§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I welcome this opportunity of giving to the House some account of the proceedings of the Foreign Secretaries' Conference concluded in Moscow a few days ago. It will not have escaped the observation of my hon. Friends that the communiqué and the published documents which accompanied it were unusually full. We, in fact, included in them all those portions of the work of the Conference about which we felt it possible to make public statements at this present time. This was done, of course, by agreement between the three of us, and so the House will understand that I cannot now add much fresh matter to the published declarations on the work of the Conference. There are, however, some comments that I would wish to make upon that work and one or two personal impressions that I would like to give to the House.
Let me say at the outset that the results of the Conference exceeded my hopes. As we worked, the sense of confidence grew, and this, in turn, seemed to give an added momentum to our progress, so that it was better in the middle than at the beginning, and better at the end than in the middle. So it is, that looking back across those 15 days of the work we did in the Soviet capital, I can say with absolute assurance that they have brought new warmth and new confidence into all our dealings with our Soviet and American friends. We met 12 times in full session, but, of course, that did not represent by any means the whole of the work done. Apart from those meetings, we each of us had a large number of informal conversations with our colleagues. I had such talks with Marshal Stalin and Mr. Molotov, as well as with Mr. Cordell Hull and Mr. Harriman, the American Ambassador. The actual achievements of the Conference, about which I want to say a word or two in a moment, seem to me solid enough, but it was the friendly atmosphere of mutual interest and mutual confidence in which all these conversations took place, which, to me, will always make the Moscow Conference memorable.
1324 The first difficulty—and it was quite a stubborn one—which Mr. Hull and encountered was to persuade Mr. Molotov to preside at our meetings. He was anxious that we should undertake that task in turn, but we succeeded in convincing him that an army has probably a better chance in battle if it does not change its general every day, and we certainly could not have made a happier decision. As the House knows, I have in my life attended a good many international gatherings and not always, I am sorry to say, have they been conspicuously successful, but I have yet to sit under a chairman who showed greater patience, skill and judgment than did Mr. Molotov, and I must say that it was to his handling of a long and complicated agenda that must go a large measure of the credit for whatever success we achieved.
I think, too, that my friend and colleague Mr. Cordell Hull must feel that the results of the Conference have justified his efforts and his very gallant venture in making this long flight. Certainly we were fortunate to have him with us, and his sincerity and singleness of purpose were a great encouragement to us at every step. The House will understand from what I have said that the relations between colleagues were good and that they were equally good among the staffs, but, apart from military matters, an which I want to say a word in a moment, I must pay a special tribute to the work of His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr. Much of the preparatory laying of the ground that is necessary for such a Conference fell to him, and he has rendered remarkable services to Anglo-Soviet understanding. I must also be allowed to pay my tribute to the brilliant Foreign Office leader of our team, Mr. Strang, who indefatigably helped us at every stage.
I believe that all of us who were at that Conference were conscious from the beginning of its work how much the future of millions of people depended upon the outcome of our labours, and we were, in consequence, all the more determined to do everything in our power to make it a success. Thus we met round the table on a basis of complete equality. We were able to discuss our problems and to state our views, conscious that we were each of us striving for one purpose and one pur- 1325 pose only—to try to bring the war to an end in victory at the earliest possible moment and thereafter in full co-operation with each other to ensure that the peoples of the world might live at peace.
Now a word on what the Conference did. We all agreed to start the talks with a discussion of measures for shortening the duration of the war. Though this topic is one of direct interest to all hon. Members in this House, they will not, for obvious reasons, expect me to give an account of the conclusions reached on this chapter of our work beyond the very carefully chosen words of the communiqué itself. The results of our discussions on this head can only be made public as they develop at the expense of the common enemy. I can only say that I have confidence that that development will be found generally satisfactory by hon. Members in all parts of the House. But this I can say about our military discussions, that I believe that perhaps they did more good to our mutual relations by the frank and exhaustive examination which was made of them than any other phase of the Conference. There was no tendency on the part of any of the delegates to dodge any of the difficult and important issues that these military matters raised, and I am deeply indebted to General Ismay, whom the Prime Minister generously lent to me, for the invaluable part which he played in this sphere of our work.
Now I would say something about the first of the published decisions of the Conference—the four nations' declaration. Nothing could give a better proof of Mr. Hull's vision and statesmanship than that declaration on general security, of which he is the parent. The principle which we agreed to in this declaration constitutes, on the whole, probably the most far-reaching of the decisions to which we came. These decisions cover the whole future organisation of world security, and for that reason we were happy that the Government of China could associate itself with us and approve with us this document and be a common original signatory to it. A word on the significance of this document. As within nations, so between nations, when the immediate common effort needed for victory is over it is hard to hold the same unity in the years that follow. That is a lesson of which we are only too well aware, and the importance 1326 of this declaration is in the emphasis it lays on the decision of our Governments to continue our co-operation and our collaboration after the war. This, I emphasise, does not apply only to certain measures required for the defeat of the enemy and to see that the business does not start again, but it also applies to the whole long-term organisation of security. Good as that is, the four nations' declaration would not have been, in my judgment, quite enough by itself. It is absolutely essential that there should be between us special machinery, over and above the ordinary machinery of diplomatic interchange, through which this country and its great Allies can work continuously together, and concert rapidly and efficiently their views on the many political problems which arise out of the war. Our whole experience during this war has shown the urgent need for some such machinery, but there have always been geographical or other difficulties which have made it difficult to set it up.
