§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I had begun by saying that although clearly there is much to be said for definition of aim in war, as in any other enterprise, yet, on the other hand, the greater the number of flags which we set up as indispensable to us at the beginning of the war, the more difficult and the longer we may find it to win that war; there is the further disadvantage that we may find it more difficult to carry our own people with us. I fully agree with what the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol said about the paramount necessity and the extreme difficulty of carrying wholeheartedly with us the great bulk of our people if we should have a long and difficult war. That is true, but if we put into our war aims everything that any section of the population would like to be a war aim, we may think that thereby we are bringing them all in, but it is also true that we are antagonising almost every section of the population too. Every dispensable war aim which is added is apt to weaken us in that way. 604 The same thing is to some extent true of peace, or the sort of period of non-war which we have recently been enduring.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol told us that he and his party have always been consistently opposed to the Hitler regime in Germany. It seems to me a great pity that they should have been so opposed. I do not ask them to like the Hitler regime, nor, if my tastes were important, would I disguise the fact that I dislike the Hitler regime probably as much as they do, but when it is made part of the internal politics of one country to dislike the government and, more than the government, the regime in another country, we have a very serious factor making towards antagonism and eventual war between those countries. There was an occasion when Mr. Gladstone observed Prince Bismarck behaving in a somewhat similar way to that in which Herr Hitler has been behaving lately at the time of what is called "the carving up of the African Continent," and Mr. Gladstone, although he was writing to a colleague and not speaking in public, did not permit himself to go further in condemnation of Prince Bismarck than this phrase, which I think I remember fairly accurately: "I cannot disguise from myself a suspicion that there are in Prince Bismarck's character elements of which I cannot wholly approve." I would suggest that that is about as far as a politician ought to go, at any rate in public, in disapproval of a politician of another country.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol went on in his explanation of his war aims practically to tell us that unless our war aims included what he regarded as the political and social desiderata for the next two generations, he would not play. That seems to me an illegitimate use of a war situation inside your own country, and a use not in the least calculated to facilitate the making of peace with other countries. There are all sorts of things which some of us think ought to be done to improve the management of this country or of this Empire after the war, but for any section of us now to try to foist upon other sections any of those things as part of our war aims must necessarily lead to disunity at home and must also give legitimate excuse to our enemies abroad 605 to say that what we are fighting about is not any fault or concern of theirs.
We have no business to distinguish between the German Government and the German people in so far as we are talking about what our Government is to do in conducting war, and the business of our Government in this connection has nothing to do with old age pensions or the government of Jamaica or any of those things. The business of our Government in this connection is to go on fighting until the German Government is willing to do those things without which, in our judgment, there will be no peace in Europe, whatever it may be called.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol can find nothing in his country as it existed a month ago to approve. He asked whether, at the end of this war, we are to return to the domestic conditions existing before the war. He told us he had not written down his words, so he cannot check me, but I think I wrote his particular words down correctly: "the altogether uninspiring and tragic domestic conditions of this country." There is much in this country which is uninspiring, there is much which is tragic. Incidentally, I thought those rather disjunctive than conjunctive epithets, I should have thought that tragedy should inspire as well as purge. There is certainly much in this country that is uninspiring and that is tragic. But there is certainly much in this country, and there was five weeks ago, which on any calculus, on a material calculus or a spiritual calculus, will make this country compare favourably with this country at any previous period, or with any other country at this period; and if we are to talk of one of our war aims being to get for the first time in this country something inspiring and something not tragic in our domestic conditions it seems to me that we are starting a war with what must appear to all foreigners and to most of our own people to be a manifest and obvious hypocrisy.
The last portion of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was about what he called "guarantees" when this war is over. I have not thought proper to leave the Chamber for long enough to look up the word "guarantee," but I have always observed in this House that 606 lawyers are rather more apt than most other men not to define their terms accurately when they are once outside their own particular business. As far as I can remember "guarantee" in this connection can mean only one of two things. "Guarantee" either means some power which is so much stronger than the other States concerned that it can certainly put right whatever is wrong, or it means having something physical, as it were a pledge in pawn for that purpose. It might or might not be politically wise at the end of a victorious war to garrison the Rhineland, but if you did thus hold the Rhineland that might properly be called a guarantee that Germany would not go to war again.
The things of which the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to talk to us on the basis of this word "guarantees" were not, in my judgment, in any sense of the word guarantees at all. What he talked of was a bigger and better League of Nations, to be called "Federation" instead. I fully agree with him and with the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and, I suppose, with the great majority of the rest of my contemporaries, that when we can get some sort of minimum community of government, at least between the inhabitants of Europe, it will be a very good thing—if we can keep it. In this connection we always talk about "law and order." Law and order in this country, and in every other country, can only come on the basis of the units inside the country being federable units. You cannot federate a mongoose, an arm-chair and a toy balloon. You can only federate things which have a considerable basis of common pre-suppositions, and surely the whole difficulty about the League of Nations was that there was not a sufficient basis of common pre-supposition. It was first seen in the case of the United States of America that there was not sufficient common interest and common agreement about bases for the United States of America to stay in. It may be that the Bolshevik philosophy of life is a much better one than ours, but there was not between it and us a sufficiency of common vocabulary—not in the direct, but in the indirect sense—for us to be able to communicate with each other and to be even so loosely and quasi-federated as was attempted in the League of Nations.
607 I hope earnestly that, as a result of this war, there may be some more solid foundation for the Concert of Europe, to use the old term, than there was in 1918, but for us to announce now as a war aim that we intend to go on fighting until we have got that, seems to me to be the extremity of rashness. I would say to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and to the hon. and I think equally learned Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen)-—who said, "After all, we got a great victory in 1918 and what was the good of that? Why did that all go; wrong?"—that I believe one of the main reasons why things went wrong was to be found in the excessive moralising over the last war. Incidentally, that came from the Left rather than from the Right, from the "Daily News" and the "New Statesman," from writers like Massing-ham and H. G. Wells—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not think he was very much in it. I think we should talk little about the moral inferiority of anyone else. I have no doubt that if moral averages could be worked out our Front Bench would come out several decimal points higher than the Nazi front bench. I have no doubt at all about that, but it is not a basis for a war, or even for a policy. What was wrong with the peace of Versailles even more than any excessive harshness to Germany—there was some harshness—and what did more harm was, by the war guilt clauses for example —the right hon. Gentleman knows what I mean—and telling the Germans that their moral inferiority must keep them out of colonies. And there was the ridiculous nonsense about hanging the Kaiser. I would draw the attention of the hon. Member for Camlachie to the fact that I and most other soldiers and returned soldiers at that time detested that phrase as much as anyone else did. Those were the things which, in my judgment, did more harm than any material steepness or tightness to cause resentment. You can knock a man down and take something away from him which is rightly his —or rightly yours—by superior force and in the long run manage to go on living with each other again; but you cannot knock a man down and take what is his away from him, or even take away what you consider to be rightly yours, if, at 608 the same time, you asseverate that you are doing it because of your extreme moral superiority; you cannot do that and then go on living with him afterwards. That is why I hope that, if there is to be an elaboration of war aims, that elaboration will be slow, it will never be too voluminous, and that it will be extremely careful to keep, as far as it can, its feet on the ground.
§ 6.43 p.m.
I have not been an admirer of the Prime Minister's speeches or policy but I find myself singularly in agreement with him to-day. I fancy I saw in that speech something of that moral leadership which is essential if we are to have the country behind us and to see this war through. We want a certain amount of confidence that our aims are just and that what we are aiming at is worth a great sacrifice. If we have more speeches of that sort they will do the country good, and do good also in Germany. It is no use at the present time summoning a conference or attending a conference. We cannot go into conference on equal terms with a nation which has just had what it regards as an almost miraculous victory. Before any conference can take place we must be more on equal terms with those who are against us.
I believe we are, but it depends upon what the other side of the conference believes.
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think he knows what Hitler thinks? Does he think that Hitler's peace terms are his last words? If we have reason to be optimistic does not Hitler know it?
I do not know what Hitler thinks, but if I were in the position of Germany to-day having, during the last month, overrun successfully, and I believe with very small expense in life, another country—I am afraid that those telegrams to-day cannot be based on fact—I should think I was going into the conference with all the winning cards 609 in my hands. We must not risk a complete failure of the conference by going in now when the cards are stacked in that way. It is also vitally important, before we have anything in the nature of a conference such as has been proposed by Herr Hitler, that we should have complete diplomatic contact with the people who are going to take part in it and who are not already on our side. It would be ridiculous not to have close contact with Russia, for instance., and to know Stalin's views on Czecho-Slovakia, before we went into conference in order to see how far their aims could be worked into the security which we desire. A premature conference which failed would be fatal.
Most speakers to-day have touched upon a matter which has been at the back of all our minds during this war, and indeed before. It is, whether we can as a result of the war, build up a federation of the world sufficiently strong and all embracing to maintain peace. The difficulties in the way of such a federation are well known to everybody in this House. The ties of nationality are so strong in normal times and the desire in each country for sovereignty so great, that it is impossible to induce people to make the sacrifices necessary to go into a federation. That position does not necessarily exist in times of war. What binds us all together in times of war is common danger. Common danger cements, whereas you get decentralisation and development of the more democratic form of rule in peace time, each State or province desiring to control its own forces. In times of danger we are driven together. We are even driven into autocratic or bureaucratic ways in order to protect ourselves from the common danger. Danger is the cement.
