HC Deb 15 October 1940 vol 365 cc653-78

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Holdsworth.]

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

I desire to raise the question of which I gave notice the other day on war aims and the policy of the Government with regard to their explanation to the people of this country. I have always felt that it was not reasonable, while we are fighting the battle of Britain, to expect the Government to come forward with anything of the kind or to spend much time thinking about it. However, we are now coming to a stage when the people of this country will desire to know what are the ideas of the Government with regard to the ultimate war and peace aims. I am sure it will be to the advantage of the world if they are known at the earliest practical moment. So far, to my knowledge, this Government has not expressed any views at all as to its war aims. The late Government did. They went some way. It is true that some of the things that they said were not too satisfactory, but it is up to this Government to go at least as far as the old one and give us as much information as they feel able to give. I feel encouraged to bring forward this matter because of a paragraph that I saw in the Press the other day, which had apparently been broadcast by the Ministry of Information, to this effect: The Minister of Information is initiating on October 7th an Empire publicity campaign in this country. The idea is to stress that the war is not a fight between Great Britain as an island and Northern Europe, but something that is a vital concern to the Empire as a whole. It is hoped that the Dominions will interest themselves in the scheme. Now we come to the significant part.

The Government is working out a policy of war aims and post-war plans— That is good news; I am delighted to hear it. I wish them the best of luck: —and the campaign is intended to give the public a definition of these aims— Certain information with regard to the aims has therefore already been given to the public.

The Minister of Information (Mr. Duff Cooper)

Can the hon. Member say in which paper the paragraph appeared?

Mr. Mander

I fancy it appeared in most organs of the Press. It was in the "Times," the "News Chronicle" and others. I was under the impression that it had been issued by the Minister of Information, but if he denies that then, of course, I accept his word. At any rate, it was published on authority of some kind. It concludes with the words: … thereby anticipating the demand that is likely to be eagerly expressed as soon as the blitzkrieg or any invasion attempt fails. That paragraph certainly requires some elucidation or explanation or repudiation, whichever it may be. It would not have found its way into the Press without some kind of foundation. Reading that, I thought one way of obtaining information would be to put down a Question. I therefore put down this Question: To ask the Minister of Information if he has any statement to make with reference to the policy of war aims and post-war plans on which the Government is working, and the campaign intended to give the public a definition of these aims; and whether the position of allied governments fighting with the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations will be included? I put in that final section because it seemed to me to be very important that in any views which we express on this subject we should not confine ourselves to the British Empire, but that we should have regard to the very gallant Allies whom we have fighting with us at the present time. Some of them do not like our saying from time to time that we are standing alone, because some of them have vast possessions in the world and they were and will again be great nations. The reply I received rather astonished me. It was: I regret that I am not yet able to make any statement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1940; col. 480, Vol. 365.] I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say a little more than that to-day. I am raising this matter in the friendliest possible way. I do not want to embarrass the Government in the least; I am a very warm supporter of the Government. But I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say something of general interest and value on the subject. Let me refer to one further statement which has appeared in the Press. It is an extract from a remarkable speech—one of a series of remarkable speeches—by the Minister of Labour. He was reported on 10th October as follows: The whole question of the reorganisation of our social services would have to be faced sooner or later. Nor were they unmindful of the After-War. A Cabinet committee to consider these problems has been established. That is interesting. The report goes on: There might he other trying periods, but it was a little difficult when dealing with War Aims and reconstruction to put precisely on paper what we were going to do until we had won"— We can all agree on that— The Government, however, was working out general principles of guidance for both at home and abroad. It is quite clear that something of importance is going on, about which, possibly, nothing could be said at present except that it is going on. That would be reassuring up to a point. There is the other question of these meetings which I have already mentioned. That certainly wants relating to the Cabinet committee which, we are told, is sitting. On the general question, I would just say that I am quite sure that the sooner the Government are able to make clear to the House of Commons and to people outside, in this country and the rest of the world, what are their general ideas about the world after the war the better it will be. The peoples of the world are looking for some reassurance that we are not going back to the old state of affairs, that we intend to build up a happier and more prosperous world at home and a better world abroad, where peace will remain permanently, so far as we can make it so.

Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)

I do not want to pursue the question of whether this is a moment at which any statement of war aims should be made. I want, however, to say a few words on another matter which, I think, is of considerable importance. Hitler has announced that he is establishing a new order in Europe. The new order of Hitler is, of course no new order at all; it is based on universal slavery, and will be recognised as such by everybody who studies this new system. It is, however, of the very greatest importance that the Government themselves and the people of this country should be giving their minds, so far as they are free to do so, to the preparatory study of the work which will have to be done after the war. Much of the constructive work of this country—technical education, the work of the Workers' Educational Association in considering social movements, and the like—is being damped down. The Workers' Educational Association are proposing to work on Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons. In vast areas they find themselves restricted in their efforts because the people are in the shelters. That brings me to my point. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Members that Christianity was preserved in the catacombs, where the Christians were driven by Nero and other people who, in their day and generation, were not unworthy predecessors of the people who have set out to destroy liberty and democracy to-day. I urge the Minister to consider whether he could not set on foot discussion centres and so on in the shelters. I know that it is not an easy task, but I see no reason why, when Christianity was preserved in the catacombs by Nero, the future of England should not be considered in the shelters. That is why I raise this subject, in a discussion which, until a few minutes ago, I did not know was to take place. The time spent in the shelters may become longer and longer as the nights grow darker. I think we should consider these matters of which I have spoken in the underground world of which we are likely to see more than we like during the next few months.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

I am disturbed about this campaign for a Government statement of war aims, which carries the implication that this country has gone to war for some special positive purpose. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) brought to our minds the fact that Hitler had gone to war to impose a new order on Europe and the world. As far as I am aware, this country had no such intention in September, 1939. We went to war to resist Hitler in his attempts to impose a new order on Europe—and that was our only purpose. If we are now to impose a new order, that will be an extremely big job. Those who ask that we should announce war aims, seem to suggest that these war aims are to include a new order for the world; that we should take up the task which Hitler has usurped, by dictating a new world order. I believe that that is beyond our strength and our ability. Those who suggest it should make an announcement of what they propose. Are we, after defeating Hitler, to continue this war in order to force Turkey, Russia, and all those countries which are under semi-dictatorships, to adopt democracy?

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Are we to fight and suffer and lose our young men in order to make sure that a dictatorship which was once in existence shall be re-established?

Mr. Woodburn

Are we to dictate to other countries how they should govern themselves? The party for which I have the honour of speaking makes as its first purpose in this war that other countries should be allowed to decide their own forms of government and live their own lives. Therefore, our first declaration to the world should be that we have no ulterior peace aims or war aims at all; that Britain is out for nothing except to defend the right of countries, our own included, to live their own lives and carry on their own civilisation. We have associated with us other countries which have been brow-beaten and dominated by Hitler. It is true that we must stand with them in the recovery of their liberties, but that is a different thing from the supposition that we have to draw up some precise scheme by which we are to decide how the world shall live. To anyone who wishes to say that, I would suggest that he should start with Ireland. If anybody can tell us how we are to solve all the problems of Ireland, then, I believe, they can solve the problems of the Balkans, of the racial minorities in Europe and the religious problems of the world, which to me are insuperable.

I do not say that we can ever go back to the status quo. There are humpty-dumpties who have been knocked off the wall in this war and will never be put back again. But to suggest that we in this country have the wisdom and the power to draw a blue-print of the new world without consulting the other people who live in it is fantastic. If we are to bring real peace, the German people must play a part in framing that real peace. There is no one who thinks that peace can come without consulting 120,000,000 people, of great ability and culture, or that they can be suppressed and kept under for 40 or 50 years, while we call it peace. That is impossible. [Interruption]. There are 120,000,000 people in Germany and associated with and supporting Germany, and they must be consulted and brought into harmony with the rest of the world.

Mr. Mander

Would the hon. Member mind saying who are the 120,000,000 supporting Germany and associated with Germany?

Mr. Woodburn

There are 80,000,000 German people to start with, and there are the other people associated with them.

Mr. Mander

I ask the hon. Member to be good enough to state who they are?

Mr. Woodburn

There are plenty of people in Europe supporting Germany at the moment. There are quite a number in France. You would not have France under Germany to-day if there had not been a number of people there in harmony with the Fascist mind supporting the German Government. These people will number another 40,000,000. The same happens in other countries in Europe. There is to-day a great body of people—we need not quarrel about the figures—who are cultured and able—and you cannot have peace in the world unless those people are part of a harmonious world order. If the Government, therefore, are to announce the precise terms we are to impose on the world it will send a feeling of despair into the hearts of the people because they will realise that no sooner have we finished the job that we started out to do, than we are to start another great task of remodelling the world according to our heart's desire. The greatest peace aim that we can announce to the world is that we have no motive except to restore the liberties of the world and the rights of people to govern themselves. By the fact that we have no aims, no ulterior motives and seek no British gains and that Britain wants nothing out of the war and is prepared to make sacrifices to bring about that world order, we shall probably make a greater contribution to bring unity into the world than by anything else we could do.

