give a connected account of some of the kinds of difficulty that we are facing, I believe with success, to-day. The complications during this war are greater than in the last because there are more neutral countries. We have attempted to understand their difficulties and to spare them some of the hardships which any war involves for a neutral country, consistent with our primary objective of exercising our belligerent rights and winning the war. We understand the hardships from which neutral countries are suffering in the war, and in the interpretation, for instance, of our new Order-in-Council we shall attempt to spare them as much as can.
This matter is one which should primarily be dealt with by the Ministry of Economic Warfare, but I shall make just one or two observations about our relations with the neutral countries. Any interference with trade must, obviously, inconvenience trading interests. We have no wish to interfere with normal trade between neutrals; we have the intention of applying our new measures against enemy exports in such a way as to reduce to a minimum the inevitable inconvenience which will be caused to neutral countries. As an example of our intention it will have been observed that notice of our new Order-in-Council was given on 21st November, but the measures are not to come into force until after 4th December. The actual application of these new measures will be conducted by the Enemy Export Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Justice du Parcq. The main task of this committee will be to see that the control which we desire to apply shall be effective. We are, of course, in receipt of evidence of the extent to which neutral interests have felt themselves threatened by this new Order-in-Council. Such protests as we have received are now being given the close attention of my Noble Friend. We have also had ample evidence of the desire of the neutrals to understand the reasons for our decision and to appreciate the radical difference 306 between German policy and our own. It has, after all, been the German method to sink by every illegal means British and other ships around our coasts. But we shall continue to use the normal method of search and examination which we have already applied in the exercise of our contraband control. I feel sure that neutral Governments recognise this vital difference between our actions and those of the German Government.
There are certain other considerations, and one of them is that no country has been more devoted than ours to the principles of a free general exchange of goods and of keeping the seas free. This will continue to be our constant endeavour. It must also be the neutrals' desire to return as soon as possible to conditions of free exchange of goods, and not only of freedom in trade but freedom in international life and order in which we can all thrive as independent nations. I feel sure they will realise that those ends are best and most quickly achieved and our general interests best served by the thorough prosecution of the war which we intend to carry out.
The hon. Gentleman reviewed certain of our diplomatic relations and asked me to make special reference to France. I can safely say that we are more closely allied to France than we have ever been before both in thought and in action. I will illustrate this by an example. Following upon the recent meeting of the Supreme War Council when the Anglo-French Co-ordinating Committee was set up to regulate and control the economic life and objectives of the two countries, M. Monnet was appointed as the first inter-Allied official. I feel sure that his ability and ripe experience will prove exceedingly valuable to Ango-French relations. Such an appointment mocks the despairing attempts of German propaganda to try and draw a distinction between the aims and objects of our two nations. That appointment is only one indication of the many links which tie our two countries at the present time. We are not only joined in a common objective but we are joined by common interests; also, more human, by common inconveniences and common hardships.
At the Foreign Office we have the advantage of receiving many reports of the inconveniences and hardships which the people of France are suffering at the present time as a result of the war. We 307 sometimes complain of our evacuation and we meet evacuation problems in our own constituencies. Let us remember when we grumble about our own inconveniencies and hardships which have been imposed upon family life, that the French have had to evacuate whole areas on their frontier in places contiguous to the German frontier. The consequent effect upon the small trader and the inconveniences to the small man and upon family life have, I believe, been greater than some of those very real hardships that we have to face in this country. I believe that the common ties evolved by difficulty and distress are even greater than those more high-sounding economic ties which, very often, humble people do not fully understand.
The hon. Gentleman referred to our Polish Allies. I can assure him that the recent visit of the Polish Prime Minister accompanied by his Foreign Secretary illustrated the determination of the Poles to help the Allied cause on land, on the sea and in the air; we shall value their co-operation and support. The hon. Gentleman further mentioned the Czechs. He will remember the Press statement which was issued on 20th November to the effect that conversations had already started between the Polish Government and the Czech representative with a view to closer collaboration between those two victims of German aggression. We realise, as do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the importance of these conversations and we regard them as a happy augury in the relations of these two peoples to whose future we attach so much importance.
The hon. Gentleman referred also to Turkey. I certainly agree with him as to the vital importance in a vital part of the world of our agreement with Turkey. We, therefore, welcome all the more the visit of Mr. Numan Menemencioglu, the Secretary-General of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is at present here in London and he is accompanied by representatives of the Turkish Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce and the Central Bank of Turkey. They are to discuss with us political and economic questions which follow upon the closer alliance which has been brought about between our two countries. We hope that, as a result of these conversations 308 which are taking place in London at the present time, the obstacles will be removed which at present may tend to prevent Anglo-Turkish trade from reaching the level that it might and should attain. I hope in due course that we shall be able to tell the House more about the success which, I am sure, will attend the conversations.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the importance of developing trade with South-Eastern Europe. I can assure him that the needs of the countries in that part of the world are ever present to the mind of His Majesty's Government: in particular, we recognise the special position of Greece. Any opportunity we can take of developing and improving our trade with that area will, I am sure, be taken. I know that the matter is at present under active consideration. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Balkan area. The only remark on this subject I would let fall to-day is that H.M.G. have learned—
§ Mr. Butler
His Majesty's Government. They have learned with gratification of the decision of both the Turkish and Bulgarian Governments to reduce the number of their troops in the frontier regions. This decision has undoubtedly reduced the tension on the Turkish-Bulgarian frontier and I hope it will result in increased confidence between those two countries.
His Majesty's Government have received the statements of the President of the Portuguese Republic and of the Prime Minister, Dr. Salazar, which were addressed to the Assembly in Portugal, in which they reaffirmed Portuguese loyalty to our old alliance with that country, and we welcome this evidence that our relations with Portugal are to remain as close and cordial as ever.
In the Mediterranean our relations with Italy are friendly. There are certain problems which must arise in war time between our two countries, and we, for our part, will do our best to see that the legitimate interests of Italy are interfered with or prejudiced as little as possible in the ordinary course of the war. The House will remember an announcement which 1 made a short time ago, in answer to a question on the subject of the new economic joint committee which has 309 been set up in Italy to deal with commercial matters. It is hoped that this will result in an improvement in Anglo-Italian trade to the mutual advantage of both our countries.
§ Mr. Duncan
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question which I asked as a supplementary the other day as to where that committee will function?
§ Mi. Butler
In Rome. Looking to the other end of the Mediterranean, a British Commercial Delegation recently left for Spain, and it is hoped, as a result of the trade negotiations which are actively taking place in Spain, that the task of improving our relations, as regards trade and in other ways, with that country will be facilitated, and the work of Spanish reconstruction will be assisted to a great extent.
When I review the various parts of the world in which British diplomacy is active it may seem as if I am turning very rapidly from one area to another, but it only illustrates the great activity of British diplomacy at the present time, and it also illustrates the simple truth that the world is a very large place.
Hon. Members must have shared the Government's satisfaction at His Majesty King Farouk's statement made at the opening of the Egyptian Parliamentary session, which illustrates the common aims and efforts of Egypt and ourselves in this war. We were also gratified by the Speech from the Throne in the Iraqi Parliament, and by the confirmation by the Iraqi Prime Minister of the adherence of his country to our alliance. We have meanwhile continued to maintain with His Majesty the King of Saudi-Arabia the special relations which have so long existed between our two countries.
Before I come to consider the war and peace aims to which the hon. Gentleman referred, there is one other question to which I should like to make reference, arid that is to Egyptian cotton. Egypt has lost substantial markets for her raw cotton in Germany, Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. We have offered assistance to the Egyptian producers by buying up the equivalent of their lost markets in these countries. We, therefore, propose to buy cotton, if and when the price falls below a certain level, and so remove the fears which existed in Egypt about the possible 310 losses they may suffer in the war, and ensure the disposal of the cotton. I will there end the general review of our diplomatic relations with certain countries and if there are any countries which I have not mentioned, as there may be, I hope the House will feel that our relations with them are satisfactory.
§ Mr. Dalton
I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he could say anything more about the aspects of the Turkish Mission. Could he give any more detail of the progress which has been made in that connection?
§ Mr. Butler
I am afraid at this stage I cannot say more than I said earlier, namely, that we hope our discussions with the Turks will remove some of those obstacles in trade which exist at the present time in order to enable our trade to reach the level which we hope it will attain. Financial problems are also being discussed in connection with the question of the loan and also certain subjects in connection with the possible purchase of some Turkish products. I shall hope in due course to be able to present a further report to the House on this matter.
The hon. Gentleman referred in the concluding part of his speech to our war and peace aims. It is difficult to add to what has been said by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary on this subject; their speeches have been widely welcomed in this country. In the Debate the other day there was a further demand for a definition of our principles. The best way in which, I think, I can sum up what we are fighting for is to say that we are defending our own way of living, based as it is upon the dignity of the individual and upon the continuation of family life and all that that means. The fact is that we are fighting to preserve the best of Christian civilisation. It is only when we contrast our way of living, simple as it may be, with the reign of terror and the police regime of certain other countries that we see the depths and force in our own simplicity. We are fighting to preserve for ourselves the liberty of conscience, liberty of religious worship, and liberty of speech and action. These prizes were won by our forefathers three centuries ago, and it is now a foreign foe which threatens them. They are being defended by every, or almost every, section of opinion in this country.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Lady should have been sufficiently inspired by our deep political beliefs to realise that we fight not only for ourselves, but we link up our own traditions with those which have gone before, and we carry them forward into the indefinite future. We are fighting at the present moment to preserve our liberties so that they may be carried on by our children and by our children's children. That should be a sufficiently indefinite future to satisfy the hon. Lady. When she asks whether we are fighting for other nations, I should have thought that after the extensive review which I have made she would be satisfied that I have paid sufficient attention to other nations.
The hon. Gentleman also asked what sort of world we propose to build up in the future. I hope to pay some attention to the constructive ideas put forward by the hon. Gentleman. But, to retain for the moment my own line of thought, I have described, I think, the main objective. The ordinary English man or woman does not expect in a definition of war or peace aims or even as a result of the war to reach an immediate paradise. But he does hope for something a little better than before. He may expect less greed and selfishness and, above all, more certainty; and if our aims can be summed up in one word it would be that word "certainty" instead of the awful uncertainty which we have been experiencing—the certainty that our liberty shall prevail. Just as we wish to retain the liberty of the individual and of family life, so we wish to preserve the liberty of the individual nations. We wish to preserve the family life of nations living together so that each nation may have a life of its own and a code governing the nations which will give us an enduring and lasting peace of understanding between those nations.
The hon. Gentleman defined rather in detail some of the aims which he has in mind. He reviewed the history of the League of Nations, and I must acknowledge that many mistakes were made during the course of the years since the war. If I were to sum up what we should aim at, I should say that in future British policy should aim at reconciling our obligations with the strength with which it 312 is in our power to carry out those obligations. I believe that if we learn that lesson we can then study any scheme for an ideal future such as federal union or any other scheme, and try to work out what may be after the war the ideal system of international relations. The hon. Gentleman referred to the International Labour Office. He will realise that at the moment a conference of the International Labour Office is taking place at Havana and that there is a British observer. I hope they will work to the advantage of women and children as was done at the Santiago conference, and I hope the question with regard to the workers of the world will also be dealt with to their advantage.
I cannot continue with the points which were dealt with by the hon. Gentleman about the detailed reconstruction of Europe, but I would say that I think it would be a danger, in that it is too academic, if we consider it to-day in the midst of a war in which we are fighting for our lives. I can, therefore, define only in general terms those traditions which we hope will survive. We have in the Empire attempted to preserve those principles for which we are fighting. In his new book on the foreign policy of Britain Professor Carr refers to the British Commonwealth of Nations as one of the greatest achievements of the British democratic spirit. He says:It has been built up out of those values which belong to the essence of democracy—toleration, give-and-take, the maximum of freedom for the individual, and consideration for the rights of minorities as well as of majorities.The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked for a world or a Europe which he would describe as international democracy. We ourselves, inspired by our own traditions, will agree with him. We wish those traditions to constitute the international rule of the future.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I would like at once to associate my hon. Friends and myself with what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) with refer0ence to the events which are taking place at the present time in Finland. We are all extremely shocked at what is occurring there, both because of the methods adopted and the 313 flagrantly insincere language and arguments which are used to justify them. I think, perhaps, the saddest reflection of all is that the world should be in such a state at the present time that powerful nations are able to seize and destroy small nations, and that there is no general comity of nations which prevents that sort of thing taking place. It shows more than ever the necessity for building up a system after this war which will prevent anything of the kind happening again, whoever may be the aggressor and whoever the victim.
I desire to make a reference to the very happy relations now existing between the governments of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. They have not always been the best of friends, but we are very happy to know that, as a result of conferences recently held, the past is buried, and they have decided to do their utmost to live together on terms of the closest amity and good will. There will be a Polish Army and a Czech Army fighting with us for the same objects. It will be a great encouragement to many people in this country to know that a new Polish Government has been formed, of a thoroughly democratic character, on a national basis, in which all parties are represented, and which possesses, I believe, the same ideals and principles of representative government as we in this country believe in. We must remember that there is in London a Czech Legation, arid it may be that the time will come when definite recognition can suitably be given to the Government by which it is accredited.
I should like to make a reference to the broadcast given the other day by a right hon. Gentleman whom the Under-Secretary, no doubt, would describe as the "P.M.," but whom I prefer to mention, in old-fashioned, traditional language, as the Prime Minister. I thought that, in tone, temper and vigour, it was an admirable statement. There are certain minor aspects, to which I am going to refer, which may be open to criticism and some misunderstanding, but in general it set out, in an admirable way, the position of the people of this country at the present time. We are a united people and Parliament, in support of this war. I hope it will be possible to carry that rather further, and make a statement 314 at some time of our war aims as a united Parliament. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made admirable statements. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has made a very clear and carefully thought-out statement of the aims of his party, which received the praise of a leading article in the "Times" the other day. My right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal party has also put forward the views we hold.
I hope that consideration will be given—this is a matter of interest for the Ministry of Information—to the question of a joint statement of war aims, based, no doubt, on general principles—you cannot go beyond that at present—in such a way that they can be broadcast to the whole world. When one speaks of general principles, I think it will mean going further than the sentiments, admirable as they were, which were put forward just now by the Under-Secretary, because they were so general in their nature that I think they would not be very effective for the purpose we have in mind. In the closing years of the last war there was a body known as the Phillimore Committee, sitting, I think, at the Foreign Office, which did a great deal of useful work in preparation for the Peace Conference, and particularly in regard to the Constitution of the League of Nations. Has not the time come when a similar body should be set up in preparation for the Peace Conference which will be held at the end of this war? I hope that the Government will bear that in mind, so that at a suitable moment such a body may be set up.
I should like to say something in regard to war aims and peace aims—because there is a distinction, as the Prime Minister said. I think we should make a clear declaration now as to the terms upon which we should be prepared to enter into a general conference with belligerents and neutrals. Assuming that the situation remains as it is at this moment, I think that those terms might be on these lines. Germany must evacuate Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. It is quite possible that there might have to he an occupation by allied or neutral troops, but, at any rate, there should be a clear evacuation. There should be an undertaking that Austria will be given an opportunity of deciding her own fate by vote under international organisation, and 315 there should be a clear understanding that there is in power a German Government that can be reasonably trusted to cooperate with other countries and take its part in building up a new order. I think that those would be suitable terms, and that nothing short of that could be accepted.
I cannot imagine anything that would be more dangerous than the proposals, put forward in some quarters, that we should have a conference now, with things as they are. It would be a humiliating surrender to Hitler, and nothing else. Those of us who have been urging for years that we should stand firm against German aggression, at times when it was easier to do so than it is now, could not possibly agree to such a thing. It would be difficult, no doubt, to be sure of a German Government that you could trust, because one has to bear in mind the fact that it is not simply the row of gangsters who are in power at the moment of whom we have to beware, but that, unfortunately, for the last six years the youth of Germany have been treated to a systematic course in intellectual vice and psychological bestiality. That is the sort of educational training they have had. I hope, none the less, that it will be made clear that those are the terms that we should be prepared to consider, because the sooner the Germans know them, the better. The Prime Minister, in connection with this matter, used words in his speech on Tuesday which I could not quite understand. He said, in connection with the question of a conference after the war:There will be the Dominions and our Allies, and it may be that the vanquished will also be taken into consultation before we can decide how this new and better world is to be laid out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 26, Vol. 355.]Is there any doubt about our desire to Consult the vanquished? Surely there is no idea of another diktat, a treaty imposed on the vanquished? I think the conditions should be made absolutely clear by the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply, so that we may be assured that it is definitely the intention of the Government that, while the victors will certainly put forward the proposals, those proposals will be discussed with the German Government, in contradistinction to what took place at the last Peace Conference.
316 In regard to peace aims, there are different proposals in people's minds, to which I should like to refer. There are those who would be glad to see a Carthaginian peace: the destruction of Germany and the holding down of Germany. If Germany is to be broken up, that is a matter for the Germans themselves to arrange. We cannot do it, and if we did they would take the very first opportunity of bringing themselves together again. We ought to bear in mind that the Germans have not shown themselves incapable of self-government. After all, the Weimar Constitution was functioning quite satisfactorily until it was betrayed in 1933 and until the great economic crisis made conditions impossible for it to carry on. There is no reason why, in suitable conditions, representative institutions should not again function in Germany. It has been stated by the Prime Minister that every country must have the right to choose its own government so long as that government have no aggressive designs outside their own boundaries. That is perfectly true, but it should be borne in mind that, in choosing its government, a country will be far more likely to be a peaceful neighbour if it selects a government based on democratic and representative methods.
The second proposal that some people have in mind is that, Hitlerism having been destroyed, we should all live happily ever afterwards, and that there is no need to bother much about organisation—that it will be necessary only to meet around a table and discuss things. I was rather concerned to read certain phrases in the Prime Minister's broadcast the other night which have a bearing on this. I hope I have misinterpreted them, but it will be useful to comment on them, because a great many people have been disturbed about them. The Prime Minister said:In such a Europe fear of aggression would have ceased to exist, and such adjustments of boundaries as would be necessary would be thrashed out between neighbours sitting on equal terms round a table, with the help of disinterested third parties if it were so desired.You will not get that simply by sitting round a table, unless you have, somewhere in the background, force to insist that those who do not want to agree shall be obliged to do so. Then the Prime Minister said: 317Lastly, in such a Europe armaments would be dropped as a useless expense.As my hon. Friend pointed out, that is not going to happen of its own accord. It will not come about as ripe apples fall from a tree. Disarmament would come only as the result of a disarmament convention between a large number of nations. The final passage I shall quote is this:Consequently, you would need some machinery capable of conducting and guiding the development of the new Europe in the right direction.That seems to me very much like the League of Nations without sanctions, which clearly was what the Prime Minister had in view a year or so ago. I hope I am quite wrong in thinking that anything of the kind is contemplated at the moment, because we have already tried the policy of the League of Nations without sanctions. We have adopted that policy since 1931, and it has led to complete disaster. I hope there is no intention of trying it again. It is clear that force is going to continue to exercise its function. The question is whether it is going to be national force, exercised as any State thinks fit, or international force, exercised in the general interests of humanity.
Would it not be more correct to say that the nations which are members of the League did not put the policy of sanctions into operation? It would not work. They would not do it.
§ Mr. Mander
I do not wish to raise any controversy. If the hon. and gallant Member wishes to put it that the nations did not carry out their obligations to impose sanctions, I quite agree. That is a fact.
I come to the third peace aim, which must, obviously, be some kind of joint action. You may call it federation or a series of federations in Europe or a United States of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has his particular scheme—a commonwealth of European States—and many people are interested in Mr. Streit's book, "Union Now." Quite obviously a federation or anything of that kind has a great advantage over the system of the League. In a federation there is no indecision or hesitation. There is only one body who has to give a de- 318 cision, and that is the Government at the head of the Federation. One wonders whether, as a result of this war, there will have been a sufficient psychological change to make it possible to carry out such an enormous alteration from what exists at the present moment. We have to bear in mind that sovereignty is only a question of degree. The Covenant of the League interferes in a number of important respects with national sovereignty and even where you get federation—vin the United States of America and in Australia—there are many matters which are still left to the sovereignty of the individual States. You cannot draw a hard-and-fast line anywhere. It is all a question of degree. With regard to what is done in that respect, it may be that a greater change will become easier than a smaller—sometimes it is so in the history of the world—but, whatever happens, federations will not cover the whole ground. Hence it will be necessary to have some more loosely-knit society of nations, a League of Nations strengthened and improved, if you like, in which the British Empire and these various federations can co-operate for the common good and preservation of the peace of the world. In any case, in such an organisation, as the Prime Minister puts it:You would require some machinery capable of conducting and guiding the new development of the worldI suggest that in order to make it effective, and we must make it effective—the whole point is that the League has been ineffective—it would have to be conducted on the lines of collective force, as the Government have been endeavouring since March to do their very best to arrange in the very difficult circumstances which have existed. Their policy has been to build up a collective front. You want that, and it must be prepared beforehand. All must take their share in it. It must be predictable, and then resistance to it would be impossible. Furthermore, you will require a disarmament convention carefully organised internationally, and subject to inspection by every State and worked out according to plan.
