§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I would have preferred to have discussed this next subject on a more appropriate occasion. Last week my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made an application on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party for a debate on the war situation with special reference to the political issues that arise from the occupation of enemy countries. Although he was pressed, nevertheless, the Leader of the House informed us last Friday that the matter had been carefully considered by the War Cabinet and that they considered unanimously and very definitely that it would not be in the best interests of the Allied cause that the military situation should be debated at this stage.
I make no apology therefore for raising the matter just now. We have reached a very queer stage in our Parliamentary history when a demand for a Debate on the war situation before the Recess is made by practically one-third of the House of Commons and is denied by the Government because the Government consider it is not desirable to have it. I have never known a Government consider it to be desirable to have their conduct discussed. It has always been the rule of this House ever since I have been here that, if a substantial number of Members want a Debate, such a Debate must be afforded. If minorities are over-ruled by the majority support of the Executive, then all that is left to the minority is to make use of such Parliamentary procedure as is available to it to raise their grievances. Therefore, I take this opportunity of raising this 2202 matter upon the Consolidated Fund Bill. I daresay it was not present in the mind of the Leader of the House that the Consolidated Fund Bill was to be discussed to-day when he made his refusal. At any rate myself and the hon. Members who are immediately associated with me in this matter decided that it would be improper for us to adjourn for the Summer Recess without discussing this very important subject.
It is not easy for a critic of the Government to speak on these matters in this House. The role of the critic in war-time is always exceedingly difficult. If this criticism has any influence upon the policy of the Government and the Government are thereby successful, they claim the credit for their own wisdom and deny any guidance to the critic. If, on the other hand, this criticism is ignored and the Government fail, then he is involved in the common ruin. So at no point at all does he get any credit whatever for what he says or does. It always lies in these circumstances with the Executive. Nevertheless, it will be an exceedingly bad thing for this House of Commons and the country if the voices of the critics are entirely silent in this Assembly. There have been many occasions in the course of this war when criticism of the Executive has had very valuable and beneficent effects upon the conduct of the war. I rise now with a full sense of my responsibility in this matter. I know, also, that the position of the Government at the moment is one of very great strength, and, indeed, I rejoice in that because it arises primarily out of the very favourable course which the war has taken. The stronger the Government become through those causes, the more I shall rejoice in the strength of the Government. The Prime Minister and the Government themselves require no ultimate defence better than success.
I remember that there was a critical period in the American Civil War when President Lincoln was attacked and bitterly criticised by a Committee of Congress over a certain incident in which he was involved. An officer in the Northern Armies went to him and said, "Mr. President, I know all about these facts. The Committee are quite wrong. Will you allow me to write to the papers and state the facts to the public?" 2203 The President said, "My dear young friend, if the event in which we are engaged turns out fortunately for us, I shall require no defence, but if, on the other hand, it turns out unfortunately, then 10,000 angels pleading for me will not suffice."
So the Government have an enormous advantage when their military achievements are creditable. But I should belie myself if I thought that the same thing applied to their political policy. Indeed, I have friends who are now fighting on the slopes of Etna who would reproach me when they returned home if I said nothing at all in the House of Commons at this stage in disagreement with certain aspects of Government policy. It is our duty to ask the Government to tell us what are the considerations which lie behind their approach to enemy countries at the present time. Every time we raised this matter during Question time we were informed by the Government that all these questions are determined by the generals on the spot, in accordance with local military necessities. That is entirely the wrong principle. It has never been the principle of British policy. A general does not work in a vacuum. To support me in this matter, I have furnished myself with a quotation from a great authority on strategy, Sir Julian Colbeck, who says:An officer charged with the conduct of the war may, of course, demand that the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with the military means which are placed at his disposal. But, however strongly this demand may react on policy, in all cases military action must still be regarded only as a manifestation of policy.When a Chief of Staff is asked for a war plan he asks, "What is the political object of the war? What are the political conditions and how much does the question at issue respectively to us and our adversary affect the conduct and determination of the campaign?" In other words, the chief of staff must be informed as a primary consideration of the ground plan on which the statesmen are proceeding if his military activities are to be intelligently guided. What are the plans that the Government have in mind? It is nonsense to say that we must entirely trust the Government in this matter, because there are good reasons why we should not trust them. For example, the establishment of Admiral Darlan in North 2204 Africa did more to cause dismay throughout the country than any other single act of the Government since the war began. The House may hear with surprise that I have defended the Prime Minister on more than one occasion when he was criticised for the action that he took over the attack on Greece. Many of my friends considered that it was entirely unwise to instruct General Wavell to proceed with the defence of Greece, because they said that, had he not done so, the Mediterranean littoral would long ago have been in our possession. But I think the Prime Minister's decision was politically sound, because this country would not have tolerated a situation which left the Greeks to fight the Italians alone after the gallant resistance that they had made. If was necessary for the good moral health of the country, no matter what were the military considerations, that we should not allow the Greeks to be overrun by the Italians after the gallant way in which they had resisted them. There is an example where immediate military considerations are overruled by moral, and ultimately strategical, considerations. The first thing in war is to keep the good moral health of your own people, and the establishment of Admiral Darlan and, following him, General Giraud in North Africa as the protégés of the British and American Governments did a good deal to disturb and bewilder public opinion in Great Britain.
I think it is also necessary to say—because we have had no opportunity until now—that I believe a great deal of damage has been done to British-American relations by making it appear that the policy in North Africa was imposed upon us entirely by the American State Department. I said in a supplementary that it seemed to me that no greater damage could be done to our good relations with America than for the British people to suppose that the unpleasant and obnoxious policies were imposed upon us as the price of our alliance with America. Fortunately we know that that was not the case, and it is good for British and American relations that this can now be said. We know that the setting aside of General de Gaulle, and the whole North African policy, was not exclusively the responsibility of America, but that the Prime Minister and the British Government were enthusiastic supporters of the policy. It has never been said in 2205 this House, because when we raised the matter the Government ran away into Private Session, and we are unable to say what was said there; but I am now asserting — and if my assertion is contradicted, I shall read the evidence upon which it rests—that the British Government were almost equally partners in the establishment of Darlan and General Giraud in North Africa.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am bound to say that General Giraud has merits which Admiral Darlan did not possess. I admit that, but I am bound to say that the apparatus which General Giraud has fought very hard to maintain was the apparatus of Darlan in North Africa. Indeed, the appointments made subsequently, some of which had to be revoked by pressure, were the appointments of General Giraud. In any case, not only are there positive demerits in the support given to General Giraud in North Africa, but there are positive menaces in the way in which the Free French Movement in London has been treated over the North African situation. There are suspicions, and it is here where the suspicions arise. I am not a 100 per cent. admirer of de Gaulle; the gentleman has awkward corners, like we all have; but there is a suspicion that the reason why General de Gaulle did not find favour with the British and American Governments was because associated with him were all the underground Left movements of France. Upon the Free French Committee in London were represented Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, Catholic Action groups and all the underground Left movements of France to whom subsequently we looked for assistance. Therefore, the suspicion which existed in the country about that has been reinforced by what happened in North Africa. Now it is suggested, with what truth I cannot say, that the elected representatives of French North Africa are going to proceed to North Africa as a consultative committee upon which General de Gaulle and General Giraud sit as joint representatives. I hope that that is not the case, because it will be extremely unfortunate if the Free Fench Movement makes North Africa its locale, because what we still require, and shall require more and more as the 2206 war develops, is to have in London authentic representatives of the underground movement in France, so that when we move towards the Continent of Europe we shall not be deprived of our friends rising at the back of the Germans. They will not be able to do that if they are cut off from the underground movement.
Our anxieties and misgivings about this were reinforced by what happened in Sicily. Have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen realised that very many British and American lives have been saved by the refusal of Italians to defend Mussolini in Sicily? Indeed it is to the credit of General Alexander that obviously his original plan of campaign was immediately modified by what happened in the South and Eastern parts of the island. Instead of driving North and engaging the Germans at all costs, as soon as it was seen that the Sicilian and the Italian armies were what is called "soft," which really meant that they would not fight for the Italian régime, immediately it was seen that the Canadians and Americans were welcomed wherever they went, General Alexander did what any good general would do in those circumstances, he engaged the Germans and prevented them from disengaging until the Americans and Canadians could go along to the East and the North, and now there is a possibility, to put it no higher, that the Germans will be in the same trap as they were at Cap Bon
It is therefore perfectly clear that in this theatre of war the political arm is as important as the military arm, and that if our political dispositions are sound, if our attitude is correct, we can save many British and American lives in Southern Europe. If, on the other hand, we do not realise that our friends are among the Sicilians and Italian people and we try to conspire, then it is our boys and the American Army and Canadian Army who will have to pay the price for our lack of wisdom. I speak here as a Socialist, as one who has spent all his life in the Socialist movement, and, I do not apologise for saying it, as one who still believes in the soundness of the principles of international Socialist co-operation, and to me it is a source of immense gratification that the final blow was delivered at the Fascist dictatorship by the ordinary steelworkers and miners of Italy and Sicily.
2207 It is to me a source of immense pleasure to find that our Allies, our real Allies, are among those people; but I was extremely disturbed when I heard of the establishment of A.M.G.O.T. It is an ugly word to cover an uglier deed. [Interruption.] The Noble Member says "Tut, tut." Why on earth place this responsibility upon General Eisenhower? The Prime Minister has already told us that the general scheme within which General Eisenhower is operating is a scheme laid down by the Prime Minister and the President. They are political representatives. Why cannot the House of Commons be told what the principles of that scheme are? Why should we always be fobbed off by the statement that whatever is done is a consequence of the military decisions of General Eisenhower, when in fact we have imposed upon him very important political obligations? Would it not have been far better if we had accepted ourselves the responsibility for the political occupation of Sicily and for our attitude towards Italy rather than —and this is a crueller thing to do, you know—shelter behind a general who has no public responsibility, who is elected by no one? Why make a scapegoat of a general, because a scapegoat he has been made? The American Press and the British Press in the last few days have been full of criticisms of the statement made by General Eisenhower the other day—not only the Radical Press and the Liberal Press, but "The Times" also.[Interruption.] I know it is now customary to sneer at "The Times" because it is not edited by the Primrose League. General Eisenhower said this:We commend the Italian people and the House of Savoy on ridding themselves of Mussolini, the man who involved them in war as the tool of Hitler and brought them to the verge of disaster. The greatest obstacle which divided the Italian people from the United Nations has been removed by the Italians themselves.We understand from that that the greatest obstacle which separated us from the Italian people was the existence of Mussolini. That surely is political illiteracy of the worst kind, but unfortunately in this matter illiteracy is not confined to General Eisenhower.
Let me read this well-known quotation. I quote it to put it on record in Hansard. The Prime Minister is so anxious for things to be put in Hansard that I had 2208 better put this, which is the reverse of General Eisenhower. General Eisenhower says that the chief barrier between ourselves and the Italian people was Mussolini. We are asked, remember this, to go home for the Recess and to trust the conduct of these matters to the political honesty and sagacity of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has got very many virtues, and when the time comes I hope to pay my tribute to them, but I am bound to say that political honesty and sagacity have never been among them. In 1927, the Prime Minister visited Rome in his capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and this is what he said:I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise, in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him.[An HON. MEMBER: "That was years ago."] Yes, but Mussolini's major crimes had already been committed. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Oh, yes. The chief risings in Turin and in Milan were in Matteotti's time, and Matteotti had been murdered by that time. All the chief crimes, including the crime of murdering the freedom of the Italian people, had already been committed, and all this subsequent history of Mussolini is the logical consequence of that act. This is what the Prime Minister said—because not only did he show his remarkable interest in the character of Mussolini, but he also went on to lay down obiter dicta about the whole Fascist movement. I admit that he is an older man now, but not much older—[An HON. MEMBER: "Only 16 years."] But people do not learn very much beyond that age. He said:If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.He did not even finish there. To show how remarkable his analysis was, I will read this:Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the mass of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and the stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.2209 Does any hon. Member believe that it is possible for people like myself and others who share my view to go home for the Summer Recess and leave the future political structure of Italy to a mind that reasons like that?
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
It is better than a mind like that of the hon. Member, which impedes the war effort.
§ Mr. Bevan
Let us make no mistake about this. There are people who always confuse a readiness to destroy the German military army with the fight against Fascism. There are many Members in this House who have no complaint against Fascism, except when it is strong enough to threaten them. They do not want to quarrel with it. There was no complaint either against Italy or against all her sins and vices. The whole Fascist set-up was supported by a majority of this House and connived at by them, because Italy was not strong enough to threaten Great Britain. It was not bestiality that Italy lacked; it was material power to do us damage, and so long as she lacked material power there was not a voice raised against her.
