§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
Last Tuesday, in the concluding passages of his speech in Committee of Supply the Prime Minister gave a short review of the war situation, placing against the facts which give us encouragement the continuing menace of the Nazi military machine. His review was necessarily brief, and I think the House would wish, before we part., for a more extended consideration of recent events and of the condition of our affairs. We should, I think, consider the existing situation in the light of past dangers overcome, and future perils against which we must guard, the first to prevent us from falling into exaggerated pessimism, and the second to save us from dangerous optimism, and I think, to indulge in the latter is probably our greatest temptation at the present time. There are satisfactory features in the present phase of the struggle which make it difficult for even the most philosophical of us to prevent, like Dr. Johnson's friend, cheerfulness from breaking in. But there is nothing wrong in being cheerful, provided we do not allow ourselves to relax our efforts.
We should recognise that our better situation is only comparative. Although we have come through great dangers and trials, we are still righting for our very existence against a very strong and ruthless enemy. One outstanding fact of the position to-day, as compared with a year ago, is that Hitler is now fighting on two fronts. That is a thing which the German leaders have always striven to avoid. This time last year we stood alone, expecting the full force of the Nazi effort to be turned against us, against this Island, which was then the only part of Europe in arms against him. He did attack us vigorously from the air, he did wage war unceasingly against us by sea, but the invasion, which then seemed imminent, has been postponed. Nothing could be more 1974 foolish, however, than to imagine that postponement means abandonment. The possibility of that attempt being made remains, and must remain, a constant factor in all our considerations. We have to remain strictly on guard. Instructions have been given to all our Forces at home to bring to the highest state of readiness their preparations against invasion. Our Army at home is well-equipped and well-led.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
The right hon. Gentleman refers to Hitler fighting on two fronts. Which are the two fronts?
§ Mr. Attlee
They are the West and the East. Our ground defences are incomparably stronger and our air strength immeasurably greater than they were 12 months ago. We are confident that should the enemy attempt invasion by sea or by air, he will be destroyed. But nothing whatever must be left to chance.
To-day our eyes are naturally turned to the gigantic struggle which is raging from the White Sea to the Black Sea. Throughout the" whole of that enormous battle area, the Russian Army and people are putting up a magnificent fight against the massed forces of Germany and the hangers-on of the Nazi regime. It would be very foolish for anyone to attempt to forecast what will be the outcome of that struggle, but it is abundantly plain that the plans of the German High Command for a rapid victory have not succeeded. As long ago as 13th July the Germans claimed that the Stalin line had been pierced at all decisive points, and that the roads to Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev were open. This claim has certainly not been substantiated. If these roads have been open all these weeks, why have not the Germans marched on their objectives? In the far North, Murmansk remains in Russian hands. Russian resistance is stubborn, and the enemy has a considerable way to go before the railway line from Leningrad to Murmansk is reached. On the South shore of the Baltic the thrust towards Leningrad has made no real progress recently. Tremendous fighting is taking place in the Smolensk area, but the way to Moscow is still far from being open, while in the Ukraine, Kiev, the capture of which the Germans claimed some three weeks ago, is still a bastion of the Russian defence. It is clear from the 1975 communiqués of the German High Command that they have been disagreeably surprised by the determination, courage and fighting quality of the Russian Armies. They have discovered that even when the German armoured columns break through, the Russian troops, instead of surrendering, fight on, and even break out when apparently they are surrounded. From the tone of the German statement it would appear that they consider that is hardly playing the game. It may not be the Nazi game, but it is a winning game. The Russian Air Force continues to play its great part. It is quite clear that the Germans have sustained heavy losses in men and material. I am quite sure everybody in this country has been stirred by this splendid resistance to the invader.
As the House knows, we are doing our utmost to give all the assistance we can to our Russian Ally. A British Military Mission was at work in Moscow six days after the German invasion, and a Russian Mission has been at work in London for about the same time. We are taking urgent steps to furnish Russia with war materials and other supplies for which she has asked. The activities of our Fleet up in Kirkenes and elsewhere In the North show how, in the only area where physical contact with the Russian Forces is possible, we have lost no time to effect it. But above all, while the Russian Armies are stemming the attack in the East, our bombers are delivering increasingly heavy attacks on Western and Central Germany. Whenever weather conditions allow, our attacks proceed without cessation and with growing weight, while the depth to which our aircraft can penetrate increases as the nights lengthen. During the month of July alone, 70 attacks were made on towns in Germany, and 76 on towns in German-occupied territory. A heavy weight of bombs has been delivered and with great effect. These keen blows will be continued and intensified. In addition to the night bombing, there have been numerous offensive sweeps by fighter aircraft and daylight bombing raids with or without fighter protection. I do not think there can be any doubt as to the effect those attacks are having both on German morale and on German communications and industries.
In the Middle East our Air Force has been active, too. There have been 126 1976 attacks on various targets, particularly on Beirut, Benghazi and Tripoli. In all these contests we have lost 285 aircraft, while we have destroyed for certain 410 units of the enemy's air fleet. In comparing these figures with those in other periods of the war when the ratio of aircraft destroyed was so much more in our favour, it must be remembered that the true standard is not that of September of last year. Then the Germans were attacking this country in force. It was the Germans who were sending their aircraft over here by daylight and losing tremendously. Now it is our turn to attack over enemy territory by night and by day, and the results show the evident superiority both of our men and machines. The House will not expect me to give any indication of the other steps which are being taken to help our Ally, but it may rest assured that within the limits of the practicable everything possible will be done. The essential feature of the aid that we can give is not that it should be spectacular, but that it should be effective.
Let me turn now to another part of the battle front. During the past two months the enemy has continued his efforts to achieve success in the Battle of the Atlantic. As was anticipated, he was able with the coming of spring to put an increasing number of U-boats into the water against us, and we in our turn had made early provision to meet this danger by providing more anti-submarine craft. The "Flower" class corvettes have been doing invaluable service as escorts to our convoys. In the course of the last two months, owing to the heavy' scale of our defence in home waters, the enemy has tended to range further and further a field, so that the sea battle is now fought over an immense area, extending far into the Atlantic towards the coasts of the United States of America, and far South in the tropical seas of North Africa. In this battle we have, of course, suffered severe losses, and we shall not be satisfied while those losses continue; but we can look back on the last two months with reasonable satisfaction. I cannot give the House detailed figures without presenting the enemy with information which he would very much like to have, but I can say-that our imports are maintained at a satisfactory figure in spite of all the enemy's efforts. Our convoys of vital supplies continue to arrive. From nth July to 28th 1977 July, the enemy were unable to broadcast a single claim to a successful attack by U-boat. However, in the last few days of the month the U-boats did make contact with one of our southbound Atlantic convoys. A large force was employed and a great effort made, but a still greater effort was made by the Nazi propagandists. They claim to have sunk 116,000 tons of shipping, in addition to a corvette and a destroyer, while a vivid description was given of a destroyer squadron sailing round the convoy in zigzags, whilst an auxiliary cruiser directed the movements of the convoy and of the protective forces, which included Q-boats. The next day they raised the tonnage sunk to 140,000 tons. What are the real facts? There were no destroyers, there were no Q-boats and no auxiliary cruiser present, as the convoy was protected by corvettes which gave a very good account of themselves, as the U-boats have reason to know. I cannot give the exact details of tonnage sunk, but we know enough to state that the enemy's claim represents an exaggeration of at least 350 per cent. and probably 700 per cent. If there were really solid grounds for enemy satisfaction, it would be unnecessary to indulge in these flights of fancy.
No one of any judgment will contend that we have yet won the Battle of the Atlantic. But we can say that in this vital part of the battle we are holding our own and that the enemy has up to now failed to prevent the ordinary transport of food and munitions across the sea to this country. It is worth remembering that the war at sea is not just a question of defending our own ships and our trade routes against the enemy; it has also its offensive side. The more enemy ships we can destroy, the less is the chance of successful invasion and the more is the enemy hampered in all his operations. In addition to the losses inflicted upon him by the Royal Navy, the Air Force is taking an ever-increasing toll of his shipping. July was a good month. On the North Sea and Atlantic coasts we destroyed, damaged or put out of action 69 ships, amounting to a tonnage of 291,000 tons, and that is not accounting for hits made on small craft, barges, tugs and the like. In the Mediterranean the numbers were 23 ships, totalling 168,000 tons, while another 30 ships were hit and considerably damaged. 1978 Attacks were also made on warships, with satisfactory results.
Apart altogether from the attacks on smaller units and the attacks on warships, 459,000 tons were sunk, damaged or put out of action in that month. When we consider that the target offered by the enemy is infinitely smaller than that which we afford to him, these results must certainly cause him anxiety and contribute to the need for putting out the extravagant claims to which I have referred. Members will have seen in the Press those vivid accounts of the successful convoy of stores through the danger zones of the Mediterranean, under constant attack by sea and from the air. It is difficult to praise too highly the conduct of those most difficult operations. They called for high skill and courage by our protecting naval and air forces, and the flag officers in charge have reported that the skill and determination of the officers and men of the Merchant Navy, who man the ships and convoys, is outstanding.
I would like here to call attention to the admirable work done by the Royal Navy in supporting the operations in Syria. The primary task for the Forces operating under Admiral King was to prevent supplies reaching the Vichy forces and this entailed the maintenance of patrols by day and night for five weeks. The result was that no sea-borne reinforcements and no effective supplies reached Syria during this period. But, in addition to this, the Fleet effectively supported our land Forces by bombardments from the sea and dealt successfully with attempts by Vichy warships to intervene in the conflict. Many of these were damaged, and although our own ships sustained some hurt, no ship was lost during these operations.
There is little new to say about the situation in the Middle East. The right flank of Egypt in Syria and Iraq has been cleaned up by the elimination of the Germans in the Levant. Our presence on the Turco-Syrian border will confirm and fortify our friendship and Alliance with the Turks and enable us to afford greater protection to the inhabitants of Cyprus. In the South-East only a small pocket of Italians is holding out at Gondar, helped by the rainy season, which makes operations very difficult. Elsewhere, in Abyssinia, the Emperor Hail Selassie with the 1979 help of a Cabinet has begun the reconstruction of his country—the first country to be freed from the aggressor's yoke. Advisers have at his request been placed at his disposal by the Government, and financial assistance is being afforded. On the left flank, in Libya, while there is no major fighting to report, there is constant offensive patrol activity, both on the Libyan border and at Tobruk, where the vigour of our fighting patrols is keeping the enemy in such a state of continuous nervousness that he has to illuminate the desert at night by searchlights. Meanwhile, day by day and week by week tanks, guns, planes and supplies continue to arrive in the Middle East, and our reorganisation and training for the next forward movement will go on.
There is another great fact that differentiates our situation from that of last year. It is the vastly increased scale of assistance which we are receiving from the United States of America. Not only does this stream of material exceed anything which we received in the last war, but it is sent to us under the extraordinarily generous terms of the Lease-Lend Act. We have, as hon. Members will know, been recently honoured by the presence of Mr. Harry Hopkins, whose visit had for its main purpose the promotion of ever greater assistance under this Act, but important—very important—as is the physical help we are receiving, no less encouraging is the sense of spiritual unity between the English-speaking peoples. By independent but parallel action in relation to Japan, the United States of America and the British Commonwealth have again affirmed their community of interest wherever liberty is threatened. The House will remember statements made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 25th July and 30th July as to the action which was recently taken by Japan, with the forced consent of Vichy, to establish naval and air bases in South Indo-China, and also the economic measures which have been taken by the United States, the Netherlands Government and the Governments of the British Empire to meet that threat.
Despite official Japanese protestations that their motives are purely defensive, His Majesty's Government are maintaining the utmost vigilance, especially as the tone of the Japanese Press does not accord with that of the official assurances. For 1980 instance, on 31st July, a leading Japanese newspaper remarked that it would be fortunate for the Netherlands East Indies if they were to learn from the despatch of troops to Indo-China and peacefully revise their attitude. There is also plenty of evidence that Japan is directing her attentions to Thailand in a manner which bears an ominous resemblance to that which preceded her incursion into Indo-China.
The House has already had an opportunity of welcoming the recent Polish-Soviet Agreement, which closes an unhappy chapter in the history of both these Allies of ours and will, we hope, open up the way to a happier future. A further step is the gathering together of the peoples of Europe and the world against the spirit of aggression and domination by Hitlerite Germany, as is shown by the full recognition now accorded to the Government of Czechoslovakia by His Majesty's Government and the Government of the U.S.S.R. We have been glad recently to welcome to these shores the young king of Yugoslavia, General Simovitch and other members of that Government. With the rulers and Governments of other countries overrun by the invader, who have taken refuge here pending the liberation of their countries, we are in the closest collaboration.
Men of many nations are now fighting alongside of us, but there are millions in Europe who are with us in the common cause. There is clear evidence of a rising tide of resistance to Hitler's rule in all the countries he has invaded. When Napoleon invaded and overran the greater part of Europe he was welcomed in many countries by large sections of the population. He was able to set up kingdoms and principalities without resistance; indeed, often with some acquiescence. It was many years before there was any real uprising of the nations. But no show of friendliness by the Nazis has been able to persuade the peoples of Europe at any moment, or even for a moment, to welcome Nazi rule. From the start, there has been solemn resentment and growing opposition; and it increases week by week and month by month. The "V" campaign is no stunt. It is not a project of a Goebbels propaganda machine, but the spontaneous expression of the desires and hopes of civilized 1981 human beings who long for deliverance from barbarian rule. These hopes and desires are turning to us. It is to our victory that they look for salvation. Our aeroplanes flying over these countries, although they bear death and destruction, are welcomed because they are the messengers of life and freedom.