I have ventured to make this contribution to the Debate this evening because we want to clear our minds and get different points of view about peace aims put forward with the object of obtaining unity if we possibly can. It is the case that there are many of us in this House, 319 not all on one side, who have for many years urged, as I said earlier, that action should be taken against Nazi aggression, some of us as early as 1933, and against earlier aggression in 1931, and, unfortunately, many of the things that were said have come true. But since the war started we have deliberately avoided going into that controversy or of saying many things which might be said on the subject. All I am saying now is that I think that fact entitles us to have our opinions treated with respect and consideration when we are planning for the future. I earnestly hope that we shall go forward as a united nation not only in winning the war, but in carrying out the even more difficult task of winning the peace and making it secure for all time to come.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has covered a wide field and touched upon many different aspects of the reconstruction of Europe, and, indeed, I can go further and say, of the world, when the time comes to consider these questions at a peace conference or, indeed, to think about them during the course of the war. It is right that these problems should now engage our attention if for no other reason than that we should be able to avoid the mistakes which have been made in the past. Our first task, of course, in this country is to preserve ourselves, and our civilisation, which is being threatened in more than one direction. I hope that we shall not be diverted from our course by paying, perhaps, too much attention to schemes which we may or may not be able to carry through. We have to face the undoubted strength and power of Germany to-day—and I trust that we shall not underrate that power—for we have to realise that we have a long, hard and difficult task before us. I trust, also, that we shall not forget that we are fighting side by side with Allies, and particularly with the French Republic. The French Republic have very clear views of their own on the subject of peace aims, and they have had a long and bitter experience of three wars within recent history with Germany.
We have our part to play now. If we are to benefit by the experience of the past we must, I am sure, during the 320 course of the war, avoid at all costs pledges and catchwords lest we saddle ourselves, as we did the last time, with irredeemable promises. If there is any lesson to be learned from the last war and from the period which succeeded it during the last 20 years, it is that nationalism in itself is not enough. Small States, it will be recognised on all hands, cannot exist unless they have great and powerful neighbours, friendly to them and close to them, who are determined to maintain their integrity and their freedom. Indeed, the Treaty of Versailles recognised this when it created the League of Nations, and the destruction of Poland, of Czecho-Slovakia, of Austria, and the invasion of Finland to-day, show the truth of what I am saying.
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said that perhaps the greatest mistake that we have made within recent years was the fact that we went back into comparative isolation after the conclusion of the last war. I agree with him entirely. That isolation has been disastrous. We were, as he said, unable to play a moderating part in post-war years. Our first peace aim should be to make quite sure that never again will we go back into that isolation which has proved so disastrous to ourselves and to our neighbours. But when the Leader of the Opposition spoke on Tuesday, I could not help feeling that he was going too far, that he was speaking really in vague generalities and not really facing the practical difficulties of the position as we have it to-day. The most powerful States in Europe have no sympathy with the aims which he put forward, and indeed with the aims shared by all the Members of this House and no sympathy with the policy of this country.
It is a matter for speculation as to what kind of Europe we shall find when the war comes to an end, but there is one relationship in Europe to-day which is firm, and, I believe, static and also dynamic, and that is our relationship with France. It is a connection which can be made into a permanent union. It has been made closer by the experience of two wars. There are two countries, two Empires, with the same ideas of government, the same belief in liberty, the same belief that the integrity and freedom of small States should be preserved, and determined to maintain the integrity and freedom of the smaller States of Europe, 321 and particularly those nearest the borders of France. This combination should be able to form the nucleus of something bigger. I believe it can be made into a unit in which economic and defence problems need never be separated again as they have been in the past. Such a powerful confederation may very easily and quickly attract such small countries as Holland and Belgium, and perhaps Switzerland. But it is important that we should realise that there are great difficulties, even in this limited objective, when we come down to the practical details of how it is to work in peace as well as in war.
It is for that reason that I hope that, when we consider these important questions of post-war Europe, we shall take smaller areas and try to work out the difficulties of these smaller areas before we think of the larger and bigger schemes which have been referred to by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. There are clearly other blocs in Europe which may be created in happier circumstances from these smaller beginnings. In time, perhaps, a new international order may emerge. I urge the House to consider this particular aspect of the question, because here is a practical confederation, a practical United States of Western Europe, which itself would be immensely powerful and would exercise a great influence, which can never be exercised by separate units, upon the rest of the Continent.
When we turn to the question of the actual treaty and other actual peace aims the Prime Minister said—and the whole House will agree with him—that the peace should not be vindictive. By that I imagine he means that we should not attempt to exact the kind of reparations that we did at the end of the last war, with disastrous results to Europe and to ourselves, and that we should take such steps that lay within our power to see that the individual German is economically rewarded for his labour and that his conditions steadily improve. But I think there should be a word of warning with regard to a phrase which has become very popular during the last two or three months. It is the phrase, "We have no quarrel with the German people." Five times within living memory the German people have supported Governments which have broken the peace of Europe. When that time comes and victory has 322 been achieved, we must think of a just peace; but justice is sometimes stern, and when we talk of a just peace we mean justice for ourselves arid for all the nations of Europe, and not only for our enemies. Again, it is essential that when that time comes we should take ordinary police precautions to see that once again, a generation later, Europe is not plunged into war by the same nation which has been responsible for aggression twice within the last 25 years. While we should undoubtedly think of peace aims, it is to be hoped that we shall not take up too much time in academic discussions. Our main task, surely, is to prosecute the war with intensity and determination to bring it to an end soon rather than late.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not desire to follow at length the remarks of the last speaker, but there is one point that he made towards the end of his speech with which I should like to deal now, in case I forget it later. I wonder whether he really means that if we are not to make a vindictive peace we nevertheless are to make a peace which shall in some way punish the German people. I wonder whether he means that the German people are responsible for the sad and tragic conditions in which Europe now stands. If he does, I can see nothing before the peoples of Europe for the rest of this century but an unending succession of bitter wars that will destroy civilisation in this part of the world.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I did not mean what the hon. Member implies. My argument was that it is necessary for us to make quite sure at the end of this war, as far as we can be certain, that another Government such as the Government of Herr Hitler will not be thrown up, and will not be in a position to make war once again. I think that is a reasonable war aim.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is a very reasonable war aim. My quarrel is not with the hon. Member's aim but with his methods. I do not blame, and I think there are few in this country who blame, the German people entirely for the throwing up of the present German Government. That is a responsibility which all Europe shares. It is a responsibility which rests very heavily upon the Governments of this country and of France during the last 20 years. The great success of Herr Hitler 323 with the German people was not created by Hitler himself inside Germany; it was created by the Paris of Clemenceau and the London of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I said that five times within living memory the German people have supported Governments that have broken the peace of Europe.
§ Mr. Silverman
I know the hon. Member said that. I do not want to engage in a long series of historical controversies now, but if the hon. Member looks at the facts fairly, squarely and impartially he will find that the balance of account on each of those occasions is not always on one side and that the guilt is not undivided.
For nearly four years, between 1921 and 1925, I had the honour to be the State lecturer in English language and literature to the National University of Finland, and resided for the greater part of that period in Helsinki. It is, therefore, perhaps fitting that on this occasion I should express my own sympathy with that brave and hardy people in the circumstances in which they now find themselves. I received from them during those four years nothing but kindness and the warmest hospitality, and I came away from that country with a lively sense, which I still retain, of admiration for its people. They are a small people of about 3,000,000 in all, living in a country in which culture and civilisation is hardly won, and contributing in those circumstances something towards the general content of European civilisation which is far beyond what could be fairly expected from them.
I do not want to say a single word to make worse the situation which now exists. I do not think that hard words will help. But nothing can justify the invasion of a small country by a greater. It cannot be justified. It is wrong. I do not know what may be the truth about the previous negotiations. We have the testimony of Mr. Tanner, the Finance Minister, whom I knew, that the negotiations were pursued without friction, without threat and in a perfectly amicable manner. Why they could not continue to be so pursued I do not understand, and none of us does. I think it right that the sympathy of this country should be ex- 324 tended to that small people in these tragic days.
I want to say a few words about peace aims. I do not understand the distinction, to which every one else has paid tribute, between war aims and peace aims. As I see it, the only important thing in any war is how it ends. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Government Bench that the ending of this war must not mean the same instability, the same staggering from crisis to crisis, the same uncertainty, the same continual fear under the sword of Damocles, wondering where the next blow will fall. That is not civilisation. No one would, surely, be prepared to end the war quickly if ending it quickly meant the perpetuation of that state of things, while the continuing of it would mean a Europe more stable and more just.
What are the conditions on which stability might be achieved? If we got those conditions is there in this country or in the world any one who would continue the war for one day longer than that? I do not think there is disagreement in this House, in the country, dare I say in the world, as to what those conditions are. Some would lay emphasis rather more strongly on this, others would lay emphasis more strongly on that, but I do not think it would be difficult, regardless of party distinction, to lay down a series of general propositions—no one proposes to write the peace treaty now—which, if they could only be attained, would secure peace and possibly peace for ever. I would place first the necessity for some sacrifice by every State, and not least by our own, of ultimate sovereignty. If you are to secure anything like a co-operative State on an international basis, it can only be done, and I think nearly everybody realises that it can only be done, by the sacrifice of some measure of sovereignty.
I place second chronologically, although I do not think I would place it second in importance, the question of raising the standard of living to a degree commensurate with what our modern world is capable of producing and maintaining. I cannot help wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite was consciously ironic when he said that the Government desire to help forward the general exchange of commodities. This Government came into power in this House on 325 the policy of tariff reform, under which the first act was the Ottawa Conference, and what followed upon it. Is there any one who doubts that at least one contributory factor in the deterioration of international relations from 1931 onwards was the international economic policy of His Majesty's Government during those years? Be that as it may, I think we would all agree now, some of us because we always knew it and others because we have discovered it by bitter experience, that you cannot separate the problem of poverty from the problem of war, and that if you intend to deal finally or durably with the problem of war you must deal with the problem of poverty, too. That will have to be dealt with.
I do not want to make too controversial a speech, but on the things I am now saying I think there would be general agreement, or a wide measure of agreement. I think it is clear that we are not going to establish a durable peace by rewarding aggressors, wherever or whoever they may be. Obviously, in any endeavour to settle European affairs on a stable basis no political frontier can be altogether exempt from review. Finally, I think there would be general agreement upon this, that intensive competition in armaments is in itself one of the most potent contributory causes of international strife, and that therefore one of the necessary conditions of a durable peace in Europe is some agreement for the ultimate abolition of armaments or, at any rate, in the meantime, their gradual limitation and reduction.
Is it not a curious thing that these things which most people, or many people, would regard as the minima of a durable peace, are exactly the things that we were supposed to be fighting for between 1914 and 1918? Which of them was not included? None, that I know. On 11th November, 1918, the war ended by a military victory as complete as any in the history of the world, with Germany completely crushed. The defeat of German militarism was held then, as it is held by many to-day, to be a necessary preliminary condition even for a discussion of the conditions of permanent peace. In those circumstances the Allied and Associated Powers could have created any kind of world that they wanted. Certainly, there was nothing in Germany or 326 in Austria, or in any of the enemy Powers of that day, which could have prevented them. Do not we all remember the flood of speeches and pamphlets and sermons, and even of plays, in which expression was given to what was then the uppermost thought in most people's mind; the desire for social reconstruction, to create a world fit for heroes to live in, a world safe for democracy, and free from the constant menace of German or any other aggression?
It was all perfectly sincere and it was genuinely intended. We had won. How then does it come about that 20 years later our peace aims are what they were in 1918 when we were victorious? What was it that went wrong? How did these ideals come to be betrayed? May I suggest how it was? Was it not because people were content to wait until their military victory was achieved and then began to think about their peace aims afterwards? Was it not because between the Armistice and the meeting of the Peace Conference and the drawing up of the ultimate terms of peace, we had a General Election in this country fought in that atmosphere? Do we not remember the Khaki Election, the "Hang the Kaiser" Election; the "Make Germany Pay" Election? The Parliament elected then was of hard-faced men who looked as if they had done well out of the war and were determined to go on doing well. Do we not remember the 400 Members of this House who sent their historic telegram to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to prevent him being too liberal to the vanquished? Was it not in these circumstances that the idealists were sidetracked and the whole field left to the bitter-enders, the die-hards and the brass hats of those days? Are we to learn nothing from what then took place? Why should we not, if there is, as I believe, a general agreement—not in detail—as to the kind of Europe which is desirable and the kind of Europe which would prevent us from having to do this thing again, the kind of Europe which would save our children from having to do it again within a generation as we ourselves are doing it now—if there is a general agreement as to how the thing is to be done why should we not set it out now? What is to prevent us? What do we lose; what harm is done?
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones
What does the hon. Member mean by "general agreement"? Does he include Russia and Germany, and does he suggest that these countries will agree with us at the present time or in the future?
§ Mr. Silverman
I hope to come to that in a moment; for the time being I am dealing with our own duty in this House and speaking of general agreement here. If it be true, as I think it is, that there is general agreement here as to the kind of Europe which would be a desirable end of this war, what is there to prevent us saying so? If we do not know why we are fighting what right have we to lead the masses of the people of this country into the holocaust which may end civilisation? If we do know what we are fighting for—I believe we do—why should we be afraid to say so? Why should it be a dangerous or a mischievous thing to tell the whole world, hostile and neutral and friendly alike, what it is we have in view as the object of all our endeavours, our energies and our sacrifices? Surely the right hon. Member meant that we dare not do it because we do not know in what circumstances peace may come and who will then be for and against us. Is it really suggested that you can alter the rights and wrongs of a thing merely by looking on which side a country happens to be? Does it make any difference to the rights and wrongs of the situation at this moment whether Russia at the end of the war is neutral or an enemy, or allied with us? It makes no difference at all. If we are fighting for things that are right—if we are not we should not be fighting at all—let us say the things which we believe to be right and invite the whole world which believes with us that these things are right, to come in and co-operate with us in an endeavour to achieve them.
The hon. Member opposite asks me whether Germany or Russia would be prepared to co-operate. I do not know, nor does he, nor can anyone know until we ask them. Let us state our aims, and not merely state them, but let us say that we are prepared to enter into conference now or at any time with any country in the world which is prepared to co-operate with us in the achievement of these things. We should have done no harm by inviting them and we should be in no worse position than we are in 328 now. Let it be that the present German Government or any German Government are not prepared. Very well, if they are not prepared they are not prepared. Let it be that the chance is one in a million or in ten millions. I still say that if there is one chance in 50,000,000 we have no right to neglect or disregard it. Let us invite them into conference with us and see how far these things may be achieved.
I very much admired the broadcast speech of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), but I thought it was spoilt at the beginning. I do not belong to any sixth column. I am not a friend, no man is less a friend, of the present German Government and all that it stands for. I do not want to preserve it; I want to end it. I believe that unless that kind of thing can be ended there can be no peace for the world. But Hitlerism has two aspects, an internal and an external aspect. The internal aspect can never be defeated by hostile action from outside. If there is one thing which is truer than another it is that however you may criticise your rulers you will not allow foreign nations to do so, you will not overthrow your Government at the dictates of a foreign Power. The one sure way of strengthening and extending their loyalties to their present Government is to endeavour to overthrow it by force from without.
So far as the external aspect of Hitlerism is concerned, are we quite sure that that has not stopped now, not by any change of heart or by any good will, but stopped by the hard facts of the situation. It would have extended south-east to the Black Sea; it cannot now. It would have extended north-west to the Baltic; it cannot now. May it not he that in spite of ourselves and by a method which we would not have chosen but by the hard logic of events history itself is evolving that collective security without which peace can never be achieved. I do not say it is. I know that in what I have said there are many gaps and questions, sometimes a little begged and certainly unanswered. I am endeavouring to put a point of view which I do not think we should lose sight of; and I do not think that I am rendering a disservice to this country by trying to focus public attention on these things and so deserve the taunt which the right hon. Member for South Hackney levelled at 329 those who think as I do about these matters. I am endeavouring to keep alive the lamp of reason.
It is inevitable that if the war continues extremes will become extremer and more bitter. Already we have heard talk about the dismemberment of Germany and how different German men and women are from other men and women. We all know in our saner moments that that is nonsense, and I certainly do not propose to cease to endeavour to focus public attention on these matters. I hope that this war will be short, and whether it be short or long, I hope it will result in establishing upon a firm and stable foundation international co-operation based upon justice and friendship. I hope that we shall all do our part in producing an atmosphere and a world of that kind. If we cannot achieve that, are we sure that we are not casting away the last opportunity that history will afford Western civilisation to continue the great work on which it has been engaged for so long?
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I hope the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), to whose interesting speech we have just listened, will forgive me if I do not deal with many of the points he raised, but as he was speaking, I was almost persuaded that it would be desirable that speeches should be broadcast from this House in order that the people of Germany might perhaps hear how in our democratic assembly an hon. Member is ready, in the middle of a war, to get up and exonerate, in certain instances, our enemies of to-day by pointing out all the wickednesses of the British race in days gone by. I will refer briefly to only two of the points which arise from the hon. Member's speech. According to him, apparently the invasion of Poland was due to the Ottawa Agreements. It would be out of place for me to deal with that matter at any length. I will only ask the hon. Member, the sincerity of whose speech must be obvious to everyone, before he comes to a final judgment on that matter, before he definitely makes a gift of that argument to the Germans, to consider the fact that foreign countries have increased rather than decreased the volume of goods which they have sold both to the Dominions and to the Crown Colonies of this country since the Ottawa 330 Agreements were made, and that in fact, they have increased their sales in a larger measure than has been the case with the products and articles of this country.
Secondly, I ask him to consider this point. When he condemns those who, at the end of the Great War, felť very strongly that there ought to be some punishment if such a thing was not to occur again, and when he refers to those who were diehards and "brass-hats"—and I suppose this applies doubly ťo myself, for although I started the war as a company commander, I happened in time to wear a brass hat—I beg him, when considering these matters and bringing an indictment against all the statesmen of ťhe world at that time—if one excludes the German statesmen—and when saying that they were wicked in the ruthlessness of their terms, to consider whether those terms were comparable with the German terms of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest, and whether their conduct was comparable to the kind of conduct which in later days Germany has been extending to peoples of other races.
§ Mr. Silverman
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be good enough to allow me to interrupt him. If I promise to consider the questions he has put to me, I really must ask him to consider whether a policy which has failed so lamentably can possibly have been the right policy. That policy was designed at a moment of victory to prevent the recurrence of that which had occurred, and if it has in fact resulted, 20 years later, in a more dangerous form of the same ťhing, can it have been a. wise policy? Secondly, I ask him to consider what possible relevance has his reference to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty to the Treaty of Versailles? If you have not prevented a country from doing the wrong thing, is it any merit ťhat you have done the wrong thing yourself, only in a slightly lesser degree?
§ Sir H. Croft
I see now that I did wrong in putting those two questions to the hon. Member. I leave it to hon. Members to look up the two Treaties, to remember what were the circumstances of that time, and to remember how enormously the people of this country had suffered; and when it is suggested that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were un- 331 fairly strong, I would remind hon. Members that the Coalition Government, and practically the whole mass of the people of the country, hoped and believed that that treaty was noť only just, but that in the circumstances it was fair.
There is one remarkable fact which has emerged from this Debate. I think it is greatly to the benefit of this country, at a time when we have to stiffen all our sinews more strongly day by day, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who spoke for the Opposition, and the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who spoke for the Liberal party, should have expressed very warm approval of the speech which the Prime Minister made over the wireless last Sunday. It is something for the world to realise that in this assembly the leaders of the three great parties all think with one mind. I was glad also that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland mentioned his great desire that we should march in step with France. I very strongly share that view, which is a view I have always held since the conclusion of the last war. It is imperative that our two countries should understand each other, and I feel that we should do everything in our power to let our gallant French Allies know how great a contribution we are making in other spheres. I do not intend to say anything that is out of step with the speech which M. Deladier delivered yesterday.
When I am asked by hon. Members above the Gangway to decide, as they are asking the House to decide, what are the terms that we have in mind at the present moment, if I may use back bench phraseology rather than the words of diplomacy, I would say very simply—Gangsterdom in Europe must end, and furthermore, the gangsters themselves must be not only disarmed, but prevented ever again from pursuing this terrible oppression of humanity and this blood fued against civilisation. I think the second broad aim for which we are all prepared to make any sacrifices is that the nations which have been raped must be liberated and given the right to decide their own fate as free men. I feel that those are two things above all others for which we would fight. But to lay down 332 rules for the future of the human race, or the future of Europe, without the concurrence of Germany would seem to me at any rate to be premature. We shall not get German concurrence in those peace terms which hon. Members desire to see announced to the world until the Nazis are defeated. Furthermore, to lay down any kind of conditions for the future of Europe without the concurrence of such countries as Russia, Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and others who are affected, such as Spain, would seem to me to be a most unwise course to take at the present time, and it might even drive them nearer in their sympathies to the enemy. We must consider also that we have first to convert France, the Dominions, the United States, the Scandinavian Powers—the remaining democracies in the world. We should be merely courting disaster if we were now to attempt to declare what are the kind of new conditions Europe must have without first being able to know what all those countries are ready to contribute. If we were to attempt now to do anything about laying down terms, we might have even more chaos than we have at the present time.