I would urge upon the House how desirable it is to use that common danger and that natural tendency towards union during war, when everything is in its favour, rather than to leave it to the end of the war when once more we shall be developing treaties of Versailles or of Brest-Litovsk and all the nationalistic and exclusive tendencies which breed further war. There will be the passionate desire of the governing classes, whether they are on top or whether they are Bolshevik, the desire of those who are in power to retain the maximum amount of power and to 610 surrender nothing to the common or federal government.
The possibilities now are considerable. The Prime Minister has recently invited to this country representatives of the Dominions and of India to help in the executive administration of the war. It is a step which we have all welcomed because we recognise that it is desirable and is probably inevitable. If we are to go through this war with unanimity. It is obviously much better that, in the executive government, we should have those who represent the governments of the Allied countries. We have set up a Supreme War Council, which meets sometimes in France and sometimes over here, for carrying on the two essential matters of Defence and foreign policy. The question of war aims, for instance, depends on the Supreme War Council of ourselves and our allies. We have got in that council the beginnings of the federal system. If your vision of the federal system in future is, as mine is, a government of the whole world under which each country administers its own affairs as it likes, but common defence is a federal subject, we have already got to that stage; and the greater the danger becomes, the more the functions of that Supreme War Council will develop. But any federation, to my mind, must include two other things. You must have your federal Parliament and also free trade within the federation. The difficulties in the way of both these things are, of course, obvious. It would be almost impossible in time of peace to get our Dominions to drop their trade barriers between each other, let alone those against other countries. But in time of war the thing is very different.
I would suggest the possibility of something that would be a very unconstitutional and revolutionary change. It would be in the interest of unity in war and peace if we could get in this House and in another place representatives of all the Dominions and Colonies—it is well known that in the French Parliament there are representatives of the Colonies, coloured men with the rest. Then we should learn in this House a great deal more about the problems of the world, and they who came among us would learn that excellent lesson which is taught to everybody here through the realisation of common interests and common friendships. There is 611 no institution in the world equal to the British Parliament in the way in which it levels all people and interests.
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is himself one of the victims of the fraternisation of Parliamentary institutions. It is of enormous advantage that we should mix socially if we are to convert each other and the object of debate is conversion. Since the League of Nation, as it was, is almost impossible, some such system as federal union should be tried. The objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and some others has been that it should be a federation of Europe only; that we in the British Empire are a federation ourselves. I do not think it is possible, as a result of any war, to put on the table a complete scheme for the federation of everybody. Federation must grow, and can only grow, voluntarily; but if we start contemplating a federation of ourselves, France and the British Empire we have a nucleus; and as soon as we are strong enough and as soon as we get the blessing of other great Powers like Russia and America, we should be strong enough to attract the lesser nations. At the present time they are terrified of having anything to do with us or with any of the other great Powers; they are frightened of taking sides. But when they have the opportunity of joining a federal union, and the union is strong enough to protect them, it is possible that the federal union will spread.
I think the Government could carry a great deal of conviction to the German people about the honesty of their aims if they would not merely say that they are in favour of a solution in that direction, but also do something which would start putting the idea into practical operation. Therefore, I should like to see not only India and the Dominions but the French represented in this House, and our people represented in the French Parliament, so that we might get that common interest which has united Scotland, England and Wales in the past, and which could quite possibly unite the world at large. Let us get to know each other and realise our common hopes as well as our special interests. We here 612 in this House do not think only of our constituencies. We do not even think, in nine cases out of 10, whether we are Welsh Members or Scottish Members or English Members. We have acquired what Burke believed to be the true outlook of a Member of Parliament, realising that we are equally responsible for the whole of the British Empire. That is an admirable beginning for a federation.
Any move in that direction would undoubtedly be popular: not only popular in this country, but popular in the Dominions and India, popular even in France; and it would be an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, which would prove to the German people that we are not just out to smash Germany, but that we are out to smash that danger to democracy which we see ever around us. If you have any federal idea in your minds, you have to remember that free trade is an essential within the federation. I would welcome anything that would increase free trade between England and France and between England and the Empire and our Allies. I believe that free trade, free intercourse, is the best thing to produce a common spirit—destroying narrow nationalism and building up a union of the peoples, not merely a union of governments but a union of common sense and common humanity.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Emmott
We have just listened to an interesting and, if I may say so, an attractive speech from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the nature of federation and the circumstances in which it can be brought into being. But I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to say that his speech suggested to me the criticism that has occurred to me while I have listened to some others in this Debate, and that is that it appeared to be a little out of relation with present reality. We are faced at this moment with a reality of a very grim nature. And it is our duty in this Debate to give a lead to the people. The people are looking to us for guidance. Here in Parliament to-day the issue should be stated with clarity, and all false argument should be exposed and condemned. As the war goes on much may happen to confuse the mind of our people. All the greater, then, is the need to ensure that now there is no confusion of 613 thought. The British people have courage and determination in high measure, but if these qualities are to exercise their full force in carrying the British Empire through this war to a victorious conclusion, they must rest upon the unassailable conviction not only of the justice of our cause, but of the necessity of defending it by arms. The emotional and nervous strain of war is apt to make people lose hold of the idea that was the original reason and justification of war. I believe that it is our duty now to state the issue that is involved in this war in a way which will make it impossible for people hereafter, when the impression of the origin and justification of the war has become a little dimmed, to look back upon this occasion and say that here and now France and Britain could rightly have made peace with Germany.
Upon the reason of the war much has been said that moves upon a high plane of idea and argument. Our people will, I am sure, throughout the progress of this war look up to their ideals and in them will find strength and inspiration. But these ideals and principles derive from practical circumstances and real interests, and it is only a perfectly clear appreciation of these circumstances, of these interests and necessities, which will keep the mind of our people true and fixed on its objective.
I wish to use only few words in stating the original and simple issue as I see it. It is this. Is Germany to be allowed to break up the States of Europe one by one, to destroy them, and so to dominate the whole Continent? To that question there can be only one answer. This process we must prevent. It was upon this principle and for this cause that we were engaged in wars with France from the time of Louis XIV to the time of Napoleon. Poland was merely one stage in this process. There we thought it right and necessary to resist. A new Poland will in time arise. But now, at this moment, Germany has successfully asserted her power, though not her right, to set upon Poland, to break her up and to destroy her. She has won a great military victory in Poland. We are entitled to ask all those who, in this Debate and outside the walls of this House, are now calling for conference and the cessation of war, this question: Are they prepared to make peace now, upon the terms, such 614 as they are, suggested by Germany? If they make peace now, without the restoration of Poland, it is a German victory. Germany has won a great military victory in Poland. If we make such a peace as this we accept a German victory. Do we accept that? Of course we do not. If we make peace now upon the only suggestions, vague as they are, that have been made to us from Germany, we have failed in our purpose. It cannot be too clearly or precisely stated by any Member in this Debate that nothing should deflect us from our purpose: and that purpose is to win victory over the enemy, to defeat the enemy in the field. In any case, even if there were now to be a cessation of hostilities, there would be no peace. It would merely be an uneasy and suspicious pause in the hardly interrupted process of German aggrandisement.
There is some talk outside the walls of this House, and there has been some talk here to-night, of conference. Why do men love to delude themselves? Why do they raise up confused images to put between themselves and reality? Conference will succeed where there is the will to agree: the will to agree upon conditions acceptable by all. Where is the evidence of the will of the German Government to-day to agree with us on terms that will be acceptable to both? Where is the will in Germany to-day to agree with us? Without this it is idle to talk of conference.
I wish to say before I sit down a few words upon one other aspect of this question. There is some evidence that the recent action of Russia has rather distracted the attention of some of our people from the immediate and paramount necessity of winning the victory over Germany. That is a bad thing. It is plain that Russian policy in Poland and the Baltic States, and perhaps too in the Balkan States, is antagonistic to the interests of Germany. But surely that antagonism does not affect the issue between Britain and France, on the one hand, and Germany, on the other. That antagonism between Russia and Germany does not at all change our duty. What things are implicit in the dark and fell purposes of the Russian Government, whose action against Poland was as iniquitous as was that of Germany, is a question which lies in the future. When that question is posed, we will answer it. 615 Meanwhile our duty is plain. It was expressed in words used by the Prime Minister on 20th September, which cannot be improved. He said:Our general purpose in this struggle is well known. It is to redeem Europe from the perpetual and recurring fear of German aggression and enable the peoples of Europe to preserve their independence and their liberties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th September, 1939; col. 978, Vol. 351.]That, Mr. Speaker, is our duty.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Sir R. Acland
There seems to me to be one disadvantage about fighting just to defeat the enemy. It is this. Although no doubt a great number of our people will fight with a single-minded devotion for the one purpose of defeating the enemy, there are others who remember that this country has been fighting to defeat its enemies off and on now for a great many centuries, and we do rather want to feel—these people want to feel— that this time when we defeat our enemy we shall not have to do it all over again in another quarter of a century. Therefore, it seems to me that to place our war aims on so narrow a foundation is not to carry much enthusiasm for our cause.
