§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I could not embark upon the Business which is set down for to-day without expressing what is in the hearts of all Members of this House—our profound regret at the very sad news which it has been your duty, Mr. Speaker, to announce from the Chair, of the sudden death early this morning of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Only yesterday evening he sat with us in Cabinet, apparently in the best of health and spirits, and now he has been instantaneously removed from our affairs in which he was playing a most important part. I would suggest that, on the next Sitting Day, we pause for a short time in our business in order to give the House the opportunity of paying a more formal tribute to one of its distinguished Members, who was holding an office of great consequence in the peculiar stresses of the present war. I will defer any remarks which I may make upon this sad matter, which to me is a very acute personal grief, until the proper time is reached.
I now turn to the statement upon the war which I understood it was desired by the House that I should make. I have to go some way back in order to place the whole broad scene before the House. At my conference with the President at Washington in June, 1942, a decision was taken to send an American Army and a strong British contingent to occupy French North-West Africa. Later on, 8th November, 1942, was, fixed for the descent. I was very much in favour of this for a variety of reasons, most of which are now well known. I have never regarded this African operation as a substitute for a direct attack across the Channel upon the Germans in France or the Low Countries. On the contrary, the opening of this new front in the Mediterranean was always in- 70 tended by its authors to be an essential preliminary to the main attack upon Germany and her ring of subjugated and satellite States.
At that time, over 15 months ago, no decision was taken beyond the occupation of North Africa. There followed almost immediately, in fact while I was in Washington in June, 1942, the disaster at Tobruk and the retreat, with the loss of 80,000 men, of our Desert Army, of more than 400 miles to the approaches of Cairo and Alexandria. This raised very grave issues, the Delta, the Nile Valley and the Suez Canal all being in jeopardy. At the same time the German attack through the Caucasus was developing in a way which seemed to menace the Caspian basin and the vital oilfields of Baku, Iraq and Persia. At Moscow Premier Stalin was able to speak to me with confidence of his ability to withstand the German attack, and he told me beforehand of the counter-strokes by which he intended to relieve Stalingrad, and if possible destroy the German forces before it. At Cairo, Generals Alexander and Montgomery were placed in command and very substantial reinforcements, which had been sent there from Britain several months before, arrived to strengthen the Desert Army. Plans were made to resist Rommel's impending attack, and thereafter to regain the initiative by a major battle. These plans proved successful. Almost exactly a year ago, on 23rd September, began the heavy action which resulted in Rommel's decisive repulse. A month later the Desert Army won the hard and prolonged Battle of Alamein and set forth upon its immortal march, a march not yet concluded. From that time on for a whole year we and our great Allies have had almost unbroken success by land, by sea and in the air. I cannot recollect anything so complete and prolonged as the series of victories which have attended our Allied Arms in almost every theatre. In the same time that the Desert Army has been making its great march and that the conquests of North-West Africa and Sicily have taken place, the Russian Armies have advanced on 1000 miles of front from the Volga almost to the Dnieper, a distance in many places of more than 500 miles, driving before them with prodigious slaughter the hordes of Germans that invaded their country and inflicted so many indescribable barbarities upon its inhabitants.
71 When I next met the President in January, 1943, and the combined Anglo-American staffs went into their protracted conference at Casablanca, the whole scene of the war was already transformed. No decision had hitherto been taken by us to go beyond North Africa. But now the advance of the Desert Army, which already stood before the gates of Tripoli, brought another quarter of a million men into play and enabled us to carry out the policy which I mentioned in my broadcast in November last of using North Africa not as a seat but as a springboard. We resolved therefore to complete the conquest of Tunisia and meanwhile to make all preparations for invading Sicily. The final victories in Tunisia were obtained in May, and the whole of the enemy forces in North Africa, then little short of half a million strong, were destroyed or captured.
When I visited the President again in Washington in May, 1943, during and after the victory in Tunisia, the British and American Armies had great results to display. We therefore extended our review and set before ourselves as our principal objective the knocking of Italy completely out of the war this year. No one in attempting to frame a time-table for this task would have expected it would be so rapidly achieved. On 10th July British and American Armies, on the scale of perhaps half a million men, the first wave of whom were carried, as the House knows, in upwards of 2,700 ships and landing craft, began their attack upon Sicily, and in a campaign of 38 days the entire island was conquered, with a loss to the enemy of 165,000 in killed, wounded and prisoners, or more than four times our Allied losses in the operation.
In order to have the correct perspective and proportion of events, it is necessary to survey the whole chain of causation, the massive links of which have been forged by the diligence and burnished with the devotion and skill of our combined Forces and their commanders until they shine in the sunshine of to-day and will long shine in the history of war. This same year of victory on land has been accompanied by an ever-increasing mastery of the air by the British, Americans and Russians over the enemy in Europe. Speaking particularly of our own air power, the weight of bombs dis- 72 charged by the Royal Air Force on Germany in the last 12 months is three times that of the preceding 12 months. The weight of bombs discharged in the last three months is half as great again as that of the preceding three months. There has also been a great improvement in accuracy owing to technical devices. The percentage of loss for the first eight months of 1943 is less than in the same period last year, and the morale and ardour of our bombing crews are very high.
The almost total systematic destruction of many of the centres of German war effort continues on a greater scale and at a greater pace. The havoc wrought is indescribable. and the effect upon the German war production in all its forms and upon U-boat building is matched by those wrought upon the life and economy of the whole of that guilty organisation. There has been an enormous diversion of German energy from the war fronts to internal defence against air attack and the offensive power of the enemy has been notably crippled thereby. The German air force has been driven increasingly on to the defensive. The attacks we have had in this island, though marked by occasional distressing incidents, are at present negligible compared with the vast scale of the war. The enemy is increasingly compelled to concentrate on building fighter aircraft and night fighter aircraft for home defence at the expense of bomber production. He is also forced to save his strength so far possible on all the fighting fronts, and is therefore restricted to a far lower rate of activity than we and our Allies maintain. This throws the burden increasingly upon his fully occupied ground forces. The Royal Air Force is at present maintaining in action throughout the war scene in all the theatres nearly 50 per cent. more first line aircraft than Germany. That is the Royal Air Force alone apart from Russia.
On top of this already heavy preponderance comes the whole rapidly expanding weight of the United States Air Forces, building up ceaselessly in this country and already in action on a great scale both here and in the Mediterranean. The American system of daylight bombing gives great accuracy on special targets, and it is also accompanied by severe fighting, producing heavy losses among the enemy's fighter aircraft and notably diminishing the increase which they are seek- 73 ing to make. Many superb actions of courage and daring have been fought by the great American Air Forces which are developed here and in the Mediterranean, and a high spirit of fellowship and generous emulation subsists between them and their British comrades. The British and American Air Forces are fed by an ever-broadening and improving supply of new aircraft, which together exceeds the corresponding German supply by more than four to one.
The continued progress of Anglo-American air preponderance, which can certainly be expected month after month, opens the possibilities of saturating the German defences both on the ground and in the air, in spite of the desperate efforts which the enemy is making and will certainly continue to make to strengthen those defences in proportion to the mounting weight of our attack. Now this word "saturation" comes to have particular significance in the general field of the air war. If a certain degree of saturation can be reached, and we can be sure that this will only be won after a hard-fought and bitter struggle with the enemy air defences, reactions of a very far-reaching character will be produced. We shall in fact have created conditions in which, with very small loss to ourselves, the accurate, methodical destruction by night and by day of every building of military significance in the widest sense will become possible. Complete strategic air domination of Germany by the Anglo-American Air Forces is not necessarily beyond our reach even in 1944, with consequences, if it were attained, which cannot be measured but must certainly be profound.
All this must be considered in relation to the gigantic struggle proceeding ceaselessly along the 2,000-mile Russian front, from the White Sea to the Black Sea, where the Russian Air Force is already at many points superior in strength to that which the Germans have been able to leave there in the face of the hard pressures from the West and from the South.
We must not in any circumstances allow these favourable tendencies to weaken our efforts or lead us to suppose that' our dangers are past or that the war is coming to an end. On the contrary, we must expect that the terrible foe we are smiting so heavily will make frenzied efforts to retaliate. The speeches of the German leaders, from Hitler downwards, 74 contain mysterious allusions to new methods and new weapons which will presently be tried against us. It would, of course, be natural for the enemy to spread such rumours in order to encourage his own people, but there is probably more in it than that. For example we now have experience of a new type of aerial bomb which the enemy has begun to use in attacks on our shipping, when at close quarters with the coast. This bomb, which may be described as a sort of rocket-assisted glider, is released from a considerable height, and is then apparently guided towards its target by the parent aircraft. It may be that the Germans are developing other weapons on novel lines with which they may hope to do us damage and to compensate to some extent for the injury which they are daily receiving from us. I can only assure the House that unceasing vigilance and the most intense study of which we are capable are given to these possibilities. We have always hitherto found the answer to any of the problems which have been presented to us. At the same time I do not exclude, and no one must exclude from their minds, that novel forms of attack will be employed, and, should they be employed, I should be able to show to the House in detail the prolonged, careful examination beforehand which we have made into these possibilities, and I trust we shall be able to show the measures which will be brought into force against them.
So much for the air. I have dealt with the land. Not less remarkable than the air or the land and certainly not less important is the revolution effected in our position at sea. I have repeatedly stated in this House that our greatest danger in this war since invasion has become so much more remote is the U-boat attack upon our sea communications and upon Allied shipping all over the world. This must be measured by three tests: First: the sinkings of our own ships; second, the killings of the enemy U-boats; and, third, the volume of new building. The great victory which was won by our North Atlantic convoys and their escorts in May was followed by a magnificent diminution in sinkings. The monthly statements which are issued on the authority of the President and myself, and about which the Canadian Government, who contribute to the Battle of the Atlantic brave 75 men, planes and escort vessels are also consulted, deserve close attention. I have little to add to them to-day. But it is a fact that for the four months which ended on 18th September no merchant vessel was sunk by enemy action in the North Atlantic. The month of August was the lowest month we have ever had since the United States entered the war, and it was less than half the average of British and Allied sinkings in the 15 months preceding the American entry into the war. During the first fortnight in this September no Allied ships were sunk by U-boat action in any part of the world. This is altogether unprecedented in the whole history of the U-boat struggle, ether in this war or in the last. Naturally I do not suggest for a moment that this immunity or any-think like it could possibly continue. A new herd of U-boats have been coming out in the last week or so into the Atlantic from their bases in France and Germany, and they have no doubt been fitted with what is thought to be the best and latest apparatus. We for our part have not been idle, and we await this renewal of the conflict, which has in fact already begun, with sober confidence. One convoy is being attacked at the present time. If they will come and attack the convoys, we shall be able to attack the U-boats.
In spite, however, of the reduced number of U-boats which have been at work since the May massacre, a day rarely passes without our getting one of these ill-starred vessels. Moreover the United States and British air attacks on the German bases and building yards and on factories where the component parts are made has definitely reduced the rate of production of U-boats in Germany. The high percentage of killings has certainly affected the morale of the U-boat crews, and many of the most experienced U-boat captains have been drowned or are now prisoners in British or American hands.
Thirdly—I said you must look at it from three points of view—the output of new building from the United States has fulfilled all that was ever hoped from it and more. We build our regular quota in this Island, and the Canadian output, an entirely new development for Canada, is also remarkable. The credit balance of new building over losses of all kinds, 76 including marine risks, since the beginning of the year, the net gain that is to say, exceeds 6,000,000 tons, and should the present favourable conditions hold, we shall soon have replaced all the losses suffered by the United Nations since the beginning of the war. As set forth in the letter from the President to me which I laid on the Table of the House before we rose, the massive achievement of United States' shipbuilding has been shared generously with us on those principles of the division of war-labour in accordance with the highest economy of effort, which were from the beginning of our association with the United States in this war our guide and which are now becoming increasingly our rule. The favourable position now enjoyed has enabled a larger number of faster ships to be built and projected with 111 the advantages attaching to speed.
The House will also realise that we have taken full advantage of the lull in the U-boat attack to bring in the largest possible convoys and that we have replenished the reserves in these Islands of all essential commodities, especially oil fuel, which is almost at its highest level since the outbreak of the war, and we have substantial margins between us and what is called the "danger level," on which we have never trenched even at the worst time.
All this has not come about accidentally. It is the result of the most astonishing and praiseworthy efforts of industry and organisation on both sides of the Atlantic. It is also the result of hard, faithful, unwearying service given by the multitudes of escort vessels of all kinds, and most of all, so far as last year is concerned, it is the result of the startling intervention of the long-range aircraft of the British Empire and the United States, and especially of our Coastal Command. Besides this the large numbers of auxiliary aircraft carriers which are now coming into service are able to give a measure of air protection to convoys and to conduct an aggressive warfare against U-boats in those ocean spaces which are beyond the reach even of the very long-range aircraft, the V.L.R.'s as they are called, of the two countries.
I repeat as I have always done, and as I am bound to do, my warning that no guarantee can be given of a continuance of these favourable conditions. But on this occasion I will go so far as to say 77 that we could only be defeated by the U-boats if we were guilty of gross neglect of duty in the shipyards and on the sea, and of an inexcusable falling-off in that scientific and technical ability on both sides of the Atlantic which has hitherto stood us in good stead.
I cannot pass from this subject without paying tribute once more to the officers and men of the Merchant Navy, whose losses have been in greater proportion than those even of the Royal Navy. We never call upon them in vain, and we are confident that they will continue to play their part in carrying our men and their equipment and munitions to any place that may be required and under whatever conditions may exist at the time. I must add also when these new resources of shipbuilding are coming into view, that every saving made on the sea is immediately demanded by the Fighting Services in their endeavour to intensify and augment our offensive overseas actions. Their appetite keeps far ahead of the supply, even if it increases beyond our expectation. The more ships we have, the more we seem to want.
I have dealt with the land, the air and the Navy, but now I must turn to another part of the world. At the Conference at Quebec much attention was given to the prosecution of the war against Japan. The offensive is already on foot on a considerable scale in various parts of the Pacific, and the main strength of the United States is deployed in that ocean. The main weight of the offensive operations there at present is in the Solomons and New Guinea, where General MacArthur, an officer of outstanding personality, to whom we and our Australian brothers in the Commonwealth are under a measure of debt, is directing a large-scale offensive. The first steps were taken by the eviction of the Japanese from Guadalcanal and from Papua. These were exploited by landings which took place on 30th June on New Georgia also, and on 4th September in Huon Bay, North-East of Lae. New Georgia has been cleared of the enemy, and the twin bases of Salamaua and Lae were reduced in a manner which shows a remarkable development in the use of amphibian and air-borne power, and which furnished, I may say, another opportunity for the Ninth Australian Division to display those 78 qualities to the Japanese which the Germans tasted at El Alamein. These operations give great promise for the future, and they will unfold stage by stage as the months pass by.
Then, while we were in Quebec, we also received the news of the eviction of the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands, which are American territory, by the occupation of Kiska, in which Canadian Forces also took part. This was the sequel to the annihilation of the Japanese garrison on the island of Attu, and it is certainly remarkable for the fact that the Japanese, who had occupied Kiska with a garrison of 10,000 or more men, were not prepared to await the assault, but fled beforehand, under cover of darkness in their ships. Here is a new feature in the resistance of Japan. Hitherto we have reckoned upon their dying to the last man, which they certainly did at Attu, and in which respect we were prepared to serve them as well as we could. But at Kiska, and also to some extent at Salamaua and Lae, a somewhat different mood has seemed to possess the enemy. Evacuation and retreat in order to save their lives now seem to have taken a place in their method of fighting. We shall see in due course whether these new tendencies become pronounced. If so, it will not alter the result, but it will save cost and trouble.
