HC Deb 15 October 1940 vol 365 cc595-7
47. 47. Mr. Silverman

asked the Prime Minister whether, in anticipation of the time when this country and its Allies are in a position to resume the military offensive, he will take an early opportunity of stating, in general terms, our aims in this war, so that this country may take its rightful place as the leader of all those, wherever they may be found, who desire a new order in Europe, based not upon slavery to Germany but upon collective justice, prosperity, and security?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

All this is being borne in mind, but the time has not come when any official declaration can be made of war aims beyond the very carefully considered general statements which have already been published.

Mr. Silverman

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the longer a purely negative attitude in this matter is maintained the greater grows the quite false impression that we are fighting this war merely to retain the status quo; and would the right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, say enough to indicate that that is not the position of this country?

The Prime Minister

I do not think anyone has the opinion that we are fighting this war merely to maintain the status quo. We are, among other things, fighting it in order to survive, and when our capacity to do that is more generally recognised throughout the world, when the conviction that we have about it here becomes more general, then we shall be in a good position to take a further view of what we shall do with the victory when it is won.

Mr. Silverman

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that one important factor in enabling us, not merely to survive but to conquer, is to assure those who think with us all over the world that we are ready to lead the fight for the better world which we all want?

The Prime Minister

I think there is great danger in making statements which are not of a very general character upon this subject. Take, for instance, the attitude which we adopt towards the enemy when he is defeated—you will find very different opinions prevailing about that.

Mr. Stokes

Arising out of the original reply, will the right hon. Gentleman in considering this matter bear in mind the widespread feeling that a statement should be made as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

Certainly I bear it in mind, and, having borne it in mind, I have ventured to give the answer which I have given.

Mr. McGovern

While agreeing with many of the right hon. Gentleman's statements to-day, may I ask whether he does not think that when speeches are made from enemy sources it would be a good thing for the Prime Minister in this House to ask a series of searching questions that would, at least, put this country to a greater extent in the right and the enemy more in the wrong—for instance, by asking them what do they intend to do in the various territories which they occupy? These are very difficult questions for them and would compel answers which would bring world opinion behind us.

The Prime Minister

I think world opinion, as far as it is free, is thoroughly behind us.

Mr. Mander

Has the Prime Minister noticed that the Ministry of Information have announced that they are running a series of meetings throughout the country on this very subject of war aims, and would it not be interesting to know what they are saying?

The Prime Minister

I have seen the announcement from the Ministry of Information, and I have no doubt that very interesting discussions will take place, but that is quite a different thing from a statement by His Majesty's Government.

Mr. Boyce

Would it not be well to kill the bear before you proceed to skin it?