What would all or any of those countries say if the British Government were now to state peace terms, such as a federation of Europe, as has been indicated in the House? Would they not say that they regretted that they could not consider or give their adherence to the ideas of the British people until Great Britain was in a position to impose peace upon the enemy? Surely, they would say that the German army is intact today, that the struggle on the seas is a very grim one—possibly at the moment with the balance of shipping losses against the British Empire—and would they not say that, while there is an apparent ascendency of British airmen in individual combat over their enemies, up to now there has been no general engagement of the masses on both sides? I think they would immediately add, "Had you not better first defeat the enemy before you tell him or your Allies or neutral countries what you are going to do in Europe in the future?"
On looking back over the 30 years which I have spent in this House, under Governments of every shade and complexion, I can say with sincerity that, 333 whatever may have been the Government in power, I have not been ashamed of the actions of my country in Foreign affairs, and I have not had to apologise for the actions of any of those Governments, no matter from what party they came. I think that all hon. Members will agree with me when I say that we have some considerable pride in our achievements over this long period of time. There is only one thing that has filled me with disquiet, and that is an arrogance which occasionally asserts itself in certain quarters in our country and which I think is fiercely resented in other countries, namely, that we, apart from and above all others, have some special right to initiate or indicate to Europe the way of life which her people ought to lead. I suppose that nobody, however much he may think that the League of Nations was precipitate in its actions, will deny that it was perhaps the finest ideal that has ever been put before mankind. Are we quite sure that, in our efforts to use the League, no doubt with great sincerity, in ways which the 5o other nations that were members of the League thought precipitate, or which they resented, was not in fact a damaging, if not an almost mortal, blow to that great experimental institution?
We have heard references to "our failure" in connection with the League and to what we ought to do in the future, but we have to realise, in dealing with the past, that the League was never ours. This country was only one of, I think, 52 equal shareholders in it. Therefore, I suggest that we should not commit what would appear to me to be a cardinal error at the present time, by imagining that we have some special mission to tell the rest of Europe the kind of political or constitutional machinery under which its peoples should live in the future. I say with all my heart and soul that all our energies and resources are required to defeat the enemy and to ensure that victory, without which all talk of peace aims at the present time is vain. Because we have been allowed during the past 10 or 11 weeks comparative peace and quiet in what has been called "this strange war," we must not forget that the burden on our seafaring people has been frightful and never-ending. We must not forget the contribution which our airmen have made and the dramatic way, calling for our admiration, in which they have carried out the reconnaissances necessary 334 for the protection of our shores. We must bend our minds to victory and nothing else. Otherwise what is to happen to civilisation, if we miss opportunity of going "all outs" at the present time?
I deplore, a little, the references which have been made in one or two speeches to the effect that at this time we should tell the British Colonial Empire that we are clearing out of our Colonies and propose to hand them over to the guidance of an international committee. The response of the natives of the Colonial Empire in every part of the world in connection with the war has been extraordinary. They have shown a remarkable realisation of what the protection of our flag means to them, and have given expression in a striking way to the hope and belief that nothing will be done to withdraw that protection from them. Can one conceive anything more upsetting to the backward races of the Colonial Empire, who are gradually coming up to a higher standard of civilisation, and whom we hope, eventually, to see enter into the enjoyment of full democratic institutions, than that we should now suggest to them that we are about to hand them over to a committee on which, it might be, Germans or Italians or Russians or members of other races would be managing their fortunes.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The hon. and gallant Member will realise that our proposal is not to hand Colonies over to an international committee, but to extend the system which is working so well in Tanganyika.
§ Sir H. Croft
Perhaps, but it is, in effect, that we are no longer to have any real say. We should have to report all our doings to some international body which may be set up in future and we should no longer be directly responsible. But my time is short and I do not want to go into that matter further. I realise that it is rather off the point at issue, but the question was mentioned from the Opposition benches and I thought it right to make those observations upon it. In regard to India. I would ask, why should we provide Dr. Goebbels with ammunition? Why should we say things which detract from the glory of our work either in the Colonial Empire or in India? One speech was delivered by a right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we have not 335 done wisely by India, and next day I had to listen to it on the German wireless. I was one of those who was against the recent Measure concerning India, but we ought to remember that that Measure was passed by the overwhelming majority of this House, and that the Opposition parties were almost more responsible than the Government for pushing on that reform. They were associated with the policy from the Round Table Conference and the Joint Select Committee right through to the time when the Act was passed. Probably it was the best scheme of reform that a democratic assembly could thrash out at that time. If you had to go forward at that time, it was the best way, but do not let us suggest that it is something which was not worthy of our efforts, that it represents a failure on the part of this democratic institution, or that we failed the people of India.
I wish to make some references now to our fighting aims. I want to remind my fellow Members—though I am sure they do not require to be reminded of it—that our sea supremacy is vital to us. Without our ascendancy at sea we starve, and we were within a fortnight of being in that position during the last war. We ought not to take it too easily at the present juncture. I believe that, slowly but surely, we are strangling Germany with a relentless pressure. It may take one, two, or even five years before that pressure ultimately succeeds. Do not let us forget that Germany's first great effort in her lightning attack upon us—an attack which has failed—was to starve us into submission. Are we, then, concentrating the whole of our energies, wherever we can, upon the production of new shipping? Are we laying down at least two ships for every one that is sunk? Are we concentrating on employing every yard in every part of the Empire? Are we using every yard in Canada and Australia, however small, for the purpose of replacing shipping, and are we seeking to buy up every neutral ship that we can get, within the four corners of the earth?
When we see the lives of trained British seamen being lost, day by day, are we doing everything in our power to encourage the young lads of the South and West of England to join the fishing fleets and learn the science and life of the sea? Are we recruiting seamen from British 336 Columbia, from Australia, from the maritime provinces of Canada, from New Zealand and other parts of the Empire? I know that we have done something in Newfoundland. Are we making a great effort to get those splendid seamen over here in our Navy and our Merchant fleets? How soon can we double our air reconnaissances over the North Sea so as to make more certain of spotting enemy submarines or mine-laying vessels or aeroplanes? How fast are we proceeding with all this work? I do not ask for answers on these points to-night, but these are questions which Britain is asking to-day. The country demands that every effort shall be made in those directions, for those are things which will count, and I hope we are sparing no effort in regard to any of them.
While it is obvious that the Allies could lose the war upon the seas—if we were starved into submission—we can have great confidence in the fact that the French Army cannot be destroyed. That is a very comforting fact. If the land war is to be a stalemate, while we hold the seas it means that Germany will be defeated. But the German people have spent almost the whole fortune of Germany, have almost starved themselves, in order to build up an army so huge and so well trained that they believe it to be invincible. Is it not inevitable that a desperate nation, led by men who are without any sense of international honour, will violate any neutrality and break any sworn word or any treaty, in order to prevent their army being stalemated and having to admit defeat? If that be so, will they not seek fluid battle and does this not, inevitably, mean that a nation which, as we have seen, sticks at nothing in order to suit its own necessities and purposes, might, at once, or in the near future invade Holland or Belgium or Rumania or all three, or might even violate the Swiss frontier?
It is obvious that sane strategy demands that, at all costs, the Maginot Line to the sea shall be held, but if Germany violates the neutrality of any of the countries I have named, it means in the case of the Low Countries that her power of attack will be greatly increased against Great Britain, and in the other case of South-East Europe, it means that her power of sustaining a long war will be greatly increased. It is also true that if Germany 337 violates Holland, or Belgium, or Rumania, her defeat there might end the war a year earlier or a considerable time earlier and avoid much of the ruin to civilisation which a long war would entail. Therefore, I suggest that, in addition to maintaining our defensive Army, on our main strategic line—the Maginot Line extended to the sea—our one great purpose should be to build and train at once an Army of manoeuvre, with sufficient mechanised divisions to defeat the enemy in fluid battle.
I regard this as so important that I hope the House will bear with me in saying it, and that it will be remembered. It is clear that I am speaking of something which is, at the moment, impossible, because the Low Countries are so anxious to be neutral that they will not have any talk whatever, even about their own protection. But suppose they were attacked, I say that if you could get aid through to those countries in time, and assist them in the defence of their frontiers it would be all the better, and, if not, I submit it would be our duty to meet the enemy in the interior of those countries, and endeavour to defeat him there in the field. I know that some armchair strategists and some very old generals may say that this is a risk. All war is a risk. At best, we might succeed in holding those frontiers for those two gallant free peoples. At second best, it would be an affair of outposts, on a grand scale, in which you might have to withdraw, but at once you could fight a rearguard action coming back to your main defensive line, the Maginot Line, and destroying your enemy all the time. I think you might do more in that way to win the war than by any long war of forbearance in fortified positions. I know all the difficulties but I submit they are difficulties which would not have deterred Marlborough, Wellington or Napoleon in the days gone past, and I believe it would he a fatal mistake it we allowed a purely defensive complex to affect our military organisation at the present moment.
I share the views expressed by an hon. Gentleman earlier that we would be making a mistake to think that this is merely a war with Herr Hitler. I have studied this question deeply, and I am convinced that every virile-minded German is behind Herr Hitler. I agree that to single out the leader all the time, tends 338 to make that leader appear more of a hero than he really is, and we have to realise the fact that the German nation at present is so united that only by a supreme effort can we be victorious. I know I shall be regarded as a die-hard and a brass-hat when I say this, but I ask the House to remember that Herr Hitler had never emerged on the scene when the first open bombardment of civilian towns took place in 1915. Nor had Herr Hitler appeared on the scene when you had unrestricted warfare on merchant ships and even attacks on hospital ships. He had not appeared on that occasion, of which I was a witness, at Ypres when the first gas attack was launched and thousands of people were suddenly suffocated while their comrades asked, what was this awful thing out of Hell?
All that came from the German people, and I must say that I have never yet heard a real indictment by the German nation of those measures which they adopted when they tore up every international law in the last war. I am only reminding the House that these people have been guilty of such things before, and it is a mistake to acquire the kind of mentality which imagines that you have only to use cooing words and you will detach the German people from the German leaders. We must realise the immensity of the struggle which lies before us. I am afraid they will stick at nothing. I think we shall see terrible tragedies at sea and in the air, and, it may be, extraordinary attempts at surprise attacks on this country. Therefore, I rejoice to think that my fellow Members to-day have all united behind the message given by the Prime Minister on Sunday, and I say, do not let us spend too much time in public utterances about peace terms in the future. Let us gird up our loins for the struggle which lies before us, which will require all our courage and all our valiant efforts if we are to triumph.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said many things, with some of which one would agree, but I very much regretted that he did not seem to see the important effect which a statement of our peace aims in a somewhat more definite form would have upon the internal situation in Germany. I submit that the mere statement of the ideals for which 339 we are fighting in this war would have an immense effect inside Germany, and there are means, as we know, by which we can get that information through to the civil population there. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member when he dealt with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I did not agree with my hon. Friend at all that the Versailles Treaty was responsible for all the evils of Europe.
§ Mr. Price
In any case he talked about the brass hats and the settlement in 1919 of the Versailles Treaty. I say, as one who lived for four years in Germany after the war and who watched the whole thing arise from which we are now suffering that the trouble was not all due to the Versailles Treaty. I would remind my hon. Friend of the fact that that Treaty was very largely done away with before Hitler came into power at all. The Government of Dr. Bruenig, while the Weimar Republic was still in existence, got the reparations Clause of the Versailles Treaty down to a mere nominal figure long before Hitler came into power. Moreover, the reparations Clause was about the worst part of the Treaty. There was also the very foolish "war guilt" Clause, but that was done away with, practically, when Germany entered into the League of Nations, long before Hitler came into power.
As regards those parts of the Versailles Treaty which dealt with the redrawing of the frontiers of Eastern Europe, I think that they were good in the main. There might have been modifications here and there, but it is not true to say that the Treaty was wholly bad, so that it is a great mistake to think that we are now suffering only because of the Versailles Treaty. On the other hand, I deeply regret that people like the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth should seem to think that the world can go on as before, and that it is not our business now to state very definitely that we wish to see a much better Europe, a Europe in which poverty is done away with and in which the economy of the world is organised on an international basis and 340 not on the narrow basis of the Ottawa Treaties. I think it is the duty of sound thinking men of all parties to repudiate the views of both the hon. Member for Nelson and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth. Only in that way can we win through to a sounder Europe and world.
It is well, in the opening Debate of this new Session, that we should show the world that all three parties in this House are united in seeing the war carried through to a victorious end. If the Government cannot see their way to be more definite in their statement of peace aims, this House cannot afford to be indifferent. It is true that we have to consider our Allies, the French Republic, and the Dominions, although I do not think we should have difficulty in working out an agreed programme of settlement in Europe and the world. It is the duty of this House to seize this opportunity to prepare public opinion. Now is the time when we should think about the future. It is not enough to say that we are out to destroy Hitlerism. I hold that we cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Germany. If the German people are determined to have this kind of Government, we may regret it, but we cannot alter that situation. The German people, as I observed when I was living there, are like us individually, but unfortunately, looking back on the four years that I spent there I seemed to notice that they have not got a political sense and that, acting corporately, they are behind other nations of Europe.
There is an absence of conscience there is regard to human life. For instance, when I was there I noticed public men—working people mostly, trade union and Socialist leaders—being murdered off by gangs, the forerunners of Hitler, and there was no public opinion there which ever seemed to think it necessary to bring the murderers to justice. Those people used to go about, and to this day are going about, without ever having been brought to book. I put it down to the fact that Germany is politically 50 years at least, and perhaps more, behind the rest of Europe. The German people never fought for their freedom; they never recovered really from that terrible devastation in the seventeenth century during the Thirty Years War, when the great religious struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the King of Sweden 341 was fought over the prostrate body of Germany. That threw Germany back for all these years, and we are to-day sufferng for it. The real task is to try and struggle for the better soul of Germany, to see to it that a better Germany comes out at the end of this struggle. I did see, while I was there, that there was a better Germany—a germ, it is true, suppressed by the gangsters—but I believe that it will come up again, and it should be our principal war aim to try and foster that germ and to see that it grows. We shall not do it either by saying that the Versailles Treaty was the cause of all the trouble or by saying, like the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth has said, that we can go on as before, with Ottawa Treaties, and the British Empire above everything. Either of those courses would lead us to a fresh war every quarter of a century.
We must think out a better Europe, and particularly, I think, in Eastern Europe, whence all these troubles generally spring. It is not so much a question of the Versailles Treaty. I think that Treaty failed in one respect in that it created a Balkanisation in Europe, lengthy frontiers where Customs barriers were erected. It was a tragedy in one sense that the old Austrian Empire disappeared. It had its uses as a great economic and fiscal unity in the basin of the Danube. It seems to me that we must try to think out some loose federation, if you like, whereby the Western Slays will maintain their cultural and linguistic rights, while at the same time having some kind of tariff system or even free trade in the basin of the Danube, so that something can replace the Austrian Empire and help to solve the economic problems which arose because it disappeared with nothing to put in its place.
I would also like to suggest that we must think of our own position in the world. The British Empire cannot go on except by evolving to higher and better things. Its only right to exist is the fact that it has evolved in the past, that we have created the younger daughters, now to become grown-up members of our federation. Our Dominions have now become partners in the Commonwealth, and we must see to it that other sections of the Empire evolve on the same lines. I think we must seriously tackle the question of the Indian Empire. I think that even now, in the stress of war, we must 342 say to the Indian people, "You must settle your religious difficulties." The Hindus and Mohammedans must be asked to get together and settle their quarrels, and once they have done that, we must be prepared to hand the government of India over to them. We have to do it sooner or later, and let us, therefore, do it now, if we can. I agree that as long as there are communal difficulties such as still exist, we cannot ignore them, but we must do something to impress on the Indian people the necessity for solving those difficulties themselves and letting them know that then we will not stand in the way of the next step.
Similarly, in regard to our Colonial Empire in Africa, the Crown Colonies and so on, we must lay down the principle of international trusteeship, the open door for all markets, and access to raw materials. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, when he spoke on Tuesday, seemed to suggest that we have virtually solved this question. The Congo Basin Treaties create free trade over a large part of Central Africa, while there are other parts of Africa where they do not apply and where the Ottawa tariffs apply. This is true in other parts of the Empire outside Africa where there is discrimination against non-members of the Empire. I do not think that amounts to much in actual cash value, but there is a moral aspect to it which we cannot ignore. It creates a feeling of resentment in other parts of the world. In other parts of the Empire outside Africa there are special export duties—for tin, for instance—which discriminate against nonmembers of the Empire. That is the kind of thing, with a raw material like tin, which naturally creates feeling among foreigners. We have also to face the fact that a portion of Africa to-day is under the mandate system of the League of Nations and we have to consider the application of that principle to other parts of Africa within our Colonial Empire. The moral effect of that would be very great, particularly in the United States, where there is always a feeling, fostered by the few opponents to this country who remain, that we are fighting this war only for the British Empire. We must remove that kind of suspicion by making it clear that that is not the case.
Turning to war measures, we must do everything to prosecute this war with the utmost vigour not only by sea, air and 343 land, but also on the economic field. There are economic measures, particularly in regard to the extension of our export trade, by which we can hit the enemy very hard. They may cause difficulties with neutrals and we must be as tactful and as careful as we can be in handling them, but we must let them know that, after all, only we and the French Republic stand between them and slavery such as has been imposed upon Poland and Czecho-Slovakia and, I fear, may soon be imposed upon Finland. We should inform some of the neutral countries that they ought not to allow their ports to be used for the fitting out of German commerce raiders. I understand that some have escaped from ports in Portuguese West Africa and are now at large in the South Atlantic. This country was mulcted in damages to the tune of £18,000,000 when the "Alabama" in the American Civil War left Liverpool after having been fitted out there and raided Southern commerce for the best part of 18 months. If that sort of thing goes on we ought to warn the neutrals of the risks that they are running in allowing it.
It is important that we should aim at capturing as much as possible of what was formerly Germany's foreign trade. If we do not do so it will be captured by other countries who are outside the war. With the United States we can continue to trade in the same way as hitherto, and also probably with the South American Republics. We shall require State assistance in the provision of ships and raw materials, because of the various controls that are set upon our industries. In South-East Europe the position is different and we cannot trade there on the same lines as we do with the American continent because these countries are nearer the furnace. We cannot expect them to come into the war with us. That would mean the invasion of their countries. We cannot expect them to cut off their trade with Germany, but we can expect to get a substantial portion of that trade provided we deal with them in a way that makes it worth their while. Germany by her totalitarian methods is paying higher prices for raw material in those countries than the world market price. If we are to get in these we shall have to do the same. We must not consider merely the world market price.
344 We must regard this trade as one having a political or strategic value. Every quarter of wheat and every gallon of oil which Rumania sends us will be kept away from Germany, and, therefore, will have a strategic value. I have a feeling that we are not doing all that we might do there. We cannot expect full information on matters of this kind, but I should like to have a hint that we are really pulling our weight in Rumania by way of deflecting as much as possible of the raw materials of that country to our use. I understand that negotiations have been going on with the Government of Yugoslavia about the supply of bacon, but nothing has been done, so far as I know, because Yugoslavia cannot give us regular delivery owing to present conditions. I hope the difficulties will be got over. There is no use expecting to be able to buy there at the same price as we can in the rest of the world. I believe that there have also been negotiations about purchasing butter from Estonia. It is possible to get this butter by devious ways, but again we cannot expect to get it as cheaply as we could before because of the transport difficulties. This Estonian butter, which would otherwise go to Germany, would be worth buying even at a higher price because its purchase would have a strategic value.
