§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Mr. Whiteley.]
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On 10th June I asked the Prime Minister:Whether he can now state the results of the investigation into the purpose of the 886 arrival in this country of Rudolf Hess; whether Hess brought with him any proposals indicating how the problems of Europe might, in his view, be solved; whether any reply to such proposals has been made or is contemplated; whether such proposals or reply will be published; and whether he will indicate the general lines of the Government's own proposals for the settlement of Europe after the war, so as to repair its ravages and prevent its recurrence?My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) asked another Question on a related subject, and, answering both Questions together, the Prime Minister said:I have no statement to make about this person at the present time: but His Majesty's Government have, of course, kept the United States Government informed on the subject of his flight to this country.In a supplementary, I then asked whether the House wasto infer that this prominent Nazi leader came to this country without any serious purpose whatever; and if he had such a purpose, why are the people of this country not entitled to know what it was?The Prime Minister replied:I have nothing to add to the answer I have given.When my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) asked when the Prime Minister hoped to make a statement, he was told that the Prime Minister did not quite know; thatIf at any time the Government think a statement is necessary, or that it would be advantageous, it will be made." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1941; cols. 29-30, Vol. 372.]Being—as I hope the House will think, not unreasonably—dissatisfied with that answer, I gave notice to raise the matter on the Adjournment. I gave notice to the Prime Minister, through the usual channels, that, if convenient, I would raise the matter to-day. Although I observe that the Prime Minister has not been able to be present, I make no complaint about that. I understand that the Government are represented, and that some reply will be vouchsafed. Rather more than a month ago an event occurred which I think the whole world regarded as sensational. The Government at that time, so far as I can understand from the statements made on their behalf—not in this House, for they never make statements on behalf of the Government in this House nowadays, although they make them in New York City or in the City of 887 London, or anywhere but to the representatives of the people duly elected to this sovereign assembly—also regarded the event as sensational. Indeed, why should they not? If the Minister of State, shall we say, who was at that time still Minister of Aircraft Production, had gone to one of his factories, and, with or with out the leave of the Government, had taken a Spitfire or a Hurricane, and had landed at Berchtesgaden, I think the world would have regarded that as being sensational. I think that the propaganda department of the German Government, which is so much more imaginative and efficient than our own —
§ Mr. Silverman
Unfortunately, in modern propaganda the art of lying has become highly developed everywhere. What we are dealing with to-day is not anybody's lying or anybody's imagination, but what is a fact. I invite the House to consider what use the German Government would have made of it if the corresponding fact had taken place in Germany, and I have used what I hope the House will think a fair example of what such a corresponding fact would have been. Imagine if the Deputy-Leader of the Government of this country had, by night, taken upon himself the perils of flying a machine which he had never flown before, specially equipped with devices that the ordinary machine had not got, and had landed by parachute at Berchtesgaden. The Germans would have made much better use of that for their purposes than we have made of this sensational event for ours. What has been said so far? On one occasion, the Minister without Portfolio, speaking at Deptford, said:When a man occupying such an important official position in the Nazi hierarchy as Hess flees his country and puts himself in the hands of the enemy, it looks as though all is not well on the German home front. Disunity, doubt and disillusionment are growing, and will continue to grow within the German Reich. The Nazi foundation upon which Germany's grandiose edifice of military aggression rests has begun to show signs of internal stress and strain. I will not say it is cracking, but it is certainly becoming chipped. That is all to the good, but we must not allow particular instances to turn us for a single moment from our own resolute purpose.888 The Minister of Home Security, speaking at Hackney, in his own constituency, said that he would give a few hard facts about Hess. He said:Hess, Hitler's right-hand man, is, like the rest of them, a brutal thug, whose hands, like his master's, are stained with some of the worst political crimes of modern times. Hess takes his share of guilt for the murder of hundreds of his comrades in 1934. So highly did Hitler think of his peculiar capacities that he made it his task to out-Gestapo the Gestapo. This gangster is now in our hands. He is going to stay in our hands. It does not matter what kind of animal he is: whether he is Rat No. 1 or a Trojan horse, or just a baby panda sent over in the hope of finding innocents over here to play with, he is caged. Whatever his reasons for coming here the German people, to put it mildly, are very much shaken by the whole episode.The Lord Chancellor made a speech to a similar effect. But on another occasion the Minister of Labour expressed a view in public about this man. He did not seem to agree with the Minister without Portfolio, who thought that Hess's oming here showed signs of chipping in the Nazi edifice. On the contrary, the Minister of Labour said:I do not believe that this gentleman came here without Hitler's knowledge.That is a very different story. Those, of course, are the speeches of the great, of members of the Government. The principle of collective Cabinet responsibility does not seem to have been followed in any exaggerated degree in the preparation of those statements, if they were prepared. But, of course, a host of other people have had things to say about this matter. It was said on one occasion, through the Ministry of Information, that the Duke of Hamilton had received a letter from Hess a month before his arrival here, and I think the statement implied, or asserted, that he had replied to it. That statement was subsequently withdrawn, and it was said that he had not had a letter, and had not replied. Another statement that I read recently in the Press—and presumably the Minister of Information knew of it—was that on a previous occasion, when Hess was on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the German Government in Madrid, he had telephoned to someone whom he knew in Gibraltar to inquire what would happen to him if he were to fly from Madrid to Gibraltar. Apparently, according to this report, he was told that, if he did try, he would be shot down, and for that or for some other reason he 889 evidently decided not to make the venture, and he did not arrive in Gibraltar.
I have had a number of communications, some anonymous and some not, since this Question appeared upon the Order Paper, and one of the anonymous correspondents suggests an entirely different purpose. He gives the name of a lady, who was for a long time in Germany and who arrived in this country from Germany after the war by arrangement between the Governments, and suggests that there were domestic entanglements arising out of that which induced Mr. Hess to leave his wife and family at the mercy of Hitler in Berlin and put himself at the mercy of the Prime Minister and his Government in this country. Over and above all that, since the Question was answered in the House or was not answered, I see that a man, not a Member of this House but a well-known public figure—I think he is the Lord Provost of Glasgow, who was recently honoured by his Majesty as Sir Patrick Dollan—has made a speech. I am not sure whether he is not the chairman, or secretary, or something of the Ministry of Information Regional Committee. He has made a statement, which the newspapers entitled "Hess—the Truth," and the truth according to Sir Patrick is that Hess arrived in this country expecting to make contact with certain individuals or groups whom he does not venture to name and to be able to go back again in two days' time.
Whatever the truth of this matter, can anyone believe that a sensational event, handled in this manner, is really of greater disservice to the enemy than it is to ourselves? Is this incident being used to cause doubt and mystification and uneasy, doubtful surmise in the minds of the German population or in the minds of our own population? There are contradictory statements made by authoritative persons, and very shortly after the happening of the event there is, as far as one can see, a complete and apparently directed silence in the Press and elsewhere about this matter altogether.