The fundamental fact, however, in the war against Japan is the steady diminution of Japanese shipping in relation to the tasks their war policy has imposed upon them. The wasting process is most marked. Their widely dispersed conquests depend upon a certain minimum shipping supply. They cannot possibly hold the vast areas they have occupied except upon a certain- minimum shipping supply. Their losses certainly exceed any means which they have, or can ever obtain, of replacement. This is also true of their air force, which can scarcely keep its initial strength and has long ago been overtaken, and is now increasingly surpassed every month, by the enormous United States expansion. So that in both those vital respects upon which the Japanese conquests depend for their maintenance, a steady process of attrition is at work, and the strength of the enemy must be considered a wasting asset.
I have ventured to dwell upon these favourable aspects of the war against 79 Japan only because I know it is realised throughout the United States that the slightest slackening of effort would destroy all those favourable tendencies. Those tendencies depend upon a small margin. If that margin is lost by any slackening and those tendencies cease to operate, we shall get into a static, stagnant condition and we might well find ourselves condemned to a long-term process of futile expenditure of life and treasure which would be marking time and treading water. We should not be getting on. It is the pace that kills; that is what has to be borne in mind in bringing this war to an end.
I now turn to another but cognate aspect of the war which was discussed at Quebec. Considerable progress has been made in the organisation of the South-East Asia Command, which is being set,up in India to intensify the war against Japan. The supreme Allied Commander, Admiral Mountbatten, will shortly arrive in India, accompanied by a staff of officers who will form the Combined Allied Headquarters, modelled on that which has been set up under General Eisenhower with so much advantage. This form of Combined Allied Headquarters for the South-East Asia front was absolutely necessary because of the many United States establishments which were growing up separately for many purposes in that area, and particularly in respect of the great air route to China, which is being expanded and manned on an ever-increasing scale. Although there are excellent liaison and good feeling, it is absolutely necessary to have unity of command in this theatre.
Another step which was foreseen when we examined these matters as much as 16 or 17 years ago on the Committee of Imperial Defence, was the separation from the ordinary normal Command in India, the statutory Command in India, of any large extensive campaign fought on or beyond the frontiers of India. That also has been achieved. The headquarters of the new Command will be set up first in Delhi so as to be in close liaison during the organisation period with the Government of India. They have to be in the closest liaison with the Government of India and with General Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief in India; The new Command and the appointment of Admiral Mountbatten, 80 have been warmly welcomed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and are in full accord with the views of our American Allies. In all these questions of Commands, matters have to be so arranged that the men who are chosen to command have the full confidence of all the parties concerned.
A general survey of this amazing and fearful world war is an essential part of any balanced statement. Without it the events in any one theatre cannot be viewed in their proper setting or proportion. To understand fully any part of this war, one must have at least a broad conception of the whole. I now return, after placing these general considerations before the House, to the more recent events in the Mediterranean theatre which are so fresh and vivid in our minds.
25th July was a memorable day. Even before we had half completed the conquest of Sicily or had set foot on the Italian mainland, the Dictator Mussolini was overthrown, and the Fascist regime, which had lasted for 21 years, was cast down and vehemently repudiated by the whole mass of the Italian people. The Badoglio Government came into existence with the intention of making peace in accordance with the will of the nation. They were however intruded upon at all points and overlaid by the Germans, and they had the greatest difficulty in maintaining themselves against this hateful pressure. We knew nothing about this new regime. Once Fascism was completely overthrown we were naturally anxious to find some authority with whom we could deal, so as to bring about the unconditional surrender of Italy in the shortest time and with the least possible cost in the blood of our soldiers. It was necessary, as I advised the House, to wait till the position became more definite. We therefore continued our preparations for the invasion in strength of the mainland of Italy and of Europe, on which we had resolved at the May Conference in Washington.
Presently feelers were put out by the new Italian Government through various channels, asking far terms and explaining the deadly character of the difficulties in which they were involved. These difficulties arose from the menacing presence of German armies, police and spies all around them and in their midst and all among them. We were sympathetic to those difficulties.
§ The Prime Minister
Wait and see. That is a cheap criticism from people who must be rather hard put to it to find criticism. I am going to answer it very precisely and exhaustively, even before we break off for brief refreshment. We were sympathetic to those difficulties. But to all advances we made the reply that the surrender must he unconditional. On 15th August, an Italian envoy, an officer with the rank of general, called upon His Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid, the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), with credentials proving that he came with full authority from Marshal Badoglio, to say that when the Mlles landed in Italy the Italian Government were prepared to join them against Germany; and when could they come?
I was at this time, not entirely by accident, at Quebec for the Conference, and I was in the closest contact with the President. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was with me, and I was also accompanied by an ample cipher staff and secretariat, through which hourly touch could be maintained with my colleagues in the War Cabinet. The President and I were therefore able to act together and to give prompt guidance in any emergency. With the approval of the War Cabinet it was decided that General Eisenhower should send an American and a British staff officer to meet the Italian envoy in Lisbon. We at once informed Premier Stalin of what was in progress. On 19th August the meeting in Lisbon took place. The envoy was informed that we could accept only unconditional surrender. The military terms embodying this act of surrender—not so much conditions as directions following on the act of surrender—which had been prepared some weeks earlier after prolonged discussions between London and Washington and General Eisenhower's headquarters, were now placed before the envoy. He did not oppose these terms, drastic though they were, but he replied that the purpose of his visit was to discuss how Italy could join the United Nations in the war against Germany. He also asked how the terms could be executed in the face of German opposition. The British and American officers replied that they were empowered to discuss only unconditional 82 surrender. They were, however, authorised—and this was a decision which we took at Quebec—to add that if at any time, anywhere, in any circumstances, any Italian forces or people were found by our troops to be fighting the Germans, we would immediately give them all possible aid. On 23rd August, the Italian general departed with the military terms expressing the act of unconditional surrender and with full warning that the civil and administrative terms would be presented later. He then made his way back to Rome with great secrecy and danger. He promised to lay the terms before his Government and bring back their answer to General Eisenhower's headquarters by 31st August.
In the interval another Italian general arrived, bringing with him as his credentials no less a person than General Carton de Wiart, V.C., one of our most famous military figures, whom the Italians captured two years ago through a forced landing in the Mediterranean. This second mission, however, did not affect the general course of events, and when General de Wiart realised this he immediately offered to return to captivity. The Italian officer, however, rejected this proposal, and General Carton de Wiart is now safe and free in this country.
On 31st August the Italian envoy returned. He met General Eisenhower's representative at Syracuse. The Italian Government were willing to accept the terms unconditionally, but they did not see how they could carry them out in the teeth of the heavy German forces gathered near Rome and at many other points throughout the country, who were uttering ferocious threats and were prepared to resort to immediate violence. We did not doubt the sincerity of the envoy nor of his Government, but we were not able to reveal our military plans for the invasion of Italy, or, as it had now become, the liberation of Italy. The real difficulty was that the Italians were powerless until we landed in strength, and we could not give them the date. We therefore timed the announcement for the moment which we deemed would give us the best military chance, and them the best chance of extricating themselves from the German grip. This meant that the Armistice should be accorded only at the moment of or just before our main descent. We would have done more, had 83 it been possible, to help this unhappy Government, who were beset on every side by insoluble problems, and who have since acted towards us to the best of their ability with both courage and good faith. We offered and prepared to land an American air-borne division in Rome at the same time as the Armistice was declared, in order to fight off the two German armoured divisions which were massed outside it and to help the Italians. But owing to the German infestment of the Rome airfields which took place in the last day or two before the announcement of the Armistice, of which infestment the Italian Government warned us, it was not possible to carry out this part of the plan. It was I think a pretty daring plan, to cast this powerful force there into Rome in conditions which no one could measure and might have led to its complete destruction, but we were quite ready to do it. But at the last moment the warning came, "The airfields are not in our control."
Unconditional surrender of course comprises everything, but not only was a special provision for the surrender of war criminals included in the longer terms, but a particular stipulation was made for the surrender of Signor Mussolini. It was not however possible to arrange for him to be delivered specially and separately before the Armistice and our main landing took place, for this would certainly have disclosed the intentions of the Italian Government to the enemy, who were intermingled with them at every point and who had them so largely in their power. So the Italian position had to be that although an internal revolution had taken place in Italy, they were still the Allies of Germany and were carrying on the common cause with them. This was a difficult position to maintain day after day with the pistol of the Gestapo pointing at the nape of so many necks. We had every reason to believe that Mussolini was being kept under a strong guard at a secure place, and certainly it was very much to the interests of the Badoglio Government to see that he did not escape. Mussolini has himself been reported to have declared that he believed that he was being delivered to the Allies. This was certainly the intention and is what would have taken place but for circumstances entirely beyond our control. The measures which the Badoglio Government 84 took were carefully conceived and were the best they could do to hold Mussolini, but they did not provide against so heavy a parachute descent as the Germans made at the particular point where he was confined. It may be noticed that Hitler sent him some books of Nietzsche to console or diversify his confinement. The Italians could hardly have refused this civility and the Germans no doubt were thus pretty well acquainted with where he was and the conditions under which he was confined. But the stroke was one of great daring and conducted with a heavy force. It certainly shows there are many possibilities of this kind open in modern war. I do not think there was any slackness or breach of faith on the part of the Badoglio Government, and they had one card up their sleeve: The Carabinieri guards had orders to shoot Mussolini if there was any attempt to rescue him, but they failed in their duty, having regard to the considerable German force who descended upon them from the air and who undoubtedly would have held them responsible for his health and safety. So much for that.
The terms were signed at Syracuse on the night of 3rd September, and from that time forth occasional aircraft passed secretly between Rome and Allied headquarters. This was a difficult matter. Great numbers of guns had to be silenced, particular batteries had to be warned to be silent at a particular moment to allow an aeroplane to pass freely. This again ran the risk of disclosing the secret, on the whole very well kept. The Russian Soviet Government, having studied the terms, authorised General Eisenhower to sign them in their name. Accordingly he did so, not only on behalf of the United States and Great Britain, but on behalf of the Soviet Government and on behalf of the United Nations.
I have seen it said that 40 days of precious time were lost in these negotiations and that in consequence British and American blood was needlessly shed around Salerno. This criticism is as ill-founded in fact as it is wounding' to those who are bereaved. The time of our main attack upon Italy was fixed without the slightest reference to the attitude of the Italian Government, and the actual provisional date of the operation was settled long before any negotiations with them 85 had taken place, or even before the fall of Mussolini. That date depended upon the time necessary to disengage our landing craft from the beaches of Southern Sicily, across which up to the first week in August the major part of our Armies actually engaged there had to be supplied from day to day. These landing craft had then to be taken back to Africa. Those that had been damaged—and they were many—had to be repaired, and then they had to be reloaded with all their ammunition, etc., in the exact and complex order required before there could be any question of carrying out another amphibious operation.
I suppose it is realised that these matters have to be arranged in the most extraordinary detail. Every landing vessel or combat ship is packed in the exact order in which the troops landing from it will require the supplies when they land, as far as can be foreseen. Every lorry, in fact, is packed with exactly the articles which each unit will require when that lorry comes. Some of the lorries swim out to the ships and swim back. They are all packed exactly in series, and with the things which have priority at the top and so on, so that nothing is left to chance that can be done. Only in this way can these extraordinary operations be carried out in the face of the vast modern fire-power which a few men can bring to bear. Only in this way are they possible. The condition and preparation of the landing craft were the sole but decisive limiting factors. It had nothing to do with "wasting time over" the negotiations, nothing to do with the Foreign Office holding back the generals while they worried about this clause or that clause and so forth. There was never one moment's pause in the process of carrying out the military operations, and everything else had to fit in with that main-line traffic.
When I hear people talking in an airy way of throwing modern armies ashore here and there as if they were bales of goods to be dumped on a beach and forgotten, I really marvel at the lack of knowledge which still prevails of the conditions of modern war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not send them out to pioneer?"] Most strenuous efforts were made by all concerned to speed up our onfall. For instance, I sent a telegram myself to General Alexander on 18th August as follows: 86You are no doubt informed of the Italian approaches to us and the answer we have sent them. Our greatest danger is that the Germans should enter Rome and set up a quisling Fascist Government under, say, Farinacci. Scarcely less unpleasant would be the whole of Italy sliding into anarchy. I doubt if the Badoglio Government can hold their position until the day fixed for our main attack, so that anything you can do to shorten this period without danger to military success will help very much.That was on 18th August, long before the Armistice was signed. General Alexander replied on 20th August:Many thanks for your message. Everything possible is being done to carry out the operation at the earliest possible date. All here realise very clearly that every additional hour gives the enemy more time to organise and prepare against our Forces.Most people knowing the character of these generals, Eisenhower, Alexander, Montgomery, would think that good enough. The date which had originally been the 15th was, however, in fact brought forward to the 9th—the night of the 8th and 9th. Thus the whole of this operation—this is my answer to the charge of delay, to the word "slothful" which I have seen used in one quarter—the whole of this operation was planned as a result of decisions taken before the fall of Mussolini and would have taken place, whatever happened in Italy, at the earliest possible moment. The Italian surrender was a windfall, but it had nothing to do with the date fixed for harvesting the orchard. The truth is that the Armistice announcement was delayed to fit in with the attack and not the attack delayed to fit in with the announcement.
I must say, if I may make a momentary digression, that this class of criticism which I read in the newspapers when I arrived on Sunday morning reminds me of the simple tale which I heard and which I dare say other Members are familiar with about the sailor who jumped into a dock, I think it was at Plymouth, to rescue a small boy from drowning. About a week later this sailor was accosted by a woman, who asked, "Are you the man who picked my son out of the dock the other night?" The sailor replied modestly, "That is true, Ma'am." "Ah," said the woman," you are the man I am looking for. Where is his cap?"
General Montgomery, at the head of the Eighth Army, with whom marched 87 the Canadians—welcome comrades—on 3rd September began to cross the Straits of Messina and land at various points in the Toe of Italy. One could not tell how much would leak out, or what would happen in Rome in the interval before our main attack, nor to what extent the Italian Government would have the power to carry out their undertakings. In this uncertainty I availed myself of the President's invitation to remain with him in the White House.
We may pause for a moment to survey and appraise the act of the Italian Government, endorsed and acclaimed as it was by the Italian nation. Herr Hitler has left us in no doubt that he considers the conduct of Italy treacherous and base in the extreme—and he is a good judge in such matters. Others may hold that the act of treachery and ingratitude took place when the Fascist confederacy, headed by Mussolini—for he was not alone, but now become the absolute dictator of his country's destinies, with the whole nation ground up into his system after nearly a generation of totalitarian rule—used his arbitrary power to strike for material gain at falling France and so became the enemy of the British Empire, which had for so many years cherished the cause of Italian liberty, and afterwards the enemy of the United States, in which 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 of Italians have found a happy home. There was the crime. Though it cannot be undone, and though nations which allow their rights and liberties to be subverted by tyrants must suffer heavy penalties for those tyrants' crimes, yet I cannot view the Italian action at this juncture as other than natural and human. May it prove to be the first of a series of acts of self-redemption. It is- possible indeed that I or my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will have a further statement to make on the subject of the Bagdolio Government before we separate at the end of this series of Sittings.
The Italian people have already suffered terribly. Their manhood has been cast away in Africa and Russia, their soldiers have been deserted in the field—we have seen that ourselves—their wealth has been squandered, their Empire has been lost—irretrievably lost. Now their own beautiful homeland must become a 88 battlefield for German rearguards. Even more suffering lies ahead. They are to be pillaged and terrorised in Hitler's fury and revenge. Nevertheless, as the Armies of the British Empire and the United States march forward in Italy, as we shall march, the Italian people will he rescued from their state or servitude and degradation, and will be enabled in due course to regain their rightful place among the free democracies of the modern world.