In Hungary we have large foreign balances due to us for debt payments which have been blocked for many years. Cannot we use those foreign balances, which the Hungarian Government do not want to go out of the country, to finance our trade with Hungary? It does not mean that money would permanently leave the country, for it would go back again. I suggest that that matter should be looked into. We must think Socialistically in this matter. Foreign track is coming more and more under the control of the State. My hon. Friends and I on these benches naturally view this kind of development with pleasure. We say that only in this way can we meet a crisis of this kind. Therefore, I hope to see the Government working to organise our foreign trade for victory and towards creating after the war an international system which will increase world prosperity and banish world poverty.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson
The House has listened with great enjoyment to the discursive speech of the hon. Member for the Forest 345 of Dean (Mr. Price). There was, however, at the beginning of his remarks an illustration of the disadvantage which I think would follow if the Government acted upon the request of the Opposition and sought now to define in greater detail our peace aims. The hon. Member referred with regret to the disappearence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the last war. I assume that the kind of principles which the Opposition would like the Government to lay down would be those, for example, that were laid down as the 13 points by President Wilson. [An HON. MEMBER: "Fourteen points."] Only 13 points were accepted by this country. The 13 or 14 points included one providing for self-determination, and I think that undoubtedly one of the greatest difficulties with which we were confronted at the end of the war lay in seeking to give application to those principles that we had previously accepted. It is certain that the application of the principle of self-determination necessarily resulted in the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I think also, and this, an illustration of that arrogance which the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) deplores, is the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that we should think out a new and better south-eastern Europe. It is a pretension which this country ought not to lay claim to for, after all, the war of 1914–18 did not begin on account of the invasion of Belgium. It began because of the desire of the Slav nations to break up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I think it would be in the highest degree unwise for us at the present time to seek to define in any greater detail the peace aims which have already been outlined.
In the remarks I am going to make this evening I want to refer to that very delicate and important branch of foreign affairs which is connected with the blockade of Germany. The strategy of this country is, as was explained by the Prime Minister in his broadcast speech last Sunday, to remain at present on the defensive in land and aerial warfare and to bring the maximum of economic pressure to bear upon Germany by means of our naval supremacy. That is, indeed, a humane method of warfare. It is only if that blockade can he made fully effective that we may be able to bring this war to a successful conclusion without a 346 large number of casualties and without great material destruction in all the countries engaged in it. It is for that reason that I wish to urge as sťrongly as I can that the blockade shall be made effective.
Since the war Germany has managed to maintain quite a considerable export trade. Coal and coke have been going to Scandinavia and Italy and to markets in Souťh America, in Central America, in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and in the Far East. There have been exports of electric light plant, Diesel engines, photographic material, steel goods and copper wire, and, what is even more significant, there has been the export of munitions of war, of fuses and detonators and even of aeroplanes. Let me here interrupt my main argument to say something in parenthesis. The fact that Germany finds herself still in a position to export munitions of war and aeroplanes seems to indicate that her rulers do not share the wishful thinking of some people in this country who believe that we are within measurable distance of establishing aerial supremacy over her. It indicates thať Germany is fully convinced of her military strength and is throwing all her energies into maintaining resistance over a long period to the economic pressure we are now bringing to bear.
It is because of these facts thať I welcome whole-heartedly the decision of the Government to bring to an end the export of German goods. I have no shadow of doubt that as a measure of reprisal against her illegalities ať sea that measure is completely justified. I also venture to express the opinion that it is justifiable at international law, without the necessity of bringing in ťhe argument of reprisals, but I will not develop that point at the present time. I fear, however, that the Government have not yet gone quite far enough in this matťer. I gave notice to my hon. Friend the Minister for Economic Warfare that I was going into this matter in some little detail, and with his usual courtesy he promised that he would be in the House if he was able to get here. I should like to remind the House that during the last war the interception of Germany's export trade was carried out by two differenť Orders-in-Council, the first issued in March, 1915, and the second issued in February, 1917. The second one was justified on the ground that it was necessary for His Majesty 347to adopt further measures in order to … prevent commodities of any kind from reaching or leaving the enemy countries.The reason for the second Order in Council was then that the first was not sufficiently drastic to be effective for its purpose. It is for that reason that I very much regret that the Order in Council issued two days ago reproduced only the provisions of the first Order in Council of the last war. The burden of my appeal to-night is that in 1939 we should adopt all the methods that were being followed in 1918 when, after four years experience of war, we had managed to make our blockade effective.
The important differences between the first and the second Orders in Council of the last war were that, in the first place, enemy goods found in neutral ships were liable to confiscation instead of being only liable to detention until the end of the war, and that those neutral ships which were detected carrying enemy goods were liable to confiscation if they did not call at a British port for the examination of their cargoes. The effect of those two provisions was very considerable. It ceased to be worth while for purchasers overseas to try to obtain German goods when the probability was that they would be confiscated on the way. When there was a danger of the neutral ships being confiscated by this country it afforded the strongest possible inducement to neutral shippers to beware of goods of enemy origin. I hope and trust that before very long those provisions that were found to be so beneficial in the last war will be reintroduced.
Turning now to the checking of imports into Germany, I would once more ask that we shall in 1939 begin where we left off in 1918. Generally speaking, I think we are doing so, but there is no doubt that at the present time there is a certain amount of cotton reaching Germany through Italy, and I believe I am right in saying that still there is a certain leakage of oil through Holland and, possibly, through Sweden. The neutral countries have now accepted the general principle of the doctrine of continuous voyage. That was no British invention. It was originally produced by the United States of America during the American Civil War. It is, therefore, now accepted that where goods are imported into a neutral 348 country and, where it can be shown that their ultimate destination is an enemy country, we are justified in intercepting them. But we may be confronted with the difficulty that we cannot show in the case of some individual cargo that the actual cargo has an ultimate enemy destination. It may be that the importation of some commodity necessary for the conduct of war has greatly increased in the case of a particular neutral country, for no easily ascertainable reason. We may have every reason to believe that that extra importation is being passed through to an enemy country, but if we cannot prove that any particular cargo has an enemy destination we are not justified, under the doctrine of continuous voyage, in intercepting it.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Government should, if possible, enter into the same kind of agreement that they entered into in the last war by which countries like Holland were rationed and were entitled to receive only approximately the same amount of oil and other necessary commodities that they were receiving before the war. If it should prove impossible to come to an agreement of that kind with the Governments of the neutral countries, then I hope that it will be done, as in the last war, through the important oil companies. Again, there is what is called the Statutory List and it is an offence for any British subject to trade with individuals or companies which are on that Statutory List. After three months of war that list is still shorter than I should like to see it.
In addition to the need for legal provision which will make our blockade inwards and outwards effective, we must make certain that administrative discretion will not be used to tone down the rigours of the Orders-in-Council that we issue. In the enforcement of the blockade a number of different steps have to be taken. In the first place, the Admiralty brings in the ships. Secondly, a ship may be required to discharge its cargo for examination. In view of the ingenuity that has been shown in concealing contraband, and of the great size of modern ships, it is almost impossible for an effective examination of cargo to be made unless that cargo is discharged in a. British port. I hope that, in all cases where there is doubt, that will be insisted upon. Then the matter is referred to the 349 Contraband Committee at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and after they have decided to detain the goods there is still an opportunity for representations to be made to the Procurator-General. If further evidence can be produced tending to show the innocence of the goods, the Procurator-General may order their release. I hope that in any case where there is any doubt neither the Contraband Committee nor the Procurator-General will allow the release of the goods. The final stage is where the whole matter is impartially considered by the Prize Court. Only in quite a clear case should any administrative discretion be exercised which will prevent the Prize Court from adjudicating.
While urging that we should make our blockade effective, I do not want to suggest that we should in any respect go beyond the letter of the law. I hope that at no time shall we imitate the Germans in showing a lack of consideration for the rights of neutral States merely because they are small and weak; but the neutrals must realise that the rights of neutrality are subject to the established rights of belligerents. It is not one of the rights of neutrals to profiteer or benefit out of the necessities of belligerents in a time of war. I hope also that it is universally recognised by the small neutrals of Western Europe that if this war should go against us it will not be a question of temporary suspension of their free rights of trade, but rather a matter of the extinction of all their political independence.
Before I resume my seat I would only say that if to-day I have concentrated upon the interception and destruction of enemy overseas trade, I fully recognise that for our economic weapon to be effective we must also maintain and develop our own overseas trade. The "Times" newspaper did a great service to-day when it published two articles dealing on broad lines with the whole of this question of economic warfare, emphasising not only the need for interfering with German trade, but for doing everything possible to develop our own. The existence at the present time in this country of a very large number of unemployed when our own exports have so seriously declined is an indication that everything is not right in that sphere. Concerned as we are to-day with winning this war, 350 we are rightly endeavouring to bring the maximum pressure to bear upon Germany by the relatively humane method of the blockade. I hope, therefore, that while showing every consideration for the legitimate rights of neutrals the Government will show themselves resolute to obtain the full fruits of the naval supremacy that we enjoy.
§ 7.30 p.m.
Mr. Creech Jones
It is not my intention to follow the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in relation to the problems of the blockade. I want to confine myself to two matters. I want to press for a clearer definition of our peace aims, and, secondly, to refer to certain aspects of Colonial policy in war time and the problem of peace aims in relation to the Colonies. The Prime Minister, in his speeches on Sunday and Tuesday, left me a little uncertain, in some respects anyway, about the world which the Government would like to see emerge when this war is through. It was suggested that it was too early to talk much about the ultimate purposes of the war, and I thought he tended almost to sneer at the forward discussion and planning which are necessary if schemes of a satisfactory character are to emerge when the war is over. But it is because I want a fruitful peace that I want public opinion to be made concerning the purposes of the war, and once that public opinion is made I want the Government kept up to their declarations. I am, therefore, most anxious that there should be at this time a clear definition of what precisely the country is fighting for.
Everywhere I am asked by humble people who remember the record of the Government—its betrayals of the Covenant, its totalitarian sympathies, the policy it pursued which sapped the authority of the League—whether it is this Government which will make the peace to secure that permanency which all of us desire. I feel, further, that if we are calling upon men to make the supreme sacrifice and if their livelihoods are to be surrendered it is important that there should be clearly brought out a conception of the kind of world for which the war is being waged to create, and those conceptions should be clarified before passions are strong and men's minds are clouded by revenge and hatred. It may be contended that the conditions in which 351 peace will be made are as yet unknown. That is true, but I submit it is difficult to dissociate war from peace aims, because, to my mind, war purposes cannot be cut off from the appeal for war sacrifices.
What world is it that we by this war are striving to usher in? The Prime Minister gave us in his broadcast speech a bit of the picture. I regret that in his conception he used the word "Utopian." I think that was a false note. I submit, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) pointed out to-day, the statement of the Prime Minister left many important and fundamental questions unanswered. These questions, I feel, are of some practical importance because airy generalities will not help us in this matter at all. Perhaps I might illustrate my point by a reference to the speech of the Foreign Minister at Chatham House in June when he told us that to the British people Colonial responsibilities were a sacred trust of civilisation. Does anyone seriously contend that the comfort of that phrase to the Conservative party of this country is the same as the irony, the mockery and the cruelty of it to those Africans in Kenya who at this moment are being torn out of their ancestral lands in the Kenya Highlands? That is the practical test.
What worries me is that, unless world opinion is prepared and our minds set on certain things, the experiences of 1919 may be repeated. It is true, I believe, that the Government may resist the temptation of the kind of diplomatic bargainings which produced the secret treaties in the last war, but I do recall the noble phrases which were used then. They were not translated into the peace terms. The peace was killed, I think, by Clemenceau and, unfortunately, to some degree anyway, with the endorsement of the British people. Therefore, I want the Government to consult now with France and the Dominions so that the democracies march in step in this matter. An agreement of far-reaching importance has recently been come to with the French Government about the pooling of economic resources, trade, and the prosecution of the war. I ask that in the field of peace aims we prepare with the 352 French so that in a new Europe the cooperation started in the field of war may continue in constructing the civilised life of man in peace time.
I would now like to turn to a consideration of Colonial policy during the war period. The Prime Minister on Tuesday tald us that our Colonial Empire is a trust which is conducted primarily in the interests of the Colonial people. He said the assertion of racial superiority, the suppression of political and economic freedom and the exploitation of the resources for the benefit of this country were not characteristic of Great Britain. I ask the Prime Minister to translate more fully these principles into action now. Recent reports, Royal Commissions and Inquiries that have been held in regard to certain happenings in our Colonies—disputes, and so on—do not justify us in taking so complacent a view, and if we do we expose ourselves to the charge outside this country of typical British hyprocrisy.
I am certain that many of us on Wednesdays in this House hear of many unhappy abuses in our Colonial Empire when questions are put to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Therefore, I want the Government to resolve now that, so far as this war period is concerned, at any rate, it shall not be the occasion for retrenchment in the social services, native welfare work and economic development. All these services suffered very severely after the last war. They suffered, too, in the slump following 1931, and now that the Colonial people are involved in war about which they were not consulted, they have shown an amazing loyalty to the British Crown. They have given generously towards the war. Their stricken poverty is in sharp contrast to the wealth and capacity for production in this country, and, therefore, it is but right that we should reward their trust by making a forward move so far as the social services and economic development are concerned. Every report which reaches this country indicates the squalor and misery of these peoples, and I suggest that in war time we should repair our negligence of the past years so that when the peace conference comes we at least may say with a clear conscience that Great Britain is discharging her sacred trusts to the colonial peoples.
353 The second point I would make is that during this war the occasion should be used for an advance to freedom and democracy in many parts of the Colonial Empire. We dare not ignore our shortcomings in this respect. It is not democracy, the limited plutocratic franchise and the obsolete constitutions that exist in the West Indies; it is not democracy, the denial of elementary self-government to the people of Newfoundland; it is not democracy, the inadequate constitution of Malta and the absence of a democratic constitution in Cyprus. We have already had reference in this Debate to the miserable handling of the Indian problem to-day and the limitations that we impose on African native representation. In all these things an advance has to be made if we are not to appear hypocritical in the eyes of the world.
If we believe in freedom we should demand now that some of the oppressive ordinances which have recently characterised the Statute Books of many of the Colonial territories should be removed. We should release Grant from prison in Barbadoes, where he is now suffering a ten-years' sentence for labour agitation; we should stop deporting and prosecuting people merely because they strike, as was recently done in Mauritius; we should practise civil liberty, even with men like Pratt and Johnson in Sierra Leone; we should remove the colour bar in Southern Rhodesia and other parts of Africa; we should reverse the segregation policies that mar our work in the Continent of Africa. In all these ways let us declare for democracy and freedom. Let us carry out these changes, and be true to those noble sentiments so often expressed in the early records of our Colonial Empire. These are the immediate tasks of statesmanship, whether war is on or not.
Thirdly, I hope that no imperial ambition will deflect the Government in the prosecution of this war, or after. The Colonies are an Imperial asset, particularly m war-time. We can obtain supplies of raw materials from them, they are strategic bases, they offer some forms of military defence, and they still provide handsome profits for a section in this country. Millions of pounds are sucked by private interests from Northern Rhodesia; great profits are made from Trinidad oil and from the great rubber plantations in the Far East. We have upset native economies in order to stimu- 354 late certain crops, which, when a slump in world prices occurs, produce only beggary. There is still, in this House and outside it, the sort of international philosophy which was behind the Ottawa Agreement, which regards the Empire as an area in which we are perfectly entitled to discriminate against the rest of the world. It is a philosophy of anarchy, prejudicial to any satisfactory economic and political system. It is important that we should take a large view of the rights of all peoples to a share in the world's trade, products and prosperity. I am glad to note that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in their recent statements, have shown that they are thinking that it is along these lines that this country should go.
Have the Government any views about resolving Colonial rivalries after the war? It is importanť that we should know where the Colonial Powers stand on this matter. What is to be done about German claims? Are we and others prepared for any concessions to secure a sound peace, always respecting the wishes of the Colonial peoples? Arc we and others, acting together, prepared to surrender, as part of a settlement, something of national sovereignty; and are we moving towards some kind of international supervision, inspection, accountability and responsibility? We want to know what the Government are thinking with regard to the extension of international supervision and control. His Majesty the King, in proroguing Parliament last Thursday, said that we seek no material gain in this war. That was simple and direct. But civilisation—not only Great Britain—has a sacred trust. How is it going to be discharged?
Because war is being prosecuted, we should not stop thinking; we ought to be thinking now. The world has its views about us, and they are not always the views that John Bull holds about himself. I want the world to know about our willingness to make concessions to extend the principle of international accountability, to know that we are not in this struggle merely to maintain the tradition of an outworn Imperial creed. At the conference table there will be clashing interests, conflicting class ideologies, contending Imperial systems. I want this nation to give a lead in formulating the ideas that must be made to govern the peace. If they are well-founded in moral 355 principles, not only will France, the Dominions and the Allies endorse them, but, when the time comes to negotiate with the German people, they will rally round them, and they will find their own salvation in them. The democracies will fortify our disinterested declaration with unswerving loyalty, and the sacrifice of youth and the work and frustration of war may tragically help to secure that peace which Europe, after its bloody struggle and sacrifice, lost 20 years ago. So I ask the Government to think again.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) has spoken, with his usual sincerity, upon those matters which particularly interest him. I have no quarrel with one of his pleas—that is, that now might be a very good time for thinking. I am, however, bound to say that such thoughts as I have given, to the best of my ability, to the question of war and peace aims lead me to precisely the opposite conclusion from that to which the hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite have been led. I am convinced that the Government would be making the greatest possible mistake if they responded to the pleas that have been made for a further definition of peace and war aims.
The Debate, which has been an interesting one, has ranged over many questions; and in many speeches we have had an atmosphere of reality and sincerity. I confess that one speech seemed to me to reach the greatest heights of unreality which I have ever heard attained in this House. I refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). He said we did not know that a tolerable peace might not be obtainable to-day. If we stated our aims, how did we know that Germany would reject them? I wonder whether he read Hitler's speech which contained the so-called peace offer. The hon. Member said nothing—and I am glad to say that here he differs, I think, from the official policy of his party—about the restoration of freedom and independence to the Czech people and to the Polish people, but he must know that Hitler made it clear that no peace which he would consider would provide either of those things. It seems to me idle and futile to pretend that there would be any prospect if we went into 356 conference now of getting any peace that the vast majority of the people of this country would consider tolerable.
To pass for a moment to the speech that was made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), I confess, having listened to many of the hon. Member's speeches, that I seldom agree with much of them, but I am bound to say that on this occasion I differed far less with a great deal that he said than I expected. He said some things of very great interest, and I hope they are really binding on his party. I was very much interested to hear that he had always been in favour of an absolute guarantee by this country of the integrity of France. It is the first time that I have heard that from the Front Opposition Bench. I hope that it will remain the policy of their party and that they will be prepared always to defend such a guarantee with such continued armed strength of this country as may be necessary to make that policy secure.
Let me give one example from his speech before I get down to more general considerations of what, I think, is the claim which is being made by hon. Members opposite this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, very wisely I thought, did not respond to his invitation to make a statement on his attitude to Hapsburg restoration. I hope that any future Government speaker will exercise a similar discretion, and let me make it quite clear that I am not going to say whether I agree or disagree with the views of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland on that particular subject. The one point is that it is absolutely obvious that on that important question the Austrian people cannot at this moment be consulted. Therefore, to make a declaration on the future of Austria in a statement of war and peace aims in total ignorance of what may be the views of the Austrian people seems to be so contrary to all ideas of democracy and good sense that I am surprised that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland should put it forward.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Is it not possible to propose that Austria should be allowed to settle her own fate? Austria, after all, was invaded.
§ Mr. Strauss
I certainly do not differ from that. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member has just said, but that 357 is not what the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked. I am referring to the passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland when he talked about unofficial rumours, and he wanted the Government to give their views on this question. Why on earth should this Government declare their attitude now for or against a Hapsburg restoration? If he had said that he hoped that the Austrian people would be given a chance of determining their own fate, I would completely and absolutely agree.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think that what my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) meant was that it is being widely believed that the Allied Governments are supporting propaganda for a Hapsburg restoration, and that it is very important that it should be generally understood by all in Austria that the Government are not giving that support.
§ Mr. Strauss
There are many points on which I agree with the views put from the benches opposite and many on which I disagree. I am therefore most anxious not to misrepresent the hon. Member in arty way, and if the hon. Member who has just intervened gives me an assurance that he thinks that that was the intention of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, of course, I shall accept it and I shall not pursue the point further. I have made it quite clear that I very much hope that we shall not now make a declaration one way or the other on that subject of Hapsburg restoration.