Let me make this clear. I have no illusions about this man. There were people who talked about his high moral character and how different he was from all the others. I make nothing of all that. I do not suppose that, if there were opportunities for negotiation with representatives 890 of the German Government acting and speaking, and entitled to act and speak, for the German people to consider the state in which Europe now is and how that state might be improved, His Majesty's Government would wish to choose. or would be supported in choosing, as such representative any member of the present German regime, Hess is the architect, as much as anyone. of this gang which has enslaved, first Germany, and then the whole of Europe. I do not share the views of those who say that all Germans are Nazis. I do not share the belief of the late Prime Minister, though he did not always believe it, that the German people were responsible for the present German Government. I do not believe that, in a totalitarian regime such as this, with a rigid censorship of information, opinion, discussion and criticism, with no elections, no meetings, no right almost to think, and certainly no right to know and no right to express, the people can remain responsible for their Government in the same way as a democracy is responsible for its Government. Moreover, if I did think so, or if I thought it possible that a people subject to all that could still remain responsible for its Government in the way that I am responsible for mine and the people of this country are responsible for theirs, then I would be at a loss to understand what advantage is claimed for the democratic system over the totalitarian one. I do say that, when a man who is as much responsible as any other man, including the titular leader, for the existence of this regime in Germany, and for the fate into which it has landed Europe, arrives in this country, then the people of this country are entitled to know, as far as the Government can tell them, what were the reasons and motives of that extremely unexpected happening.
After all, this is not the Government's war. They are not bearing the brunt of it, or at any rate not alone. The great burden, the tragedy, the misery, the suffering, and the cost are borne by the vast multitude of our countrymen. Do not despise them; do not mistrust them. Do not think that you are entitled to mother them and coddle them and wrap them round with cotton wool. Decide what they shall know and what they shall not know, or you will run a very serious risk of committing the very errors which 891 the German Government have committed and which have landed us where we are. You have a people who are brave, determined and diligent in what they undertake themselves to see through to success. Do not fear that anything which we might have to tell them about Hess will, affect their judgment of the commitments that are involved in the struggle that is now taking place. You have nothing of which to be afraid. Nothing in the wide world of that kind need prevent you from saying what it is. Is it suggested that you might be telling the German people too much? I can see dangers in saying too much; I can see advantages in keeping them guessing as to this, that or the other detail, but I am bound to say if you say nothing about it at all, that then the German Government's statement to their people stands unchallenged by you. The German people are entitled to believe that this man suffered from some progressive nervous disease which had made him mentally unstable and that no attention whatever need be paid to his act.
The Government say, "That is not so at all. He is perfectly all right; he is in high spirits; he is being fed on chicken, and his health is perfectly all right." In my Question I included some reference to the Government's own plan. The two things, although at first sight they may not appear to belong together, are not really so divided. There are many people in this country who believe, rightly or wrongly—the Government will not yet let us know—that Hess arrived here with a definite plan for peace. I would like to ask the Government a direct question: Is that the case or not? Can there be any reason for not telling us? If he did not arrive with any such proposal, obviously there can be no harm in the Government's authoritatively saying so and setting these doubts at rest here and now and for all time. If, on the other hand, he did bring with him, on his own behalf, on behalf of any group or on behalf of the German Government, any proposal of that kind, why should the Government be afraid to say that this was so and let us know what the proposal was? Are they afraid that in some way the morale of the people of this country would be affected by knowing that. That would be a very misguided view. Morale would surely tend to be heightened and 892 not diminished by knowledge that this man, who shares in so high a degree responsibility for German government, felt that the state of the war was such that they ought to make proposals to bring it to an end.
But there are other considerations more important. I have contended—I regret to say with only a handful of support so far—for many months that the people who are most entitled to know what ultimade objects we have in view in this struggle are the people who are fighting the struggle and bearing the brunt of the conflict. If proposals are made to the Government, they are made to the Government only in order to be made known to the people, and nobody is better entitled to know the facts than the people of the country. The Prime Minister said that he would not at that time make a statement to the House, that he did not know when he would make a statement and that he did not know whether he ever would make a statement. But he added that he had told the Government of the United States. What has he told the Government of the United States? What is there that the Government of the United States are entitled to know about this matter that the people of this country are not entitled to know? I am not behind others in gratitude to the United States for the very necessary help they are rendering to us, and are proposing to continue to render, until this struggle is successfully ended. I am not saying for a single moment that there may not be very good grounds indeed for letting the United States Government know the truth about this matter. What I am complaining of is that the people of this country, whose right to know is not less than Mr. Roosevelt's, are not told too.
Europe is in a tragic condition. I think we may say that with common consent. No man can foresee how long this dreadful war will go on; no one can estimate what its ultimate cost, not merely to this country, but to the whole world, may be. No man may know whether at the end of it all we shall create a desert which we shall call peace and give it the permanence of the grave. A great responsibility rests upon all actors, great and humble, in this matter. The tragedies of Europe did not begin on 3rd September, 1939. They are of older date than that. The vast unemployment, the great poverty, 893 the constant competition between man and man, class and class, race and race and nation and nation to secure an ever larger share of ever dwindling wealth in a world capable of providing a standard of living higher for everybody than the world has ever known—all that existed before September, 1939, and they are the root causes of this war, as of other wars.
Some day, by someone, these problems will have to be tackled and solved. I am under no illusion about Hitler's federated States of Europe. An enslaved Germany leading an enslaved Europe is not a united Europe. Some day there will have to be a real federation of Europe, a real United States of Europe. I would like to see our country leading the struggle for that and saying so clearly and boldly, and I would like to see its imagination of the future approaching in some degree the courage with which some people are fighting for that future. I resent more deeply than I can say that the only statements that have been vouchsafed to our own people, so far as there have been any statements, about how the Government view those problems and their ultimate solution, have been dragged out of them reluctantly in speeches by His Majesty's Ambassador to some New York journalists and speeches by the Foreign Secretary to a handful of business men in the City of London. It is not good enough. I beg the Government to remember what people it is that they have the responsibility of leading in these times and to trust them as much as—nay, trust them better than—they would trust one another.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I wish to support the claim made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that the Government should make some definite pronouncement on this most puzzling matter. My hon. Friend spoke of this descent from the skies as a sensation, and I think it is not an exaggeration to say that to ordinary persons, like me, it appears that this is the most sensational thing that has happened for many hundreds of years. I should like to refer to some of the remarks that were made in the daily Press at or about the time, because the whole position has been wrought round with an extraordinary amount of suppression, inexact statement, and, in some cases, I am almost tempted to say, untruth. At or 894 about the time of Herr Hess's arrival, the diplomatic correspondent of the "Daily Mail" made this statement:Greatly would I like to tell the true story of the flight to this country of Rudolf Hess, Germany's No. 3 Nazi, who, I assume, is still with us.There is then something which is irrelevant, and he went on to ask:What caused Hess to make such a carefully calculated flight to this country?"—Evidently, in the mind of the diplomatic correspondent of the "Daily Mail," it was no mistake—What made him make his perilous parachute descent in Scotland? What, if anything, did he bring with him, and with what purpose did he land? Above all, I would like to report for certain that he is still here. But I am not in a position to do so.He then said:A prominent and very knowledgeable spokesman for the Government told me that the Hess story was the biggest story of the war.It would appear from these remarks, and from similar articles in the Press of all denominations and types, that it was generally recognised—as I think we all agree—that this was a very sensational happening. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne made some semi-comic references to the possibility of one of our own Ministers arriving over Berlin and tumbling out by parachute. It does not really come within the scope of my imagination to think of the Lord President of the Council turning himself upside down over Berlin.