It was a great—perhaps the greatest—achievement of the Conference to take the first steps in establishing this machinery. What we need most urgently and most immediately is some body, some organisation, to act as a clearing house for the exchange of information and ideas between us upon certain questions that will certainly arise as the war progresses. It is for this purpose that the Conference decided to set up in London a European Advisory Commission composed of responsible representatives of this country, of the United States and of the Soviet Union. This Commission, I must emphasise, is advisory in character. It will be set up at once. It will be its duty to study and to make joint recommendations to the three Governments on any question which the three Governments agree to refer to it. The object we have in mind is to be able by this machinery to look ahead and to make agreed plans for dealing with problems that will face us in the future. If we can do that, we shall be able to keep in step at every stage, and thus we can avoid some of the delays and some of the misunderstandings which inevitably occur when each of us makes his plans separately, however good those plans may happen to be. I think the House will understand what were the practical reasons which made us think it desirable to limit the initial members of this Advisory 1327 Commission to the three Powers, but I must emphasise again that this is an advisory and not an executive body. It is a piece of machinery set up for the convenience of the three Governments themselves; it is not an instrument for imposing their views on others. It is designed to concert political planning among the three great Powers, for the truth must be faced that it is upon these three Powers principally that will rest the responsibility for ensuring that this war is followed by a lasting peace. If we can agree together, we three, there is no problem that is not capable finally of solution. If we do not agree together there is no international event which cannot become an international problem. I felt that very strongly when we examined the question of this machinery, but of course setting up this machinery does not mean that we exclude other methods of consultation between the three Governments. We did at the Conference set on foot what is, I think, in diplomatic procedure something of a novelty, that is to say, we agreed that on occasions there might be problems which we should wish to submit to one of the capitals where the Foreign Secretary concerned and the two Ambassadors could meet together and discuss and advise upon it. Sometimes that might happen in London, sometimes in Washington, sometimes in Moscow. It would be something in the nature of an ad hoc tripartite conference of the Foreign Secretary and two Ambassadors which might be given a special task in any one of the capitals. I think that may prove to be a useful piece of machinery.
Now I come to another piece of Machinery we set up, and that is concerned with Italy. We have set up an Inter-Allied Advisory Council to deal with Italy. This body is quite independent of the European Advisory Commission which is to sit in London and it has a specific, definite task to perform. Its duty will be to deal with day-to-day questions other than, of course, military operations, and to make agreed recommendations for the purpose of co-ordinating our Allied policy in regard to Italy. It will be set up at once, with representatives from this country, the United States, the Soviet Union and the French Committee of National Liberation, and we have also made provision to add to it representatives of Greece and Yugoslavia as soon as we 1328 possibly can. The whole House will feel that these two countries have a special interest in Italian affairs as a consequence of the acts of aggression which they have suffered. It is my belief that this Council will be useful in ensuring and maintaining a common policy among us in regard to Italy.
We took occasion, Mr. Hull and I, at the Conference to give our Soviet colleagues an account of the history of Allied military government in Italy, about which there has been some little misconception in this country and elsewhere. We gave an account of that and of the principles on which we had based it, and as a result of that and the discussions on it we had no difficulty at all in reaching agreement on the declaration regarding policy in Italy which has now been published. This declaration I think is also in itself an important element in creating understanding between our three countries. That is all I have to say about the various items of machinery which the Conference set up. They have a big job to do, but if this machinery works well, as I have every hope it will, it can make a substantial contribution to winning the war and still more to winning the peace.
I turn for a moment to one other important branch of our future responsibilities—economic. During the Conference Mr. Molotov and I had the chance to hear at first hand from Mr. Hull about measures of economic co-operation which, as we know, he has always had very much at heart. Indeed, after security, these economic questions constitute the most important field in which the lot of man can be improved. We had a useful exchange of views on these questions, and I am glad to say that we all three of us found ourselves in agreement on the programme for handling these vast problems, on many of which work has, as the House knows, already began.
While we were in session we noticed with some interest that German propaganda was extremely active. It kept suggesting that every kind of difference had arisen between us and tried to sow dissension by every means in its power. I should like to report that all these attempts failed utterly, and in that brief fortnight the last chance of creating disunity between the three Allied Powers was completely and finally destroyed. 1329 The Nazi leaders must now look somewhere else. They must now understand that they have no hope by this means of escaping the fate which is overtaking them. I hope as the end draws nearer they will read the warning issued at the end of the Conference in the names of the Prime Minister, the President and Marshal Stalin that those German officers and men and members of the Nazi Party who have had any connection with atrocities and executions in countries overrun by German forces will be taken back to the countries in which their crimes were committed to be charged and punished according to the laws of those countries.
As regards the remainder of the agenda, it is sufficient to say there was no major political question in Europe which was not the subject of discussion between us in some form or other. I am not going to pretend for a moment that we were agreed on every point. That would indeed be the international millennium and we are nowhere near that yet. But what I can say is that we do now know each other's points of view on all these subjects. We discussed them with the utmost frankness, and I believe that in the spirit of good will which is now being established we can reasonably hope to make progress with even the most stubborn among them. As many Members will know, it is a common diplomatic experience to find that problems which seem to present insuperable difficulties when there is no confidence and no mutual trust can fall into a different perspective when once a real basis of good will has been established. Then perhaps you can get that reasonable compromise which in other conditions appears hopeless of realisation. I count it, and this is the impression I would like to leave, as the major success of the Moscow Conference, not that we agreed these documents, not even that we set up this machinery, great though the importance which I attach to it, but that it did provide a basis of good will and confidence between us. I believe that has been won and I believe that it ought to endure, and that it should enable us to deal together with the problems that will lie ahead. Of course there will be set-backs and disappointments, we must expect them, but what is important is that the differences should be honestly and 1330 frankly faced and that we should together try to bring about their solution.
The Anglo-American-Soviet association which has found encouraging expression in this Conference is based on the firmest of all foundations, a common interest. The three countries have the same strong interest in peace, they have the same interest in securing that no aggressor shall again break the peace. I have seen fears expressed that as a result of this there will be some dictatorship imposed by the three Powers on others. I can assure the House that nothing of the kind is in our minds at all. Of course, we want association with others. Of course, we want the opportunity of full discussion, but, as I have said, special responsibilities do rest on our three Powers, and we did at Moscow try to devise machinery and agree on a policy which would enable us to give expression to that sense of our responsibility. Of course, we shall need the advice of others, and, of course, we shall welcome the advice of others, but the first essential is that we should get our machinery working between us three. We must proceed by stages. That does not exclude further developments in the future if all goes well.
At all times it is extremely difficult to assess the value of work in which one has been engaged oneself. It is not very easy to get the perspective right. But I have given the House my reasons for thinking that this Conference has produced concrete results. We three Powers discussed any and every subject with exactly the same ease and freedom as any three Members of this House could do, and sometimes with a good deal less controversy. We had no formalities, we had no set speeches at any time, we had no wrangle as to which subject was to come before the other on the agenda, or any of those familiar difficulties which those who attend Conferences know so well. I find all this heartening for the future, and I feel that we can enter the closing months of 1943 with a greater measure of confidence than seemed possible a brief while ago.