I cannot touch upon this matter of Italy without exposing myself to the question, which I shall be most properly asked, "Would you apply this line or argument to the German people?" I say "The case is different." Twice within our lifetime, and also three times in that of our fathers, they have plunged the world into their wars of expansion and aggression. They combine in the most deadly manner the qualities of the warrior and the slave. They do not value freedom themselves, and the spectacle of it in others is hateful to them. Whenever they become strong they seek their prey, and they will follow with an iron discipline anyone who will lead them to it. The core of Germany is Prussia. There is the source of the recurring pestilence. But we do not war with races as such. We war against tyranny, and we seek to preserve ourselves from destruction. I am convinced that the British, American and Russian peoples who have suffered measureless waste, peril and bloodshed twice in a quarter of a century, through the Teutonic urge for domination, will this time take steps to put it beyond the power of Prussia or of all Germany to come at them again with pent-up vengeance and long-nurtured plans. Nazi tyranny and Prussian militarism are the two main elements in German life which must be absolutely destroyed. They must be absolutely rooted out if Europe and the world are to be spared a third and still more frightful conflict. The controversies about whether Burke was right or wrong when he said, "I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people," these controversies seem to me at the present time to be sterile and academic. Here are two obvious and' practical targets for us to fire at—Nazi tyranny and Prussian militarism. Let us aim every gun and let us set every man who will march in motion against 89 them. We must not add needlessly to the weight of our task or the burden that our soldiers bear. Satellite States, suborned or overawed, may perhaps, if they can help to shorten the war, be allowed to work their passage home. But the twin roots of all our evils, Nazi tyranny and Prussian militarism, must be extirpated. Until this is achieved there are no sacrifices that we will not make and no lengths in violence to which we will not go. I will add this. Having at the end of my life acquired some influence on affairs, I wish to make it clear that I would not needlessly prolong this war for a single day, and my hope is that if and when British people are called by victory to share in the august responsibilities of shaping the future, we shall show the same poise and temper as we did in the hour of our mortal peril.
Sitting suspended for one hour.
§ The Prime Minister
I made a considerable but, I think, by no means unnecessary digression into the relations and views which we may form towards the various enemy or satellite countries with whom we may have to deal, and from this digression, and after what I trust has been a well spent interlude, I come back to the purely military sphere.
The invasion of Italy in the Naples area was the most daring amphibious operation we have yet launched or which, I think, has ever been launched on a similar scale in war. In North Africa we expected but little resistance and much help from the French. In Sicily we expected that the opposition of the Italians would be lukewarm and we knew that we greatly outnumbered the Germans. On landing in North-West Africa no serious air-power was likely to be encountered. Our descent on Sicily was covered by overwhelming air-power supported over the beaches and battlefields from our own shore bases at Malta and Pantellaria, but in the Gulf of Salerno we were at the extreme range of shore-based fighter aircraft flying from Palermo and from conquered Sicilian fields. Until we gained refuelling stations on land our single-engined fighter squadrons had but a quarter of an hour's activity over the battle area. They had to go all that way for just a quarter of an hour—a terrible problem for a pilot who engages in an action or fighting with a few minutes to 90 spare for reaching home across the sea. In order to give continuous protection for the landing on these terms it was necessary to make demands upon our air strength which even its great numbers could hardly supply. They can be counted in four figures, but even so to maintain control of the air continuously under these conditions with rapid reliefs and even with double flights in the day was an immense strain, and the amount of protection is of course not very overwhelming, nothing like what we have if we come and go across the Channel these days. We could not, therefore, go farther north than Naples. People have said, "It would have been better to go to the north of Naples." I dare say it would. People have said Spezia, and so on. All these are very attractive propositions. We could not go farther north than Naples unless we dispensed with any aid from shore-based aircraft. Even landing where we did we were dependent to an important extent upon sea-borne aircraft in which happily we are also becoming stronger, and will in the future become much stronger still. To have gone farther north would have deprived our carriers of the support of shore-based aircraft without which they themselves would have been the sole object of the enemy's air attack, thus absorbing their own air power for their own defence instead of using it to help the troops over the beaches. These are the very hard limitations which are imposed at the present time if success is to be securely founded.
All these considerations must have been known to the Germans with whom alone we had to deal. Although the German forces were not numerous enough to man the whole of the threatened sector of the coast, they could counter attack within a few hours with a force which, at each stage of the build-up of the first week or so, was by our estimates at least equal to our own. That is to say, you land on the beach and after you have deployed you must expect an equal force to come at you which is fully organised with all its artillery placed and established on land. We knew that the Germans certainly had the power to march against us in counter attack with equal or superior numbers, before we could secure any refuelling points for our aircraft or any harbour facilities, and while in consequence for several days we still had to land and feed over the open beaches.
91 At this stage in the war a disastrous repulse and enforced re-embarkation would have been particularly vexatious, and no doubt if this had occurred severe criticism might have been levelled at the British and American war direction by some of those who are clamouring for the far more difficult, far larger and more serious operation across the Channel. The enterprise therefore seemed full of hazard, especially as such a long distance—over 150 miles—separated the vanguards of the Eighth Army from our new and major attack. This attack was confided to the commander of the Fifth United States Army, General Clark, an officer of remarkable energy and force who had under his command an equal number of United States and British divisions, and was supported by ample British and American naval forces, and by our entire combined air forces. If we had been ready to take greater risk we could have of course attacked earlier with a smaller force. If we had been ready to take greater risks we could have attacked much farther to the northward, relying in that case wholly on sea-borne aircraft. But the enemy's strength would have not been less in the area involved for no appreciable reinforcement from the north reached or could 'have reached the Naples area during the period involved owing to faulty communications and our interference with them. I think the case against needless delay is pretty compact and watertight. Indeed when I survey in retrospect last week's intense fighting with the battle swaying to and fro. I am bound to say—I make this admission—that it looks as if we cut it very fine indeed. For what happened?
On the night of 8th—9th the approach and the landing were successfully effected, but the battle which developed from the second day onwards was most severe and critical. The British and American divisions fought side by side with their backs to the sea, with only a few miles of depth behind them, with their equipment coming in painfully over the beaches and their landing craft and supporting squadrons under recurrent enemy air attack. The Germans came at them in well organised assault, fighting with their practised skill both in defence and in offence. From day three to day seven the issue hung in the balance and the possibility of a large scale disaster could not be excluded You 92 have to run risks. There are no certainties in war. There is a precipice on either side of you—a precipice of caution and a precipice of over-daring.
General Alexander, in whose 15th Group of Armies the whole of this operation lay, and later the Supreme Commander himself, General Eisenhower, proceeded to the scene in person and visited the divisional and brigade headquarters on this fluctuating battlefront, and conferred with General Clark at his battlepost on shore. Every inch of the ground was savagely disputed. The harbour at Salerno was gradually got into working order, and is now discharging supplies on a considerable scale. Reinforcements, of which there is no lack, were poured in to the utmost limit of our landing-craft and means of supply. But the battle swayed to and fro, and the Germans' hopes of driving us into the sea after a bloody battle on the beaches must at times have risen high. We thought we had their measure, and so it turned out, but one can quite understand that their hopes may have risen high. The British Battle Squadron, some of our finest battleships, joined the inshore squadron in heavy bombardment, running a great risk, within close range and narrow waters, from the enemy's aircraft, U-boats, if any, and the glider bombs which inflicted damage on some of the ships—they came straight in and stood up to it at close range, and equalised and restored the artillery battle. These ships had guns which could contend with enemy batteries which were mounted in very prominent positions. It was right to risk capital ships in this manner in view of the improvement in naval balances to which I will refer before I sit down.
The British and American air forces also surpassed all their previous efforts. Almost 2,500 fighter and bomber sorties were flown during the 24 hours at the height of the battle and 1,400 tons of bombs were dropped on the German forces on the battlefield and on their immediate communications during this same 24 hours' period. Meanwhile the Eighth Army, whose operation has been considered from the beginning as complementary to the blow we were striking with the Fifth Army—the Eighth Army which had become master at many points in the Toe, the Ball and the Heel of Italy, advanced with giant strides, and on the 93 tenth day of the struggle began to intervene, as it was meant to do, on the enemy's southern flank and rear.
Yesterday's reports from the battlefield leave no doubt that the enemy has been worsted, that our main forces are firmly ashore, and that the Eighth Army has come into action in a suitable place, that we have recovered the initiative and that we are able now to advance northward on a broad front. That operation is now in progress. We must, I think, consider this episode—the landing on the beaches of. Salerno—as an important and pregnant victory, one deserving of a definite place in the records of the British and United States Armies and in the records of the British and United States Armies fighting together and shedding their blood in a generous cause.
While this struggle was raging, the armistice with Italy was made public and the Badoglio Government ordered the Italian troops to fulfil its conditions. They also called upon them to resist the Germans when attacked by them. The German Panzer divisions outside Rome broke into the city and drove out the King and Government who have now established themselves behind our advancing lines.
I will add no more to the excellent accounts, the very vivid accounts, which have been published in the newspapers, which are not only much fuller and much more interesting than the official account, but at the same time are, in my opinion, giving a very true picture to the public of what has been taking place. I do not need to add any more to them. Indeed I find myself at a disadvantage having had for five or six days to depend entirely upon the official accounts and not knowing quite what the newspapers were saying. The House is already possessed of fully descriptive passages about this battle. I will, however, emphasise some of the main points that stand out.
The first is, that the Italian forces and population have everywhere shown themselves unfriendly or actively hostile to the Germans. They have everywhere shown themselves anxious to obey so far as it is in their power the orders of the King of Italy's new government. The second is that every effort has been made both by that Government and its forces to comply with the armistice conditions. Fighting has taken place at many points between the Italians and the German 94 intruders, and there is no doubt whatever on which side the sympathy, hopes and efforts of the Italian nation now lie.
In Sardinia for instance, which a little while ago was considered a major prize in itself, four Italian divisions have driven out the German garrison, and American Forces have now landed in their support. The French have landed in Corsica. We had great plans for the invasion of Sardinia and Corsica, great, elaborate plans, all worked out. But we have got these islands in the pick-up merely as a result of sound blows at the central power, at the vital point of the enemy. As I have said, the French have landed in Corsica, and aided by the Italian garrison and all true Frenchmen and Corsicans, are actively attacking the Germans. This is the first time that the French have been in action for the liberation of their home territory. At one time in Bastia Harbour all the batteries were maned by Italians and French patriots whom the Italians had been sent there to put down. The fight in the harbour was conducted by Italian destroyers and a British submarine, all of whom united in shelling the Germans and driving them out of the place. We feel the power of the encircling arm of a great world movement in what is taking place, and certainly I am not going to do anything to hamper that. For the first time, the French, as I say, have been in action for the liberation of their home territory. A powerful French Army is growing up which will play an increasing part.
The escape of Mussolini to Germany, his rescue by paratroops and his attempts to form a Quisling Government which, with German bayonets, will try to re-fix the Fascist yoke on the necks on the Italian people, raise, of course, the issue of Italian civil war. It is necessary in the general interest as well as in that of Italy that all surviving forces of Italian national life should be rallied together around their lawful Government and that the King and Marshal Badoglio should be supported by whatever Liberal and Left-wing elements are capable of making head against the Fascist-Quisling combination and thus of creating conditions which will help to drive this villainous combination from Italian soil, or better still annihilate it on the spot. We are coming to the rescue and liberation of Italy—
§ The Prime Minister
I think the hon. Gentleman may be not thinking quite sufficiently of the importance of diminishing the burden which our soldiers have to bear. At any rate in my view, it is the duty in a situation of this kind of all forces who will make head against the scourge of their nation—the Fascist-Quisling Government of Mussolini, supported by the German invaders—to rally and to get together to make the best stand and head they can. This is, of course, without the slightest prejudice to the untrammelled right of the Italian nation to make whatever arrangements they choose for the future government of their country on democratic lines when peace and tranquility are restored. If there is any issue on this point—and it is certainly one which will come more pointedly to the front—we must thrash it out and come to a decision because the Government certainly intend to pursue a policy of engaging all the forces they can to make head against the Germans and drive them out of Italy. We propose to do that, and we are not going to be put off that action by any fear that perhaps we should not have complete unanimity on the subject. Parliament does not rest on unanimity; democratic assemblies do not act on unanimity. They act by majorities. That is the way they act, and I have not the slightest hesitation or doubt as to what will be the view of the House and what will be the view of the country in respect of the policy which I am announcing and which we are determined to carry through with the utmost vigour.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
I do not think there is an issue, and I hope no issue will arise, but there is anxiety in the House. The Prime Minister used earlier in his speech a very encouraging phrase when he described the Army as "an Army of liberation." We are very concerned about that. I speak for myself, but there are a large number in this House and outside who are very anxious that this shall be a liberation of the forces which have been working on our side since long before the Armistice and long before the pourparlers at Lisbon at the risk of their lives. We are very anxious indeed that this shall be a war of liberation, that the Army shall be an Army of 96 liberation and that this House shall be a force for liberation for all the victims of Fascism who have played an active part in its down-throw.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought my hon. Friend rose to correct me on some point. I did not realise that he intended to take such a considerable part in the discussion. But I wish to make it perfectly clear that we are endeavouring to rally the strongest forces together in Italy to make head against the Germans and the Mussolini-Quisling-Fascist combination. That is what we are going to do, what we intend to do, and we shall do our utmost to explain and justify any course we are taking to Parliament. But we cannot expect to convince everybody. There are some people who run their own ideas to such a point without the slightest regard to the addition to the difficulties and dangers which our troops have to face, and also, I may say, without giving the slightest consideration to the actual conditions of confusion and anarchy which prevail in Italy, and which at this terrible juncture do require most, one might say desperate measures in order to make any form of Italian nationality coherent and Integral—
§ The Prime Minister
I cannot speak for Count Sforza, but I should be glad indeed to see forces of that kind rallied to the Government which must be formed to drive out the Germans. If they are given an opportunity and do not come forward then, in my opinion, they will be taking a great responsibility, for there are moments in the life of a country when people cannot be more nice than wise. They have to throw in their lot, for what it is worth, with the forces on which 97 depend the existence and identity of their nation. Well, now, is that all right? Nothing that is settled here prejudges or prejudices in any way the free decision of the Italian people as to the form of government which they intend to have.
We are coming to the rescue and liberation of Italy. We are prepared to place large Armies in Italy and deploy on a wide and active fighting front against the enemy on whatever line he chooses to resist, and to maintain an offensive against him with increasing weight and vigour if need be throughout the autumn and winter and, of course, beyond, It is, of course, of great importance to the United States and Great Britain to bring the largest forces they possibly can to bear upon the enemy and to force the fighting to the utmost. We are terribly hampered by the sea, which has been our shield and protection, but which is now a barrier which prevents the employment of those great forces. It is to our interest to force the fighting to the utmost and find means, some of them not even the best, of corning into contact with the enemy. Especially is this true of the air, where our superiority of numbers as well as of quality must find full scope. It is to our advantage to lose on equal terms and on worse than equal terms to the enemy in order to produce that diminution which we can sustain and which he cannot. But happily losses still show an advantage upon our side. The enemy lose more heavily than we do in nearly all of the fight, and what a small capital have they got with which to face this continuous strain!
I call this front we have opened, first in Africa, next in Sicily, and now in Italy, the third front. The second front, which already exists potentially and which is rapidly gathering weight, has not yet been engaged, but it is here, holding forces on its front. No one can tell—and certainly I am not going to hint at—the moment when it will be engaged. But the second front exists and is a main preoccupation already of the enemy. It has not yet opened or thrown into play, but the time will come. At what we and our American Allies judge to be the right time this front will be thrown open and the mass invasion of the Continent from the West, in combination with the invasion from the South, will begin.
98 It is quite impossible for those who do not know the facts and figures of the American assembly in Britain, or of our own powerful expeditionary Armies now preparing here, who do not know the dispositions of the enemy on the various fronts, who cannot measure his reserves and resources and his power to transfer large forces from one front to another over the vast railway system of Europe, who do not know the state and dimensions of our fleet of landing craft of all kinds—and this must be proportionate to the work they have to do, who do not know how the actual processes of a landing take place or what are the necessary steps to build up, which has to be thought of beforehand in relation to what the enemy can do in days or weeks, it is impossible for those who do not know these facts, which are the study of hundreds of skilful officers day after day for months, to pronounce a useful opinion upon this operation.