§ Mr. Stokes
Of course, one of the disadvantages from which we suffer, to a certain extent, is that the Cabinet consists of old men—we cannot blame Members of the Government for getting on in years. But they have not the natural youth and vigour of the leaders of Germany, who are able to undertake missions of this kind amongst other activities with apparent ease and facility, and without very much fear. Be that as it may, let us not forget what the Prime Minister said on this subject. It was all very well for the Prime Minister, in replying to a Question which I put to him on 10th June, to say that he had no statement to make, but on 16th May the "Times" Lobby correspondent had reported: 895The Prime Minister, answering questions in the House of Commons to-day, promised to take the first opportunity to give the House authentic news about Hess.Since then, we have had nothing but negative authentic news, and some of it not very authentically negative. My hon. Friend referred to that highly active genius, the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Some newspapers have even reported that he has had a private interview with Hess. I cannot believe that is so, but evidently the Lord Provost sticks by his guns, for, according to the "Manchester Guardian" of yesterday, Sir Patrick Dollanhas 'rejected ' Dr. Henderson's rebuke and stands to his statementwith regard to the purpose of the arrival of Herr Hess. It seems to me to be wrong that a person occupying the position which Sir Patrick does should be at liberty to trot round Scotland telling all the Scots what, apparently, we are not permitted to hear authentically from the Government in the House. I also take the Government to task on the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne, namely, the sending of information to the American Government. I agree that the Americans are, to all intents and purposes, fighting the war with us, but we are doing the bleeding and dying, and our people have as much right—and more right—to know what this is all about. as the great American Republic and its leaders across the water.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
Assuming for the moment that the German Government do not know what Herr Hess has said in this country, does the hon. Member think it very desirable that we should tell them? If we told the American Government and the American Government had gone on to tell the American people, then I should agree with what the hon. Member has said, but if we-told the American Government as a friendly Government and it is to go no further, surely that is a very different thing from publishing the information and telling the German Government, who may be in ignorance of what Hess has said.
§ Mr. Stokes
I quite understand the point of view of my hon. Friend, or half friend, opposite, but I do not suggest' for a 896 moment that any statement should be made by our Government which would be of great assistance to the enemy. However, the suspicion which is getting into the minds of our people is that we have got to defer to the American Government on these subjects, and cannot decide these major matters for ourselves. No public pronouncement has yet been made in America, but, knowing America as I do, I do not think it will be very long before there is one, and I should not be in the least surprised to hear that there is a semi-authentic statement made there long before the House of Commons has received any information from the Goverment, having regard to the experience we have had of this Government during the last few months on such matters. But the charge which I want to lay at the door of the Government is that of terminological inexactitude, or whatever is the Prime Minister's term for these half-statements which are worse than direct untruths. In his statement on this subject on 22nd May, the Secretary of State for Air said:The Duke of Hamilton did not recognise the prisoner and had never met the Deputy-Führer.I do not know whether we are really expected to believe that. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has searched through the personal dossiers relevant to this matter, and whether he has satisfied himself that Hess was not known to the Duke of Hamilton. That seems to be the only satisfactory way of arriving at a solution. I have not access to the papers, but my right hon. Friend has. From all I have heard and been told about people who have flown and belonged to various flying clubs on the Continent, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Duke of Hamilton knew Hess well to speak to and certainly by sight. Why, then, put over a silly sort of untruth of this kind? I am making no imputation whatsoever against the Duke of Hamilton. Why should he not know Hess? He has travelled in Germany as a lot of us have done, and he had a right to get in touch with the leaders of that country and try to understand their point of view. My complaint is against the stupidity of the Government in putting out what I believe to be an inaccurate statement of this kind. Indeed, there may be further support for what I say.
897 I want to ask the Under-Secretary whether this account of what happened on the arrival of Hess is correct or not. I would ask the House to bear in mind that we have to accept the Government's statement that Hess was unknown to and unrecognisable by the Duke of Hamilton. It appears, so far as I have been able to understand, that on the arrival of this stranger he asked to see the Duke of Hamilton. It appears that the Duke was engaged as a serving officer in an aerodrome not very far away and that he went with the security officer of that aerodrome to see Hess, and, when he saw him we are asked to believe that he did not know it was Hess. Is it not true that the Duke of Hamilton was left alone with Hess for 1½ hours, with the security officer outside? What is the advisability of that, unless there was some acquaintanceship or understanding which might produce information of great value to this country? Surely it seems perfectly clear that he had knowledge of the man before he met him here? The Secretary of State for Air goes on to say in his statement:Contrary to reports which have appeared in some newspapers, the Duke has never been in correspondence with the Deputy Fuhrer." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1941, col 1591. Vol 371.]How does that tie up with the gymnastics of the Minister of Information? Apparently he seems to have told Press correspondents that some time before a letter had been received by the Duke of Hamilton from Hess. It is not said what happened to the letter, but no doubt it was handed over to the appropriate authorities in the ordinary way. But that statement is completely contradictory of what the Secretary of State for Air said in this House on 22nd May. There is another important point on this matter which needs clearing up. My hon. Friend who opened the Debate made some reference to the various statements made by leaders of the Government which seemed to be contradictory to one another, and various statements made in this House. It appears that the Minister of Information told the Press, assembled at the Ministry of Information, that the story to put about was to say that Hess flew here through fear. That is all right; it might have been good propaganda from his point of view—I do not know. But how can you reconcile that statement with what was said by the Minister of Labour 898 the next day? After all, he is a member of the War Cabinet. He stated:My own views on this adventure I will not express at this gathering, further than to say that I do not believe Hitler did not know Hess was coming to England.The two things do not tie up. It may be that the members of the Government live in watertight compartments, and that in consequence one does not know what the others are doing, in which case the sooner we clear the lot out the better for all of us. The two statements cannot be reconciled; they do not seem to bear examination by any reasonable-minded man. Finally, we have now the cheerful rumour that Hess is living at Chequers. Why has he gone to Chequers? I do not know whether it is true or not, but it is common talk. Why cannot we be told some element of truth instead of having these ridiculous contradictory statements?
§ Major Vyvyan Adams (Leeds, West)
What is the authority for saying that that is the present residence of Hess?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am not going to give my authority. I know very well what my hon. and gallant Friend wants me to say. I know what happens to people who give information to Members of this House, when you reveal names. I am not proposing to do it in this connection because such people get victimised against the wish of the House. You get up against a stone-wall of officialdom, determined to down the man who has attempted to tell the truth and stand by our privileges and rights. I think it is generally recognised now that Hess, for better or worse, brought some kind of peace proposal.
§ Mr. Stokes
My hon. Friend is no doubt a much better soothsayer and visionary than myself, but I prefer to take the facts as I find them. I do not wish the Government to make any statement which is of use to the enemy, but I do say, if there was a statement or proposal of any kind, then the people of this country, who are bearing the heat of the battle, have a right to be told the truth and nothing but the truth, and that the methods in which the Government have so far indulged have brought nothing but discontent and suspicion.
§ Major Vyvyan Adams
Whatever may have been the true motive of the flight of Hess to this country, this incident is, I think, pregnant with lessons for all of us. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) eloquently dabbled in conjecture. With the greatest possible respect, I ask him not to allow himself to be deceived. If there were not an overwhelming majority of Germans enthusiastically in favour of the Nazi regime, it would not now be surviving with such cruel efficiency. Without the German people, where would Herr Hitler, Hess or any of them be?