This great volume of support for our cause is a source of strength for us, but it must not lead us for a moment to relax our own efforts. The enemy is still very powerful. He may at any time turn his heavy weight of attack upon us. Because for the last few months air attacks have been fewer and less intense, we must not imagine that they will not sooner or later be renewed. We must continue to improve our defences. We must not think that because we have made progress in weapons against the night bomber, the night bomber has ceased to be a menace; and, although we have strengthened our armaments, the claims on our resources are very heavy, and there must be no- slackening of production. While we welcome help, it is for us to do our utmost. We have a great responsibility. The nations of Europe look to us, not only to destroy Hitlerism, but to show by practice, as well as by precept, the true alternative to Hitler's new order. In the British Commonwealth of Nations, a polity wherein the freedom of every part does not detract from the unity of the whole, we demonstrate how it is possible for peoples diverse in race, language and religion to work together on the basis of a common way of life. In the countries of the Commonwealth we show how men and women may hold different opinions and yet co-operate together for the common good. In this Commonwealth we show how, even in the midst of war, free criticism is not suppressed and justice is demanded even for people of hostile origin. We cannot foresee either the time or the circumstances of our victory; we cannot tell either the trials or the difficulties we have yet to endure; but we know that when victory comes, as come it will, we shall have to take a leading part in helping to establish a world of peace, freedom and social justice.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal has made a survey of the war which is very compact—so compact 1982 that it is difficult to realise that he did in fact cover the whole field—and at the same time restrained. Nevertheless, behind the restraint of his statement, I think we can find reasons for fairly solid satisfaction with our existing conditions, and I think he was very right, while not asking us to indulge in undue optimism, to point out that we can with considerable thankfulness compare our situation to-day with that in which we stood at the corresponding Debate at this period of the Session last year. The Prime Minister in his last broadcast pointed out that there had been four climacterics in this war. The first was the fall of France, under the shadow of which we met this time last year and as a result of which there was, as far as I could see, only one people in the world who were convinced that we were going to survive—that was ourselves. Since then, before this Russian campaign began, two other of these turning points in the war have come to pass. The second was the Battle of Britain, and the third was the passage of the Lease-Lend Act, the importance of which I was very pleased to hear the Lord Privy Seal point out, because those two events are day by day swinging the long-distance forces of the war more and more on to our side, although it is, of course, a fact that it will be some time, well into the next year, before we have sufficient superiority in equipment to be able to take any initiative on a large scale.
In the Debates that follow these general statements, I sometimes think it is not of much value for speakers to wander over the whole field of the war and that it is better to confine themselves to positive suggestions on a more limited scale. Therefore, I am going to confine myself practically to one chief suggestion. I would like the Government, and particularly the Foreign Secretary, to consider whether the time is not arriving when political warfare may be just as important as military warfare can be. Hitherto, Hitler has led the way in political warfare, and it is largely through that that he has conquered a large part of Europe. We have not had a large supply of munitions for this kind of warfare, because we have not had very striking positive successes, but I am impressed by the fact that although we may still not have great dramatic victories, there is a shift in the whole balance of the war. Events are imperceptibly taking place as a result of 1983 which a general situation has developed which may give us an opportunity for a political counter-offensive before much more time has passed. For that we ought to get ready now.
I will spend a few moments in surveying the war to explain why I have come to this conclusion. For some time one great anxiety that we have all felt was that although next year we may have the superiority, meanwhile Hitler might so dig himself in that it may be exceedingly difficult to dislodge him. That is why this Russian campaign has been rightly described by the Prime Minister as the fourth climacteric of this war. In this connection I was especially pleased with the tribute, which I take it was made on behalf of His Majesty's Government, paid by the Lord Privy Seal to the valour and endurance of the Russian Armies.
With regard to this Russian campaign, the Lord Privy Seal was quite correct in pointing out that it was too early to make any prophecies. There seem to me, however, to be two conclusions which already stand out. Hitler, in most of his campaigns in Europe, for instance, in Poland and Yugoslavia, has hitherto been able to win lightning victories because he has broken the communications and supplies of the opposing forces so that they were never able to mobilize—in fact, he won his victories without meeting the main forces at all. It has always been well known that it would take the Russian Army at least five or six weeks to mobilise, and Hitler may have had good reasons for thinking that this strategy could be repeated. But already that possibility has been destroyed, and it is fairly clear now, however many Russian towns he may take, that he will not reach a decision by disposing or the Russian Army. The other factor is that if he is to get a decision, he has to obtain it before the winter, otherwise the Russians will have an opportunity of reorganising, which they will be able to undertake with the now promised assistance of the United States. This is leading up to the political warfare I have mentioned. I am trying to show how the war is shifting its balance into a favourable situation.
The Lord Privy Seal devoted a passage of his speech to the operations in the Mediterranean. I consider that he would have been justified in pointing out how, 1984 in the end, these operations affect the broad final issue. We have had our disappointments, in Crete and in Greece, as well as our triumphs, but the fact is that, if we now look back, we see that the obstinate delaying actions of the British Forces in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East have taken away from Hitler the one thing he could not afford, and that is time. We now see that the supreme justification for all the operations in the Mediterranean is that Hitler is now acting within a time-limit. We are now seeing him forced practically to begin from the beginning, and forced to take an immense risk at this stage in this speculative Russian adventure after he has conquered the whole of Europe. That is a fact which we ought not to forget when we speak about the Russian resistance. The enormous part which the Mediterranean campaign has played in precipitating it may prove to be Hitler's final undoing. These are the reasons why it has seemed to me for some days past that political warfare should now be regarded as being in the forefront of our war services. I know that when one says that, I may be told, "Of course, everyone agrees with you about that." But I mean that the Government ought to concentrate now on this form of warfare with the same intensity they have hitherto shown in the Mediterranean operations.
There is a great danger that the part which political warfare can play may be under-estimated, because of the dilemma that when we have not much success it can be said there is no opportunity for political warfare, and when we have success it can be said there is not much need for it. When nations have to make a frightfully difficult decision, the balance is often turned by the minority which is not quite sure of its mind. That happened in France. That balance can be affected by propaganda and political warfare. I say it happened in France. I believe the final vote on the decision to capitulate was carried by only one vote, and undoubtedly the men who surrounded M. Reynaud—quite a small number of men—could have shifted the balance into one direction or another at that critical moment. It was the propaganda of Germany in the previous six months which was able to turn the scales, and that is why political warfare may be more important than battles. If I am right in saying that it is the 1985 propaganda of Germany which turned the scales, then it means that propaganda robbed us of the French Navy, of the French Air Force, of the French colonial territories, and committed us to a campaign in Syria, and is now involving us in extra difficulties in Indo-China.
I foresee terrible and frightful times facing the nations of Europe in the next few months. There may be equally perplexing situations in which the balance may be turned without a very large margin of safety, and where political warfare may play a decisive part. I am glad, therefore, that the Lord Privy Seal referred to the part which can be played by the enslaved nations of Europe. There are tens of millions of Fifth Columnists now on our side who are available in Europe, and the position of Hitler may be very easily turned into a liability. He is not getting any troops from them, and he has exhausted all the loot he captured. He cannot use them to any large extent for production so long as we keep our grip on the raw materials, and they have open to them methods of ca' canny, non-co-operation, sabotage and other methods of unarmed warfare which the Gestapo cannot prevent, and which will surround them with a most terrible and murderous enemy.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Will my right hon. Friend say in what countries he is suggesting political warfare should be carried out for this purpose? Does he include Germany?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
For the moment I was referring to what are called occupied countries, because the Lord Privy Seal devoted a special passage in his speech to them. I had intended saying something about Germany, and I am coming to that point now. I think we have to face this fact. Whatever happens in Russia, Germany remains with one great advantage. She has round about 250 divisions, and it needs very little calculation to show that our man-power cannot provide an Army approaching that figure. This is again where political warfare comes in. Even if Russia stands on the defensive successfully, that will not make it easy for us to conquer Europe by mere military means—by pushing through and driving the Germans back from the Russian frontier. In the last war we certainly broke the Hindenburg line, but German was 1986 broken from within, and it was the demoralisation of the home front that led to the disintegration of the German army. That is the lesson that we have to learn. I begin to realise the intense apprehension with which the German General Staff is watching this possibility. I notice a very great contrast between the kind of appeals to the people of this country and the kind of appeal that is made in Germany. When a year ago the Prime Minister told his colleagues that all he could offer them was blood and tears and toil and sweat, the people of this country thought it applied to them and regarded it as a stimulating observation. I notice now, in reading the communiqués of the German General Staff week by week, that they do not dare to allow the German people to be disappointed for a single week, and that is why at this stage we may soon reach a period when political warfare may shorten the length of the war by months.
This brings me to a point upon which I think the House will have to make up its mind. I have for some time discussed this question of political warfare with those concerned, Civil Servants and others who have had to give their attention to it for many months, and I find that a very large number of them say it would be very difficult to produce any great disintegration among the German people unless they have some idea as to what is going to be the alternative to Hitler. This is not asking for peace aims. It is practical strategy. The Prime Minister has invited the German people to break the Nazi regime to pieces. If they do so, what then? We must show them some light at the end of the tunnel. I do not regard this in fact as a very difficult problem for us to face. I have listened to a good many discussions here and have read in the Press of what are called peace aims, but I think there is a great distinction between political and economic peace aims. Political peace aims appear to me to be simple. They must prevent Germany plunging Europe into war for a sixth time, and I do not know that at this stage we need go more into detail than that. What I think the Government should take into account is that at this moment, in Germany, I am sure, and even in Europe, economics are more important than politics, and, Unless we solve Germany's economic problem, no political constitution will survive. My 1987 belief is that the old German trade unionist, the old German Social Democrat, who, as a matter of fact, is a considerable part of the armies of occupation throughout Europe now, and who never voted for Hitler while he was free, is more interested in economics, and what he is trying to visualise is the choice that he has between Hitler and starvation.
I see no great difficulty, because, reading the speeches of various Members of the Government, it appears to me that we have an economic policy for the German people which is humane and which is reassuring. The Prime Minister stated in one of his most famous speeches, on 20th August last year, that he was collecting great reserves of food and raw material which would be immediately rushed to the assistance of Europe, and in particular of the German and Austrian peoples, as soon as the war ended. The Foreign Secretary last week, in a passage which I thought very far-sighted and very comprehensive, pointed out that it was not our policy to cause Germany to collapse economically. He said that a starving Germany would be poison to the whole of Europe, and that certainly means that in the task of economic salvage and economic reconstruction as the result of the appalling impoverishment which will face Europe as soon as the war is over, and which it will be one of our first tasks to deal with, Germany will be taken into account.
I do not think more is necessary. I am not asking for an extended statement. It has been stated, but I think it ought to be made clear. My practical suggestion is this: The Government under the Minister of Reconstruction is drawing up its plans for the post-war reconstruction of Europe. I think we should be prepared with economic plans so as to be ready to make them public and put them before the people of Europe, and particularly of Germany, when the moment for an economic counter-offensive arises. That is what I should like to see done. I recognise that we shall have to choose the right moment, but I feel that the right moment may come before very long. It may come before we have a big full-dress discussion on the war again. The war up to the present has certainly shown that political warfare can play a part which is as important as battles or campaigns.
§ Mr. Nunn (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
I do not wish to follow the very interesting speculations of the right hon. Gentleman, but I would ask leave to occupy the House on one specific point, the position in the Far East, especially in relation to Japan's action in Indo-China. I suppose there is not a single Member of the House who has not known for a long time the very definite policy of Japan. It is not a new policy. Somewhere about 1887 the late Lafcadio Hearn laid down in black and white, in lectures to young military students in Tokyo, practically all that has been going on in the. last few years. There is no. question that Japanese policy has been both definite and deliberate, but we have seen a great development in the last few days. Japan is now definitely installed in Indo-China. What I want to refer to particularly is the great danger which now menaces the adjoining country of Thailand. One hopes that Thailand will escape. On the other hand, all the indications are that she is at the moment in great danger.
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary whether he can give the House any indication—although it may be difficult for him to do so—of the line the Government are going to follow in connection with the threat to Thailand. Japan now stands on the border of that country. The territory between Indo-China and the main portion of Thailand, especially when the rainy season is over, is very good for mechanical transport. It is a very dry country and one can go over it for weeks at a time and hardly find water. So that communication from the east into Thailand is one of the easiest things possible. There are plenty of airfields and there is nothing in the way of physical obstruction to supply and communications. Again, from the sea Thailand is particularly vulnerable and despite the courage and spirit of its people it has no adequate force with which to withstand occupation.
Japan is already in Indo-China and she may perhaps in a few days be in Thailand. How does that affect us? Before we consider that we may perhaps consider how it affects Thailand. It is true that since the revolution of 1932, which was very mild as revolutions go, Thailand has become increasingly friendly towards Japan. It is a natural revulsion of feeling among the new members of the Government against the old system of westernisation.
1989 Thailand has never had any intention of breaking relationships with those old friends of hers who, after all, have done some good work for her and have felt a real affection for her. We in this country have always stood well with the Thai people. We have done them some service and they have done us very valuable service. During the last war they sent us a small expeditionary force to this country, but that was not the really valuable help they gave us. I happen to know about it because I was connected with the work which they were helping to carry out. They did very friendly work to this country at that time, and I am sure that everyone, especially the old stagers in Thailand, will regret very much if any break should occur between their country and ours. They may be forced into that decision. If Japan begins to put heavy pressure on them they may not be able to withstand it and they may be forced into the position of ranging themselves with the Axis. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would not have the faintest desire to visit such an action with even the mildest form of disapproval because he would understand better than anyone else how helpless they are. He would understand that in their hearts they do not want to break with us. I have some slight personal interest in the connection between the two countries being maintained. I ought to acknowledge that interest because it is to some degree financial.
I feel, apart from that, however, that it would be a great tragedy to Thailand if the break occurred. It would be a greater tragedy for us. The position of the Japanese in Indo-China is dangerous enough, but if they move into Thailand our position would be even more serious. We should find the Japanese on the borders of Burma and just north of the Federated Malay States. I know that certain pundits in the Press have made great play with the fact that there are great inpenetrable jungles between Thailand and Burma and between Thailand and the Federated Malay States. I should not like to use a colloquial phrase in regard to that, but it is really so much nonsense. Between Thailand and Burma on the extreme north there are three perfectly serviceable roadways which have been used for motor traction for many years past. 1990 Lower down there is another perfectly serviceable road; and another lower down still at a place usually known as the Isthmus of Kra. I think I am the only Member who has walked over that isthmus, and I did it mainly in the beds of streams. To-day, however, there is a good road which mechanised forces could pass over in a few hours. It runs from the Gulf of Siam and finishes up on the borders of Burma. Lower down still there is a first-class road which has been there for 35 years. It would bring the Japanese out on the Bay of Bengal side in a commanding position in relation to the Malacca Straits and, indeed, Penang. On the east coast at Singora there is a large inland sea which dredging at the bar could make into good harbourage. Lower still in Patani Bay there is harbourage which is perfectly good except in the north-east monsoon. Dredging again would make first-class harbourage. In 1605 John Davies of arctic fame was killed here by Japanese pirates. Perhaps it is a coincidence that Japanese pirates are again operating in that area now. There are these two potential harbours which would bring the Japanese on the borders of Penang. There are railways on both sides of the country.