I ventured to make the suggestion some time ago that, while we cannot decide the world order, there is no reason at all, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birkenhead said, why people should not be considering what the world order is to be like; what can be done and what can be put forward for consideration. This is a different thing from intimating peace aims. We could draw up what we think might be a proper order. My right hon. Friend in a speech some time ago drew a sketch of what he thought might be a world in which people could live in peace and in which many of the faults of the League of Nations could be eliminated, and in which the Governments of the world would come into some sort of relationship and work together in harmony. Those considerations can, when peace comes, be put before the people who are making that peace and I certainly think it would be an advantage if men who are separated from the conduct of the war and who have a worldwide knowledge of the culture and the troubles of the world could be set apart during the war to think out possible solutions for some of these problems. This would be put forward not as a dictated peace or as peace aims drawn up by the victor to be imposed upon the vanquished. It would be put forward by men of reason, so that when war shifts from the battlefield to the conference table, peace can be put forward as a proposition for the better conduct of the world.

Mr. Davidson

Surely, my hon. Friend will agree that, if we draw up such a plan as he outlines and decide that this ought to be the future of the world, and that it is good for the world, it will have to be submitted by one of two parties, either victor or vanquished.

Mr. Woodburn

I agree. There is no reason why every party that sits round the conference table should not make its contribution by putting forward its propositions for consideration. We have every right to do that, and we can draw up our ideas on the subject as long as these are not what are called the Government's war aims, the aims for which we are going to carry on the war until we have the power to impose them on the rest of the world. The two things are quite distinct. We are entitled, as the last speaker suggested, to draw up aims for the conduct of our own country, but surely these are not war aims. We can remake our country without war. We want to remodel our own country according to reason and the best wishes of all the people in the country. That is our own business, but we must leave other countries to manage their own affairs. We are concerned only with the relations of the countries, one with another. That is a matter for a new world order, but that world order must include all nations of the world, including those with whom we are at present at war.

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Like other speakers, I was unaware until a short time ago that this question was to be raised, and it is far too big a question to be really dealt with extempore. But as it has been raised, I should like to put forward briefly a few of the points that have been in my mind. I would remind hon. Members that during the first six months of the war a tremendous amount of the time of very many of the best brains of the country was extensively devoted to this question of the application of peace aims and war aims. The League of Nations Union, the Federal Union and many other bodies were thinking along their own lines and laying down fairly elaborate concrete schemes of settlement after the war. I always found during that period that it was rather difficult to feel enthusiastic about these schemes, for a reason which does not exist any longer. That reason was that, when we were fighting side by side with one great Ally France, and we knew—all of us who new the French mood—that one of the difficulties at the end of the war would be the conflict between French ideas of post-war settlement and our own. Now that France is out of it, that difficulty to a certain extent has been swept away. I still feel that the Prime Minister is right in saying that it would be difficult to lay down anything like a prognostication of the peace aims we are going to impose if and when we are victorious, because it must depend on the war situation, and it is, of course, a very difficult and controversial question.

I believe, however, we are missing an opportunity and that there is a possible middle way between the attempt to prophesy and lay down the lines of the future, which must depend on the situation at the end of the war, and saying nothing at all, or the extremely general statements that so far have been put out by the Government. I think many Members do not put themselves in the place of the millions of people all over Europe who, although no doubt, in a way, they would rather we won the war than the Germans, are not enthusiastic because they are uncertain of what we are fighting for. To many of us, it seems almost a platitude to go on repeating that we have no Imperialist or aggressive aims, but I am not at all sure that, in view of the continuous and in many ways skilful propaganda of Germany and Italy, the idea that this is merely a combat between two groups of Imperialistic powers may not gain hold. From the point of view of foreign propaganda it is extremely important that we should keep on repeating, even ad nauseam, the ideals for which we stand, not in quite as vague terms as those in which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) put it, not merely that we are working for a better future for the world—I do not think that carries much weight—but we could in many ways outline the kind of thing that we mean by better order.

For one thing we mean the kind of ideals for which the League of Nations stands, not necessarily sticking to the details of League of Nations machinery but the main ideas underlying it—no successful aggression, no changes in the status quo except by appeal to some impartial tribunal in which all the nations concerned should take part. That is not out of date. It is not premature at this stage to put forward the idea that the kind of order that we want to establish after the war would include a League of Nations which should band itself together this time meaning it, as they did not before, to resist any attempt to impose a change in the order of Europe by force and to have common resistance against aggression, the reign of law, and an appeal to tribunals, so far as possible impartially tepresenting all nations. Obviously that cannot be done hastily, but I believe the Government might work out a statement on which it would be possible to obtain agreement which could be made the basis of continuous propaganda by foreign countries. Extraordinarily little is known of what is being said in foreign countries by those who have not time or knowledge of the languages to listen regularly to broadcasts from the European countries, and yet what we are saying to those countries is immensely important. I feel that the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. ought to supply the House of Commons, at any rate, with much more regular reports of what kind of propaganda they are carrying on in foreign countries.