Although I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising this matter, I am afraid he will elicit very little when the Government reply. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is cleverer than anyone I have ever met in disclosing no information whatsoever. Indeed, the presence of my right hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench is a signal that the Government have nothing at all to say to-day. On the other hand, I hope the hon. Member will evoke nothing in reply to his observations about the cause of the war. It seems to me to be quite irrelevant to this Hess incident. All that need be said about that now is that there would have been no war without a powerful and aggressive Germany, and that it is our first duty to remove from Germany the power to be guilty of that aggression
There are many theories about Hess—indeed there are just as many theories as there are heads to hold them. During Question time some weeks ago I ventured to suggest that it is to be regretted that the Minister of Information, or the Prime Minister, if he assumes responsibility for this matter, allowed the Germans to be first in their allegation that Hess was mad. As a result of that statement by the German propaganda machine, the theory is still widely held among a bewildered but still excited public in this country that Hess is mad, whereas Hess is no more mad than Crippen, Judas Iscariot or Satan. Better than silence would have been our ruthless use of this gift from hell. We should, I say, have used it ruthlessly, but as a matter of fact the Minister of Information has made no more use of it than an oyster. There are two theories which have enjoyed the greatest popularity. One is the more plausible, namely, that Hess came here in fear of 900 something. I was half-inclined to that view at first, but as time has passed, that comfortable doctrine has lost its first bloom. And yet I agree emphatically with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that the British public is entitled to know and can be trusted with the knowledge. [An HON. MEMBER: "In time of war?"] Certainly. The other theory, the one to which I have been most inclined, seems now the more probable. It is that the coming of Hess and his descent in Scotland is some kind of plant undertaken either with or without the full collusion of Hitler. There is this to be said in favour of that theory that every apparent inconsistency fits it and every improbability makes the whole thing much more probable.
But here is something which, I, in particular, and, I believe, the House in general, cannot understand. Why should the Ministry of Information stumble or indeed seem to prevaricate, as it did at one point, while at the same time the Lord Provost of Glasgow enjoys the licence of making a statement with every semblance of authority and aid of publicity? Who is he, anyway, compared with His Majesty's Government? Why this official silence on the matter? It almost looks as though the Government are unwilling to trust the people with the true explanation. I assure my right hon. Friend however negative and charmingly elusive he may be when he comes to reply, that he and the Government need have no fear about that. I am perfectly well assured that the ordinary people of the country are as resolute for victory as our great and incomparable Prime Minister. Perhaps they are more resolute than the two hon. Members who opened the Debate.
§ Major Adams
If the hon. Member objects to the phrase "more resolute," and thinks the comparison invidious to the people I will withdraw it and say "just as resolute." If I may express the comparison in formal terms 1 believe the people of the country are far more favourable to the Vansittart point of view than to the Londonderry point of view.
§ Mr. Stokes
I did not say anything of the sort. I would ask whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that if you make a statement on the public plat-form to-day that. Sir Robert Vansittart has done more damage to our cause than any other individual man, that is the statement that gets the most applause?
§ Major Adams
The hon. Member should not be so zealous to interrupt. His monosyllabic interruption seemed to fix on Lord Londonderry. He has now involved himself in one of the most ridiculous and absurd statements I have ever heard and it is entirely contrary to the truth. This country is resolute for victory. They know perfectly well that if we allow a strong unitary Germany to emerge in the centre of Europe after the war, we are certain within a measurable time to have to face another war. The people of this country are not so stupid as to wish to annihilate the German people but they wish to obliterate the present German State for the sake of the security of their descendants. They agree that the Government should follow the only possible course to achieve that end—batter, defeat, disarm, occupy, divide. These are five imperatives which the Government will ignore to the ruin of our children.
I believe that Hess came to this country under the fond delusion that he could debauch our aristocracy by saying to them, "Join us, or we join Russia." It seems that he came having in his pocket proposals which might attract the mentality which now wants peace at any cost. There is such a mentality and it is mainly to be found here and there in corners among the well-born and well-to-do, those who have more money than sense, those who whisper the dangerous fallacy, "Better defeat with our possessions, than victory with Bolshevism," which is exactly what Hitler wants them to say. Such an outlook is to be found, only half-ashamed, in the corners of another place. Appeasement is not dead among those whom I may call, for the purpose of rough convenience, the "Cliveden Set," an expression as historically convenient and geographically inaccurate as the "Holy Roman Empire."
I have no doubt indeed that the "Times" newspaper would quickly 902 make surrender or compromise appear respectable. Indeed, leading articles constructing a staircase down to compromise are probably already written and pigeon-holed in Printing-House Square. If anyone doubts that, although superficially there may be something slightly laughable about it, will he recall the "Times" reception of the Hess episode and the subsequent lies and evasions practised by that newspaper? After beginning by calling Hess—in heavy type—an idealist, it proceeded to deny that it had done so and, when it could no longer deny it, it stated that no one in his senses could conceivably fail to know what a thoroughly bad person an idealist is. No little provincial newspaper could ever have sunk to such meanness. This is the newspaper, the most influential of our national organs, which first advocated the surrender to Hitler of the Czechoslovak fortresses and opened its columns to a long correspondence about giving colonies to Germany. If the Hess incident has done nothing else, I hope it has succeeded in putting us on our guard.
With all seriousness I say to my right hon. Friend and to the Home Office, that the Government would do well to re-examine the records of all those who have treated Germany in the past as some kind of bulwark against Bolshevism and those who were frantic in their endeavours to extend the Nazi dominion to Colonial territories in Africa. Most dangerous of all are those who used to behave in this queer way and now make ultra-patriotic speeches and ask ultra-patriotic questions about military bands. Their patriotism can be switched off just as conveniently as it can be switched on. There are others typified by the people who utter two most dangerous clichés—clichés that are active even in the middle of this war which we are prosecuting for our survival. They are "You cannot keep Germany down" and "The German is not a bad fellow." It is, most unfortunately, the fact that the majority of Germans at present are worse than bad fellows. They are filthy fellows, and Hess is one of the filthiest. This evil has got to be smashed and smashed for good, whatever it costs and however long the task may be. Otherwise, if we expose ourselves to any deception by a creature like Hess or by any of those allied with him, we shall betray posterity.
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Member said that the people who lead us wrongly are those who say that we cannot hold Germany down. Does he remember the words of the Prime Minister that Germany cannot be held in permanent subjection?