What is our country's role to be? Surely to use all our strength and all our authority to promote the growth of this confidence. We are not going to do that by some new subtle tricks of diplomacy but merely by treating our Russian and American friends as we treated each other 1331 in Moscow, that is to say, as loyal colleagues in an equal partnership. We can let our imagination play a little on what may be the consequences for good in this close association of three great Powers, the United States with over 135 millions, the Soviet Union with an even larger population, and these Islands, the heart and centre of a great Commonwealth and Empire.
There is one matter to which I must now refer. On my return journey I was glad of an opportunity of meeting the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs. We exchanged views on the general situation in the light of the Moscow Conference. My Turkish colleague has now returned to Ankara to report on the outcome of these conversations to his Government. In the meantime, there is nothing further I can say.
There is one final reflection I would like to leave with the House before I close. When I was in Moscow—and I think those who were with me would bear me out—I could not but be conscious of the quiet confidence of the Red Army in itself and of the Soviet people in the Red Army. Twice in our brief stay notable victories had been won, and they were celebrated in the traditional manner with salvoes of artillery and fireworks. But it seemed to me that as the guns of Moscow thundered out their congratulations to the Army their note was not only one of exultation but, even more, a stern warning to the enemy of what was yet to come.
On my return flight, or rather just before it, I made a request to my Soviet hosts. I asked them whether they would be good enough to agree to our aircraft circling low aver Stalingrad. This was readily agreed to, and we were able thus to get a close view of this city of imperishable fame. We most of us have seen devastated areas in our time, either in this war or in the last or in some other experience of our lives, but none of us in that aeroplane had ever seen destruction on a scale to parallel the destruction of Stalingrad—none of us. Every house must have been a fortress, every street must have been a battle ground. There could have been no encounter more fierce in all history and, I should imagine, few, if any, more costly in human life. When you see that, when you see for miles and 1332 miles mounds of machinery twisted and flung about as though some great giant had dealt with it, factories completely destroyed, then you begin to understand that patient earnestness which the Russians feel for an early conclusion of this war. Our own people who have had the suffering and punishment of war now for more than four years share that resolve. I am confident that the Russians know they share that resolve, and I could not help reflecting, as we flew over Stalingrad: is it not possible that out of it all we shall be able together so to order the world that these cities that have been utterly shattered shall live again and that this time they can live their lives in lasting peace?
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
My right hon. Friend will, I am sure, appreciate the warmth of the welcome offered to him by the House. We are glad to see him safely back from what has been, I think, up to now the most momentous visit abroad of his political career. I do not myself regard this as a suitable occasion for a full dress Debate on the Moscow Conference and its implications, and therefore I do not propose to deal with that problem, though I do suggest to my right hon. Friend that an adequate opportunity will be provided in the Debate on the Address in reply to the King's Speech for a discussion in circumstances tar more favourable than the circumstances of an Adjournment Debate of this kind. I would only offer two remarks. The first is, I think, that undoubtedly clouds of suspicion between us and the United States and us and the U.S.S.R. have darkened counsel and prevented a full co-operation, and that in my view no more significant event has taken place in the war up to now than the Moscow Conference, which, as my right hon. Friend said with so much confidence, has brought about a new spirit of co-operation. My second statement is that I welcomed the speech made by Marshal Stalin last Saturday. It was the speech of a great statesman. It was a speech full of hope and a speech which indicated to my mind that we had blown away the clouds of suspicion in the present and were determined to march together in the future.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
This occasion, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield 1333 (Mr. Greenwood) has said, is not an occasion for a full dress review of the Moscow Conference. Yet it is not an occasion which this House should allow to pass without comment and without a certain amount of discussion and argument. In the first place, I think it would be the desire of all of us to offer our congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and to say how glad we are to see him back again safe among us after one of those great journeys, always hazardous in war-time, as this House has good reason to know through the loss of other of its respected Members, and looking, as far as one can see, fit, hale and hearty and even ready to start on some more. This is the fourth of his great journeys this year. Twice he has crossed the Atlantic, once gone to North Africa, and now to the centre of Russia and back. It is an example of the physical demands which are made upon leading statesmen at the present time, and we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the fact that our leaders are tough and resolute, hardened by years of war and by long periods of controversy in this House, and are perfectly capable of making these great journeys and keeping up their wicket very well at the other end.
The fact of this journey is not in itself the only thing upon which we wish to congratulate him. We also wish to congratulate him upon the results of his journey. We also wish briefly to discuss them to-day. He said, and I think rightly, that after all the results, copious as they were in the columns of print we read about it, were of small importance compared with the establishment of an atmosphere of good will and co-operation which he confidently reported to us. The gulfs, the enormous gulfs, both spiritual and physical, which divide the three great Powers which have now come into collaboration cannot be bridged except by repeated expeditions of the kind which he has just undertaken. We know through our own experience in contact with those from the United States that great gaps in our mutual knowledge, in our mutual information divide us from the citizens of that great country, to say nothing of the great distances. Those great distances are as nothing to those which separate the people of this country from the citizens of the Soviet Union. Yet there is among everyone in this country a deep desire to draw closer to 1334 these two great countries which in the case of Soviet Russia reaches almost mystical lengths. The Secretary of State-has just spoken of his visit by aeroplane over the ruins of Stalingrad. I do not know anything which has touched the imagination of the ordinary citizens of this country more than the gift given by the King of the Sword of Honour to the citizens of that city. In my own City of Glasgow alone 58,000 people lined up merely to go through a hall and see this gift of steel which was being made to the steel-hearted citizens of the steel city. These mystical desires for friendship and collaboration need stronger foundation than mere desire. We must come down to positive, concrete suggestions. These I have no doubt were discussed in the inner councils of the 12 full sessions and the other off-the-record meetings which the Secretary of State has described to us.
But it is true that many of these meetings must be reported in the terms he used about his meeting with the Turkish Ambassador and about his meeting with the Turkish Foreign Secretary, which was one of the frankest and most honest statements I have ever heard from any Foreign Secretary at any time and conveyed as much information to the House as many statements I have heard clothed in more extended language. It is impossible, of course, that he should give even the slightest inkling of the decisions reached on military matters though these, he said, were the first things discussed at those great meetings. I was glad that he paid a tribute to General Ismay, because undoubtedly if we had not been able to put cards very frankly on the table as to divisions, guns, aeroplanes, war potential, forces to be brought into-effect, all the good will in the would have gone for very little in the subsequent meetings of the council.