The seizure of Thailand would mean a direct threat to Burma and a much more serious threat than anything which could, be imagined in connection with the seizure of Indo-China. I need not emphasise how serious a disturbance in Burma might be especially if coupled with a disturbance on the North-West Frontier of India and trouble in Turkistan so that there would be a threat on both sides at once. Is it possible for the Government to give serious attention to what appears to me to be the only way to stop further adventures on the part of the Japanese, and that is to declare in definite, unmistakable terms that if any further step is taken, it will be equal to a declaration of war? I know that it is a serious thing to do, but it would not really make things much worse than the position we are in, because if the Japanese go into Thailand, obviously they are going to fight us, and it is much better to take the position by the horns and to make our move on them first, before they get thoroughly settled. I know there are tremendous difficulties in the way, but all warfare is full of difficulties—I know the difficulty in connection 1991 with the United States—and I submit most earnestly that we shall be in a much worse position if we leave it until the Japanaese have established themselves in Thailand. It is much more difficult to throw anybody out of a position than to prevent them from getting in, and there is the possibility that a definite declaration of the character I have suggested might well halt the Japanese. It is what we are playing for, We do not want war, but we do want them to stop where they are.
The Japanese have made a great conquest. They have conquered Indo-China. It may be that that conquest might be of sufficient face-saving value to them to modify their action as regards China. It might well play some part in preventing worse work in China. It might even work towards causing them to withdraw from the Chinese undertaking, and in that way we might be doing a great service to China. It is just possible that the Japanese, if they were told quite definitely that any further action on their part would mean war, would reconsider the situation, and even if they did not, I think we should be no worse off. I know how the fuller information which is possessed by the Foreign Office may change the whole aspect of the situation, but we who are outside feel very great anxiety about what is happening out there, not only on account of that gallant little country-Thailand, which has been free throughout all its history—the word "Thai" means free—but because our own definite Empire interests in the Far East rest upon halting Japan where she is. It is possible that she would halt, and with all the earnestness at my command I express the hope that His Majesty's Government will take this matter into the gravest consideration and that if they are to act, they will act quickly. A day, two days, three days may be too late. It is ho good calculating and discussing the position for weeks. If anything is to be done, it must be done now, and I hope it will be done.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
Before I speak on the particular aspect of this subject which I should like to touch upon, I should like to support the appeal which has just been made by the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn). I served in the Far East, and in my particular job I had to study Far Eastern politics, and I believe the hon. Member 1992 will agree with me that it is a fundamental characteristic of Japanese policy that whenever the Western Powers are in difficulty in Europe or in any other part of the world the Japanese take advantage of that fact to try and sneak some slight advantages to themselves in the Far East. They generally ask for much more than they have any hope of getting, as witness 21 demands on China in 1915, and as soon as they see any signs of real resistance there is some chance that they will halt. There are certain clashes in Japan between the Choshu and Satsuma clans representing the military and naval authorities, on the one hand, and certain perhaps rather timid elements on the business side, and there is not complete unanimity behind the scenes in Japan, and I agree with the hon. Member that if appeasement is no good against Germany, it is absolutely useless against the Japanese. It is not understood by them except as evidence of material weakness.
In the few minutes during which I shall address the House I want to back up the speech made by the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). The Lord Privy Seal said in his speech, and I agree that it is a very important point, that we have now got our enemy fighting on, at any rate partially, two fronts. I feel that what we have to do is to make him fight on three fronts, and the third is this front of political warfare. In surveying the general war situation my right hon. Friend did not say very much about propaganda. He mentioned the "V" campaign, and that helps as far as it goes, and as long as there is a possibility of its going a great deal farther than the mere gesture which it is at present, the little which was said about propaganda, or as I prefer to call it, political warfare, sems to me to be significant and frankly that the position is unsatisfactory, I think there is plenty of evidence to show that the Government do not at present attach that importance to political warfare which I think should be attached to it, and I feel that many other Members agree with me, and I am sure also that the country instinctively feels that we are not doing anything like so much as we ought in the field of political warfare.
There was recently a Debate upon the work of the Ministry of Information, and it was really a most extraordinary occasion, because hot a word was said, except 1993 from the Government Benches, in support of the proposals which the Government were putting forward. Unfortunately, that Debate centred round a "red herring," the question whether the Service Departments or the Ministry of Information should have the last word in issuing news to the Press. While that is an important point, it really is a matter of detail, and has nothing to do with political warfare at all. What has happened, so far as I could judge from the Debate, is that we have got back to what we had in the last war, a news department, and I am sure the new Minister of Information will be a very efficient Minister in charge of the news department; but that is all a matter of detail and of no importance from the point of view of political warfare.
The other thing which came out in that Debate, as far as I was able to follow the conclusions of the Government, was that in future the Foreign Office, with the assistance of an additional official there, will issue "directives" to the Ministry of Information on political warfare matters. I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary will tell us something about how that is working, and what directives have been issued, but I hope that he will not take refuge too much in the idea that we must not give any publicity to this subject, because in regard to political warfare the argument that things must be kept secret has very little validity. If we really want to get propaganda out in a big way, the only real objection to putting it out in this way in public is, perhaps, that a certain amount of time has to be devoted to meeting criticism, often perhaps uninformed criticism, from our own people. The argument about secrecy has nothing of the same validity in this matter as in connection with military operations.
So far as I can understand and follow the present position, we are still in a state of affairs in which there are really four organisations concerned with political warfare. There is the Foreign Office, which will issue directives on policy. Then there is the B.B.C. No doubt two arguments can be put up there, either that it is independent or that it is not, and a case can be made out for both according to the views of the speaker. But for ail practical purposes the B.B.C, through the various people who are asked 1994 to broadcast, is an organ of political warfare. I can assure the House that people who broadcast, with the best desire to follow any line that His Majesty's Government think it useful to give them, do not find it at all easy to discover what the actual line is. Then there is the Ministry of Information, which in various ways is connected with political warfare matters. There is another organisation which perhaps I had better not specify by name.
We cannot pretend to take political warfare seriously until we have a Minister whose job it is to co-ordinate those different bodies. I do not think I object to the existence of the separate bodies. Possibly it is advisable to have separate machinery to deal with separate aspects of the matter, but I am certain there is nothing like the co-ordination there ought to be among their activities. As was clear from a Question I asked yesterday to which I got the "No, Sir," answer it is evidently not the Government's intention to take any action on the lines of setting up a Minister of political warfare who should have a chief executive who should sit with the Chiefs of Staff. Until we get are cognition that the Minister as chief executive should have the status of a Chief of Staff nothing will convince me that we are taking political warfare seriously. In total warfare, especially total war which is ideological, it is essential' that the political warfare should be co-ordinated with and linked with the military operations.
Let me give a small practical example. So far as one knows, we are in contact with the German army in two places, Tobruk and somewhere near Sollum. During the months that we have been in such contact has any political warfare been carried out in relation to the German troops? I am certain it would have been, had the organisation of Dr. Goebbels been in a similar position. Are we carrying out political warfare in Libya behind the German lines? I do not know, but I see no evidence that it is going on. What is being done in regard to the Italians?
There are people who say that political warfare is not really of great importance. I cannot help feeling that this is also the general opinion of the Government. I would like to give the House briefly some reasons why I think that that is not a 1995 sound opinion, and why I think that political warfare is of vital importance, and never, more so than during a total war of an ideological character. All military operations are undertaken in order to break the enemy's will to resist. You carry out military operations against the enemy in order to make them change their minds. This is a simple way of putting it—too simple for staff colleges, where this idea has to be wrapped up in long words. But it is an accurate statement of the facts. While you are doing military operations, it is common sense and perfectly practicable to launch a psychological offensive against the enemy. You say things to them in order to cause them to reflect and to weaken their resistance. This method of adding to your military operations has various advantages. In order to carry out military operations you need very prolonged preparation by putting up factories, collecting raw material and securing manpower. None of those things is required in political warfare, which needs relatively unimportant and inexpensive machinery to put ideas across.
What is our plan at the present time? What are we proposing to put across? In one part of the speech of the Lord Privy Seal it seemed that the right hon. Gentleman held out the general framework and Constitution of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I entirely agree with him. It seems a most admirable method by which independent peoples can work together, but does it mean that we are painting a picture of something like it for Europe after the war? If so, we had better say something about it. What have we actually said? For purposes of my own, I have collected all the statements that have been made by Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and other eminent persons since 1939. Although I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley said, there is a great deal in these collected statements that could be put to effective use, particularly upon the economic side. If Dr. Goebbels has collected these statements on the other side, he can paint a different picture. I defy the Lord Privy Seal or anybody else to make a summary of what they amount to, because authority for almost any point of view can be found in them. 1996 One simply cannot wage political warfare until one has cleared away all these divergencies and produced a simple statement indicating a general line. The other day the Prime Minister made a statement at the County Hall, which I thought was of the greatest importance. He said we should continue to hit the Germans until we had destroyed the Nazis, and then he used these words:But it would be better still if the German people would rise up and do this.That is 60 per cent. of what is required for political warfare, but you need a little bit more. You need some indication of the benefits that will be derived by Germans who are prepared to do this kind of thing, as well as of the penalties which will fall upon them if they do not take such action. If we could get a substantial number of Germans to rise up and assist us in destroying this abominable regime, the conversion would be much more permanent than if we had to win the war without assistance from anybody inside Germany. Looking to the future, I say that we want a body of people inside Germany who could say, "We risked our lives and did dangerous things in order to destroy the Nazi régime."
Almost exactly the same situation arose in 1918. If the House will excuse me, I will read a few lines from an interesting memorandum produced in 1918 by a body of people who were got together in Crewe House at that time. They included the editor of the "News Chronicle," Mr. Wickham Steed, foreign editor of the "Times," Dr. Headlam Morley, and others. The memorandum used these words:It has become manifest that for the purposes of an efficient pro-Ally propaganda in neutral and enemy countries, a clear and a full statement of the war aims of the Allies is vitally necessary. What is wanted is something in the nature of an authoritative text to which propagandists may refer with confidence and which can be made the standard of their activities. It is not sufficient to recount the sins of Germany and to assert that the defeat of Germany is the Allied war aim. What all the world desires to know is what is to happen after the war. The real war aim of a belligerent, it is more and more understood, is not merely victory, but a peace of a certain character which that belligerent desires shall arise out of that victory. What, therefore, is the peace sought by the Allies?…That passage from the memorandum of 1918 might have been written to-day. It 1997 was not until Lord Northcliffe's opinion that propaganda must be based upon and related to policy, was accepted by the Government, that British propaganda began to have that effect on the enemy to which grudging tribute has been paid by Hitler, Ludendorff and other German leaders. The kind of question upon which we have to make up our minds in a general way in this, and I know it is an awkward question, upon which there will be differences of opinion in different parts of the House. Is a distinction to be made between the Nazi regime and, at any rate, a section of the German people? Are we to try and drive a wedge between them? Some prominent and authoritative people say "Yes," and some say that we should not. I wish to put my own view very frankly. I think that we should try to drive such a wedge. I agree with the analysis made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley about the; military outlook. I think we have to face up to the fact that it is a difficult military situation. It is impossible to say what may happen in two, three or four years' time, but at the moment we have a rather formidable task on our hands, and it is no use trying to avoid that conclusion.
If the Russian front holds, which one hopes it will—and there is a possibility that it may—then obviously that will cause a profound impression inside Germany, and favourable circumstances will be created for us to strike hard at them on the psychological front as well as striking at them with bombs. I have found an extraordinary idea among some people that if one is keen on political warfare, one wants to fight a kind of "cissy" war without dropping bombs. That is quite incorrect; the more bombs dropped on enemy bodies the more vulnerable their minds become; the more we can assault their bodies, the more susceptible their minds will be to our argument, and I do hope it will be understood that those who advocate political warfare are not asking that there; should be any reduction of physical pressure on the enemy. If, on the other hand, things do not go as well as we hope they will in Russia, our military position will be even less satisfactory than it is now, and it will be more than ever necessary for our military operations to be supplemented and assisted by political war.
Here I would like to add a word of warning, because it is all involved in the 1998 importance or otherwise of political warfare, on the question of bombing. I think it is rather dangerous to assume that by aerial bombardment material damage can be caused of such a vast and far-reaching character that the enemy will be forced to surrender. I sincerely hope I am wrong in that estimate, but I think we should be cautious in thinking that too much can be done by bombing. History shows that the defence always catches up with the attack in due course, and it would not altogether surprise me if the historians of the future said that in 1941–42 bombing reached the kind of peak reached by the submarine in 1917. I think it is arguable that night-fighting methods, ground defence, dispersal and so forth will considerably slow up—I will put it no stronger than that—the rapid progress which aerial bombardment has made up to the present time. If we look at our own situation, we must honestly admit that if we had taken some elementary precautions, a lot of the damage done in this country need not have been done. The enemy will learn from his experiences, as we have done. Psychologically, we may perhaps expect more from it there, but here again I must say that those who are suffering psychologically from air bombardment are those who at the same time are more susceptible to political warfare.