§ Major Adams
To reply in the manner of the Prime Minister, that was no doubt a remark made by that annoying person Mr. Winston Churchill. I do not think it necessary for me to make another speech on this matter. I hoped that I made it clear in my opening remarks what I thought would be the great danger of the period after the war if we should allow a strong united Germany to emerge again in the centre of Europe. If we do so we shall certainly get another war. It seems mere common sense that we should keep Germany disarmed and, if possible, divided after this war.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
I do not want to enter into a general discussion on the question of war aims or anything of that kind, but to deal with the limited question whether the Government are right or wrong in not making an authoritative statement which would necessarily become immediately known to the German Government on what Hess has done and said in this country. There are various theories about Hess's purpose in coming to this country, but there are two main possibilities. The first is that he came without the knowledge and consent of the German Government, and the second is that he came with it. On the first assumption, that he came without their knowledge and consent, what better policy can there be than to leave the German Government guessing what he has said and doneéa policy which would at once be defeated if the Government made a statement on the subject? On the second supposition, that he came with their knowledge and consent, I agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Major V. Adams) has said, that his purpose would almost certainly be to deceive us. In that case, any statement which indicated what we thought of his statement might give the German Government some indication of whether or not Hess had succeeded in his task of deceiving those who had interviewed him. Whatever assumption is made about the circumstances in which Hess left Germany, the advantages of 904 leaving Germany guessing seem to me quite overwhelming.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that there has been no broadcast from this country in the German language to Germany on the Hess affair?
§ Mr. Strauss
I am certainly not saying that. If this were a Debate on the Ministry of Information, it is possible that I should have a good deal to say on that subject. Whatever the wisdom or un-wisdom of some of the remarks made by the B.B.C. on the subject, the question to-day is, "Shall the Government make an authoritative statement about what Hess has said and done?" That appears to have been the demand of the hon. Member who opened this discussion, most of whose speech I regret I was unable to hear because I was, unavoidably, elsewhere. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds made what seemed to me the naive and mistaken remark that this country put itself at a disadvantage because Germany made the first statement on the subject. I can think of few facts in recent months from which this country derived so obvious an advantage. The German Government, quite ignorant of where Hess had landed and thinking that he might be dead, committed themselves to the idiotic statement that he was mad, a statement that was immediately disproved by the fact that he had navigated a complicated machine with considerable skill almost precisely to the destination where he wished to arrive. In other words, the German Government, because we made no statement on the subject, committed themselves to what the whole world recognised as an obvious and palpable lie.
The result of that was that, without the British Government making any statement on the subject at all, the German Government lost prestige in every country in the world. That was not an unimportant consequence. Had we made the first announcement of Hess's arrival, the German Government would never have committed themselves to so futile and idiotic a statement. They were led into a series of fantastic contradictions, and I can think of few recent matters which have cast so much discredit upon German propaganda. I do not differ much from the critics in the House with regard to 905 some of the things that were said by the B.B.C. It was certainly very unfortunate that in their first announcement they said that Hess had had correspondence with a person in this country. That was apparently completely untrue.
§ Mr. Strauss
I heard both the statement of the Minister for Air, and the subsequent statement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information in answer to a Question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds, which stated that the original statement by the B.B.C, based on information given by the Ministry of Information, was wrong. Whatever blunders the B.B.C. or the Minister of Information may have made, the question that we are discussing to-day is whether the Government should now make a further statement on what Hess has said in this country. The hon. Member who opened the discussion said that they should do so because they had told the American Government. I have already pointed out in an intervention that that is no valid argument. If our Government tell a friendly Government in whom they have complete confidence, that does not publish it to the world, and, above all, it does not publish it to the German Government. The demand of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), supported by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), is that we should tell the British people, and thereby tell the German Government, what Hess has said.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member told the House correctly earlier in his speech that he had not heard what I demanded. Let me assure him that I did not demand at any time, and do not demand now, that the Government should state what Hess has said. That was not the purpose of my argument. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that they ought not to say anything which would give the enemy useful information which they could not get in any other way. That does not go so far as to say that the Government are entitled to make no statement whatever to the people of this country about this important matter.
§ Mr. Stokes
Is the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) suggesting that the German Government themselves do not know what Herr Hess proposed?
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I say definitely that there are two possible theories, either that they do know or that they do not know. If they do not know it would be the greatest mistake to tell them. If they do know, and the purpose of Herr Hess's visit, was to deceive, then it would be the greatest possible mistake for us to say anything which might indicate, directly or indirectly, whether we had been taken in.
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend, who is generally not quite so simple in foreign affairs, would apparently be content to take at its face value any statement made by Herr Hess.
§ Mr. Strauss
That is a perfectly fair comment on the intervention my hon. Friend has just made. I say that, whatever Herr Hess says, it will remain a fact that there are the two possibilities, that he came with the knowledge of the German Government or that he came without their knowledge. If he came without their knowledge it would be a mistake of the first magnitude to enlighten them on what he has done or said here.' If he came with their knowledge, it would be the greatest mistake to make it clear, either directly or indirectly, whether his desire to deceive us had succeeded. For those reasons I believe the Government have been entirely right not to make a statement, and I believe that the House, by an overwhelming majority in every quarter, is willing to leave the matter to the discretion of the Prime Minister.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
I am rather sorry that the Minister of Information is not here. We like to see my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but, after all, the Foreign Office is now a Department of diminishing importance. The whole of Europe has gone out of its ken altogether. The Dominions and the Colonies are under the charge of other Departments. The only part of the world that the Foreign Office now has to deal with is 907 the United States of America—no doubt there are few other foreign countries which are not under German tutelage, but not many. I rather resent the fact that on a matter which concerns publicity, Government propaganda and Government policy, and for which the Minister of Information is responsible to this House, not from a foreign policy aspect but from a home policy aspect in its implications and its repercussions on public opinion, the Minister of Information has not paid the House the courtesy of being present. I raised this matter in an interjection when the Prime Minister made his original statement to the House on the arrival of Herr Hess. I asked my right hon. Friend at that time whether the Minister of Information would deal with this matter with skill and imagination, and he was good enough to say that the imagination rather defied the facts. I am sure the House will agree that it has not been dealt with either with skill or imagination by the Minister responsible for dealing with it.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
My own personal view, for what it is worth, is that I rather agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Major V. Adams) as to the purpose for which Herr Hess came to this country. I think he came with a specific proposal and that he was a direct emissary. I think he came with certain peace proposals. I think those peace proposals were specious and a trick. I think that if we had taken them it would have given us a few months interlude, led to a dangerous armistice, and enabled the Germans to pounce upon us in a very short time afterwards. That is information which has come to me, and I must say from a source which I cannot neglect.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
We want imagination where it is needed, and that is in the Ministry of Information. My information has come from a place where I can reconcile it with facts.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
May I ask the hon. Member what he wants the Ministry of Information to imagine?
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I am not complaining of the attitude of the Ministry of Information as far as this country is concerned. I think this country has more or less forgotten the Hess incident. We have a terrible war to prosecute, and we want to get on with the work, but as far as Germany is concerned we showed neither skill nor imagination nor any intelligence, so far as I can see. Friends of mine who have followed some of the German broadcasts have been very much disappointed with them. We had a magnificent opportunity, such as comes only once in centuries, and any country engaged in a war of this character should have made use of it to the utmost of its power. We ought to have a record made by Hess for the wireless.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Does the hon. Member think it would assist our cause in Germany for Herr Hess to make a statement to the effect that he had come over to this country with a peace offer?