I agree with every word spoken by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), and I wish I could have said the same things with the same eloquence and authority. There is, however, one thing I should like to add to what he said, and that is to develop the words used by the Prime Minister, with great emphasis, namely, "Acts rather than words." Is the Hitler Government the only Government in Europe which is to show acts rather than words? If we are thinking merely of the relations between Hitler and our own Government, perhaps it is right for us to ask that he should show acts rather than words, but when we are thinking of relations between this country and neutrals, and the relations between this Government and the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the people who think like him, then, surely, the neutrals and these other people have the right to ask us for acts as well as words. We need from neutral countries not merely moral but economic support. We should be prepared to take risks to gain their 616 economic support, and I hope the time may come when we shall have their military support in this struggle. If we are to get that support, I suggest that some acts and not merely words are required.
It is a sad fact, and we ought to recognise it, that our record in these last few years is just a little bit against us. Are we fighting to put an end to aggression? If so, there are some neutral countries who have taken the pains to observe that we on this side of the House have over and over again asked the Government, at one stage or another of our journey in foreign affairs, to do this, that, or the other. Never have we asked them to declare war, although we have recognised that what we proposed involved a certain risk of war. We have asked them to do these things to rid the world of aggression, and from the other side of the House on every occasion has come the reply: "No. That would mean war." I can recall my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), the Leader of the Opposition and others pleading with the Government in this sense, and I can hear, as it were, the mocking cries from the Government benches of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall), the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) and others, crying out on every occasion: "What you propose means war." For about eight years that has been going on. The Government have been afraid to risk war to end aggression. Therefore, it is not easy for us to stand up before the neutrals now and say that we are conducting a war to end aggression.
I would ask hon. Members to listen to two sentences from a right hon. Member of this House. The first was said when the first great act of aggression was made in Manchuria in 1932:There is one great difference between 1919 and now and it is this—in no circumstances will this Government authorise this country to be a party to the struggle.They would do nothing to end aggression then, in 1932. Then there is this terrible sentence:I am not prepared to see a single ship sunk even in a successful naval battle in an attempt to restore Abyssinian independence."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1936; col. 1629, Vol. 325.]617 Those two sentences were both uttered by the right hon. Gentleman who is now our Chancellor of the Exchequer and responsible for our economic effort in this war to end aggression and to restore the independence of Poland. Is it good enough now merely to say that we are out to end aggression? The phrase in the speech of the Prime Minister that won the most resounding cheers from hon. Members opposite was that in which he said that a certain line of conduct on our part would mean the recognition of the aggressor's conquest and of his right to do what he likes with the conquered. Unfortunately, not once or twice but over and over again we have done something to recognise conquest and the right of the conqueror to do what he likes with those he has conquered. Therefore, it is deeds and not words that are required from us.
I ask hon. Members opposite this question. Is it their idea that at the end of the war the British Colonial Empire shall stand in just the same relation to Great Britain as it stands to-day? I do not ask for an immediate answer, but I should very much like hon. Members opposite to consider that point. At the end of the war is the British Colonial Empire to be owned by Great Britain in the way that it is owned now?
§ Sir R. Acland
So that is the answer. As long as that remains our attitude, it is no use pretending to neutral countries that we are fighting for some new world order. We must proclaim now that at the end of the war the British Colonial Empire will not be left in our hands but will be under the administration of some international organisation for the benefit of mankind and for the benefit of the people who live there. I know that that proposal bristles with so many difficulties that the mind almost turns from such a prospect, but I would suggest that representatives of all the neutral countries in the world who have not committed acts of aggression in the last 20 years should be invited here to consider with us the exact means by which the British Colonial Empire might be utilised.
Would the hon. Baronet suggest that the Dutch and Belgian Empire should be modelled on the same lines?
§ Sir R. Acland
There is something to be said for those who are richest making the first act of generosity.
A large amount of our Empire is self-governing, but the Dutch and Belgian Colonial Empires are not self-governing.
§ Sir R. Acland
The Dutch are not now involved in a war in which they are asking for the support of other people to help them to victory. I appreciate the strict logic of the view expressed by hon. Members opposite. I am not one of those who believe that in politics it is impossible to draw a line somewhere. You can draw a line in all sorts of places. In considering how the practical problems in this war can be solved, we should consider transferring our Colonial Empire from our sole charge to a real international charge, which would give a guarantee of good faith and which would make the world realise that we are fighting for something wholly different from that for which the Nazis are fighting. It is not as seemed to be suggested in the speech that we last heard, that the Germans are fighting to beat us and that we are fighting to beat them.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) has been concerned with dscussing what is to happen at the end of the war. I submit, with all respect, that that is not the issue which is really before us to-day. We are concerned with a much more immediate problem. The issue as I see it is this: Is the proposal of Herr Hitler an opportunity to make peace now, or is it not? Does the speech of the Prime Minister close the door entirely to negotiations to that end? I submit that that is the issue which we should consider to-night. It is the bankruptcy of statesmanship if differences between nations can be settled only by war. It is the duty of statesmen to see whether it is not possible to bridge the differences by other means. Therefore, I would support the appeal which has been made by other speakers, that the Government should not content themselves with saying that the proposals of 619 Herr Hitler are not acceptable and that we cannot make peace with Herr Hitler, but that we should say, if we are not prepared to talk peace on his terms, on what terms we are prepared to talk. I do not ask that the Government at this moment should put forward detailed plans for world reorganisation, but I think it is only right that we should state clearly on what basis we think it is possible that talks might begin.
I think every Member of this House must realise his very special responsibility so far as an issue of this kind is concerned. We know that on the answer to it depend the lives of millions of men and perhaps the future of civilisation. Therefore, it is a question which we must ask ourselves. We cannot altogether be satisfied to let the Government answer it for us. I am not advocating to-night peace on Hitler's terms; I do not think that that is the issue before the House. I think the true issue is this: We can say to Herr Hitler, "Quite clearly, there are some things in your proposals to which we could not possibly agree. We cannot agree that Russia and yourself between you should be allowed to decide the fate of Poland or of south-eastern Europe." We ought to make it quite clear that the terms of peace or the basis for a conference must be such that aggression does not pay. We must put down terms which will not create, necessarily, a sham peace or an uneasy future, but we should state clearly what we conceive might be the possible basis of peace.
If the Prime Minister says we cannot accept the mere assurance of Herr Hitler we ought, as well, to say what guarantee we would be prepared to accept. We ought to say what we have in mind with regard to Poland. I believe that we could say that we would be prepared to discuss terms of peace, provided that there was some guarantee for the preservation of the political independence of Poland and of Bohemia, and that we should also be prepared to negotiate on those parts of Herr Hitler's programme which met with general consent, when he told us that he is prepared to talk about disarmament, about freer trade and about the question of currency regulations. I submit that in an issue of this kind it is not enough to concentrate entirely on the points of difference and disagreement, 620 but we should rather see whether there is not in the proposals something on which we can build a bridge upon which agreement might be possible.
§ Mr. Lipson
I do not think that the question of peace between Germany and ourselves necessarily depends upon whether Herr Hitler's word is to be taken or not. It will depend on the kind of peace that we make and the kind of guarantee upon which we insist. Those, I submit, are the points upon which we should concentrate. I do not believe that the best way to appeal to the German people is to make an issue of this kind a purely personal one. It is something very much bigger than that. It had occurred to me during the Debate that very little has been said about Russia and the change in the political situation that has been produced by Russia playing an important part once more in European affairs. I think the advent of Russia must alter the European situation very considerably, and what we in this country ought to be careful about is that we should not necessarily drive Russia into the arms of Germany. If the war should continue inevitably that is bound to happen.
I welcome the trade agreement with Russia which was announced to-day. From that it is quite clear that we are prepared to do our best to cultivate friendly relations with Russia in spite of the fact that, apparently, Russia has been guilty of an act of aggression. If it were possible to establish now the basis of an honourable peace it would also enable us to establish relations with Russia which might contribute towards a more friendly and a safer Europe. Russia has succeeded in preventing Germany from doing many of the things which we feared Germany was trying to do. We feared that Germany was trying to establish her power in the Baltic. Russia has put great difficulties in the way of that. We were also afraid that Germany was going to extend her domination in South-East Europe. Russia has prevented that, and, therefore, a great deal of the menace of Germany has disappeared as a result of Russias 621 action. We ought to consider the international situation afresh in the light of what has happened.
§ Mr. McGovern
When the hon. Member talks about what Russia has done, is he against acts of aggression on principle or is it a question of who has committed the act of aggression whether it is justified or not?
§ Mr. Lipson
Everybody must be opposed to acts of aggression on principle, but we are dealing with a practical problem. That is realised by the British Government, because in spite of the act of aggression it is apparently prepared to maintain normal relations with Russia and even to conclude a treaty with her. What we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we more likely to get the new world which we have been promised as a result of a long and bitter war or are we more likely to build it up now before the war has aroused feelings of bitterness and hatred, and caused a great deal of destruction? I re-read recently the chapter in H. A. L. Fisher's book on the Treaty of Versailles, and I could not help noticing how in the last war so much was said that is being said again to-day. We were then promised a new world. I am rather sceptical about a new world coming out of a world war, because it always seems to me that this new world is postponed to the future. Now, when we have an opportunity of building up a new world under better conditions we are not prepared to do it.