Marshal Stalin is a great realist in those matters. It has been said that on more than one occasion, scrutinising the desirability of some possible Ally, he has put the blunt question, "How many divisions does he dispose of?" The answer to that question counted very much in his estimate of the desirability of the alliance. That is the first fundamental lesson of the Conference—might, force, potential war materials. We are grappling with a terrible adversary, and the gift of a sword from this country has been taken as sym- 1335 bolical by all the citizens of this country, as a proper gift in this hour of the breaking of nations. Military matters were the first to be discussed at the Conference—necessarily so.
Next, the Conference decided to restore freedom and independence to Austria. That is a momentous decision indeed. It involves a certain interference with the affairs of Europe—a standing interference—or, at any rate, a standing interest in the affairs of Europe, by these three great Powers. Such decisions should not, even on the first day, be allowed to go without comment in this House. I commend them most heartily to my colleagues. Let us not blind ourselves to the weight of the responsibilities that we are now shouldering.
Furthermore the Conference was as notable for the things which it did not mention in its published documents as for the things which it did mention. On that we must admit the discretion, and admire the frankness, of the Foreign Secretary when he said, "There was, at any rate, no problem which we did not discuss. We put our cards on the table as to all and each of them. Our two colleagues know the views of this country, as we were freely and frankly informed of theirs." Naturally, no one wishes to trespass on the discretion of the Foreign Secretary, but great and important problems must have been raised at this Conference, of which no whisper emerged in the accounts subsequently published. It would however be a mistake to allow any of these things to blind us to the fact that no conference could settle everything at once. You must start somewhere. A start has been made with this nucleus of three great and mighty people, who have expressed the desire, which exists, I believe, among their citizens, to live and work, and fight, together; and from such a nucleus all things may come. It is terribly necessary in the years immediately ahead, the years of turmoil. The war of 1914 to 1918 was not the war to end war; it was the beginning of turmoil, and not the end of it. We cannot say that we have passed even half-way through the period of turmoil with which the world is now faced. The mighty power of the machines, the engines, governs us. Even this vast struggle is conditioned by the absorption of this new 1336 reinforcement to the powers of mankind. Who can have read without a feeling of awe that in a recent air raid 4,000,000 horse-power was contained in the engines of aircraft flying from this country in a single day and night? The equivalent of the strength of nearly 40,000,000 men were represented on those aircraft. Can we master the machines before they devour us? That is the problem before the peoples of the world in the immediate future. It cannot be done without strong good men, who are willing to stand together, who know each other, and who have personal experience of each other's point of view and good faith. That is the importance of the relationship which was established at Moscow.
The steering committee has been set up. It is not all the ship, or all the crew, but it consists of the men at the helm, the men at the wheel, the men who will try to drive the ship and direct. It is a great responsibility which they have taken upon themselves, and we ought to wish them all success. That Committee has been established with a very wide base. Human folly is an ineradicable part of man's make-up. The only way to correct it is to bring in the widest possible baseline from which may be integrated a final component, which will eradicate some of the errors at the original trajectories. The wide base was widened by the inclusion of China. We are all grateful for that. Wide the base must be, and solid it must be, if we are to build upon it any enduring residence for mankind. The beginning of that base was made by the Prime Minister's broadcast when Russia entered the war. The continuation of it is announced to-day. It is a great step forward. Those who have made that step have taken great risks. They have assumed enormous responsibilities. These responsibilities cannot be fulfilled unless with the weight and backing of the great nations with which they belong. To this House has come the first opportunity of reviewing that work. It is to this House to-day to give its first approval to those steps which have been taken, those relations which have been established, those hopes which the Foreign Secretary has laid before us. Today this House, I believe, will confirm these aspirations, these proposals, which the Foreign Secretary has laid before us. It is not yet the time for a close review, 1337 but it is the time to say, "God speed the work." That is the message I would give to the Foreign Secretary and to the world. That is the message which I hope will go out from this House to-day.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I want to reinforce what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said in his concluding words. We, as a House of Commons, should not only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary on his safe return, but should endorse what was a great achievement.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The term "endorse" has been used by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), and it is now being used by the right hon. Baronet. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman who declares the attitude of the Opposition on these occasions has deliberately postponed the question of endorsement until the Debate on the Address. What we are now having is an Adjournment Debate, which is neither an endorsement nor otherwise, and it would be unwise, since the world is listening to the first democratic Chamber discussing this matter, to bring in the question of endorsing the step that the right hon. Gentleman has taken. That is a matter for the Debate on the Address.
§ Sir P. Harris
I do not take that view. We waited for the right hon. Gentleman's return so that we could have a statement. I think that the House should take the earliest opportunity of showing its approval.
§ Sir P. Harris
I believe that I represent the feeling of the country when I say that not only do we approve, but that we should express our approval in the only way we can, by stating it. If you consider the history of the relations of these three countries, the misunderstandings of the past and the suspicions, it is a great achievement to the credit of all three parties that they have got together. They have come to an agreement and understanding, not merely on the prosecution 1338 of the war, but as to the principles on which the post-war world should be built. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the vast numbers represented in this Conference. China is included. If we assume that we are speaking for the Dominions, India and the Colonies, we can claim that this Conference spoke for over 1,000,000,000 of the people of this world. I know that there are suspicions and disappointments. That is inevitable. But the fact that arrangements were made for a permanent consultative council will provide for the discussion and ventilation of grievances as the war proceeds. It cannot be too much emphasised that, as the right hon. Gentleman says, it is not the aim of these great Powers to have any exclusive control over the development of Europe after the war. It is no use concealing that there are disappointments about the omission of reference in the published statement to certain countries. Poland, which has a special claim on the sympathy and help of this country, is naturally sensitive about the position she is likely to occupy after the war. Stalin made a very remarkable speech in which he said:Together with our Allies, we shall have first to liberate all the peoples of Europe from the German invader, and then co-operate with them in the creation of their national States, which were dismembered by the Fascist enslavers. The people of France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and other States now must become free and independent. Secondly, the liberated peoples of Europe shall be given complete freedom to decide for themselves the structure of their own States.It was noticed that in the first version of the speech Poland was not specifically mentioned. Obviously, you could not have a list containing the name of every country. Now the Russian Government have gone out of their way to make it clear that Poland is included in the list. We in this House cannot forget the historic occasion, one Sunday morning, when war was declared. The primary and immediate cause was the invasion of Poland. Poland was the first to suffer the full blast of German brutalities and invasion. It was because of special guarantees that Poland made her magnificent resistance to the invader. No country in all Europe—and that is saying a lot—has suffered more from the cruelties and brutalities of the Nazi invader, with her cities laid waste and her population either murdered or moved from their homes, and the 1339 Polish people naturally are exceptionally sensitive. But when the war is over their country, to which they are devoted, should again have its freedom. I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman will see that the Polish people are not overlooked in the redrawing of the map of Europe. There are many Polish citizens in this country. They have lost all contact with their country, and many of them know of their homes having been broken up and of their relatives having been murdered, and it is right on an occasion of rejoicing like this to say that this House of Commons has not forgotten the claims of the Polish people. I am satisfied too, that, in the permanent Committee that is now to be constantly in touch with problems of the reorganisation of Europe, the Polish people can feel that their interests will be safeguarded.