§ The Prime Minister
We certainly should not in a matter of this kind take our advice from British Communists, because we know that they stood aside and cared nothing for our fortunes in our time of mortal peril. Any advice that we take will be from friends and Allies who are all joined together in the common cause of winning the victory. The House may be absolutely certain that His Majesty's present Government will never be swayed or overborne by any uninstructed agitation however natural, or pressure however well meant, in matters of this kind. We will not be forced or cajoled into undertaking vast operations of war against our better judgment in order to gain political unanimity or a cheer from any quarter. The bloodiest portion—make no mistake about it—of this war for Great Britain and the United States lies ahead of us. Neither the House nor the Government will shrink from that ordeal. We shall not grudge any sacrifice for the common cause. I myself regard it as a matter of personal honour to act only with the conviction of success founded upon the highest professional advice at our disposal, in operations of the first magnitude. I decline, therefore, to discuss at all the questions when, where, how and on what scale the main 99 assault from the West will be launched, and I am confident that the House will support the Government in this attitude.
I am glad to say that several important arrangements have been made at Quebec, and in consultation with the War Cabinet here, for closer correlation of policy and action between the Soviet Union and Britain and the United States. The difficulties of geography have hitherto proved an insuperable impediment, though various efforts have been made, not only by the United States but by the British Government, to bridge the physical gap by the successive visits to Moscow of Lord Beaverbrook, the Foreign Secretary and myself, and by the visit of M. Molotov to this country and to the United States. In August, replying to the telegram from President Roosevelt and myself informing the Russians of the Italian peace feelers, Marshal Stalin expressed a wish to have an Inter-Allied Commission set up in the Mediterranean to deal with this and similar problems—the Mediterranean problem, the working of the Italian Armistice, etc.—as and when they arose. We were very glad to find this friendly interest taken in our Mediterranean operations by our Russian Allies. The Commission, of course, cannot supersede the authority or diminish the responsibilities of Governments, and its members will be kept fully informed of all that passes and will have the power of individual and collective representation to their Governments. Our representative will be my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan), whose work at General Eisenhower's headquarters is closely connected with this field and who has discharged his difficult duties with increasing distinction and success.
Arrangements have also been made—I must make it quite clear that this does not release the Government from their responsibilities, because that would be contrary to the parliamentary principle on which we rest, and also, of course, the military emergencies dominate everything—arrangements have also been made, as has already been stated, for a tripartite conference between the Foreign Secretaries of the three countries or their representatives. We shall be represented by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in whom the House and his colleagues have the colleagues confidence. The conference will 100 take place at an early date, and no questions will be barred from its discussion. The whole ground will be surveyed, and matters will be carried forward to agreement wherever possible. Where there is a difference, that will be set aside for what I am coming to now. We also have a confident hope of a subsequent meeting before the end of the year between the President of the United States, Marshal Stalin and myself. I need scarcely say that the time and place of this meeting will not be made public until after it has been concluded and I may add that all speculation on such points of detail in the newspaper Press would on the whole be unhelpful. The work that will have to be done on the Foreign Office level between the three countries should prove an invaluable and it is certainly an indispensable preliminary to any such meeting of the heads of Government. I will not say any more on this subject at present except, which I am sure will be the feeling of the House, that no meeting during this war would carry with it so much significance for the future of the world as a meeting between the heads of the three Governments, for, without the close, cordial and lasting association between Soviet Russia and the other great Allies, we might find ourselves at the end of the war only to have entered upon a period of deepening confusion.
At Quebec also was settled the question of the recognition of the French Committee of National Liberation. Any differences in the degree of this recognition which may be noted in the documents of the various Powers arise solely from the importance which attaches to preserving full freedom to the French nation as a whole to decide its future destinies under conditions of freedom and tranquillity. Neither Great Britain nor the United States is prepared to regard the French National Committee as other than a provisional instrument, and this view is also fully accepted by the members of the Committee themselves. I am happy to say that a continued improvement of personal relations and fusion of aims has taken place in the last two months within the Committee itself. Personalities have receded, and the collective strength of this body—what I will call the "Trustees of France" during the time of incapacity—has steadily grown. With the exception only of Indo-China, which is still in enemy hands, they administer with success the 101 entire French Empire. They dispose of a considerable fleet, in which the first-class modern battleship "Richelieu" will presently take its place. A French Army of three or four hundred thousand men is being steadily organised by the French Committee under the command of General Giraud and in the closest association with his colleague General de Gaulle. This Army is being equipped with the most modem equipment supplied by the United States Government, and it will not be long before we shall again experience the inspiring sense of having French Forces alongside us on the battle front. I am very glad to add that both Russia and the United States are agreeable to the French National Committee being represented on the new Commission which is being set up in the Mediterranean, and in this respect it will be the first time that they have taken their place as an equal partner with the three great Powers warring against Germany in Europe.
Although I have not hesitated, to express my differences with the various sections of the French National Committee from time to time—I cannot pretend that all has run smoothly and happily—I wish to make it quite clear that I regard the restoration of France as one of the great Powers of Europe, as a sacred duty from which Great Britain will never turn. This arises not only from the sentiments which we hold towards France, so long our comrades in victory and misfortune, but also from the fact that it is one of the most enduring interests of Great Britain in Europe that there should be a strong France and a strong French Army. Such a condition could, however, only be reached on the basis of the free self-expression of the French people as a whole. They must themselves be the judges of the conduct of their fellow-Frenchmen in the terrible conditions which followed the military collapse of the summer of 1940. I remain convinced that the highest honour will be accorded to those who never flinched or wavered in the hour of disaster and that lasting condemnation and I trust salutary punishment will be meted out to all prominent persons who have not merely bowed to the force of circumstances but who, for the sake of personal ambition or profit, have tried to promote the victory of the common foe. [An HON. MEMBER: King Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio."] Some 102 people are reduced by our prolonged unbroken success to little more than mocking laughter.
There are three points arising out of the unconditional surrender of Italy and the Armistice which we have granted which require special notice. The first is our prisoners of war. There were nearly 70,000 British prisoners of war and upwards of 25,000 Greek and Jugoslav prisoners in Italian hands. From the very first moment of Mussolini's fall we made it brutally clear to the Italian Government and King that we regarded the liberation of these prisoners and their restoration to our care as the prime, indispensable condition of any relationship between us and any Italian Government, and this, of course, is fully provided for in the terms of surrender. However, many of these prisoners in the North of Italy, and others in the Central and Southern part may have fallen into the power of the Germans. I have no precise information to give the House to-day in view of the confusion prevailing in Italy, which only our armies can clarify. The Italian Government, however, have given orders for the release from confinement of all Allied prisoners under their control, and I have no doubt that these will be succoured by the Italian people among whom they are dispersing, in spite of the German threats of punishment to any Italians who show this kind of common humanity. In all these matters we are acting with the greatest vigilance and earnestness, and everything in human power will be done. Everything, however, depends on the movement of the Armies in the next few weeks.
The second important feature arising out of the Armistice with Italy is the situation in the Balkans. Here with marvellous and indomitable tenacity the patriot hands of Greeks and Yugoslavs have maintained a formidable resistance to the torturers of their countries. They hold great regions under their control, they fight fierce battles in the mountains, they destroy communications and they occupy important towns and points with a vigour and on a scale which has required no fewer than 47 German, Italian and Bulgarian Divisions—for this is the dirty work Bulgaria does—to be maintained continually in these vast and wild spaces. Of these, upwards of 25 were 103 Italian divisions who, even if unable to turn upon the common foe, will certainly be of no further danger to the patriots and will indeed be a valuable source of their equipment. This gap will have to be supplied from some quarter or the other by the Germans at a time when they are so heavily strained upon the Russian and other fronts. Hitherto we have had no means of helping these unconquerable champions of Greek and Yugoslav freedom except by air-borne supplies and by offers of money. With the control of Southern Italy to which we confidently look forward in the near future and with the building up of our air power in Italy, our entry and perhaps command of the Adriatic should become possible.
All this opens far-reaching vistas of action which also must be surveyed in relation to the conditions and temper of the people in the satellite States of Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, each of which is a study in itself and all of which will be increasingly affected by the advance of the Russian Armies and by the development of Anglo-American bombing. In dealing with this subject I must say no more than is already obvious to the enemy. Henceforward we shall see the Germans holding down or trying to hold down the whole of Hitler's Europe by systematic terror. Whenever Hitler's legions can momentarily avert their eyes from the hostile battle fronts which are closing in upon them, they can take their choice either of looking upon ruined cities of the German homeland, or of looking upon what is not a less awful spectacle, the infuriated populations which are waiting to devour them. The first point then is our prisoners, many of whom we hope will be rescued; and the second is this great development in the Balkans, which I cannot pretend to measure exactly and which in any case is not suitable for public discussion.
There is a third and most tangible advantage which we have gained from the overthrow of Italy. I mean the surrender of the Italian fleet. This was fulfilled in fidelity to the orders of the Italian King and the Badoglio Government. Practically the whole of the Italian Navy, many merchant ships and many submarines have, under conditions of great risk, strictly executed the conditions of the Armistice and made their way to 104 Malta or other ports under British control. This event has decisively altered the naval balances of the world. Not only have the Allies gained the Italian fleet to use in any way they think most serviceable, but there is also set free the stronger British fleet which was measured against it. We came into two naval fortunes on the same day, or as we put it in this House, it counted two on a Division! Very large additional naval forces are therefore at our disposal. The United States forces are already dominant in the Pacific, all the disasters having been repaired by new building. Very large additional naval forces have now come into our hands, and since they will not remain idle for one single unnecessary day, I venture to think that the Japanese war lords may soon find themselves confronted at any rate with some serious considerations which were probably not in their minds at the time they ordered the attack upon Pearl Harbour.
I now have finished my survey and have but one word more to say. The political atmosphere in the United States is not the same as it is over here. The Constitution decrees elections at fixed intervals, and parties are forced to assert and defend their special interests at the elections in a manner which we under our more flexible system have been able to lay aside for the time being. Nevertheless I was made conscious of the resolve and desire of all parties to drive forward the War on all fronts and against all foes with the utmost determination. I was also conscious of a feeling of friendliness towards Great Britain and the British Commonwealth and Empire such as I have never known before, and a respect for the war effort of the 46,000,000 in this small Island and for the conduct of our troops who are the comrades of the Americans in the hard-fought fields of this war. All this was very dear and refreshing to my heart. I found also the feeling everywhere that the war was being well managed, that the central direction made good plans and that highly competent and resolute officers were entrusted with their execution in every part of the globe. It is my hope that this conviction is generally shared at home and that the House of Commons will feel no need to reproach itself for the unwavering confidence it has 105 given to His Majesty's servants in their discharge of the exceptional burdens which have been thrust upon them.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I desire at the outset of my remarks to associate myself with the words that fell from the Prime Minister regarding the bereavement which the House of Commons has suffered in the death, which only took place this morning, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although the formal tributes will be paid on the next Sitting Day, I cannot refrain from saying that to many of us it is not merely a public but a private and personal loss. I have met the Chancellor in public debate, and I have often carried on discussions and negotiations with him outside this Chamber, and I desire to put on record my appreciation of his wisdom, his unfailing courtesy, his reasonableness and, above all, the honourable way in which in every case he has carried out his undertakings.
I turn to the speech of the Prime Minister. I want in the first place to express on behalf of the House a welcome to him back from his arduous duties abroad and our pleasure in finding him in such good fettle and at hearing the graphic account he has given to-day of the war situation. He had a great story to tell, and he has told it with his accustomed verve and vitality. What we like about the Prime Minister is not merely that he can tell a story and tell it well, but that he has been one of the makers of history, and he has made that history well.
There is one question to which I hope he will be able to give an answer before he leaves the Chamber. During his absence there has been a great deal of criticism, much of which in the nature of things is uninformed, because obviously it is impossible for people not in the inner circle of affairs to know precisely what is taking place. A good deal of the criticism has been definitely misinformed. I do not identify myself with any of these criticisms, hut I regard it as my duty, speaking first in the Debate after the Prime Minister, to give voice to some of the anxieties which exercise the public mind at the present time. It is with regard to the first of these that I hope the Prime Minister will be able to give an assurance.
Our people have a profound respect for the momentous decisions which the Prime 106 Minister has made from time to time in conjunction with the President of the United States. They realise to some extent, though not as fully as some of us do, the degree of preparation which these great expeditions abroad, these amphibious or three-cornered expeditions involve. The Prime Minister himself has told us how long in advance the great decisions have had to be made; but the fortunes of war are proverbially uncertain and unforeseen, and fortuitious events occur which provide unexpected opportunities which must be seized with promptness and decision if full advantage is to be taken of them. In the last few weeks we have seen great changes come about with regard to the position of Italy and the position in Yugoslavia, and there may be further changes all round the periphery of the fortress of Europe. The assurance which I ask the Prime Minister to give is that, however careful the preparation that he makes in conjunction with President Roosevelt and others with regard to the future conduct of the war, they are not so rigid as to be incapable of adaptation to meet opportunities that may arise. May I take it that such preparations as are made are flexible enough to enable full opportunities to be taken of any new situation?
§ The Prime Minister
I can readily give that assurance. Of course frequent conferences are necessary between the great staffs, but the General on the spot in the chief command can at any time propose a change in the plans to take advantage of the situation, or we can suggest to him a change. In fact, a lot of things have been done on the spur of the moment, like Sardinia and Corsica, which were not considered feasible last week. I can readily give the assurance that there is that flexibility, but, of course, when you are dealing with a number of Allies and have to consult a number of Governments, and very often inform the Dominions and so forth, you have not got exactly the same freedom that you have when you are simply dealing with your own troops. That is one of the facts which has to be borne in mind. I could well conceive that if all the Forces were now working under one single control, some things would be done quicker than they can now be done, but when one looks at the disadvantages attaching to alliances, one must not forget how superior are the advantages.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I thank the Prime Minister very much for the courtesy of his reply, which, I am sure, will be much appreciated throughout the country, because I can assure him that the feeling which I have ventured to express is not put forward on my own account but represents a considerable body of anxiety up and down the country.
§ The Prime Minister
The best method of acquiring flexibility is to have three or four plans for all the probable contingencies, all worked out with the utmost detail. Then it is much easier to switch from one to the other as and where the cat jumps.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I quite appreciate what the Prime Minister says, and in a great number of cases that will, no doubt, fill the bill, but there may be events which even the wisdom and foresight of the Prime Minister and the rulers of the different parts of the world may not be able to foresee. Apart from this anxiety, there are many political issues involved, some of which have been already referred to by interruptions in the course of the Prime Minister's speech, and others will no doubt be raised from different parts of the House during the Debate. I shall not deal with them now, but I feel sure that the Foreign Secretary or whoever is going to reply will give due attention to them when they are raised. Another anxiety which has been largely experienced by the people of this country has been a fear that we might get out of step with Russia. The Prime Minister has already done much in his speech to diminish that anxiety. I have listened carefully to all his broadcasts and his great speeches, and he has always done much to pay high tribute to the marvellous sacrifices which the Russian people have made in their common effort to defeat the common enemy, and, if I may say so, what he said with regard to the second front to-day was, I thought, put in admirable and conclusive words. The fact is that the collapse of the Fascist regime in Italy, the complete surrender of the Italian troops, has been of tremendous value in drawing German divisions from the Eastern front and in forcing the Nazis to put a double guard upon all the various battlements of the Fortress of Europe, and this has already had tremendous effect in the common cause of German defeat. We all realise that this is only a beginning 108 of the attack upon the whole periphery of Europe, and it is our strength and our good fortune at the present time that we can threaten any and every part of that periphery and are able to keep the Germans guessing as to where the attack will fall.