I feel that the Government sometimes have a perfectly legitimate grievance in regard to the criticisms which are made, inasmuch as they can say that the critics do not put forward any constructive ideas. I have an idea to put forward, and although I have been very critical on the subject of political warfare, I hope that the Government will understand that in putting forward such criticism one is trying to be helpful. I think the first rule which would have to be adopted by any person appointed as a Minister of Political Warfare would be, "I must create an agenda for controversy inside Germany." Then he will have to say, "How do I set about that?" The general line on which I should proceed in such circumstances would be as follows: I would not, of course, have any communication with the Nazi regime, but I would say to the German people, "You have been promised a famous New Order by your leaders. It is to be a new heaven upon earth, and you are going to be in a very favoured position. I will not argue with 1999 you about the merits or nonsenses of your New Order, but your leader also says one profound truth, and that is that you will never get it so long as the British are standing on their legs, you will never get it until the British are destroyed. "Then I would say, "He is absolutely right, you have no hope of getting a New Order while Great Britain is standing on her legs. What you are certain to get is a permanent war order, of an increasingly uncomfortable character, because not only are we on our legs, but we are being reinforced by the Americans, and we can assure you that your position will go on being increasingly uncomfortable." Strange though it may perhaps appear that I should say this when we are still on the defensive—and I will explain in a moment why I should do it—I would then say, "You have to appease us before you can get rid of this permanent war order. I am ready to tell you right away how you can appease us, and if you want to stop this permanent war order, you can only do it by accepting our minimum conditions. You must get right out of every single occupied territory and get back inside the pre-Munich frontier. If you will do that as an actual act—promises are no good—the bombing and so forth may stop."
My purpose in putting forward a proposition of that character is that I find it utterly impossible to believe that any Nazi regime or leader could possibly get away with suggesting to the Germans, after all their great victories and sacrifices, that the circumstances of the war had now reached such a pitch that they had to get out of Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, Greece, etc., in a vast evacuation. It seems to me that that is where an agenda for controversy might arise, because sooner or later Goebbels will have to go to the leaders and say, "What is the story for this season? Am I to go on telling them that the British will be knocked out in three months' time? It will be very difficult to persuade the Germans of that, when more and more four-engined bombers are going over every night and when the blockade is becoming better and better, and when large coastal raids are taking place "—and I may remark in parenthesis that I hope to hear about them in the not too distant future, for coastal raids are one of the Army's important roles. 2000 "How can I go to the German people," Goebbels will say, "and tell them that we are going to knock the British out this season? It does not make sense. What story am I to give them?" That is where I see controversy starting in the Nazi party, and possibly also between the Nazi party and the German General Staff. Once that sort of thing starts happening, it is impossible to say what will follow, but you have got something started, the avalanche is moving and then you can go ahead with the campaign for stirring up trouble in the oppressed territories.
One last point. Some people may argue that this is not the time to say that kind of thing, because it will look like a sign of weakness. My reply to that is that the Germans, at the moment, would, I expect, think it rather ridiculous if we suggested to them that they should now pack up their bags and retreat inside the pre-Munich frontier. I would rather like them to say that. I would reply, "Wait and see," and then, after six months of an intensive campaign of bombing, I would say to them, "Does it seem so funny now? I am not saying that because we have survived the winter. I am saying now what I said six months ago, when you were led to believe that you were on top of the world." I am only sorry that we did not say what I have suggested, or something along those lines, six months ago, so that we could now be saying to the Germans, "Now, look back, and see if it was so ridiculous." Therefore, I do ask the Government, most earnestly and sincerely, to look into this question of political warfare seriously. If they do not accept what I say, let them set up a small committee to see what can be done to use political warfare in a big way. I do beg of them to take political warfare much more seriously. I honestly believe that it is perhaps the chief key to victory, certainly a most important factor in victory.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate until I heard the two last speeches, because it seems to me that it is extremely difficult for any private Member in this House to offer his opinions on matters of this war and its conduct without the knowledge which the Government possess. I listened to the statement made by the Lord Privy 2001 Seal, and I felt that I could have made it myself without any kind of information available to the Lord Privy Seal. He scarcely touched, for instance, on the two subjects which have been dealt with so effectively by the two last speakers. Take what the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) has just said. It seems to me that this matter of political warfare has scarcely been dealt with at all. I am perfectly certain we shall never get any satisfactory solution until what he has suggested is carried out, that is to say, that a representative of the Minister of Propaganda, or of the Minister of Information, should sit on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and political warfare has become what it ought to be—one of the prime methods of defeating the enemy in this war. It is quite clear that at the present time we are in a much better position than at this time last year. No one disputes that for a single moment. It is equally clear that we are not in a position in which we can effectively help in the resistance which is being offered by the Russians to the German invader, and we have to face the fact that, at a time when we ought, if we were sufficiently prepared, to be in a position to take offensive action, and real offensive action, against the Germans in occupied territories, we are not really in a position to do so.
I agree entirely with what the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk has said, (hat political warfare and its prosecution must be accompanied by a vigorous offensive all the time. We have to show the German people that we can, even if we are not in a position to attack them on land at the moment, make life utterly impossible for them at home. I personally welcome every intensification of the air offensive at the present time. To turn to what my hon. Friend the Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn) said, it seems to me that he, with his great local knowledge of the situation in that part of the world of which he spoke, has given the Government extremely wise advice. I am sure that if we are to maintain our position in the Far East, it is high time, I do not say to call the Japanese bluff, but to show the Japanese that we do not intend any longer to submit to the kind of action which they are taking at the present time. If one is a private Member one is faced at once with the difficult position, when one makes a statement of this kind, that one does not 2002 know whether we are really in a position at the present time to stand up to the Japanese. I should like to know from the Government whether they are satisfied that our position is sufficiently strong in that part of the world.
I remember that, in the old days, when I had a certain part in the direction of affairs, we were always being challenged with the fact that at a time of great economic stress we went on with the defence of Singapore. I do not suppose that any Member of this House, to whatever party he belongs, regrets that we stood up to the opposition we received in those days, and went on with the strengthening of Singapore. What one does want to know is whether, at the present time, should matters really come to a head, we can be satisfied that our defences in the Pacific area are sufficient for the purposes they may be called upon to endure. I did not find any indication in the statement of the Lord Privy Seal on this matter. I venture to suggest that any Member of this House could have made the speech which the Lord Privy Seal made, and could have made it equally well, because it really contained no information that we did not already possess.
It is quite obvious to me, and quite obvious, I think, to any Member of this House, that it is wholly undesirable at the present time that the Japanese should be allowed to instal themselves in Indo-China or anywhere else in that part of the world, because it threatens us very gravely in India. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Newcastle said, it is a grave threat to India. I should like to know from the Lord Privy Seal, or whoever replies for the Government, whether he is satisfied that our defences of India are sound and adequate to meet anything that can be brought against them.
Finally, I should like once again to emphasise the importance of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk, because I am certain of this, that if we are to beat Germany soon, if we are to end this war, we cannot lose a single opportunity of using propaganda to the best effect. I agree with him that at this particular moment it may, when the Germans are the masters, so to speak, of every other nation on the Continent, seem ridiculous for us to say that we in this country are determined that Hitler's 2003 Empire shall not endure and that the new order shall not be established. But you have to sow the seed, you have to make the German people realise what I have tried to make every German with whom I have come into contact realise, that this Empire will not let Germany take its place in the world, that we are determined to maintain our position and that we are certain we shall do so. If you can get that across; if you can begin to make the enemy realize that, although they have been successful everywhere, they are hated everywhere and have failed to make the people under them happy and contented to receive them; then, although they have the whole world at their feet, sooner or later, when they are less successful, when the bombing continues, when they make no further progress, you may create a rift in the lute, without which I am perfectly certain you are not going to beat this particular German attempt to dominate the world. I beg the Government to realise the importance of propaganda, and to study it in a much more effective way than they have done up to the present.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
Before I turn to the main subject on which I wish to speak, I would like to refer to the Government's warning to the nation to make all possible preparations against events which may follow from 1st September. If it is important—and I have no doubt that the Government have reason to think it is important—that we should be prepared for the events of September, there should be more collaboration between the central authorities and the local authorities on food distribution. At present, the local authorities have no knowledge of the plans of the central authorities on this matter. At least one tactic of the Germans in the event of invasion in this country may be to cut off the big towns, and so present them with a serious problem. In that event, it would be of great importance that collaboration between the central authorities and the local authorities should be as close as possible before the situation arises. I do not want to pursue that matter further now. It is a question which cannot be pursued closely in public debate. One of the disadvantages from which we suffer in this House is that, although public 2004 debate is highly desirable from the point of view of the nation, there are a great many matters which Members have to take up privately with Ministers, and, therefore, the public do not know what is actually taking place in Parliament.
My next point was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall). He referred to counter-propaganda with the German forces. I hope that the Ministry of Information and the War Office are very well prepared with counter-propaganda in the event of the Germans ever effecting a footing, even for a short time, on these shores. I hope that there are already in the files of the Ministry of Information copies of the "Volkischer Beobachter," etc., to be distributed among the German people, with information about crises in Germany and so on.
That brings me to my main subject. It is a question which was opened by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), and referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk. There is no doubt that the Germans are undergoing a very severe psychological test. In Germany a great measure of discontent and mistrust of the Nazi regime is slowly growing up in all the great centres, and even in the countryside. It is clear that even a nation of 80,000,000 has not illimitable resources in manpower and in materials to face the array of force against them. They are in an exceedingly disadvantageous position. We must take into account that Hitler may have gone into Russia, not from motives of strength but from motives of weakness, not to clear the Russian threat away before he sprang upon this country, but because he believed that the Russian Government intended eventually to come down on the side which they believed to be strongest, because he believed that the Russian Government on balance desired that the democracies should win, and because he thought that the moment the democracies showed signs of being superior to Germany on sea, on land and in the air, and as soon as it appeared certain that their resources would wear down the German people, the Russians, in their full strength, would make terms with the democracies regarding the resettlement of the world after the war. It may be that Hitler and the Nazi regime desired to forestall that position, desperate 2005 as the gamble was, in order to take refuge in a stalemate, which might enable the Nazis to get out of the position in which they found themselves, without the ultimate catastrophe, in which they would be certain to go down. If that is true, it is clear that Hitler is to-day, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley has intimated, faced with an extraordinarily grave situation. He finds himself faced not with victory, but with virtual defeat. Time is against him, and as the summer runs out and he fails to make progress towards Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev, he is in an entanglement from which there is no escape. The position is one which has no issue except the defeat of the entire Nazi regime.
If that is so, we have to take advantage of the situation, which is materially different from that with which we were faced a few months ago. Are we taking advantage of that situation in our propaganda to Germany and the occupied countries? I hope that my hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he replies to the Debate will tell us something about it. Following upon what my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said, I want to make the point that propaganda can have any real meaning only if it is based on policy. That obviously presents us with the dilemma that if we are to make our propaganda effective we have to adumbrate our policy, not only to our own people but to the world. There are many and considerable objections to telling the German people in any detail, or even in broad general outline, what we are going to do with them if we gain the victory. There are objections which start in this House. There are hon. Members who hold very divergent views. Some think—and who should blame them?—that we should exact from the German people the ultimate measure of retribution for the crimes they have committed not only against this country but against humanity. There are others who think, not that that is an unjust or an unreasonable point of view, but that it is most certainly unwise. It is extraordinarily important at this juncture that we should reconcile those different points of view. We have our differences, which will spring up again when the war is over, but at the phase which the war is now undoubtedly approaching it is important that the nation should remain united. There are objections to issuing in any detailed form what 2006 is to be our policy, but there are still greater objections to refraining from saying anything at all.
The Foreign Secretary recently laid down two basic principles on which our policy must stand: First, that war must not be repeated; second, that Germany must not be economically destroyed. These seemed to me to be admirable bases for approaching this problem, but sooner or later we shall have to go further, either by gradual stages before the war is over, or in the midst of the turmoil, confusion and bitterness which will spring up at the moment the war is over. I suggest that it is extremely important that we should go further before the war is over by unfolding, by gradual stages, our policy, not only to ourselves, but to Germany and the world. The basis of our post-war policy, as has already been laid down by the Government, must be concerned not only with the avoidance of the two catastrophies which have befallen mankind during the last 25 years, but must also be concerned with the establishment of social security, and it is clear that if we are to formulate our peace terms in any effective way, they must be bound up with the drawing-up of the terms of our social security programme. That makes the position more complicated than it was before. There is a body of people, with the Minister without Portfolio at their head, who are now engaged in plans for reconstruction. To most back benchers this body is now rather vague and formless; it exists somewhere beyond the sandbag sentries and policemen in Whitehall and rather reminds one of Mr. Belloc's description of the armies of Napoleon, after Moscow, "Somewhere remote from men they bivouac in silence round the most splendid of human swords."
The silence which surrounds this body is one of the great difficulties in connection with this problem of formulating our peace aims, because the two things are bound closely with each other. We have to bear in mind that if we want social security in this country, we must also have social security in the world outside. After the war we shall have to bear a great responsibility with the United States and the Soviet Republics, and in my opinion we cannot begin too soon to enter into negotiations with both these great countries to lay down the basis of the new order after the war. There will have to be the disarmament of Germany, 2007 and the countries allied with her, and it is no use diverting our attention from the fact that if we are to disarm Germany, we must look forward to the time when we must either impose rigid limitation of armaments on all countries or face the problem of rearmament springing up again all over the world. There must be guarantees by the victors for the frontiers of the nations which come into being. We cannot create a new Poland, a new Czechoslovakia, a new Hungary or a new Austria without taking upon ourselves the responsibility of seeing that they can exist in the post-war world. These things will mean a heavy and permanent responsibility, both economically and financially.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said that these economic questions will be the main portion of our post-war problem and that they were something which could be largely separated from the political instrument. I doubt, however, whether that is well-founded. Sooner or later, if Germany is to be in a position of economic prosperity, she must come to the conference table with other people and take part as an equal partner in the discussions that will arise. Once you get economic equality, you are more than half-way to political equality. We must have confidence that when peace comes we shall be able to build a new order commensurate with the sacrifices which have been made. I suggest with all earnestness that it is extremely important that we should begin the process of building and planning now, and that this should be part of our weapons to bring down the Nazi Government and force the German people into a new collaboration in the world, so that the ideals which have so long dominated Germany may be utterly destroyed. If we do that, this war will not have been in vain. If we fail, the last notes of the trumpet will die away and darkness will fall upon us.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
The Lord Privy Seal, in giving us his review of events, bade us consider the present situation in the light of the past, and warned us, quite rightly and wisely, to be neither over-pessimistic nor over-optimistic. It seems to me that our demeanour should be that enjoined upon the newly-joined midshipman when he goes to sea, that he should be cheerful but 2008 subdued. But if one reviews some of our mistakes in the not too recent past, one is almost led to wonder whether we are entitled to the present good fortune which undoubtedly is ours. Certainly, we are very much better situated than we were at this time last year.