In the case of Germany there were in this House and the country men who connived at the establishment of Hitler until he started to arm against Great Britain. Why therefore should we go home for the Recess and trust a Parliamentary majority who have been the chief architects of the war and who secretly sympathise with the principles of the Fascist enemy? [interruption.] If hon. Members wish to challenge me, the whole record of the past 10 years is against them on that matter. I acquit the Minister of Information, who, I know, enjoyed the discomfiture of his friends in this matter. I know he was not one of those who made that same mistake. I agree with that. But I am bound to say that the evidence, as history has already recorded it, is such that if I wanted to establish it more strongly, I could quote speeches of the Prime Minister against his present policy.
§ The Minister of Infortnation (Mr. Brendan Bracken)
The Prime Minister in those days was looking for recruits and got none from the segment of the party the hon. Member represents. His conver 2210 sion to the Prime Minister's new point of view is very remarkable. We are glad to see that at last he has repented of the Pacifist doctrines which have done so much to harm this country.
§ Mr. Bevan
We have heard that silly canard now for too long. It is really unworthy of the Minister of Information. My record as an anti-Fascist is much longer than that of the Prime Minister. We must face the facts clearly. Let not Members imagine that the disquiet exists only among some of us on these benches. It is shared in the country. On this matter hon. Members do not represent the country. [interruption.] Look at the by-elections. The fact of the matter is that hon. Members have not represented this country for many years. The people of Great Britain are hoping, desperately hoping, that in Italy the ordinary people of Italy will overthrow the existing régime. They are hoping that they will establish the authority of the common people of Italy, but according to the broadcast of General Eisenhower if Badoglio had accepted our terms, his would now be our Government. [Interruption.] There is no other meaning to the broadcast. First of all, he commends the House of Savoy for getting rid of Mussolini. The House of Savoy did no such thing. Mussolini was got rid of by the Italian people, who would not tolerate him any longer. It was not the House of Savoy that got rid of him. I think the reaction in some parts of the House is significant. Is the House of Savoy commendable to hon. Members opposite? Are they prepared to do a deal with King Victor Emanuel? We cannot answer for the President of the United States: we can only answer for our own Government in this House. But the President of the United States—who is, the Prime Minister informs us, in close communication with him—has already rebuked the Office of War Information for calling King Victor Emanuel "a moronic little king." Indeed, all talks upon King Victor Emanuel have been ordered to stop. Are we to understand from that, that King Victor Emanuel is to be the British and American quisling in Italy?
If that is so—anti here we come to the gravamen of the situation—if Badoglio and King Victor Emanuel are regarded by us as satisfactory representatives of the Italian people, with whom we can do a deal, let hon. Members consider what 2211 will be the reaction of the Italian people. What will be the reaction of the people of France, of Yugo-Slavia and of Hungary? What we do now in Italy will decide how easy it is going to be for our Armies to penetrate into the rest of Europe. In deciding to support King Victor Emanuel and Badoglio, we are, in fact, throwing away millions of potential allies in Europe, and in doing so, we are sacrificing our own people. That is why this Italian situation is so frightfully important. That is why it is impossible for us to go home without having some assurance from the Government on what their attitude is going to be. Once an Italian Government receives the recognition of the Allies, that Government becomes the one we must support in Italy. The Prime Minister said that he is not prepared to shoot people. There were passages in his statement that were very good indeed. It certainly would be disastrous if we accepted the responsibility, inside Italy, of shooting down Italians who are quarrelling with their masters. But if we recognise the Badoglio Government, or a Government of similar complexion—because it is not enough to change the noun and keep the verb the same—if we get rid of this man, to bring in another, representing the same social set-up just because his own particular name is innocuous—then our recognition of that Government becomes a firstclass domestic asset for that Government. It was the American recognition of Petain that was for a long time his chief asset in France. We could make little headway inside France for a long time because of that. After all, American friendship is a great tradition in France: the name of Lafayette is still remembered; and for Washington to throw the mantle of its approval over the shoulders of Petain was a first-class political asset for him in holding down France for a long time.
Therefore, if we recognise a Government in Italy, of the same political complexion as that which exists, our troops will step in and then we shall find that we have to shoot Italians in order to support our own puppet Government. We shall find ourselves on the side of anti-revolutionary forces in that country. It is clear that our own officers, and especially those of A.M.G.O.T. are not clear—or, rather, they are clear, but clear about the wrong thing—about what we want to do in 2212 countries which are occupied. British opinion was shocked the other day at stories sent out that two young officers had quelled an anti-Fascist rising in Italian villages. A friend told me only yesterday that in a certain village, our men went along and found some men in prison who were there, they thought—so the story goes, and it was repeated twice—for murmuring anti-Fascist slogans. But they found to their delight that the men were in only for demanding bread, and so they let them free. To be anti-Fascist in Sicily is still regarded by many of our people in occupation there as a crime. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The hon. Member shakes his head. In Sicily at the present time the Fascist Carabinieri are still allowed to carry on. We still leave arms in the hands of the Fascist deputies and anybody who has seen what the guardia civile meant in Spain knows what the Carabinieri mean in Sicily. Look at the situation concretely and do not run away with abstract phrases about what our people do there. We enter a village. We have very little knowledge at all of who is who in that village. We put in duress all the well-known Fascists who have not run away. The Carabinieri, which have been the chief agents and instruments of Fascist dictatorship for 20 years, know that among the civil population there are men only too anxious to get their own back. Are they going to name these men to our people as well known anti-Fascists? They have an interest in concealing from us the very vital information we want, namely who are our friends. If that is not the case, why are we not allowing anti-Fascists to go into Sicily at the present time?
When the Kaiser fled and the German generals were defeated, there was a palace revolution in Germany. It got rid of the top. It removed from power, temporarily, the men responsible for governing Germany. But the Social Democrats who got into power did not press on far enough afterwards. They did not make any radical changes of any fundamental importance. It was merely a palace revolution. A few years afterwards Hitler came along and said to the German masses that the German army was not defeated in the field but was beaten by the Social Democrats who stabbed it in the back. That was the slogan which rallied millions to 2213 him from 1923 to 1937. What happened in Russia? In Russia the army dissolved under the influence of revolutionary forces, but those revolutionary forces pressed on and radical social changes resulted. The consequence is that in Russia to-day this system, with all its defects, is firmly rooted in the affections of the Russian masses. Not only did they get peace in 1917 but social changes too. Italy might get peace, but with peace Italy does not get the radical economic changes for which she yearns, for Fascist demagogues will come forward in a few years' time and put Italy on to Fascism again.
§ Mr. Bevan
No, let me finish. I am sorry but I was about to finish what I was about to say and there are other Members who want to speak. I say that for the future peace of Europe it is essential that there should be no Fascist or neo-Fascist régime in Italy which denies to the Italian people the full fruits of the revolt in which they are at present engaged. It is essential, if we come bearing peace with us, that we should tolerate those fundamental social changes which will establish stability in Italy. I beg and implore hon. Members to realise that what we do in Italy will mean so much to Europe. We on this side have not come into the war merely in order to destroy the armed might of Germany. We are in it to destroy Fascism root and branch, and the conditions which give it life. Therefore, I ask the Government when they approach this matter again to realise that the British people are watching them very carefully indeed. They will watch to see that the Government do not carry on a different kind of war from the one in which the British people are engaged. Before we go home for the Recess I ask them for heaven's sake to bear in mind the fact that there are many Italian people at the present time with great hopes. Do not let us accept the responsibility of frustrating those hopes.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has made a speech which is most able and very mischievous. What has he done? He has gone back to the old story of North Afarica. How a single word he has said about North Africa can do good to-day, I fail to realise. I know that whatever expedients 2214 may have been used in North Africa, we got our landings there without loss of life and that to-day, in spite of what the hon. Member has said about our feelings towards France in this war, General de Gaulle and General Giraud are working in closer harmony now than at any other period. Any hon. Member, whatever side he belongs to, who says one word at this time likely to arouse bitterness and controversy between these two great men is doing harm not only to the cause of France but to his own country as well. I wonder what advantage it was for the hon. Member to hold up a speech made by the present Prime Minister in regard to Mussolini in 1927? Mussolini, I agree, had been guilty of crimes before 1926. So may other Allies of ours to-day, but Mussolini's great crime—the crime for which he will face the bar of history—was that by having joined with Germany in the years before the war he helped to create an Axis which brought blood, tears and misery to the whole civilised world. I believe, with General Eisenhower, that the collapse of Mussolini meant the fall of the single greatest enemy against peace between our people and the people of Italy.
The hon. Member went on to say, "What next?" He said that Mussolini was destroyed by an uprising of the common people. It is true that if the people of Italy had not felt a burning desire to get away from this war and the Fascist regime, Mussolini would not have fallen. But it is also true, from the point of view of expediting the fall of Mussolini, that it was a great advantage that there was some force, even though it may have been found in the House of Savoy, which was able to take the initiative, to quicken the fall and thereby, maybe, save the lives of a good many people who would otherwise have been killed. Speaking for myself as an ordinary Member, I hold no brief for the House, of Savoy or any Government which may arise in Italy, but it is our duty, if we get capitulation, to take capitulation from any Government which is prepared to give it, to go out of the war, and to enable us to play our part through whatever military advantages we may secure in Italy in destroying the common enemy. The suggestion that you can only have peace with a Government of some particular political complexion, which was inherent in the hon. 2215 Member's mind, means that, if we could get peace, if we could get capitulation, if we could get every term that we want from Italy to carry on the war, the hon. Member would turn it down and be prepared to see, not himself, nor me, nor any Member of the House risking our lives but the lives of the men who are to-day in Sicily and will be in Italy, perhaps having to carry on the fight for a few weeks longer than would otherwise have been necessary. I do not carry party politics as far as that.
Finally, the hon. Member in that gentle taunt at the party to which I belong, said that if the United States carries on the war he cannot leave the future of Italy in the hands of a Government whose most numerous representatives belong to a party who were the chief architects of the war. If I wanted, I could say a good deal the other way. I profoundly believe, whatever mistakes may have been made—and mistakes were made by most of us at one time or another in the days before the war—do not let us at this time try to bring back the old discords of the past. Do not let us make this an opportunity for trying to say one way or the other this party or that made errors. As a Council of State we should welcome the development of any expedients in Italian affairs which may bring the war to a successful conclusion, and, after that, maybe we can go back to party politics, but let us avoid the mischief and discord which are the breath of life to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I rise because, in conformity with my duty, last Thursday I asked the Leader of the House whether he could arrange a Debate for this week on the political aspects of the war. Unfortunately, as I think it still, the Government did not feel, from their point of view, to which they are fully entitled, that it would be in the best public interest. I hope hon. Members will accept my word for this. I had no other thought in my mind than a Debate which would assist the fuller prosecution of the war by giving hopes to the people who may be liberated and beginning to fulfil those promises which have been so solemnly made. I will not go back into the past, though it is undoubtedly true that the North West African incident complicated the situation, as one can well 2216 understand. As I said on an earlier occasion in the war—I am not saying this out of disrespect to any Ally—war, like adversity, makes strange bed-fellows, and we have to learn to live with our Allies, large and small, as they have to live with us with all our sins on our heads. I had thought that it might be possible in a Debate in this House to get a statement rather more specific than that which the Prime Minister made last week, one which would give comfort to the people of Sicily, give hope to the people of Italy, give them moral support in fighting the battle in which they, with us, are now engaged in common, and would revive in all the over-run countries of Europe a spirit which would intensify their operations against the hated Nazis who now hold them down.
I thought that a Debate in this House, in this ancient Assembly, might perhaps inspire other members of the United Nations and might lead the United States people to understand, as many of them do over here, that the vast majority of the people of this country honestly believe in the pledges which have been given in our name. The primary pledge is the pledge of freedom. I can understand the circumstances of Sicily to-day, where the island is not yet won, where there may be a bitter struggle still ahead of us, but where we believe that victory will crown our arms at no distant date. One can realise that there military government must be supreme. What is troubling a good many people—and I am not importing any personal feeling in what I am saying—and what is disturbing me are the names of those people who have been charged under the military government with civil authority. I do know Lord Rennell of Rodd, and I do not know his associates, but having looked at or having had reported to me their past histories, their experience does not fill me with enthusiasm as the kind of people who can properly be regarded as having at heart the interests of the workers and peasants of that little island. When, as we hope and we all trust, there will be a complete surrender of the present Italian Government, we hope that some sort of arrangement will be made.