I am sure the House has heard with considerable gratification confirmation of the statements made semi-officially that, first of all, the request of Marshal Stalin with regard to the Mediterranean has been granted, secondly, that the Foreign Secretary will be taking part, with his opposite numbers from the United States and the Soviet Union, in intimate collaboration, and, most important of all, that there is reason to hope that these consultations will be carried to a higher level still and that the Prime Minister himself, the President of the United States and Marshal Stalin will meet, if possible, before the end of the year in order to hammer out a common policy both with regard to the present conduct of the war and the future after the war. I am one of those who believe that when that meeting takes place, with the ability and foresight of these three great statesmen, a new era of co-operation may be hoped for which will portend well for future victory in the war and for the future progress of the world when the war is done.
There is only one other matter on which I wish to say a few words, because great numbers of other Members are wishing to speak. A great many people in this country are very anxious about the physical condition of the inhabitants of the occupied countries of Europe, and on the assumption that they will not be relieved from their servitude before the end of the winter by victory and complete liberation, there is a fear that their physical condition may become gravely worse. Large numbers of people are asking whether anything can be done to help these unhappy people. There are those who say that humanity demands that at any cost we should lift' the blockade to some extent in order to bring them succour. Up till now the answer has been that to do this would be to weaken our attack upon Germany, and of course it would be a very sorry and very foolish thing if, for the sake of bringing a little relief to the sufferers from our blockade, we were seriously to delay victory in the war and postpone the day when these people will not merely be relieved but will be 109 liberated. Therefore, I say this is not a matter on which ordinary men can possibly form a final judgment. But there are considerations, which no doubt must be present to the minds of the Government. It is important, apart from mere humanity, that we should keep up the morale of these people in the occupied countries. It is important that their physical strength should be kept up, so that when the hour of liberation strikes they may be ready to do their part in helping us to repel the common foe. Finally, it is essential that they should keep the most friendly feelings towards ourselves, which, if their physical condition goes too far, may possibly be somewhat estranged by what is happening.
I do not myself attempt to come to any decision on this matter, but I suggest to the Government that the time may have come to re-examine this question to see whether the possibly very small advantage that it might be to the enemy may not now be over-balanced by the advantage to ourselves. If they should come to the conclusion that the balance has now shifted and is on the other side, I am quite sure the Government will take such steps as may be wisely and appropriately taken in order to achieve the necessary end. I will not put it higher, because I do not think anyone outside the ranks of the Government can properly judge the facts, but I do ask for an assurance that they will re-examine the matter in the light of present circumstances, in this fifth winter of the war and the fourth winter these people have had to suffer under German domination.
I have kept my remarks brief, because I did not want to take up the time of other Members, and I can only say once more how glad we are to have the Prime Minister back in our midst, and I feel sure that he will give wise counsel in respect of what is happening all over the world and will take into account what is said in different part of the House.
§ Major Vyvyan Adams (Leeds, West)
Only great talent, amounting to genius, could have brought the fortunes of this country so far in so short a space of time. I hope the House will not object if I say that never, since a moment several years before the war, have I faltered in my own belief that the present Prime Minister was the man by 110 prudent combinations honourably to avoid the war against Germany and, if that opportunity was to be denied to him, to lead us to victory against her. The man who warmed our hearts in 1940 was hardly likely to be the one who would go to sleep during 1941 and 1942 while the sword was allowed to rust beside him. This truth seemed to be withheld about a year ago from a number of critics of what they called the central direction of the war—which could only mean the Prime Minister. Twelve months ago I was frankly dismayed by the restive and faint-hearted anxiety which was audible in some parts of the House. I say frankly it is a mercy that none of those who expressed that anxiety at that time were in control when 12 months ago the upper and lower jaws of the enemy seemed about to snap together between the Caucasus and the Nile. That criticism which we heard then was worse than merely anxious. It was unrealistic. Japan, a fresh force in the campaign, was still a newcomer. Our sea and air power, in the nature of the case, was dispersed, and the vast resources of the United States of America were at that moment only a half or a quarter organised. It was hardly to be supposed that a year or 18 months ago retreats could have been avoided.
To-day I beg leave to say that no criticism at all is valid of the tactical situation in Italy. No additional front could have been more conveniently established. In that country we face part of the, German forces on a front of about 100 miles where only a limited number of hostile divisions can be deployed against us, while we are pouring reinforcements into the South of Italy, where our air supremacy is going to be exquisitely felt and where any Germans, who are too near either coast, on the East or West of Italy, can be hammered by a sea power to which the last answer has finally sailed away. This situation and the circumstances that now surround us represent immense achievements. We owe it to ourselves and the Government and the Prime Minister to recognise the full truth of what he said to-day, that these happy circumstances have not come about by accident. Last week the First Lord of the Admiralty gave a masterly broadcast review of what we had done at sea in the Mediterranean in particular. We always mix compliments with criticism of a greater or less 111 degree of mildness; I want to say that there are two respects in which I think His Majesty's Government could go further and fare even better. First, I do not think it may be fully recognised that the people of this country are so resolute for absolute victory that they will still respond without hesitation to a lead and to calls for discipline. They will respond at once to orders, provided they are assured that the Government are taking them fully into their confidence. As we know only too well, there are two problems which create anxiety at home to-day. They are coal and the shipping situation. They are far too pressing to brook any stoppages. If mining is to be regarded as an alternative to the Fighting Services, it seems elementary logic that the same kind of discipline should prevail in the pit as governs the Army. I am quite sure that beneficent and fruitful results will follow any strong action in this regard which the Government feel to be necessary.
§ Major Adams
I will explain to my hon. Friend what I mean. I would not allow absence without leave in the coal pit any more than I would in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force.
§ Major Adams
As the hon. Member knows perfectly well, I have a certain number of miners on the fringe of my constituency. I shall be going down there in the coming week-end, when, with as great a publicity and with even greater vigour, I shall say what I am now saying in this House
§ Major Adams
Another observation I have to make is that the Government should not foster too great a measure of secrecy about earlier incidents in this war. All of us have a certain interest about what happened in 1939 and 1940. When in 1941 I asked the Prime Minister about Rudolf Hess I was unable to understand, and am still unable to understand, why he surrounded that descent with such a 112 cloud of mystery. Why cannot we be told in this House, and not in the United States, that our guesses at that period were correct. Would not the result have been a strengthening of our resolution and our caution if we had been told that Hess came to this country in order to court what he imagined to be the anti-Russian section of our aristocracy?
A few weeks ago I asked a question, which I still consider to be one of general interest, about the German attempts at the invasion of this country in 1940. I was informed by the Deputy Prime Minister that my curosity was not to be satisfied. It is rather an extraordinary form of reply to a Parliamentary question. Why are questions asked in this House if not to satisfy the curiosity of somebody about something? Surely it is legitimate for a Member of Parliament to entertain some curiosity about the invasion of his own country? I was a little surprised at the accidental and undesigned discourtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, nor did I see very much point or sense in his reply. If a German attempt at invasion failed in 1940, it could only strengthen our confidence and enhance the fame of our achievement when we stood alone in the world after the fall of France. If, on the other hand, the Germans did not try invasion in 1940, it would be proof that they were not so formidable in one element as they were reputed to be in others, although many of us have had that suspicion for a long time. If the First Lord of the Admiralty can tell the world at large what happened in the Mediterranean in 1942, surely the Deputy Prime Minister can tell us what did or did not happen in the Channel in 1940.
The Mediterranean story is by no means over. When we consider Italy I ask the House to remember precisely what we are fighting for and the origins of the war. I hope very much that no one will give way to any temptation to be sentimental about Italy. It was the Italian support of the ludicrous figure of Mussolini that introduced anarchy into the Continent of Europe. Only a few weeks ago, Italians were doing their best to kill any British people who could be found in sufficiently unfavourable circumstances. I do not think very much of Marshal Badoglio. I do not agree that, just because he happens to be a soldier, his behaviour in Ethiopia in 1935–36 was entirely excusable. I fail to 113 see why an Italian admiral, after surrendering his fleet, should be invited to inspect a British guard of honour. It seemed to me supreme mumbo jumbo, and utter pantomime. He was hardly the one to be distinguished with a guard of honour. The men who deserve a guard of honour are the unnamed heroes of the British Navy and Merchant Navy, the ordinary soldiers who broke Rommel's line at El Alamein last year, the British and American soldiers who refused to give in the other day on the beaches at Salerno, the Russians who defeated the Germans at Stalingrad and have just forced the gateway to Smolensk, and above all the men of the Royal Air Force, who night after night incur the most frightful risks until finally their brave, gay young lives are sacrificed for the rest of us. It is they, and not surrendering Italian admirals, who deserve honour, gratitude, and reverence.
In the present favourable complex of circumstances now surrounding the Allied Forces the German army, seeing victory beyond its present reach, may, perhaps within months, decline to go on fighting, make an orderly retreat, disband itself as it did in 1918 and then seek to persuade itself and the German people of its own invincibility. Here will come the greatest danger to our prospects of lasting victory. There are still too many men in this country who are ready to be gulled by the German designs. Even to-day, the propaganda of Hitler, because it was so deeply indoctrinated into certain minds in this country between 1933 and 1939, is being repeated, for example at the expense of Czechoslovakia. I was shocked to read an article by Lord Maugham in a newspaper last night in defence of Munich. Why this particular noble Lord should enter the arena of policy, and in particular of foreign policy, completely baffles me. (An HON. MEMBER: "He was Lord Chancellor."] I am not likely to forget it. I suppose it was when he was put on the Woolsack for purposes of convenience between 1938 and the beginning of the war that he imagined he knew about it. He clearly knew less even than Mr. Neville Chamberlain, and he learnt while he was Lord Chancellor only what Hitler wished him to learn. Are these men who have occupied positions of great influence and are so easily deceived to be allowed to determine our future attitude towards the German military class? As was said to 114 me in the Lobby just now, the Prime Minister discharged a double barrel to-day, the first against the Nazis and the other against the Prussians, who are identical with the German military spirit.
I entreat every hon. Member not to imagine that when the German army is defeated the German danger will be exorcised. The abiding danger in Germany is the traditional spirit which exalts war for its own sake. There is the central problem, not only of the Continent of Europe, but of the world at large. It is the problem of the professional German general staff, that group of tight-lipped men who think it noble to use war as an instrument of national policy. Never yet, and certainly not since 1918, have they been forced to recognise that their profession is a savage and evil thing. We shall undoubtedly have to fight the Germans a third time unless these men are exterminated. A third German war will come about unless they and their profession are destroyed. If I were asked how I would go about it, I would reply that I would not shrink from the most extreme methods possible. I see no reason at all why our children should have to undergo a worse tribulation merely because, forsooth, the German nation is a proud nation, just because their propaganda is so acceptable in certain circles, just because they adore the profession of arms. The more absolute the defeat of Germany the broader will be the future chances of civilisation. The fewer Keitels, Kesselrings—yes, and Rommels— that are allowed to survive this war, the more secure will be the lives of the young men and young women of Britain in 1960. I suggest to the House that we owe to the future of civilised mankind the duty of inflicting on the German nation to-day the maximum injury and of taking away for ever from the Germans who follow the right to bear arms.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
It is said that some gentleman in Washington the other day, not knowing that the Prime Minister had arrived in Quebec, asked President Roosevelt what all the excitement was about and that the President replied, "It's that man again." We are all delighted that "that man" is back safely from his motherland to his fatherland again. As Prime Minister, he may have certain weaknesses and failings, and one of his weaknesses is his unwillingness to share 115 power and responsibility. When I gaze at some of his colleagues I am not so surprised at that. In fact, some of his Cabinet Ministers seem to be treated in the way it is said that Russia is treated, informed but not consulted. But apart from that I regard the Prime Minister as the greatest war lord this country has ever produced. By his courage and resolution during the dark days of 1940–41 he saved the country, and by saving the country he saved the world. From our knowledge of the defences we had at that time there is no doubt that the Prime Minister was the embodiment of the Home Guard. He himself was Britain's Home Guard. Now that the days are brightening and our enemies are falling, I am sure that with President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin he is going to lead the Allies to certain and glorious victory. As the Prime Minister has said to-day, that victory may not take place for a considerable time. The heaviest fighting of all is in front of us. Much will have to be endured and immense sacrifices will have to be made before the strong central fortress of Germany, however roofless it may be, is finally stormed and destroyed. Therefore it is of the utmost importance, and that is why I am so glad the Foreign Secretary is here to-day, because my speech has almost entirely to do with his side of the question, that all the besieging Armies and the Allied commanders and Governments shall be brought as closely together as it is possible to bring them together in a united and well-thought-out policy.
It would be idle to deny that the closest possible unity does not exist at the present time. There are differences which exist between the Allies, both great and small. If I draw attention to some of them today, it is with no object of causing dissension or trouble in any way; it is only because I should like to suggest certain methods by which I think they may possibly be resolved. I intend to confine myself entirely to the European situation, and before dealing with these difficult problems I want to make it clear what our object should be after the military power of Germany has been completely and finally destroyed. I think that our object, as far as Europe is concerned, should be to create a united Europe, bound together as closely as possible by economic ties, inhabited by people enjoy- 116 ing the same kind of democratic institutions, not exactly the same ones but institutions of the same kind, and possessing as far as possible the same opportunities of cultural advancement.
I think that the mistake of the last settlement was this, that it emphasised too much the differences of nationality. The key note of the future settlement should be the economic unity of Europe as a whole. It follows therefore that in pursuit of that aim we should try and discourage the excessive claims of nationality, the old tribal ambitions which have led to war after war in the past and should emphasise the importance of economic and political co-operation and of frontiers which should be mainly boundaries of administration rather than ramparts which threaten and divide. Now if we are to have a planned peaceful and democratic Europe such as I envisage, it is essential that we should have the closest co-operation between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The union between this country and America, which the Prime Minister has done so much to promote, will, I hope, stand for ever in the world's history, and of course the Grand Alliance between England, America, Russia and China will be in the future, in my belief, the most powerful force for establishing the peace of the world and upholding the rule of universal justice. I think we take these things for granted, but it is Europe with which I want specially to deal to-day. In that I want to emphasise the supreme importance of associating as closely as possible the Soviet Union with every political and administrative undertaking or activity which we engage in during the war.
For example, I think there should be an agreement between the Soviet Union and ourselves and America regarding the policy which is to be adopted towards the various countries as and when they are freed from Nazi rule. I think it is important that we should have a common policy upon that. There appears to be a certain readiness in Washington—in view of the close relationship which exists between ourselves and America, I think we are entitled to speak frankly to our cousins on these points—a certain readiness on the part of the State Department to negotiate rather with the collaborationists and existing Governments of those countries than 117 appealing directly to the democratic forces of resistance in those various nations. We have seen that both as regards France and as regards Italy. In both these cases Britain and America have acted together in carrying out a certain policy, but we have not secured beforehand or at any other time the full agreement of the Soviet Union as to the policy to be pursued towards both these countries.
Let me take the question of France, for example, which has been a little slurred over, if I may say so, by the Prime Minister to-day. The Soviet Union has recognised the French National Committee as representing the State interests of the French Republic. Those are the words of the Russian recognition. Neither America nor Great Britain have gone so far as that. We have not recognised the Committee as representing the State interests of the French Republic, although we have recognised other Allied Governments which are really neither so democratic nor so representative as the French Committee is. We have recognised these exiled Governments as fully representing their respective countries. Then certain difficulties arose the other day, I do not quite know how they happened, about the visit of a Russian Mission to Algiers. Certain difficulties were apparently put in the way of the Russian Mission going to Algiers. I think, if that were done, it was an act of extreme folly. I do not know who was responsible. I hope it has been rescinded and that the Mission has been admitted. I do not know. I see that a French Mission has gone to Moscow and has been received by Marshal Stalin, but in the case of this Mission going to Algiers it was extreme folly on the part of the people responsible if events were as I have described them
I am a little perturbed as to what is going to happen when we invade France or French territory, such as Corsica. When our Armies invade France are we going to negotiate with the Vichy Government or the officials of the Vichy Government, local officials appointed by the Vichy Government, many of whom have been close collaborationists with the Nazi invading forces, or are we to allow the French National Committee to carry out the plans they have already drawn up for the administration of the liberated terri- 118 tory as it is liberated? Are we going to give the work of administration to the National Committee or are we going to ignore them and negotiate merely with Vichy or Vichy officials, local prefects and the like? Whatever we do with regard to these particular matters, we ought to do in the fullest and closest agreement with the Government of the Soviet Union.