In considering the war situation, I think it should be borne in mind, both by the Government and those outside this House, that constructive criticism of the Government or of events should not be regarded either by the Government or by constituents to imply either opposition to the Prime Minister and the Government or any spirit of defeatism. As I see it, it is the plain and unalterable duty of every Member of Parliament to offer criticism and comment when he is not satisfied either with action that has been taken or with the results that have flowed from that action. Many people seem to forget that Parliament is just as important a part of the war machine of the British Empire as are any of the Services. The Prime Minister himself has stated that he welcomes criticism, and in my view, both the Prime Minister and the Government might well be fortified by it. On 27th February, the Prime Minister said:It is the policy of this present Government to raise and sustain the personal status of Members of Parliament in every possible manner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1941; col. 734, Vol. 369.]The Prime Minister having said that, I was a little surprised by an allusion he made in a recent Debate that criticism came from those who had not done a day's work in their lives. In looking at my fellow Members, I think that most of us can say that in our lives we have done a pretty good day's work in one direction or another. The Prime Minister's best friends may well be those who venture to offer to him criticisms and suggestions. There is in London at the present time a musical play in which one character portrayed is a somewhat dominating, overbearing director of a film studio, and in a song which he sings he says what he considers should be the attitude of everybody who is in his employment; it is that they should always say to him, "Yes, Mr. Kelly." I think it would be a great mistake for an opinion to grow up in the country, as I am afraid it has, that the Prime Minister wishes to be surrounded only by people who are prepared to say, "Yes, Mr. Churchill." I am sure the 2009 Prime Minister's strength, and the wonderful position which he occupies in the eyes of the world and of his own countrymen, would be maintained and increased if people felt that when they offered reasonable criticism they were not looked upon as being enemies or obstructionists.
It is common knowledge, which both the Prime Minister and the Government must, of course, share, that the general public was very apprehensive concerning events in Libya and in Greece and that the Debate on Greece on 6th and 7th May did not by any means allay the feelings of the community or reassure it. The reverse which we sustained in Crete most profoundly disturbed public opinion, and the Debate which took place on the whole question of the campaign in Crete by no means allayed the misgivings felt in the country. The Prime Minister made a very great speech on that occasion, but he did not really answer the criticisms that were offered. Whether they were fully or adequately expressed in the Debate is another matter, but they certainly existed, and I think they still exist. For example, why were no steps taken in proper time so to construct, defend and maintain such adequate airfields in Crete as would have enabled us to exercise that aerial strength in fighters which would have defeated the German attack upon the Island?
In my opinion, the troubles which came upon us in Libya, Greece and Crete were due to the same basic cause, namely, the departure from a fundamental strategy based on sea and air power. In the past, whenever we have neglected the lessons of history and have departed from this fundamental strategy based upon sea and air power, we have inevitably and invariably met with disasters and reverses, and precisely the same effects will follow the same causes to-day. During the Debate on Crete, the naval aspect of the reverse which we suffered there was hardly touched upon. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) was the only Member who mentioned that aspect of the affair. That does not mean that there were not others who would have been anxious to say something about it had not the limited time at our disposal made it very difficult for hon. Members to be called in the Debate. Therefore, many 2010 criticisms which might have been made remained unvoiced.
One lesson which I think we have learned during the last few months is that public opinion is growing impatient at the paucity of the news which it is given. The Debates on the Ministry of Information, statements in the Press, and views expressed at Question time by hon. Members all go to show that the public is not satisfied with the news which it is being given. It is inevitable that in war reverses must come, and it would be very foolish to over-estimate their importance, or, as the Prime Minister aptly said, to lose our sense of proportion. We may have other and worse reverses before the war is finally won. It may well be necessary, on occasion, to hold back from the public certain items of news lest the enemy profit from them; but I believe it to be dangerous to hide from the British people, during war or at any other time, what need not be hidden, or to try to minimise to them the effect of reverses, whether great or small.
Perhaps I have in the past trespassed unduly on the patience of the House in trying to have some discussion of the terms of the agreement for leasing bases in the British Empire to the United States of America. It does not seem to me that there were any reasons why the House and the people of this country should not have been told exactly what was contemplated and exactly what was the meaning of that agreement. I venture to remind the House, if reminder be necessary, that since the publication of the agreement there has not been in the Press of this country any comment or criticism of it. For the first time, in my opinion quite rightly, in the common defence of the democracy of the West and the democracy of the British Empire, we have agreed to place at the disposal of our great friend and Ally, the United States, certain parts of the British Empire. But it is significant that the Press has not made any comment. I suggest that the Press has not been allowed to make any comment, and that is a very dangerous thing. The freedom of this House and the freedom of the Press stand or fall together; if one goes, the other goes.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest 2011 that the Government have exercised a censorship over the Press with regard to that matter?
Sir A. South by
I think that a wish can be expressed which is even more binding than any censorship.
§ Sir A. Southby
I do not know. I am not in the Government, and I am not as closely associated with the Government as perhaps the hon. Member is. I do not know whether the Press are censored or not, but I venture to suggest that they were instructed not to comment upon it. I am one who most heartily agrees with the principle underlying the transfer of these bases. We had a Debate quite recently on the subject of the American loan, which I understand is broadly designed to pay for what we received from America prior to the passage of the Lease-Lend Act. One of the reasons why there was to be no discussion in this House—and I asked the Lord Privy Seal on more than one occasion for an opportunity to discuss the leasing of the bases—was because the passage of the Lease-Lend Bill was imminent. If this recent loan upon which we had a discussion in this House was in order to pay for what we had prior to the Lease-Lent Act, and we now have that most excellent and helpful Lease-Lend Act, what was the consideration paid for the transfer of British territory to the United States for the common defence of both our countries?
What are we getting in return for the leasing of these bases? I have heard it suggested in private conversation, both inside and outside this House, that these bases have really been turned over in part settlement for the debts incurred by this country for the last war. If that be true, I suggest the people of this country should be told. There can be no reason why they should not be told. Then it has been suggested that they may have been leased in part payment for the 50 destroyers. I suggest that both our American friends and ourselves would not be prepared to say that the 50 destroyers are an adequate return for a 99 year lease of bases so vital to us as Bermuda and so forth. I quote that as a case in point. The country has 2012 never been told what is the principle underlying the transaction of the leasing of the bases.
§ Commander King-Hall
Is it not possible there may be no commercial considerations, but that it is purely a matter of mutual interest and welfare?
§ Sir A. Southby
That may be so, but why not tell us? After all, we are making a pretty good contribution to the common good.
§ Sir A. Southby
And so is the United States. The Syrian campaign has been brought to a successful conclusion. But I cannot help thinking that we should have been in an infinitely better position to carry it out had it been embarked upon before our reverses in Greece and Crete. In spite of what has been said by Government spokesmen, there is no doubt that the minds of many people are not too happy in regard to our conduct of affairs in Egypt and in the Near East. After General Wavell's magnificent series of victories in North Africa we held all the trump cards. The effect of those victories on French North African opinion and on opinion in Spain was tremendous. If hon. Members cast their minds back, they will agree that the electric effect which went round the world when the news of these successes came through was tremendous, and might have turned the scale of public opinion both in Spain and in French North Africa in our favour. Egypt and the Suez Canal were safe, and the Moslem world was deeply impressed by our victories. What is the position to-day? Almost all our gains in Libya have been thrown away. It is true we have had a successful campaign in Abyssinia, and that we have put the Emperor back on his throne, and it is also true that we have had a successful campaign in Syria, bnt Egypt and the Suez Canal are again in danger. We are on the defensive in Libya, and the fact that the offensive by the German forces 2013 which were transferred to North Africa has not been pressed recently is due to our Russian Ally and their occupation of German attention on the Russian front.
The possibility of losing Egypt and the Suez Canal is something which has to be borne in mind. It cannot be viewed with equanimity. And yet there was an article which appeared in the "Times" some time ago which almost went so far as to say that if we did lose Egypt and the Suez Canal, it would not matter too much because, so long as we were not beaten in the Western approaches, we were all right. To a certain extent that is true, because the only place where Hitler can win the war is in the Western approaches to Great Britain. But the effect in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India and China if we failed to hold the Canal would be incalculable, and, therefore, at all costs we must hold Suez and the road to the East. It must be obvious what are the effects of our reverses in the Eastern Mediterranean in regard to the Western Mediterranean, and what happens in the Western Mediterranean affects the whole conduct of our campaign in the Western approaches. General Wavell is one of the finest generals this country has ever produced. He ranks in military genius with men like Marlborough and Wellington. His campaign in North Africa was a triumph of the military art. I cannot help believing, in regard to our Greek commitments, that his considered opinion was in fact overruled by the Government. In his speech in the House of Commons on 9th April the Prime Minister said:When we look back upon the forlorn position in which we were left in the Middle East by the French collapse, when we remember that not only were our Forces in the Nile Valley outnumbered by four or five to one by the Italian armies, that we could not contemplate without anxiety the defence of Nairobi, Khartum, Cairo, Alexandria, Jerusalem and the Suez Canal, and that this situation has been marvellously transformed…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1941; col. 1589, Vol. 370.]That was perfectly true. We realised then that there was deep cause for satisfaction; but, to-day, while our situation in the Near East is by no means forlorn, it has certainly been transformed to one of considerable anxiety. If we are to avoid future errors, we should, as the Lord Privy Seal suggested in his speech, look at what has happened in the past and what mistakes have been made. Obviously we should have gone on to Tripoli and thereby 2014 secured ourselves in Northern Africa. Had we done so, we should have prevented the German action in Libya which has driven us back on the defensive. It would have deeply impressed public opinion in our favour, and by holding and developing vital airfields at Benghazi we should have had it in our power to hammer Italy and the Luftwaffe bases in Sicily. We should also have had it in our power to give tremendous support to our Forces established in Crete. By losing the Benghazi aerodromes we have lost an opportunity of dominating the Sicilian Channel and thereby making the task of Admiral Cunningham infinitely easier than it has been. Had we bombed Italy thoroughly when our Armies were winning such splendid victories in North Africa, we might have knocked out a groggy and wobbling opponent.
Why, for instance, have we not attempted to bomb the great hydro-electric installations in the Val d'Aosta, from which most of the Italian railways derive their power? These railways have been busily employed in transporting thousands of German soldiers and hundreds of thousands of tons of German material. When Rumania fell we did not attempt to bomb the Germans there, and we made no real effort to bomb and destroy the oil wells. Bulgaria wobbled and ultimately fell. We threatened King Boris with all sorts of pains and penalties, but what attempt did we make to carry out our threats? In his speech of 9th April the Prime Minister said:For some months past we have witnessed and watched with growing concern the German absorption of Hungary, the occupation of Rumania, and the seduction and occupation of Bulgaria. Step by step we have seen this movement of the German military power to the South and South-East of Europe. A remorseless accumulation of German armoured and motorised divisions and of aircraft has been in progress in all these three countries for months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1941; col. 1589, Vol. 370.]If that was so, why did we not do something about it? We had the power. Now the situation is indeed transformed. Let us pay tribute where tribute is due. It has been transformed by the fact that Russia is now fighting as our Ally. Some people may not like it—it is not popular everywhere—but let us face that fact and let us pay a tribute to the courage, determination and skill of the Russian Forces now fighting with us in the common 2015 cause of liberty. Let us face this fact too, that their aid came to us at a vitally necessary time. I pay my tribute to the work of the Foreign Secretary. Whatever mistakes he has made in the past, he has a great triumph to his credit in the accommodation which he has been able to effect between Poland and Russia. It is a diplomatic triumph of the first magnitude, for which he should be praised by everybody who studies international affairs. It may well have an enormous influence upon Europe in the future and upon the conduct of the war.
Because of our failure to act when we had the opportunity in the Mediterranean, Germany occupied the vitally important islands of Lemnos and Samothrace, at the entrance to the Dardanelles. We could easily have occupied and fortified them, but we did not do it. Why not? What political considerations were allowed to influence us so that we did not take a step which was quite obvious if we wanted to secure the Dardanelles? We threw away a chance of the utmost importance in our war effort. We always seem to be forestalled by Germany. We hear of German infiltration here and German infiltration there. When are we going to start infiltration ourselves? Could we not, by agreement with Spain or otherwise, have established ourselves in the vital position of Ceuta, thus ensuring control of the Western end of the Mediterranean, which is of vital importance to us? We were almost forestalled in Iraq. I have heard it said that the initiative as regards the operations in Iraq came not from the Government here but from the Government in India, who saw at once the danger with which we were confronted and acted immediately, with the most happy results. But for that prompt action we might have been in a very difficult position. That saved us and restored our prestige among the Arab races and made it possible for us to win the campaign in Syria. What about Iran? If Iraq is necessary for us, surely so is Iran. Do not let us wait until it is too late. When we have the opportunity, let us make some effort in that direction.
An hon. Member has stressed the vital importance to us of Thailand and how necessary it is that we should not allow Japan to be established there. He said, in connection with Thailand, what everyone 2016 realises is true with regard to all the other places in which we have allowed Germany to get in first, namely, that it is much more difficult to get people out when they are in than to prevent them getting in in the first instance. The German successes in the Near East and in Northern Africa vitally affected the position of the Fleet in the Mediterranean. In order to try and hold Crete without proper air support, which should have been forthcoming and which, had it been forthcoming, would have enabled us decisively to defeat the German Luftwaffe, we lost ships, sunk and damaged, which we could ill afford to lose. Our hope of winning the war is based ultimately upon sea power. We cannot afford to throw ships away in ill-thought-out campaigns anywhere in the world. Their employment in the confined waters around Greece and Crete, brilliant and heroic as were their actions, was a risk which it should not have been necessary to undertake. I agree with the Prime Minister that all other theatres of war are less important than the theatre of war in the Western approaches to Great Britain. I have always said that in the end the Battle of the Atlantic will decide the fate of Germany, but interference anywhere in the world with our sea communications, the capture by Germany of fresh bases from which she can operate by sea and air against our communications, must inevitably affect the operations going on in the Western approaches. Our lines of communication in the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans are part of one enormous defensive system, vital to us and ultimately to the success of the campaign in the Western approaches themselves.