Some Members opposite have asked why they should not have an answer to the question: What are we fighting for? Can it really be that there is anyone who does not know? The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said that he did not agree with the distinction generally recognised between war and peace aims. War aims presumably are those conditions without which we shall not lay down our arms. Our peace aims may include what we hope to do or what we hope will happen to the world afterwards. That may be a useful distinction. The time to decide what you are fighting for and whether you wish to fight is before you go to war. If there is substantial unanimity that we were right to take up the challenge of German aggression and to go to war, if that was the opinion of the enormous majority of every party in the 358 country, with the exception of some pacifists, whose opinion one may respect for its sincerity but who do not represent a large section of public opinion—
§ Mr. Strauss
—if we were right to take up that challenge and to go to war, then the only proper war aim is to defeat the enemy and to win the war. In fact, if you go on to have various positive war aims you may easily become guilty of the very thing that is generally condemned, namely, making war an instrument of national policy. The only legitimate object of war is to defeat the enemy and to win the war, which is not going to be too easy. I do not believe that it is any good blinding ourselves to the fact that the close collaboration between Germany and Russia is one of the facts which we have to face. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has just come in. While I differ from his view as to the war, I am bound to say that I respect and agree with a great many of the remarks that he has made after returning from his tours on the Continent. He seems to me to look upon events as dispassionately as any of us are capable of and he always represents to this House what he genuinely thinks that he has found out. I believe that some of the things he has told us about public opinion in Germany, and of the probable action of Russia, have proved as accurate as the speeches of any Member in this House. Some hon. Members have alluded to the tragic events of to-day—the invasion by the forces of barbarism of one of the most civilised countries in the world. Finland has a small population. Like others of the Scandinavian countries, it has probably created as fine a civilisation as is to be found in the world to-day. From that small population it has produced the man whom I believe to be perhaps the world's greatest architect—Alvar Aalto—and perhaps the world's greatest composer in Sibelius, but it is outnumbered by about 50 to one by the forces of Russia. No doubt we shall have the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the "Daily Worker" pointing out that, notwithstanding the fact that she outnumbers her enemy by 50 to one, gallant little Russia is bravely withstanding the attacks of the Finnish steam-roller.
359 Some hon. Members may think that when I say the only legitimate object of war is to defeat the enemy and to win the war, I am making a statement that is purely negative, or too negative. I believe there is nothing in that objection. It is no more an objection to those who are devoting themselves to winning the war than it would be an objection to the fire brigade to say that they have not decided on their fire fighting purposes. The logic of hon. Members opposite should lead them to interrupt the people engaged in putting out a fire, by saying: "Stop! What are your fire fighting purposes?" The answer is, of course, to defeat the flames. Again, it might be said that if a policeman is engaged in arresting a homicidal maniac he is acting prematurely unless he has decided exactly what is to be the method of reform of the criminal law. I say that the object, and the only object, of war is to win it.
Now I come to the other branch of the question, namely, peace aims. I suggest that, with the exception of a small section who take a different view of the war, we are agreed on the necessity of winning the war. If we are also agreed on the difficulty of that task, surely, we can agree, as a necessary deduction, on the advantages of national unity. What is more certain than that, if we discuss peace aims, meaning thereby all the methods by which we wish to reform the world hereafter, we shall differ among ourselves? How can we expect to do anything else? I noticed that in the journal which is largely read by members of the Labour Opposition it was said in the early part of the war that the purpose of the war was to make the world safe for international Socialism. Hon. Members opposite may genuinely believe that. If they do believe that international Socialism is the way to put the world right after the war, of course, they will advocate that when the time comes, and be justified in doing so, but they will not expect those who are opposed to Socialism to share their view.
The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) talked about abolishing poverty. We are all agreed that we wish to abolish poverty, but we know from experience in this House that we differ fundamentally in our views as to how that desirable end is to be accomplished. It 360 is obvious that if by peace aims we mean something far beyond the winning of the war, something that we wish to do with the world thereafter, there is no reason whatever why the various sections of political thought in this country should agree. If we cannot agree among ourselves, it seems fairly safe to assume that we are not likely to reach agreement with France on the subject. I was pleased to note in most of the speeches, and particularly in the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, that the necessity for close agreement and collaboration with France was fully recognised.
May I go further on that matter and refer to a point which was made by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland when he drew attention to a fact from which I would draw a slightly different conclusion. I think it is the first time that attention has been drawn to the matter in the House, although everyone interested in foreign affairs noticed it at the time. The hon. Member drew attention to the difference between the replies of the British Government and the French Government to the peace proposals put forward by the Sovereigns of the Netherlands and Belgium. He regarded that as something that might have been avoided by collaboration. Perhaps when all the documents are published we shall know whether the hon. Member's diagnosis is right. I suggest that there may have been a different reason, and that is that after the discussions of peace aims in this country, which are not paralleled by similar discussions in France, the French Government may have thought it desirable and even essential to have some minor difference in order to show that they have as much right as the British Empire to give their views on the war and peace aims of the Allies.
I have endeavoured to give certain reasons why it would be unadvisable in the interests of the prosecuation of the war for us to define peace aims further. First, because it would be certain to produce differences among ourselves. When the time comes, perhaps over a series of years the question may have to be determined by Debate in this House, by elections and all sorts of things, but at this moment it would be bound to cause dispute inside this country. Let me give another reason which I hope will make some appeal to hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. 361 I shall draw attention to two passages which occur in the statements of the war or peace aims which have been produced by the Labour party and the Government respectively. They have a certain resemblance to each other, and seem to me to provide a very good reason for not defining our peace aims further.
In the Labour party's peace aims—and the view was also expressed strongly this afternoon by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander)—it is stated: "the first principle of a settlement is that there should be no dictated peace." My only criticism of that statement is that it may completely conflict with another part of the Labour party's peace aims, when they say that "there must be acts of restitution." They draw attention to the necessity for restoring liberty and independence to the Czech and Polish peoples. I agree with the Labour party on the necessity for such restitution, but it is impossible to say that that restitution will necessarily be possible unless you dictate the peace. I think the way the Government put the point is better. It was put in Debate in this House on 12th October by the Prime Minister, and it was repeated in the broadcast of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:His Majesty's Government would feel that the furture would hold little hope unless such a settlement could be reached through the method of negotiation and agreement.Thus we have the Labour party saying that it is essential, although that may conflict with another of their peace aims, and we have the Government saying it is extremely desirable. Therefore, we have that measure of agreement in the House, that we want the future settlement of Europe to be such as will command assent from the Power that is now our enemy.
I would ask hon. Members very carefully to consider this point. Suppose they have in mind some scheme of international machinery in which they believe and which after the war they desire should be accepted by as many Powers in Europe as possible. Do they really believe that they are increasing the chances of such acceptance by our present enemies by making that machinery one of our war or peace aims? Those who take an interest, as I do, in the affairs of the League of Nations, know that one of the things which has permanently kept a great num- 362 ber of the German people from having any affection whatever for the League was that they regarded it as part of the scheme of the victors in the great war. Hon. Members may know that after many years the League of Nations has at last taken the necessary steps to separate the Covenant from the Treaty of Versailles, and I believe that at the end of hostilities it will be extremely desirable to keep separate the Treaty which ends hostilities and any international agreement which sets out the future international machinery of Europe. I have endeavoured to give the House what seem to me two forcible reasons for not having a further definition of peace aims, namely, the certainty of causing division among those who should be and are united in pursuit of our war aim, and the fact that it will prejudice, and not increase, the chances of the ultimate settlement being accepted by our present enemy.
May I give further reasons which make me very doubtful of the wisdom of peace aims deduced from an examination of some of the aims which have in fact been put forward? I am bound to note what seems to me the undemocratic nature of the process which has brought about the statement of these aims and the absence of any hard thinking which has accompanied it. I notice in the Labour party's statement of war aims this sentence:Europe must federate or perishI wonder when the Labour party made that discovery. As far as I know, it has never been mentioned at any Labour Conference, it has never been debated in this House, and it has never been suggested by anybody to the electors of this country. Suddenly out of the blue the Labour party discover that Europe must federate or perish. I shall come in a few moments to examine some of the things which seem to me to be involved in federation, but I wonder whether we are wise at all in thinking that this Parliament should determine a great number of things which have never been put before the electors and never discussed in any way. The Parliament which sat during the last Great War at the end enacted the Fisher Education Act and granted woman suffrage. I, personally, am in favour of both these steps, but I am extremely doubtful whether it was a wise thing for that Parliament to do, and I am not at all sure that both these causes might not have 363 benefited if the Bills had been enacted by a Parliament renewed by contact with the electors.
Let me take this question of federation. People have suddenly discovered that federation is a sort of cure-all and end-all. It is put forward by people who do not know the elements of what is implied by federation or anything of the things it means. As far as I know, there is no desire for federation in any part of the Empire, and there is no desire for federation in France. I wonder how many of those who in Parliament and in their constituencies are talking about federation realise that federation is an alternative to a Sovereign Parliament. Since I do not know what the Labour party have in mind by federation, let me take what appears in the leaflet of the Federal Union, which says that a Federal Parliament will decide everything relating to foreign policy, arms and armed forces, international trade and finance, and Colonies.
I wonder if it is realised that if such a scheme were adopted there would have to be a federal court which would consider whether Acts passed by the British Parliament were constitutional or not. I should have thought that if the British Empire was to federate with something else, the first thing it would do would be to become a federation itself, and yet I do not know any part of the British Empire which desires anything of the kind. Let me say at once that I am not against either increasing international machinery or the growth of federation, where federation is a natural and possible growth. If, for example, the Oslo Powers cared to consider federation I can see possible gains from that course, and there may be a possible future federation in the Balkans, but to imagine that there is any early chance of a federation of Europe seems to me to be to imagine something which is highly improbable, and, in my opinion, quite undesirable. I quite agree that many of us might accept almost anything if we regarded it as the only alternative to recurring war. The thing which astonishes me is that many people who are putting forward this idea of federation seem to think it has something to do with the ideas which animated the League of Nations. It is a complete and absolute contrast with those ideas. 364 The League of Nations created a society of States and these States by agreement agreed not to do certain things and agreed to do certain things, but they did not abolish their own sovereignty.
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. Member will realise that in a number of respects, under Articles of the Covenant, 8, 10, 11 and 16, they all, to a considerable extent, diminished their sovereignty.
§ Mr. Strauss
I know exactly what the hon. Member has in mind. They made an agreement as to what they would or would not do, but the hon. Member might just as well say that when he makes a contract with another man he is limiting his contractual capacity. He has not limited his ability to make contracts in his own name merely by the fact that he has agreed in a particular contract to do or not to do certain things. The conception of the League of Nations and the conception of federation are totally different things. I do not want to prophesy or to shut out anybody who wishes to develop the idea of federation, but I have given some reasons why I think that federation is wrong, and why it would certainly be impossible for any allied government to put it forward now as a peace aim.
To put this question of federation in a nutshell, let me put this question to hon. Members. As I say, all sorts of things might be accepted by all parties if they regarded them as the sole alternative to recurring war, and I think that is what has attracted the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. Let me put this question to the Labour party in all friendliness. Is this federation, which they say is now the thing without which Europe will perish, to grant to its individual members the right to secede, or is it not? That is a most important and fundamental question. If it is to grant the right to secede, obviously it will give no security whatsoever, because the great Powers, such as Germany—supposing that Germany is to be a member of the federation—may suddenly decide to secede and thereafter perhaps take a hostile view. I do not think I need develop that. I think it will be generally granted that if there is to be a free right to secession, federation will not give the security which hon. Members desire. If, on the other hand, there is to be no right of 365 secession, then the federation of Europe may have to fight one of the longest wars in history against the nation attempting to secede. I notice that in the literature of this Federation Group, the example of the United States of America is quoted. They fail to mention that this federation of the United States caused a four years' war and the bloodiest war that occurred between 1815 and the end of the century in a fight against the claim to secede. So, whatever else anybody may think about federation, let him not think it is a guarantee against the recurrence of war.
I think that by far the most profitable thinking we can do now is to try to turn down false ideas and clichés, and one cliché which 1 would like to examine—it has already been mentioned in the House—is the repeated statement, which is, in my opinion, the cause of widespread error, that we have no quarrel with the German people. I know that sooner or later somebody will say that the Prime Minister said it. As a matter of fact, he did not. If hon. Members will refer to the Debate that took place in the House on 1st September, they will find that what the Prime Minister said was:We have no quarrel with the German people, except that they allow themselves to be governed by a Nazi Government." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st September, 1939; col.132, vol. 351.]It is rather important that, if this is to be quoted at all, it should be quoted rightly and in full. With great respect, I venture to differ from that opinion, and to give my own opinion, even though it differs to some extent from that given by the Prime Minister. I believe there are certain things which, if we want to secure a better Europe after the war and free ourselves from the menace of further aggression, we must constantly bear in mind. The first is that, in the lifetime of many now living, Germany has made five aggressive attacks on her neighbours. It is futile to say that the Nazi Government is the only German Government that has behaved in this way. It is the last and it is the worst, but there have been the four previous examples.
Another thing that we should remember is that the present bad faith of Germany and of Hitler is perfectly well known to the German people without any propaganda from our side. If we heard Herr Hitler say on the wireless that this, that, and the other were his last terri- 366 torial claims in Europe, so did the whole of the German people. If they heard promise after promise that was instantly broken, and if, as I believe to be true, and as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has, on various occasions, borne witness, as have others, Herr Hitler in all these breaches of faith and attacks on his neighbours had the support, on the whole, of the German people, it is quite idle to overlook this fact or to pretend that it does not exist. It is one of the fundamental problems and it is mere wishful thinking to pretend that it does not exist or may not recur.
Another thing we should remember is that the Treaty of Versailles is not to blame either. This was made pretty clear, I am glad to say, from the Labour benches this afternoon by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. I shall not discuss in full the Treaty of Versailles. Let me say at once that in my view it contained good points and bad points. I think it was a mistake not to have the Germans at the Peace Conference. I thought so at the time. I think it was a mistake to put in the war guilt Clause. I do not see that it served any useful purpose, and it certainly produced very bad results, which I think might have been foreseen. Lastly, I am in complete agreement that the reparations Clauses were extremely foolish, not because I think the whole idea of reparations is in itself an outrage—for I do not, and I am not prepared to say that in no circumstances will there be any reparations at the end of this war—but certainly, it was a mistake to have reparations of an impossible size, not based on economic principles, and such as to give the German people no hope of early recovery. I only hope that the ignoring of the advice of Mr. Keynes on that occasion will not always be followed by simply ignoring the advice of Mr. Keynes on every subject.
Those are the disadvantages of the Treaty of Versailles, but it should be remembered in justice that no other treaty ever liberated so many millions from alien domination. I am staggered by the folly of hon. Members, who have never studied the Treaty of Versailles and never looked it up, repeating in this House the propaganda of Hitler and Goebbels, and making out that the Germans have some fantastic grievances, which a very short examination would show that they did 367 not possess. Now, let me quote another authority, because I know that the mere fact that one is a Conservative may make one's views suspect amongst some hon. Members opposite. Let me refer hon. Members to what I believe is both a brilliant and an important book by the diplomatic correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian." I am referring to Mr. Voigt's "Unto Cæsar." I shall quote two sentences from it. The first is:Had the Treaty been more generous, the revival of German militarist nationalism would have come sooner";and the other passage is this:Only the shallowest understanding will see in the National Socialist revolution the result of Versailles.The sense of grievance of the German people did not arise from the Treaty of Versailles; it arose from the fact of defeat. The Treaty of Versailles and the other treaties made at that time created the Polish and Czech nations and gave them their freedom and independence. It is not true that the Germans' hostility to the Czech and Polish peoples arose because they were created by the Treaty of Versailles and the other treaties. It is much truer to say that they hated those treaties because they gave freedom to the Polish and Czech peoples.
If it is not true to say, "We have no quarrel with the German people," there is another objection to the repetition of that phrase, and that is that it is not even good propaganda. It is very important to spread the doctrine that not only are Governments responsible to their peoples, but that peoples cannot escape all responsibility for their Governments. The effect of constantly making this distinction in the case of Germany is not to divide but to unite the enemy. The point has been made, I think, in speeches from both Labour and Liberal benches and in other parts of the House this afternoon. I ask hon. Members to use their imagination. Some hon. Members opposite do not particularly like the present Government in this country. I wonder whether they would feel more friendly to the Germans, or hostile to the Government, if the Germans circulated leaflets accusing them in effect of being sheep, for having elected such a Government. The effect of what we are constantly saying to the Germans is, "Of course we have no quarrel with you people; it is only un- 368 fortunate that you, as sheep, follow any sort of Government, however monstrous." That may be true, but it is not a tactful thing to say, and it does not necessarily enlarge any differences which may exist between the German people and their Government.
I have enlarged on some of the points arising out of war and peace aims, because I believe they are important, and because I believe it is disastrous that the attention of this country should be diverted from the task on which all are agreed, to those matters on which disagreement is certain. It is also not a little remarkable—and here, let me make it clear, I am not referring to any Member of this House—that outside this House, many of those who are busying themselves most in saving that we do not know what we are fighting for, and demanding a statement of our war and peace aims, are themselves doing least in the prosecution of the war. No paper has played a more miserable part than that Bible of the "Sixth Column"—as they were wittily described in a forceful broadcast statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). No better representatives of that "Sixth Column" are to be found than some of the contributors of weekly letters to the "New Statesman" and the writers of leading articles in that paper. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, in the passage of his speech with which I found myself in the closest agreement, spoke of the necessity for keeping in step with France and keeping our aims united. He recognises truly that the fate of civilisation depends, not only on the British Empire, but on the embattled forces of the French Republic. It is no mere coincidence that the paper which is most eager for a further statement of war and peace aims by the Government of this country is the same paper which, week by week, belittles and insults our French Allies. In the current number in the leading article will be found these words:France is sunk in a stifling fog of reaction, which suppresses every vestige of independent or progressive thought.The "independent and progressive thought" that is found among thehalf men with their dirty songs and dreary—as they were described by my friend Rupert Brooke in the last war—who now fill the columns of the "New Statesman." 369 Now that we are united in our main war aim, in the greatest struggle for civilisation in which this country has ever been engaged, let us not fritter away that unity by unnecessary demands for further statements which cannot add to the efficiency with which that national aim is being prosecuted, and may divide us, and also divide us from our Allies.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I sympathise deeply with the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) on the fact that he finds himself under the necessity of agreeing very largely with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). I know how much it hurts to agree with an opponent and I hope he may never find himself in the position of having to agree with anything which he finds in the "New Statesman" because that, I fear, would cause him great pain indeed and indeed lead to a fatal eruption. I congratulate him upon the remarkable ingenuity with which he twisted the provisions of the Kellogg Pact into an argument against stating our war aims. I do not intend to go into the subject of our war aims to-night, except to say that I have come across a great many people who are reluctant to state war aims because they are not yet sure of what the size of the victory will be, or how high war hatred and war passions will rise before the struggle is over. But what puzzled me in the speech of the hon. Member for Norwich was the animosity which he displayed towards the principle of federation. After all, he is an assiduous and able supporter of a Government which enshrines that principle. Its supporters include Conservatives, a few renegade Liberals some renegade and hopeful Labour men, one or two odds and ends of Independents and some of the tribes from Ireland, but the Conservative Central Office manages to federate them all.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I should like to know, however, how far the right of secession, which exercised the hon. Member's mind so much, is enjoyed by the supporters of the National Government. It seems to me that the Patronage Secretary is extremely competent to deal with any such attempts, and when we 370 federate the States of Europe, no doubt he will be able to deal with them there also. I understood from the hon. Member's quotation from the Prime Minister's speech that what the Prime Minister really said was that we had no quarrel with the German people, as long as the German people choose for themselves the sort of Government of which a Conservative Government in this country can approve.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I think it is an inference which could fairly be drawn from the quotation which the hon. Member gave, that if the German people choose a Government which was acceptable to the Conservative party, then apparently the war would cease because in that case we should have no quarrel with the German people. I do not propose to say anything about the Treaty of Versailles. I spent three years of my life with that Treaty on my desk, either in draft or in its completed form and I think any discussion of it has become largely academic. At the same time, I think it fair to state that until the advent of Hitler the German people were not carrying on any great propaganda against the Treaty. It was Hitler who fanned up an agitation against the Treaty of Versailles, to which the German people had, apparently, begun to accommodate themselves.
The Debate this evening is mainly occupied with the subject of foreign affairs. Last week I felt very happy about our foreign affairs. I thought they must be going well, because I telephoned to the Foreign Office last Thursday to ask if I might have an interview with a very important person there, and I was told that he was leaving for the country early on Friday morning and would not be returning to the office until Tuesday morning. I knew that he had been working extremely hard, and I was delighted to think of his having a holiday, but secondly I thought how satisfactory must be the state of our foreign affairs when a person without consulting whom no major decision could possibly be taken at the Foreign Office was able to leave his post from Friday morning until Tuesday morning. I thought also of the unhappy and wretched Joachim Von Ribbentrop, who, I am sure, has not had 24 hours off for a very long time indeed.
371 I wonder whether we shall hear tonight what is the special concern of the Foreign Office at the present moment. They have, of course, the duty of soothing the neutrals and convincing them that the protection of our convoy system and the delays imposed by our examination service are not doing more harm to neutral shipping than are the German mines. It must be quite a task. Then there is what I may describe as the almost eternal task of convincing the Balkan States that honesty is the best policy. There is also the necessity of being very civil to the United States of America while making it clear that we are not, of course, doing that in any hope of favours to come. Those must he some of the constant preoccupations of the Foreign Office, but there are two main points in foreign policy to which I should like briefly to refer.