I am not at all satisfied that they are making the use they might of people belonging to those foreign nations themselves. We have in this country, groups of some of the ablest men in Europe who have for years been carrying on the fight in Italy, Germany and Czecho-Slovakia against Nazi and Fascist aggression. They know their own countries. They know the kind of thing which will appeal to the industrial workers, the peasants, the women and the Churches. What use is being made of the knowledge of those foreign experts? Are they really being encouraged, as they might be, to assist in broadcasting and preparing the leaflets which are circulated? I am not at all satisfied that they are and it seems to me that Parliament nowadays is too much foregoing its right to know and to criticise the working out of foreign policy. Much of our war policy has to be kept dark from us for fear of enlightening the enemy. We almost seem to be letting control of foreign policy go out of our hands.

I regretted very much hearing the Prime Minister's statement that he was going to put aside any idea at present, in spite of the representations which have been put forward, of any further statement on peace or war aims. I believe that he is losing a great opportunity. We are tempted to think too insularly, and not to put ourselves into the minds of those in other countries and those in our own country with whom we are not in daily and constant contact. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) about trying to remind those in shelters, living under difficult conditions, of the ideals of democracy and liberty and for what Great Britain stands. Even more strongly I should regret losing the opportunity of finding means of bringing home to the people of Germany, Italy and Rumania, and all the other countries which are gradually submitting to the Axis, what we are fighting for and some of the things we are fighting against. Cannot we state the settlement to which we will consent after the war, and say that it must not be a settlement which will leave future dictators free to impose their will upon the world? There is a great deal of suspicion among some of ourselves, and also in other countries, that authoritarian views are represented in our own Government. We must get it into the heads of the public, and those in other countries, that whatever the terms of the war settlement are, it will be a settlement which provides for the future peace, freedom and self-determination of peoples with the establishment of machinery for common resistance to aggression.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I will not detain the Minister very long, because I think he will desire to give an adequate reply to the rather full discussion which has taken place. I can speak very safely on this question, as representing my own constituency of industrial workers, and with some knowledge of the opinions of the Glasgow people themselves. It might be true that to issue a specific blue print—which has never been desired by any hon. Member in this House—would certainly lead to a certain amount of controversy inside this House and the country. I would remind the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) that we entered into this war after agitation from various parties in the House, and after agitation from this party, in particular, because we desired not only to give to the people of this country, but also to the world, that freedom and democracy which we, as Socialists, cherish. To say that we merely took up the attitude that we were resisting Hitler and that we must make no positive statement is incorrect. If those workers who are poverty-stricken, and those who suffer from bad housing, and those who are being called up to make the greatest sacrifices, were to say to an hon. Member for this or that area, "Can you tell me what my son is fighting for; can you say whether in the future our conditions will he more assured than before?" we must he able to state to them that we are fighting for a democracy that will give there a better chance.

We must tell them something which the Government have told us, not something we desire ourselves, but something official, from the head of the State. The Prime Minister said to-day that we were not fighting for the status quo. I would point out to my hon. Friend that if we are not fighting for the status quo, we must be fighting for a condition of affairs which is different. There must be alterations. Therefore, what are we as Members of Parliament to say to the soldiers, the housewives, and the men who are carrying on the services? When they point out the sacrifices and the death and disaster that have taken place in London and in Scotland, England and Wales, are the Government merely to say it is because we are resisting Hitler? Have the Government no reward to offer? The men, the working women and the boys and girls who are making great sacrifices, have a right to ask the Government, "What is your policy for the future of this country, and what do you guarantee in return for our sufferings?" It is the Government's duty to say, "We guarantee you certain conditions that you never had before." There have been vague promises from the Prime Minister and others. There have been half promises that things will not be as they were, but there have been no definite promises from the Government with regard to what the changes will be. We hear that a committee is in existence to discuss social conditions after the war. My hon. Friend gave it his blessing, but it is no use waiting until after the war until one party or another is in power to decide whether certain things shall be done or not. They ought to be submitted to the nation to-day. It will help the morale of the people if they know they are fighting for things that really appeal to them and that will give them enthusiasm to be successful in the war.

Mr. Woodburn

I think that my hon. Friend will agree that while what he says would stimulate the morale of the people, the very opposite would happen if we promised them nothing in this country and put before them some scheme for forcing democracy on other countries.

