HC Deb 30 July 1941 vol 373 cc1502-4

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

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

I must apologise to the House for trespassing on its time, but when an international event of importance occurs, I think it right that the first public announcement of that event should, if possible, be made in Parliament itself. I am very glad to be able to inform the House that an Agreement between the Soviet Union and Poland was signed at the Foreign Office this afternoon. Under that Agreement the Soviet Government recognise that the Soviet-German Treaties of 1939 as to territorial changes in Poland have lost their validity, while the Polish Government declare that Poland is not bound by any agreement with a third party directed against the Soviet Union. Diplomatic relations will be restored at once and Ambassadors exchanged. The two Governments agree to render each other support of all kinds in the war against Hitlerite Germany. The Soviet Government agree to the formation of a Polish Army on Soviet territory. This Polish Army will be subordinated, in an operational sense, to the supreme command of the Soviet Union. Attached to the Agreement is a Protocol by which the Soviet Government grant an amnesty to all Polish citizens now detained on Soviet territory, either as prisoners of war or on other grounds, as from the resumption of diplomatic relations. Here, perhaps, I may say that arrangements for immediate resumption are being made.

After the signature of the Agreement, I handed General Sikorski a Note in the following terms: On the occasion of the signature of the Polish-Soviet Agreement of to-day's date, I desire to take the opportunity of informing you that in conformity with the provisions of the Agreement of Mutual Assistance between the United Kingdom and Poland of 25th August, 1939, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have entered into no undertaking towards the U.S.S.R. which affects the relations between that country and Poland. I also desire to assure you that His Majesty's Government do not recognise any territorial changes which have been effected in Poland since August, 1939. General Sikorski handed me a reply in the following terms: The Polish Government take note of your Excellency's letter dated 30th July, 1941, and desire to express sincere satisfaction at the statement that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom do not recognise any territorial changes which have been effected in Poland since August, 1939. This corresponds with the view of the Polish Government, who, as they have previously informed His Majesty's Government, have never recognised any territorial changes effected in Poland since the outbreak of the present war. I want to say a word in connection with the Note which I handed to General Sikorski. It is stated in paragraph 1 of the Soviet-Polish Agreement that the Soviet Government recognise the Soviet-German Treaties of 1939 concerning territorial changes in Poland, as having lost their validity. The attitude of His Majesty's Government in these matters was stated in general terms by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on 5th September, 1940, when he said that His Majesty's Government did not propose to recognise any territorial changes which took place during the war, unless they took place with the free consent and good will of the parties concerned. This holds good with the territorial changes which have been effected in Poland since August, 1939, and I informed the Polish Government accordingly in my official Note. As to the future frontiers of Poland, as of other European countries, I would draw attention to what my right hon. Friend said in the speech to which I have referred. I am sure the House will agree with me that both parties are to be warmly congratulated on the signature of this Agreement. This is an historic event. It will lay a firm foundation for future collaboration between the two countries in the war against the common enemy. It will, therefore, be a valuable contribution to the Allied cause, and will be warmly welcomed in all friendly countries, and not least, I feel sure, by public opinion throughout the British Empire.

Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)

May I respectfully congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the personal service he has rendered in helping to negotiate this very notable Agreement? Does he think it appropriate and desirable to express to the Governments of our two Allies the appreciation of the Members of this House of the statesmanship and generosity they have both shown?

Captain McEwen (Berwick and Haddington)

Am I right in assuming that, as a result of this Agreement, no guarantee of frontiers in Eastern Europe will be undertaken by His Majesty's Government?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. The exchange of Notes which I have just read to the House does not involve any guarantee of frontiers by His Majesty's Government.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

Are we right in saying that both parties to this Agreement are satisfied with its terms, and that it is mutual in respect to the Governments of both nations?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir, and I think, in view of past history, we ought, in fairness, to repeat our congratulations to those who have shewn such wise statesmanship in coming to this Agreement.

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

On the question of the guarantee of frontiers, surely the existing guarantee to Poland holds good?

Mr. Eden

There is, as I have said, no guarantee of frontiers.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

In view of the huge potential Polish Army in the Soviet Union, will the Foreign Secretary consider doing all he possibly can to equip that Army as soon as possible?

Mr. Eden

That will be a matter for the Soviet Government, but we had in our minds throughout the negotiations the enormous value to the Allied cause in raising and equipping rapidly, a Polish Army in Russia.

Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)

May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the part he has taken in mediating this Agreement, which is of such good augury for the new order in Europe? Will he also make known to our principal enemy, Hitler, that this is the result of his wanton attack upon Russia?

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

Was the Note which was handed to General Sikorski at the termination of the signing of the Treaty known beforehand? Was it part of the amicable arrangements of all the parties?

Mr. Eden

Oh, yes, all that was arranged beforehand.

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