Turning to the question of Italy, I think it was a.great mistake some weeks ago to indulge in great praise of Marshal Badoglio and the House of Savoy instead of allowing the exiles, not only Socialists or left-wing people like Professor Salvemini who must, I am afraid, be very old by now, but blue-blooded aristocrats like Count Sforza, whose family goes back to the Middle Ages and who once happened to be Foreign Minister of Italy—instead of allowing exiles of that kind to appeal to the artisans of Milan and Turin and the peasants of Southern Italy we preferred to negotiate with Victor Emmanuel and the Duke of Addis Ababa.
It is said that by the negotiations which took place we gained the Italian fleet. That was an asset certainly; it was a good thing to have. At the same time during these 40 days we appear to have lost the Italian Army, which in the confused position has allowed itself to be disarmed by the Germans, and to have lost the active armed support of the workers of Italy. The Prime Minister said to-day that Italians were obeying our orders. That is not the kind of thing we want. We would like to have the flame of freedom passing right over Italy, as it did during the Risorgimento, and if the right appeal by the Italian democratic leaders to the Italian people had been allowed that might have happened and it might have done a great deal more harm to the German invading forces than is being done at the present time. I do not want to be too harsh. But one does not expect people to come out and risk their lives against German military power with insufficient weapons to support what are after all turncoats, people who fight on one side one day and then, when they see that side being defeated, turn round and say that are going to fight on the other side. Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel are as bad as Mussolini. We thought so ourselves up to a few weeks ago. To prevent men like Count Sforza going to Sicily and Italy seems to me to be inexplicable. According to the policy 119 being pursued by American and ourselves, if Garibaldi had been alive to-day, we should not have allowed him to land in Sicily. We should have kept him on the docks in London or New York. Surely that is a wrong policy to adopt, not only from the point of view of the principles for which we are fighting, but strategically.
The Foreign Secretary once quoted the Peloponnesian War to me. If he will dip again into that great historian Thucydides, he will find that he said this:If you openly play the part of liberator the more certain will be your victory in war.I do not see why, so far as Italy is concerned, we should not use anti-Nazi statesmen who have been exiled from that country. There is another great difficulty in the Balkans—Yugoslavia, for example. We know that the Soviet Union are supporting the partisans. We, the Allies, are supposed to be supporting General Milhailovitch, whose loyalty to the Allies is not beyond suspicion. He has had a very peculiar past, and at certain times in the last year or so he and the partisans have come into armed conflict. That is a difficulty which has to be solved. In view of the feeling which animates many thousands of the Greek patriots—I do not say all of them—I think that paying public tributes to the King of the Hellenes and stating that it is our intention to put him back on the throne is unwise. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that."] I think the Prime Minister said it or something near to that.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I think that what the Prime Minister said was that we would enable the King to go back and give the Greek people a chance to express their own opinion. We should get it right.
§ Mr. Cocks
Some of them say they want to make the decision before he goes back. I do not emphasise the matter too much. I am only showing that different opinions exist, and I think it is unwise, in view of the feeling of these Greek patriots, to force upon them a King whom they may not want. I was glad to hear about the British-American-Russian Mediterranean Commission and that the French are going to be on that Commission. I am not sure what that Commission is going to do or what its powers are. The Prime 120 Minister was careful to say that it would not impinge upon the powers of Governments. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary when he comes to reply to the Debate will tell us what it will be able to do. It is of the greatest importance that not only France but the Soviet Union also should be associated with our activities in the Middle Sea. A.M.G.O.T. has been criticised by many people I do not entirely associate myself with many of those criticisms. If we are to have a united Europe such as I have suggested, we must set up a European Planning Authority such as is suggested in Mr. Carr's book "The Conditions of Peace," which I have no doubt the Foreign Secretary has read. It may well be that such an organisation as A.M.G.O.T, will be a nucleus out of which will develop such a European planning authority later on, but it is very important that A.M.G.O.T. should not be merely a British-American institution. Russia should be associated with it, and France should be associated with it, and the leaders of Italian democracy should be associated with it too. If that were done it might do very good work in Italy and perhaps in other countries which we may invade. Some time ago there were rumours that certain reactionary forces were planning to form a federation of States in Eastern Europe headed by Poland which would form a barrier or cordon sanitaire between Soviet Russia and the rest of Europe. I was very glad to see a day or two ago that Mr. Berle, the. U.S.A. Assistant Secretary of State, said that America did not support any plan of that sort, which after all could not be formed anyhow against the opposition of Czechoslovakia. I hope no more will be heard of the formation of a body of States of that kind.
That brings me finally to the question of Poland. If we are to have a satisfactory settlement in Europe, agreement between the Polish Government and the Soviet Union is absolutely essential. The Foreign Secretary, I am sure, agrees with that. But sooner or later the Polish Government will have to make certain concessions if a planned and peaceful Europe is to be brought about. I am not going to emphasise these things, because they are difficult questions, but this is the House of Commons, and we must face them. There are certain elements in the Polish Government which are definitely anti-Soviet. We all know that. That 121 was why it was such a great disaster when General Sikorski died. But with the advance of the Soviet Armies it is likely that a demand will come from the populations of certain territories given to Poland in 1918 to be allowed to join the Soviet Union. Should that happen, there is no power existing in the world which will prevent the union of those people with the Soviet Union. In "The Times" of 30th March there was a famous article—it was published, I think, when the Foreign Secretary was in the United States—which said:It will make all the difference to the future of Anglo-Russian friendship whether" the lines of the settlement "have been freely approved and welcomed by Britain in advance or whether they are grudgingly accepted as a fait accompli after the victory has been won.In the meantime I hope that there will be no further objection from the Foreign Office—I understand that objections have been made—to the visit of President Benes to Moscow to sign a treaty of alliance between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union which both Governments wish to do. I hope that the Government will consider seriously the suggestions I have made, because I believe—and I believe the Foreign Secretary also believes —that on the closest collaboration between the United States and Russia and ourselves depends the whole future of Europe and the peace, prosperity and happiness of the world.
§ Major Nield (Chester City)
The standpoint from which I hope to make some contribution to this Debate is entirely different from that taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). It is my desire to make some suggestion as to the welfare of the personnel of our Fighting Services, having in mind the fact that whereas the machine plays so great a part in modern war the human element is in the end the deciding factor. Many high tributes have been paid, and rightly, to the high morale of our Fighting Forces, and I desire—and I hope the House will forgive me if I draw to some extent from my own experiences—to make some suggestions for the maintenance of that high standard. During my two years in the Middle East my staff appointment was concerned mainly with matters of discipline. In that capacity I was able to come into contact with the troops and, to learn how their minds worked. One of my more melancholy tasks was to review many court-martial 122 proceedings. I came to this one wide conclusion: that so far as Private Thomas Atkins is concerned, there is so little rottenness in so few and so much greatness in so many. As I read these proceedings in connection with some soldier who had been convicted of an offence, I often came across this sort of plea when leniency was being sought: "I am very sorry for what I have done. I have never done anything wrong before, but I have had no news from home for six, seven or eight months and I have had no leave from the desert for a similar period."
That brings me to my first two points. There are no ties, no runners-up. Mail is first, first, first. So often one has come across the case of a soldier who, week after week, month after month, has gone to the postal orderly and has been told, "Sorry, son, nothing for you." The wretchedness which absence of news brings can be appreciated by many of us. When I was able to get information about the matter I was told that the lack of mail-carrying aircraft accounted in the earlier days for delays. I solemnly believe that one mail-carrying aircraft is worth a squadron of bombers over enemy territory. The situation has greatly improved and for that there is gratitude, but I hope and believe that the appropriate authorities will keep the matter under the most constant and anxious consideration. The second point is the question of leave. Remember how many of these men have been five, six, or even seven years away from their wives and families, and have been fighting in the most hard and rigorous conditions. I believe that it is the duty of commanding officers, so far as the exigencies of the campaign permit, to allow leave as frequently and regularly as possible. That raises another problem. There was a supplementary Question to-day about leave centres. One found from time to time a soldier with an accumulation of pay coming in from the desert after many months and falling by the wayside and —to put it in his own language —spending the rest of his leave in "the cooler." To obviate those difficulties there were set up before I left one leave centre in Egypt and one in Palestine. They should be greatly encouraged. One is asked from time to time about leave home from the Middle East and that area. I fully realise the difficulties, and I do not ask too much. Indeed, the 123 Prime Minister permitted me to mention this matter to him when he was last in Egypt. One realises that, in spite of the inspiring news as to the U-boat situation now, difficulties still exist. All I urge is that as circumstances improve and communications are eased, the question of home leave will be considered. I see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has come in. I say again, as I said when I began my observations, that they are directed to the maintenance of the morale of the troops.
I come to the question of pay. A 6d increase was granted in the early days, but many hon. Members will understand the feeling which exists when a British soldier sees the soldiers of other Allied armies so much better off than he is. In spite of the increase, I would suggest, for the consideration of my right hon. Friend and others, that the pay of a private soldier is still exceedingly slender. As far as comforts generally are concerned, one is asked very often what is best to send to troops overseas. That question can easily be answered. The answer is, Books, magazines and literature of all kinds. I asked a Question shortly before the Recess in regard to the availability of supplies from N.A.A.F.I. to men overseas. The ordinary soldier has to keep himself clean, and he is expected to buy cleaning materials in many of these places. If there is no supply in N.A.A.F.I. the soldier is required to go to the local retailer for his purchases, and that which might perhaps cost 4d. at the N.A.A.F.I. is. 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the shops. Provided it is possible to keep N.A.A.F.I. supplied there is no reason why our men should be preyed upon in that way. I asked another Question of a similar nature in that regard as to whether the provost staff were using their powers to the satisfaction of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. If a retailer or a restaurant or hotel keeper charges exorbitant costs to the soldier his premises should be put out of bounds. The provost staff should deal with the matter in that way.
Having said that with regard to a few of the matters which I strongly feel will help to maintain the high morale of our fighting men, I wish to turn to two other 124 subjects which are germane and are present problems. The first is the vexed and difficult problem of demobilisation, It is a present problem for reasons which must be apparent to all of us. I fully realise that one cannot expect a crystallised plan at this stage. That must wait until the conditions obtaining after the war are ascertained but the wide principles underlying the plan of demobilisation can be arrived at now and profitably made known. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has said that length of service will be one consideration. I hope also that length of service overseas will be a consideration. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio I think has said that he will consider the matter, and I hope that before long he will be able to say that he will agree to these considerations being taken into account in the plan which is ultimately arrived at. The Government, in deciding their plan, should be guided from the human standpoint and not merely from the standpoint of expediency. All the fighting services, and those overseas perhaps in particular, have merited this human attitude.
I must repeat something I have already said in this House. When the war is over most of us must agree that, in conjunction with our Allies, we must police and control wide areas of the world. I strongly hold the view that those who have served during long years and borne the heat and burden of the day should not be called upon for that service and I have urged my right bon. Friend to consider, and he agreed to do so, the project of calling now for volunteers from all the Services, and indeed from civilian life, to undertake that task, offering them generous terms. All the heads of the Services have for the moment rejected that plan but they have answered me by saying that they are not prepared to accept it now. I take hope from the word "now" and trust that it may be accepted in the future.
Following demobilisation, there is the wide problem of rehabilitation, and from the medical angle I am thinking of the many and tragic nervous cases which I myself have seen, I hope that treatment will be liberally allowed at the end of the War to those who have suffered in that way. I hope also that the completion of training and the retraining of men for 125 industry will be undertaken by the Government and, most important of all, that unemployment will be avoided. This House in my view should be more widely and fully informed of the steps which are being taken to tackle this problem. We are told that committees are sitting and people are considering this question, as, of course, they must, but we should be told of their progress as indeed should those who may benefit from their deliberations.
I hope that the House will not think that in my last two points—demobilisation and rehabilitation—I am asking the Government to leap before they come to the fence. I realise that the first object is to get the war won, and won as quickly as possible, but there are some matters which must be considered now with regard to the post-war period. We cannot hope to see the vast edifice of reconstruction rise complete until maybe long after the war but the foundations can and must be well and truly laid now.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
How long is this war going to last? What kind of peace is going to come out of the war? These questions are being asked in every part of the country. To these questions I will answer and say that the termination of the war and the character of the peace will be determined by the faithful and energetic carrying-out of our alliance with the Soviet Union. I do not hesitate to say that the relations at the present time do not seem to be of the best character. I do not think that the speech we have had from the Prime Minister to-day will be conducive to the bettering of the strained relations. The Prime Minister himself, speaking some time ago, said that a protracted war, wearing down and boring the democratic peoples, and the possibility of a patched-up peace, was the one great hope of the Nazis. Yet the one thing we have had from him and some of those associated with him is this idea of a protracted war, the very thing the Nazis desire. Let us take the Italian situation. A month ago the people of this country were jubilant. When Mussolini and Fascism collapsed in Italy there was a great opportunity. What for? It was a great opportunity for bringing the great anti-Nazi forces in Italy into association with our Armies, and, as a consequence, getting possessing of Italy. The Prime Minister said that there was no delay, but the whole of his argument 126 showed that there had been delay. It was on 25th July that Mussolini collapsed, and it was about 18th August that the Prime Minister sent a wire to General Alexander. The day that had been decided upon for a landing in Italy was decided before Mussolini collapsed. The collapse of Mussolini and the changed situation in Italy made no difference to the calculations about the day. The Prime Minister told us that the American Air Force had decided to drop paratroops in Rome in order to obtain airfields. A very good decision but taken too late, because before the paratroops could be dropped the Germans had come in and taken possession of the airfields. That was a month after Mussolini fell. Up there in the North of Italy there were some of the very best fighters against Fascism in Europe, men and women fighting against it at the risk of their lives, not from the front or back benches of the House of Commons. Many paid the final price. What did we do? Did we, in Milan and Turin, drop paratroops? No, we dropped bombs. Is it not as obvious as anything could be that in the situation that existed, when there was almost complete demoralisation in the Fascist Party in Italy, there must have been a measure of demoralisation among the Nazis? Did we take advantage of that? Did we drop paratroops among the anti-Nazis to take advantage of the bad position the Nazis were in? No. Day after day and week after week the Nazis were able to reorganise and rebuild their forces.
The Prime Minister himself in his speech to-day emphasised the urgent importance of speed. Take the situation that exists on the Eastern Front at the present time, where there are over 200 divisions of enemy troops. The Prime Minister himself estimated the number at 230 divisions. The Nazis are tied up on the Eastern Front and cannot take men away. The Polish officer who led his men out of Russia to Persia rather than fight against the Germans and who said that 50 to 60 enemy divisions have been taken away from the Eastern Front is simply raving. It is utterly impossible in the situation that exists for the Germans to take away any number of men from the Eastern Front. It is taking them all their time to keep their army organised. All this talk about a third front and the rest of it is also nonsensical. Everybody understands that 127 Hitler and the German military chiefs, when they talk about a war on two fronts being avoided at all costs, mean a front in Eastern Europe and a front in Western Europe. During the last war there were two fronts, but there was a whole lot of fighting in the Mediterranean and all over the globe. Never at any time did anyone have any illusions as to what the two fronts were. If we had a front opened on the West—
§ Mr. Gallacher
The answer to that question would not be in the public interest. It is a childish question. Everyone understands what is meant by an invasion. If we had an invasion in the West, an offensive, in co-operation with the Red Army, then the Nazi armies would be in a position where they would have to take the risk of withdrawing from the East, leaving themselves open to a folding up, a destruction in that area. It is very bad that I should make interjections when the Prime Minister or any other Member is speaking. I always make resolutions after I have done it that I will never do it again, but when I made an interjection to-day it was no answer for the Prime Minister to say that the Government will never accept the advice of Communists. [HON. MEMBERS: "British Communists."] Yes, British Communists.