The first is the question of our foreign policy in the Far East, which seems to me to be becoming, in regard to China, extremely ambiguous, to say the least of it. I confess that I have been very surprised indeed that no reference has been made by any Government spokesman to the remarkable speech of the American Ambassador to Japan after his recent return to Tokyo. It is most remarkable indeed that that speech has not been taken up by this country. The other thing to which I think I must refer is the subject of Finland, and I do so with very sad personal feelings, because I have so many friends among the Finns, among whom I would mention especially the Finnish Minister here, who represents his country with such dignity and distinction. One's sympathy indeed goes out to him and to his countrymen in this blackguardly attack which they are suffering at the hands of the perjured, blackmailing, cowardly assassins from the spiritual home of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). If those words are thought to be too strong, I would like to quote from a message from the President of the U.S.S.R. early this year in reply to a message from President Roosevelt asking Herr Hitler if he would guarantee 10 years of non-aggression to a number of countries, including Finland. The President of the U.S.S.R., responding to President Roosevelt, referred to "his noble appeal," expressed "pro- 372 found sympathy" with it, and said:You may rest assured that your initiative finds most ardent response in the hearts of the people of the Soviet Socialist Union.I have travelled, I think, in every country in Europe, and in three of them—Denmark, Sweden, and Finland—I have always felt that in those countries a worth-while way of life has been evolved and worked out. Particularly in Finland, where the worship of wealth, the snobbery, the love of titles, which are such a disfigurement to the social life of this country, are non-existent. They are countries of which one may say that the ideal scheme of things has been attained to, that while nobody has superfluous cake everybody has ample bread and butter.
It is such a country that has now been attacked. It will be a tragedy for Europe if such a country disappears. What can we do? It is a very sad thought, but if we gave a guarantee to Poland and were unable to send them a man, or a gun, or an aeroplane, or a round of ammunition to assist them, how then can we help Finland? I am afraid, melancholy though it is, that the answer is that one can only do what one can and that St. George can only take on one dragon at a time. But what we are seeing in Finland are the fruits of the failure during the past years to construct an effective collective system, and to-day we have to put the whole of our fortune and the whole of our Empire to dire hazard in the task of trying to build up such a system as we have turned our backs upon in the years gone by. Meanwhile, small countries, I suppose, must perish. We are progressing. We fought the last war in order to provide "homes fit for heroes" in this country, and we are fighting this war, the Prime Minister tells us, in order to produce Utopia in Europe. Sir Thomas More must be very gratified. I hope that in the long run Europe will benefit more than our heroes did after the last war.
There are two other aspects of the war to which I would like to turn, and the first is this: One wonders what one can do to be of assistance at this time. One thing that one can set one's face against is, I think, too much wishful thinking. I would not ascribe any particular blame to Ministers in this respect, but perhaps here and there the Press encourages a little too much wishful thinking. I am thinking in 373 particular of the tales about the German Government and the German régime cracking up, tales which have a very good news value, but I think we have been hearing too much wishful thinking altogether in connection with this idea of a sudden crack-up in Germany. Suppose the rulers of Germany found that the game was up. They have frequently in this Debate been called gangsters, and perhaps I might remind hon. Members that we know from America that when a gangster is cornered, he is apt, as they call it, to shoot his way out. The more the rulers of Germany feel that the régime is failing and that their career of personal power is at an end, the more desperate they will be in trying to pull down the European house and to involve as many countries as possible in the ruins. I think there should be no wishful thinking about cracking-up in Germany, because every responsible person to whom I talk seems to be very full of ideas about what may be coming next year or in the spring. I notice that Mr. Villard, an American political writer who left Germany only about a week ago, speaking of England, says:Does she realise the gravity of the situation? She is faced by the most dangerous gang in history, possessed of tremendous organising power and a driving force that is not individual but is part of a world upheaval.He acids:Germany was not to be defeated on land any more than Britain and France were. … We ca n hardly hope to bomb her into submission, for she can outbuild us in the air.Those are words well worth pondering by people who are inclined to indulge in too much wishful thinking. Many people do not understand the apparent lull in events and are very puzzled about it. The feeling is gaining currency that there is this lull because the Government are anticipating a crack-up in Germany. It will be very dangerous if that idea is allowed to get about. Although there may be difficulties in the way of doing so, I think that sooner or later the Government will be compelled to give some idea to the people why there is this lull, and some broad outline of our general strategic ideas. Certain weaknesses in the administration of the war are much in my mind. I do not disagree with the description of the Prime Minister as a very tough opponent of Herr Hitler. I have thought that ever since I heard his Birmingham 374 speech. He has said that this is a strange war, and I think there is nothing stranger in it than some of the men whom he selects to assist him in running it. Some of the appointments which are made are really very remarkable, and they seem to me to spring from the Prime Minister's self-confidence. I believe that he feels such superb and supreme self-confidence that it seems to him that it does not matter whom he calls in to assist in his administration. I have worked with a man who had the same opinion; he felt so confident of his ability to deal with everything that he did not mind whom he called in to assist him. That outlook is a very dangerous one and leads eventually to breakdowns.
I feel a certain amount of perturbation about the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Some of the heads of the Department of that Ministry are among the ablest men in Government service. It has been said to-night that the Ministry has been rather slow to get on to the idea of buying, not only from the point of view of our necessities, but from the point of view of preventing certain commodities getting to the enemy. From what I hear of the work of the Ministry it is handicapped by the person of the Minister himself. Although he is a man of great energy and ability, well able to grasp the fundamental principles of his Ministry, yet he was a junior Minister promoted to what I believe to be almost the most important Ministry in the Government, and the simple fact is that he has not the guns to enable him to stand up to the Treasury. That has prevented the Ministry from doing its work more effectively. We hear all this talk about preparing for a war of three years, but why have a war of three years if we can have a shorter one? The idea of the Ministry of Economic Warfare was to point the way to a shortening of the war, but far too many ideas of that Ministry have been blocked by the Treasury.
The Ministry of Shipping is another example. Shipping is a most important question in the prosecution of the war. I do not think any Member is satisfied with the administration of the Ministry or believes that the Ministry has thought out or adopted an effective policy with regard to the war. The Minister of Shipping is a shining example of what I said just now about the failure of the Prime 375 Minister to secure the best talent available to him for his administration. Every Member who listened to the reply of the Minister in the Debate on the Ministry of Shipping last Session felt profoundly disappointed. Then there is the Minister of Supply. I feel that he will have many awkward days and Debates to deal with in this House in the course of this Session. I know he has met many Members and committees, but, as far as I can gather, they have gone away very unsatisfied. Unless these matters are attended to and the administration is tightened up, we shall have a very long war.
The whole question of the administration of the war on land, in the air and at sea is a subject of which I am precluded from speaking. At the present moment I must not criticise. I just fetch and carry. Like the sailor's parrot, perhaps I think the more while I am doing so. I hope the Admiralty will not convict me of the Japanese penal offence, "Harbouring dangerous thoughts." What I am perturbed about are the opinions of Conservative officer Members of Parliament on this subject. The Address was moved in an eloquent speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden). I notice he said thatThe Navy's real strength lies in … its well-constructed ships and the manner in which they are maintained … in its civilian officers, such as constructors, naval store officers, armament supply officers, etc." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November; col. 11, Vol. 355.]I was astonished at his omission of the Board of Admiralty. He never mentioned the Board as one of the sources of the Navy's "real strength." Then there was the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). No one will deny that he is a stout supporter of the Government. May I say in passing that I was delighted to hear the tribute he paid to the Mover of the Address, one of the bravest officers who ever stood on the bridge of a destroyer. The hon. and gallant Member was also perturbed, particularly about the defences of the Orkney and Shetland Islands. He said that it was no good speaking of the subject of Scapa Flow, andno good rehashing that matter again, but there are reasonable grounds for thinking that all is not quite as it should be.376 He went on to say:These are matters to which the Admiralty will have to pay attention, because there is undoubtedly a growing feeling among the public that something is not right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November; col. 52, Vol. 355.]Then we had the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), who said yesterday that it was unfortunate that we had not yet, under the pressure of war, started in the Services to remove square pegs from round holes. These are remarkable expressions coming from Members of Parliament sitting on the Conservative benches. If I said half as much I should be told I was a subversive officer, but it only shows again that a Conservative may steal a sheep while a Socialist may not even look over the hedge. I hope that the expressions of opinion by these officers will not inspire any lack of confidence in the First Lord of the Admiralty. The times were very out of joint indeed at the Admiralty when he was called in to set them right. There had been a sick man as First Sea Lord for many months. It was a great tragedy, because a more able officer, a man who more fully possessed the confidence of the Navy, never served in that office. It was the greatest tragedy that his health broke down, but we have to face the fact that the office of First Sea Lord was in commission for many months. While that was so we had as First Lord the amiable and well-meaning Lord President of the Council. I said "well-meaning." I remember a girl who said, "Father means well, but unfortunately he does not mean much." The administration of that First Sea Lord will, I think, be remembered by that stupid speech of his in the "Ark Royal." It was noticeable for nothing else. But the state of affairs produced by such an unfortunate concatenation of events is something which cannot be put right in a day or in a month, and, as I say, I see nothing in what has happened that should in any way impair the general and well-deserved public confidence in the present First Lord of the Admiralty.
I listened yesterday to the very powerful if sombre speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If I could not agree with all his conclusions, at any rate I could admire the courage with which he told the House unpalatable truths, as he obviously felt it his duty to do. I say 377 that without any reference to whether I think his doubts and fears are entirely justified or not. At the end of his speech, in order to find material for his peroration, he fell foul of a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall), who had said that he hoped that the victory of this country would not prove a hollow shell for many people, a fear which, I think, is all too well justified. To deal with that remark and in order to make a peroration the Chancellor of the Exchequer resorted to an extraordinary piece of forensic trickery, one of those pieces of trickery which give lawyers a bad name. He contemplated defeat. He drew a picture of what would happen if this country were defeated, of all the terrible things which would happen and of the German institutions which would be set up.
Why does the Chancellor of the Exchequer contemplate defeat? Unless he thinks defeat is possible, there was no point at all in the reply which he made to my hon. Friend. He is the only Member of this House whom I have ever heard employ such a simile. I can only say that I know of nobody else who contemplates such a possibility. Therefore, it was a pity that he did so in order to find material for a peroration, because we shall win this war. It is only a question of how long we take to do it, and I echo the hope of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare that once again many people in this country will not find that victory is a hollow shell.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Culverwell
What has struck me most in this Debate, and the last speaker mentioned it in his peroration, is that, with the exception of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) every speaker has apparently decided in his mind that the only issue to this war is victory, and that a peace by negotiation can be ruled out of court. I hope that nothing I shall say will be interpreted in any parť of the House as suggesting that I am not in favour of the most vigorous and most efficient prosecution of the war, but I regard the promotion of peace as quite as important as the prosecution of the war, and I do noť believe that those two aims are contradictory. At the outset of the war, in the first week I think, I put down a Motion for a secret Session to discuss ťhe conduct of the war and the in- 378 ternational situation. I very much regret that the Government did not accept that Motion, because there are things that many of us want to say, things which should be said, which it would be unwise and undesirable to say in public; and, indeed, the point of view which I wish to express to-night loses much of its force from the very fact thať I do not wish to use arguments which might be liable to misinterpretation either at home or abroad.
The Prime Minister, very wisely, in my opinion, refrained from defining our peace aims because, as he rightly said, nobody can envisage the conditions which will exist ať the end of this war, and any peace aims which we put forward now must receive the acceptance and agreement of our allies. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whom I am pleased to see in his place, and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who opened the Debate, seemed to me to be just as much in ťhe clouds as they have always been, with no touch of reality whatsoever. Does the right hon. Gentleman really imagine that his Utopian dream of a new Europe, his scheme for rebuilding a new heaven upon earth at ťhe end of this war, are really capable of realisation? Does he really imagine that after a long, bloody war, when passions have been aroused, his academic schemes, his dreams of Utopia, will he realised? Surely he has only to cast his memory back to Versailles to realise that it is pure phantasy to imagine that those dreams can ever be realised. After the slaughter and the ruin which this war will bring upon Europe I venture to suggesť that the peace will be dictated in a spirit of revenge, of passion, of hatred, possibly in a spirit of exhaustion, and that public opinion in this country and in France will probably demand a permanent weakening of Germany in order to prevent a repeťition of the present war.
An hon. Member opposite says that that is exactly what we did at Versailles, and I suggest that all ťhis talk to-day has been completely idle and out of touch with realities, that people sitťing in their studies or sitting on the Front Bench opposite plotting out a new world after this war are completely wasting their time, because they take no account of the passions which will be aroused, of the difficulťies of the situation, and of the objections of our 379 allies and of public opinion to any tolerance towards Germany after the war. The Prime Minister has warned us that we should not make a vindictive peace. We hope that we shall not have a vindictive peace, but past experience shows us what can happen after a war, and I have not the least doubt that if this war be pursued to its bitter end, the victory which mosť Members imagine, we shall be faced with a vindictive peace and sow the seeds of the next war.
No, Sir, the only chance of securing a fair and enduring peace is by negotiation, and that has not been mentioned either by the right hon. Gentleman or the Leader of the Opposition during the course of this Debate on the King's Speech. I venture to suggest that the only opportunity of securing a peace by negotiation is now, before the war is intensified and passions are aroused. Our people, and I might say the German people as well, have no enthusiasm for this war, but they are grimly determined to fight on for victory if there is no way out, if there is no escape. I believe in the justice of our cause, and I believe we shall win the victory, but I also believe that there are other means of obtaining our security than by this terrible struggle. At the outset of this war most people and many Members of this House, supposedly well-informed people, and particularly hon. Members of the Socialist party and Members of the Liberal party, imagined that we had only to call the dictator's bluff and he would collapse, or else they imagined that internal conditions in Germany, including the so-called shortage of raw materials, would lead to an early economic or political collapse. Indeed, they pinned their faith on this easy victory by calling the dictator's bluff. The idea seemed to be that you had only to blow the trumpets and the walls of Germany would fall down. We heard that said in regard to Munich and Abyssinia, as well as for years past on that Front Bench.
Views seem to be changing. The hon. Member warned us just now of the difficulties that we are facing and we have had a most pregnant speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). He pleaded the dangers and difficulties of the situation. I never thought that it would be an easy task and 380 I visualise now, as most hon. Members will be able to, stalemate on the Western Front. Neither side will be able to break through, and will sit in their trenches for the next year, or it may be two years. One hon. Member has suggested five years. I believe that Germany could have lasted a very considerable time without Russian help, but with Russian help she may last indefinitely. There are indications from neutral sources and various other quarters that Germany is not torn by internal dissension, that the régime is not tottering, and that she has not exhausted her economic resources. If those be facts, then the war can only develop into a barbarous battle for aerial supremacy—an increasingly barbarous battle—and a struggle by both sides to blockade and starve out the other side. I heard one hon. Member say that this was a humane method of warfare. Well, no method of warfare is humane, but I do not see very much difference between starving your opponent out and poisoning him with gas.
That is the war as I see it, and I believe it is a view that more and more people are beginning to take about it. We originally entered into the war to defend Poland and to defeat aggression. I suggest that the intervention of Russia has radically changed the whole situation strategically, politically and economically. It has certainly increased our difficulties. In a very real sense Hitler has already lost the war. His aims for expansion in Eastern Europe have been thwarted by the intervention of Russia. What is more, he has had forced upon him a war against the Western Powers; and I do not believe he ever expected it. He might be very pleased to get out of it. The most likely result of our victory will be a strengthening of Russia and the spread of Communism westward. I can even visualise our troops fighting side by side with the Germans to defeat the Bolshevist menace.
If my estimate of the situation be correct—and there is every indication that it is—hon. Members on all sides of the House will admit the difficulties and dangers of it—the Government should accept, before it is too late, the offer of mediation which still stands open and which was made by the sovereigns of Holland and Belgium. I can see no necessity for laying down terms beforehand; indeed, it would be a mistake. I can see less reason for prejudicing the 381 atmosphere by permitting one of the members of our War Cabinet to broadcast a most untimely and unseemly speech.
§ Mr. Culverwell
It created a most deplorable impression. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, that is a matter of opinion, and that opinion is held not only by myself but by many people in this House and in the country.
§ Mr. Culverwell
That is the unfortunate part. The hon. Gentleman has almost said what I was going to say. It is unfortunate that Members of our War Cabinet should sink to the level of Dr. Goebbels. We should set ourselves a higher standard in this war. It is right that the interests of neutrals should receive sympathetic consideration. They are already suffering very severely economically, and they may at any moment be involved in a war which is not of their seeking. While I am talking to-night, another neutral is being overrun. Had the offer of mediation been accepted by both belligerents and a conference been held, that act might not have taken place.
I understand that we are supposed to be defending small neutrals against aggression. That is a right and proper policy to pursue and one which I strongly support, but it seems strange that the two next most likely victims of aggression, Holland and Belgium, which most people expected not so very long ago would be overrun, should be begging us to desist from defending them. The only conclusion I can draw from that is either that they are extremely short-sighted and foolish, or that they believe or hope that a conference now might provide an enduring and satisfactory settlement of this war.
I said before that the Prime Minister had very wisely refused to define our peace aims precisely, but I feel that too much has been said on all sides of the House about the restoration of Poland 382 and of Czecho-Slovakia, and, the other day it was suggested, even of Austria. It should be patent to anyone who thinks about these matters that such aims are impracticable and unwise. How could we restore Poland without the agreement and consent of Russia? To show how foolish this talk is I would mention that an hon. Member was informing me the other day that we should, of course, have to restore Poland as it was before. When I mentioned Russia he said that Russia would, of course, be forced to evacuate. That is what the hon. Member opposite called wishful thinking. I noted that an hon. Member quoted from the very interesting articles in the "Daily Telegraph" by Mr. Villard. I noticed that Mr. Villard expressed the belief "that a large section of the permanent officials of the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Corps in Berlin would be the happiest men in Germany if they heard that the Allies had consented to discuss terms of peace based upon the setting up of a small Czech State, free and independent, and a Polish State without Danzig and the Corridor." Discussion on those lines, coupled with disarmament and economic co-operation, sponsored and guaranteed by neutrals, might well provide the basis for a lasting peace—not a patched-up peace, but a peace that would give us security, and which would be lasting.
I do not think that any question of pride, or prejudice, or prestige should be allowed to hinder the early settlement of this war which nobody wants and which nobody in any country in Europe—
§ Mr. Culverwell
I do not think for a moment that Hitler wants this war. I thought it was generally accepted that the war came as a most unpleasant surprise to Hitler when we called his bluff.
§ Mr. Culverwell
I will leave the hon. Gentleman to make his own remarks but he knows as well as I do that in all probability Hitler would not have started his campaign against Poland if he had been convinced that Britain and France would enter the lists against him. Time is getting shorter and the passing of the years may put an end for ever to the pos- 383 sibility of concluding a peace. Once the bombs start dropping and the horrors of war are let loose, it will be too late to consider any conference.
§ Mr. Culverwell
The hon. Member who has been so very bellicose in the past is so anxious that the war should stop that he is again engaged in what wishful thinking against which the hon. Member behind him has warned him. I would urge the Government to seize any opportunity they have to get round a table and effect some settlement; in other words, to take risks for peace.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
I closed my eyes during the speech of the last hon. Member and imagined that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) had crossed the Floor of the House. The hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) gave ample justification for the particular subject of this Debate to-night. The very fact that he said if the war were carried on passions would rise and hatred would be intensified, with the result that at the end of the conflict there would not be any reasonable opportunity for making peace terms, is a justification for this Debate and for asserting that before passions do rise, and before hatred does become intensified, we shall state in as definite terms as possible the peace terms and the terms upon which there is to be a cessation of hostilities. That, I submit, is the fundamental point.
The hon. Member for West Bristol, after talking about the impossibility almost of getting any peace of a satisfactory nature if the war is proceeded with, indicated that such a peace would be based upon terms which in later years would be productive of further wars. That is the very definite reason why we are asking that those terms shall be made now and at once, not only to the country with whom we are fighting, but also to the neutral countries of the world in order that they shall know the purpose for which we are fighting and the basis upon which we will cease hostilities. The strange thing about the speech of the Member for West Bristol is that at one moment he declared there would be no possibility of having any sort of peaceful 384 settlement if we pursued the war, and yet he went on to visualise that at some little time afterwards we should be fighting with our present enemy to resist the forces of some other nation. The hon. Member is extremely illogical in his statements. I wish I had had the pleasure of following the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) because his speech was of such great charm and easy to follow. Whenever I listen to the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton with his whimsicality, his puckish humour and his disarming satire, I realise the reason why every lass loves a sailor.
§ Mr. Beaumont
The speech of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) was of a lengthy character, and I wish he was here bcause I desire to deal with two particular points that he made. He gave us an illustration of a fire and he said one does not go to the men who are fighting the fire and say to them, "What are your aims? What are you fighting for?". It is obvious that the hon. Member was confusing an organisation with an authority. A fire brigade is simply an organisation created by the authority for a specific purpose. We are not going to our armed forces asking them to state what the peace aims shall be. We say that the authority which is in charge of the armed forces—the nation and the Government who are supposed to represent the nation—should state the terms upon which peace will be concluded and upon which peace aims can be founded. If I may carry the illustration a little further, it certainly is the duty of all the authorities that look after fire brigades so to pass regulations, rules, restrictions and give guidance so that fires will not occur. Surely it is the duty of nations to so devise regulations and agreements that war could not occur between one nation and another.