It is not unreasonable to say something about France. The French people have a great history and have made an immense contribution to the civilisation not only of Europe but of mankind. They have always been regarded as one of the great Powers. For 30 years France was our intimate Ally. With them, we entered this war. Misfortune has dogged their steps. They see their country for nearly four years already in the hands of the enemy, the hated Boche, that has been the traditional enemy of the French people, and naturally they are sensitive, when there is a Conference in Moscow, that, as a great Power, they do not play their part. We have to be realists—that is inevitable—but we should recognise the great part that France must play in the future in the interests of Europe and that the status of the French people will be recognised. I was immensely impressed by the great speech of the Prime Minister at the Mansion House, when he went out of his way to hold out the hand of friendship to France and the leaders who are keeping alive the resistance to the hated invader. It is absolutely vital for the future of Europe that there shall be a strong and a powerful France. It would be a disaster if France were reduced to the level of a minor Power. For a proper balance of Western Europe, a strong France, in association with democracy, is essential. The German culture and German civilisation have been disgraced and will be for generations to come.
1340 France has always been for the last century the upholder of those principles for which we are mainly fighting—equality, liberty and fraternity. The French, owing to circumstances largely out of the control of their own people, that is, the failure of their politicians and their military leaders, now find themselves in chains. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who is a good friend of France, will see that in the new Committee which is to be set up in London every encouragement is given first to the Provisional Government and, secondly, to the underground movement, to the French men and women who are so valiently keeping alive the torch of liberty and the national spirit of their country. I recognise the difficulties, but I am satisfied that the Provisional Government which has been set up—I like to describe it as a Provisional Government, although constitutionally it is not recognised—will have every assistance in discharging its difficult task. We have recognised more or less the Italian Provisional Government as constitutional. Is it too much to ask that in their difficult task, the Government which has been set up in North Africa shall have every assistance and co-operation possible from the Governments of this country, of the United States of America and of Russia?
I hope that I have not said too much. Immediately one touches upon international questions one has to be discreet, but I would say in conclusion that I have complete confidence in the good will and in the wisdom of this combination between the great Powers of the United States of America, the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain. I believe that in spite of their conflicting ideologies and their different outlook on both political and economic problems we can look to this new understanding for the proper safeguard of the liberties of the much-troubled and much-worried peoples of Europe who are now suffering from Nazi tyranny and rule.
§ Mr. Burgin (Luton)
I rise to associate my hon. Friends with the tributes that have been paid to-day to the Foreign Secretary. I personally do not consider that it is the moment at which to embark upon a discussion or examination of the account which he has given to us of the Moscow Conference. If we did so, we would probably be making his task rather harder, and therefore I wish—and he will be the first to understand—to confine my 1341 observations to those of felicitation and congratulation upon a dazzling personal success. The world is the debtor of the Foreign Secretary. I think that to-day—Armistice Day—it was rather nice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) should have been in his place, and particularly on 11th November that it should be possible for him to have been in the House. What we are doing to-day is to pay tribute to a Parliamentarian and a man of peace who comes back with laurels thick upon him, and we are doing it on Armistice Day, with its memories and with its hopes. It is not only the great leaders of martial works who build bridges over the Dneiper, the Volturno and the Trigno that we welcome. We welcome the man of peace who is doing a great deal to build a bridge of world understanding. In Russia they have a very charming custom. When they wish to say "Thank you" for some outstanding act of merit, they say in their expressive language, "We bring you Russia's thanks." I know of nothing better that I, an old Ministerial colleague of my right hon. Friend, and my hon. Friends who are associated with me on these benches can say to the Foreign Secretary than, "We bring you Britain's thanks."
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I did not want to make a speech on this matter at all, and did not intend to address the House at any length if it had not been for the unfortunate contretemps between the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and myself. I intervene to correct the impression that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to impress on the world that here to-day this House of Commons was solemnly discussing and debating the whole content of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts at Moscow and endorsing them. I remember how enthusiastically the return of Mr. Chamberlain from Munich was endorsed by this House and how, in a very short time afterwards, the endorsement was not being accepted. I join with everybody else in being glad to see the right hon. Gentleman back again. I think I could join in saying that I believe he played his part at the Conference table adequately with the two other principal representatives at the gathering. Probably he has brought home something that will 1342 help towards the speedy ending of the war and perhaps something that may be able to make arrangements for the immediate pacification following the war, but I do not for one moment think that he has laid down the machinery of permanent peace or even a permanent machine that will continue for very long into the period after the cessation of hostilities.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is the only thing up to date, but that is no reason why Members of this House should throw their hats into the air and say, "Hurrah, we have found the philosopher's stone." The right hon. Gentleman was trying to say something like that, and all that I am asking here is that there should be a postponement of the view of this House until the very early opportunity that will be available to this House. Presumably, if the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench speaks for anybody in this House—I do not know whether he does—at least he should speak for people who sit immediately behind him, but that does not seem to be so—it should be postponed until we have a proper and adequate occasion when the House can not only discuss but give its opinion. I only want to say that these decisions Were come to in the midst of a war, and in a place that was getting news about outstanding military victories, and on the military field nothing was going wrong anywhere, the three nations met together and they felt a feeling of very fine harmony. But I do not think that Soviet Russia, large-scale, energetic, capitalist America, and Conservative Britain—because that is what was represented at Moscow and represented as capably and as persuasively as British Conservatism could be represented—I do not believe that British Conservatism, American capitalism and Soviet Russia have either political, economic or social philosophies that can continue them as good companions over an extended journey in the post-war period.