I want to express the hope that we do at least keep the door open and see whether it is possible to bridge the gulf between Germany and ourselves. It is a duty we owe to our own people to state quite clearly on what terms we are prepared to talk, and if not why the war must continue. It is a duty we owe to the neutrals, because we have to realise from what has happened recently that if the war goes on most of the small nations of the world will inevitably lose their independence and will be ruined economically. If we really want to make an appeal to the German people which is likely to be effective we shall do it best if we tell them quite clearly on what terms we are prepared to talk about peace. In conclusion may I say that, as I see it, mankind has once more a chance of saving itself from destruction? Let us not have it on our conscience that we did not make the 622 most of this opportunity. Let us ask ourselves whether this is an opportunity, and if we can convince ourselves that it is, let us see that it is so used.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am sure that there are many hon. Members who appreciate the grave and weighty words of the last speaker. There is in all parts of the House not that complete unanimity of opinion regarding the war which was perhaps expressed a few weeks ago. I am certain that there are stirrings of conscience and soul in a large number of people as to exactly where we are going and as to the methods which we are taking to achieve our end. When, for instance, an hon. Member referred to the necessity for keeping the purpose of victory before us there were, I am sure, many who felt that if that was the only purpose of the war the sooner the war is wound up the better. We have had too many wars waged solely for victory, and hon. Members will at least now realise that the great majority of the people of this land will not support a war which is made merely for victory. At the very best they must be convinced that war is waged for some moral purpose, and it is only faith in that moral purpose which can secure real safety for the people of this country. The speeches of the Prime Minister and of the Leader of the Opposition really were directed to keeping the door open open. Both speeches in effect invited the German Government to prove its sincerity in its desire for peace by giving some indication that it means what it says. Most earnestly I would press that Herr Hitler will consider these statements, seriously and soberly made, and that before it is too late he will appreciate the tremendous responsibility that rests upon his shoulders at the present time. He has a great responsibility which, if he cares to exercise it, will bring to him the gratitude of millions of people in Germany and elsewhere.
It is not too late for such a miracle to take place. I know that there are many who are sceptical of miracles and especially of a miracle of that kind, but I believe the resources of human nature are such that even such a miracle, although improbable, is at least possible. Even though we may be sceptical of the possibility of such a miracle it does not 623 prevent us asking ourselves what resources we ourselves can still tap in order to create peace. When we speak of the neurotic brutality associated with the Nazi regime it is imperative, if we are to avoid shallow emotionalism, to ask ourselves how that neurotic brutality came into existence, and if we examine the situation honestly we shall be insincere if we merely say that Herr Hitler is the sole cause of the present situation. We know that the pathological condition which seems to be incarnate in Herr Hitler and his supporters grew out of circumstances, economical and psychological, for which we have, in a greater or less degree, a measure of responsibility.
We tend in these days to forget the criticism that was made of the treatment of the German nation before Herr Hitler rose to power. In my estimation, he would not have had the power he had, and still has, if we had more fully exercised our moral responsibility towards the German people during the 15 years following the war. We tend to forget that now. I am afraid it is customary for human nature thus to try to forget its own responsibility and to seize some scapegoat and make it the excuse for evading such responsibility. In the Boer War, it was President Kruger who became the pivot of our hatred and hostility, and in the Great War it was the Kaiser. In this war, it is Herr Hitler. I do not deny that that man has a very great responsibility, but again, I say that we should not fool ourselves into imagining that merely by obtaining his removal we shall solve the problem of removing the causes which led to his rising to power.
In one of the rooms of the House, somebody pinned on the wall a cartoon from an evening paper. In that cartoon there were three persons—a blackshirt, a redshirt, and a pinkshirt. They were pleading with the Prime Minister to be "kind to Adolf." In contrast with that, in the background, there was the figure of Adolf, a revolver in his hand, and the prostrate corpses of Czecho-Slovakia, Poland and Austria at his feet. The intention of the cartoon, of course, was satirically to convey the idea that any talk of peace by negotiations was merely sentimental nonsense, simply trying to be 624 kind to a murderer, and that our job was to punish him first. That is all very well, but I could not help remembering similar cartoons about the Kaiser in the last war. I ask hon. Members to realise that when we personify the evil that is now being attacked in the person of Herr Hitler, and when we are urged to carry on the war to teach him a lesson, it is not Hitler that matters twopence. Quite possibly he will slip out of the backdoor into Holland, or elsewhere, in the same way as his predecessor.
What really matters is that in the process of this punishment of Hitler we are going to subject to mutilation, torture and agony millions of innocent human beings in all countries. I earnestly plead that we should rid ourselves of this illusion by which so many people are misled into imagining that all we are concerned with is in teaching Hitler a lesson. Let us not bother so much about him, but rather think of the conditions which gave rise to him and of the victims, not merely of Hitler, but also of the international rivalries, antagonisms and exploitation, in which we have played our part in some measure in the past. In the Western world there has existed and still exists, unfortunately, false assumptions and spurious values respecting human life. Can we really be certain that, when we plead with the German people to give up their present Nazi regime and co-operate freely with the democracies, we ourselves, in holding up our hands in horror and condemnation, have hands that are really clean?
I suggest that we know within ourselves that what we are now seeing in Europe is the climax of processes in which we have all more or less taken a part, and which many still endorse. That is why I have detected in many of those who have expressed a conviction that the war must be pursued a certain dim and melancholy appreciation of the fact that the last war and those who died in it have been betrayed. When we turn to the past and remember the brave words that were spoken, the splendid affirmations that were made, and then recollect the blind folly and spiteful stupidity that ran on after the war was ended, it is small wonder that even behind the minds of those who support this war, there is often this melancholy and sometimes bitter 625 cynicism, which gnaws at our heart and soul. That is why we no longer talk about a war to end war, as on the last occasion. I am not certain how we should designate this war. The last war was the Great War—are we to call this the greater war, the greatest war, or the not-so-great war? We do not call it a war to end wars. It is simply a war to end Hitlerism, which in itself is a sorry reflection on our sanity and civilisation; for what it really means is that we are now taking part in a war to clear away a by-product of the last war. It is small wonder that so many people ask why crime shall bring crime for ever, and whether we have any real assurance and guarantee that this war will end in a different way from the Great War.
I must confess that I am troubled in my mind when I hear hon. Members explain that the Versailles Treaty and its aftermath were the best that could have come out of the prevailing mood of the, last war, and that when men and women had endured four years of carnage, suffering, and tension, one could not expect them to have foresight, sanity, balance, charity and those other qualities that go to make a real peace. If that be so, if war produces a mood which makes a decent peace impossible, what should be said then of another war, the war in which we now are? I suggest that before it is too late we should reflect more seriously on the psychological conditions that war creates, and realise that once they are created, one cannot expect that kind of peace which we may conceivably still secure while the volcanic resources of human nature have not yet been fully allowed to break through.
Yet, however terrible may be the consequences of war, I agree that we cannot make a peace merely through cowardice or spiritual indolence. It is no good going to the blackmailer and granting him concessions in the hope that he will no longer blackmail. We have to recognise there are times when evil seems to be incarnate in human nature, and that no matter how many concessions may be made, incarnate evil has imposed its will, time and again in history, on individuals and communities. Socrates stood for truth, and no matter how much his colleagues may have pleaded for a recognition of his truth, the blind men of his day sent him to his death. Perhaps it is part of the 626 strange and pathetic travail of human life that now and again such a crucifixion of truth by the blind generation in which it lives must take place.
Yet, I suggest that there are more ways than one of resisting evil things. In the last resort, we do not rely upon arms to resist evil. Poland to-day has its arms broken, but we are saying that Poland shall live again. It will live again because of that imperishable thing we call the human spirit, which cannot be destroyed. In the last war, if we had been defeated, together with our ally, France, we should still have said that the truth would prevail. Only a recognition of that can give the secret of human life, and I think that at long last it may be that human life will recognise that those deepest resources of human nature are the only weapons that can avail against all the armoury of hell. I would that some community should one day arise which will stake its whole existence on throwing away its arms and trusting to those spiritual resources to which I have referred. That day has not yet arrived and if hon. Members smile, may I retort by saying that actually we are appealing now to the youth of this land on the moral basis that even though they lose their lives, it is worth while for the sake of freedom.
Do not let us smile sardonically at what, after all, is the basis of the faith which most of us hold. There are those who rely on moral resources and believe that they alone in the end triumph, and there are those who believe, on the other hand, that in certain circumstances weapons must be used. I believe that both may unite in certain respects. We should try, for instance, to reach the minds of the German people. Let us seek to do so by deeds as well as by words. Do not raise the bogy that it is impossible to get through to the German people. We can do so in the end if we are willing to exercise patience. If we cannot, what hope is there for the future of mankind?
Further, we ought to put our own house in order. Reference has been made to India. If the Government could say to the Indian peoples, "We believe so deeply in democracy that we are prepared to implement democracy in the central government of India in the near future," I believe that would do more to re-establish democracy as a vibrant and supreme 627 fact in the world than all the arms that we have used in the past. We should also state distinctly the sort of world which we are trying to create and the sacrifice which we are prepared to make. It is no good merely saying to the German people that they have committed iniquity. They will reply by asking us to indicate our belief in an alternative. Unless we are prepared to make deep sacrifices for this new world and to repudiate the processes by which men and nations have sought to exploit and dominate each other, then all our condemnation of the German people will be in vain because they will suspect that it is not consistent and genuine.
I ask the Prime Minister and all Members to realise that human beings in Germany are fundamentally no different from ourselves. There are differences of course of history, education and language, and there is to-day this vicious crust of Hitlerism. But deep in the human nature of the German people there are evil and good things just as there are in the human nature of our own people. These evil things may have come out in Germany but they are also potential among ourselves and if we had been in the same position as the German people those evil things might, by now, also be supreme among us. I believe that the people of this country and the workers in particular should make it their business to distinguish between the evil in Germany as it is, and the mass of the working men and women of that country. We should do our utmost to gain a response from the working-class people of Germany so that we may be able at last, even at some risk and with some sacrifice, to create those conditions in which Hitlerism and similar diseases will no longer be possible.