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
A point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) in regard to broad casting to Germany. You cannot have it both ways. He states that we cannot tell the German Government anything about Hess —
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
—or anything about Hess's sayings. We broadcast to Germany itself certain information—
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is not meeting the point. I understand that he has information upon which he relies as to the reason of Hess's visit to this country. He suggests that we ought to tell the German people what Hess says his purpose was, and his purpose, I understand, was to convey a peace offer which Hitler was willing to accept.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I think the hon. Member misunderstands. The point I was trying to get over to the House was that we have not made use of the arrival of Hess in this country in order to undermine the Nazi regime in Germany. The way to do that is not by repeating what Hess is saying about any peace basis; but there are all sorts of ways which would occur to the House, surely, and are not beyond the comprehension of 909 hon. Members, of going on to the microphone and addressing the German people. I have no doubt it is rather late in the day for the Government to adopt this particular suggestion, so I feel I am pretty safe in mentioning it to the House. Surely it is not beyond the possibility of a Government engaged in a war in which propaganda is a matter of life or death, and may mean the saving of millions of lives in the course of the war, to devise any methods which may undermine the Nazi regime. I say that it can be done.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
Surely the tremendous fact to bring home to the German people was that their Deputy-Fuehrer had landed in this country, and that though the German Government now described him as mad, their Fuehrer, in recent speeches, had given him the highest praise. Those extracts of speeches of the Fuehrer were broadcast by the B.B.C. — I think I am right—to Germany. Surely that was effective propaganda.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
I specifically stated that the very reason that I am making these statements was that I know the Government now cannot adopt my suggestion. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh at that, but the suggestion could have been adopted. It might have been adopted in the earlier stages. Is there anything wrong in the suggestion? Is it beyond the means of a Government, engaged in a war of this character, to take that point of view and to broadcast to the German people? I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing one single remark I have made here about the arrival of Hess in this country. I felt very strongly about it. I repeated, and I continue to repeat, that the Ministry of Information, whether from lack of power, lack of will, or lack of ability, have not used this magnificent opportunity, which only comes, as I said, once in many centuries. I have not said anything in this House which would retard our war effort. Everything I have said was with the intention of assisting our war effort.
§ Mr. Granville
Is it not a fact that broadcasts are being made to Germany, and have been so made on many occasions, either in reply or otherwise, to the German people, concerning the Hess affair? How was it done, and on what basis were these broadcasts made? Were 910 they just conjured out of the air, or were they based upon what Hess had said to various people whom Hess had seen in this country? What the hon. Gentleman is asking is that those broadcasts should be given world publicity and publicity in this country as well, instead of being confined to Germany.
§ Sir H. Morris-Jones
Possibly that is what I was trying to get at. My hon. Friend has been able to put it more clearly. Before sitting down, I intended to ask one or two questions. I do not know who is now responsible for the safeguarding and the protection of this prisoner Hess and whether he comes under the jurisdiction of the Home Office or the Army. I want to ask the Government: Is he adequately protected against escape and recapture? I would put it in the old terms and ask whether every avenue is being explored in order to see what devices the Nazis might conjure up. They will conjure up many devices in order to secure this prisoner. I hope that we shall not be taken unawares as we were at Crete. It would be possible for the Germans to land troop-carriers and parachutists in the neighbourhood where Hess is. I ask the Government very strongly, and I ask with apprehension, because I do not quite fully trust the Government —. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Their intentions are all right, but we are so easy-going as a people and so trustful. We ought to get some reply on this matter, and I ask the Secretary of State for War whether every measure that can be thought of will be taken to see that this prisoner is safeguarded against either escape or recapture.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
It is important for the representative of the Government to make a simple statement now to clear up some of the confusion which has undoubtedly been created by the speech of the hon. Gentleman and by one or two other remarks made in the Debate. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who introduced this subject, gave an exact replica of the chronology of the questions which have been put on this subject, and he faithfully reproduced both his own Question and the Prime Minister's answer. The Prime Minister said on 10th June that he was unable to make a statement about this prisoner at the present time He told 911 the House that, when he was in a position to make a statement, he would do so. The Prime Minister and the Government have, on this occasion, through the spokesman of the Government, nothing to add to the statements already made.
There is no mystery or confusion about Hess. Hess is a prisoner of war and is being treated as such.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there must be some confusion in the country. The Government said that they cannot add to their statement, but other individuals have been making statements in the country that have created confusion.
§ Mr. Butler
I will say a word about that. I was saying just now that Hess has been treated, since his arrival, as a prisoner of war. There is laid down a definite scale of treatment to be applied to prisoners of war, according to international practice. This includes scales of diet and the manner of detention. These details, according as they are laid down in the Convention, are being applied in the case of Hess. Therefore there is no mystery about his treatment.
§ Major Adams
I am extremely sorry to intervene, but this is something I have not understood. Why is Hess treated as a prisoner of war? I put this question quite seriously. Is he not more accurately described as an alien here without passport? Should he not be treated as a civil prisoner?
§ Mr. Butler
Whatever his description may be in the eyes of the hon. Member or of anybody else, he is being treated as a prisoner of war, and will continue to be so treated.
§ Mr. Silverman
Is he being treated as a military or civilian prisoner of war, and in what class of the code is he regarded as coming, private or officer?
§ Mr. Butler
I cannot elaborate the statement I have made. He is being treated as an officer and kept in detention as a 912 prisoner of war. I think it is important to tell the House that he is being treated as a prisoner of war, because there has been a series of statements made implying that he is receiving very special, luxurious treatment, and those statements have undoubtedly been resented by the British people, to whose sufferings reference has been made in the course of this Debate. I am glad to take this opportunity of making that clear statement in order to show that he is being treated perfectly fairly and rigidly as a prisoner of war, with all the attendant circumstances.
§ Mr. Bevan
But has the right hon. Gentleman really made it clear? He has said that the Government propose to treat this man as a prisoner of war. and when asked why, he said that it is because the Government have so decided, but that is not quite clear. Is it not a fact that this man landed in this country in an aeroplane in a uniform? He did not come in civilian clothes, but in uniform, and had therefore surrendered himself to the enemy. That is what puts him in the class of a prisoner of war.
§ Mr. Butler
The case of Hess is a particular one, and the hon. Gentleman has given his own interpretation. I do not think it is an unreasonable one, but I cannot go further than to say that I am not empowered to give any further particulars of the treatment of Hess, but simply to say that he is being treated as a prisoner of war according to the recognised Convention. That leads me to the point made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) when he said that Hess was at Chequers. That, of course, is nonsense, and I take the opportunity of saying so, because I think it important, in the short reply I am giving, to answer some of the statements that have been made. The other conjectures as to the reason for Hess coming here can, I think, be left to the imagination of individual Members. Whether my right hon. Friend the 'Minister of Information has imagination or not, it is perfectly clear that hon. Members in this House have given full rein to their imagination to-day. I am not able, and I understand that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne does not desire me, to make a statement which is not according to the public interest. It is not the custom to make statements about prisoners of war or their views, and there- 913 fore, while fully realising the intense curiosity of hon. Members of this House and of the country to find out more about this gentleman, I am unable to satisfy that curiosity for reasons of public interest.
The hon. Member who interrupted me, quite reasonably, raised the case of the Lord Provost of Glasgow. The speech of the Lord Provost has come to the attention of the Government. I wish to say nothing which detracts from the excellent work being done by the Lord Provost in this war, his courage, his dignity, or his contribution to the war effort. both in his own city and the country at large, but I will say quite simply that from the Government's point of view he was not in any way authorised to make such a statement. It was made entirely upon his own authority and, I can only suppose, from his own surmise.