The second point that the hon. Member for Norwich made was that it was quite wrong for us to say that we were not fighting against the German people. I submit that it is of supreme importance that we should continue to make that clear. The hon. Member for Norwich suggested that the German people were behind the German Government and supported Hitler and Hitlerism, because the German people had put Hitler and his 385 party into power. He surely forgets the methods which were adopted to enforce the election of the Nazi Government, and he also forgets the fact that there have come within the control—that devilish control—of Nazism millions of people who had no chance of expression whether they should be under Nazi rule or not. Is he suggesting that the people of Austria, of Czecho-Slovakia and now the people of Poland have had an opportunity of exercising the right of electing the Government who now control them? What is also important to remember is that we know too well that in Germany itself there are many millions of men and women who are anxiously waiting for the day of their release from the torture which they have had to endure for so long. It should be one of our aims to give release to those people so that once more they may be free.
We on this side of the House have been accused of indulging in phantasies and in airy ideas, and what was described by the Prime Minister as essays on future conduct. I want to say that although it is not necessary to urge that we keep alive our ideals, because I know we shall preserve them no matter how bitter the conflict may be, although it is not necessary to fortify our faith and it will not be necessary to quicken our resolves, it is necessary to clarify our policy. We want a peaceful world after this holocaust of war is over, but if we are to get a peaceful world we must be prepared to make very great changes. The last war was a war to destroy German militarism and to make the world safe for democracy. Unfortunately, passions rose, and those ideals were lost sight of in the terms that were imposed on the conquered nation. I agree that the present regime in Germany is not the result of the Versailles Treaty, but is the definite result of the teaching that Germany was not defeated in the field but stabbed in the back by Jews and Socialists. But passions were not kept under control, with the result that the Peace Treaty of 1919 was not the kind of peace treaty likely to make the world safe for democracy. Surely, our aims in these days are even more revolutionary than in 1914. We are out now not for a change of frontiers as for a change of heart. That change of heart means a considerable reform in our ideas of association with other nations.
386 In the broadcast that the Prime Minister gave last Sunday he made certain statements. He said that we wanted to build a new Europe. Very true, but it is up to the Government of this country to indicate what kind of new Europe there might be—though not necessarily to state it in precise terms. He said that we wanted a Europe with a new principle, we wanted to have good will and tolerance, we wanted to settle differences by conference. We quite agree, but we are of opinion that such fundamental principles should be stated more clearly. As an instance of how good intentions may not be carried out when passions have risen I would recall that in the latter days of the last war there was some talk about the limitation of sovereignty. I will quote from a speech by a very eminent statesman of America, the late Mr. Elihu Root, who on 16th August, 1918, laid down the doctrine that there could be no peace without— I quote his words:a universal, formal and irrevocable acceptance and declaration of the view that an international breach of the peace is a matter which concerns every member of the community of nations—a matter in which every nation has a direct interest and to which every nation has a right to object.That is definitely a change from the old doctrine that a war between two States concerns only those two States. It is a crucial change. Mr. Root went on to say that thisinvolves a limitation of sovereignty, making every sovereign State subject to the superior right of a community of sovereign States to have the peace preserved. The acceptance of such principle would be fatal to the whole Prussian theory of the State and of government.Among our peace aims we must include the limitation of sovereignty, because unless such a limitation is accepted by ourselves and the other nations there will always be the possibility of wars in the future. If the principle of unlimited sovereignty reigns there are going to be dangers and difficulties and darkness for civilisation, but if the principle of unlimited sovereignty disappears there is a possibility of nations working harmoniously together. If there is one aim more important than any other it is that war should be made, in practice as well as in theory, internationally unlawful, like piracy and brigandage.
One or two of the speakers in the Debate to-night have referred to the question 387 of the blockade and economic warfare. The neutrals simply seem to have this choice—the choice of the acceptance of a temporary financial loss during the period of blockade, or of the submission to despotism. If Hitler were to succeed the countries who are now feeling the effects of the blockade and may be somewhat disturbed about it would not suffer blockade from Germany, but complete subjection to Nazism itself. That being so, we have to realise that a German victory would spell inevitably the end of their existence as independent nations. Therefore, much as we regret that neutral nations are put to inconvenience and difficulty, the circumstances of the time make this inevitable, and when we have succeeded in vanquishing our enemies and establishing a basis of peace aims, then the countries that have suffered through the war—and mark you, these countries which are neutral are not suffering as hardly as the countries that are fighting in defence of freedom and democracy—will recover their trade and their freedom will have been preserved. In a speech made in another place in the early part of 1918 by Lord Parker of Waddington, he said:The true line of development lies, not in regulating the hateful thing (war), but in bringing about conditions under which it becomes increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible, not in consulting the welfare or selfish interests of neutrals, but in abolishing neutrality. Murders would increase if the murderer could count upon the neutrality of bystanders, and it is the same with war. The neutral, in fact, shirks his share of the burden of humanity.The moral of that is that the principle of collective security, which this party has advocated continuously and conscientiously, would have meant that there would have been no neutrals. If the League of Nations itself had been used, as it should have been used, we would not be facing German aggression with one or two Allies, but the whole of those comprising the members of the League would have accepted their responsibilities and there would have been no neutrals. If the peace of the world is to be secured in future, it must be secured on the basis that all those who believe in law and order and decency and democracy shall weld themselves together and have command of force that will be sufficient to deal with any aggressor nation. That is our 388 justification and our demand for some form of international police force.
I would like to make two comments with regard to the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I was extremely disturbed to find that he, like the Prime Minister, did not disclose what the peace aims of this Government will be. They hedged and went round the subject, but they said nothing. When one analyses the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, and if one analyses the speech of the Under-Secretary of State this afternoon, one might think that they are themselves readers of the Biglow Papers. One was reminded of the portrait of a statesman whose motto was:No, never say nothin' without you're compelled tu,An' then don't say nothin' that you can be held tu.The attitude of the Under-Secretary and the Prime Minister were very much on those lines. The Under-Secretary told us not to expect an immediate paradise. He said that we had to replace uncertainty with certainty, and that we had to reconcile our obligations with our strength to fulfil them. One rather read into that statement the insidious suggestion that we had to maintain armaments so as to be able to stand up to our obligations alone.
The principles that we have espoused and demanded from these benches is that we, in association with the other nations of the world, should join to bring about peace throughout the world. Surely, we can take lessons from the failures of the past. The failures of the past have been that we have not used the machinery we had at hand. I should like to know from the Government whether they are proposing in any way to make use of the machinery of the League of Nations during the period of war. Are there to be any meetings of the Assembly of the League? Are we as a member State of the League going to ask for such Assemblies? It is within the province and the power of the League to be of tremendous help in settling the terms of peace. This country is not out, as we have said before, for territory, or prestige, but we are out for the freedom of the human spirit. We may have to pay dearly in blood and the tears of widowed women and fatherless children. We may have to pay dearly in the poverty of the 389 land, in the impoverishment of the world, in the destruction of riches, but if as a result we ensure freedom for mind, body and soul, and if the peoples of the world are determined to live ever afterwards in peace, amity and well being, the price that we have to pay may not be too great.
1t has been suggested that we ought to go into conference. We on this side of the House are willing to go into conference to settle this war, but we want to get a peace that will be lasting and not a peace that will simply be a temporary cessation of hostilities. We have to remember that the price of a certain kind of peace may be the destruction of humanity in the world. A peace that is not liberty for the mind and the soul as well as the body is not a peace worth having.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Law
I am glad that the hen. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) has returned, because I should like to comment briefly upon his speech. The House of Commons is always tolerant of views with which the House as a whole is not in agreement. Nobody could have any doubt that my hon. Friend to-night was speaking with deep conviction. Nevertheless, I rejoice, and I think the House will rejoice, that in the views which my hon. Friend represented to-night he was representing a minority of the House and a minority of the nation at this time. My hon. Friend complained that not once during to-day's Debate had he heard any suggestion of peace by negotiation. That is perfectly true. Why did my hon. Friend not hear any such suggestion? Because we had a peace by negotiation a little more than a year ago. As he pointed out, we are in a difficult and dangerous situation. Unhappily, wars always have been difficult and dangerous, but we have to see this one through, and I am sure that we shall not delude ourselves by thinking that a negotiated peace is possible with the present rulers of the German people.
The Debate this evening has been concerned in the main with the question of war aims, and whether or not the Government should make a further and more precise declaration of its war aims. Two points of view have been expressed; one that there should be an immediate and 390 specific declaration and the other that any declaration of war aims would be dangerous and ill-advised. I have a feeling that those on this side of the House who have taken so strongly the view that any statement of war aims must be dangerous are not giving due weight to the other side of the case, and the speech of the hon. Member for West Bristol is an instance of what I mean. I do not think he will take offence if I say that his was a defeatist speech.
§ Mr. Culverwell
I certainly do object to my speech being described as a defeatist speech. I prefaced it by saying that I was in favour of a vigorous and efficient prosecution of the war, but that I regarded the promotion of peace as equally important. I do not think that anybody can call it a defeatist speech.
§ Mr. Law
Perhaps I did unfairly represent the hon. Member's point of view, but at the same time I think he unnecessarily indicated the difficulties which lie ahead of us and insufficiently stressed the advantages. There is a defeatist opinion in this country; and the war has hardly started. It may start at any time, now or in the Spring, and we may be faced with privations which we shall have to endure and with something more than boredom. We may be faced with bitter sorrows which will have to be borne by the people of this country, and it will help enormously, when the war starts, if the people can be convinced that the sacrifices they will be called upon to make and the sorrows and the sufferings which they will have to endure are being given for some cause more permanent than the peace which ended the last war.
An hon. Member has said that a definition of our peace aims could not in any way contribute to our victory. I believe that it may contribute very much later on when we may be having a more difficult time than we are having now. It may make all the difference to the morale of the people if they have a clear idea, not of our war aim, which is to defeat Germany, but of our peace aims and the kind of Europe we want to erect after the war. The Prime Minister in his speech on Tuesday said that the people of this country were much too prone to think that it was only through war that you could get an advance in human society and that they were apt to forget the even greater advance which can be made in a 391 time of peace. There was a great deal of truth in that statement, but it was not the whole of the truth. The fact of the matter is that in a time of war men's hearts are softened, their imaginations are quickened, and their judgments are more alert, and in times like these it is possible that they will pay attention to solutions, which might be the right solutions but which in normal times they would not consider for a single moment. I think we ought to stimulate and as it were exploit this openness of mind which is characteristic of the ordeal through which we are passing to-day.
Whether or not the Government defines more clearly its war aims, it is of the utmost importance to the people of this country that we should consider what our peace aims are and how best we are likely to achieve them. I know that there are those who say that one cannot prophesy the future and that it is useless to speculate upon the future. That may or may not be true, but I think one can prophesy at any rate this much of the future, that the end of the war will find a Europe divided and very much weakened, and that it will be our task to unite and to heal Europe. That much, I think, we do know, and each one of us ought to be considering in his own mind how best that task can be achieved, how best Europe can be united, and how best the wounds which the war will cause can be healed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) poured a good deal of scorn upon the idea of a federal union of Europe. He rather implied that the people who are interested in that idea had not in any way considered its implications, and supposed that it was a panacea which would cure all the evils from which Europe has suffered from the beginning of time. I am one of those who are interested in the idea of a federal union of Europe. I believe such a thing is possible. I do not believe for one moment that it is a panacea or that it will immediately work a cure in the international situation, but I believe that it is the only solution which has been put forward so far that really tends to grapple with the essential problems in the European scene. It is the only solution, it seems to me, which recognises that, through the developments of modern 392 science, there has been such a shrinking in the European society that the continuance of independent national States, with their whole sovereignty intact, has become impossible. To my mind, it is the only solution which holds out any hope whatever of solving that great problem which was a problem after the last war and which will no doubt be a problem after this war, that is to say, the problem of reconciling the French demand for security against German aggression with the British demand for restoring Europe as quickly as possible to a normal condition.
War makes many changes. I think this war has already made great changes in people's outlooks. In every war, I suppose, the belligerents imagine that they are fighting for good against evil, but in this war we all know we are fighting for something more than just the glory of England, the safety of England, the prosperity of England. We all of us know that we are fighting to preserve, not for England alone, but for the whole of Europe and the world, the legacy which has been handed down to us from Greece, Rome and Palestine. We all of us know that this is probably our last chance to preserve it, and that unless we can not only win this war, but secure a stable Europe after the war, we shall probably never have another chance, and this precious legacy which is common to all the peoples of the Western world will perish and be forgotten.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I had wanted to begin by making another expression of the sympathy of this House with the gallant Finnish people for whom, I think, every democrat has a very particular regard. I had wanted to emphasise the plea which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) made in opening the Debate, that we must march hand in hand with France, and I should like to renew his congratulations to the Government on the economic arrangements they have made with France, and in particular on their appointment of M. Jean Monnet as president of the Committee that has been set up. It was my privilege, years ago, to work with him as a colleague in the secretariat of the League. I know at first hand his great ability and driving power. I am glad that they are to be used in the war and I hope they 393 will be used again in the international institutions which we shall create when the war is over.
I had wanted to say something about our dealings with the neutrals and particularly with our Balkan friends and to urge on the Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland did, that they should not be impeded in buying Balkan goods, in making loans to Balkan countries, in enabling those countries to get armaments, and that they should not refrain from giving the troops Greek tobacco to smoke, by any objections which the Treasury may make. In particular, I had wanted to urge that the Government should be ready, not only to use our available exchange but to mobilise foreign securities if that should be required, in order to carry through policies of supporting friendship with those countries in the South. But at this hour I turn at once to what is, I think, in the forefront of the minds of Members of this House as it certainly is in the forefront of the mind of the country. I mean the question of peace aims and war aims about which so many speeches have been made to-day. I wish to urge that the advantages of making a pronouncement, which will go further than any yet made by the Government, are really greater and the difficulties of doing so are a great deal less than the Government, perhaps, are inclined to believe. I venture to think that the advantages of doing so are incalculable. I believe that what the Government do may determine the length of the war and what it will cost us.
Everybody who has spoken, except, I understand, the hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) —whose speech to my regret I did not hear—has been resolute that out of this struggle we must get a lasting peace, whatever it may cost. Some people honestly believe that we shall only get such a peace if we dictate the terms in Berlin and that our great mistake last time was not to do so. Those who say that, think that the Germans do not know what war means. I often wonder whether they have read "All Quiet on the Western Front" or whether they know anything about the history of the last 18 months of the previous war inside Germany. The truth is that the Germans, both the soldiers at the front and the civilians at home, had a far more terrible war than we had and they have not forgotten it. The Nazis 394 have spent six years in glorifying war but every impartial observer who was in Germany when the present war started is agreed that sorrow swept the land. The Germans have not had too little war, too little force, too little suffering in the last 30 years but a great deal too much, and that is why they have fallen victims to this foul disease of Nazism. The Prime Minister never said a truer word than when he told us the other night that, provided our purpose is fulfilled, as fulfilled it must be, the less bloodshed the better for us all.
How can we get a relatively short and bloodless war? The Government themselves have recognised how that can be done. It can only be done if the German people will instal a Government that is ready for real peace, and the German people will only do that, if they are convinced that when they do so they will get a just treaty and a tolerable future. At this moment, there are in the German nation three sections. There are the Nazis—according to much reliable evidence a marvellously small proportion of the whole; the anti-Nazis—nobody knows how many, but good witnesses believe they may be as high as 25 or 30 per cent., consciously and actively opposed to Nazi policies, including the policy of war; and then there are the rest, the docile mass who are supporting this war out of mingled patriotism and fear and because they remember what defeat meant to them in suffering last time. A great many of that decisive mass, the non-political mass, actively dislike this war.
I wonder whether the Government noticed—I am sure they did—the remarkable evidence of a remarkable witness: I mean the articles of Mr. Oswald Villard in the "Daily Telegraph" these last few days. Mr. Villard was there for some months, and there is no man with a better knowledge of Germany. His outstanding impression was of a people depressed and unhappy, facing the future with deep discouragement. He said that all the workers, and many officials, spoke to him of unrest and discontent, that many people said to him that only a few people at the top wanted the war. He said that there was no more enthusiasm for the war in the army than there was among the civilians, that he had travelled on trains with hundreds of troops, and had never seen a smiling soldier, that there was no 395 horseplay, no joking, and that they hardly seemed to speak to one another. Could there be a more devastating demonstration of the temper of the men whom Hitler has got to drive to battle? None the less, Mr. Villard is absolutely convinced that these men will fight bitterly to the end if they believe that the destruction of Germany is the Allies' aim. They are exactly in the state of mind described by Prince Max of Baden in the last year of the war, when he thought thatAnyone who had sincerely taken up his stand for a peace of justice"—Prince Max had been battling in Germany for a peace of justice while the militarists were in the saddle—had at the same time taken up the duty of not yielding without a struggle to a peace of violence.If the Germans cannot hope for justice, they will fight, and many of us, if we were Germans, would do the same, even if it were the Nazis who led us. Can we persuade the Germans that they can get a peace of justice? Dr. Goebbels is having very considerable success in telling them they will get another and a worse Versailles. I believe that we ought to be able to persuade them, because the truth is that our Government and the French Government have said that we want a peace of justice, and I believe that we could do a good deal more than we have done to bring it home to the Germans that this is what we really want. The Prime Minister made a distinction, as others have done, between war aims and peace aims, and I would like to try and make it a little more precise. By war aims, I think we ought to mean the terms on which the Germans can get peace now if they will accept them, the terms on which the fighting can stop. By peace aims, we mean the general structure of international organisation which we are going to set up. Until the Germans know what they have to do to get justice, and what will happen to them and what will not happen to them if they accept those terms, the position of Germans who want a peace of justice is absolutely impossible.
On some of these things the Government have said a lot. My hon. Friend quoted a speech of, I think, the Prime Minister's, saying that we did not want to make a vindictive peace. But the 396 Government have gone beyond that. They have said that we will not impose another Versailles, that we are not seeking the collapse of Germany, that we are seeking no material advantage for ourselves, that the peace will not be dictated but made by free and equal negotiations, that we do not propose to pull up all the frontier posts of Europe at Germany's expense, that we will give Germany her rightful place in the new organisation which we set up, that we will do our best to meet all her just claims, and that we will ask nothing from her if it will offend her self-respect. It is hard to go any further on general principles than that in speaking to an enemy. I think it is much the best part of all that the Government have said.
Perhaps I may offer two suggestions. First, it would carry a great deal more weight in Germany if the Government could put the pledges into a rather more concrete form; if they could tell the German people, for example, that the new Germany, the non-Nazi Germany, the Germany that wants justice, will not be subjected to a post-war blockade of foodstuffs, that there will not be a prolonged occupation of German soil, that we shall not impose unlimited reparations, and that we shall not establish a unilateral disarmament for an indefinite period. These are the things that the Germans who want justice really need to know, and if we can find some form in which we could make a sort of model contract with them to show that that was our intention, something that would convince them that our pledges would be fulfilled, I believe that the effect would be immediate and profound. Second, if we did that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland said, we must find some means of doing more propaganda about it in Germany than we have done. At present I do not believe one German in a thousand, perhaps not one in 10,000, knows about this generous statement which the Government have made. It needs new methods, a new staff and a far greater effort at publicity than the Government have made. That applies to our war aims.
It applies much more to our peace aims. The Government have heard a number of complaints that when they have ťalked about a new Europe and how to prevent another war, they have been unduly vague. I think they have not 397 only been unduly vague, but unnecessarily and dangerously vague. Without going one inch beyond principles which they have themselves already accepted, the Government could give much more concreťe form than they have done to the aims which they have declared, a form which would convince people that we meant to carry them out. It is dangerous not to do that because these things are of vast imporťance to the Germans, to our own people who have to fight the war and whose moral has to be considered, and to the neutrals wiťh whose help we shall have to make a new world if a new world is to be made.
What have the Government told us about these peace aims? I will take the Prime Minister's broadcast on Sunday, as my hon. Friend did. He ťold us, as the Government have told us before, that there must be no repetition of this tragedy of war, but as to how we are to prevent iť we have not been told a word. The Prime Minister said we must have good will and tolerance, and that then the fear of aggression will cease to exist. Of course, he cannot go, as he says, beyond stating general principles, but thať is not a general principle; it is a pious aspiration, and not so very pious, because it is exactly what Herr Hitler has said at every international crisis since 1933. We know quiťe well that the Government can go far beyond that. Everybody knows that they have adopted a policy with regard to aggression. Why, after the occupation of Prague, did the Foreign Secretary make his speech of 20th March? Why did we adopt ťhe policy of the peace front? Why did we use that name? Why did the Prime Minister tell us that he wanted the maximum co-operation of all nations we could get in that peace front? Surely because we have now agreed, all parties, that only joint resistance to aggression can prevent its taking place.