§ 7.54 p.m.
I recognise that the House is weary and I do not propose to detain hon. Members for long. Like other speakers to-night I find myself in the unusual position of being able to agree with nearly everything the Prime Minister has said. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman to-night has expressed views which, for two or three years past, my hon. Friends and I have been expressing in vain. Why, then, it may be asked, should I desire to add anything to what the right hon. Gentleman has said and why should I 628 feel, as I do, a certain sense of dissatisfaction? I do not intend to appeal to the House on the high moral grounds which have been stated by several speakers. The points which are in my mind are mainly strategical or technical doubts. It is recognised that in every war both sides manoeuvre for positions strategically and also diplomatically. Have we not something to learn from Herr Hitler in the art of diplomatic manoeuvre? Supposing that the excellent and admirable sentiments which the Prime Minister expressed—in rather general and abstract terms—could be got across to the working-people of Germany, would it help to encourage the forces among those people whom we want to get on our side?
I have another doubt. If everything which the Prime Minister said to-day could be read, as no doubt it will, by the greater part of the working-people here, will it dispossess them of the doubt which is in their minds to-day and of which I see evidence day by day in my own post-bag and in contact with people throughout the country? It is not so much a doubt about what we are fighting for. The people have their own answer to that. They say that it is to do away with Hitlerism. They say we must make a stand against Hitler somewhere. But the doubt which is worrying them is: Has every possible opportunity been taken, has every chance, even, if only a slender chance, been availed of to avert this horrible and terrible business? The aims stated to-day by the right hon. Gentleman were stated last week in the House of Lords by Lord Halifax. They were mostly negative in the sense that it was said that we could not accept Herr Hitler's word and that we could not accept any peace that was not honourable and was not likely to lead to security. There is hardly any difference of opinion about that. I believe very few sets of people—except those who support a section of opinion represented far in excess of its numbers in the speeches to-day, and that is the absolute pacifists—who believe that such terms of peace as were contemplated in that incoherent and arrogant speech of Herr Hitler's, could possibly be accepted with safety or honour. They are impossible terms.
What is moving people's minds is whether those are his last terms, and 629 whether there is any possibility that we are throwing away a chance that, by negotiating on conditions, we might be able to achieve an honourable and safe peace? I believe it is a small chance. I believe the chances are that we shall have to do this horrible thing and fight this war to a finish. If so, God help us to fight it to a speedy and victorious finish, but we are lessening our own chance if we allow that doubt to remain in the minds of the people of this country —"Has everything been done; could it have been stopped?" I do not think the kind of speech we heard from the Prime Minister is going to solve that doubt.
What are the objections to setting out —not completely, because we cannot do that at the beginning of a war—the elemental conditions of the kind of peace which we should be willing to negotiate? I do not wish to elaborate them, but I suppose they are briefly these—independence and freedom for the Poles—not necessarily within their pre-war boundaries but independence and freedom for the Polish people—and independence and freedom for the Czech people. Do not let anybody in this House forget that we are under an obligation to the Czechs just as great as our obligation to the Poles. In both cases we gave a guarantee which we were not able to fulfil.
I did not think it would be necessary to remind the House that we asked the Czechs to give up the Sudetenland. We hoped that we were asking them to make a sacrifice by which they would buy European peace, and we gave in exchange a guarantee of their frontiers. We were not able to implement that guarantee, but it was just as sacred as the guarantee to Poland. I hope that whoever speaks from the Front Bench will find an opportunity of admitting that that is so. It was an unimplemented guarantee, and our chance of fulfilling it is now winning the war or winning honourable terms of peace without war. Thirdly, disarmament. I do not attach much value to Herr Hitler's offer that he is willing to discuss disarmament, questions of currency and economic questions. I think he meant it as cheese to bait the trap. So it ought to be part of 630 the terms that they must lead to some form of international disarmament, coupled with international inspection of armaments to see that the terms are carried out. They must lead to a more effective protection for minorities, racial and religious, including the Jewish people, and they must lead to the freeing of commerce from its present bonds so that they may lead to higher standards of life for the people, but, above all, they must lead to the setting up of a real international machinery for the prevention of aggression.
Those, in very crude terms, are the kind of elementary conditions on which we ought to be able to discuss peace and to enter into negotiations. What are the difficulties about setting out our terms in these positive ways, and not merely in the negative phraseology which has been mainly used by the Prime Minister? The two objections that one always hears raised, are, first of all, that such terms would not be accepted now. As to that, I would say probably not, but, after all, if we and the French intend to fight this fight to a finish, if we are prepared to take up the uncompromising attitude they have taken up to-day, they must have some reasons for it. It must be because they believe that Germany cannot win a long war. Their belief must be based on strategical or economic grounds, 01 upon their knowledge of what is happening inside Germany. But on whatever grounds it is based, those grounds must be known to Herr Hitler and the rulers of Germany. Why should he suppose that those preposterous terms put forward by Herr Hitler are his last words? Are we quite certain that, if we give him some kind of ladder to climb down by, we should not in the long run achieve an honourable and secure peace without war? It is a chance in 1oo if you like, but when the lives of millions are at stake a chance in 100 is worth taking, and what should we lose by taking it?
The second objection is this. Suppose those terms were granted, they would be worth nothing because they would depend on the word of Herr Hitler. Of course they would be worth nothing if they depended on his word, but would they? If they were secured terms they would not, for two reasons. First of all, nearly all Herr Hitler's previous triumphs have been gained because he has 631 succeeded in winning without war, because he has been a successful aggressor. The very fact that he had to negotiate on the terms on which we should ask him to negotiate would show that that career of successful aggression was ended. It would shatter his reputation for being the unvanquished dominator of Europe. Secondly, the terms of peace would not even rest mainly upon the signatories of the peace, who would be the belligerents on both sides. They would rest on the national machinery which we set up. Several years ago, if only Ministers had been willing to listen to us, we had a real chance of turning the League of Nations into an effective machinery for resisting aggression. The small countries are now hastening to assure us that they want nothing but to maintain their neutrality. Even after the Abyssinian fiasco it was those small neutral countries which resented any attempt to emasculate Article 16 of the Covenant. It was only one experience after another—Abyssinia, Spain, Austria, and Czecho-Slovakia— that led them to the conclusion that the great Powers were all untrustworthy and that their only safety was in maintaining their neutrality. But supposing, after having shown too late, but still better late than never, that we and France were prepared to fight for honour and freedom, and supposing that we had succeeded in showing that we had made so good a beginning that we had brought the aggressor countries to terms, would not there be a real chance of constructing a peace front, a kind of collective security that was worth having, whether it was built on the old League or whether it succeeded in the bigger ideal of the abolition of national sovereignty? The kind of terms that we could get would be terms guaranteed not only by the signatures of the signatories but by the kind of machinery which the terms would themselves set up.
That is the case as I see it. The first step would be to state our terms. If those terms are contemptuously rejected by Herr Hitler, let us go on. If we could once get it into the hearts not only of our own people but of the people of Germany that we had offered those reasonable, honourable terms, terms which offered them not a destroyed 632 Germany, but a better, happier, more prosperous Germany than they have now, a Germany in which they had no longer to choose between guns and butter, I believe that in any case, even if the terms were refused, to have had them put forward, to have made them known to the people of Germany would be in itself a step towards victory and it would have this advantage, that it would do away with the fear that haunts me that, as this war goes on, our people, who have shown a splendid spirit, who are not panicky, who are not despairing as the hardships of the war weigh upon them, may become disgruntled and doubting and may ask themselves more and more every day the question which even now they are beginning to ask—Was this war really necessary? Did our Government, which showed itself originally so completely indifferent to the fate of other nations and so unwilling to stand up against the aggressor, do everything possible to avoid this horrible necessity, when they really got us into a war, of fighting it to the bitter end? The day may come when right hon. Gentlemen sitting on their own front bench may ask themselves that question in their hearts. It was said of the late Lord Grey after the beginning of the last war that he used to say to himself night after night: "Is there anything that I could have done to stop it?"The day may come when you will ask yourselves the same question. Is there one chance in a million that a peace by negotiation, which is honourable and secure, could be won by holding out a sort of ladder between ourselves and Germany?
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
The hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) started by telling us that for the first time in her experience she had approved a speech by the Prime Minister, but it was difficult to appreciate that fact in listening to her speech. I would ask any of those hon. Members who have put forward theories to-day, and who spoke last night in this House of the necessity for the right kind of propaganda, to remember a little the mentality of the German people. I am as desirous as anyone in the world that we should be able to avoid war, and I would make any sacrifice if this hideous war could end, but I am convinced that the one thing that would be absolutely fatal, not only for 633 Herr Hitler, but for the German people, would be for us to make the approach and for us to go begging with terms at this moment. In the Prime Minister's magnificent speech to-day, he stated quite clearly that we were not fighting a war merely to win a victory or to impose any conditions on any other people, but that we were fighting in order that all the little nations of the world might live in peace and freedom. The German people would not understand an approach on our part at this moment as anything else but a terror of attack.
Is the hon. Lady quite sure of that, if some elementary conditions such as the freedom and independence of Poland and the Czechs were specified?