I suggest that there can be no departure from the repeated declarations of this and the United States Government, 2217 with the support of all the United Nations, that surrender must be complete and unconditional. It should never go from this House that there is even a tiny group of people who would play peace with the people who have caused so much tragedy on the Continent of Europe. A good deal depends on the character of the Government at the time. Mussolini has gone, and gone for ever. We now have a Government—true, the only Government that is available now in Italy—headed by King Victor Emanuel. I do not want to be rude to the head of a Royal family, but he has not proved himself a prince of democrats in the past. Then there is Marshal Badoglio, against whom I say nothing except that his services to the progress of democracy have not been conspicuous in the last 20 years. Surrender by them might mean, I do not say would mean, the imposition of certain further terms which could not properly be asked from a Government of rather more democratic tendencies, more closely in touch with the mass of the people. And it is important that in the new battleground of Italy, for I do not suppose that Hitler will allow this important peninsula to pass into our hands without a struggle, the people resident there, having thrown off the hated yoke of Mussolinism, should be our friends and not very sullen non-participants in the war. In other words, it is important that the administration which follows on military occupation should not be of the German kind, with its Gestapo and all the agencies following on the Gestapo. The machinery, I do not say of Government, but of administration which follows the Army should be the type which strikes in the hearts of the people of Italy hopes of complete ultimate liberation. It should convert people who may still question our bona-fides into friends helping us to drive the Germans over the Northern frontiers of Italy. If we could achieve that I believe we should inspire every overrun country in Europe.
I have some little knowledge of what underground movements are to-day, and I make no apology for possessing such knowledge. They are movements of people who in the darkest days have still kept in their souls the flame of liberty, fighting not under the conditions of the battlefield, not subject to intermittent blitzes, but hour by hour, 2218 moment by moment, living under the greatest terror the world has ever seen. There ought to be an Order for heroes of that kind, given by the free nations of the world to the men and women—and children—who, in circumstances which are inconceivable in a country like this, have still kept alive the things for which this war is being fought. If we can help them, if we can fortify their spirits, if we can give them new hope, we are doing a great deal to win the war quickly and to win it successfully. If it should be thought in the North of Italy, where men and women to-day are now rising, facing the peril of being shot by Fascist soldiers, or Italian police or German agents and German soldiers—if those people who are now carrying the flag for us in the North of Italy, before we have got a landing there can he given new hope that when we put our foot on the toe of Italy we stand with them, then we have won a great Ally.
I would go further and say this. I hope I am not indicating anything to the enemy, but I should assume that those fighting, democratic movements, now underground, are pretty well in touch with one another. I should imagine that what is going on in Northern Italy to-day is known in far more detail in the South-East of Europe, and in Poland, and in Germany, than it is in this country; and what we do in the coming weeks, the steps we take and the spirit we show, will have an enormous influence on the future conduct of the war. It may shorten it by many months, or it may make it longer. One cannot tell. My plea is this: As I have said, I am not bitterly criticising anybody. There have been mistakes in the past. I am concerned about stepping off with the right foot now, when we are at the stage of making a real foothold which may bring the war to a pretty speedy conclusion; and it would be, I am sure, a great help to those of us—all of us here who are concerned with a victorious end to the war—and to all those millions of people all over the over-run countries of Europe who have been struggling against colossal difficulties and are still keeping their swords clean for the day when they can come out into the fight, it would be an enormous inspiration to them, if, in our conduct of operations 2219 in Sicily and in Italy, we showed that we meant to fulfil the Atlantic Charter and bring to those people, at the earliest day, the freedom they so richly deserve.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
If the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will allow a very insignificant Member of the party opposite to say so, this House and the country have had cause more than once to be grateful to him for his patriotism and moderation; and the speech to which we have just listened is of exactly the type which experience has taught us to expect from him. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) relied upon the fact that one-third of the Members of this House had asked for a Debate on the war at the present time. Let me say at once that with such a demand I would naturally have been in sympathy; but the relations between the House and all parties in it on the one hand, and the Government, at the present time must not simply be one of watchfulness, it must also be one of confidence. The Government have stated that a full Debate upon this subject would not be opportune at the moment. How far have we got now? It is less than a month since our troops first entered into Sicily. The battle is still in progress for the North-East of the island, and our troops are fighting against well prepared defences and a determined enemy. I do suggest that a demand for a full explanation of what is going on is premature at the present moment, to say the least.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale knows that I am not insincere when I say that I have the greatest possible respect for his Parliamentary ability, but I think it is not inappropriate if I, as a back bencher, without anything like his talent or experience or anything like his distinction or facility of phrase, say that I very much deplore the course which he has taken and that I have—at least, so I think—rarely listened to a more mischievous or irresponsible speech, even coming from him.
§ Mr. Hogg
No doubt when I have been here a little longer I shall have had the advantage of listening to even more irresponsible speeches from the hon. Member. In a democracy there is a moment for speech and there is a moment for silence. There is a moment for action and there is a moment for reflection; and if there had been an example of a moment when silence was desirable, I should have thought it would have been at the moment when the hon. Gentleman thought it right to attack that gallant and distinguished Frenchman with whom General de Gaulle is now willingly and friendly in association, at the head of the French Committee of Liberation, and for whom his official organisation in the country has worked for our Government's recognition. During a part of last year I had a certain responsibility for liaison with the French in a part of the world, and I must say quite deliberately that I can conceive of no course of action more likely to spill French blood later on than an irresponsible statement of that sort from Members of this House in open Debate.
If there was another example required when silence is better in a democracy, I would suggest that the hon. Member's attack on the Prime Minister was an even better example. The Prime Minister has not always been right in the past, but what is vicious about this attack is not that the Prime Minister should not have been right but that the attack was calculated, designed, and I say intended, to throw doubt upon his sincerity and ability to deal with the present situation in Italy, and anything more mischievous or irresponsible than to do that at the present time to a person in whose sincerity and ability the country has full confidence it would, I think, be difficult to conceive. I take it that it is not improper to remind the House that whatever the Prime Minister may have said in 1927, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale is a new convert to democracy. As recently as 1930 he was fostering a movement in left wing politics which he openly confessed was not democratic in its full sense. Had I had the slightest idea that he was going to make this attack to-day, I would have brought from my house the full documentation of that allegation which I have made.
§ Mr. Hogg
If it is not substantiated, I shall certainly take an opportunity of withdrawing what I have said. When we come to the question of Italy, we are obviously treading on slightly more withdrawing what I have said. When we come to the question of Italy, we are obviously treading on slightly more dangerous ground. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has criticised various Members of this House and the Government for political illiteracy. Most Members of the House did suspect that his own knowledge of Italian politics is not as wide as one would have supposed simply from listening to his speech. I think it, is not improper to say that even at this time in Italian politics the House of Savoy means a great deal more than Victor Emanuel; it means the house which was associated with Garibaldi, the Liberator of Italy. It is not altogether wrong to insist that there is a prestige attached to that house in the minds of many perfectly liberal-minded Italians which does not attach to the present monarch.
The hon. Gentleman told us what Italy was yearning for at the present time. I am not sure that I am quite as certain of Italian public opinion as he appears to be, but I should have thought that there were other considerations to be borne in mind. The Italian people have been the victims of Fascist censorship for the better part of a generation. They have been told nothing but what was false, and have had kept from them what was true. I should have thought it was obvious that public opinion in such a country, even at the present time, would not swing over completely in the twinkling of an eye, that there must be among a people whose Government has been at war with us and is at war with us at the present time a very considerable proportion of anti British feeling still existent. I should have thought there were obvious objections to putting a fully independent administration manned by Italians, who belong to a nation at war with us, in charge of our lines of communication at present. I cannot waive aside so lightly as the hon. Gentleman has done, the 2222 principle of trusting the generals on the spot. We are, at the moment, in course of military operations in Sicily, and our first consideration must naturally be the safety of our men and the victory of our Armies against the Germans in that island. The general on the spot has his political advisers: they form part of any general staff dealing with territory of that kind. It seems to me that any suggestion which might have the effect of causing us to detach a division or an army corps from the front line of the battle with the Germans to deal with internal disorder of any kind, would require very powerful political arguments to justify it. If we were dealing with the final settlement of Italy after the war, I should be the first to criticise the suggestion that we ought to put military in front of political considerations. In such circumstances, such an argument would be wholly misplaced.
§ Mr. Hogg
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I should cite the military value of those political considerations as an example of the way the Government are to be trusted in dealing with the present situation. But we are not dealing with the settlement of Italy after the war. We arc dealing with a purely temporary situation in an island which is the subject of military operations, and I suggest that to intervene at the present time and demand a full-dress discussion and a full explanation from the Government would be extremely mischievous and unwise. It is precisely because I feel that the attitude of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale does not represent the opinion of the vast majority of hon. Members on all sides of the House, that I rise to protest against what he has said, and to say that I hope the Foreign Secretary will stand firmly against it.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I intervene for a few minutes only, because I assume that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will want to state the Government's position before we conclude the discussion. I had considerable sympathy with the desire for a discussion before the Recess, but I was content to accept the 2223 assurance of the Leader of the House that no important political decision would be taken before the House had an opportunity to discuss the position. In other words, the Government have given a solemn undertaking to summon us together if there is any new development in the political situation, even should it happen only a few days after we disperse. No one will charge me with being sympathetic to the Fascist regime. During the last 21 years I have been consistent in my attack on Fascism, whatever form or shape it has taken, and in whatever country it has made its appearance. But I realise, as every thoughtful man must, the difficult situation in which the Government find themselves.
During the past 21 years one of the main tasks of a Fascist regime has been to murder every political leader of liberal or Socialist views. Every political leader, who 21 years ago had reached maturity, has now been swept out of the country. It is very difficult to say, but I have a shrewd suspicion that it is almost impossible to find men of any political status in that country who could speak from the liberal point of view and who could negotiate any Armistice terms on the part of the people of Italy. But I cannot help thinking, in spite of the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), that there is a good deal to be said in favour of some people associated with this regime, indirectly being made responsible for the humiliation of suing for peace and accepting terms of unconditional surrender. The experience after the last war was that those responsible for the government of the country were only too glad to shift the responsibility for the armistice and the peace terms on to the democratic and liberal forces in the country. It would suit those who are at present responsible, to hand over the responsibility of negotiating armistice terms to other people.
It is very significant that Mussolini and his followers, when they saw defeat facing them, cleared out and disappeared in the hope of being saved the responsibility of suing for peace. I do not think the matter is as simple as my hon. Friend suggests. Whatever may happen in the course of the next few days, our main duty is to give support to the military authorities on 2224 the spot who are in the middle of a great battle. But assuming that there is surrender, it will obviously be necessary, common sense tells one, to negotiate with some responsible authority who can enforce the conditions of peace and bring the army into its terms. I only intervened to say these few words. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to accept the Government's undertaking to call us together when the situation has developed and before they are irretrievably committed to support any kind of political regime in that country.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
While my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) was speaking I felt carried back four or five years. I was not a member of the House at the time, but from the public gallery I heard him make one of his first speeches after his election and the words he used to-day were almost the same. We were then treading the dangerous path of appeasement; there was a Debate on foreign affairs and my hon. Friend greatly regretted that the Debate should have taken place. I remember some irreverent Member on this side of the House interrupting and asking him why he was speaking, to which he had a ready answer, as he always has. I hope the example of that unfortunate period in the history of our foreign affairs will help to convince hon. Members that this Debate may serve a useful purpose.
After the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), I trust that it is evident by now that this Debate is desired in the House and can be useful in the counsels of the nation. I shall certainly endeavour to say nothing that will do harm to my country's interests or to the cause of democracy throughout the world. I do not think it was very wise of the Government to resist the demand for this Debate. The Government profess that they wish to re-establish democracy throughout Europe. Yet they resist a demand for debate in this House. Charity surely begins at home and so does democracy. Surely the Government can trust hon. Members of this House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) to use their privilege discreetly, and I think he has used it discreetly. I cannot agree with some 2225 of the criticisms made of my hon. Friend. He has been attacked for saying a number of things which he did not say and for others which would not have been drawn out, had it not been for intervention from the opposite benches.
I see no reason why, at this time, we should not be discussing the political aspects of the war. We do not ask to discuss the military aspects; we are well content with the progress which is being made. Indeed, I think it only generous to felicitate the Government on the conduct of military operations. The Prime Minister is following in a great tradition, literally in the path of Belisarius—and, I have no doubt, will conduct this operation as successfully. But this House is surely entitled to be heard on the political aspects of the matter. After all, that is our metiér and I think some of the things we say may be useful. At any rate, we ask that the Government should be willing to consult with us to-day on some of these important subjects. Some of the things that we say may prove valuable in the important decisions they have to make. A few days ago a well-known Italian commentator, Aldo Valori, writing in the "Corriere della Sera," said:What the enemy has prepared for us in case they should be victorious, can be seen by what has been done to the Italians in Africa, and what has been done to harrowed Sicily.I would not agree with his interpretation of events in Africa and Sicily but what he said was perfectly true. What we are doing in Sicily is a model for what will happen in Europe, and it is most important that our actions there should be circumspect and right. It is in the wish that our actions will give hope to the, whole of Europe, that we have asked for this Debate to-day. I do not want to sound suspicious, but I think there are some grounds for suspicion of the Government in regard to the action on which they may be embarking. I would like to make suggestions which I think ought to be carried out there and I hope the Government will give due consideration to them. Although the Government have resisted this Debate, I think they have shown signs of repentance in that there are so many right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench now. I think we ought to be grateful to them for having come to listen to the Debate.