§ Mr. Magnay
The Prime Minister, I think, made one mistake. He said "British Communists," but the hon. Member is the only one.
§ Mr. Gallacher
That represents the infantile type of mind it is impossible to get down to. If some of the hon. Member's associates would boost him a little bit, we could perhaps see what he is getting at. The Prime Minister did not deal with the point I raised by making an offensive remark about British Communists. It was an attack which he has used so often and which all his stooges around him have used.
In July, 1940, just after Dunkirk, I made a speech in the House about the situation that faced us then. I have a copy of it here from Hansard, if anybody wants to read it. I then defined the policy of the Communist Party, and I said that on a recent Sunday at a great demon- 128 stration in Glasgow I had aroused the workers to a terrific pitch against Fascism and Hitlerism, and that I had drawn attention to the fact that we had been able to keep Mosley out of Glasgow, and while there was one stone standing on another we would never tolerate Hitler coming into Glasgow. It is a fabrication that we were not prepared to defend the country. I said time after time that, if there was an invasion, there would be no better fighters defending the towns and villages and beaches of the country than the Communists. But that by the way. If we had an offensive in Western Europe, we should get a situation in which the war would be ended at the earliest moment with a minimum of sacrifice of our lads and of the people of this country and of the people of Europe. Every delay in this effective action does not assist us. It assists Hitler.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Does the hon. Member recognise that in 1940 in the workshops the biggest resistance to the war effort was offered by the Communists?
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, I do not recognise it. [An HON MEMBER: "It is true."] It is not true. I can show from Hansard the line that I was taking at that time, and no one has ever accused me of taking a stand in the House different from that of my party, and no one can.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
What is the use of codding the people here? You could not cod the people outside. You wanted to down tools.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The House will see the direction from which support for the Tories is coming. We want to shorten the war, with the minimum of sacrifice for our lads and for the people of this country and of Europe. The Prime Minister affected to be very scornful of those who were for a second front. In the spring of last year he spoke about the new opportunities that were provided to us by the undreamt-of events in the Soviet Union. We are told he is a great military expert. Some of the hon. Members behind me were sneering at the audacity of such an insignificant individual as myself trying to speak in the presence of the Prime Minister. He may know a lot about technicalities. He certainly knows a whole lot more about the technicalities 129 than I do, but judgment is another matter. Last spring he talked of the undreamt-of events in the Soviet Union because the Red Army had defeated the Germans before Moscow and driven them back. If these were undreamt-of events and he was not expecting anything of the sort, if, on the contrary, he expected the defeat of the Red Army, what possibility of co-operation was there at that time? He followed that up by saying that we must take the necessary action to draw some of the weight off the Red Army. In the summer the Foreign Secretary told us he had had meetings with M. Molotov and that they had come to an agreement on all questions, including a second front in Europe in 1942. The Prime Minister went to Casablanca and met President Roosevelt. The Prime Minister said they surveyed the whole situation and took decisions which would ensure that some of the heavy weight would be taken off the Soviet Union. It is not a question of saving the Soviet Union—the Red Army can do that job—but it is a question of a protracted war and unspeakable sacrifice for the people of the country, or of the necessary military collaboration which will bring it to the speediest possible conclusion.
The Prime Minister discussed the situation with President Roosevelt at Washington in May and made the decision that they would use all their forces to get Italy out of the war before the end of 1943. What sort of judgment is it that is looking to the end of 1943 when Italy was in the process of collapse, while they were talking, when all of us should have understood that and been prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure that all the forces that could be gathered together in Italy were mobilised for co-operation with our Armies? That situation should have been considered. A year ago the Prime Minister looked at the situation and saw the possibility of Rommel going into Cairo and Alexandria. He saw the Nazi armies on the Eastern front going through the Caucasus, taking Baku oil, Iraq and Persian oil, and he then went to Moscow, and Marshal Stalin told him where and when the Red Army was going to stop the Nazis, and what they were going to do after they had stopped them. There you see how highly developed plans were carefully worked out—according to the Prime Minister's own statement. What is holding up the 130 offensive in the West? Nobody questions the strength of the armaments or the courage and endurance of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, and merchant seamen, and that applies to the Allies as a whole in the Mediterranean and particularly to the Eighth Army. No one would question the place that the Eighth Army has in the affections of the people of this country. In the early stages there was lack of confidence in the strength of our great Ally—all the time we were looking for the defeat of the Soviet Union. If there is no confidence, there can be no co-operation.
The Prime Minister now says that we are going to determine our actions by military judgments and not by politics. There is, however, a whole lot of politics coming into it. A lot of people in this country are concerned lest as a result of military co-operation with the Soviet Union, the Nazi armies will be wiped out and the Left forces will get control in Europe, and they are doing everything possible to hold back such military cooperation. It is because of the political outlook of the Government that we get so much attention to the Darlans and the Badoglios and so little attention to the real anti-Fascist forces in the different countries. We forget sometimes that the fifth column in this country did not go to prison when Mosley went to prison. There are strong forces that would like to get a patched-up peace with Fascism as a preliminary to getting Fascism developed in this country. We do not talk about it much in this House, but they talk about it in the workshops, and you cannot dissociate the discontent, the irritation and the frustration in the workshops from the lack of effective drive in military co-operation for bringing about an early end to the war. If you go round the workshops, you 'hear men saying, "These men, the employers, are not caring about whether the war is won or not."
I came here three weeks ago after writing to the heads of the various Departments, including the Minister of Labour and the Leader of the House, to try and see some of the Ministers and tell them about the terrible situation that exists on the Clyde. I could not see any of the Ministers, but I saw the assistant to the Minister of Labour and one or two officials of the other Departments. I placed before them the facts of the dangerous, explosive situation that existed, and 131 I pleaded that some of the Ministers should meet the trade union officials and representatives of the men to discuss the situation and get their problems and difficulties sorted out. The situation is very serious and cannot be dissociated from the feeling that exists that there is no real desire, no real expression of a desire, to bring the war to an early end and to prosecute it in such a way, in co-operation with the Soviet Union, that an early end will be realised. There is a strong feeling on the Clyde and elsewhere that the employers are now more concerned about after the war than they are about' production for finishing the war.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Then why have the shipwrights on the Clyde gone on strike? The whole of the Clyde is in turmoil. Ask any of the men and the trade union officials, and they will tell you that the employers are adopting an entirely different attitude now. It is a hard attitude, and they are not prepared to make concessions or even to discuss concessions. Nine months ago the shipwrights put in an application for a change in wage rates—they are getting at present £4 7s. 6d. a week—and the Minister of Labour said, "Leave it to the employers and the trade unions to negotiate." They have now been negotiating for nine months. The boilermakers put in a claim 18 months ago, and the negotiations are still going on.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am pointing out the actual situation. I came to London to get some of the Ministers to meet trade union officials and the workers, to have a frank discussion with them.
§ Mr. Baxter
The hon. Gentleman will find a good deal of sympathy in the military sense with his attitude towards helping Russia. A moment ago he was talking about employers standing in the way of the war effort and the workers straining at the leash, and the next moment he told us that the workers are 132 dissatisfied with their pay and go out on strike. Who is stopping the war effort—the workers or the employers?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not making an appeal to you to help Russia. I have said already that the Red Army is capable of defending Russia. I have always said that. I want to help the people of this country and the people of Europe, for, as the Prime Minister said, a protracted war is in the interests of the Nazis. There is not a man or woman who does not want to see the war ended at the earliest moment, and the only way to bring an early end to the war is full-blooded military co-operation with the Red Army. The workers, however, feel that there is no real drive made to end the war and that the employers are not concerned about production for the winning of the war but are very concerned about post-war conditions and getting a situation in which they have full control of their industries, with an ill-paid working class. Nine months ago the shipwrights made an appeal for an increase of wages. If the employers gave them an increase, it would not take a penny off their profits, although it might take something off the Excess Profits Tax. Why do they not give an increase of wages? Because if they did so, while it would not affect their profits now it might affect the relations between workers and employers when the war is over. I read in the "Sketch" several letters about miners in Nottinghamshire suggesting that miners and workers generally should be treated the same as the lads in the Army and that military law should be applied.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Do any Members suggest that military law should be applied to the employers? How many employers would hold their positions as commanders in industry under military law? They would be thrown out wholesale for being useless and incompetent, and a whole lot would meet with a worse fate for deliberate obstruction and sabotaging the efforts of the workers. The Prime Minister, as leader of the war effort in this country, has in general the confidence of the House and the country, but however great his qualities, he cannot be allowed to overshadow or overawe the ordinary Member of Parliament; the latter has his 133 contribution to make. The House should accept its responsibilities. The Government around the Prime Minister should be strengthened. More Labour and progressive elements ought to brought into the Government. The people of the country are well ahead of the Conservative Party politically, and people who are advanced politically ought not to have a Government dominated by backward Conservatives. If there were wholehearted military and political co-operation with the Soviet Union, it would express itself in an offensive in the West. A Government that took that course would be able to restore the confidence of the great mass of the workers, who are at present disturbed, and would also be able to bring this terrible war to a speedy end. Before the winter is out this war can be won. That is the opinion of those who have a high knowledge and high standing in military affairs. If we can get a strengthened Government that will carry out a 100 per cent. policy of co-operation with the Soviet Union, we can bring the war to an early end, set free the peoples of Europe, and set the feet of the:people of this country on the way to a higher and better life.
§ Vice- Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
I very much regret, as I am sure other hon. Members also regret, the speech of the Hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). He thought fit to insult the employers of this country by saying they were not concerned with production for the prosecution of this war, but only with what was to happen after the war. It was a mean and most disgraceful thing to say. I wish to speak on a subject which concerns the welfare and contentment of the seamen in the Merchant Navy, and one, therefore, which in my opinion, has a very direct bearing on the prosecution of the war. I am raising the question of the proposed substitution by the Ministry of War Transport of a "coupon system" for the distribution of war comforts to the Merchant Navy, in place of the existing system of distribution through voluntary organisations and under regulations by the President of the Board of Trade, which all the voluntary organisations have signed an agreement to carry out. I am convinced that this proposed coupon system is a totally unnecessary and thoroughly bad one, and not in the interests of merchant seamen. This 134 coupon system for the distribution of comforts which are so necessary to our merchant seamen, to whom we owe an un payable debt, is not in force in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, and therefore it is discriminatory against the seamen of the Merchant Navy. It is my belief that the Admiral in charge of the distribution of comforts for the men of the Navy would, if he were asked for his opinion on the coupon system, definitely turn it down. I suggest that the Minister should ask his advice, because he has vast experience in this matter.
At present, the distribution of comforts to the men of the Merchant Navy is carried out by voluntary organisations under Board of Trade regulations. They have to obtain the signature of the master or a responsible officer on board before they issue these comforts to the men. The organisations also have to work in close co-operation to prevent waste and overlapping. There is also a stipulation that if a man gets a certificate saying that he is allowed to draw individual garments ashore, he shall be permitted to do so. Those are the safeguards in force to prevent waste and overlapping. This voluntary system for the collection and distribution of these comforts has been built up over the last four years. The source of supply is provided by the numerous knitting parties and individual knitters throughout the country, and immense assistance is given to the work by Canada and Australia in particular, for they have liberally responded to the appeals for donations and gifts in kind.
Whatever is done to prevent waste and overlapping it is of the utmost importance that we should retain these voluntary organisations. I state without fear of contradiction that if we have a coupon system run by a Government Department, we shall not get the voluntary effort we have at present. It will be said that the Government are taking over the matter under a coupon system and the Government should be left to get on with it. The seaman himself when he has a coupon, will consider that he has a right to comforts and if he does not get them, there will be trouble and discontent.
There is another important point. As with all voluntary work, there is a definite personal touch, and link, between those who voluntarily give their time and their money to provide these comforts and the 135 men who receive them. It is an important psychological factor as regards both the donors and the men, and in a Government organisation that personal touch will not exist. I know something of the work of the Merchant Navy Comforts Service, because I happen to be chairman of a fund to assist mercantile marine comforts. It was started in January, 1940, and has sent to the Merchant Navy Comforts Service well over 100,000 comforts—not very much perhaps but enough to entitle me to speak about this great organisation. They are responsible for collecting and distributing 78 per cent. of the total warm comforts issued to-day to the seamen of the Merchant Navy. They have religiously carried out the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade, and by that distribution have prevented waste and overlapping. I feel sure that the remaining 22 per cent. has also been distributed in the main in accordance with Board of Trade regulations.
Now the Ministry of War Transport says that on account of waste and unfair distribution, a new system must be introduced. I have endeavoured to procure evidence in support of that accusation but I have failed to obtain it. I asked the Minister personally, but I did not get it. Surely evidence should be produced. I would ask the Minister which, if any, of the voluntary organisations is responsible for the waste and the unfair distribution? Is it known whether any of those who are authorised by the President of the Board of Trade have not carried out their obligations? If so, what action was taken by the Ministry concerned? As to the statement by the Minister of War Transport that there had been unfair distribution, and that it was his chief concern to see fair play between the various societies distributing comforts, what specific instances can he produce to justify the statement that there has been anything but fair play? Surely the efforts of everybody should be concerned not merely with the question of unfair distribution, but primarily with the interests of the seamen. There is one very important point, which is that the National Union of Seamen has not made any report as to unfairness of distribution of comforts to its men.
I would ask the Minister where his evidence comes from. Will he tell us? Before scrapping the existing system run by 136 voluntary organisations, which have functioned for nearly four years—a system which, by and large, has been very efficient and satisfactory—and substituting an organisation by coupons such as he proposes, a far better case should be made out by the Minister and supported by facts. What is this coupon system? It is proposed to associate or tack on to the coupons provided already to the Merchant Seamen for clothes, other coupons for procuring comforts. I can see no resemblance whatever between buying clothes in a shop and being issued with free garments from the public in the form of warm comforts. In many cases individual donors of the comforts have already surrendered their own coupons to buy the wool for the comforts. If the Merchant Seamen have to give up coupons for these comforts, it will mean that two lots of coupons will be given up for the same article, which is not a correct thing to do.
It is proposed that the seamen should be issued with 16 coupons a year in order to obtain the comforts to keep them warm at night at sea. That number will not give the seamen the same comforts as men get in the Royal Navy. Does the Minister think that merchant seamen are less deserving in this respect than seamen in the Royal Navy? The 16 coupons can be used either for comforts, or for buying clothes in the shops. A man with a family of three or four children who knows the great difficulty the mothers have in keeping the children properly shod, and clad, when he gets his 16 coupons for comforts will, I know, sacrifice them in order to buy clothes for his children. He will do without comforts for himself. It is a most monstrous arrangement and I cannot believe that the Government in order to save wool or waste would acquiesce in such a procedure, but that is what the Minister of War Transport will make possible by this coupon system.
No arrangements are being made under the scheme to have a reserve of comforts on board. Suppose a man loses a pullover from the clothes line on board, or wears out his socks, stockings or gloves, he cannot get a replacement; he will have to wait for his next Yearly issue of 16 coupons. Meanwhile he will have to go without. That is a poor look-out for the merchant seaman. A man in the Navy could go to the officer on board and get another garment but that does not apply to the merchant seaman. What is to be 137 the effect on seamen of Allied nationalities? Are they also to have comfort coupons? I can imagine great difficulties if all the foreign seamen have to obtain comforts by coupons. Under the existing distribution they get comforts in exactly the same way as do our own men. There is no doubt of their immense appreciation, judging by the letters received, of those free gifts from the British public, which is a matter of some importance in the fostering of good relations between various, foreign countries and ourselves. What is the amount of saving expected to be realised by the coupon system? Is it really considered that the merchant seaman will keep his coupons safely locked away, and yet always handy when wants to use them? Is it not more likely that in one way or another he may be induced to part with them, and that they will not be used for the purpose for which they are issued, for comforts for himself? Of course it is. He will in many cases get rid of his coupons. There is not the slightest question about that.