§ Mrs. Tate
My personal belief is that Herr Hitler would not consider such terms, and I may be wrong, but I am sure that the German people would misunderstand such an approach. I think I have a right to claim some small knowledge of the psychology of the German people. I am, after all, the only Member in this House, and the only person in this country, who has ever been able to get two people out of a German concentration camp, and, when all is said and done, I did it without a single introduction from this country and without help from any living human being. I did it by meeting, without former knowledge or without having seen him before, one of the people who at that time was in close connection with Herr Hitler, and bamboozling him into believing that it would be good propaganda for Germany to release those people. I, therefore, say that I have quite as much knowledge as any hon. Member here of the psychology of the German people and of the right approach to make to them. When I got those people out of the concentration camp, I made the Germans pay for us all to come home in a Junker aeroplane, and I made them send Prince Von Bismarck to meet us at Croydon.
I am absolutely convinced that if Herr Hitler has the smallest wish for peace there could be no greater opportunity than the speech made by the Prime Minister to-day. It left every door open, if Herr Hitler has any desire whatsoever to make peace. But if we were to go and say to the German people, "Do make peace; these are our terms," they would understand it in one way only. 634 They would understand it as a defeatist attitude on our part. A great deal has been said of the mistakes made at Versailles and of the tragedy of the attitude of the Versailles Treaty. All that, I admit, but far less has been said of one mistake which was made previous to the Treaty of Versailles, and which has been frequently acknowledged, and that is the fact that before we finished the war we should have been very well advised to march into Berlin. [Laughter.]The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) can laugh himself sick, and I am glad that he can laugh. After all that he has said in this House in defence of Russia, this must be a very happy moment for him, and I am glad that he can have a little opportunity of laughing. The hon. Lady said that the reason why Herr Hitler had been so triumphant up to date was that he had always been able to commit acts of aggression without having to fight. Does she not think that to-day he is priding himself on a very successful victory in Poland? Is he any less likely to be triumphant to-day than he was before? I must say that one remark by the hon. Lady filled me with absolute horror. She said that the Prime Minister could only have made the speech he did make because he had information which made him quite certain that we should be victorious.
I did not say that. I merely uttered the platitude that the Government clearly think that we are going to win, or they would not fight. They would indeed be criminal to waste millions of lives believing that the result would be that there would be a peace dictated to us by Germany.
§ Mrs. Tate
I am very sorry if the hon. Lady thinks that any country that fights, not being completely certain of victory, is criminal, and I think the hon. Lady must find it rather difficult to understand why the Poles defended Warsaw, but I am thankful that I do not believe that that is the spirit of everyone in this country. I believe that there are people in this country who would fight for what they believe to be their land and those they love even if they were not completely convinced of victory. I pray and hope that we shall be victorious, and I think we shall be victorious far more certainly if we make no further efforts and if the Prime Ministers speech goes 635 out, as I pray it will, and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, as the unalterable opinion of this country. I believe that it represents the feelings and the really sincere wishes of the vast majority of the people of this country. Hon. Members have spoken about calling conferences. Conferences between whom? Conferences guaranteed by whom? Such nations represent nothing but the vaguest meanderings of a few intellectuals who have very little touch with realities.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
The hon. Lady's speech is based, she says, on a knowledge of the psychology of the German people. Might it not be possible, as Hitler's life is entirely dependent on the good faith of Stalin, that Hitler would be willing to listen to proposals he would have scorned earlier?
§ Mrs. Tate
The words with which the Prime Minister terminated his speech gave Herr Hitler every possible opportunity of setting forth reasonable terms if he had the smallest wish to do so, and I believe that the people of this country will thank God, as I do, for the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan
The speech of the Prime Minister filled me with dismay. It was like the speech of a victor, the speech of a man who knew that he had Hitler exactly where he wanted him and who was prepared to be a dictator to Germany. I hope that I am wrong and that there is at least a glimmer of hope in the speech, and that the door is not entirely locked, barred and bolted against the reasonable discussion of peace with the German people. It is deplorable that the Prime Minister should state so emphatically that we will select the people with whom we shall discuss peace. We know that Hitler speaks as head of the German Government and is the leader of the German nation. We may not like it. I am sure that we do not like Hitler, but there are Members on this side of the House who do not like the Leader of the British nation. The slogan for many months past, as far as I have been able to learn, in the House and the country has been "Chamberlain must go." Hitler, after all, has made a sort of peace offer. No one in the House suggests that 636 it is satisfactory, but surely it is a basis for discussion. We have to open the discussion some time.
The Government and this House owe it to the nation that any opportunity of reaching peace should not be lost. We owe it to the millions of youths who are not yet in the danger zone. The guns are firing, but they are not yet under fire. The dogs of war are barking, but have not yet been let loose. Tears have not yet been shed and grey hairs have not yet been brought in sorrow to the grave. Because we have not yet made those colossal losses on the front, hearts are not yet broken. In his book, "The World Crisis" the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty drew a picture showing how for three years the trained armies of Germany and France were thrust upon each other, grappled fiercely, broke apart for a period, endeavoured to outflank each other, closed again in desperate conflict, and broke apart once more. Then from the Alps to the sea they lay gasping and glaring at each other, not knowing what to do, neither strong enough to overcome the other and neither possessing the superior means required for a successful offensive. That was written 10 years after the war, after the right hon. Gentleman had time to consider all the aspects of it. Instead of having these conditions behind us at the present moment, we have them in front of us probably in a more accentuated form, because it is admitted that the defensive measures are so complete to-day that what was done in three years in the last war may take eight or nine years in this.
We deprecate in the strongest possible manner the idea that peace overtures are dangerous. That idea appears to have been running through all the speeches from the other side to-day, and we have been told that we should not discuss peace until the war has proceeded for a certain time. We should discuss peace before we have tested the machinery of war and before the enormous lists of casualties begin to come in. Hitler's speech has had a bad Press in this country, as could be seen by the newspaper posters in the streets. They bore such slogans as "Peace move condemned in advance," "Peace move strangled at birth," and "Peace efforts stillborn." Before we had an oppor- 637 tunity of hearing the statement of the Prime Minister as to the Government's reaction to Hitler's offer, the jingo Press had made their stand and had permeated public opinion with the way it should react. We are told that the Russian action does not alter the position, but I suggest that it makes a tremendous difference to it. Instead of France and this country having the certainty of one enemy to fight in the West, and instead of Germany being opposed by an enemy on each front, she now has on her eastern border at least a friend, who might easily become a potential enemy to us. When the war began it was expected that Germany would be fighting alone. Hitler said, "I fight alone," and at that period he had enemies on the east and the west. The speedy subjugation of Poland has altered that, and Germany has now at least a friend on her eastern border. Even if Russia gives Germany no military assistance, it surely means something that she is able to supply her with raw materials necessary to carry on the war.
When Russia was expected to come in with what was known as the peace front, she was a great country and had enormous resources with which she could supply us. We were told that her coal production had increased from 29,000,000 tons in 1913 to 120,000,000 tons in 1937, her supplies of pig iron from 4,000,000 tons to 15,000,000 tons in the same period, and her steel from 4,000,000 tons to 18,000,000 tons. Her textiles had also increased and the food production of Russia, we were told, was enormous. Now we are told that Russia is of no use at all and can render no assistance to Germany, and yet although Russia has so few commodities to supply it is interesting to note that only yesterday we signed a trade agreement with her under which we are to get timber in exchange for rubber and tin. I would ask the Government to remember that Germany is in dire need of rubber and tin, so there is the possibility that we are now going to send commodities to Russia which will be immediately transferred to Germany. My time is up now, because I have to catch a train, and I would only say once more that I hope this peace offer will not be lightly turned down. The people in the country are asking for peace, millions of them, and the Government are making a great mistake if they think they have the unanimous opinion of the people behind 638 them. Hon. Members know that they are getting letters by the hundreds, especially from the mothers of this country, asking that something should be done to stop things before the fearful carnage commences. [An HON. MEMBER:"NO."] I will show you the letters. Therefore, I earnestly hope that if there is a ray of hope in the Prime Minister's speech everything possible will be done to bring an honourable peace before this frightful carnage commences.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
I wish to mention two points which have not yet been made. I do not propose to draw up a new outline of the heaven upon earth which many speakers have attempted to portray. There is one point which must be considered in connection with any suggestion that we can treat Herr Hitler as a man of perfectly sound mentality. I want to put a point of view which I think is very general and, I believe, has very sound foundations. I have heard it discussed a good deal by psychologists. One man of the very highest reputation, who was speaking at second hand—certainly not at first hand, but on very good second-hand information—and speaking quite quietly, and without any view to effect, said to me clearly, "I have no doubt that that man is a paranoiac." Members may not know what a paranoiac is, but most of the younger generation, who read modern novels, know all about psychology and know what a paranoiac is. He is a man who, while he is outwardly and to all appearances of sound mind and cannot be certified as otherwise, is a man who by certain processes known to psycho-analysts and psychologists is on his way to being at least unbalanced, and may eventually go into the full state of being certified as of unsound mind. It seems to me quite clear, from the series of incidents that have occurred, that it is perfectly possible for a man in that position to give genuine undertakings at one time and afterwards to break them flagrantly and openly, as has been the case. I believe, anyhow, that it is a sound theory, and it is recognised as being an acknowledged fact by a very large number of people throughout the world, not the least number of them being in Germany.