§ Mr. Maxton
That is a hope the hon. Gentleman may have, but, on the other hand, I have the hope that there will be 1343 big movements of political thought among the ordinary peoples of all countries, not merely these three countries, which will bring a social philosophy more common to all than is represented by the three wry diverse political philosophies that came out of the very harmonious but not very enduring Agreement recently at Moscow.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
Like everyone who has spoken so far in this Debate, I would like to add my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary on his Mission. My mind goes back now not so much to what happened in Moscow last week but to what has been the policy of the right hon. Gentleman over a number of years. My mind goes back particularly to nearly ten years ago, when he went on the first Mission the British Government sent to Russia after the last war and laid the foundation of his Russian policy. My mind also goes back to the occasion two or three years ago in this House when the enthusiasm for the Russian Treaty was not so evident in any part of the House as perhaps it is to-day and when the right hon. Gentleman, in order to put the Treaty over, had to face a good many obstacles. The salute I would like to give to-day is to the patient and courageous statesmanship which, over a long period of time, has served the best interests of this country and the world, despite so many obstacles and difficulties which have grown up in the right hon. Gentleman's path or have been put in his way. Having paid that quite sincere tribute, I know that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I now turn to the occasion of the Moscow Conference and examine it in perhaps a rather more critical light.
I want to direct the attention of the House and to ask two questions about the fourth clause of the published manifesto from the Moscow Conference. That clause deals with the international organisation to be set up when the war is over, and it says:They recognise the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organisation based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace loving States and open to the membership of all such States.The questions I want to ask the Foreign Secretary are these: Are nations to be 1344 free in this organisation to adopt any form of government based on any political theory they choose—Fascist or any other—and to develop them to any extent they may wish? If the answer is that that is so, then are they simultaneously to be allowed to be the sole arbiters of the extent and nature of their own armaments? These two principles are inherent in free and equal sovereignty, but they are not compatible with the true interest of any real comity of nations. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that either nations must be restrained from planning and developing a form of government or pursuing the policy inimical to the independence and well-being of their neighbours or they cannot safely be allowed to develop the military equipment which will make those forms of government, or those particular policies, effectively dangerous to the world at large. I quite appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps not be able to deal with these matters to-day, but, after all, we are at the commencement of one of the most important phases in the whole history of civilisation. We have seen the world as we knew it shattered around us and—the Moscow Conference is significant and important for this very reason—we are now commencing the task, of building up our civilisation again.
There will be differences in this House as to the methods we must pursue, but before these differences are allowed to mature and to cause either conflict or dispute it is enormously important that we should know what sort of course the Government propose to pursue. It necessarily follows that there are a great many things the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to tell us, either now or in the near future, about either the Moscow Conference or the development of these matters, but if we in this House are to take the line that we are not to discuss these matters, that we are not to arouse controversy on questions of this nature until hostilities are ended, until the whole circumstances that we have to debate are brought into the light of day, then I want to suggest that we shall find a state of affairs in which so many faits accompli mark the political scene that it will be extraordinarily difficult for this House or for the nation to control and develop the post-war plan, either domestically or in foreign affairs at all. So I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the time has not come or may not at least come 1345 in the Debate on the Address, which will take place in the near future, to develop these matters rather further and to tell us at least something of the lines along which not only His Majesty's Government and the right hon. Gentleman but the representatives of America and Russia are thinking on these matters and the lines which they propose to pursue.
I think it is reasonable to say that in the modern world we might have a system of no commitments with the great or small Powers at all. I think that is reasonable but unintelligent. That is going back to a state of affairs rather less good than that which prevailed before the war began. We can scrap the League of Nations, as some hon. Members desire, and relapse in international affairs into practically a condition of anarchy. Or, we can try once again the disastrous kind of system we pursued in the interval between the two wars. But if we are to do neither of these things it seems only reasonable and intelligent to say that in the condition which we find prevailing in the 20th century it is becoming fundamentally important for us to make commitments for the preservation not only of security but of that economic security which is becoming more and more important if peace is to prevail.
The most deplorable of all the positions we can take up is to make important commitments and then pursue a policy, politically or militarily, of laisser faire which will leave the door wide open for any nation to start monkeying with those political snow slides which are so easy to begin and so difficult to interfere with once they have taken shape and which are so certain to end finally in another war. To-day sovereignty means freedom, as it always means freedom, to interfere with the interests and the rights and well-being of your neighbour if you so desire. Therefore, the question must now arise as to how far sovereignty is to be allowed to remain the prerogative of the independent nations of the world. I do not think this is a simple matter of political theory; it goes deep down not only to the question of military security and of political well-being but down to the fundamental question of economic prosperity, and it is such that I would commend it to the attention of the House. After all, in domestic matters your premium to your fire insurance company would go up by leaps and bounds if the 1346 police force was to be wound up or the fire brigade scrapped. I think that is elementary, and it must remain true in the wider sphere of international politics. Your insurance rates must rise in the same way if you have no organised resources to deal with the outbreaks or thefts which may occur in international affairs. It is for this House to consider urgently on what course we intend to embark after the war, whether we are to embark on a course which will involve unlimited military commitments without any assurance that other peopde at the same time will bear part of the burdens, or whether we are to follow the course which will enable nations between themselves to restrain an aggressor without placing an intolerable burden upon the future.
Before I sit down I would like to say a word or two about the position of France. There are several courses which we might pursue. We might keep France weak deliberately, and there are certain policies in world affairs to-day which are directed towards that end. We might leave her to stew in her own juice, so to speak, and to receive what fate destiny may send her. Or we might follow the third course of trying to resurrect France as a great Power. I do not want to pursue, earnestly to-day the course which I think is the right one to follow, namely, building France up again. But I should like to urge on the House that the time has now come when we shall have deliberately to follow one of these three courses, and whichever one we follow will have consequences of immense importance and repercussions of immense significance to the world. After all, whatever view may be taken of France and French politics and France's position in Europe by Russia, the United States, or any other Power, our position in Europe, our relation to the demands that have arisen and which may arise in the future, is largely conditioned by the state of affairs that may exist in France. I would not press the right hon. Gentleman to include France in the European Commission, but I would ask him earnestly to keep the House informed as to the line of policy, which I am sure he most earnestly desires to pursue, of building up again and then maintaining France as a great European Power.
