HC Deb 11 November 1943 vol 393 cc1355-82

Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."

Commander King-Hall

I was just saying that the rôle of Britain in the years to come will be essentially one of leadership, and I also said that in order to give that leadership and to give it adequately we must remain united here at home. We are united here at home. There has never been such unity in our history as there is in the nation to-day. I want to say to Ministers of all parties that the nation is looking for a lead in this matter. I would like to suggest to them that they should not be so timid as they have been recently in their speeches. What seems to happen is this, that a Minister will get up, and he will make a speech on the need of national unity, a performance, as it were on the tight-rope of national unity high above the party crowd, and yet, a few weeks later, he will come down into the circus arena and go in front of his particular party section of the audience and do the tumbling tricks of party politics. I should like the Ministers to be a little more forthright in this matter and to say that either they do not or do agree that there should be a National Government after the war. I think it is essential for the welfare of this country and for the good of the whole world that we should have such a Government. The Prime Minister, who has given such great services to this country, can, in my humble judgment, put the coping stone on this if he will come out quite clearly and say that during at least the first five years after this war we must strive in every way to have a National Government supported on the widest possible basis.

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

I should like to add my congratulations to the Foreign Secretary for the very notable success he has achieved at Moscow. It may well be a turning point in the history of the world. It is a shattering moral blow to our enemies, and we are enabled now for the first time to look with some confidence beyond military victory to the fields of peace and to envisage a situation which, if developed with courage, may well mean that this is the last world war that will ever take place. My right hon. Friend has laid well the foundations for that. He made it clear that we must make use of the reality of power which lies with the three great States, and, in adopting that policy, he has remedied one of the main faults of the League of Nations, which was, of course, that the obligations were loose and the arrangements for firm action were not arranged in time. We are going to remedy that. We are going to make certain that power will operate on the largest scale at the first possible moment without the slightest doubt. That is the great value of the decisions of these three nations to work together. The Foreign Secretary also made it clear that he does not mean, because we have adopted the practical course of using the Forces of the three great Powers, that the smaller Powers are not to be encouraged and consulted. I know there is a good deal of doubt and bewilderment among them as to where they precisely come into the picture, and I hope that every possible step will be taken to make them feel that their advice and help are wanted. I am wondering if the meetings which were held at St. James's Palace at certain intervals in the past could not be revived. They did give a good deal of satisfaction to the smaller Powers and made them feel that they were in the picture. I hope consideration will be given to the possibility of holding meetings of that kind more frequently and giving publicity to them. Otherwise we run the risk of creating a good deal of misunderstanding among some of our most loyal and faithful friends, although they may be small Powers.

I would put it this way, that in this new arrangement we have to get it into the minds of people that, just as in the past, if ever the British Empire was attacked every citizen of the Empire reacted at once, so in future if there is an attack upon any State in the world the citizens of the three great Powers and all other Powers will react in the same way, and be equally determined to maintain peace and order and to deal effectually with the aggressor. It seems to follow naturally that there will be arrangements for the mutual use of both sea and air bases among the three great Powers and the smaller Powers too. That seems a natural consequence which would give a great deal of satisfaction when it has been properly worked out.

Some reference has been made to the position of Poland. All I would say is that the events that have taken place can to my mind have been only to the advantage of Poland. Her great hope and the only hope for the peace of the world is that there should be good will and complete understanding between this country and Russia and America as well. In an atmosphere of that kind there is an opportunity for building up a strong and independent Poland such as Marshal Stalin has referred to, but obviously if there are to be ill will, hostility and misunderstanding between this country and Russia, the prospects for Poland and for the world are poor. When I have ventured to put that point of view to responsible Polish statesmen they have agreed that that was the line of policy which held out the best prospects for them. Another interesting point in this connection arises out of the new machinery set up. My right hon. Friend has made it clear that the three Powers, including Russia, are going to decide the fate of Italy and other European Powers, and it seems to follow automatically that the same conditions will apply in considering countries in the East, such as Poland and others, and that the three Powers will discuss matters and come to agreed decisions. That again is a hopeful step forward.

I should like to make a reference to the question of Austria. The Austrians are naturally delighted, both in this country and in Austria, where they reacted at once to the new decision that has been taken, but it would be of little use merely to revive Austrian sovereignty and leave it at that. For a small country with tariff walls cutting her off from her neighbours complete national sovereignty is national suicide. We all realise that some surrender of sovereignty is necessary to maintain any sovereignty at all, and I was glad, therefore, to see the reference in the documents published to the neighbours of Austria, in which I imagine there is a clear hint that it is hoped there will some time be a Danubian Federation of the countries around Austria—Hungary, Yugoslavia and others—forming a much larger unit which would have some chance of standing on its own. The wider it extends its boundaries, the better. But there is one point about that which we must bear in mind. Such a Federation must not be in the nature of a cordon sanitaire against Russia. It would be absolutely fatal should any encouragement be given to ideas of that kind. In the new spirit now developing I venture to hope that some arrangement of that kind may prove practicable, to the satisfaction of all three Powers concerned. If the countries concerned, such as Austria, are anxious to obtain the maximum of support and good will in this country from citizens, and no doubt the Government too, it seems to me essential that they should unite. Unfortunately there have been differences in the past. Take the case of Austria, and also of Albania. If all persons interested in those two countries—and the same remark applies to others—would form themselves into responsible bodies representing the various elements in their countries I venture to think they would be doing a wise thing for the future of their countries deserving of encouragement and support which otherwise it is difficult to afford to them. I think my right hon. Friend has done extraordinarily well in developing this new spirit, which breaks down barriers and so prevents the setting-up of barricades. We want to take power out of the hands of the gangsters where it has been allowed to remain for the last 10 years or so and place it in the hands of responsible countries who represent the great mass of mankind.

Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)

As one who has in a humble way spent much time in trying to bring about an improvement in Anglo-Russian relations I wish to offer my small meed of congratulation to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done, but I believe, with some of those who have spoken before, that this is a time when we can afford to say something which is more than mere congratulation. As a Back Bencher, I hope not an irresponsible one, I think it is my duty to say what I feel. I feel that this Moscow Conference is a milestone in the history of this war, but it is no use disguising the fact that lack of confidence between us and the United States on the one hand and Russia on the other was bringing about a very serious and dangerous situation. It is as well to be frank about it. As I see it, Russia had no confidence in the kind of Europe that she thought we wanted after the war. Rightly or wrongly, I hope wrongly, she feared that we and the United States wanted to see an Italy which had not really broken with the past, France under Darlans, the Balkans still run by generals round the present Royal courts and a Poland ruled by landowners and militarists with dreams of Eastern expansion. I interpret what happened six months ago as a reply to this. She withdrew her Ambassadors here and in Washington and gave definite publicity to a committee of German war prisoners, of whom the majority were Prussian generals, three of them, I understand, subordinates of Von Paulus, and one of them a grandson of the famous Bismarck. She allowed them to have definite publicity of a kind which was clearly running contrary to what we would like. That was a very dangerous prospect for us. It indicated at least that Mr. Stalin, if he really thought he must fall out with us, was preparing the ground for another setup in Europe which would not be to our advantage. I fear there was a danger in that. But I think that the Moscow Conference has now made good what had failed to be achieved in previous conferences in which we agreed with the United States about various matters arising out of the war and then informed the Russians about our agreement. It was a dangerous situation that was arising, but the Conference has removed that danger. But if I, in my humble way, give my heartiest congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on what I think is the crowning act in his career—

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

He has 20 more years to go.

Mr. Price

I will add that we are not yet out of the wood. Russia will be the greatest military Power in Europe and it will at any time be in her power to revert to a policy of isolation from the West. She has done that often enough before in her history. She has settled differences with Continental Governments and retired into the East, reserving to herself spheres of influence in the Balkans or in the Middle East, often not to our advantage. Anglo, Russian quarrelling during the 19th century led to war once and nearly to war another time and brought about a situation in which the tertius gaudeus was always Germany. We nearly went to war with Russia over Turkey in 1877, and it was Prince Bismarck who got all the credit and diplomatic prestige arising from the Congress of Berlin, which settled Eastern questions for the time being. So it has been in more recent times. Our policy in fighting Russia after her revolution, resulting in her isolation and the cordon sanitaire policy, brought about the Rapallo Treaty between Russia and Germany in 1922, which enabled Germany, in part at least, to escape from the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty. I suggest it may be the same again. If Russia and we fall apart at the end of this war Germany, whatever forces arise there, will be the one to benefit. Prussian militarism may hide itself for the time being in order to see how it can get out into the open once more.

In saying this I do not wish to create the impression that we alone have been to blame. We have been to blame, but the Russians have been to blame too. Russia's political oscillation between revolutionary Messianism on the one hand and sullen isolation on the other was difficult for our people, and still more for the United States, to understand. But I do say that we must try to overcome it and the Russians must try to overcome it too, if there is to be mutual understanding.

As I have said, I do not wish to place the blame solely on ourselves for what has happened earlier, but after all we can say this: Russia by her victories has proved the soundness of her social and economic system. She could not have come through this trial had not the foundations of the 1917 October Revolution been sound. They were not brought about by methods we should approve of in the Anglo-Saxon world, but Russia's traditions and history are entirely different from ours. We must therefore try to understand her, and she must understand our different traditions. The right hon. Gentleman however has, I think, taken the first great step, along with his distinguished colleague from Washington, in removing those difficulties which have slowly been accumulating throughout this war and leading to a possible catastrophe if they had not been removed. I believe that as a result of the creation of these Advisory Councils arising out of this Conference we have a possibility now of dealing with these difficult problems, of bringing Russia into the discussion of affairs in Central Europe and the Mediterreanean. We shall, I hope, have on the other hand the right to participate in discussions in the settlement of affairs in Eastern Europe.

There is a chance that we may now convince the Russians that we want to see a new Italy arise, and I should like to see peasant Governments in the Balkans, though whether they be republican or monarchist is a matter for them to decide. I am quite sure that we shall not have the co-operation of Russia in that part of the world unless she is quite convinced that peasant democracies rule the Governments of the Balkans. I believe then it would be possible, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has said—and I entirely agree with him as to the importance of trying—to bring about a federation of those countries in some form or other, whether with Austria or without I would not say now. But I feel that the splitting-up of these countries in the Danubian Basin has been at least one of the causes of the disaster which has brought Europe to its present state—the economic disunion of these countries. Russia naturally fears cordons sanitaires. In future she will not fear them, I think, if we can make it plain to her that we too favour democratic peasant Governments in these Balkan and Danubian countries. So I say that if this confidence between us and Russia can be re-established all things are possible, but without it things will be black indeed. Both we and Russia must contribute to the creation of this new confidence which must become the pillar of the new Europe.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

This Debate so far has been somewhat general. I desire to particularise. First, however, although the right hon. Gentleman must be almost tired by now of hearing congratulations, I should like, as an independent backbencher, to add my modest voice to the weightier tributes which have already been paid to the extremely useful and workmanlike job which he appears to have done in Moscow. "As we worked," the right hon. Gentleman said, "the sense of confidence grew." He has certainly retained, and he radiated to-day, that confidence. The air of diffidence which is usually one of his engaging mannerisms had completely vanished. I was glad to hear his tribute to Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, whom many of us have known of for a long time as one of the most enlightened and liberal diplomats. I think the whole House must have been deeply moved by his extremely vivid description of the devastated and heroic city of Stalingrad.