A previous speaker referred to our successes against U-boats. It is not possible to give much detail of what is going on or how many U-boats have been sunk but I believe the success which has been attained by the heroic men who spend their time in the Atlantic fighting U-boats is very great indeed. The Navy is doing splendidly, and is going ultimately to win the Battle of the Atlantic. May I pay a tribute to the men who undertake the duty of commodores of convoy? I do not suppose many people realise that many of the officers in charge of these slow-moving convoys of merchant vessels are officers on the retired list, often of admiral's rank, 2017 senior officers long since retired who have gone back to take on the job of commodore of convoys, who, day in, day out, in fair weather and foul, have been going backwards and forwards across the Atlantic on a most difficult and arduous job.
In talking of the work of the Fleet, I am bound to make this comment. I have always thought we made a cardinal mistake when we bombarded the French Fleet at Oran. Admiral Darlan, whatever we may think of him now, was the creator of the modern French navy. He is the idol of French naval officers and men. They look upon him as the man who after the last war rescued their navy from decay and made it into a new and modern machine. I have always understood that he passed his word that the French ships would never be handed over to Germany. If that is so, I should have been prepared, as a naval officer, to accept it. But we embarked upon that adventure of the bombardment at Oran, and it has turned most of the French navy against us. They bitterly resent the attack on their ships at a time when there was no evidence to show that those ships were going to be handed over. I believe that the decision was taken in the teeth of advice from responsible naval officers here: and in the Mediterranean. If that is so, the Government committed a blunder from which we shall suffer very grievously before the war is over. As for the collapse of France, rotten for years past, in whose strength and integrity we put a most foolish trust before the war began, that disruption and fall have made our task much more difficult. Eire's refusal to participate in the war, which is to preserve her freedom as well as ours, makes the work of our antisubmarine patrols much more difficult. They have denied us bases which are of the most vital importance to us.
There is evidence in conversations that one hears and in hints in the Press that some military excursion into Europe is about due. I beg the House to consider most carefully what we do. Only by the combined efforts of the Navy and the Air Force did we get our Army back from Dunkirk, Greece and Crete. The pity is that before the war started we reversed a decision which had been come to that never again would we send an Expeditionary Force to the Continent in the same way as we did in 1914; If we could not 2018 give adequate air and sea support to our Army in Greece, whatever might have been the sentimental or political considerations involved, it should never have been sent there. I pay my tribute to the heroism and magnificent courage of the Greek people, but if we could not ensure adequate support to the Army that we sent there from the sea and air, it was a tragic blunder to send it. We sustained a loss of material which was prodigious, and which will now be felt at a time when the need for organising and expanding our armoured military forces is greatest. The occupation of Crete fitted in with the fundamental strategy based on sea plus air power, and if we had properly established ourselves there, we should never have lost the island. The Army and Navy brilliantly fulfilled their roles in Crete. Our defeat was due to unpardonable mistakes in connection with the air.
We are now considering the war situation. We are perhaps at the most vital moment in the war—I believe the turning point. I believe that now is the time when the tide is beginning to flow in our favour, and for that reason it is important, in considering the future and what it may hold for us, that we should profit by the lessons of the past. To use the British Army on the Continent as we did in the last war, and as we have tried to do in this war, is to throw away to a large extent all the advantages which superior sea power gives us. Sir Edward Grey, a great figure and a great statesman, is reported to have said once that the Army was a shot to be fired by the Navy at the enemy's weakest point. That is literally true. We cannot be a military power on the Continental scale as well as a dominant sea power. Practically all our resources should go to maintaining air and sea power with the Army as a subsidiary weapon. It should be used, as it has been used in the past, for amphibious operations. If we try to use it in pursuit of Continental strategy, and at the same time as part of amphibious strategy, we shall fall between two stools. The more Germany stretches out over Europe, the more vulnerable she becomes. Just consider the vulnerability of German-occupied countries from Norway right down to Biarritz on the Franco-Spanish frontier and realise what an enormous field of operations is open to us. Perhaps the best example in history of the proper use of the British Army on amphibious warfare 2019 was the Peninsula campaign under Wellington. The Army was behind the lines of Torres Vedras and its base was secured by sea power in Lisbon. It delivered such a blow at Napoleon's flank that it ultimately brought him down.
History may well repeat itself. If we use the Army as a shot to be fired by the Navy and send that shot in the right place, we shall bring Hitler down. Do let us, however, guard against any idea of squandering our dearly-bought reserves as they were squandered in France and Greece. The Army should be adequately equipped so that when it delivers its blow it should be a knock-out, and behind that blow there should be sufficient reserves. The modern panzer divisions require immense reserves of expensive materiel. The history of this war has taught us that to be any use mechanised warfare must deliver a blow with the utmost intensity and that the blow must not be delivered until the Army is completely ready. No doubt we shall take a chance as we should and deliver the knock-out blow somewhere on that exposed flank, but let those who perhaps are pressing for immediate and spectacular action profit by the lessons of Greece and France. Do not let us deliver that blow on Germany's exposed flank until we have sufficient force behind the blow to make it decisive. If we base our strategy on sea plus air power and wait until we have decisive power in the Army then history will repeat itself and the blow will be the end of Hitler.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), in his interesting and wide survey of world affairs, dealt in particular with the question of Oran. I do not agree with his view that we were wrong. When public opinion in America and other places saw that, it had a tremendous effect. They said, "If you can do that against people who were your Allies, you mean business, and there is no question of your breaking down." It was one of the events in the war which had the biggest effect on making people in other parts of the world realise that we were going to resist at all costs. My hon. and gallant Friend made the definite charge that there had been a censorship by the Government of criticisms in the 2020 Press in regard to the leasing of American bases. I hope that it will be made clear that there is no censorship of the Press in this or any other matter and that the Press are free to express what views they wish having regard to the public interest.
§ Sir A. Southby
I did not say there had been a censorship. I said it was significant that no comment shad been made in the Press, and I suggested that they were not made because the Government did not wish them to be made.
§ Mr. Mander
My hon. and gallant Friend said that a definite instruction had been given out by the Government. He also referred to certain criticisms of the Prime Minister, that he was over sensitive to criticism, even if friendly. We all realise that, but it must be appreciated that the Prime Minister stands in an unchallengeable position among the people of this country and in the House of Commons. We are prepared to overlook certain things which in times of controversy would be commented upon, because we realise that his leadership is magnificent and necessary to us. That does not necessarily mean that we approve of every act of his or every Minister whom he associates with himself.
Reference has been made to the splendid efforts of the Russians to withstand the German onslaught in the East, and one cannot help feeling that the entry of Russia into the war will make it a shorter war and make the peace a better peace. There is a mutual exchange of help. No doubt we are giving the Russians physical support, and I should think there was an opportunity for us to receive from them wise advice in the use of propaganda, because they do seem to be able to put over to the enemy the kind of propaganda which should have been, and should now be, I think, directed from this country, so that we attack not only the bodies but the minds of our enemies. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall), who made a most interesting speech, that we must direct much more attention in future to attacking the enemy in that sphere.
The signing of the Russo-Polish Pact was an event of first-class importance and reflects the greatest credit on everybody concerned. Particularly, would I commend 2021 the attitude of the Polish Government and General Sikorski, the Prime Minister of Poland. It was, on his part, an act of the highest statemanship and great courage, for which we should always be very grateful. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also has earned the gratitude of the nation for the very happy part he has played in this matter. It is sometimes said by those who, I think, do not altogether appreciate what has happened, that the Polish Government is just the same as the Government in that country before the war—that it is reactionary and of the Right. I venture to think that is quite untrue. It is now, broadly representative and progressive in outlook.
Let me give one example to prove what I am saying. Some years ago, when I was in Poland I was in a little mountain resort called Zakopane. I had an introduction to a certain Cracow professor who was one of the leaders of the Peasant Party, which, though representing 70 per cent. of the nation, was then entirely unrepresented in the Government. He had recently been in prison for political reasons—because the national peasants had held some big meetings. Finding that he was in that resort I endeavoured to get into touch with him. I had the greatest difficulty in doing so. I had to go secretly, by roundabout ways, to his hotel, looking all the time to see that nobody was about. Finally, I had an interesting discussion with him in his bedroom, with the windows carefully closed. That professor, Professor Kot, is now one of the leading Ministers of the present Polish Government in London. It shows the remarkable change in the political orientation of the Polish Government, a point which ought to be made clear.
While I congratulate the Foreign Secretary upon the part he has played in connection with the Russo-Polish Pact, I hope that he will go further and direct his attention to the interesting negotiations which have been going on, for some time, between the Polish and Czecho-Slovakian Governments. They hold out great hopes for the future, not only as between those two countries but as regards others who may associate themselves with the contemplated federation., or confederation. I think the Foreign Secretary could usefully intervene and stimulate those negotiations which, at the moment, are not getting on quite as rapidly as one could wish.
2022 With regard to Spain, the Foreign Secretary made it clear the other day that we were not prepared to go on supplying the food and other things which we have contracted to send if the' views enunciated in General Franco's recent speech were found to be his considered policy. May we be told whether His Majesty's Government have any further information on that subject? I should like to hear that our Government intend to suspend deliveries of food and other things until we have received a satisfactory reply from the Spanish Government. It is intolerable that we should be spoken to in the offensive language that was used on that occasion and yet go on as though nothing very serious had happened.
The hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn) made an admirable speech in regard to Japan, and I should like to associate myself with what he said. We must take firm and definite action at the earliest possible moment. Japan goes very slowly, step by step; she gets into a place and then looks round and says, "We really mean nothing, you need not worry." Sometimes nothing is done, and then she goes on. We get the same thing happening over and over again. Certain steps have been taken against Japan, but not all of them are too impressive. We have given 12 months' notice to cancel our commercial treaties. That will not have a very terrorising effect. Then the publicity regarding economic sanctions has not, I think, been too happy. It was thought at first that by the freezing of assets and the abrogation of agreements to supply oil and other things very serious action had been taken, and according to the reports in the "Times" there was consternation in Japan when they first heard what was proposed; but it was soon appreciated that what was intended was a purely precautionary measure. I should be only too delighted if that view were denied and if it were made clear that that is not the case, but from reports in the Press it would appear that there is to be a system of licences and that oil and other things will continue to be exported to Japan. I do not say that they will be exported from this country, but there is to be a continuation of oil supplies from the United States and from the Dutch East Indies. If that is so, then Japan may well feel that while we bluster and talk a great deal about the action which 2023 the Allies propose to take she can, in effect, go on with her programme. I hope the Foreign Secretary will be able to make it clear that the Allies, and not only this country, are determined in practice to cut off the vital products for war purposes which Japan is now receiving from those associated with us in this struggle.
I hope that the time is not far distant when we can openly recognise China as one of our Allies in this war, taking her place in all respects with the other Allies. I trust that it is not a very shocking thing to say, but I hope we may have some opportunity then of listening to the Chinese National Anthem. The Government have put themselves in a ridiculous position over national anthems. Under their present policy it will never be possible at any stage throughout the war to play any Allied national anthem, because if we play one, obviously we shall have to pay the "International." That cannot be ruled out. I hope that very foolish decision will be abandoned, and that we shall on due occasions play the national anthems of all our Allies, whether or not they are in the terms or are the tunes that we like, bearing in mind that the other country's idea of what a national anthem should be is not necessarily ours.
I hope that the Chinese Government will be invited in due course to the Allied Conference, one of the sessions of which is shortly to take place. One hopes also that representatives of the United States, perhaps as observers, might take their places at such a gathering. The Government have brought about, in the assembly of this Allied conference, an event of enormous importance. It is the answer to Hitler's new order. There we have a gathering of persons who, as the Foreign Secretary has said, are associated not only for war but for the purposes of peace on a permanent basis. I do not think we have, so far, made nearly enough of it. The publicity at the first meeting was very badly managed, and I urge the Foreign Secretary that, at the meeting which is shortly to take place and at any subsequent meetings, he should have the Press present when any formal speeches are to be made, so as to let the whole world know that we are now building up a structure which we hope will be of permanent value to the world.
2024 Reference was made by the Lord Privy Seal to Germany now being engaged upon a war upon two fronts. In a sense I suppose it is true, but it is not a war on two fronts in the ordinary and accepted meaning of the term. It would be very interesting to know whether it will be a military war on two fronts, a war on land. Public opinion is now wondering whether there are to be raids on the coast, either in strength or as "tip-and-run" raids. Interested opinion is inclined to think that such a thing would keep the Germans guessing, because they would not know whether the raid was a forerunner of invasion on a big scale. It might have the effect of keeping German forces over there or bringing forces back from the East. It would be very interesting to see whether something can be done on these lines to make a real war on two fronts.
When we get to the time when the enemy go back into Germany from all the occupied territories, the question will arise, what sort of government will be put into power and permitted to operate in Germany at the time of the Armistice? Obviously it cannot be a Nazi government, because we will have nothing whatever to do with them. It is not desirable to deal with a military government. There may be no other group of persons available. I should think there is a good deal to be said for the idea now being expressed in some quarters, that there should be set up, at the time of the Armistice, an International Commission to administer the country for the time being, on behalf of the Allies, until the time arrives when we can find Germans of representative character willing to shoulder the responsibility of setting up a representative government of their own country. Then the work of the reconstruction commission would be done.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) referred to various speeches and official utterances made from time to time by members of the Government, particularly Lord Halifax and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in regard to our war and peace aims. My hon. and gallant Friend seemed to find a certain conflict in those statements, but there appears to me to be a unity running through them. They seem to go a long way towards 2025 setting forth, in general terms, the kind of world we want to see after the war. It is very satisfactory from this point of view, that it destroys absolutely the illusion of many persons who believe that we can go back to a nationalist and isolationist position and play no part in world affairs. People have been saying that, even during the course of this war, but the policy laid down in speeches on behalf of the Government makes it clear that we look forward, as we should, to a world order of some kind in which we should play our part to the full, for purposes of mutual Defence, the preservation of peace and the promotion of the prosperity of all peoples. Let us make it clear that that is our policy; not just a policy for the Allies, but for the people of the whole world, without any exception whatever. If we can do that effectively and bring it home to the enemy people, we shall take a long step toward bringing this war to a victorious conclusion.