§ Mr. Butler
It was made on his own authority. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) raised various questions about whether the Duke of Hamilton had or had not seen Hess.
§ Mr. Butler
Whether the Duke of Hamilton knew Hess or whether correspondence had taken place before between Hess and the Duke. On that, I have nothing to add to the statement made by the Secretary of State for Air. That was an official expression of the view of the Government and was given to the House on the 22nd May.
§ Mr. Butler
The statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air is true. There was a substantial point made as to why His Majesty's Government informed the American Government, and why, if the American Government can be informed the British public cannot be informed as well. I think that has already been answered by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss). There have been endless diplomatic exchanges between this Government and other Governments throughout the course 914 of the war, and I personally have frequently been pressed to divulge them to the House. It has been a source of sorrow to me that I have not been in a position to do so, and on this occasion I stand in the same position as I have stood on so many previous occasions. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was quite serious when he said that we must not in any way reduce the morale of the people by not telling them everything we know. It is a reasonable request that the British public should share as far as possible the inner thoughts and knowledge of the Government, and there has been no desire either in those instances or any other for the Government to conceal from the British public anything which would alleviate its anxiety or do anything which would in any way make it more difficult for the public to stand up to the shocks and difficulties of the war. But in this case we do not believe that we have anything to say which would make for an improved effort by the public, and we do not believe that by not saying anything we in any way depress the morale of the public. I believe that the British public is quite able to go on fighting the war in its own way without wanting or insisting upon a statement from the Government about Hess when it is not in the public interest to say anything further about this person at all. [An HON. MEMBER "Never?"] It is not impossible that a time may come, but, as the Prime Minister stated, he is not in a position to make a statement now.
Finally, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne asked why the Government do not make statements about the future in this House and drew attention to statements made in Washington and in the City of London. It just happens that two statements have been made about the future in those two places. It does not mean that an opportunity may not be taken to make statements in this House-when it is thought fit to do so, but I would reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that it is the Government's intention to avoid making idealistic statements about the future which it may not be possible to realise. We are in the middle of a tough job. We are determined to see it through. The hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Adams) referred to the "Cliveden set" 915 and to the Holy Roman Empire. They are both dead, and may they so remain. We have to build up not only a new set in this country, but a new Europe, and the building-up of a new set in this country and of a new Europe is a job which can be got on with as well without making grandiose statements as by simply going on with our work. We also feel that the reactions of public opinion to the tentative statements so far made will considerably aid us in the task of working with the public in framing the future, whether in this country or in Europe. I believe that when the exchanges of views that have so far taken place between the representatives of the people in this House, the representations made by citizens themselves, and the thoughts of the Government are brought together, that will be the best manner of framing the future, rather than making ex cathedrâ statements from this Box before we are absolutely satisfied as to the nature of the world we wish to see. Therefore, I would assure the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne that we listen when observations are made in this House; let them be as constructive as possible, and we shall pay attention to them, and when the time comes, when we have defeated Hitler and all he means, then will be the time to frame our new world and outline it for the benefit of this House.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the speech made by the Lord Provost of Glasgow. I entirely agree with him about the magnificent work that the Lord Provost has done, but he made that speech first in my constituency, in my presence, and at a meeting sponsored by the Ministry of Information with nearly 3,000 people present. It really is rather a serious thing. I took it lightly, but many of the people present thought that, coming from the Lord Provost himself, it was an authoritative statement. Will the right hon. Gentleman make it abundantly clear that it was not only his own surmise but that the Government do not expect people in that position —
§ Mr. Butler
If the words I used originally were not quite definite—I thought they were—that the Lord Provost was speaking entirely on his own authority and was unauthorised by the Government, I repeat those words.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
May I intervene a moment? First of all, with regard to this question of the Lord Provost of Glasgow, as a Glasgow Member and one of the Glasgow group, I recognise the very great work Lord Provost Dollan has done on behalf of the war effort—no one more so—and he is a personal friend of mine. I want the right hon. Gentleman and the House to understand the position of the Lord Provost. He is not only the civic leader in Glasgow, but also the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and he has been surrounded constantly, as members of the Government have not, by rumours and by stories that are raging right throughout the workers in Scotland as to the true reasons for Hess's arrival in this country. I say at once that it was the Government's duty, not to make a statement giving full details about Hess's arrival or any negotiations that had taken place, but to make a statement allaying these suspicions. Hon. Members in all parts of the House remember the suspicions that were aroused in the country against Fifth Columnists, against certain eminent people in this country, some of whom have been arrested. Newspaper articles, since Hess's arrival, have constantly appeared, dealing unfairly, in my opinion, with the Hamilton family, because no proof was brought forward, making accusations which require that the workers of this country upon whose absolutely 100 per cent. effort you depend should be freed from suspicion of any ideas that Members of the present Government would enter into negotiations with Hess. They must be freed from any idea that Hess has any appeal to certain notable families in this country. These are the things that the Government should have taken steps to clear away from the minds of the people of this country.
The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) has said that we should not make a statement, that it is impossible to make a statement. The Prime Minister has asked the House and, of course, received assent, to go into Secret Session for 15 minutes Or 30 minutes on important 917 aspects of Government policy. We are to discuss shipping in a Debate which, if known to the Germans, would, I have no doubt, give them invaluable information with regard to our war effort in this country. But the Members of this House are trusted by the Government. The Government make statements to them, and surely the Government could at least, in a Secret Session of minutes, have made a clear statement to Members so that they could have gone to their constituencies and said, "There is no truth at all in these rumours, stories and wild imaginings flying around the country." That would have created a much better feeling in the minds of the working people of this country than the present policy followed by the Government.
I put that forward in no attempt to try to harass the Government or make them give away secrets necessary for national security, but merely to point out that, when the hon. Member for Norwich said that we did not wish to allay the suspicions of the German people, it should be remembered that we ought to take every step to allay the suspicions of our own people. Therefore, I feel that we have lost a certain amount of prestige, and given to the malcontents in this country—the small group of malcontents in this country—a handle, something with which they can go into the Clyde shipyards and engineering shops and say, "There is something fishy about this particular affair, there is something suspicious." "Remember," they say, "there are still members of the Government who belong to the section affiliated with the Cliveden set." They are saying these things, and the Government, in my opinion, must make a clear statement allaying these suspicious and making it clear to the people that Hess did not arrive in this country at the invitation, or with the knowledge, of any certain section of society. That statement must be made to support national security to-day.
I would make this plea for our civic chief in Glasgow. He has been surrounded by these difficulties, and the right hon. Member has not; the right hon. Member has not gone to meetings where groups of workers were instigated to ask questions about Hess, or to go to conferences where this question was being put about by certain sections of the community. He 918 has not had to face the difficulties of the Lord Provost of Glasgow. It is only natural that, in order to allay, as he thought, these suspicions, the Lord Provost should make a clear statement as far as he possibly could. The House must recognise that any statement he does make carries with it a certain amount of authority—the right hon. Gentleman may say that he had no authorisation from the Government to make this statement, but he is the Lord Provost of Glasgow—he is the civic chief—and he is the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and is constantly in touch with important sections of the community. Therefore any statement he does make is bound to create a certain amount of opinion. The Government must do more than merely make a stone-walling statement that once upon a time the Prime Minister said that he could not add to what he had already stated. They must recognise, in my opinion, that for the purpose of giving Members of this House even a fair chance of saying to their own people that these stories are untrue, a statement ought to be made. If the American Government can be trusted, so can we. There has not been a single instance within my opinion or knowledge of an hon. Member or a right hon. Member lacking, in his duty with regard to Secret Sessions. Therefore, the Government could quite easily go into a short Secret Session and make a clear statement to Members.