1347 The right hon. Gentleman deserves a great deal of sympathy from the House and the country. He alone of all the front rank statesmen of the present day may live to hear the cheering turn to ululation and the applause to groans. He alone may possibly some day see the air thick with chickens coming home to roost and may find himself as responsible before the world of that day as he is responsible now for the consequences of the policy that we are about to pursue. I believe all sections of the House desire to fortify him and wish him well in his task, but I think we should place it on record as being essential that he shall carry the country with him in this great matter of building up again an international comity in the world. This House is not unwilling to place a great deal of confidence, irrespective of party, in him in his efforts for peace, but I am certain that there will be unity neither inside the House nor inside the country unless the House and the country are kept privy, as far as is conceivably possible, to the policy which the Government propose to pursue and which may fulfil what is, I believe, that earnest desire of the nation to see a new page of history written by the British people which shall not only add lustre to our past but represent something in the history of mankind which shall be told far beyond the annals of our race and time.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe (Brighton)
I am not often gregarious, but I feel on this occasion happy in following the crowd in congratulating the Foreign Secretary on his successful mission to Moscow, by which I believe he has rendered great service not only to this country but to humanity, it may be, for generations to come. Some measure of his success may be seen already in Marshal Stalin's speech the other day, when, for almost the first time on record, some public recognition was given in Russia of the help which we have afforded to that country during the past two or three years. That is an important step forward, because it shows a growing confidence between the two countries, a confidence which I believe to be essential not only for war but for peace also, and a possibility of leading to a future understanding which will be a great contribution to the peace of the world. How this success of the Foreign Secretary 1348 was achieved we, of course, do not know, nor do we expect to be told what methods he used. That has this advantage, that it leaves us free to speculate, and my guess is that it was achieved by complete frankness and plain speaking, and I believe that is what is most essential in all our foreign relationships.
There is, for us, a lesson in that, and one which we might well apply to our relationship with America. The Prime Minister has more than once exhorted us not to say anything critical of America, scarcely to mention it, in case we say something at which they may be affronted. While he is the navigator of the ship, I, as a humble member of the crew, do not propose to disregard his advice, but I hope he will think again about that and leave us free to criticise. I believe it is a misunderstanding of the American mentality. They do not hesitate to criticise us, and they are not tender in giving or receiving blows. They expect to receive them, and they do not mind giving them. I believe it to be a mistake to have hurt feelings when talking about each other. I believe that we and the Americans will get on far better in the future if we speak quite plainly and frankly both to and of one another, and I hope that the lesson of what I believe to be the plain speaking which has taken place in Russia will be applied in our relationship with the United States. I believe the advice which the Prime Minister gives us in that respect is misconceived, because I believe it fosters the idea that America is in the war to assist us. I hope it is quite plain by now that she is not in the war to assist us but is in it just as much to assist herself, as we all are. We are all in it to help each other to achieve world peace. So far as my right hon. Friend's speech related to Turkey, he naturally was not able to tell us anything, but I hope that when he spoke to the Turkish representatives he mentioned, in passing, the fate that falls to people who miss the boat and that there is to those people a danger of falling into the dockyard. I do not want to say any more about it than that.
We shall, I hope, see, following upon the Foreign Secretary's journey, the beginning of unity. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was sceptical of this result and did not believe that people with such different political philosophies could possibly in time of war find a mutual 1349 understanding. It is a commonplace to say that in time of war you must prepare for peace. I wish to emphasise something far more important; that if you cannot do it in war-time you will certainly never do it in peace-time, and I believe this is a great occasion upon which we can begin to build up a world unity which we can carry forward into peace-time, learning, if we are able to, the lessons of the last war. May I take an example from the United States, because sometimes it is easier to see these things from a distance? They still argue there whether it was the Republicans or the Democrats who torpedoed the League of Nations, and subsequently the World Economic Conference. Of course, it is immaterial which did it. The point is that it showed a general lack of desire to enter into world unity. I hope we have all learned that lesson and taken it sufficiently to heart to ensure that it does not happen again. Before we are qualified to enter into world unity we must first find it ourselves, and it is essential that we, in this country, should have a common ideal aiming at that for which all the people in the world are eagerly, hungrily and ambitiously searching, and that is the world that they are fighting for—the better world which is all that we are fighting for. In this connection I should like to comment on another phrase that has been used by the Prime Minister, "that this is no time for dreaming of a brave new world." I only agree with that phrase if it means that we must not be dreaming of it—we must be getting on with making it. If we can do that, and if we in this country can set an example, we shall be sure that we can bring into one fellowship of nations all the countries of the world and thereby secure an enduring peace.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
I entirely agree with the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down as to the correct attitude to adopt for discussions with our American Allies. I have just returned from a visit to the other side, where I had the opportunity of meeting Congress men in a private and off-the-record manner, and I am convinced that the more frankly and unambiguously one talks the better and more quickly is understanding reached. I should like to record my complete and absolute disagreement with the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton (Mr. Burgin) 1350 that this is an occasion when the only proper thing to speak about must be couched as a note of personal felicitation to the Foreign Secretary. I have not the advantage, if it is an advantage, of being in touch with any party machine. I am not provided with the sailing directions which one requires to navigate the usual channels, and I am not aware what arrangements, if any, may have been reached behind the scenes. I have to navigate my very small and humble political ship by what is called knob to knob navigation; to naval officers that means proceeding from point to point. I simply noted that the Foreign Secretary had returned from an extremely important mission and that the whole business of the House was re-arranged in order that we might have the advantage of listening to his statement, and if, after all that has been done, Members are not expected to rise to their feet and make such observations as they see fit on that statement, it seems to me that a great deal of time would have been saved if it had been issued as a White Paper and given us to study during the Recess. I feel that if Parliament indulges too much in this kind of behind-the-scenes arrangement we shall not continue to keep that place in the esteem of the country which I think we still occupy and which I should like to see us occupy to an even greater extent than we now do.
It is one thing, however, to lay down that it is proper to make some comment on the Foreign Secretary's statement and another to say that we must rush in with a whole lot of detail. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary himself observed that he was not going to give us any fresh information, over and above the very full communiqués which have been sent, but that he wished to give his impression of the atmosphere which prevailed. In a sentence or two, I should like to associate myself with the personal congratulations to the Foreign Secretary. With that modesty which is characteristic of him, he confined himself to congratulating his distinguished colleagues, but I was very glad to see that he also included the civil servants who were associated with him in that work. I am sure that anybody who knows the Foreign Secretary will be certain that he also must have made a great contribution to the success of that Conference.