2226 There are a few things that have given us justifiable reasons for suspicion. The first I would mention is the personnel of A.M.G.O.T. as it is now called. The progenitor of this body was called O.E.T.A., which means Occupied Enemy Territory Association. I do not know why the name has been changed, possibly because the ribald had taken to calling it the "Old Etonian Tie Association," for which there were certainly some grounds. The personnel of the new body does not inspire any new confidence. The object of our policy seems to be to make the world safe for bankers. It is no use turning out the Roman fasces, if you only put in a British Rodd for Italian backs. One of the leading members of this organisation is a member of the firm of Morgan, Grenfell and Co., and has been associated with the Bank of England and also with the Banco Italo-Britannico. Another member has been associated with the Banco Italo-Britannico, and also with Robert Benson and Co, and with Lloyds Bank, and a third member in high office has been associated also with the Bank of England. [An HON. MEMBER: "How very wicked."] The relevance will be seen by what I am going to say next. A rate has been fixed for the lira in occupied countries. We have given very strict injunctions to our soldiers since the time of the Duke of Wellington that they are not to loot, and those instructions are generally enforced very strictly. But by fixing a rate for the lira which is about five times the peace-time rate, we are, in fact, conducting a system of authorised loot. One pound sterling will now in Sicily buy 400 lire, instead of 92 which it would have bought in peace time. In consequence, our soldiers will be able to buy far more goods than otherwise would be the case.
I am certainly for giving a generous reward to the soldiers who have fought in this campaign, but let us at least do it by methods which will not rankle in international relations when the war is over. I think the principle has already been conceded by the Government, who must have a guilty conscience in the matter, for the rate, which was fixed originally in Africa at 480 to the £, has now been reduced to 400. I do not see why we should not be informed of the principles on which this rate has been fixed. What reason can there be for 2227 secrecy in such a matter? There may be good reasons, but in any case I think the House of Commons is entitled to hear them. In actual fact this rate corresponds roughly with values in the Italian black market, but that is no proper foundation for a rate of exchange. We all know how inflated prices are in the black market. This rate, if it is perpetuated, may be a great cause of grievance in years to come. I was rather shocked a few weeks ago by a reply I received from the Foreign Secretary. We all say things when we are on our feet which we ought not to say, but they are not so serious when said by a back bencher as when said by the Foreign Secretary. When the right hon. Gentleman replied that before very long he thought the Italians would be glad to get any number of pounds they could for their lire, I do not think he was doing justice to his high office. This will be a matter of the utmost consequence when the war is over. Surely hon. Members remember the discontent that was caused in Germany by inflation, which was one of the causes of the success of Hitler's movement. I trust that we shall look beyond any immediate advantage, to the establishment of permanently good relations between a liberated Italy and this country, and the question of the rate of exchange will have to be considered in this connection.
Another matter that gives us some ground for suspicion is the fact that the Soviet Union appears to have been ignored in all these matters, and the Soviet Press has complained to that effect, with a pretty clear indication that if the Anglo-American Forces claim a free hand in Italy, they will claim a similar free hand in Eastern Europe. I do not think that is good for the future of international relations either, and I hope that those complaints in the Soviet Press will be met.
What is the Italian problem with which we have to deal? What my hon. Friends and I want to urge is this Debate is in the most general terms that we should take no action which will limit the freedom of the Italian people to choose their own form of government. The problem of Italy is, like the problem of Germany, a problem of a union 2228 between Army chiefs, big industrialists and big landowners, reinforced in the case of Germany by the influence of a bueaucracy which is not so strong in Italy.. It is now widely agreed that our great mistake in the treatment of Germany after the last war was that we did not break those great social forces. We had the facade of disarmament, but behind that facade the great social forces of the Rhenish industrialists, the East Prussian junkers and the Army chiefs went on as before. In Italy we have now the opportunity to break those forces, or rather to let the Italian people break them. What we on this side are concerned about is that the Italian people should not be prevented in their efforts to break those social forces as they are now attempting to do.
No one can fail to realise the significance of what is going on in the North of Italy. There is no reason to disbelieve the reports, for they come from German sources. I have been reading the Transocean reports, where it is frankly stated that Leftist workmen have broken open a prison in which several hundred anti-Fascists were incarcerated. That is the kind of thing which is going on all over Northern Italy. We used to hear these things by underground means, and they were generally disbelieved until the information came about the general strike in Turin last May, which was later confirmed by Mussolini himself. That is a pretty good indication that the underground movement in Italy has been stronger than most people are prepared to allow. What we are concerned about on these benches is that these forces shall be given a fair chance and that by some deal with the present ruling forces in Italy we do not nip this revolution in the bud.
I have mentioned the possibility of some deal with the present ruling forces in Italy. Let us consider how the present situation has come about. There was a meeting of the Grand Council of Fascism, at which an order of the day was proposed by Count Grandi. There was another motion proposed by Farinacci and a third by Scorza. Farinacci's motion got only one vote, Scorzi's was withdrawn, and Grandi's was carried by 17 votes to seven. It was in consequence of that vote that Mussolini resigned. Let us look at some of the persons who voted 2229 for that resolution. Among them were Grandi himself; many people who used to sip his cups of tea at the Italian Embassy in London said he was a gentleman, but actually he is up to his neck in Fascism. He is a Fascist of the first hour and an enemy of democrats, and I trust we shall have no bargaining with him. Among others voting were Federzoni, one of the big figures in the world of business, De Bono, who figured in the early stages of the campaign against Ethiopia, De Vecchi, who was one of the original Fascist quadrumvirate, Ciano, who is as deeply implicated as Mussolini himself, and that most illiterate Minister of Education, Bottai, Those are the men who have set the present Government in Italy in power, or at least in office, and I think that ought to warn us about having any dealings with them. What is the present Government in Italy? Substantially the King and Marshal Badoglio. The King has been implicated in Fascism from the first hour. There need have been so Fascism in Italy if the King had only signed a declaration which he had promised to sign; but he then refused, and his fortunes have been bound up with the Fascist system. Marshal Badoglio was evidently opposed to Mussolini personally, but he for many years past has been implicated as much as anyone in the military adventures of Fascism. I suggest that they are not the people whom we ought to set in permanent power in Italy. If we do so, we shall be running counter to the wishes of the Italian people themselves.
What ought to be our action at the present time? I can only give my own views, and they are in substance these, that when the military success is consummated, as it will be consummated, there should be for some period a military occupation, during which the organs of democracy shall be allowed to function again. My view is that at the present time we should treat with no Government in Italy, but set up a real military occupation. I mean a real military occupation, not an occupation by civilians who happen to be wearing soldiers' uniforms. What is important is that in this occupation the wheels of democracy should turn round once more. I believe the British soldier is the best ambassador we have. Let him move about among the people, and there will quickly be good relations again. What do I mean by asking that 2230 the wheels of democracy should turn round freely once more? In the first place, there must be freedom of the Press and freedom of assembly. These are essential if, after the long night of Fascism, 21 years of Fascism, we are to get a democratic Italy again. The newspapers must be able to publish freely and comment on political matters. Fascist editors must be turned out and democratic writers put in their place. There should be freedom of assembly and freedom for party activities. Let hon. Members note the significance of what has happened in Milan. Overnight, as it appears, five parties have sprung into existence again. It shows how easily party activity will revive in Italy if it is given the opportunity.
§ Mr. Bevan
On a point of Order. I have been watching hon. Members opposite for the last 10 minutes, and there has been going on a conspiracy of conversation. We have been compelled to raise this very important matter at this hour of the day. The other subject, far less important, went six hours. This is the only opportunity we have. If hon. Members do not want to listen, they can leave the Chamber.
§ Sir P. Hannon
On that point of Order. I have been trying to listen to the best of my ability to the speeches delivered. I understood this was to have been a Debate on the political aspect of the war. Hon. Members opposite have been dealing the whole time with the military aspect of the war.
§ Mr. Thomas
I, obviously, understand a little more clearly than the hon. Member opposite the distinction between political and military matters. I have carefully confined myself to political matters, and I make no apologies for what I have said. A matter to which I personally attach the utmost importance, and I know many of my hon. Friends do, is that distinguished anti-Fascist exiles should now be allowed to return to their country and, I would say, invited to do so. There are, especially in the United States of America and in other places I shall not name because it might be dangerous to do so, a number of people who have been driven out of Italy by Mussolini, some of them bearing names that will stand very high in the history of Italy. It is my submis- 2231 sion that these gentlemen. should now be allowed to return to their country, where they are sure of a warm welcome and where they would play a prominent part in the liberation of their country.
I will mention a few of their names. Naturally, at the head of them, is Count Sforza. There, one would think, is a man who ought to be acceptable to hon. Members opposite. He bears a name famous in the history of his country; he possesses the collar of the Annunciata and is therefore a "cousin of the King"; and he is a former Foreign Secretary. What could be more acceptable to hon. Members opposite? But there may be an objection. He is a democrat. He wants to see a social revolution in Italy—at least he has no desire to prevent the Italian people effecting such a revolution if that should be their wish. In all seriousness, surely here is a person who is acceptable as we well know, inside Italy and to the Italian emigration outside, and who might be of the utmost importance at the present time. I can safely say that he would be willing to return. But it is not for Count Sforza to go cap in hand to the Allied Governments and ask for facilities to be given to him to go home. They ought to be offered. I mention also Don Sturzo. He is particularly relevant because he is a Sicilian. When he founded the Partito Popolare in 1919 it swept the country. If he returned now, old man though he is, his influence would sweep the country once once. I wish to mention also Professor Salvemini. I know that some of the things which he has said about English and American Tories are not very acceptable to hon. Members opposite, but he is acceptable to his native people. He understands them. I know that he would be willing to return to Italy, and he should be given every facility to do so. There are others. There is the distinguished writer Signor Borgese, who would be most acceptable, and Signor Emilio Lussu. I could pass on to those who are inside Italy and are being liberated from its prisons, but it might be dangerous to mention their names. There are many such persons, and they ought to be allowed to take up their work for democracy once more.
This is not the policy of the Government. We are told that all political activities are to be forbidden. To forbid 2232 all political activity is in one sense only another form of Fascism. No good purpose is going to be served by creating this political vacuum in Sicily, and I most sincerely suggest that political activity should be allowed under the protection of the military authorities to the fullest extent compatible with military security. [An HON. MEMBER: "The military have to carry on the war."] I have undertaken not to talk about military matters, or I should have a reply to that interruption.
I look forward to a period when the wheels of democracy will once more be turning round in Italy. Then I suggest that, again under the protection of the military power, elections should be held for a constituent assembly. We must allow the Italian people to choose their own Government and their own form of government. Let us have in Italy a constituent assembly which would decide these matters on behalf of the Italian people. I am not going to say whether Italy ought to have a Monarchy or a Republic. It is not for me to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—nor is it for hon. Members opposite to say. It does not lie in our mouths. But I would like to correct a misapprehension in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford. He appears to judge the House of Savoy by the House of Windsor. I can assure him that the House of Savoy plays no such part in Italy as the Monarchy plays in this country.
§ Mr. Thomas
It is looked upon as a Piedmontese house. It has never been a force in Italy like our own Royal house has been here. The hon. Member mentioned Garibaldi, and he corrected the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale on Italian history. I felt inclined to ask, Quis custodiet ipsos cuslodes? He should know that Garibaldi was by nature and temperament a Republican, and it was only on the sheerest grounds of expediency that he offered the Kingdom he had won at the foot of the Piedmontese king.
§ Mr. Thomas
Therefore the hon. Member is wrong. The House of Savoy does not play in Italy the part he imagines. It is not for me to say whether Italy 2233 should be a Monarchy or a Republic. But I think it is within my rights to say I cannot imagine that, even if the Monarchy is retained in Italy, we could have any dealings, or the Italian people would be likely to have any dealings, with the present King or the Crown Prince. If the Monarchy is retained, I imagine that it could only be in the form of a Regency in which the Crown Prince's young child would succeed to the throne. But these questions are for the Italian people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad for once to have so much assent from hon. Members opposite. We have not always had it on this question of Italy. I am provoked into saying something I might perhaps have avoided. There is disagreement on the question, because the lines of party cleavage are becoming manifest once more. It is no use the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) shaking his head. We often hear nowadays about the Progressive Conservatives. I think it is manifest that they will be progressive only in so far as they are allowed to be and that where the class structure of this and other countries is concerned the hon. Member will be found on the same side as the hon. Member who sits behind him. I am afraid we can have little faith in the Progressive Conservative.