If that is the case let us recognise how much it alters our view of the situation and our attitude to the German people. 639 I am one of those who have had the good fortune to live in a German family. At one time I was able to speak German very well, and though I certainly cannot do so now I understand the mentality of the German people as well, I believe, as do most people in this House. Also, I am one of those who wish sincerely to be friends with the German people, as I believe most of them wish to be friends with us. But what is the position? Herr Hitler came forward and raised the people of Germany from a position in which they were "down and out" to a position of prosperity, in which, in general, the working classes feel that they have had an absolutely fair and square deal. The nation as a whole feels that it can now look the world in the face again. Herr Hitler has been worshipped, as we all know, raised to the position almost of a deity, anyhow a hero of the highest order, and the great mass of the German people appreciate him and will follow him wherever he leads, especially as he has always got his way without war.
What is the position when a man like that becomes unbalanced? History affords many instances of cases in which a man of wonderful talents has gradually lost his sense of control and of balance, and yet all those around him have had to treat him as still normal. They cannot throw him over, they are bound to him, and yet they must be feeling all the time, "How can we get out of this mess he has got us into without throwing him over, seeing the position he holds among the German people?" I only throw out that idea because it seems to me that it makes it difficult for us to say that the peace we want depends upon overthrowing Hitler.
The Prime Minister, in the great speech he gave us to-day, has shown clearly that the way out is to overthrow Hitlerism, in other words, this constant unreliability of public statements in international dealings. But does it mean, if my analysis of the situation is correct, that there is no desire or intention on the part of the German people or of the German army to fight with us, and that they are doing all they can to restrain the forces that are making for active war against us? It seems to me that the only way to meet the situation is the one that seemed to be suggested by the Prime Minister 640 and by the operation of events at the present moment. The way to deal with a man of that mentality is to show strength and determination, to take a clear, sound, sensible line and to show that we are determined to carry through with it. The spirit of strength and determination will give him—or those around him—the opportunity of meeting our case and withdrawing from the impossible position taken up. By taking up a strong position, both as regards our forces and economic warfare, we are helping the change to take place in Germany.
I do not want to develop this aspect of the matter any more at this stage; I only ask that the position should be recognised and thought out by those who are trying to discover the possibilities of a solution of the difficulties in Europe. Whatever happens we must stick to our determination to show no intention of giving way. In that matter I entirely disagree with one or two of those who have spoken this evening. I think the great point about the Prime Minister's speech was that he left things open to individual interpretation: that we laid down a strong and definite line and now matters have to solve themselves without our defining things too closely, because definitions introduce innumerable difficulties.
One other point should be made. I receive a very large number of letters in my constituency from people who are genuinely and conscientiously feeling that it is not right in any circumstances to go to war. I was speaking to-day with a Member of this House who is a keen supporter of the Peace Pledge Union. They feel strongly that, whatever cast: we may have against an aggressor, we must not go to war. They say, "It is laid down in our religion that you must not, in any case, take up the sword." I do not want to trespass upon theology in this House, but it may be useful to give one particular reference. The one text that is introduced against us is:He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword.That was said with reference to a particular tragedy before the Crucifixion. I should like hon. Members to look up another reference in the 22nd Chapter of Luke. I had to look it up specially the other day in order to reply to a correspondent. You see there that the Master himself said to a disciple: 641He that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword let him sell his garment, and buy one.A little later we read that the disciple said to him:Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them. It is enough.When one of the disciples drew his sword, Jesus told him that it was not yet time to use the sword and that he must put it up in his sheath. This disciple was one who had lived for three years with the Master and apparently, during that time, he got the idea that he was to wear the sword. Why? I have not the least doubt that it was a part of the attire of every gentleman or of every man's uniform to wear a sword. There were no police in those days and there were highwaymen and brigands. Everybody had to be prepared to defend himself.
To those who say, as my colleague said in this House: "I cannot conceive the Master taking part in a war," I reply: "Remember that the most beautiful example of Christian principle is that of the Good Samaritan. Suppose that Good Samaritan had come on the scene an hour earlier; are we to be taught that the good Samaritan would have stood by while the robber proceeded to attack the poor traveller, strip him and leave him naked and half dead? Of course not. He would have been expected to hold his own against him." That means physical force, and that is the basis of the proper reply to those who say that we must have peace at any price. Peace at any price is as inconceivable to a Christian as it is to any decent man in this House.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in his interesting exegetical remarks, but I would like to comment upon one very important point which he made in his speech. He gave an explanation of the great hold that Herr Hitler has upon a large number of his fellow countrymen and of the debt that many of them feel they owe him for the self-respect which they are able to feel as Germans; and also of the obligation that many feel for the effort of his government in getting rid of unemployment—although the conditions of employment in Germany are far from being as rosy as someone reading the OFFICIAL 642 REPORT to-morrow might think they are, from the speech of the hon. Member. We cannot expect a nation to desert its leader at the demand of another nation. If we were told by German leaders that we had to get rid of our Prime Minister and his principal colleagues, that would be the most effective way of rallying to them the loyalty of the whole of this nation. The right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary has no doubt benefited by the public attack made by German leaders upon him, as have some of his colleagues.
Therefore, we ought not to try to attain the object that we have in view by methods which demand of the German people that they should depose their leader. I do not believe that that is the demand of the Prime Minister. As I look back upon that very remarkable speech which we heard this afternoon, phrased in such dignified and calm language, I feel that it is significant that, after six weeks of war, there was no word of hatred or of ill-will in it towards the German people. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that it is not part of the object of this country that there should be anything in the nature of a vindictive peace, and that he wanted to see living room for the German people, provided that that involved living room for other and smaller peoples too. It is a very great thing that that should be said at such a time and that the German people should know it. It is good that the right hon. Gentleman should have made it clear that he looks forward to a negotiated peace. Again and again Herr Hitler has rallied public opinion to him in Germany by emphasising the evil of what he calls the diktat,or the dictated peace of Versailles. That has rallied German patriotism to his support and he has used it quite recently, since the outbreak of war. It is most important, therefore, that Germany should know that it is not the intention of this country to have another dictated peace.
I hope that the Prime Minister will make it even more clear than he has done this afternoon that, the right guarantees being given, we should welcome the opportunity of a conference that would provide, not a truce, but a real settlement for Europe. He has said that he did not wish the war to go on for one unnecessary day, and I am sure that that is unanimously the wish of the people of this country. We want a peace that will 643 be a real peace and that will be made on just conditions. It should be possible for the Prime Minister to make more clear, without going into unnecessary details, the nature of the guarantees that he requires, whether it be the withdrawal of German troops from Poland or other preliminaries, and whether they are to be, as they must be, I should think, accompanied by some clear statement that any peace worthy of the name must involve a free Czecho-Slovakia and a free Polish nation. We should make it clear that we welcome the idea of neutral nations coming in with the nations that are at present engaged in this war, in order to make peace, and especially that we should welcome the co-operation for this purpose of the United States of America. That is something that we can ask our Government to make clear to the world, to neutral nations and to the people of Germany.
It is worth while to note in the speech of Herr Hitler that this remarkable man, who has rejected the idea of conference repeatedly when it has been pressed upon him by the persistent efforts of the British Government right up to the outbreak of war, and in the first days of the war, has now himself proposed a conference. Surely, he must, in doing that, either wish to throw upon his opponents the responsibility for rejecting something that is in the neutral countries believed to be right—in which case, we must not fall in with his aim—or, and I hope that this is it, he knows that his people are longing for peace and he wants to have the credit for leadership in that direction. I do not think we ought to allow the leaders of the dictatorships to have the credit for initiative again and again. We ought sometimes ourselves to put forward proposals that will appeal to the hearts and minds of neutral countries and of the people of Germany themselves. We should not have a proposal of this kind coming from the German Chancellor unless there were very good reasons that make him desire peace. He knows that his people are not, as one hon. Member to-day mistakenly said, intoxicated with victory. His people want peace. What thoughtful citizens of Europe could want a three-years' war, and all that it entails?
It may be that one of these days in the immediate future we shall find our- 644 selves at a turning point in human history. If we take the turn that leads to that three years' war it means, in all probability, the ruin of Western civilisation. Think of the economic effect, the utter impoverishment of the great countries of Europe; think of the effect on human life, of the generation of fine men who will be taken away, the leaders of the years that are coming robbed from the nations that are to be. With Europe deprived of all that leadership and all that service, as it would be, robbed of its financial resources, with its capitals in ruins, its countryside made desolate, that Europe will be no place for the birth of that glorious new world of which we have had a vision put before us to-night. You will not get the new world that we want to see built on a foundation of hatred and ruin and bankruptcy. That is what would be left by this three years' war.
We must do our utmost to get the way made clear for an honourable peace, not only for this country, but for all the countries of the world. That will open out hope for the future, because the devotion and sacrifice that is now being put by so many brave men into the service of their country in the Army, Navy and Air Force could be given in an even better cause without loss or suffering to any nation being involved. We cannot rebuild Poland if Europe is ruined and our finances have gone. We can, together with Germany, if we can get an honourable peace, not only help in the rebuilding of Poland, but help in the reconstruction of economic life throughout Europe; and it would be worth while making sacrifices in such a cause. As we go out to-night from the darkened corridors of this House into the greater darkness of the street without, we must all feel that the darkness that is about us is symbolic of the gloom and night that is falling upon our civilisation if this war goes on and on. But the light is there behind curtain and shutter, it is there, being kept out from the streets that need it, and it is so in the lives of men. The light of wisdom and insight, of reason, of human fellowship is there in the hearts of men, and we have to turn it on to-day to get rid of this darkness, which means death to our civilisation; to bring us back to the way of peace.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
I will not at this hour, when the House is somewhat weary of debate, inflict upon it the speech I had intended to make at this time, but there are two points I would like to make, and I would also like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretray of State for Dominion Affairs, who may be replying to the Debate.