There is one other point. I did not follow the imaginings of the right hon. Member who spoke from the Front Bench opposite. I would say, with regard to his statement that the Cliveden set were dead, and that all those past follies of the Government had been left behind, that he has got to do more than make a simple statement like that. He has got to make it perfectly clear to the country that that sort of thing is dead, but so long as a man can arrive from an enemy country—and the right hon. Gentleman will remember that during the last war, as I know from my own knowledge, there were negotiations between the enemy, agreements with regard to the shelling of certain towns and headquarters—and if the right hon. Gentleman wants the Government to be placed in a position 100 per cent. strong, he must make it perfectly clear that these factors are absent to-day.
919 Hess did not arrive here on his own initiative. I have spoken to very experienced airmen who have flown many hundreds of hours in the present war. Every oné of them agrees that no one man could have made the flight Hess made without assistance. He had assistance, he must have had assistance. His course was one of the most difficult that could have been undertaken. It was one of the chanciest flights a man could have undertaken unless very careful preparation by experts had been made for that flight. All these stories are circulating in the country. Many people in the country are wondering what people assisted Hess, what group he had behind him, where that group were? The course of his flight, which was very accurate if he was making for the area for which he said he was making, required a thoroughly experienced airman to land where he did. All those points are being discussed. All those points are being thrown at Lord Provost Dollan. He has finally been forced to make a statement. It is up to the Government to make a definite statement, not attacking Lord Provost Dollan, but recognising the circumstances, making it clear to the people of this country, who are engaged in the war effort, that those secret negotiations of the past have gone by the board.
We have many more difficulties in Scotland than you have in the capital. In London, you have the seat of government; you have people who are constantly in touch with the Government; you are in the hub of affairs; people know Members of this House; they gather to cheer the Prime Minister. But in Scotland our people are far removed from the Government; they have not the same close touch. Other sections of opinion can sometimes make greater headway against national unity. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that a clear statement should be made in those areas, where criticism may be more trenchant, where arguments are put up which are not put up in London. The Government should recognise it is of the greatest importance that a statement should be made there.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I want to raise one small point. The hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) usually speaks with courage and 920 sturdy common sense. To-day, I thought his remarks were very unfortunate.
§ Mr. Butler
With the permission of the House, I think I can say that we have a high record of looking after prisoners of war. We shall always maintain the same standard as we have maintained, and as we expect other nations to maintain.
§ Mr. Sloan
Can the Minister give any undertaking that some restraint will be put upon the Lord Provost of Glasgow, and that Ayrshire is not to be made that gentleman's particular hunting ground? The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) impressed upon the House that the Lord Provost of Glasgow was badgered into making these statements. He came voluntarily to Ayrshire; nobody badgered him. He had a meeting attended by 3,000 people, and he made the statement voluntarily.
§ Mr. Sloan
I do not say that he was not invited, but he was not invited, I think, by the people of Ayrshire. Am I now to understand that the' statement made by Lord Provost Dollan was untrue? I must assume that it was untrue. The Lord Provost came to another Ayrshire town, Ayr, and made another speech. He said that when he met Hitler in 1936 Hitler simply roared at him. I have it on the very best authority, from people who are prepared to take the Bible and swear on it, that Dollan never saw Hitler in his life. I am not so impressed by Patrick Dollan as the hon. Member for Maryhill seems to be. I wonder whether it is Dollan's duty to make statements in regard to the war. He is merely the Provost of a poky little borough, a borough of slums and poverty.
§ Mr. Sloan
Not altogether, I agree. But there are 15 Members of Parliament in Glasgow, and I am sure they are far better able to make pronouncements than is Lord Provost Dollan. Why it should be necessary for him to do these things, I cannot understand. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr Silverman) has performed a very useful service in raising this matter. I regret that he has not had any answer to his questions. Here we 921 have an individual who flies from Germany to Scotland—of all places in the world. Why Scotland? [Interruption.] I hear someone say that it is a neutral area. In any case, he flies 800 miles. He was an experienced flyer, as the hon. Member for Maryhill said, who flew a considerable distance over Scottish waters and over Scottish land, over land where there were Scottish farmers, watchers,. members of the Army and the Air Force and the Observer Corps, with all the necessary equipment, and landed within a few miles of his proposed object. We were told by a representative of the Air Ministry that from the very moment Hess baled out, a Spitfire was on his tail, but the Spitfire on his tail was Davy Maclean with his pitchfork. The common experience in Scotland is, discuss it with anybody you like, that, if Hess had been able to land and had not cracked his silly little ankle, he would have carried out his mission and would have returned to Germany without the people of Scotland knowing anything at all about it.
§ Mr. Sloan
He would have got the petrol all right; there is plenty of petrol there. It was stated by the Secretary of State for Air that the Duke of Hamilton had never seen Hess. Hess was at the Olympic games, and so was the Duke of Hamilton, a very popular figure, who belongs to the same class of society as Hess, which is not the class to which I belong. He attended functions at which Hess was present. One could imagine a gathering of these sportsmen awaiting the arrival of the Deputy-Fuehrer, and that, at any rate, the whole audience would rise and give the Nazi salute and cheer to the echo. Yet we were told that this gentleman never saw him and did not know him. I wonder whether the Marquess of Clydesdale had ever seen Hess. All the references have been to the Duke of Hamilton, and the question has occurred to a great number of people, Did the Marquess of Clydesdale, who is now the Duke of Hamilton, ever see or speak to 922 Hess? The matter requires a definite clean-up.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member is not casting a reflection upon a member of the other House.
§ Mr. Sloan
No, Sir, I am just wondering whether his memory has failed him, that is all. That is a common experience during war-time, I believe, and I am not casting any reflection. But why cannot we have answers to the points raised by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne? Did Hess come here with anything in the nature of peace proposals? I can very well understand why he should, because the people of Germany must be as sick of war as the people of Britain. The incessant bombings of their towns, just as we have had our towns' bombed, must have a reflection upon the minds of the people, and the restrictions on food in Germany are, I believe, more severe than restrictions on food here. I can quite well understand, too, that the military leaders in Germany must realise, as the military leaders in this country must realise, that this war cannot be brought to any definite conclusion by military effort. If it was recognised that there was the possibility of having this conflict settled along reasonable principles instead of by sacrificing lives, towns, ships and wealth—if Hess came along with proposals of this kind, why cannot we be informed? It is inconceivable that this perilous journey was undertaken without some motive behind it. We are told that the motive was that he was fleeing from his enemies inside Germany. That may be true; we cannot tell. But surely the people who have been interviewing Hess must know by this time. The stories that have been floating about and the things said in the country and Press, and on the wireless, have raised a tremendous amount of dubiety in the minds of the people of the country. Before this mystery deepens and becomes as silent as the grave, it is the Government's duty to tell us at the earliest possible moment what is behind the arrival of Hess in this country.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.