It is common ground, I think, that the Moscow Declaration must be the basis on which the policies for the various nations of Europe are now to be worked out in realistic detail, and it is with one of these details, with one country only, that I propose to detain the House for a very few minutes to-day. I should like most earnestly to suggest that it should be the subject, as no doubt it will be, of discussions by the Three-Power Commission about which the right hon. Gentleman has told us. On Tuesday of this week I asked the Prime Minister the following question: whether he has given any undertaking in regard to the future status of King George of Greece? to which the Prime Minister replied, "No, Sir," and he emphasised his negative by repeating very strongly, "No, Sir." He continued: In accordance with the principles of the Atlantic Charter, it will be for, the Greek people to decide on the future Government of their country. The King of the Hellenes himself declared in his broadcast of 4th July last that, as soon as the security of the country is complete and the necessities of military operations allow, free and general elections for a Constituent Assembly will be held. Until the Greek people can express their will in conditions of freedom and tranquillity, it is the settled policy of His Majesty's Government to support the King of the Hellenes, who is at once our loyal Ally and the constitutional head of the Greek State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1943; col. 1080, Vol. 393.] That is satisfactory in many ways, so far as it goes. What is particularly satisfactory about it is the initial negative that no undertaking has been given in regard to the future status of the King of the Hellenes, because a contrary impression had been disquieting many Greeks in this country and in the Middle East. They will be very glad to have that assurance. What is rather more disquieting about the latter part of the answer, although I will agree it has a very reassuring democratic ring about it, is the suggestion or the implication that these free general elections are to be held within the framework of, or even under the auspices of, the monarchy. My sole suggestion to-day is a very simple one. It is this, that the Greek people should really be allowed to decide for themselves on the future government of their country by not having these elections prejudiced by the return to Greece before them of the King of the Hellenes. What I suggest is that there should be a plebiscite first on the question of the monarchy itself before the general elections are held at all. That plebiscite can be perfectly easily organised and run under Allied control—British, American and Russian control—and it would clarify the issue considerably. I am not saying anything at all personally against the King of the Hellenes. Obviously he is a much more reputable and respectable figure to us than, for instance, King Victor Emmanuel, who is the head of a State which has been actively at war against us—

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it quite right that Debates in this House should be used for attacks on the head not only of a friendly State but of an Allied State? Is that not out of Order?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear the hon. Member say anything out of Order. Hon. Members may not use improper language in regard to the head of a State who is in amity with this country. The King of the Greek nation is certainly in that category. Whether King Victor Emmanuel is in that category is a problem which I cannot answer.

Mr. Nicholson

I should be the last person to venture on the identification of King Victor Emmanuel.

Mr. Driberg

I shall certainly endeavour to say nothing improper about either monarch or anything to upset the susceptibilities of the hon. Member. I was simply trying to amplify the Prime Minister's answer and to suggest the way in which it seems to me and to many people, including many Greeks, that the Greek people should be allowed to decide on their own future government. I was saying when the hon. Member interrupted that obviously the King of the Hellenes is a very much more creditable and respectable figure to us in this country than, for instance, King Victor Emmanuel. As the Prime Minister said, the King of the Hellenes is our loyal Ally, but it may be—I will say no more than that—that he is not so completely persona grata with large numbers of the Greek people. I am simply claiming that they should have the opportunity of saying so before the general election for a Constituent Assembly. The Greek Government and Civil Service are by no means uselessly dispersed. They exist in Cairo and London, and it would be perfectly possible for the interim administration to be carried on pending that plebiscite, which would happen obviously at the earliest possible moment, and pending the elections which would follow.

Hon. Members opposite occasionally rebuke some of us on this side of the House for presuming to try to say what we think the ordinary people of various European countries think or would like. They tell us that we must not assume that the average Balkan peasant looks at life in exactly the same way as, say, a Fabian intellectual does. That is at least arguable, but I am going to turn the argument round and say, again I ho[...] not saying anything wrong, that Members opposite must not contrariwise assume that, because we in this country enjoy a constitutional monarchy which is regarded with universal respect, esteem and affection by the people, therefore all the peoples of Europe also necessarily want monarchies of one kind or another imposed upon them. That is my plea. I undertook to be very brief. I have been even more brief than I should have been had it not been for the intervention of the hon. Member opposite—perhaps the only case in which an interruption has shortened a speech desirably. I earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to see to it that this matter is considered without prejudice in the proper quarters. We all, especially those of us who have had the good fortune to visit Greece, have the greatest affection and admiration for the Greek people and the splendid way in which they have lived up to their ancient traditions in this war, and I do beg him to see that they shall really have a voice in deciding their own future.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I hope the House will not think it reactionary of me if I preface my speech by paying some very slight attention to the two or three speakers who have immediately preceded me. I am bound to say that I was rather horrified by the suggestion of a new League of Nations to be designed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). What particularly interested me about his remarks—and I would couple with them some of the remarks which came from the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price)—was his frequent references to "smaller Powers." I beg this House to remember that we are a small Power. England is a small Power. Even if we can be quite sure of the co-operation of Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Northern Ireland, we still remain a small Power. The danger of talking of other peoples of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 as if they were peoples of a different kind from us is a very gross danger, and it is very amusing to find that it almost always comes from those gentlemen who are most internationally-minded. I wish to return later for a moment to that point. On the League of Nations point, I think it is not wholly out of Order to say one word of advice. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton says that if you only have a good League of Nations, designed from Wolverhampton, all the citizens of the whole League would each one of them react in defence of the League the moment any danger comes from outside—I suppose the danger would come from the planet Mars—as, he said, every citizen in the British Empire reacts at once. But every citizen in the British Empire does not react at once. It took many generations until we got to the point where it could be confidently presumed that a high enough proportion would react at once for us to be able to be one global, self-contained, sovereign Power in Britain, let alone the Empire. If there are enough people in this country who really think that something of the same sort could be done in six months, six years, or 60 years for the whole of the world, I feel sadly certain that we shall see the wheel go round even faster next time than it went round before, and that after an even shorter interval of peace we shall have once more an even more unnecessary and even more bloody war.