§ Captain York (Ripon)
I do not often have the privilege of addressing this House, and on the present occasion I propose to make my contribution very brief. Two points have been impressed upon my mind, and I have heard them referred to by several speakers. The first relates to war on two fronts. The other point is, What is to happen to Germany when we have beaten her? Are we allowing ourselves to think, after we have gone to a lot of trouble and sacrifice, that the German nation is to get away unpunished for what it has done to the world? Let there be no mistake; there are now in this country many people who would be willing to forget all the damage that has been done. I believe that now, and at every possible juncture in the future, we must say that we shall not allow such a thing to happen. Of course, we do not wish to starve the German nation, and His Majesty's Government have already said that this shall not happen, but let us make it plain, and let us remind ourselves, that if the German nation happened, by some mischance, to win the war, their plans are cut and dried as to what they would do with us. It is no Christian attitude that they would adopt. On our side, we shall adopt a fair, although Christian, attitude.
On the question of the war on two fronts, I have heard frequent references by the Government and other responsible 2026 people leading one to suppose that, in the fairly near future, there will be a war upon two fronts. One of the great difficulties of our position is that we have to cross the sea in order to produce those two fronts. Our Air Force and our Navy are supreme, and in those spheres outside Europe in which we have asked the Army to operate, even though they have been fighting in every instance against enormous odds in materials and men, they have always managed to win. I do not wish to criticise any function of the Army, and I am debarred from doing so even if I wished to do so, but I do draw attention to the fact that wherever the Army is asked to operate, the odds have been very heavily against us. I believe—and it has already been mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby)—that the Government and the country are beginning to think of our Army in terms of a Continental army. That, in my opinion, is a mistake which must be avoided at all costs. We have not the substance of such an army, and if we try to persuade ourselves that we have, we shall be led into the same kind of trouble as we have experienced so many times during this war and during the last war as well. We can subdue Italians and other Axis-inspired peoples, even though we have only a small proportion of the forces which these people send against us, but we cannot do the same thing, nor mete out the same punishment, to the German army unless there is a great deal more reasonable comparison in strength and numbers. The Army, well equipped and with ample reserves behind them, can and will beat the German army, even though the odds are against us, but we can never hope to rival their power in strength and numbers. We did not compare in the last war, and the enormous demands of the Royal Air Force, of the Navy and of the home command for anti-aircraft defence ensure that we shall not be able to do it in this war.
Some people are thinking in terms of this Continental army, and although I do not wish to argue about details or numbers of divisions, I can and do argue that the Service Departments are taking more and more men from essential services in the country, which are being drained in order to make up a large Army which is 2027 really a mistake. In particular the food producers of this country are being drained away, weekly and monthly, until a time will come when there will only be men of over 45 still on the land. The House yesterday had a long discussion about the same kind of thing happening in the mines. The War Department is chiefly responsible in regard to these two industries, mining and agriculture, and in each case they are rapidly denuding the resources of these two industries. I want to put forward a plea to the Government that until the home front is secure they should leave these industries alone, and in fact all home industries. The divisions which we are creating for the Army should be fully mechanised, fully armoured if necessary, and certainly fully equipped and with not less than 200 per cent. reserves behind them. This would then be the striking force of an Army which will be created not entirely by ourselves but also by our Allies. Let them put the large numbers into the field to consolidate the positions we have gained, and let our Army be the spearhead of the advance when that does come.
I believe that even if our Russian Allies foil the enemy, as they appear to be doing at the moment, it will he many months before the defeat and break-up of the German nation actually takes place. We shall need all the help we can get from all freedom-loving nations in the world, and when we have this enormous increase in man-power under arms, we shall be able to attempt an assault, be it Continental or otherwise. With our own limited manpower we cannot do so, and, as has already been said, shall be led to another Dunkirk. Certain victory is ours in God's own time, and if we work for it, but if we denude our land of skilled men now, when the time comes we shall be in no fit state to venture upon the great assault into the pagan heart of Europe.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I feel sure that the Government will not have been disappointed with to-day's Debate; I have listened to most of it, and it has been exceedingly interesting. I was very intrigued by a suggestion made by one hon. Gentleman who spoke about the Chinese National Anthem. If he will find me the words and music of the anthem, I will try to sing it to him, or we can have a duet on it; it is the first time I have 2028 heard that there was a Chinese National Anthem.
The House of Commons knows that I take a different view from that of the vast majority on the issue of peace and war. But the House is always magnanimous to people who hold a minority view, and I feel proud that it does so, because it would not in fact be a Parliament at all if minority views were not stated here. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) is not in his place, because when I spoke on the last occasion on the lines on which I propose to speak to-day he thought that I should not utter those views because the majority of the people are against them. But he and I, 30 or 35 years ago, were in a hopeless minority within the Labour movement itself. It may interest hon. Members to know that I became a trade union official 36 years ago, and 90 per cent. of the people I tried to convert were against me—they objected to joining a trade union. But I saw my own union grow from 7,000 to 200,000, and I am therefore encouraged. I am never discouraged because I am in a minority, but I shall be in the majority soon after this war ends, holding my views as they stand now, because peace must come some day anyhow.
I would like now to turn to what the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) said in his very interesting speech. I agree with most of it. He wants more political warfare; so do I. I would like to see a world in which warfare could be conducted politically without bombs and bayonets. It is a long way to project the human mind, but the little I have tried to do in the world has been directed to bringing about a state of society in which men will pit their sense and intellect against one another instead of spending their substance on battleships, bayonets and bombs to blow one another to bits. I therefore think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made an excellent contribution to the Debate, the best, if I may say so, to which I have listened to-day.
§ Commander King-Hall
Perhaps my hon. Friend will permit me to say that his theory will be very nice when we have got to the disembodied stage. Unfortunately, our minds are still very closely attached to our bodies, and it is therefore necessary to attack the body in order to bring pressure to bear on the mind.
§ Mr. Davies
But it will be intolerable if the human race is to take turns at war every 20 years or thereabouts. I am hoping that the day will come, either in the time of my children or grandchildren, when there will be: no physical warfare, and I therefore repeat that I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a very excellent contribution to the Debate.
In this Debate there has been some criticism of the Prime Minister and of the coalition Government. I would venture to say, although it might appear contradictory, that I know of no man in this country who could take the place of the present Prime Minister if the country wants a fight to a finish. He has courage, determination and eloquence; he possesses all the qualities necessary if we are to fight this war to the last man, as it were, even to the devastation of the Continent of Europe.
We have, of course, four very wonderful friends in this war—Roosevelt, Stalin, the Straits of Dover and the eloquence of the Prime Minister. I am not so sure which is the greatest of the four. Let me come, however, to the speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). I want to congratulate him on one note he struck, which is the pivot on which I want to base my remarks. He said, in very much the same terms as the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal when he was in opposition, that the British Government ought to make a declaration of aims as a rallying cry to rouse the decent peoples of Europe. What is the position? Is there a possibility at all of dividing the tyrannised from their tyrants, not only in Germany but Italy too, and in some other Continental countries as well? Not all the tyrants are in Germany by any means; they are to be found in other parts of Europe as well.
The gospel I have been trying to preach in this war is something like this: There are spiritual and moral forces in every country in the world that cannot find expression because they are smothered by the fear and hatred of nations for one another. If I can assist in a small measure in resurrecting those spiritual and moral forces in Europe, I shall be a very satisfied man indeed. But when the Prime Minister declares that there are "70,000,000 Huns, millions curable and millions 2030 killable," that is really the sort of statement that will get us nowhere. If we want to divide the decent people of Europe from their masters as I want to do, we must challenge that philosophy. It is entirely contrary to nature itself to say that all men and women in a given nation are malignant, or evil. As a matter of fact, that is where we fell foul of Hitler himself, who declared that all the Jews are rascals and rogues. It is not true. Evil and good prevail in all countries and among all races alike, if I understand the teachings of Christianity. Further than that, evil and good not only exist in every country, but they are always fighting for mastery in each individual in each country alike. I would suggest therefore that when His Majesty's Government make an appeal to the people of Germany they should bear that point in mind.
Let me say one word about the Foreign Secretary. I welcome one statement he made the other day, when he said that it is not the intention of the Allies to make Germany bankrupt, because in doing so her neighbours would be dragged down to the same level as well. That, I think, is the sort of gospel that should be preached to the peoples of Europe and the working classes of Germany. I know some of them hate Nazism as much as I do. I want the House of Commons to realise that you can detest Nazism and criticise the British Government at the same time. Of course that is possible. There is no man or woman in this House who detests the totalitarian conception of government more than I do. There would be no place for a person with my views in any totalitarian State. I detest the assumption that 10 or 20 men should arrogate to themselves the responsibility of thinking for millions of their fellow countrymen. I am a little apprehensive about the same tendency in our own country at times too, and I desire the right to criticise it, if I may.
There is another view about this war which ought to be put in this House. I remember in the last war, the eminent Lord Lansdowne propounding, in 1917, the idea of a negotiated peace. He suddenly drew upon himself the venom of the Government of the day, and he was scorned by the Press and denounced at every turn. I took a little part in that 2031 particular campaign as a follower of Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden. I would venture to say that if Lord Lansdowne's proposal had been accepted then, millions of lives would have been saved. But what is more important to me than anything else is that I am sure that if the Treaty of Versailles had been a negotiated instead of an imposed instrument we should never have heard of Hitler, and would probably have been able to avoid the present conflict as well. Members may not agree with that. I take the view that Nazism in Germany is the outcome of the failure of France and Britain to support democracy when Stresseman and Bruening were in power. The Noble Lord shakes his head. I can have my view on that.
§ Mr. Davies
Certainly. I wish I could dispel some of this hatred that fills all nations when war comes. For instance, I noticed in the Press that the Fuhrer, the other day, called our Prime Minister an epileptic drunkard. He responded by saying that Hitler was a drunken guttersnipe—(Interruption).—I think the phrase was "a blood-thirsty guttersnipe." What sort of language is that for leading statesmen in Europe to use to each other? Let me come to the suggestion I wish to make. Is it possible for the British Government—and I welcome suggestions from other quarters of the House on the same lines—to tell the world what this war is about? Have we reached the stage that we are fighting merely for fighting's sake? In this connection I welcome some of the language employed by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, which takes us nearer to common sense and reason than some statements by other people representing our country. If we are to separate the decent people of Germany from the Nazi regime, it is well to employ language that will tell them that we do not intend to be vindictive against them. We must live together on this Continent anyhow. I have travelled a little on the Continent of Europe, like some other hon. Members, and that is mainly why I feel competent to say a few words about this war.
Is it possible for His Majesty's Government to project their mind into the future, and declare what sort of Europe they would like established? What new type of 2032 individual do they expect to emerge in Germany in order to negotiate a peace with us? If we wipe out Hitler, Ribben-trop, Goebbels, and their associates do we then expect a Socialist or a Radical party to arise in Germany? Now that Russia is on our side in this war, it is difficult to believe that the peace aims of Russia in Europe will fit in with those of His Majesty's Government. I am glad that the Lord Privy Seal is here, because it is not so long since he stood at this Box, saying much more eloquently and clearly, officially on behalf of our Labour party, what I am trying, in a rough and ready way, to say now. If it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to arouse the Radicals, Socialists, Communists and working classes on the Continent of Europe against their masters, what sort of appeal are they going to make to that type of person? I am sure it is not beyond the capacity of His Majesty's Government to state their peace aims and make the right sort of appeal. I was told some time ago that you could not get at the working classes of Germany at all. My retort was, "What is the use then of the British Government spending money trying to get at them on the wireless unless some of them are listening?" There is every reason to believe that people all over Europe are listening to these messages.
I should, of course, be a hypocrite if I did not say what I think about war. I was elected to Parliament because I was opposed to the last war. "When it was all over I saw the reactions of the people of this country; they were furious with some of those who had led them into that conflict. The German working classes too turned on some of their leaders who took them into the same war. In view of that, I cannot sit in this House of Commons, listening to a Debate on the war, without saying these things. I am not able, with the slender education I possess, to state my views as well as I should have liked, but men have stood here in this House of Commons for centuries declaring, in better language than I can command, what 1 am saying now. War settles nothing; it leaves more problems at the end than it set out to solve. I hope that, when this war is over, the peoples of Europe, in particular, will sit down and think deeply over these matters so that our children and our children's children may not suffer the agonies which this war is bringing upon us at present.
§ Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
This is the first time I have taken part in a Debate on the war in general, but it would be quite wrong for a speech like that of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), made from the Labour benches, to go unanswered from these same benches. My hon. Friend said at the beginning of his speech that the House of Commons is magnanimous to a minority view. That is true; but if everybody had held his view, if the citizens of this country had not risen with determination, calling for arms, there would have been no House of Commons left to be magnanimous to anybody. My hon. Friend says we ought not to hate the Germans. Nobody hates the Germans; but we have a duty to perform in this country, and that duty will be performed. We do not consider that our task will be ended until Hitler and all that he stands for is ended.
I am one of those who after the last war did not believe in punishments—I did not believe in indemnities and reparations. I was given special leave in 1918 to fight a seat; and, in the teeth of deep antagonism from my fellow-workers, I opposed indemnities and reparations. I have not changed my mind upon that matter; but this country, I think, was very magnanimous to its German opponents after that war. It used all the influence it had to get the occupying troops out of the Ruhr before the time was up. This country, too—and I am proud that it was the work of a Labour Government—brought the British troops out of the Rhine years before their departure was due. The whole policy of this country, particularly of the Labour party, was to let bygones be bygones. We persisted in that attitude to the very point of danger. None of us could believe that the last war and its devastation, with its millions of young men destroyed, would ever be repeated. We thought that the seal of a common suffering was the seal of peace. The people of this country, at least the labour forces, pursued international policy in that spirit, calling for disarmament, as I did, wishing to co-operate with the Germans and with other nations in order to settle the great problems that were facing the world. We pursued that policy to a point of danger, and to a point at which those who govern Germany deliberately took advantage. 2034 The German people cannot dissociate themselves from the policy of their leaders any more than we could dissociate ourselves from the policy of our leaders, and I would be a traitor, not only as a citizen of this country, but particularly to the working classes—which over a long industrial era suffered so much until they built up their great trade unions—if I forgot the treatment which has been meted out to members of trade unions in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other foreign countries which have been overrun. Their funds have been confiscated, their leaders have been imprisoned and some of them have been killed. A million working-class Poles have been taken from their country as slaves and treated as mere bales of merchandise. If I forgot these things, I should think myself unworthy of the working-class movement of this country.