1351 The most important thing which emerges from this statement seems to be that the Conference is a public recognition and statement that the three great Powers are not only content to co-operate until the successful conclusion of hostilities, but are publicly pledged to continue to co-operate after the military operations are over and when we are faced, as we shall be, with the even more difficult task of winning the peace and making sure that the harvest from the military operations will be reaped in the form of a durable and sound peace. That seems to be a matter of great importance. There is one lesson which I have learned in the intervening years between the wars. At the end of the last war, I was a young man of 25 who had spent four years on service in the North Sea in what I sincerely believed was a war to end wars. I now realise that the task of ending war only started on the Armistice Day 1918 which we are commemorating to-day. The one thing which impresses me, and which I certainly did not realise 25 years ago, is that although right is not might you have got to have plenty of might behind right. The importance of the three great Powers lies in the fact that, in terms of might, if they hold together, they can do anything, and if they do not hold together, the worst can happen. In this total warfare we operate nowadays, military strength is the product of industrial strength. The three great Powers together represent overwhelming industrial strength against any aggressor that arises. In this picture I gladly include the Chinese Government, for though China has not a comparable strength today, I am sure that she will have it in the years to come.
To say all this does not mean that the three great Powers should dominate or ride roughshod over the lesser nations. Much of what people say about national States turns solely on their value and weight in power politics and without relation to their value and their contribution to world culture. So far as the latter consideration goes, the smallest State-may have as great a value as, or an even greater value than, the greatest State, but when it come to industrial strength, man-power and raw materials, it is the great States which count.
The second point which strikes me about the Conference is the recognition 1352 that there will have to be set up ultimately, for the sake of security, some international machinery. Put plainly, that means recognition of the obvious fact that the League of Nations, or something like it, will have to be restored: It was well said, as Voltaire said of God, that if the League of Nations did not exist it would have to be invented. Yesterday I noticed some hon. Members making remarks and asking Questions which seemed to cast a certain amount of contempt upon the League idea. I wish those people would recognise that in criticising the League they are criticising themselves. The League of Nations could not be better than the States which compose it. It was a mirror in which it was possible to see a picture of the world's international face. It was not always a very pretty spectacle, but if one looks into a mirror and is not satisfied with what one sees, one does not necessarily smash the mirror. We shall need to set up something like the League of Nations, and there is hope this time, because it will start on the basis of the membership of these three Great Powers.
There is one problem which must have been discussed in Moscow but of which we have heard nothing. We have heard of the decisions reached in connection with Austria, but that was the nearest geographical approach which was made to the Central European problem, which is the problem of Germany. We did not hear and we cannot expect to hear at the present time what decisions have been taken in connection with this central problem of the future of Germany. I studied the observation in the Prime Minister's speech the other day that we must be fully prepared for a costly campaign in 1944, but he himself suggested that we might conceivably find the war coming to an end earlier. When I think of the question which is so often discussed, of the likelihood or otherwise of an early collapse in Germany, I think it would be wrong to be surprised at an early collapse and still more wrong to be surprised if Germany did not collapse at a very early date. We must be prepared for either contingency.
Since that is the position, I would like to repeat a plea which I have made before in this House, that attention should now be paid to the possibility of political warfare. It used to be said by those who agreed that this was an important weapon 1353 in warfare, that nothing could be done in this direction until it was done on a foundation of military victory. I suggest that we have now reached a stage in which that foundation of military victory exists and that before long it will be desirable and necessary that some statement addressed to the German people should be issued by the three leaders. There are many opinions as to what that statement should contain and I shall not detain the House by going into any details. I would make only one suggestion. The Foreign Secretary truly said that after political security has been established the question of economic security became of predominant importance. I would record my personal opinion that it is impossible to have economic security and economic prosperity in Europe if we allow economic chaos to exist in Germany.
I do not approach this subject in the least from an emotional point of view, but when there are 70,000,000 people in the particular geographical situation occupied by Germany, I do not believe it is practical politics to hope to have a prosperous Europe with those people wallowing in economic chaos. I want to see Germany occupied by military forces and I am as insistent as anybody that the armistice terms should be of so stringent a character once the military machine has surrendered, that it will be impossible for Germany to take up arms again. I agree that the leaders of Germany should be held responsible for their country's foul aggression and I do not feel the slightest tenderness in this matter; nevertheless economic chaos in Germany is not possible without economic chaos throughout Europe itself. Such chaos would be the inevitable consequence of some of the schemes for denuding Germany of industry which are sometimes proposed.
I would like to say a word on the subject of Britain's role and duty in all the matters to which the Foreign Secretary referred. I feel that the role of Britain at the present time, as it has so often been in the past in her history, is essentially one of leadership. The Foreign Secretary pointed out the great possibilities that will confront the world if the three great Powers can remain united and can build on the foundation which has now been laid at Moscow. As I listened to the rather Celtic pessimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. 1354 Maxton) I felt that the answers to many of the questions which he was throwing out could not possibly be known for the next 20 or 25 years, by which time he will possibly be a member of another place. One of my hon. Friends interjected into the hon. Member's speech the remark that we had made a start. He was quite right. I feel that it is our great task in Britain to give leadership in this association. In the last century we had various chances, some of which we have taken and some of which we have not taken, to give the world leadership. I think that we are now having a further chance. The Pax Britannica came to an end in the 19th century, when the European Powers began to rise, and there was a chance in 1906–14, during which period we might have avoided the last war by challenging Germany either to accept British principles of the free way of life or be challenged on a basis of power politics. In the latter case we ought not to have been satisfied with a 1.6 naval power ratio. We wobbled between on policy and the other, and we missed our first chance.
I think we had our second chance between the two wars. I should like to have seen us throw all the weight of the British Commonwealth into the League idea. I advocated sanctions against Italy and I think we should have gone to war against Mussolini at that time. There is no great advantage in looking backwards in these matters, particularly in this House, when observations on Geneva and Munich are liable to arouse party feeling. I believe that we cannot give the world in the next 10 years the leadership it will require unless we are prepared, here in this House, to strive for national unity.