Mr. Davidson

No one has submitted that we should say to the people of this country, "You are getting nothing, but we are going to force democracy on other countries." This is a fight for democracy, which has no national borders, and we have always maintained, particularly on this side of the House, that the oppression of the workers in any country is an oppression of the whole working-class movement. We are an international organisation. Unless we can show the discontented and oppressed sections of the countries in the world that we are going to benefit them, and that we are to bring some improvement in their conditions, and unless we can show clearly that the great Government of Great Britain will ensure certain benefits for them, what can we expect? It is the duty of the Government to weigh these facts very carefully indeed and to come out on the side of the oppressed people in other countries. I believe that our war strategy could be more forcibly and effectively directed among the discontented elements of those countries which are under Hitler's rule to-day. We know from our friendships with people abroad that there must be hundreds of thousands of people in those countries who are for the moment stifled and oppressed and who could, if they received definite word from this Government that things were to be done for them, spread it among their organisations in a hundred different ways.

We have nothing to be afraid of in fighting for democracy and in the belief that we intend to bring to the victims of Fascism a meed of pleasure, comfort and ease in their lives and a re-creation of their liberties. In my opinion the Government are missing a great opportunity, first of all in not making it perfectly clear to our people at home that the old position is not to be re-established. The position in this country to-day is this; that while there is a semblance of unity and while there is a National Government, at Trades Union Congress meetings and political meetings of all parties speeches are made by leaders which aim at preserving the integrity and increasing the support of their own particular parties. We know it is true, so let us not draw the blinds over our eyes. Let us not continue in the old-fashioned way of letting one section of the people say, "If we are in power at the end of the war, we will do certain things," and another section say the same thing, thus creating bewilderment in the public mind. No working-class man or woman believes that if the Tories are in power at the end of this war, freedom and liberty will be given to the oppressed, and Tories do not believe that the Trades Union Congress or the Labour party will do it either. The only means of attaining national unity is for the Government to submit as soon as possible a programme which will appeal to the people of this country—a policy and a programme worth fighting for, and worth sacrifices, which will bring some hope to those discontented and oppressed sections of the community in the world. Such a policy will rally them to the cause of Britain, which ought to be the cause of world democracy.

Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)

I hope I may be forgiven if I intervene on a problem connected with foreign affairs; it is the first time I have done so since this war broke out. I speak for myself, but I am very pleased that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has raised this very important issue to-day, and I should like to put a point of view about this war which has been borne in upon me for some time past. There is no doubt at all in my mind that the time has arrived when His Majesty's Government ought to tell the people of this and other countries what we are fighting for. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Information has been in the United States of America, as I have, and I am sure he will have learned that leading politicians there are not quite satisfied with the objects we state we have in view in connection with this war. The only reason I have for saying a word about this important problem is that I have travelled a little over the Continent of Europe. What are the problems that caused this war? Before you can state your peace aims you must find out what caused this war. It is. not Hitler himself who caused this war. As a matter of fact, there are people in Great Britain and in France who welcomed Hitler at first because he was going to stamp out Communism on the Continent of Europe; he is now, however, declaring war on the very gentlemen in France and in Great Britain who welcomed him at the time.

I have been in Danzig. What has the right hon. Gentleman got to say about Danzig? In the settlement of this war what is to happen to that city? I will tell the House what I saw in that city, which is predominantly German, more German than Liverpool is English. The Corridor is predominantly German. [Hon. Members: "No."] Well, take the statistics.

Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)

Surely the hon. Member is aware that the Corridor was go per cent. Polish?

Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)

Fully 90 per cent. Polish, I should say.

Mr. Rhys Davies

If the hon. Member will take the statistics before the Corridor was "Polonised," he will see what the position was. Then, what is to happen in Gdynia, the port that was built, I understand, by French money, in order to make a port for the Corridor and destroy Danzig? Then what is to happen to the Sudetenland, and to Austria; and, above all things, what has the right hon. Gentleman got to say about the problem of tariffs? And what about the Ottawa Agreement? I represent a fair body of opinion when I say that slogans like "Fight Hitlerism" do not appeal to us at all. This war is based on economic considerations from beginning to end, and I think the time has arrived when the Government ought to state what it is we are fighting for.

I was very pleased with what another hon. Member said about the situation at home; what are His Majesty's Government going to say about economic conditions at home at the end of the war? Take the textile industry of Lancashire, employing 700,000 people in one county. Because of tariffs, restrictions and quotas all over the world, that trade was reduced to about 50 per cent. Those are the problems to which His Majesty's Government ought to call attention. In the coal industry we have lost many of our markets. What are His Majesty's Government going to say about the coal industry? What about payment for goods by barter instead of payment in gold? I am a novice in these things, but I understand that the British and French Empires and the United States can pay for their goods in gold. Germany and other countries have no gold.