I speak to-day with very great diffidence, and after very great reluctance. There are a great many difficulties in the path of a speaker on such a subject, and particularly on this particular occasion. I think that the first four speakers to-day were all party leaders, one of them actually with two followers—including one Whip, it is true—to support him. Party leaders have an advantage over the rest of us. They can, for one thing, refer to themselves as "we." It is intolerable if an insignificant creature in my situation starts using the royal "we." On the other hand, it is highly egotistic and dogmatic if he very often says "I"—"I think" or "I assert" Yet there cannot be very much knowledge which he can honestly insert into his argument in an impersonal form so that it can be taken as authentic because coming from him, in the way Ministers can. Then we have this great difficulty in any discussion on foreign affairs, the great difficulty that it can always be said that whatever is uttered which is in any way critical of a foreign Power, either neutral or Ally, may do harm; and, on the other hand, that the wisdom which is likely to come from this sort of quarter in these matters is not likely to do very much good. But on that point I take confidence from a remark of my right hon. Friend, and I pause for a moment to utter my words of congratulation. This is the particular thing which I want the House to notice that he said. He said, about himself and the Russian and American statesmen with whom he has been dealing, "We do now know each other's point of view." He told us, indeed, that that was the greatest gain of the Conference.

I think it is the business of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs not only to conduct His Majesty's foreign policy, but also, first of all, to make sure in doing so that every one of His Majesty's subjects—and, most of all, the Members of this House—have all the information that can possibly be given, and, secondly, to make sure that he himself, representing His Majesty's Government, knows what is in their heads upon those subjects, even if much of it is very simple or very silly; I think that my reactions to what I know of foreign affairs in the last 12 months may be very mis- taken; but, even so, it is better that it should be out and above the surface, to be corrected. The reactions of those whose prejudices are most opposite to mine have never ceased to be uttered continuously, in the years before the war and in every month since the war began. I ask His Majesty's Government to believe—and I hope the House, in the main, will press upon His Majesty's Government—that the time has gone by for much in the way of discretion and that we ought to have very full and very frequent debates on foreign policy. God knows—or Heaven knows: I am never sure whether God is in Order—I am not optimistic. I do not think the war is going to be won before Christmas. I remember that one Cabinet Minister thought it was going to be won before Christmas, 1939. I am not at all sure that it is going to be won before Christmas, 1943. But we have got to a point where it is not unreasonable that we should be thinking of the reconstitution of Europe after the war. Having got to that point, the most important of all possible considerations is that we should think on a basis of knowledge, and that His Majesty's Government should continuously know what we think. By far the worst of the mistakes made in the 1920s were mistakes made because, on the whole, people of one sort of set of prejudices kept quiet and people of another sort of set of prejudices talked a very great deal indeed.

There is a great deal to be said for the point of view of the hon. Gentleman opposite who suggested—and who left immediately after, so convinced was he of the wisdom of his advice—that this Debate should not be continued to-day. But it should have been possible by Questions on Business or somehow, that if that was the agreed wisdom, we should have the matter, as it were, placed on the Table to-day, with just a complimentary remark by the leader of one party opposite and a complimentary remark by the leader of another party below the Gangway, and an assurance of full debate later; that we shall, I hope, have in any case. But since we have not got such arrangements beforehand, those of us who have some thoughts a little different from what the Foreign Secretary has said—and that would not be difficult, because the Foreign Secretary did not say very much—upon those people, I think, there is a duty that they should stay here and say something. So I now propose to try to say something.

I should like the House to consider very carefully—and for greater accuracy, as they say, I have brought the version from "Soviet War News"—some of the words in the documents issued from the Moscow Conference. The Foreign Secretary told us that the great benefit of it had been that it had created understanding between "our three countries." Indeed, that is a great benefit. I have no doubt that there is truth in it. I should have no doubt if only because he told me so. I have even less doubt when I read Marshal Stalin's speech and read that: We can say without exaggeration that by all this they have considerably facilitated the successes of our summer campaign.… It is obvious that the opening of a real second front … will considerably speed up the victory over Hitlerite Germany. I have no doubt that there is in Russia a fuller understanding that we, after all, are doing our share, and that to a certain extent, after proper consultations, we must be allowed to do it in our own way. That is very nice for us, and one may say, I hope, without being excessively jingo, that it is very nice for the Russians, that we should be understanding each other better and getting on better. But I want to say a word about the other peoples. The people responsible for overseas broadcasting do not seem to understand that what matters is not only the people that you think you are broadcasting to, but the other people who are listening, the people who overhear it, so to speak. We have to think of what Europe has felt about these declarations. I sympathise with the hon. gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) when he begged to be allowed to have some views about what is being thought in Europe. People must not assume too readily—and there has been a good deal of assuming lately—that all the people of Europe are leaning to the Left. But there must be a certain amount of assuming. I have been to a great deal of trouble to see all the foreigners I can and to read all the foreign papers I can. It is not very much when you have got it, and my judgment may be so poor that the upshot of it is worthless, but I do the best I can, and I must say that the impression given by the English newspapers of a chorus of 100 per cent. uncritical en- thusiasm among neutrals is certainly not a fair impression. It would be very remarkable if it was. I think the British public is not, in those respects, very well served by its newspapers.