It is the will of the British people that Hitler and all his works should be destroyed. The British working classes will make an end of any political leader who compromises on this matter. Let there be no mistake about that. I am not unmindful of the fact that we have a great political heritage, and I hope that the great masses of the people of this country will write even better political chapters than have been written in the past. But this all depends upon whether or not Parliament is in existence and our political institutions continue. They will not continue if Hitler and the dictators generally are victorious in this war. So, as a loyal supporter of the British working-class movement, I should be ashamed if I remained silent this day after listening to the speech just made by my hon. Friend.
May I say a word about what will happen after the war? I have no hatred for the Germans. I do not think any British citizens have a hatred for them. Hatred is not in us, but in so far as my influence with my party goes, I will see to it that when this war is over—with its deliberate attempt to ride rough-shod over the world by force of arms and to exploit all the great achievements of mankind in the spirit of the gangster—we shall keep ourselves in a position to see that this kind of thing is not repeated. I have not spoken on this matter before. The German people can have their chance to make good when we come out victors—because victors we shall 2035 be—but there will have to be proof before we leave them that they will not repeat this kind of thing so that -our children and our children's children suffer as masses of the people are suffering in the world to-day. When I was a young man I used to read the stories about Attila and Ghengis Khan which can be found in Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." After a hard day's work I used to have a bath and a meal, and on reading these stories I would say to myself, "Thank God, we have passed all that." Incidentally, if anyone likes to read certain chapters of those stories, he will find there the same kind of statements and conduct as have come from Hitler. I used to think that such conduct would never be repeated. I never thought that hundreds of millions of people would be slaves to the will of one man, that millions would be massacred or that women would be treated as pawns in a most sickening game. For my part I hope we will not punish and that there will be no spirit of hatred. But I also hope that we will keep our arms until we are sure that there will be no repetition of the sufferings of to-day.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has just made a speech which was as moving as it was remarkable. It was, if he will allow me to say so as one North-countryman to another, a forthright North-country utterance, and for my part I can only add that I agree with every single word he said. I believe that he was speaking with the voice of the British people, expressing their sentiments, and not only their sentiments but the sentiments of the Allied countries who are fighting beside us in this war. As I was listening to his speech I thought—although I do not suppose he intended it—that he had made an admirable contribution to the expression of our war aims. Certainly, no clearer definition could have been looked for.
I think the House will feel that this has been a useful discussion to-day. It opened, after the valuable description by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal of the more recent military events, with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman 2036 the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) about which I would like to say a few words if I may. In his speech he used a phrase which seemed to me accurately to describe what has happened as the result of the German invasion of Russia. He said that there had been a shift in the balance of the war. That is absolutely true and I think that shift has had another consequence within Germany herself. Hitler, by this completely unprovoked action, which, no doubt, had to be unprovoked if it was to have the best chance of military success, has to some extent crossed and confused the faith of his own people. He brought them up in a belief that Communism was the enemy. He made a complete change of front two years ago, and made an arrangement with Soviet Russia. Now, once again, he has asked his people to follow him in yet another change, and inevitably it would seem—and one can feel it even from the terms of the communiqués—that that action has crossed and confused the German people's faith in their own war purposes.
I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the Government realise that this state of affairs creates opportunities for political war. The right hon. Gentleman and one or two hon. Members have been good enough to refer to a speech which I made a few days ago and to the distinction which I then sought to draw, in our post-war settlement, between the military treatment of Germany and the economic treatment of Germany. I think that is both a reasonable and a real distinction. Militarily, I join with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that every precaution that can be devised to see that Germany does not for a sixth time plunge Europe into war has got to be taken. It may be that in Germany there will grow—I pray that there may eventually grow—a spirit different from this thing which has created Hitler and supports him. I pray that it will be so, but we cannot afford to take any risk sin that respect. On that, there can be no wavering. Economically the position is different. To put it at its lowest, it would be to our disadvantage and to Europe's disadvantage that Germany should be economically ruined after the war. I think that definition is an intelligible one and one on which what 2037 the right hon. Gentleman called our political warfare can reasonably proceed.
When we speak of political warfare, as the right hon. Gentleman did, it is—and I can assure him that the Government realise this—essential that there should be one consistent trend which is followed from the general direction of our foreign policy, as expressed in the speeches of Members of the War Cabinet, right down through every channel, by whatever means we are using to reach the people of Germany and the peoples of occupied Europe. We have made certain changes recently in the machinery for the coordination and for the operation of our political warfare. I believe that those changes will bring further-improvements. Certainly, it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that we are now entering a period of greater opportunities than we have ever had before for political warfare, and I can assure him that the Government realise that those opportunities are there.
I should like here to say a word about a comment that fell from my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in his speech, and which seemed, from one or two speeches that I heard subsequently, to have been misunderstood. My right hon. Friend spoke of the war on two fronts. That is true. It is true in the sense that there is already war in the air and on the sea on two fronts, and in actual fact, on more than two fronts, for the Mediterranean is a third front in which a very vigorous war at sea and in the air is, at this moment, taking place. It is true that the German plans have had to be laid on the assumption of a war on two fronts, which is what my right hon. Friend mentioned, and which in no way discloses to the enemy what may or may not be our own future plans or intentions.
There have been one or two speeches about the Far East, and in particular one in which my hon. Friend the Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn) displayed his intimate knowledge of Thailand and of the problems of the Far East. Perhaps the House will bear with me if I say a few words about the Far Eastern situation. Hon. Members will remember that about a week ago I announced certain freezing measures which had been instituted by the United States, the Netherlands, and the British Empire, against Japan as a result of the Japanese seizure of bases in French Indo- 2038 China. Those freezing measures are not, as seemed to be thought by some hon. Members in the Debate, framed so as to permit transactions which are not expressly forbidden. On the contrary, the operation is the reverse. They automatically forbid all transactions except those which are expressly permitted. As the House will understand, I cannot now disclose details of the manner in which this policy is to be applied, but there has been, throughout, the closest collaboration and the frankest discussion between His Majesty's Government at home, in the Dominions, in India and Burma, and in the Colonies, and the Governments of the United States and the Netherlands; and the two latter Governments have furnished us with full particulars and with comprehensive information of their actions. The same collaboration is continuing regarding the operation of these measures as was in evidence in former days. The House will understand that it is bound to take a little time to exchange views and information which are necessary for the common understanding of such a far-reaching experiment as the freezing orders represent. But that work is now practically completed. There is one assurance I would like to give the House, because I think the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) was in this mistaken. These steps were not lightly taken. The freezing order was seriously intended and it will be seriously executed.
I come to the problem with which the hon. Member for West Newcastle dealt specifically, the position in Thailand. The hon. Member drew attention to the attitude of certain sections of the Japanese Press. I can assure him that His Majesty's Government have not failed to note that the Japanese newspapers have recently been using the same kind of language regarding Thailand as they employed before the Japanese demand for bases in Indo-China. The technique is just the same. It is for that reason that, a week ago, on 31st July, His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo drew the attention of the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs to this newspaper campaign, which alleges, amongst other things, that we are intriguing in Thailand, that British military preparations are threatening Japanese interests, and that in consequence Thailand should, in her own interests, come to 2039 an early understanding with Japan, the Power which controls Indo-China. That is what their Press is saying. Our Ambassador pointed out that this kind of thing could only mean that someone in authority in Japan was endeavouring to manufacture a case for Japan's intervention in Thai affairs. He added that if a step of this kind were taken, coming on top of the recent action in Indo-China, it must inevitably give rise to a most serious situation between Great Britain and Japan. Sir Robert Craigie then gave to Admiral Toyoda, the Japanese Foreign Minister, the most formal assurance that all these reports of British aggressive designs against Thailand were, of course, utterly baseless. The truth is that we have now had for over a century friendly relations with Thailand, and our policy has no other object than to maintain these relations. But it is not less true that any action which would threaten the independence and integrity of Thailand, would be a matter of immediate concern to this country, more particularly as threatening the security of Singapore. I hope that these words may yet be heeded.
Let me add this about another country in the Far East. As the House knows, there is no alliance, formal or informal, between this country and China. But every fresh forward move on the part of Japan naturally has the result of bringing China and ourselves closer and closer together. It results in more intimate consultation, and we have had an example of that, as the House knows, only the other day. The Chinese Government, immediately understanding the importance of the freezing order themselves, not only approved the Measure, but asked that it should be applied to China so that it might be more effective against Japan. That friendship, that collaboration with China, will continue and, I pray, will grow.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Is my right hon. Friend indicating to the House that friendship with China will grow only in accordance with Japanese demands? Could we not make ourselves perfectly clear to-day with regard to our position in relation to China?
§ Mr. Eden
Certainly that friendship will grow. It is a long-standing friendship, and it has been growing and will continue 2040 to grow, independent of Japan's attitude. But the point I wish to make is that Japan's forward aggressions invariably result in two friends, who have no aggressive intentions, getting closer and closer together.
Let me come for a moment to the Middle Eastern situation. There, perhaps, I can carry the comments which hon. Members have made to-day on war and peace aims a step further. We have said, over and over again, that this country has no territorial ambitions in this war. We seek no territory anywhere. We did not go to war to enlarge our country. We went to war because the Nazi menace threatened the life of Europe, threatened our own life and freedom, and threatened, as it threatens to-day, the peace of the world. We went to war to resist aggression and not to steal prizes or to pilfer loot. Having said that, it follows that there can be, on our part, only one policy towards all those nations who live in the area bounded on the West by the Suez Canal and on the East by the frontiers of India—all that territory loosely referred to as the Middle East. For all the countries in that area we have only one policy. We wish to see them lead their own lives in security and at peace. We claim that our past action has shown that. After the last war in Iraq, and after a very considerable expenditure of money, we set up an independent Iraqi State and we withdrew our Forces.
The world will have to look far and often before it finds any sign of action of that kind in Hitler's policy. That was the policy we pursued deliberately, and, so it is, when our hostilities with Germany and Italy are over, we shall do our utmost to assist those lands in the Middle East to enjoy a free and independent life. Meanwhile forces of men and material are pouring out to strengthen our forces in the Middle East for their next forward blow. They are going from this country, from the United States, from India and from East Africa, where the campaign is almost over. I suggest that the blows those forces will strike are blows struck for the independence of those lands in the Middle East just as much as they are for ourselves. If that be true, and it is true, perhaps that carries with it a corollary. These countries must co-operate with us in ensuring that they do not afford opportunity to Germany or the Axis to create troubles, disturbances, upheavals, or risings to further the Axis war effort.
2041 I take one example of what I mean—Iran. There is in Iran to-day a large number of Germans. Past experience in many lands has shown that these German colonists, or however they may be described—whether they are experts, or whether they are tourists, or whatever they have been called—are extremely dangerous to the country in which they are found at a critical hour. So it is that we have drawn the attention of the Iranian Government—their serious attention—to the danger, in their own interests, of continuing to permit an extremely large number of Germans to reside in their country. I trust the Iranian Government will not fail to heed this warning, which is given in all friendliness and in all sincerity, and will take the necessary measures now to deal with this situation.
There is another country in the part of the world about which I would also speak—Turkey. The foundation of our relations with Turkey is the Anglo-Turkish Treaty. We have observed, and whatever the future holds we shall continue to observe, that Treaty loyally. We believe that friendship between this country and Turkey can be a lasting contribution to European understanding. Not only during the war, but after the war, we shall hope to work together in full amity and understanding. Perhaps some hon. Members have seen from time to time the suggestion made by enemy propaganda that we might agree, or that we have agreed, to some arrangement or other at the expense of Turkey. There is not, of course, a shadow of truth in any such suggestion. We would never agree to anything of the kind, nor in fact has any suggestion of the sort ever been made to us by any party. The post-war world will require the collaboration of many States, great and small. In that world the Turkey re-created by the genius of Ataturk will have a noble part to play and, in doing so, Turkey will decide her own course and she will choose her own collaborators.
There is another country in the Near East about which I must speak in very different terms. Bulgaria took the opportunity presented by the wanton attack made by Italy and Germany on Greece and Yugoslavia to seize, under the Axis cloak, large areas of Greek and Yugoslav territory. In so doing Bulgaria showed 2042 herself hostile to her Balkan neighbours and hostile to the whole conception of Balkan unity. To-day she is, no doubt, well pleased with her ill-gotten gains but she may rest assured that in the end those will not benefit her. Her action will not be forgotten by ourselves, nor by our Allies, when the day of reckoning comes.
Before I close I should like to say a word or two about the Russian-Polish negotiations and the situation at present on the Russian front. My right hon. Friend has said with truth that we have watched with growing admiration the magnificent resistance of the Russian Army. The House equally welcomed the arrangement to which a few days ago the Russian and Polish Governments came for the immediate regulation of their affairs. It is our hope that this arrangement is the opening of a new chapter in the relations between these two Powers. I am glad that my hon. Friend paid a very generous tribute to the Polish Prime Minister. It is richly deserved, and we must always pay a tribute to those who are willing to rise superior to past memories, however bitter, and to try to work in true statesmanship for a better future. I am glad to be able to tell the House that real despatch is being used in giving effect to the Agreement so recently reached. The Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces in Russia has already been chosen, appointed by the Polish Government in agreement with the Soviet Government, and has begun his work. Officers from this country and also one or two political representatives, Polish officers, have already arrived in Moscow and begun their work, and I have been assured by both Governments, and I am convinced that it is true, that they are determined to work this Agreement with energy, in order to make the maximum contribution they can to the defeat of Germany at the earliest possible moment.
The House is shortly to adjourn for a few days or longer. During that time we shall, no doubt, be the recipients of news of all kinds, some of it good, some of it not so good, some of it perhaps better, but I believe—I say this watching events from the Foreign Office—that, whatever the news, our reaction here must be the same, of an ever-continuing, ever-increasing effort. It is true that the emphasis of the war has shifted. It is true that opportunities are opening which 2043 seemed impossible of realisation a year ago. I can remember a week when I was at the War Office when our trained and equipped forces in this country did not number one division. It is a different story now, but an enormous amount remains to be done. If the material were there, an immense amount remains that we could do, which yet we are still unable to do. for our friends and our Allies, apart from ourselves. During this brief Recess our watchword must be "Production and more production, effort and more effort," until the victory is won.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.