I do not want to be too critical, and in any case not a word of mine must be taken as giving the slightest indication that I sympathise with Hitlerism. I detest Hitlerism, detest it wherever I see it—in our own country on occasions. We have met it here at home, and I suppose we shall meet it here later on. For the sake of the boys who are prepared to fight for this land, I make this appeal for a statement of our peace aims. I have attended annual conferences of the Inter-Parliamentary Union almost all over Europe, and I am sure that most of the people who attended those conferences from time to time and who believe in the things that we believe in—democracy, freedom, liberty of opinion, liberty to worship as we please—will rally more to our cause in their own countries if His Majesty's Government will tell us what we are fighting about in this war.

I do not know what hon. Members feel about London, but I am very sad about it. It is no joy to me to know that the working classes have been blown sky-high in Berlin and in Hamburg merely because our people have been treated in the same brutal fashion in London, Manchester and Liverpool. The time may well arrive fairly soon when this view will be more generally accepted about these things. Greater men than I have stood here, John Bright among them, and he once said something like this: I have heard a hundred arguments in favour of war, but I have yet to listen to a good one. I was elected to Parliament because I opposed the last war, and if I am to be fair to my conscience and to myself, I must say once again in this House that war has settled nothing in the history of mankind—nothing at all. Some day, when the statesmen of Europe have blown their respective towns to pieces, they will hold a great banquet, and then they will ask each other, "What is it all about?" Before then, they will have killed millions of people, and women and children will have fled from their capital cities to find refuge somewhere else. I hope that the House will forgive me for saying things about which I feel deeply in regard to war; but unless I am mistaken, the statesmen of the belligerents must get together soon, or they will destroy these two capitals. Buildings that were erected by the craft and genius of men of long ages ago are being blown to bits in the twinkling of an eye. I do not like the work of genius being destroyed in Germany, France or in our own country, I appeal, in order to clear the diplomatic air a little, that the Government will, at long last, tell us what we are fighting for.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

We have just listened to a very emphatic and sincere speech from the front Bench on this side of the House. I rise to support my hon. Friend, although possibly not in the same terms or with the same eloquence or vehemence. I am convinced that the time is long overdue for the Government to make a positive declaration of what we are fighting for. My profound conviction is, whether it be right or wrong—and one can say only what one does believe—that such a declaration would have a profound effect upon the working people of Germany as well as upon the working people throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth. I was profoundly dissatisfied that the Prime Minister should tell us to-day that he still thought that the time was not ripe.

I should like to know, when the Debate is being wound up, especially as the Minister of Information is to reply, whether our propaganda is not entirely at fault. Who has made Hitler really popular in Germany since the war started? I am not speaking of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Information, because his office has been through various vicissitudes; but, without any doubt, it is our own propaganda that has done so by rallying all the elements sympathetic to us behind Hitler. I know that the House will rise and oppose me when I answer my next question, but who has made our present Prime Minister really popular among the people in this country? Dr. Goebbels, because he keeps on telling our folk and the people of Germany that our Prime Minister is the one man whom the people of Germany should really fear.

I question very much our methods of propaganda, but I have intervened particularly in order to take the Minister of Information to task on a matter over which I had some correspondence with him in the past few weeks. On 19th July this year, Herr Hitler made a speech in German. I think I am right in saying that it was made at about 6 o'clock in the evening. At 9 o'clock that night, the British Broadcasting Corporation, through a gentleman with whom I am not personally acquainted but whose name is Mr. Sefton Delmer, broadcast a reply. Mr. Delmer said: We throw back the appeal in your teeth "— that was an appeal to reason. I agree, after reading the appeal, that there was not an awful lot of reason in it. I saw the speech which the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to send me. It went all over England, but several copies reached me too. Mr. Delmer went on: Our reason, our national strength, our feeling of honour and justice and our sense of responsibility to the world demand that we fight on with all our might for the freedom that you wish to destroy. All right; I am not complaining at all with what Mr. Sefton Delmer said. The point is, is it right, and is this House of Commons going to put up with it, that the British Broadcasting Corporation should apparently answer for the great British Empire a speech made in German at 6 o'clock in the evening, through the voice of a person of no importance employed by the B.B.C.? I think it is entirely wrong. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Information protesting against that course having been followed. He replied: I have had inquiries made and Mr. Delmer, while speaking in his own name as a private individual known to certain members of the Nazi Party, expressed comments which were made with the full knowledge of the relevant authorities and in consultation with them. I was amazed that a speech broadcast in Germany at 6 o'clock and rebroadcast three hours later in England should not first have had better consideration from responsible people. I wrote to my right hon. Friend, and I told him that I should like to know a little bit more about what he meant by saying: with the full knowledge of the relevant authorities and in consulation with them. He replied that the discussion took place With the appropriate officers in the Ministry of Information, and I myself listened to Hitler's speech. People in the Department of Propaganda of the enemy were also listening. None of us had any doubt as to how Hitler's speech could be answered. Neither was there any doubt in the Foreign Office or among the population. How he knew that by 9 p.m. I do not know. I am protesting not against the answer but against the method of answering. I consider that when a speech of that importance is made, whether one agrees with it or not—and I am bound to say that I found myself in almost complete disagreement with it, but I should have had a much better answer than Mr. Sefton Delmer—it should have better consideration before an answer is given on what is regarded as the national means of communicating with the outside world. I wrote to the Minister again on 11th September and said: Am I to understand that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had not himself approved the broadcast, and am I further to understand that the Prime Minister was not consulted before the reply was sent? Again, to my surprise, the Minister of Information said that it was not a reply to Hitler's speech but a commentary on it, and that what might be regarded as an official reply was given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs three days later. In my opinion, and the opinion of many people outside this House who are much more competent to judge than I am, a speech of that importance should not have any reply sent to it until consideration is given to it by the responsible authority in this country. Surely the responsible authority in this country to make a reply to a speech of that kind is the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if possible after consultation with this House. I hope that no other speech of that kind will be answered until full and clear consideration has been given to it by the people responsible to this country.