This question raises the whole issue between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, and it is bound to become clearer as the war draws to an end. The parties have always been divided on this question of Italy. I could go back to the 19th century, if I wished. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "Go on."] I see no reason why I should hurry over my speech. The Government could have had this Debate at a much more convenient time if they had wished. I am a democrat, and I propose to exercise the rights of democracy. I do not propose to go into detail about the 19th century, because it would be out of Order, but I am entitled to use an illustration. I would point out that Disraeli refused to meet Garibaldi in this country. When we talk about the traditional friendship between Great Britain and Italy, it was in fact the Liberal Party, not the Conservative Party, that was traditionally friendly. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is one still there."] Be that as it may, I want to come to more recent times. 2234 I can never forget the name of Matteotti, which has already been mentioned on this side of the House. Let us not forget that when Matteotti was murdered by order of Mussolini, as is now beyond doubt, for the chief of the murderers, Dumini, was captured by the British in Derna, the whole Fascist régime tottered to its foundations. Almost every civilised country throughout the world made a protest. What happened in this country? It so happened that the Labour Government had been overthrown, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, as he then was, had become Foreign Secretary, and almost his first action was to go out to Rome and shake the hand of Mussolini while it was still dripping with the blood of this great Socialist leader. That action more than anything else kept Mussolini in power at that time. That was in December, 1924. On 3rd January, 1925, Mussolini felt confident enough to go into the Italian Parliament and say that he took full responsibility for all that had happened, and immediately he started to establish totalitarianism throughout the country. That is how the Conservative Party treated Fascism in those days. I do not want to dwell at any length on the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has done it, and everyone of us makes mistakes—although I can honestly say that I have nothing to retract from what I have said in the matter of Italy. I am now only continuing a battle which I have fought, inside closed doors and outside, for many years, a battle which can be summed up by saying that the Fascist régime is a régime clamped upon an unwilling people by a small gang in that country and supported by foreign diplomacy. That is the battle which has now to be decided once and for all.
It pains me to some extent to say this, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will not take it amiss, but I have felt that whenever he speaks on the subject of Italy there is an element of pettiness in it, which I regret. The right hon. Gentleman has had many brushes with Mussolini. There was a famous occasion when Mussolini was, shall I say, more than rude to him, and the period of sanctions is, I imagine, not a period to which my right hon. Friend looks back with pride. I can understand all that, but I feel that in his references to Italy at the present time he is not living 2235 up to the full status of a Foreign Secretary of this country. Friendship between England and Italy is a European necessity. We both have to use the Mediterranean Sea, and it is absolutely vital to both sides that there should be the best relations between us. It appears to me—I am willing to be corrected—that my right hon. Friend has transferred to the Italian people some of the antipathy which he naturally feels for Mussolini and the Fascist régime. If he is able to tell me that I am wrong, I shall be happy to accept the assurance, but possibly I have drawn his attention to something which he has not even noticed himself.
As to the Prime Minister, I think his utterances on Italy have shown a progressive improvement, if I may say so. I am not going back into pre-war history, but I will confine myself to the present war. In his first speech to the Italian people, uttered about Christmas-time, 1940, he said:There is where one man, and one man only, has led you.That was a great mistake of judgment, in my submission. Mussolini is not the only nefarious element in Italy. He could go and the system remain very much the same. It is the whole Fascist régime, which is objectionable, and not merely Mussolini himself. I think that the Prime Minister realised that on reflection, because on later occasions he said, "There is where one man and the régime which he has created have led you." That is very much better. I hope that the Government will live up to that revised judgment. What we fear may happen in Italy is that the label will be taken off the bottle, but the contents remain the same. It is no use merely dropping the name "Fascism," or even dissolving the Fascist Party, if the system remains the same, if the power of the ruling class still depends on the great industrialists, the army chiefs and the great landowners. The power of Italy has laid not only with Mussolini but with the great industrial families—Pirelli, Donegani, Agnelli, Volpi, and so on. I am glad to have mentioned the name of Volpi, because I saw a report not long ago that Count Volpi, the head of great Venetian industrial interests, had gone to Rome. I sincerely hope we are not getting rid of 2236 Mussolini in order to set Count Volpi in his place. I have spoken at some length, though not so long as I might have spoken or might still be tempted to speak, but I hope we shall have a reply from the Government on this question. Therefore let me end by saying that a Foreign Secretary, whom I have already mentioned, belonging to the party opposite, once said that he loved France as a man loves his mistress. That is not the term I should use for my affection towards Italy. I would rather describe her in the words of one of our poets, Algernon Charles Swinburne, I believe, asMother most beautiful, lady of lands.That is how we ought to feel towards Italy. A great deal of all that is valuable in this country comes from the Italy of the past. From the time of Chaucer to the present time, there has been a constant stream of inspiration coming into the country. It has helped to convert the Anglo-Saxon from a beer-swilling boor into a relatively civilised being. I speak with gratitude of what we have derived from Italy in the past, but I cannot expect these cultural matters to appeal very much to hon. Members opposite. I would appeal to them on the grounds of self-interest, which may make a stronger appeal. The friendship of these two countries is absolutely essential to the future. If we have a democratic Italy, there can be friendship with this country. Therefore, I implore the Government not to do anything which would prevent the Italian people from setting up a democratic Government in that country. Italy has been through a "dark night of the soul," but that night is now drawing to an end, and I would like to conclude with the words of that same great lover of Italy, who wrote:Italy, what of the night?Ah, child, child, it is long.But he went on to say that there cameEastward, not now very far,A song too loud for the lark,A light too strong for a star.That is what Italy is looking for to-day. She is looking to the outside world to see we do not cheat her of her birthright. I appeal to my hon. Friends on these benches. We have to be loyal to Matteotti, to Amendola—murdered by Scorza, last secretary of the Fascist Party—to the Rosellis, to De Bosis, and to many another 2237 gallant soul who has given his life into the hands of this brutal Moloch.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I am sure we all feel the depth and sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman has just spoken on the subject of Italy. He spoke with real sincerity, and I tried to follow the scheme of the policy we were asked to follow, and I confess I found it hard to do so. The hon. Gentleman said—I think with absolute truth—that we must leave Italy to choose her own Government. Then he proceeded with great knowledge of Italian personalities to do that for himself. He said it was for Italy to decide whether she should be a Republic or a Monarchy, and he put forward various possible alternatives if the Monarchy were to continue. Then he turned to me, but I did not quite understand what his complaint was. First, let me assure him that I never had a row with Mussolini at all. Contrary to popular legend, that never happened. I am sorry to destroy a newspaper story of many years' standing, but I did not have a row with Mussolini in the sense that the hon. Member meant it.
§ Mr. Eden
There was no row in that sense. But there was between not only myself but the Government and Signor Mussolini a difference as to his behaviour. My views have not changed in the least. I tried, as did many of my colleagues in successive Governments, to persuade myself that Mussolini was negotiable. I tried to believe it, because it so happens that, like the hon. Member, I know Italy fairly well and for many years have had a great admiration and affection for her. I found that Mussolini was not negotiable, and he is still so, fortunately in another sense. With the departure of Mussolini and the Fascist regime, the hon. Member will find me only too ready, providing we can get what we want for attacking Germany, to aid her, which I hope he will regard as 2238 reasonable and for which I hope we shall have his support.
Let me now turn to the issue of this Debate. First of all, the Government never took the position that they wished to stop the House making use of what are ordinary Parliamentary opportunities. When we were asked to provide a special day the Cabinet considered the point and decided unanimously—and, I am convinced, quite rightly—that in present conditions a Debate could not serve a useful purpose. I will explain in a few sentences why. Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in this House a carefully considered statement on our policy towards Italy. Much thought and work went into that statement. It is quite impossible for me or for any other Member, or for the Prime Minister, to get up and try to make another such statement, to try to improve upon it, to touch it up or modify it. That statement stands as our policy, and we thought there was little value in having a Debate to which the Government could not contribute.
Let me now say a word in reply to the actual criticisms that have been made. May I begin with a comment in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris)? I want it to be quite clear that what I told the House at Question Time recently was that maybe the House would have to be recalled. I cannot tell what will take place during the next six weeks; nobody can attempt to forecast. It will have to be for the Government to judge whether the issue will be sufficiently important to warrant us summoning the House. We have tried through very difficult years to carry the House with us, and we would not be so foolish as not to summon the House if it should be summoned. But that does not mean that we can abrogate the executive powers of the Government, although it may be we shall have to call the House together to ask it to endorse or support our policy.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), I notice, has made a certain evolution in criticism in this House as compared with last year. Last year everything was wrong—strategy, weapons, and generals. The politicians were wrong. Everyone was wrong. If he poses as having selected the victorious com- 2239 manders, I can only offer him my congratulations.
§ Mr. Eden
It never occurred to me to seek for that chain of thought. I am obliged to the hon. Member. Now it is not the commanders. It is the politicians. I am getting a trifle nervous, because at this rate of progress we shall have the hon. Member's support by next year. I am anxious for the Government's life. But I must reply to one or two points. First of all, there is a correction that I must make. He cited as an example of the correct action of political direction in the war what he described as the Prime Minister's action in advising General Wavell to go to Greece. I do not think he meant it, but, from what he said, the impression might have got out that that action was against General Wave11's own advice. That is not so.
§ Mr. Eden
No, but I got the impression that he meant to convey that political direction was opposed to military direction. Anyway, I wish to correct it, because it was not so. In fact, I-cannot recall a single occasion when we have discussed these matters when the Prime Minister has not carried his military advisers with him.
§ Mr. Eden
There is no dispute. If the hon. Member did not wish to give that interpretation, the matter is easily cleared up. I think there was some confusion in some of his points of criticism, and I will give one or two examples. He linked Giraud with Darlan. I am glad that General Giraud was not here to hear him. I cannot imagine two men more antipathetic than those two. I do not know General Giraud well, but I know that there is no greater hater of Germany. He has twice escaped from prison in Germany, and his main mind and thought are of fighting the Germans. That would not be true of Darlan. I believe that now, when we have General 2240 Giraud and General de Gaulle and their Committee beginning to function, our purpose should be to try to strengthen its authority. The hon. Member described the advance of the Allied Armies in Sicily, and described it very well, but he did not seem to appreciate that the argument that he was using was a good argument to show that the political policy followed in that territory was good military and political policy vis-Ë-vis the Italian troops, that the broadcasting of propaganda was well done and had its effect. He said A.M.G.O.T. was a sinister name and another Member asked why we had changed 0.E.T.A. into A.M.G.O.T. The only reason is that A.M.G.O.T. is an Allied organisation, whereas O.E.T.A. was a purely British organisation, so we changed the name to show that it was Allied.
I promise the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing more sinister in the difference between the two names than that. The hon. Gentleman produced absolutely no evidence of his suspicions of A.M.G.O.T.—not a shred. What is this organisation? It is a purely military organisation which is under political authority and direction, and previous to the invasion of Sicily directives were given to General Eisenhower by the British and American Governments which were carefully prepared and considered for that reason. I must read three paragraphs from General Alexander's own directives in the Proclamation that he made on arriving in Sicily. One of them is:All powers of Government jurisdiction in occupied territory and over the inhabitants, and final administrative responsibility are vested in me.That is obviously right and what the hon. Gentleman who spoke just now would wish. Another paragraph was:The exercise of the powers of the Crown of Italy shall be suspended during the period of military operations.Is there any objection to that?All persons in occupied territory will obey promptly all orders given by me or under my authority, and must refrain from all acts hostile to the troops under my command or helpful to our enemies.Is there any objection to that?Your existing property and personal rights will be fully respected and your existing laws will remain in force and effect. The Fascist party will be dissolved and all discriminatory decrees and laws annulled.2241 That is exactly what the hon. Gentleman has been asking for. These are General Alexander's own pronouncements, and I cannot understand what all the complaints are about.
§ Mr. I. Thomas
I put a question to the Secretary of State for War last week, asking as to what progress had been made in the removal of Fascist officials, and the answer was that no information had been received. I should like to have some assurance that there have been some removals. If the right hon. Gentleman will proceed, he will find there is a complete ban on political activity.
§ Mr. Eden
There is a ban on political activity, but there is also at this moment a battle going on. Surely the hon. Gentlemen is not going to suggest that this is a good moment to have a general election in Catania. We are doing exactly what he himself asked, not only for Sicily, but for all Italy. He said that he wanted a military régime for all Italy, and he wanted the soldiers to run it. What we are doing is to have a military régime in Sicily where fighting is going on. The last reports I have are that this administration is going well. I have no doubt that it is. I cannot telegraph General Eisenhower or General Alexander and ask how many Fascist mayors they have removed and how many prefects they have turned out, and how many they have left and why. They have other things to do. Reasonable instructions have been given, and I have no doubt that they are being carried out to the best ability of the administration. Broadly, what that régime will try to do is to deliver the people of Sicily from the Fascist régime which led them into the war and to restore to Sicily, as we subsequently wish to restore to Italy, her freedom as a nation.