We are fighting to right three wrongs committed by Nazi aggression. We have seven nations at our side, four of them British. If those eight nations together had joined to resist the first instead of the last of those three aggressions we could have been quite certain that none of them would have happened. There would have been no wrongs to put right, and almost certainly we could have done it without war. We could have mobilised 160,000,000 against the 65,000,000 of 398 Herr Hitler. We could have put 10,000,000 troops in the field against his 3,000,000, and that at a time when there was no Siegfried Line. Everybody knows that the principle of joint resistance to aggression is the very foundation of any system that will maintain the peace. If that is true, surely the Government can at this minute go some distance towards expressing what they mean to do. Surely they can tell us that their system has to be founded upon this principle. Surely they can tell us that they want to find out what was wrong with the Covenant and the Locarno Treaties and put it right. Surely they can say that they will undertake with other nations whatever engagements of an economic or a military character are required to set up real security for all. Surely they can say that no considerations of national sovereignty shall hold them back.
They do not need to go into detail, they do not need to go beyond general principles. If they will explain that they do want to apply that principle for which, after all, we are now at war, they can make Germans, the neutrals and our own peoples all believe that it is their serious intention to set up a better international system than we have had. The same is profoundly true of disarmament. We all know that armaments have to be reduced. Only three years ago the Prime Minister told us that if we carried out our five-year programme we should degrade the standard of living of our people for a generation. We have carried it out, and other less rich peoples have done the same. We know that none of Germany's neighbours will be at rest until the aggressive militarism which came out with Bismarck and with the Kaiser and with Hitler has been wiped out for good and all, and we know that can only be done by general disarmament under international control.
I venture to submit that when the Prime Minister said that in such a Europe as he foresaw armaments would gradually be dropped as a useless expense he was using language that was really a good deal worse than nothing at all. That is not declaring a principle of policy. It is what the diplomats said to the Czar at the Hague Conference in 1899, when he first proposed that armaments should be reduced. It challenges every lesson of the past, every lesson of the last 20 years. We set up in 1919 399 exactly the system, if it is a system, that the Prime Minister proposes. We said we would get good will. We shall never do better than the Locarno spirit. But what happened? Armaments did everything but drop away, and now we find ourselves in the present war. Surely the Government can say—we know that they sincerely want to reduce armaments—"If other nations will renew the pledge of Article 8 that armaments shall be reduced by general agreement, then we will do the same." Surely we can say: "We shall make a great reduction if others will." We recall that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at Geneva in 1933, and said very rightly, that every technical problem of disarmament had been solved and that only the political decisions remained to be taken. Surely we can say that we are ready by stages, over a period of years, to build up a system founded on the principles which the Disarmament Conference had established and that we are ready to carry it through to its full conclusion. Surely we can say that, in our view, it is in our interest and in the interest of every nation that air armaments should be totally abolished, and that if it is necessary, to that end, to study the institution of an international air force, we are prepared for such study to begin.
That does not go beyond a statement of the principles which are absolutely essential if armaments are ever to be reduced, as the Government want them to be. It does not commit us to any specific figure or to any given plan, but it would convince the nations that we mean business. Above all, it would convince the United States, where the work of the Disarmament Conference is very well known that we were prepared to make a new start; and not only the United States. Only this morning I received a declaration from a Swedish committee which represents almost all the great political forces in that important country. They said:We feel strongly that, this time, general disarmament must be initiated immediately after the peace settlement, and not only for the conquered nations, but for all States.The Prime Minister said that there could be no lasting peace until there was a full and constant flow of international trade, leading to a better and richer life for the peoples of the world. That is perfectly 400 true, and it is very important, but it is not a principle of policy. Again, it is an aspiration. We have heard a lot about economic forces since 1929. We have learned that poverty is the cause of war, that slumps are, as the Bruce Committee said, like a contagious disease that spreads from person to person, from class to class and from country to country until it engulfs the world. We have learned that only planned co-operation, through permanent institutions always on the job, will hold out any prospect of practical success. I am sure that there are many things that go beyond verbiage but are confined to principles, which the Government could say about the way in which they want to start international trade. I hope that the Government will say them.
There is one practical action which they could take. I have mentioned it before. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Leslie) mentioned it yesterday and he has written an admirable letter to the "Manchester Guardian" about it, too. It is that the Government should take up the proposal of the Bruce Committee to establish a new committee—they called it a central committee—to coordinate the action of the International Labour Office, of which the United States is a member, and the economic, financial and transport sections of the League, and endeavour actively to develop the economic work of the League. I suggest, as I did the other night to the Under-Secretary of State, that the Government should put forward a proposal at Geneva that the new central committee should be set up now, that we should give it adequate funds and that we should refer to it to steady the world slump which we know is bound to follow when this war comes to an end, when the troops are demobilised and when the factories stop turning out shells and guns. If we did that we should secure the active and eager co-operation of the neutral nations, and I believe we should give them a very solid and tangible guarantee that the British Government have set their faces in a new direction and are determined to succeed.
The last thing, I believe, that the Prime Minister said in his broadcast speech was that we should, of course, need some kind of machinery capable of conducting and guiding the development of the new Europe in the right direction. Once more, that is not a principle. It is 401 not calculated to be convincing to Governments who have lived through the last 20 years when we attempt to make international institutions do that work which has been nine-tenths of the practical business of politicians who are concerned with foreign affairs. What the Prime Minister said was so vague that it has actually been interpreted in some neutral countries as meaning the sort of loose four-Power pact about sanctions which we have been trying unsuccessfully to obtain for the last eight years.
Someone asked whether one of the causes of the failure of the League was not the fact that it had been allowed to spend in a year roughly what the London County Council spends on main drainage. Of course, it was one of the causes. The truth is that the League was not given a chance. When it was in use the League was not a failure. Its most startling success was in preventing wars and in settling international disputes. Our starting point is where the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact left off. If we want to strengthen those instruments where they were weak and use the experience and results of the League, there are many principles which the Government could declare—that the basis of our institutions must be rule of law, that aggression must really be treated in future as an international crime and outlawed by all, that disputes must be settled by third party judges, if necessary by reference to the Law Court at The Hague, that international co-operation and international legislation such as the International Labour Organisation if it is to be carried through must be greatly developed.
Some of my hon. Friends have reminded the Government of specific contributions which we ourselves ought to make; that we ought to say we are quite ready to take part in founding a general European minorities treaty to guarantee the rights of men and of countries in Europe; that we ought to accept the wider extension of the mandate system which the Foreign Secretary so nearly promised to us last July. The Government may say they have heard these things before. They have, but that does not mean that they are disproved platitudes or empty slogans. The truth is that although they are familiar they are the living principles of peace, and I believe that the Government, without going one yard beyond the policies to which they are committed, 402 could make a new declaration on the lines which I have proposed, telling the Germans who want peace with justice what it is we mean to do, the kind of justice we shall give to them, and the justice we shall give to the victims of Nazi aggression; telling them, and telling the neutrals, what we mean by a new world, and what is the kind of system we mean to create. If they did this, I am quite sure that the Government would have no difficulty with the Dominions. I referred to the admirable, the noble, speech of the Prime Minister of Australia. I am sure the Government would have no difficulty with our French and other Allies if they made it plain that the system of international security is to be a reality and not a sham. I believe that if that statement could take the form of a note to the Governments of the neutral countries, whose wealth and work and happiness have been menaced by the war, it would produce a far more profound effect than the Government may now believe.
Dr. Goebbels called the Prime Minister's broadcast "Utopian." That is a little below his usual level of invective, because the Prime Minister had used the word himself. But things are Utopian only until men want them; then, overnight they become practical politics. We are not living in 1914, or in 1919. If right hon. Gentlemen could hear the fireside talk this evening in the homes of England and France, or of Germany, they would find out that the people understand these things extremely well. The people think these things quite simple. They do not understand the difficulties which politicians, diplomats and statesmen make about them. They know quite clearly what kind of world they want. They want the Governments not to work against one another, but to work together against the common enemies of poverty and disease and misery, for the end of armaments, the end of war, the end of insecurity, political and economic. They hate the tinsel of power and glory by which the Nazis want to rule the world. They are hungry—even in Germany, I believe, they are hungry for truth. If the Prime Minister would follow up his broadcast by making the people really understand that they mean to do these things and have plans to do them, they would greatly increase our hopes of a short and relatively bloodless war, and 403 would ensure that the men who must die, should not have died in vain.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
In opening the Debate, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said that it would be a good thing that there should be a public discussion of peace aims. The Government make no complaint about that public discussion. That is thoughtful democracy functioning. But throughout the Debate hon. Members opposite have pressed their point further, and have urged that Ministers should enter fully into that discussion and define, more fully than has yet been done, the British Government's peace aims. There I part company with them. It is one thing for people who do not hold official positions to take part in this discussion and to help in threshing out all the various questions raised; it is a totally different thing for responsible Ministers to enter into the controversy and to make statements of the comprehensive views of His Majesty's Government on these important questions. The Government in this matter have a responsibility to other Governments. They have a responsibility to those allied and associated Governments who are joining with us in the prosecution of the war. We have a responsibility to the French Government and to the Dominion Governments. Hon. Members opposite have urged that we should co-operate very closely with the French Government and the Dominion Governments throughout the war. They have laid that down as a principle which we should follow without any qualification.
I agree, and I do not believe that it would conduce to that close co-operation in all matters relevant to the prosecution of the war if we started on our own to lay down the law about the peace aims which we sought to achieve at the end of the war. Hon. Members have said, Why not consult the French Government and the Dominion Governments about these matters, and consult them in good time? I entirely agree, but surely that consultation, in the first instance at any rate, must be confidential if it is going to be fruitful. But the Prime Minister has stated the reasons why it is impossible for the Government at this time to make any more comprehensive statement of peace aims than has hitherto 404 been made, and I do not think that I should take the time of the House in simply repeating those arguments. I have to impose upon myself a self-denying ordinance.
Hon. Members have made many very interesting speeches on this question of peace aims, and I have to resist the temptation to make comments on the various points which they have raised. I will content myself with adding nothing to what has been said on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself on various occasions, and by my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary in another place and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Dalton
Cannot we be told whether or not the Government are in consultation with the French and the Dominion Governments and the Governments of other Allied Powers on this subject? We all know that there should be consultation, but has it begun?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I think that the House can rest assured that the Government are in consultation with the French and the Dominion Governments with regard to all matters which are relevant to the successful prosecution of the war.
§ Mr. Dalton
May I ask for a straight answer to a straight question? I want to know whether they are in consultation about the nature of the peace after the war has been won? Cannot we have a straightforward answer without any more evasion?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I thought the hon. Member would understand what I had said, that we were consulting with our Allied and associated Governments on these matters, and on all matters pertaining to the war. But with regard to certain particular questions, matters have been mentioned in this Debate which make it appropriate for me to speak not simply as a Member of the Government in general, but as the Secretary of State for the Colonies in particular. A number of hon. Members have discussed the Colonial question. They have referred to certain suggestions which have been made in a statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Labour party, with regard to what should happen to the Colonies after the war. I am not going to discuss these suggestions as such, because, again, it is not for us by ourselves to proclaim 405 what shall be the economic or political policy pursued with regard to Colonies when it comes to peace-making. There are other Governments with whom we have to consult on these matters. There is the French Government. France is herself a great Colonial Power. There are the Dominions, which are very closely interested in many matters pertaining to the British Colonies. There are certain countries which are neutrals but who are Colonial Powers and who have the right to a say on this matter. Moreover, there are certain other people who have the right to be heard on this important topic. There are the people of the Colonies themselves. Certain ideas which are being put forward, not necessarily in this House, but by interested people, and from the highest motives, as to what should happen to the Colonies, seem to me to ignore altogether the views on this matter which are held by the Colonial people. They hold extremely strong views on this subject, and all those views always have to be taken fully into account.
I should like to speak a little further on this subject. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech on Tuesday repeated in brief the peace aims of the Labour party. When he came to the last of them he said that we must abandon Imperialism, as though Imperialism were something about which we should be apologetic, something inconsistent with the high aims for which we are fighting. I know the right hon. Gentleman did not quite intend to convey that impression. I know that hon. Members in the party opposite feel just as proud of certain achievements of British Imperialism in the last 20 or 30 years as hon. Members in any part of the House, but this matter is not understood by certain people outside, and I think that expressions such as that which was used by the Leader of the Opposition only encourage that misunderstanding.
There are critics of this country outside who repeatedly say that we are waging this war in defence of Imperialism. They speak as though our Imperialism were something which was gross, greedy and grabbing, as though it were a system of exploitation and oppression on the grand scale. That idea is encouraged by our enemies. Let me remind the House, for instance, of a recent utterance by Ribbentrop. Speaking in Danzig, he said: 406There is no part of the world where the British flag is not waving against the will of the people in question, and where deeds of violence, robbery and lies do not mark the path of British Imperialism.What a travesty of the truth that is. What is British Imperialism to-day?
In the last 20 years there has been evolved a new Imperialism. It is an Imperialism which, far from being a system of oppression, has, for instance, broken down every single bond denoting force or subservience which bound the Dominions to this country. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Dominions have each got their own free Parliament. They are free to do exactly what they want to do in their domestic affairs. They are free to conduct their international relations exactly as they will. They can appoint their own Ministers. They can make their own treaties. They are clothed with every right and privilege of the sovereign nations which they are. A few months ago they even claimed a supreme right, they claimed that they were free, when Great Britain became involved in war, to decide for themselves whether they would share the grim horrors and privations of modern war or whether they would take shelter in a comfortable neutrality.
No one sought to deny them that right—and what happened? In the early days of September Australia went to war with Germany, Canada went to war with Germany, New Zealand went to war with Germany, South Africa went to war with Germany. Those proud independent citizens of the Dominions did not leap into this war because they are slaves within the British Commonwealth, but because they are free men, whose freedom would be imperilled if Great Britain were to suffer defeat.
What about the Colonies? Are they places where the British flag is waving against the will of the people? It is true that the citizens of the Colonies do not enjoy the same political freedom as the citizens of the Dominions. It is true that they have only a measure of self-government, varying from territory to territory. It is true that we govern them largely from the Palace of Westminster and Downing Street, but are these the places where the British flag waves against the will of the people? On 3rd September they too made up their minds, and it was a very impressive decision. Let me speak 407 as one who sits for the time being at the very centre of the Colonial Empire, in the seat of the Secretary of State for the Colonies when I was certain at the end of August that we should be at war within a few days I made no suggestion to the Governors of the Colonies that they should arrange for messages of support to come from the Colonies. I solicited nothing of the kind, I took no initiative whatever in the matter. Voluntarily the peoples of the Colonies came to their own decision and they took their action within a few hours of the declaration of war. Within a few hours their messages began to pour in. Messages came from every single Colony, every single Protectorate and every single mandated territory under British administration. In the case of many territories, they came from many different organizations—from legislative councils, from chiefs and rulers, from native councils, from labour unions, from chambers of commerce, and from public assemblies of citizens. From every single territory came messages of loyalty to the King and absolutely firm support for Great Britain in the war. It seems to me that that great shower of messages was not only deeply moving, but also deeply significant.
Why did they come? Let me put it this way. I think that nothing illustrates so brilliantly the difference between our political philosophy and the philosophy of Nazi Germany than a comparison between that response from our Colonies at the beginning of the war and the response from their Protectorates. Because, after all, Germany likewise has Protectorates, and Germany similarly has peoples of different race from herself, but for whose welfare she is responsible. But no messages came to Berlin expressing enthusiastic support from Vienna; there were no resolutions of congratulation and comradeship sent to Hitler from Prague and the Czechs; there were no demonstrations of solidarity with the Reich on the part of the Slovaks. All those peoples remained silent and sullen. They remained silent because their freedom was stamped out by the heel of a tyrant. In comparison with that, in those fateful hours, these resolutions and assurances, unsolicited and unanimous, of support for this country in war were coming from every corner of the Colonial Empire.
408 Why did those messages come? Because the people of the Colonies know that we respect them absolutely. We are solicitous that all that is good in the individual characteristics and ways of life of every tribe, every community and every national people within the British Empire shall be preserved. They know that under the British Crown their well-being and their freedom will steadily develop. That is the central theme of the political philosophy which guides British Imperial policy to-day—a recognition of the right of every people to live their own lives according to their particular needs, their particular traditions and their particular genius, so long as they do not interfere with that right belonging equally to other peoples. In the case of the Dominions, this evolutionary process of gaining freedom has been completed. But there is no division of Imperial policy. We cannot have one policy for the Dominions and a totally different policy for the Colonies. The fundamental principle is the same. We seek that at any given time the peoples of the Colonial Empire shall enjoy the maximum, practicable amount of freedom. This does not mean to say that we would be wise to grant them complete self-government straight away. In saying that there are peoples in different parts of the world who are not yet ripe for self-government we are not being guilty of any peculiar British arrogance; we are not being guilty of any hypocrisy which cloaks other motives. We have the authority of the high-minded authors of the Covenant and the League of Nations to confirm that view. They wrote in Article 22 of the Covenant:There are territories which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world. The well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation.During this period of tuťelage we are trustees of the well-being and liberties of the peoples of the Colonial Empire. We have accepted completely already the political principle of ťrusteeship which was written inťo the Covenant of the League of Nations. We are practising that trusteeship. That is, as far as political policy is concerned; but, of course, under the Mandate system, there are cerťain economic requirements, and in regard to those, I do not think I can do better than quote an extract from ťhe speech which 409 my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary made at Chatham House shortly before the war. He said:I have no doubt that in the conduct of our Colonial administration we should be ready to go as far upon the economic side as we have already gone on the political side in making wider applications of the principles which now obtain in the mandated territories including, on terms of reciprocity, that of the open door.That was a statement made with the full a authority of ťhe Foreign Secretary before the war and that statement stands despite the fact that the war has inťervened since it was made.
§ Mr. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. MacDonald
If our relationship with the Colonial people is that of trustees, our policy in the Colonies musť be based on two principles. In the first place, we must, as long as we are responsible, give them good government. This is not the occasion to speak on that topic. We musť in the second place be training the people of the Colonies for ultimate self-government, and that policy we are pursuing steadily, persistently and faithfully throughout ťhe Colonial Empire. We are not only training people in all the Colonial territories to fill the technical services of the Government, to be their own medical officers, medical assisťants, nurses and midwives; we are not only training them to be their own agricultural officers and their own labour officers; we are not only training them to be their own education officers and schoolteachers; but we are training them also to take part in the work of legislation itself. Of course, the stage to which that development has gone is not uniform throughout the Colonies. It varies from place to place. It varies at one end from Colonies where we are first beginning the practice of effective self-government in local affairs, in Africa, by working through ancient and native institutions, through chieftainships, through councils of elders, through such popular assemblies 410 as are traditional to those Colonies. In other Colonies the model for the machinery of self-government is similar to our Parliamentary model here. In most of the Colonial Empire it is that model which is followed, it is that model which is fashionable.
There is a tremendous variety in the stages which this development of self-government has reached. There are some territories where the Governor has only an advisory council, on which sit unofficial as well as official members. There are other territories where there is a council which is clothed with legislative powers. In some of those territories the official members are nominated and in others they are elected. In some of these councils the unofficial members are in a minority, in others they have equal representation with the officials, and in yet others they are in a majority. In other territories there are unofficial members of the executive council, in some cases in a minority, in some cases in a majority, and throughout the Colonial Empire you have this growth of self-government, starting at one end with comparatively modest and powerless organisations and working up at the other end to a Colony like Ceylon, where you have a full board of Ministers who are Sinhalese, who are entirely responsible for policy in their departments and who only share that responsibility with the executive councils elected of Sinhalese, the members of the Council of State. But whatever may be the case, whether in this Colony the pace is slow, or in that Colony the pace is fast, in all of them the movement is in the same direction. It seeks to make the Colonial Empire a place, like this country, where freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent.
If that is the spirit of British Imperial policy, I think that throws a great light on what would be the spirit in which we should face the task of peace-making at the end of the war, because we do not wish that this freedom should be enjoyed by the peoples of the Colonial Empire alone.
His Majesty's Government hold the view that it is a fundamental condition of a better Europe and of a better world that all peoples shall be free to live their own lives according to their particular means and traditions and genius, and provided that they do not interfere with the similar 411 right which belongs to other peoples as well. We would wish that the principle of freedom should belong to the German people as well as to other people if they will obey the condition. But before we can sit round a peace conference and work out these details we must win our war aim, we must win the war. This great free association of nations and of peoples in the Empire not only gives us a political strength which is greater than Germany's political strength, but gives us, because of this freedom, a spiritual strength which they do not know and which is invincible.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Tuesday next.