The hon. Gentleman who spoke last was very anxious about the monarchy in Greece. I have not the least interest in the monarchy in Greece; I have no views about it. I do not care which side the thing goes at all. But it is a dangerous principle, this principle of his. His principle is that every part of Europe which has been occupied by Germany or by German satellites, including Italy, must, on becoming unoccupied, start absolutely from scratch. I do not know if people who think that intend to apply these rules to the Baltic provinces or the Ukraine, whether they suggest that we should then have an international Commission, with a Brazilian chairman, somebody from Scandinavia and somebody from Haiti, to hold a plebiscite in the Ukraine, to find out whether they desire an Anschluss with their great neighbour in the East or not.

Mr. Driberg

Does the hon. Member agree with what the Prime Minister has said, that it will be for the Greek people to decide the future government of their country?

Mr. Pickthorn

I believe it will be for the British people to decide on the future government of this country; it will be for the Greek people to decide upon the future government of their country. I do not think it will be a good thing on the day on which the Armistice sirens are sounded for the British people to say, "Now we will start from bedrock or from scratch and consider, e.g., whether we should have a republic or a monarchy." In Europe, wherever it is possible to start, not from scratch, but from the point where it was last a going concern, this should be done, and I am sure it is in the interests of this country that it should be done. I am more emboldened to say it because hon. Members opposite who talk the anti-monarchical, anti-traditionalist stuff, also when it suits them talk traditionally. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) spoke of traditionalist Russia and said that the more traditionalist the Russians were the better, and that though they had done things which would not have been done in Western civilisation, it did not matter because it was all in their tradition. I have been reading in the "New Leader" that England is second to none in her revolutionary tradition. That is to my mind a good reassurance; our revolutionary tradition may go on for another six months or so without blowing up. Whenever it suits their arguments hon. Gentlemen opposite have every bit as much respect for tradition and continuity as I have, and know that it is necessary in order to carry things on at all that you should be traditional.

Mr. Maxton

What about the Germans?

Mr. Pickthorn

It is said that this is the time to argue that everything in Europe should start with a clean slate after the victory. I should find it very frightening indeed if I were a little civil servant with growing children living somewhere in a not very fruitful part of France, and in other parts of Europe I should find it more difficult still to swallow. With these things at the back of our minds, I would invite hon. Members to look at the declaration upon Italy. I hope that Italy will turn into a democracy. I expect that Italy will turn into a democracy. I should have thought it was almost certain that if you left Italy alone, it would turn into some sort of a democracy. It is very difficult to believe that you will make it more likely that Italy will turn into a democracy and that democracy will be popular and go easily, by saying seven times that Fascism must be abolished and democracy everywhere substituted, and then saying that nothing in this resolution is to operate against the right of the Italian people ultimately to choose their own form of Government. I have often put my signature to documents that were very badly drafted, because there were two other chaps in it. But this is a great public document which is apparently to replace the Atlantic Charter more or less as the foundation deed of the new world. Europe will be frightened at any looseness of drafting. Our ancestors were accused, I think, very unfairly and very excessively, our ancestors, men like Castlereagh, who was not very good at making speeches, and the Duke of Wellington, who was not highbrow though he did play a musical instrument, were over-criticised because it was said they marched into Paris with the Bourbons in their baggage. If we overdo this crying up democracy, imposing democracy, I do not believe that it will be in the interest of democracy. Democrats are in this paradoxical situation, that if you are an autocrat you may say that your principles compel you to impose autocracy anywhere else. If you are a democrat, you cannot do that; democrats must allow others to choose democracy or not. And then there are different sorts of democracy. When the French read this and wonder what sort of democracy the Italians will set up as a result of it, they will be a little puzzled whether it will be the democracy personified by my right hon. Friend or by Mr. Harriman or by Marshal Voroshilov. Democracy is, to imitate the temerarious vocabulary of the Prime Minister, a tribigaous word or even a polybiguous word, and so is Fascism. I think I know pretty well what Fascism means inside Italy. When it is said that Fascism is something bad in itself I agree, but I do not know exactly what it does mean. When it is provided that everything Fascist should be destroyed, and assumed that everything that was bad was Fascist and vice versa and somebody suggested that they would have to reflood the Pontine Marshes, I thought that that was rather pernickety, rather sealawyerly; I wouldn't go so far.

I seriously ask the House to believe that when I began my speech I wanted to do my very best not to be laughable. I should not like the House to think that I am not serious on this matter. I beg the House to believe that it is extremely dubious whether it is in the interest of democracy or of this country or of Europe that democracy should be so much something imposed. There is a similar question I would address to the right hon. Gentleman, and it is about what is called the trial of war criminals. I wonder whether anybody would be bold enough to guess how often the trial of war criminals is clearly mentioned in these documents. The answer is, I think, "Not at all." It is difficult to talk on this particular subject without having some risk of being priggish. We have had a fairly easy time, and it is fairly easy for us to be Christian and forgiving. Any man of my age or a little older has suffered enough from Germany to be excused if he feels a desire for vengeance, but still as compared with the Poles, the Greeks, the Belgians, the Serbs, we have suffered nothing at all. We have so little imagination of how terrible the world can be that we have not even feared things which they have not only feared but for years have endured. I should hate to sound superior and priggish, as perhaps I do when I say that the notion of punishing your country's enemies seems rather infantile, slightly vulgar, and extremely impolitic. If you are going, to punish them, I am not sure I wouldn't go the whole hog and say, "I don't like your dirty faces; you have done a lot of dirty tricks, off with your dirty heads;" there is something to be said for taking that line. I want to, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether all this language in his declaration is carefully, chosen. It apparently indicates that people are to be punished, and it does not clearly indicate that anybody is to be tried. There is I think no explicit mention of trial throughout the document. I should like to know whether that is deliberate and whether that is what it means. In either case this appears, whichever way, a threat to be a wound to Law with a capital L; like the clauses about Italy it seems rather dangerous from a European point of view.