I have one final word. The hon. Member seemed to be in some confusion as to the effect of accepting unconditional surrender on the recognition of the Government. If we accept unconditional surrender from anybody, I do not regard it as thereby recognising them in the least. Indeed if, by our recognising Hitler in that way to-morrow, he gave us unconditional surrender, I should be extremely well pleased. There is no recognition in the acceptance of unconditional surren- 2242 der, and the hon. Member seems to be in a state of very considerable confusion.
In a few words I have tried to answer some of the points that hon. Members have asked, and I will conclude by saying this. We are just as anxious on this side of the House as are hon. Members opposite; and let me say my Labour colleagues in the War Cabinet play their part. The hon. Member was speaking just now as if there was not a member of his party in the War Cabinet. They are our colleagues, sharing responsibility with us—we discuss these matters with them—and we are as a War Cabinet anxious to see Italy accept the unconditional surrender she has been offered, anxious to see facilities given to us so that we can turn the war on to Germany even more vigorously than to-day, and anxious to see after that a peace in which Italy, as the Prime Minister said, can play her part as a respectable nation once again.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I was very much surprised to notice on the occasions last week when hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House asked for a Debate before we adjourned for the Recess that the refusal to grant it was met with such cheering by hon. Members opposite. I felt then, and I am certain that I was right from what I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman just now, that this Debate was essential, and further that we had every justification for all our apprehensions in the refusal to grant this Debate. We have succeeded in using the proper methods of procedure to stage this Debate, and when the House looks back I think it will feel a desire to congratulate the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) for initiating the Debate. Two or three hon. Members opposite have referred to his speech as mischievous. I challenge any Member opposite to say what it was he said that could be regarded as mischievous. If they do not accept the challenge, I need not go on with the point any longer. I think the position in Italy is rather similar to the situation which existed in this country after Charles I had been arrested and tried and was languishing in gaol. Three gentlemen met for the purpose of deciding the form of Government or how the House of Commons should be constituted. They were Colonel Rainsborough, Colonel Ireton and Oliver Cromwell, and they carried on a discussion as to whether or not everyone in the 2243 country should have a vote or only those who had property. This seems to me to be the essential diagnosis of the present trouble. Rainsborough was what was referred to at that time as a Leveller. He would be regarded in these days as someone on the Left, He said, "I think everyone should have one vote." Oliver Cromwell, on the other side, who was a Conservative, said, "No, if you do that, it will be wrong, because I think that only those with property should have a vote. If you give a vote to everyone, more people will have the vote than have property, and, arising from that, property will run the risk that poverty will use democracy to destroy property, and alternatively property, frightened of poverty, will destroy democracy." That is Fascism, that is what the war is about at the present time, and that is why, in the declaration which the right hon. Gentleman referred to a few minutes ago in which General Alexander guaranteed the property rights of the Sicilians—
§ Mr. Bowles
I cannot overhear the shout of the hon. Member who represents Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). Perhaps he will allow me to go on without interruption. That is the real thing to my mind, and I am certain from my contacts, not only in London but in my constituency and other parts of the country to which I have been redently, that thinking people are very anxious indeed as to what we shall find this war has ultimately been fought for. Frankly, I do not expect very much from the Government. In the Prime Minister's speech, which the right hon. Gentleman said was very carefully prepared, and not only by him but with the whole of the War Cabinet, we find the expression, "We will let them stew in their own juice." What did that mean? What kind of social content did his speech have? What kind of hope did he hold out to the Italian people? Hon. Members also gave loud cheers when he added: "Then we will heat it up for them." For whom? For the Italian people whom you are trying to save? Here are people who have been under a Fascist dictatorship for 21 years and who, because of outside circumstances, in the nature of a world war, 2244 were compelled to fight for the continuance of that system which was anathema to them. They now throw it aside. Yet we find the British Government talking in those studied terms, not only to the Italian people but to the people in occupied territories and to the people in Germany. The Minister of Information will probably know what use Dr. Goebbels made on Tuesday night on the wireless of that statement of the Prime Minister. I can imagine Dr. Goebbels using it with very great effectiveness, saying to the German people, including many who are anti-Hitler or who are Socialists or who are rebellious in nature: "That is the way the British and American Governments will treat you if you throw over Hitler." That in my opinion will strengthen Hitler in his internal position in Germany.
Obviously, hon. Members on the other side of the House are more frightened of revolution than of Fascism. Ever since 1931, and I think we could go back before that, they have pursued, regularly, a policy of appeasement, and I see no reason why we should expect them to change their outlook. They are in the majority. I have not the slightest doubt that Labour and Liberal Ministers struggle as far as they possibly can in the Cabinet. I suppose there is democracy in the Cabinet and if there is a division of opinion the majority opinion will prevail, just as it did in the Fascist Grand Council. In a reply given last Friday to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) it was stated that the War Cabinet had considered unanimously and very definitely, that it would not be in the best interests of the Allied cause that the war situation should be debated at this stage. What is the Allied cause? That seems to me to be most important. From the expressions that came from hon. Gentlemen opposite they presumably feel that we should go away happily for six or seven weeks and that all matters of a political nature are in safe hands. In those circumstances I say, frankly, that when I heard the cheers at the refusal, two or three times repeated, to grant a Debate I should have loved the outside public to have heard that cheering also.
I hope—and I say this quite seriously—that the excuse will not be used as I am afraid it seemed to be used the other day, that because the Italian people have not 2245 practised democracy for more than 21 years, it will take them a long time to get into the position of doing so again. I mention that, because I remember the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking of Newfoundland saying: "After all"—I am not using his exact words but I am sure that I am not misrepresenting him—"the people have not had a government for to years and they will need a certain amount of education before they can get back into exercising democracy." The same argument can be used in the immediate postwar situation but I hope that nothing of that kind will happen.
Suppose we had adjourned last week and that this week there had been acceptance of what were considered unconditional surrender terms. Would the right hon. Gentleman have called the House together, or would he have said: "We do not consider this matter sufficiently important and, in the circumstances we will let the Recess run its normal course"? It seems to me to depend on what the Government think is important enough to call us together. We probably have different views about this. I am certain that the great majority of my hon. Friends are very anxious indeed that no false political step should be made. War, especially in modern times, involves not only questions of military importance but also political questions. The resistance by the Government to our demand for a political discussion about the war, seemed to me to reveal a most extraordinary but nevertheless, ominous sign.
The only other thing I want to say also seems to justify us in what we have been pressing for. The right hon. Gentleman who has just gone out, the Foreign Secretary, said almost in words that the Government were unimpressionable to the views expressed in this House. I hope that if the Debate has done something—and I think he has heard two or three well-reasoned, eloquent speeches—he will report the feeling of those hon. Members—all of them spoke from this side of the House—to the Government and that some regard will be paid to the sincere anxiety many of us have in having struggled to get this Debate, because we shall go home to the Recess very much more reassured if we can have some kind of reassurance that the views 2246 held by at least 170 of the Members of this House are to be considered by the Government.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I make no apology for speaking at this hour nor do I flatter myself at this hour when the tocsin of the soul is ringing in every man's bosom or a little lower in his anatomy, that there is anyone who wishes to hear me. But I think there arc some things which ought to be said on this subject if this subject is to be discussed in this House, and which have not yet been said, and though I have not prepared them very well or thought them out quite clearly, I think someone ought to make some attempt at saying some of them. I begin by asking for some sympathy from hon. Members opposite. I hope they will not accuse me of being "progressive." I think "progressive Conservative" is almost as foolish as "democratic Socialist." I have another reason for asking for their indulgence, and that is that I have also been a little disquieted by the Leader of the House on this topic. I thought he came very near in answering questions the other day to enunciating the doctrine that at any rate in the field of foreign affairs facts were no business of this House as long as they were ductile and that only accomplished facts ought to be brought to the attention of this honourable Assembly. I think he cane near that doctrine. I think that is an extremely dangerous doctrine, I think that in foreign policy especially the worst dangers come from ignorance, and I think that our countrymen at the moment are more ignorant about foreign policy than they have ever been before. I think it has not been beyond possibility for the Government to have kept our countrymen better informed than they are at the present time. I think they are worse informed now than ever before. I think we run a very great risk when we come to crossroads in foreign policy of making mistakes as bad as were made in the bad period before this war.
I do not want to go into the controversies of those times. I think there are things—I remember once, if the House will forgive an anecdote which has just come into my mind, a witty Frenchwoman of my acquaintance who said that she did not like somebody, and I said, "Why not? He is a most charming creature. He is entertaining, he is young, 2247 his manners are good," and she said, "Oui, maisil dit des choses desobligeantes, et vraies." Similarly, I think that if you are going to start discussing the foreign policy of the ten years before the war there is not one of us who is not a wide open target for a combination of justice and cruelty. I do not think that there is one of us, including several of us who were not in the House in those years, who has not made mistakes, or been ineffective—which is the worst damnation of ail for a politician. I include myself: I think I was generally right, but certainly I was wholly ineffective. On this matter stones can be thrown in all directions, and they do not help us very much. No one of us but was wrong enough or ineffective enough to deserve the worst that could happen.
I think there is a great line of cleavage in these matters, a cleavage which corresponds to the cleavage—I will not explain the precise relation of the two at this moment—between those who believe in original sin, who are in every sense right, and those who do not, who will get left before everything is finished. The line of cleavage in this matter is between those who think that foreign policy is mainly a matter of power, for the most part nationally organised, and those who think that foreign policy is a matter mainly of words, mostly ending in "ism." I myself belong to the former school, which is often accused of being low and grovelling. That cleavage corresponds to another line of cleavage. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last twitted me and my friends with being more afraid of revolution than of Fascism. I am not afraid of either. I have always been as anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi as he or anybody could be; but a distinction between Fascism and, revolution is a silly distinction. They are the same thing. Our grandfathers called it Jacobinism: you can call it totalitarianism; it is absolutism. It is the belief that there is some absolute right, and that only you know what it is, and that if only this or that were twisted a turn or half a turn, everything would go well, and every man would be happy. To people who sit on those benches I make one appeal—not when war is on to use military metaphors. I think that military metaphors are silly when there is not a war on—I think I never slip into them—but when there is 2248 a war on certainly they should not tell us that they have been in the battle of Fascism for 20 years. They should use words strictly, they should have some concreteness in their imagination, and when they say "battle" they should know what it means.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Oh yes, the hon. Member did; and his friends did. [Interruption.] I am not concerned about whether an hon. Member was in the British Army, but I say that military metaphors and all this stuff about "We are all in the front line" have done infinite harm, and may do more, and we had better drop it. I am afraid this speech is going to be very disjointed. I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), next time he quotes Oliver Cromwell and Rainsborough, to quote them exactly, because I assure him that both their ideas and their language were very much better than his paraphrase. I think it was much less than fair to the House to offer a sort of modern paraphrase.
The main line that is wrong is this: When there is peace, hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they renounce war as an instrument of policy. As soon as there is war, they say that the war will get no countenance from them unless it is to produce all the policies which they have always wanted. This is neither logical nor moral, and, what is more it is doomed to disappointment. Wars cannot be used to produce all that hon. Gentlemen opposite promise themselves and other people. There must be in the end, disappointment if you use that argument, and there may be such disappointment as will fling you all away. It may be me, but it really does not matter whether it is you or me. We are men of some age and no great importance and it does not matter. There may be one lot or both lots of us flung away. War is not an instrument by which all these objects of policy can be obtained nor would it be wise, proper or good, or in any way commendable, that we should try to use war to enforce, as some hon. Members opposite seem to recommend, or, as some certainly said, to incite democracy in Sicily. I do not know whether it is 2249 possible to arrange for the growth of democracy in Sicily. So far as I know, that has not been done yet and the history of Sicily has been known for 3,000 years. But anyway that cannot be the proper object of our war and a proper reason for us to send our sons and nephews to battle. The suggestion must inevitably produce disappointment. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as if this were not a war with England and United States against Germany and Italy, but a war, they tell us, for democracy, for Socialism against Fascism. All these are very debatable propositions indeed.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I neither defend Ministers nor attack hon. Members opposite. I want to put a point of view on this matter which I do not think has been put. This may be a war for Socialism or it may be a war for democracy. It certainly can at least with as much verisimilitude be called a war against Socialism. Fascism is a sort of Socialism, and Nazism is another sort. Incidentally another hon. Gentleman opposite talked about the primary reason of this war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said the primary object of this war was freedom; do not let us forget that the primary object of this war was the guarantee of Poland.