§ The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Eden)
§ Mr. Beaumont
Then I will put the question in the hope that someone may answer it in the very near future. I want to repudiate a statement that was made on these benches and one which, if spread abroad, may be the subject of grave misgiving. An hon. Member who has now left the Chamber made the statement that he was the recipient of a large number of letters asking that the war should be stopped. Speaking personally from the knowledge of my own constituency, I have not received a single letter since the war started. There are some people who are under a misapprehension, because we have not boys and youths and men and women going up and down the streets waving flags and singing patriotic songs, that there is no determination behind this war. There are a number of people who mistake hysteria for enthusiasm. We had in 1914 a sort of hysteria, added to which was a recruiting campaign in which we had great masses of people brought together, and who, by speeches of an inflammatory character were induced to enlist, and there was much shouting and beating of the drum. What is now much more significant is that without this hysteria and enthusiasm there is a grim determination of the people which is more definite and more certain and which will be more permanent. The people, deploring the danger that is coming to this country and to the world, are saying that this has to be stopped, and when they say that this has to be stopped they mean that aggressive spirit which has brought devastation to so many peoples of Europe.
I sympathise with the sentiments of those who express the pacifist point of view, but we have to be realists in these days. We are told, and quite rightly, that this war, if it goes on, will mean 646 the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands, and it may be millions of people, but we are faced with this alternative, that if the war is stopped and aggression is not ended we shall still have the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions of people. The torture and death of the body is great and terrible in itself, but what is perhaps more terrible and grim is the torture of the mind and the soul when in the concentration camp under the rule of terrorism and aggression. Therefore, I realise that we are faced with two grim alternatives—the terror, the anguish, the sorrow and the death of hundreds of thousands of men and, it may be, women and children, or, on the other hand, the placing of the whole of Europe in the very near future under the heel of the aggressor.
I am hoping that common sense and righteousness will prevail and that at the earliest opportunity some nation will step in and provide a basis upon which a conference may be held. While echoing and appreciating the statement made it the Prime Minister to-day, I would express the hope that the Government will be willing to agree to go into any conference that is convened by any of the neutral nations. That will show that we are willing to go into a conference, but at the same time we must be determined that we will not sacrifice our principles for the sake of securing a patched-up peace.
I am surprised at the illogicality of some of the speeches this afternoon. I am surprised at some Pacifist speakers saying: "Let us have a conference, let us settle this war, but it must be a just peace; Poland must be returned to Poland and Czecho-Slovakia to Czechoslovakia." On that point, there is no division of opinion. We want Czechoslovakia returned to Czecho-Slovakia and Poland returned to Poland. Although the frontiers may not be quite the same, that is not the question. The question is that of self-determination by the people. What we want to see is that those with whom we go into conference will at the conclusion of it keep their pledge and carry out their word.
One would think from some of the speeches that the risks we run when we demanded that a stand should be made against aggression were not realised. The 647 party of which I have the honour to be a Member has for years demanded that a stand should be made against aggression and has realised that sooner or later a stand would have to be made. They have realised that although the aggressor might give way there was a chance that he might accept our challenge. The challenge has been accepted, and the war which we all deplore is now upon us. One hon. Member said that our objective was to win the war. Our objective is much more than that. It is to win the peace for the peoples of the world and to win an understanding between the peoples of the world, so that the terror of war shall never again blight the world. We have to see* that this aggression stops, but we have to be ready at the earliest moment to accept whatever opportunity may be offered of preventing the further torture and killing of people.
I hope the Government will deem it wise at the very earliest opportunity to ask for the convening of the Assembly of the League of Nations. I understand that the Assembly of the League in September was postponed at the request of the British Government. I hope that although the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is not to reply to the Debate to-night it will be possible for him to convey this proposal to the members of the Cabinet and to ask for their consideration. We are appreciative of the great work that the Secretary for the Dominions did for the League of Nations and of the stand that he made for its principles. I hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to ask the powers that be if it is possible to convene a meeting of the Assembly of the League where it may then be possible to discuss the purposes of the war which is now being waged.
We believe that dark days are ahead. We know that the darkness of the night has fallen upon us, but if we have faith in our ideals and in the cause which we are espousing we can also believe that there is coming upon this stricken world the dawn of a happier day when all men, women and children shall live in peace and harmony.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I rise to speak at what is apparently a late hour in this Debate merely to express, as has already been expressed, the dissatisfaction of some 648 of us regarding the obscurity in which the Prime Minister left us this afternoon. I agree with what some of the hon. Members on these benches have urged during the evening, that this is the time that the Government should make perfectly clear to the whole world what the objectives of this country are before the slaughter as has been described reaches the magnitude that all of us dread. The time has gone by when we should indulge in mere generalities, however high-sounding they might be. That is not enough. I contend that a more specific and detailed statement of our objectives should be made, and that now. This is absolutely necessary, not merely to satisfy neutral opinion or to satisfy German people, but to clarify the bewilderment and to allay, if it can be allayed, the growing suspicion in the minds of our own people as to the real and possibly as yet unstated war aims of this country and of France. I include the French Government deliberately because we are repeatedly told that perfect accord exists between this Government and that of France. This accord or perfect identity between the two Governments must, of course, cover all major matters, not only on the fighting front but on the home front as well. It must be so, because we have told the world, and the Government benches have stated unceasingly, that we are fighting for democracy, self-determination, freedom of thought and of expression, and for the rights of nations to the forms of Governments that their people desire. That is, we are fighting for all those things that Fascism destroys. In fact, this was stated, I think, in a very fine way by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition in a broadcast speech a few days ago, and it was restated in other words this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. He said:We are at war because the British people are united and steadfast in their conviction that there are cherished possessions of mankind that are worth defending, for without them life is empty. We believe in liberty through which alone the mind and soul of the people of the world can find free expression.This includes the right of Parliamentary government with full freedom of expression. Since we are in agreement on this, can the House be told why the French Government, between whom and this Government such perfect harmony exists to-day, such full and absolute confidence, a Government within whose territories 649 about 160,000 British soldiers and airmen are at this moment, took the step they did recently, and whether our Government was consulted or their opinion asked, or whether our Government approved or would approve in this fight for liberty and freedom of expression, in this fight for Parliamentary institutions, the horrible and tragic step which was taken recently in France in proscribing over 70 members of the French Chamber and disfranchising thousands of electors?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member is now doing something which is quite contrary to the Rules of the House.
§ Mr. Davies
I have had it impressed upon me that the interests and desires of this country are the interests and desires of France; that the objectives of this country are identical with those of France, and as we have placed under French law nearly 160,000 of our own people that I was right in referring to this matter. I am sorry I have transgressed the rules of the House in the exigencies of the moment and have mentioned something which I ought not to have mentioned.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must not repeat what I have told him is quite contrary to the rules of the House.
§ Mr. Davies
I will not pursue that subject. At the beginning I expressed my dissatisfaction and misgivings, which are felt by many both inside and outside this House, as to the obscurity, the deliberate obscurity, in which the Government are keeping the country as to their objectives and war aims. As a back bencher and on my own individual responsibility I want to express a hope that the Government are not banking over much upon that degree of support they have received up to now from all sides of the House unless they take the whole House and the whole country more fully into their confidence as to what exactly is in their minds.
I want now to refer to the problems and difficulties which are facing us on the home front, and I want first of all to make a personal confession. Certainly, I shall continue to doubt the aims of the Government unless they are prepared to make a greater contribution towards that which is really vital in democracy and freedom in this country—that is to say, unless they make a contribution to those people who are prepared to support the 650 aims of the Government by being far more generous towards masses of people in this country who, as a result of our being at war, are suffering a great deal more than they were suffering before, although their conditions were bad then. I think I can hazard an opinion that there are many hon. Members on these benches who will find it extremely difficult to give their support to the Government in the way in which they have done so far unless the Government pay attention to certain vital demands that we made before the war and will continue to make at every opportunity.
We expect the Government, which we are told is engaged in leading the country in a war for high and great ideals, to pay at least some attention to the sufferings and increasing hardships of the old aged pensioners and the unemployed, whose low subsistence allowances and benefits are making life increasingly difficult for them, in view of the increased cost of living and the fact that so many of those who were supporting them before the war are now called up in the service of the country. If the Government are wise, they will appreciate how absolutely important it is in war to sustain the highest morale on the home front. Without the maintenance of that morale on the home front, we shall run the grave risk of not succeeding in this war as most of the people in this country desire. I sincerely hope we shall not be compelled, during the horrible and difficult days which confront us, to urge and press the Government to show a little more humanity, particularly towards those sections of the population whose struggle to exist was a terrible one before the war began, but is intensified every day that the war continues. As long as those injustices continue, we shall unceasingly press the Government to make a gesture in harmony with the spirit which I would like to believe animated the words of the Prime Minister this afternoon. We look for justice first at home before being bidden to fight for it abroad.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty Minutes after Nine o'Clock until Tuesday next, 17th October, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.