Everyone has talked to-day of Russia almost exclusively, and with almost excessive reverence; I yield to no man in my desire for friendship and co-operation with Russia. But there has even been language appropriate to the Deity about Russia: "With Russia all things are passible and without Russia nothing is possible." That has been said, I think, at least twice to-day. It contains some truth. It is also true that with Europe a great deal is possible and without Europe very little indeed is possible. If there is not, when this war is over, a Europe which is certain of her own frontiers, conscious of her public law, and of the authorities of governments and the expected standards of their relationships, if there is not something like that very soon after the last shot is fired, it will be organised by somebody, and I cannot see who else it will be by but Germany. We should not give Europe an impression that anything we shall do cannot be defended by European tradition and European notions of European law.

Mr. Mander

The hon. Member must have overlooked a certain phrase in the passage which says: will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done in order that they may be judged and punished according to the laws of those liberated countries and of the free Government which will be erected therein.

Mr. Pickthorn

I have never failed to get guidance from the Liberal Party. I do not say that the idea of the punishment of war criminals was actually invented by Liberals, but the earliest trace of it I know was in the autumn of 1914, when a Liberal journalist said that the Kaiser and the Crown Prince, if guilty, were to be tried. That is precisely the point I am trying to make. If we give Europe the impression that Old England, looked to as embodying old justice, cricket, playing with a straight bat, a fair deal for your opponent, is falling into that sort of error, it will be frightfully difficult to re-make the Concert of Europe. It says that they are to be judged. It does not say that they are to be tried.

Mr. Mander

According to law.

Mr. Pickthorn

They are to be punished according to law. The question I ask is, Is it the intention that they are to be tried or is it not? And one other specific question, what exactly is meant by the declaration in the Note implying that after the termination of hostilities the United Nations will not employ their military forces within the territories of other States? I should like some assurance on what that means and how far it fetters the policy of His Majesty's Government.

I beg of His Majesty's Government to make sure that this House and the country are much more frequently and fully informed about foreign policy and about the state of Europe than we have been for the last five years. One way to inform the House and the country is that all documents should be plain and unambiguous. I do not want to criticise my right hon. Friend, because I think that it was a momentary inadvertence, and also I did not get it down accurately, but his last sentence to-day might frighten many Europeans. It was something to the effect that he hoped that we, that was Russia and us, could get together to arrange Europe so as to give it a chance of peace once more. I beg that every time there is a Governmental utterance about foreign policy there should be insistence that Europe is what we care about, as much as we care about our Alliance with the United States and about Russia, and that we do not think Europe can be reconstituted on a blank slate, placed so high that only the three very biggest boys can draw on it. We must remember that Europe is older than this country, older than the United States, older than Russia or our Empire. It is only an ill-shaped promontory upon the face of Asia, but most of the greatness of human history has come out of it. There are old lines, long traditions of law and of decency, of what is to be accepted and what is not, often contravened, but the standards have been there for hundreds, even thousands of years, and unless we continually restate in our public declarations that when setting our hands to help reconstitute Europe we shall hava to do it by beginning from what was left of the public statute and international law of Europe, when tyranny first burst upon it and burst it to pieces, unless we do that, our chance of retaining the leadership of Europe goes, and without that I believe it will be almost impossible to continue to be either the elder brother of the British Empire or the equal partner of the United States of America.

Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)

I trust that the hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) will survive the shock of learning that I find myself in a great measure of agreement with him. He deprecated the position of the back-bencher from which he spoke, in contrast with the four or five party leaders who spoke earlier; but without disrespect, to them I think that in content and in wit his speech was in a large measure superior to theirs. He deprecated the fact that he was laughable. I can assure him that we were laughing with him and not at him. I particularly liked the note of realism which he struck and about which I want to say something later, if I may. There is, however, one point of criticism I would like to make. I do not think his comparison of the occupied countries of Europe with this country is a fair one. They have been overrun by the German armies, their Governments have had to fly into exile, and when the German armies are beaten back they will have to start from scratch to some extent. We have a continuity of life in this country which they, unfortunately, do not possess, and that makes a very great difference.

In the case of Italy, which the hon. Member mentioned, I would like to suggest that the Italian people never chose Fascism and that they have already opted for Democracy. They opted for it in the strikes in Milan and Turin and by their conduct in the field. I do not expect the hon. Member to agree with that, but it is my version of the matter. As for the Greeks, may I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) that we have a great responsibility in this country? I think we should all agree on the formula that the Greek people must be left to choose for themselves their own form of Government. The difficulty is in putting the formula into practice, and it is increased because the Greek people are themselves divided. I submit to the House that the Prime Minister's statement is the only possible statement from His Majesty's Government, and that our own Press and other organs of public opinion must be careful not to put themselves at the service of interested parties in Greece. For my part, like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I feel neutral in the matter; it is not for either of us to decide. It is possible to have a rigged election on one side just as on the other, and I think that we, as one of the great Powers after the war, on whom the refashioning of Europe must depend, must endeavour to see that the election is fair to both sides.