It is not a war for Socialism. I think it could be argued that it is war against Socialism. In so far as it is not a war between national entities, which I think it is, it is a war for law, Law with a capital L—legality, predictability, that men should know where they are, where they stand, and so on. On the matter on which the Government are being criticised to-day, I would invite the hon. Gentleman to read—I am sorry to turn this into something like a university lecture, but the hon. Gentleman read from academic authority, and perhaps I can do the same—the sixth edition of Oppenheim's "International Law." I fortified myself by consulting some of those lawyers that I know, and I asked whether I should read any other books or take Oppenheim as being agreed to be right. They told me that his is the view on which the authorities agree. 2250 I think they will see not only that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for War should not promise more of what they are asking, but in my judgment the Foreign Secretary has already gone rather further than international law will allow him to go. As an occupying Power our business is simply to occupy. Our business is with merely military administration; we have no right to do anything else as a Power in military occupation of Sicily, or of Italy, and when it is suggested that the rules about property should be altered and so on, that is grossly contrary to international law.
If the argument is that we must do what will prepare a welcome for us all over Europe, nobody can tell with certainty what we ought to do. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale explained Italian, French, and Spanish politics, and his hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) explained a good many sorts of politics. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale spoke with great skill and great effect, and I thought his most characteristic passage was when he told us that we all knew what a guardia civili was, and could infer what a carabinierè was, thus combining a perfect example of his brand of argumentation, a false assumption of fact followed by a complete inconsequence of logic.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
But I did not attribute any to him. Other Members have explained European politics to us. I could explain them with as much plausibility as hon. Members opposite. There is one thing I might tell them which they always seem to forget, namely, that Darlan was a man of the Left, a creation of the "Front Populaire." There is a lot to be said for him, and against him, and in my judgment that is one of the things to be said against him. Do not let us forget that Fascism is a disease of the Left. The Doriots, the Déats, and the Lavals were men who came from the Left. This attempt to turn this war into a bloody combat between the Left and the Right is, 2251 In my judgment, foolish and immoral. If hon. Gentlemen opposite succeeded in that they would be surprised at finding half the people they expected to be on one side of the barrier on the opposite side, and they would not know which way to point their rifles This is not an occasion when we can discuss foreign policy at length, but it is the occasion when some of us—and apologise to the House for having done it late and disjointedly—can point out that it is not proper to use a war, to use military occupation of territory, to try and alter social arrangements. Secondly, I think it ought to be said to Ministers that in the opinion of this House it is not proper to use a war to try to persuade the whole of Europe that what we in this country want to do and will do when we get victory is to cause revolution all over Europe. I do not care whether hon. Members want to do that or not, but it is at least an even bet that the impression would attract more opposition than support in Europe in that way. If hon. Friends opposite had been living through the melodrama and misery in which Europeans have been living for the last four years, they would want above all any form of tranquillity. The thing they would most look forward to would be Law, and the greatest mistake now would be not to keep well within the rules of international law in any territory which the valour of our soldiers enables us to occupy.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I am always fascinated and stimulated, although sometimes irritated, by the speeches of the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthom), but on this occasion I think he has been a little less barbed and more conciliatory than usual. I like his speeches because he is what I may call the Right with the lid off—the naked Right: there is no progressiveness about him at all. That is very refreshing. I am much tempted to follow him into some of his more abstract and philosophical discursions. For instance, I think I could argue with him that those who believe in original sin believe also in the perfectibility, in the sense of sanctification, of each individual human being. But we will drop that and get back to the main debate. I must join issue with him on a point on which I think he misrepresented, no doubt unintentionally, the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- 2252 ber for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who had referred to the "primary pledge" of this war being "for freedom." The hon. Member said the primary pledge of the war was the guarantee to Poland. Surely Poland was the immediate provoking cause of the war; and what the right hon. Gentleman probably meant by "primary" was "main"—the main purpose of the war is as defined in the Atlantic Charter, to establish the Four Freedoms throughout the world.
Despite the Foreign Secretary, I think it has been useful after all that this Debate should have been held. In the first place, it gave the Foreign Secretary himself a chance to make a very interesting speech, reaffirming the honourable intentions of the British Government, and adding at the end of it that very valuable assurance, which I do not think we have had before, of the non-recognition of whatever Government happens to be in power in Italy—or rather, that they are not necessarily recognised because they have surrendered unconditionally to us. I think it is valuable to have secured that, and I think the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a distinct advance on the Prime Minister's statement on Tuesday. It was also extremely important and valuable to have from him some further details of the work of A.M.G.O.T. For one thing, it was important that we should have this for the enlightenment of Members of the House. Even those who are not here now will presumably read it to-morrow. I was rather shocked earlier to-day when no fewer than three Members—I will not say who they were or where they sit—came and asked me what A.M.G.O.T. stood for. They did not know what it was all about. That indicates a rather deplorable lack of touch with public affairs, and anything that might enlighten us on that point is welcome.
I have myself been somewhat perturbed about A.M.G.O.T., which, we are told, is a military organisation working under a political directive. I think A.M.G.O.T., as at present constituted, will tend always to leave in office rather more of the official Fascist functionaries than we would wish left in office. I think that A.M.G.O.T.'s exclusive preoccupation in maintaining civil order, seeing that the drains work and so on, will always tend to make it take the line of least resistance and 0say, "This town clerk has been here for 22 2253 years. He probably knows how the drains work; let us leave him in office." Probably A.M.G.O.T. will make a show, so to speak, of lopping off a few heads at the top, but I should like to see the lopping-off process carried considerably further down. A friend with whom I was discussing the point the other day, à propos of town clerks and leaving them in office, said that one of the failings of intellectuals and those who have never done any manual work in their lives is that manual and mechanical work is a great mystery to them. When the drains go wrong they send for the plumber in a great hurry and flurry. Similarly in Sicily they probably think, "O Lord, if we do not leave this Fascist town clerk in office, the drains will all go wrong," whereas probably the town clerk knows nothing about them and they are looked after by perfectly ordinary workers down below.
The third main reason why I think this Debate has been useful is that it does show, and will show encouragingly to the people of occupied Europe, including the people of Italy, that the House of Commons, or a small but substantial section of it, can compel the Government to have a Debate and to discuss against its will a matter of foreign policy of great importance to the future of Europe and of those people themselves. When that news gets through to Italy and Europe, it will be encouraging to them to know that this House is not a mere Reichstag, assenting dumbly to everything that it is told to.
I should like to amplify the anecdote quoted by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) because there were a few murmurs of incredulity from hon. Members on the other side of the House, and because I happen to have heard the actual anecdote to which he was referring on the B.B.C. programme on Sunday. It was an anecdote about our men letting go some prisoners from a gaol in Sicily. The curious thing about it was that the B.B.C. laid special emphasis on it, repeated it a number of times in the course of the day, and said that it was regarded by their correspondent on the spot as a particularly significant incident. The point of it was that our men had released some prisoners who had been gaoled on the allegation that they had engaged in anti-Fascist talk, but, said the B.B.C. correspondent, "they had 2254 actually only been asking for bread for their families, so of course we let them out." The implication, whether it was intentional or not was clearly that anti-Fascist talk is after all a grave offence in the eyes of the B.B.C. correspondent and that if they had really been guilty of anti-Fascist talk, we would not have let them out. Perhaps it was unhappily worded and a trivial incident, but it is rather sinisterly indicative of the way A.M.G.O.T. is working.
§ Mr Bracken
What has it to do with the Government? The Government do not control B.B.C. correspondents.
§ Mr. Driberg
I said that it seemed indicative of the kind of policy A.M.G.O.T. is pursuing in Sicily
§ Mr. Driberg
The B.B.C. is a quasi or semi-official organisation which puts over the air views of many kinds, and when they repeat and emphasise an incident of that kind, it seems to me significant. The right hon. Gentleman cannot disclaim all responsibility for the B.B.C., and I know he will not wish to.
I was a little disappointed in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flt.-Lt. Raikes), who had, I thought, begun to show signs of coming on a bit, and becoming one of those progressive Tories, since he came to speak against me a year ago at my by-election at Ma/don. I thought he had improved considerably—
§ Mr. Driberg
Yes, I am afraid he has slipped right back again. One of the main points of his speech was that Fascism in Italy was perhaps not altogether desirable but that the principal crime of Mussolini's Fascism was simply that it had joined itself to the Axis and declared war against the Allies; that was really what had put Fascism beyond the pale. That reminded me of a remark made by an acquaintance of mine who might be described as a typical member of the golfing upper classes. He said to me, early in the war, "Well, of course, this chap Hitler was absolutely O.K. by me until he went and signed a pact with the Bolsheviks." That, to his mind, was the only offence that Hitler had 2255 ever committed. And similarly, or conversely, to the hon. and gallant Member for South East Essex, by far the worst offence of Mussolini and his brand of Fascism is not the crimes we have heard about, the murder of Matteotti, the suppression of trade union rights, newspapers and all that, but simply that Italy happened to go in on the wrong side in this war.
Personally, I do not regard Fascism in that rather relative or qualified way. I have always hated and opposed Fascism absolutely, not relatively. I have always listened impatiently when people have told me that Mussolini has made the trains run on time, built good roads, drained the marshes, built wonderful public buildings—all the usual tourist talk about him; because I know that when he made the railways run on time be simultaneously enslaved the railway workers and destroyed their trade unions; and that when he built the roads he built them primarily for military and strategical purposes, for the war that Fascism always leads to in the end. As to his much-boosted draining of the marshes, in which he was photographed so often naked to his podgy waist, I do not think he actually drained very much more round Rome than any one of our county war agricultural executive committees would reclaim in a single year; and of course the public buildings were built for the sole purpose of glorifying the dictator's personal egomania. All those things are just the superficial efficiency, if you like, of Fascism. The real underground thing is absolutely rotten, and never should we have allowed ourselves to be deceived by the mere superficialities of it.
I am not sure that I altogether agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale in his dragging-up of the Prime Minister's "black record" on the question of Fascism because if we started that game, I think we should be talking for a very great deal longer. The records of hon. Members in this House, chiefly on the other side, are very bad indeed on the issue of Fascism and Nazism, of friendliness for Fascism and Nazism before the war; so I am not sure I think that that is altogether wise or kind. At the same time, there are one or two points that I was exercised about in the Prime Minister's answers to-day to Supplementary Questions. On one point he said that all these matters were subject to 2256 consultation with our principal Allies. Like the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I Thomas), I sincerely hope that that now includes the Soviet Government. Only last week we were told that we consult with the Americans and we inform the Russians. I hope that now there has been some amendment in that respect, and that what the Prime Minister said to-day does imply that to him at least our principal Allies include the Soviet Russians.
Then, with regard to General Eisenhower, the Prime Minister assured us that everything the general had said and done was within the framework of a strict directive laid down by the British and American Governments and in harmony with it. I should like to know whether General Eisenhower's reference to the King of Italy in his message is included in that. I can only assume it must have been, particularly as I tried later in the day to put down a Question asking that very point, and the Clerk at the Table very properly assured me that that was covered by the Prime Minister's statement earlier and that therefore the Question would not be acceptable.
§ Mr. Driberg
Despite the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I believe that the overwhelming mass of the people of this country retain their confidence in the Prime Minister. I am sure that that is true. On the other hand, despite the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) and several other hon. Members who have spoken, I also believe that the people of this country are not so completely indifferent as they are sometimes supposed to be to these matters of foreign policy. On the particular point of this Debate, I think that the people of this country have been slightly troubled at Parliament going away for a very long Recess, or holiday as it seems to them, without discussing this important matter. People who have never been to Parliament do not understand its inner workings, and they cannot understand that M.P.s should suddenly take a terrifically long holiday just when these important and critical issues have arisen. From that point of view, 2257 too, I think it is important that this Debate should have been held.
I am finishing now, and I am sorry to have detained the House for so long at this very late hour. I should like to urge the Government and the Prime Minister to take note of what has been said in this Debate. I believe that the Foreign Secretary's speech was an advance on the Prime Minister's statement last Tuesday. I beg and urge the Government, in everything that is put out to the Italian people, and in all our dealings with the Italian and Sicilian people, to emphasise that we go there as the friends of the ordinary common people of Italy and Sicily, and not as the friends of any kind of blackshirt or stuffed shirt or dress shirt régime that may have oppressed them in the past or is desirous of oppressing them in the future. I beg them to emphasise it in their actions and speeches, and then there is a great chance that the Italian people will arise much more vigorously and will join us—to use the Prime Minister's words—in the forward march of the common peoples of the world towards their rightful inheritance.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I intervene for a few moments to express my gratitude that this Debate has taken place. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) for having given the House an opportunity to debate this matter, were it only for the fact that it drew from the Foreign Secretary the very definite statement that he made. I do not think that I would have intervened at all but for the speech by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I never thought that I should be boasting of my age and expressing gratitude that I had grown as old as I am, but I am very glad that I had learned my history and philosophy and had left the great university of Cambridge, before the hon. Member started lecturing there the views to which he is now giving utterance. The point of all this is that we should determine the purpose for which we took up this battle and bear it in mind right through to the very end. It is right and proper that this House should express its views and not merely leave these matters to be dealt with in statements by the Prime Minister or other Ministers. Very often what is taken as criticism in these speeches is 2258 really an emphasis of what is probably in the mind of the Government, only that no other opportunity arises for it to be stated.