Let me turn to the point of this Debate, that constructive aims should be stated by His Majesty's Government. I have been accused recently, after a speech in this House, of not putting forward constructive proposals. Let me say that I have put forward constructive proposals, since 1st October last year, until I am tired of doing so, and that nobody in the Government takes a bit of notice. I dare say that one day—perhaps not while I am alive—people will find it possible to agree with what I put forward. In order that there shall be no doubt, let me now say that I want to tell the German people, and all the peoples of Europe, that we do not seek to reconstruct Europe as it existed prior to 3rd September last year. I am not prepared, on any account whatever, to support the tariff-ridden Europe which we knew before the war. If we are to have peace, tariffs must go; and as soon as we, as one of the leading nations, make it clear that that is a policy that we support, the better it will be. Most of us are not prepared to support the international moneylenders' racket. I hope that that is a matter that we shall discuss to-morrow. I want to see the complete abolition of the present monetary system ultimately based on gold; and the sooner we make our currency system relate itself to the productive capacity of the countries concerned, the better for everybody. I would like to see it made clear that the British Empire, with its enormous land areas and resources, is prepared to do something for the security of Europe. All of our immense areas of land and our natural resources are, for some man-made reason, now under the undisputed control of the monopolists. Make it clear to all people, whatever their creed, however much they may be our enemies, that these restrictions will be swept aside, that we will do our utmost to bring economic security to all the peoples of Europe; and in that way assure that, in so far as in us lies, peace shall be brought to all the peoples on this earth.

The Minister of Information (Mr. Duff Cooper)

The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) devoted a great part of his speech to criticism of the Government for their action in allowing a reply to a speech by Hitler to be made by a distinguished journalist the same day. I was extremely relieved to hear that I had given the hon. Member a perfectly sound reply to every question he asked on the matter. It seems to me that what the hon. Member is complaining about is not what Mr. Sefton Delmer said, or the way in which he said it, but simply that he said it without sufficient collaboration with the appropriate authorities.

Mr. Stokes

The authority of the Government.

Mr. Cooper

I was going to say that Mr. Sefton Delmer, whose name is well known in Germany, where he was a foreign correspondent for many years, took care that nothing he said should commit the Government, and that steps were taken to see that nothing he said should embarrass the Government. All that my hon. Friend says is that he would have liked more time to have been given for the speech to be considered. There, he has my sympathy. With regard to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), he has given warning that he would raise the matter, but it was only this afternoon that I heard of it.

Mr. Mander

I gave definite notice to the Parliamentary Secretary last Thursday that I would raise the matter to-day at four o'clock. I think I am perfectly in order. If my right hon. Friend was not informed, that is not my fault.

Mr. Cooper

The hon. Member will accept my word that the first I heard of it was after one o'clock to-day. Therefore, on this subject of the first importance I have not had an opportunity of consulting my colleagues. I think the Debate has certainly done no harm and may have served one or two useful purposes, except for the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), which frankly was the speech which we might have anticipated from him, rather emphasising our responsibility for the war and minimising those of the enemy, a speech prompted by a very genuine hatred of war, a speech which asked what we are fighting for. Most of us are well aware what we are fighting for, which is a very different thing from our final war aims. Except for that speech, I have heard nothing with which I could quarrel. The speeches have served to show how important the subject is, and also how difficult it is. Whether this was the exact moment to raise it is another question. The two reasons given by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton were not, I think, convincing.