I feel I must add my congratulations, like other speakers, to the Foreign Secretary, but I hope he will not take it amiss if I do not develop that point, because in my opinion these sentiments are more appropriate for after-dinner speeches than for speeches on the Floor of this debating Chamber. I have tried to catch your eye in this Debate, Mr. Speaker, because I feel that our remarks ought not to be postponed for several weeks. I have spent a good deal of my life in propaganda in one wax or another, and I know that we should never catch up, with the effect, for good or ill, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day if our remarks were to be postponed. If we wish them to have any effect, they must be made to-day. I am daring to intervene in this Debate only because the impression has been created through the Press of the world that a very great result has been achieved at the Moscow Conference. I wish that were, so. I am perfectly willing to pay what tribute I can to what has been done there. But the chief source of weakness of our foreign policy in the years between the two wars was that we were fed on illusions. I had hoped that after the present struggle we might make a new start in that respect. Not only is it already being shouted that the war is won, but people are shouting that the peace is won before it is even attained, and I think that tendency will have serious consequences if it is allowed to develop. It is because the communiqué issued after the Moscow Conference and the right hon. Gentleman's speech have seemed to perpetuate that evil tradition that I have risen in this Debate. In the years before the war, for instance, the Kellogg Act outlawed war and we thought that war was no longer possible. That is a dangerous illusion, and we must avoid that kind of self-deception. I see the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University smiling. He spoke of assumptions and prepossessions, and I think we should find ourselves more closely in agreement if he would not always start with assumptions and prepossessions about what we on these benches believe.

Mr. Pickthorn

The hon. Member said he thought so.

Mr. Thomas

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. Remembering his precision in the use of the word "we," I should not have used it. I committed the unpardonable sin, like the tailors of Tooley Street, of using "we" for the people of England. What are the practical results and what is the significance of the Moscow Conference? It has one great significance. The three great Powers, the great repositories of force which will be left after this war—the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union—have put their names to a common document. That is an important fact. But beyond that I see little significance. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman has emphasised, on the continued collaboration of these three Powers that peace will be preserved. If they can act in harmony there will be peace; if they cannot, there is bound to be war sooner or later. It is, therefore, very important that they should get together and sign agreed documents, but let us beware of thinking that the battle has already been won. This is only a start and a very small start. When we look at the actual content of the documents which have been signed we see that they amount to very little. The first heading of the communiqué is, "Security." The Conference merely envisages that at some unspecified time there will be some unspecified organisation which will guarantee the security of the world. It is a fond hope, which I trust will be realised. But at the moment it is no more than a hope. The communiqué goes on to deal with the question of Austria. It does not say very much new. His Majesty's Government have been committed to the restoration of the independence of Austria for at least two years. The communiqué goes on to speak of Italy and mentions things which have either been done already or which have been axiomatic for a long time. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I do not propose to enlarge to-day on the subject of Italy, largely because I feel satisfied with our policy towards that country at the present time. It is moving in the right direction.

The final heading of the communiqué is "Atrocities." The punishment of war criminals is very attractive at a first glance but the more one looks into it the greater are the difficulties one sees. The Senior Burgess for Cambridge University has made a great study of this subject and I hope that at some future date he will enlarge upon it. As I see the matter, it will be extremely difficult to carry out the statements now being made. I hope all hon. Members will read, "The Trial of Mussolini," a brilliant piece of political pamphleteering. If they do, they will realise that if Mussolini is to be put into the dock then many of His Majesty's Ministers and other right hon. and hon. Members ought to be put there with him. Be that as it may, serious juridical difficulties will arise in giving effect to the desire to punish war criminals. I hope we shall be saved from the indignities that would certainly arise from any such trials by the pre-decease of the persons principally concerned.

It has been assumed in this Debate that the future peace of the world will depend upon collaboration between the Soviet Union, the United States and this country. I am very glad that the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University pointed out that we are in no sense comparable with those other two partners in the Alliance. That cannot be too clearly emphasised. We tend to regard Poland and France as being in the category of second-class Powers. We are in that very same category ourselves so long as we stand by ourselves. Some hon. Members have spoken about the necessity for restoring France to her former position in world counsels. I could not agree more wholeheartedly, but we have an equal duty to see that we do not ourselves fall into the position into which France has fallen. If we are to play a role in the maintenance of world peace like that of the United States or the Soviet Union, it can only be as the centre of a world-wide community of nations. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and, outside this House, Mr. Lionel Curtis, are doing a great service in drawing to the need for closer integration of the British Commonwealth. We must in future act as a single unit if we are to act effectively at all. But even that will not be sufficient. We have had associated with us in the years immediately before the war and during hostilities a large number of other countries. I submit to the House that if we are to play an effective role in postwar years that coalition must be continued.

At a critical moment in the war the Prime Minister offered to the people of France common citizenship. I trust that that offer has not been entirely withdrawn. It is my belief that not only must we have closer integration throughout the British Commonwealth but with all those countries which have been associated with us in the war effort, especially those countries which have had trading and other natural connections with us. I do not know whether it need be necessary to give any formal name to such an association, but we can think of it as the British Commonwealth and Associated Nations. If we do not stand together, none of us will play any effective role in the world compared with those super-States, the United States and the Soviet Union. Some Members have said, with truth, that we must abandon our old notions of the sovereignty of States. I entirely agree, and I think we ought to make a start with such countries as Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, resurgent Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey, which have been so closely associated with us during the war. Let us remember those wise words of Eyre Crowe, written in his famous memorandum of 1907, that every country with a seaboard is a neighbour of Great Britain. I think the time has come when we must bring them into a much closer relationship with ourselves. After all, there are such countries as Egypt and Iraq which, though technically independent, are regarded by the whole outside world as part of the British Commonwealth. I hope that in future France and the other countries that I have mentioned will act in such close concert with this country that to all intents and purposes they will be part of the same community of nations. If we are able to achieve that aim, we shall have reached the goal set out in the very moving peroration of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. Let us not forget all that we owe to Europe. We are the centre of a world-wide community but we are in the first place a part of Europe, and it is from or through the countries of Europe that we derive everything of value we possess.

Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)

I should like to tell the Foreign Secretary how much I appreciated what he had to say. It is now some years since I first made his acquaintance. I think he made his first effort to enter Parliament in the Spennymoor Division. We did our best to keep him out of Parliament, and we did it very successfully. Since then he has made a great success, after the lesson that he learnt from Spennymoor. I am also very glad that I have lived to hear the speeches that have been made in this House in regard to our Russian comrades. The speeches we have heard to-day are very different from some that some of us have listened to outside the House prior to the war. I sincerely, hope and pray that the expressions to-day will bear fruit. It has sometimes hurt me to hear sentiments expressed by people outside the House. They have reminded us that they make grand allies in war, but they hope at least that that will not be continued afterwards. I am not in that category. I had the pleasure of visiting Poland in 1932. It was not only a pleasure but a very great privilege to visit the castle at Cracow. This may seem a very small matter in the eyes of the House of Commons but to me it was a very great inspiration. Whilst visit- ing that castle we were informed that the beautiful, tapestries that had been taken from it by the Russians in the war with Poland were returned without any request from the Polish nation. Everything that we read in the English Press was a direct negative to everything that was happening in Russia.

I also had the great privilege of visiting Russia in 1936. I am expressing the views not only of myself but of my comrades from Durham and Yorkshire who paid that visit. We found the Russian people very kind, courteous and benevolent. They are a great people, and a people of great vision and foresight. We had the opportunity of going into any of the factories and mines and to any part of the country that we desired. We just had to name a place, and we were allowed to visit it, see what we liked, ask any question we liked and obtain any information that it was possible to obtain. A visit to those factories showed that these people were looking ahead and had a long-term policy in view. We saw where they were building a new Metro, we visited their sanatoriums and convalescent homes and engine shops and talked with the workers. We discussed their wages and their educational system. I have never seen in this country, or in any other country that I have visited, the system that operates in the Russian mines, which to my mind is the really economical way of working a pit. It could not be done under private enterprise. I was often asked before the German attack on Russia whether I thought the Russian people would enter the war. I had no hesitation in giving an answer in the negative. I never thought Russia would come into the war for our sake, but I said that if ever Russia was attacked by Hitler her men, women, boys and girls would fight and, though I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, my prophecy in this connection was correct. The Russian people love their country, they love their children, they love to work, and they love to play. I heard their President Kallinin declare that, if they could only have TO years of peace, they would pave their lavatories with gold. I believe they are a peace-loving nation and I believe they want peace. This is one of the greatest reasons why I feel that the right hon. Gentleman is right when he peeks to make our Russian friends not only our Allies in war but to see to it that they are also our Allies in peace.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I want to take the opportunity of registering my opinion and that of my party on this agreement that has been arrived at in Russia. I consider it one of the most important developments that we could contemplate, and it will have, a terrific effect in the fortunes of Europe and the world as a whole. The Foreign Secretary won a very warm place in the heart of the people of the country a few years ago when he stepped out away from the appeasers of Mussolini and. Hitler, and the position that he has held since will, I am certain, be strengthened very considerably by the work that he has done in Moscow. I listened to some of the sneers from the other side, and from certain notorious elements on this side, at the documents themselves.

The attitude already taken up shows the feeling that exists towards the agreement, because they discuss the documents and the phrases and the words and forget the big thing. No one would dispute that, if we could have got that agreement in 1938, the world would not have been in travail at present. The Foreign Secretary of 1938 was desirous of such an agreement, and the present Prime Minister was in favour of such an agreement. I remember those who were cheering the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) hooting the present Prime Minister out of the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Cambridge University said no one was more desirous of friendly relations than he. During the Finnish affair they arranged a debate at Cambridge, and the hon. Member was on one side and I was on the other. I have never in my life heard such unspeakable slanders as were uttered by the hon. Member and his supporters. They did their utmost to incite the students to make a physical attack on me. There is a whole lot on the other side who do not welcome the agreement, and that is why they are so anxious to pick out here and there some words at which they may sneer in one or other of the documents. I am certain that the people of this country and of the Soviet Union and of America welcome the agreement. They pay tribute to those who made the agreement possible, to the three Foreign Secretaries, and express the hope of the peoples of all the countries that this very important agreement will be the beginning of a development that will save Europe and the world from another such disaster as we are labouring through.

Mr. Eden

I can only intervene again with the permission of the House, and I do not propose to detain it for more than a few moments. I have listened to almost the whole of this discussion, and I should like to be allowed to thank the House for the spirit in which it has received the work we have been able to do together in Moscow. I have not heard one word said in the course of the Debate which could be other than helpful towards that work. A number of questions have been asked and one or two points made. I just want to deal with one, because I think the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—I am sorry he is not here—was inclined to be critical of the Italian document. I did not have the document in my hand, but I was pretty sure that I was right, and I have since checked it and found that I was right. There is none of that inconsistency about which the hon. Member made great play. What it does is to set out the immediate arrangements for Italy, and finally it says: It is further understood that nothing in this resolution is to operate against the right of the Italian people ultimately to choose their own form of government. I did not hear the word "ultimately" when the hon. Member read it out; perhaps it was faulty hearing on my part—but of course that word is essential. We have been at some pains to draw up the document correctly, and I was pretty certain that the inconsistency did not exist. I think it will probably be for the convenience of the House that we should cease this part of the discussion now and go to other business. I suggest that the particular lines of this discussion will probably fall readily in their place to be continued when the Gracious Speech is discussed. One or two hon. Members expressed the hope that foreign affairs might be further and extensively discussed. That is, I think, a matter for the House. For my part I always welcome such discussions, especially if they are in the spirit of comprehension and helpfulness which has characterised the discussion to-day.