The whole point of this Debate can be summed up in this way: We desire to see this war through to the finish, cost what it may. We quite realise that pinning our faith to that may mean further losses. We do not hesitate but we do not want anybody to take advantage of an opportunity, or of a particular situation of the moment, which may in the long run defeat the main object. What the hon. Member had in mind without a doubt was the understanding with regard to Darlan. That shook us. It was then said that it saved lives in North Africa and hastened the victory which came to us. The answer to that was given by the Prime Minister—and I commend that speech to the House—in a very great speech he made in 1916. He said that if one wanted to avoid loss of life it was easy enough to do it; one had only to send a telegram to the Kaiser. But we did not take up the battle for that. We took up the battle for far deeper motives than the defeat of Mussolini or even the defeat of Hitler himself. We have taken it up to do what lies in our power to remove for ever the power of Nazism and Fascism, We do not want proposals which might for a moment have the suggestion of bolstering up that power. What we fear is that the sacrifices that this generation have had to go through, may have to be gone through again, in another generation, only too soon. We wanted to make that definitely clear, and I am glad we have done so from this side of the House. It only supports what the Foreign Secretary has said.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I think that the Debate which we are having this evening was crystallised in a sentence from the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) who laid down the dictum, among many extraordinary statements which I would like to follow if I had time, that an occupying force can do nothing else but occupy. In other words, if the United Nations's armies enter enemy-occupied or enemy territory, all they can do or can expect to do is to occupy that country and presumably allow the existing regime to continue. That would mean, presumably, that if our forces entered Germany and 2259 conquered that territory and occupied it the hon. Member would be perfectly happy to see the Hitler régime continue. I am perfectly well aware that the House does not share the views of the hon. Member but he did, I think, put in rather extreme form a view which is held fairly widely.
We are discussing to-day what action it is proper and right for the United Nations to take in territory which their troops are occupying, and which was enemy territory—even while the war is still going on. We have been told by various speakers that as the battle is still proceeding in Sicily, we should not do anything at all. It is said "Let the battle continue and leave foreign policy," as the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Flight-Lieutenant Raikes) put it, "until after the war is over." You just cannot do that. We are making foreign policy every moment, and everything we do in an occupied country is making foreign policy now, which may have very serious repercussions when the war is over, favourable or unfavourable, according to what those actions may be. What we are doing in Sicily is of extraordinary importance because this is the first bit of enemy territory in Europe which has been occupied by our Forces. What happened in Africa was important enough, and we know what serious consequences our African action had in Europe. But this-is even more important, because this is part of the enemy European territory which we have to occupy progressively if we are to win the war. You can call what happened in Sicily action taken on military grounds, but it has important political consequences—you cannot separate the two—and that is why it is so important for us to be discussing these things to-day, in the first stage, and within a few weeks of our landing.
The hour is late, and I do not want to go over ground which has been covered by other speakers, or to speak at great length; but there are two matters to which I would like to refer briefly. One is the fixing of the lira rate of exchange. This is of far more than local importance. It may well affect our relationship with Italy: it may well affect the degree to which the Italian people welcome our British occupation; and it may have a profound effect on people of Germany. The German people have two great fears in their hearts. 2260 One is defeat in war, of course, with their memories of 1918, and the other is that their little properties might disappear again in a devaluation of their currency. If we make it appear that we are, deliberately, going to debase the currency of Italy and of Germany, quite unfairly, we are bound to meet far greater resistance from the people of those countries, and we may lengthen the war by months or even more.
What is the history of this question? Previously the lira exchange was in the neighbourhood of 75 to 80 to the £—it was under 100. When Eritrea fell, the British Government fixed an exchange rate of 480 to the £. No reason was given. It was completely out of accord with the price levels or wage rates in Italy, and we were never able to get any explanation. I understand that the advice given by the Department of the Government best able to judge of these things was that the correct rate would be 150. That advice was rejected. Probably the advice of the local people was taken, and 480 was selected as the correct figure. That that figure was wrong has been admitted by the fact that the Government have now changed the figure to 400, but on what grounds can this figure of 400 be justified? It may be that it can be justified, but I think that if so the Government should justify it. They owe it, not so much to the House of Commons—although we are entitled to know—as to the Italian people and to the people of Europe to tell them why they consider this rate to be fair.
I have put a series of questions on the matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says, first of all, that this rate of exchange is provisional. I am glad to hear that, but once you fix a rate of exchange it is very difficult to alter it later on: it creates inequalities and anomalies, which are unfortunate. Secondly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes the excuse that it is essential that decisions of this sort shall be taken in advance, in the light of such information and advice as are available, in conditions which preclude wide discussions. Quite obviously we cannot discuss these things openly in Parliament beforehand, and nobody wants to do so, but the fact that these things have to be discussed secretly, does not mean that most careful consideration cannot be given to them. The implication in the Chancellor's reply is, 2261 "We are sorry: we have decided on this figure: we could not discuss it openly, and therefore we came to a hasty decision, without full consideration."
When the Chancellor says the rate of exchange has been based very largely on the level of wages and prices of the two countries, we ask him, "What figures have you in mind?" He says, "I will not tell you. It is undesirable that you should know." The House is always willing to accept the view of any Minister who comes along and says, "I do not want to give you this information because of security reasons and the military aspect." The House immediately says, "All right, we will not press you." But here is a matter which can have no military or security aspect whatever. It is merely what are the calculated wages and price levels in Italy or this country or the United States which can justify an exchange rate of anything like 400 to the £. If it can be justified, all well and good, and it is desirable that we should know. It may have serious consequences in our economic relations with such a democratic Government as we all hope will be established in Italy and as the Prime Minister said he hoped would be established. It is very difficult to carry on sound economic relations with a Government on an entirely false currency foundation. One of the most serious mistakes the Government have made in this question of the occupation of Italy is fixing a rate of exchange which appears to be wildly out of accord with all the facts, which they refuse to justify and give no figures to support, and which may have a very grave effect on the people of Italy, and, maybe, the people of Germany. I hope that the Government will come along and say, "In view of the criticisms in the House and the Press, we will give the reasons which made us come to this conclusion." If the reasons are good, no one will be more delighted than I.
The other point to which I want to refer is with regard to A.M.G.O.T. We have been told what the general functions are, the general directives. I do not think that anyone would quarrel very much about the directives. We are still fighting, but we hope very soon the battles will be over. What I object to is that this administration which is going to look after civilian affairs should contain no individual who has any experience whatever 2262 in this or any other country in looking after civil affairs. I do not know the records of all these gentlemen. There are six people. Three of them have been associated in the past with the highest levels of banking, and there is nothing against them on that score. That does not appear to fit them for a job which must be principally social and very largely political. These people have to decide whether Mr. X shall be deposed from the position of mayor or town clerk and whether Mr. Y is a desirable person to put in his place. As far as I know, these people have had no political experience whatever. I do not know whether they understand politics. There should have been at least one or two people on this body who had experience of local government and civil administration. I would have liked to see some trade unionist who has had experience in local government and whose principles and public record in life have shown him to be an appropriate representative of the libertarian principles for which we are fighting. There is no such person there, and it is highly regrettable.
I ask that at the next stage, whenever that may be, when the military battles are over or the political activities of the Allied countries become more widespread in Sicily or the mainland. we should have such an appropriate representative. These military people cannot have the Parliamentary outlook or political knowledge required for these duties, and I hope that we shall see that proper people are put there. It is profoundly important that we should have this Debate, in spite of the explanation given by the Leader of the House. He said that a Debate at the present moment was undesirable because there was nothing that the Government could add to the statement made by the Prime Minister the other day. That may be, but Parliament is not one-way traffic; it is two-way, and there is considerable uneasiness among many Members of the House about the situation. We required an explanation. We got some of it, but we did not get the rest. It is the function of Parliament to keep the administration in check, to find out what its policy is and to ensure that as far as possible it is doing the right thing. I am quite certain that Parliament, in this matter of bringing to occupied or enemy territories the principles for which we are fighting, and for which people are 2263 dying, must be vigilant the whole time. What has been said by hon. Members is true. There are people within this House and outside of considerable influence who are fighting the war 100 per cent. but who have shown themselves—and maybe still are, for all we know—fully sympathetic to the economic basis of Fascism. We must be vigilant or we may find that for one reason or another, by giving too much latitude to the military, or through sheer inertia to change the status quo in any country, the principles for which this country is waging war and for which people are fighting and dying may well be betrayed. We must see to it that no such betrayal takes place (through our own negligence.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I rise for one moment to put on record the feeling I have had throughout the whole of this Debate. I may say that I had no knowledge that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) intended to raise this question. I came into the Chamber with a perfectly open mind. Nor have I, during this war, felt it incumbent upon me to criticise either the foreign or military policy of the Government. I have been absorbed in other things. Bin I have observed outside this House, in trade unions, clubs and elsewhere, that there is beginning to be a profound difference of opinion upon what I may call foreign policy. However, the precise reason for my intervention is due to the speech made by the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I am glad he made the speech he did, because it is the kind of speech which is being made in less clear language outside this House, and is being written regularly in monthly periodicals and other magazines. There has been no chance hitherto, because war has been too grim, even to think in terms of a foreign policy, but I know perfectly well that the views held by the hon. Member are held by many other Members on the opposite benches, indeed, by some of those now sitting on the Treasury Bench. They are not the views held by hon. Members in other parts of the House; it is a profound cleavage. I liked the clarity of the speech made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University—
§ Mr. Lindsay
—even though it was pedantic in parts. I should not like the Debate to conclude without putting on record that I think the time has come to have an honest Debate, when the House reassembles, on certain major issues of foreign policy, even if it has to be a secret Debate, because I find in discussions outside the House that views are beginning to settle. Some of them are very acute at present. It has been my lot to meet every fortnight in the last year and a half members of Allied countries and Governments in an unofficial capacity, and I am more and more alarmed at the difference of views, for instance, between those expressed by "The Times" and its foreign policy and the views expressed by the small nations.
Finally, I know very little, no more probably than any other Member, about the organisation that has recently been set up in Sicily and some of the schemes of training during the last 1½ years, but I am not satisfied. I am supporting the Government, but I am not satisfied with what I have heard, and if such training and organisation are to be the follow-up to the men who have been fighting and holding bridges, many of them friends of ours in the House, we have to be 100 per cent. certain that they are going to do something more than occupy, that they are not only going to bring food and concrete things to the people of Sicily and elsewhere in Europe but are going to bring some ideas and they need not necessarily be just democratic ideas if that is the word about which the hon. Member for Cambridge University feels particularly strongly. They are just ideas which every common soldier carries with him wherever he goes but to which he himself is not capable of giving expression in the countries through which our Armies are going. I only rise to put on record that the time has come when some of these issues might well be debated inside the House as they are being debated outside.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Assheton)
I should like to say a word on the subject of the lira rate in Sicily. In the first place, I should like to make it clear that A.M.G.O.T. did not fix this rate of exchange. It was fixed by agreement between the British and American Governments. I am given to understand that the suggestion was made at some earlier part of the Debate that 2265 A.M.G.O.T. had something to do with it. It is very difficult to fix a rate of exchange when a country is being occupied and when the ordinary free market operations which would indicate the value of the currency are not working. The pre-war rate was 72. That, of course, was an artificial and a pegged rate. There were dealings a great deal higher, but, in any case, the pre-war rate has no relevance whatever to the rate of exchange fixed under present circumstances, and it is obvious that prices and costs in Italy and in Italian territory have risen very considerably indeed. When we fixed the rate for North Africa at 480 lira the exchange rate in neutral markets was about 600. We fixed it at 480, and it worked quite satisfactorily for that part of the Italian Empire.
It was rather suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Strauss) that because we selected a rate of 400 when we occupied Sicily we were admitting to a mistake in having fixed the rate at 480 in North Africa. That was not the case. The circumstances were different. On the best information that was available to us and to the Americans, 400 was suggested as being about the right rate, considering the level of prices and costs in Sicily. In fact, 2266 nothing that we have heard since we have occupied part of Sicily suggests that the rate of 400 is not appropriate to the level of prices, wages and costs in Sicily. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out to the House the other day that the rate was provisional, and that is in fact the case. I do not think that there has been any information available in this country which leads us to suppose that 400 is not the right rate of exchange to fix. It has not been fixed for any other reason except that we thought that it was the right rate. If any hon. Member has any information which suggests it is not the right rate and is not particularly comparable with costs in Sicily, I shall be glad to receive it.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after the Hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Orders.