Mr. Mander

I was asking a question with regard to the statement broadcast in the Press that the Government were holding a number of meetings at which statements would be made with regard to their war aims, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what that means and what is being said.

Mr. Cooper

No such official statement has been issued. The Ministry of Information has been running a campaign explaining the Imperial situation of the British Commonwealth of Nations to the people in the country, to reinforce the knowledge that they already possess of these matters, and one of the statements we have issued says that this Commonwealth of Nations will give the world, after the war, guidance in the right way of facing up to the problems presented by Germany's attempt to dominate the world by force, by a new combination of nations, a new experiment in international co-operation based on consent. This must surely form a guide to any international experiment which may be undertaken after the war. That is all that was meant to be said.

I think the Debate has also demonstrated the extraordinary difficulty of proceeding in any detail towards a definition of war aims. I am certain that the majority of us are pretty plain about what we are fighting for. As the hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) said, we did not start this war in order to introduce any new improvements in the world. We struggled against this war. We did not wish to be led into this war. We saw that there was much in the world that needed improvement, but we did not see any problem that needed improving so badly or any improvement in any way that we would like to introduce that would justify the desperate policy of entering into an international war. We stand for a certain way of living. We think that that way of living, that form of comfort, has in this land at least given to our people for a long period the greatest blessing and political institutions; it has given them order, liberty and progress. Perhaps order has occasionally been disturbed, but less than in any other country. Perhaps the liberty has been limited, but it has been more extended probably than anywhere else in the world. Perhaps the progress has been too slow, but it has at any rate been set and always in the right direction.

Mr. Stokes

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept his definition of democracy as being a state which allows you to be idle, starved and grumble about it?

Mr. Cooper

I will not enter now into an argument with my hon. Friend as to definitions of democracy, but certainly the last definition, the right to grumble about it, is one that I hope will always be reserved to our people. As far as idleness and starvation are concerned, there has been less idleness and starvation in this country than in most other countries. When we come down to defining exactly what it is we are going to do after the war, I was challenged by the hon. Member for Westhoughton as to exactly what the countries of Europe are going to be. The solution of the Polish question and the Czech frontiers are absolutely matters that no one can deal with in the House of Commons—not while the war is raging. But when we get beyond that general basis of agreement, immediately we find differences of opinion, and in any statement that the Government may make in the future, the most desirable of all things is that they should command the greatest possible unanimity, not only of all people and all parties in this country, but of all people and of all parties throughout our great Dominions, and also of all those nations whose Governments are still upon our side and who are still our Allies; and also that will make the widest possible appeal to those men of good will and lovers of freedom who are now the slaves and vassals of our enemies. That is why it is so difficult and delicate a problem. Even this afternoon, in such agreement as there has been, there has arisen on one Bench a difference between two Members opposite and, therefore, when you come to think of the scope of the problem with which we are faced, you must make allowances and give power to those who are struggling to face them.

I admit quite frankly the desirability of issuing a statement as soon as possible, but "as soon as possible" does not mean haste. There should be no undue haste in issuing a statement of this kind. As far as unanimity can be achieved, it will be a good thing, when we are in a position to do so, to make a statement. Meanwhile, we are all, with one solitary exception in this House, clear as to what it is we are fighting for. We are clear why we went to war. We saw the hand of tyranny gradually being extended ever Europe, and we saw one free nation after another, one small Power after another, falling a victim to this hideous tyranny. And we have seen their own culture extinguished; we have seen their citizens reduced to slavery. That is not the opinion of the hon. Member opposite, but I can assure him it is the opinion of 99 out of every 100 in this country. When we saw that that same threat was coming ever nearer to us and that it threatened those upon whose friendship we relied and would eventually threaten the whole world, then only did we take arms to defend our liberty and the freedom of the world.

Mr. Stokes

May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? That is what we are fighting against and not fighting for. We are fighting to destroy that. That, I understand, but it is no use fighting for a negative object. You must have a positive one, and the sooner that stated the better.

Mr. Cooper

We are fighting for our liberty. When we walk about the streets of London we see how buildings have been destroyed. Some of them may have been beautiful houses, and some may have been ugly houses. If we had been asked a year ago whether we wanted to destroy those houses in that way, we would have said, "No, let them stand and serve their purpose as long as possible." But now naturally it is our duty to take thought of how, when the time comes, we can build them up again, better and more useful than ever. Equally this world which is now being destroyed by this terrific war, a war which we never desired and which we were prepared to do almost everything to avoid, when this war shall have destroyed a great part of the modern world, it will be our duty then, as it must be our duty now, to think how we can rebuild a more and more beautiful fabric.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.