The National Union of Seamen, a body representing seamen and one which ought to know, is definitely opposed to the introduction of this coupon system. The Merchant Navy Comforts Service collects and distributes 78 per cent. of the total comforts of the Merchant Navy. It has an immense voluntary organisation with branches in Cardiff, Glasgow and Liverpool, and comforts service depots at South Shields, Dundee, Hull, Leith, London, Manchester, Newport and Swansea and in addition sub-depots in Birmingham, Cheltenham and Camberley. This immense organisation has definitely informed the Minister of War Transport that it cannot continue its work of distribution of comforts under a coupon scheme and that the comforts side of its work will have to be discontinued altogether if the coupon scheme is introduced.
I wonder whether the Minister of War Transport: realises the significance of that statement. I would ask the Minister what organisation he has to put in the place of these voluntary organisations? I believe I am correct in saying that he has none at all. Therefore, he will have to set up a completely new organisation. That will absorb man and woman-power, and we are more hard pressed for man and 138 woman-power in the country to-day than for anything else. So I trust that the Minister of Labour who is concerned in this, will look into the matter. I would ask the Ministry how long it will take them to set up this special organisation, which does not exist at the present time?
The scheme will also involve the Chancellor of the Exchequer in payments to the people in this organisation and will cost the country a considerable sum for work which is at present done for nothing, by the voluntary organisations. If it is desired to strengthen the control and safeguards to prevent waste and overlapping and the improper use of comforts when issued, then instead of the proposed coupon system I suggest that the Minister should carry out the procedure which is carried out in the Navy at the present time. It could and should be introduced. That would give the Government such control and such safeguards as they desire, and at the same time would enable the vast organisations of these voluntary bodies to continue its estimable work.
It has been said in another place, that the system in force in His Majesty's Navy could not be carried out in the Merchant Navy, because the officers could not undertake the duty, that the navigating officers, on whom the task would fall, are opposed to such a duty being imposed upon them. I fully realise the immensely hard work these officers have to carry out, especially in wartime, possibly with the number of officers less than it was before. Notwithstanding that I find it very hard to accept that statement. I am certain that the officers of the Merchant Navy are just as much concerned with the welfare and contentment of their men as officers in His Majesty's Navy. Nevertheless, if this scheme cannot be carried out on board the ships it can still be put into force quite easily without imposing this task on the ships' officers if the Government will utilise the port welfare officers belonging to the Ministry of Labour working in conjunction with the voluntary organisations, and utilising them to the full. The same procedure could be easily adopted. These welfare officers in a general way discharge the same duties, for the men of the Merchant Navy, as the port amenities liaison officers do for the Royal Navy, and are 139 therefore admirably fitted to undertake this work at the home ports. They are there in being. The Minister of War Transport who proposes to bring in this coupons scheme has no such organisation to carry out this work. In fact, it is right to say that the Ministry of War Transport is not concerned with this type of work at all. It has nothing to do with it.
I therefore beg the Minister of War Transport before this scheme is finally adopted to give further consideration to it, in view of the many strong and justifiable objections to it, and the alternative —the much better alternative, I venture to suggest—which I have just proposed. As a first step, I ask the Minister of War Transport whether he will agree to a conference between the Port Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour and representatives of the "Merchant Navy Comforts Service," who are now responsible for 78 per cent. of the total distribution of comforts, with a view to discussing the machinery which will be necessary to carry out a controlled distribution of comforts to the Merchant Navy. At a conference held at the Board of Trade on 4th August at which I was present, and at which there was also present a representative of the Ministry of War Transport, this proposal was agreed to, but we were informed that before it could take place the Minister of War Transport would have to give his sanction. A letter was written to him on 4th August asking for his sanction. He has never given it. He has never answered the letter and I wonder why. Not much co-operation there, or to evolve a practical scheme for the distribution of these comforts.
I know that this question has been under consideration for some time, but in the interests of tie seamen I submit that it would be better to spend a little more time on it, instead of forcing this coupon system on the seamen, and thereby eliminating the largest organisation for the collection and distribution of comforts in the country, which is all done by voluntary work. If this conference did take place, it would have as its object the best practical scheme, which would ensure the fullest use being made of the existing voluntary organisations, and the best results to the seamen themselves. I think this is a matter of the utmost importance 140 and I trust that full weight will be given to what I have said, and that, as a start, the conference will be agreed to.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
The Prime Minister delighted the House today with the story of a seaman, a mother, a cap and a boy. I also have heard that story, but in a different version, apparently. According to the version I have heard, the port was Naples, not Plymouth; the seaman plunged into the dock and rescued the cap, not the boy, and sent it to the address in the cap. A week later he was accosted in the street by the irate mother, who asked him "Where is the boy?" According to the version of the story which I have heard, it would appear that we have gained great things in Italy but not nearly so much as we might have hoped for. We have indeed gained the cap, but we might have had the boy. I imagine we shall be in a position to establish a line from Naples to Manfredonia and South of that line we can mount an offensive against the Balkans which will liberate the peoples of those countries and enable us to strike a mortal blow against Germany by depriving her of the Rumanian oilfields. These are, indeed, great prizes, but in comparison with what we might have had by a different policy they are only the cap, not the boy. We could have had the whole mainland of Italy. It would have heartened every resistance movement throughout Europe. There would have been revolution in every occupied country on the morrow of this happening. From those plains in Lombardy we could have delivered air attacks against the cities of Saxony that would have had a devastating effect upon German industry and German morale. There will be little disposition now that things are going so well to criticise the conduct of the war; I would like to say, in contrast with some hon. Members that I supported the Prime Minister when things were going badly and such criticism as I have to make is made when things are going well. I feel that our policy in recent months has not been the most effective that we might have had.
I can think of several possible reasons why we have failed to grasp all the prizes which were open to us. The first is that there is not sufficient elasticity in our plans. We know that plans were laid a long time ahead at Casablanca, and it 141 appears that, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, they could not be altered in any particular. We realise that, as the Prime Minister has said, the preparation of a modern offensive calls for an immense assembly of supplies, which must all be in the right order in the right place; but surely, as he hinted in reply to an intervention, it is possible to have several different plans, and there can be variation among them according to the opportunities opened up. I feel that in the past few weeks our leaders have shown less elasticity and resilience in exploiting victory than the Germans did in meeting the desperate emergency which opened before them. If we had known that Sardinia and Corsica would have fallen, as easily as they have done, I feel sure the invasion would have been switched to those islands, instead of to the mainland, as a first stage. With the air cover which could have been provided from those islands we should have been in positions to land at any point on the long exposed Western coastline of Italy and to give effective help to the patriot forces in that country. That is one possible explanation—that the plans were made, the timetable could not be upset, and for that reason we were not able to exploit to the full our opportunities.
A second possible explanation is that we had a faulty appreciation of the situation inside Italy. That is assuredly the case. Those of us who have been trying to convince official circles for a long time past that the Whole Italian nation were not behind Mussolini, that on the contrary Mussolini ruled an apathetic or hostile country with the help of small forces, are gratified by the conversion that has now taken place. That thesis has been wholeheartedly accepted by the Government, but they have been converted only by recent events. They did not believe that a little while ago. I think that if they had done so three months ago, instead of three weeks ago, events might have taken a very different turn. It must certainly be the case that they did not realise that Sardinia would have fallen so easily, or surely they would have sent a sufficient force to take it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] For the reason I have given—that it would afford such excellent air cover to anywhere on the Western coast of Italy. Surprise has been expressed at the welcome received by our troops in Sicily arid on the main- 142 land of Italy. There ought to be no surprise about that. Many people have been trying to rub this in to Government circles for a long time. That is a second possible explanation of our failure to exploit to the full recent events—a faulty appreciation of the military and political situation inside Italy.
There is yet another possible explanation. It may be that we had, or that some persons at least had, a correct appreciation of the political situation inside Italy, but that they were unwilling to cooperate with the revolutionary forces that were liberated inside that country. What are the forces that have come to the surface inside Italy? I am not disposed now to criticise what is called a deal with Badoglio, because it has become obvious that Marshal Badoglio and the King of Italy have had no real influence in Italy in the past six weeks. They have signed the documents, but under the pressure of Allied arms outside and the irresistible pressure of popular forces inside Italy. That was shown by some of the appointments that Badoglio had to make. The dominating forces inside Italy were made plain when it was proposed to publish a newspaper for the industrial masses to take the place of the Lavoro Italiano and it was announced that the joint editors were to represent the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and the Christian Democrats. There are many other indications that the dominating forces inside Italy since the fall of Fascism have been those three parties. Can it be that some of our leaders arc unwilling to cooperate with those forces, that they have not been prepared to give them the moral and material backing which would enable them to turn out the Germans? Far from co-operating with them, we did everything that we should not have done. We set up A.M.G.O.T. in Sicily as a model of what we intended to do. It was installed in the Fascist party headquarters, and there appeared to be very little difference between it and what went before. Instead of giving tommy guns to the revolutionary forces in Italy, we bombed their cities.
We shall be told that this was done in the name of unconditional surrender; but unconditional surrender is not the language of statecraft, it is the language of Buchmanite theology. I cannot conceive why we should have tied our hands with such a formula, which we are semi- 143 officially told meant a surrender without conditions but with terms. It is a piece of mystic abracadabra. I am astonished that we should have allowed it to hamper our political warfare as it has done. The Prime Minister, for all his exhaustive and brilliant speech, has not explained the fact that five precious weeks elapsed between the willingness of the Bagdolio Government to surrender and the acceptance of that surrender. In the meantime, the Germans were able to pour 15 to 20 divisions, some of them highly armoured, into Italy, which altered the whole military situation completely. Now, the patriot forces in Italy might justly feel that they have been let down by the Allied Forces. That will have a serious effect on resistance movements throughout the whole of Europe, because the situation we have seen in Italy will recur in every country where we land, and we shall find exactly the same difficulties confronting us.
I came here prepared to argue at some length that our policy now ought to be to make Italy a partner in the common struggle against Nazi aggression. I am happy to think that I need say nothing on that subject, because the Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that the Government accept that thesis wholeheartedly. I will confine myself, therefore, to some practical suggestions on policy, which would I think further that aim. I submit that we should make it known that we are prepared to supply and equip all Italian forces as they are prepared to take the field against Germany. Secondly, I submit that we should conduct a recruiting campaign among the hundreds of thousands of Italian prisoners in our hands with the object.—
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
Does the than. Member really suggest that the fighting quality of the Italians in this War justifies the labour and material which he proposes should be expended upon them?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am glad that the hon. Member has made that intervention because it enables me to say something which I hope will be useful in his education on this subject. The hon. Member is perfectly right, the Italian forces have not really fought in this war. They saw no reason to fight this country and democracy at the orders of a brutal dictator.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member is now contradicting himself; I do not know which of his remarks to take.
§ Mr. Thomas
I advise the hon. Member to read the War Memoirs of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who visited the battlefield and paid a warm tribute to them, or to consult the President of the Board of Trade, who fought with them, or to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, who also served in Italy, and then he may get a different opinion. As for this war there are fortunately a few examples of the fighting quality of Italian soldiers which will show how they can fight when they are fighting for the right. There is Keren and there was the last stage of the fighting in Tunisia. But, speaking generally, the hon. Member is right. The Italians have not really been fighting in this war because they have been fighting a war which has been hateful to them. Give them a good cause and they will show that they can fight as well as any soldiers. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend is right, the Italian Garibaldian Legion in Spain did some excellent fighting in the Peninsula and notably contributed to the Fascist rout at Guadalajara. My second suggestion, as I said before the interruption, is that we should carry out a recruiting campaign among the hundreds of thousands of Italian prisoners of war in our hands, to raise a force which will be glad to take up arms against Germany. We should have made this our task as far back as 1941, but hitherto it has been impossible to persuade the authorities. I hope they will now undertake it.
The third suggestion I make was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). It is that we should give the fullest facilities for Italian exiles to return to their country. I do not feel disposed to press criticism on the point because the Government have done something in the matter. 145 As the name of Count Sforza has been mentioned, I would like to say something about him especially. There is a tendency in this country to say that the name of Count Sforza means nothing in Italy to-day. To every Italian of my own age the name of Count Sforza is a household word, and from Italy itself evidence has come that he is looked upon as a leader of the liberating forces. One of these points of evidence came in a broadcast from Radio Rome when an intervention he made with Lord Halifax was mentioned. The name of Count Sforza is one which means a great deal to Italians, and I hope the Allied Governments will give him every facility to return to that country. The prime Minister said that he could not speak on behalf of Count Sforza. I think I know his mind, and it would be right for me to say that, if facilities were provided, he would welcome the opportunity of going back. It would be unreasonable to expect that he should go cap-in-hand to the Allied Governments asking as a favour that he should go cap-in-hand to the Allied Governments asking as a favour that he should do so. I would like to see the Foreign Secretary send a telegram to-night, instructing Viscount Halifax to offer Count Sforza facilities for returning. There are other names which will occur to the Foreign Office.
The fourth suggestion I have to make deals with the carrying out of the Prime Minister's pledge that the settlement of Italy's internal affairs will b left to Italy itself. That is a proposition to which we would all assent, but there are various ways of interpreting it. The proper, and indeed only effective, means of carrying out that pledge is to say that we shall prepare the ground in Italy for a constituent assembly. This is the time honoured method of settling constitutional questions in Latin countries, and we ought not to take any steps by any action beforehand which would prejudice the freedom of a constituent assembly. Such an assembly ought to be free to settle the relation between Church and State and also the question whether the Italy of the future is to be a republic or a monarchy. I sincerely trust that we shall not take action which will prejudge either of these questions.
I have one more suggestion to make and this is, perhaps, the most important, as it will probably be the most controversial. I came armed with quotations form 146 the prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary affecting the future of Italian territories. I need not use them because they have been overshadowed by the very serious statement that the Prime Minister made to-day. He said that the Italian Empire had been "irretrievably lost" and a large number of hon. Members opposite cheered this. I would ask whether that is likely to lay the foundation for a stable peace and for bringing Italy back into the family of European Nations. The Colonial Secretary has made it clear that there is no intention of setting up an international government for Colonial territories. The sovereignty of the present sovereign states is to be retained. Therefore, the Italian oversea colonies will not go into any common pool, which,might be a practical ideal, but they are obviously going to be given independence, or are going to be placed under some other nation's sovereignty. Is it practicable to suggest that Libya, for example, is a suitable territory for self-government? If hon. Members opposite believe that, it is a proposition that might have dangerous consequences for their own Imperial philosophy. I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary, when he said that the Senussi would never again be allowed to remain under Italian tyranny, meant to imply that they could be granted self rule.
The possibility seems to be opening out that it is the intention of the United Nations, severally or jointly, to annex the present Italian colonies. That has very serious implications. I would like to remind the Prime Minister of a document—he may have forgotten it now as it is such a long time since he put his name to it—the Atlantic Charter. The first Clause of this Charter states that the United Kingdom and the United States seek no aggrandizement. I feel certain that the Prime Minister's statement to-day, if not rapidly qualified, will be taken throughout the world as further proof of Anglo-Saxon perfidy, of Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy. I hope that is not so; I hope it is not the intention of the United Nations so soon to forget their pledges in the Atlantic Charter and aggrandize themselves by other peoples territories. But there are fears inside Italy that the designs of His Majesty's Government may go very much further. There are fears that the United Kingdom intends to annex Sicily and Sardinia. I hope that very quickly 147 indeed, at the end of the Debate, the Foreign Secretary will be able to deny that story which has been very widely circulated throughout the world and which is the cause of much perturbation inside Italy.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask my hon. Friend a question? I am not out of sympathy with him in what he is saying, but I want to learn what he would wish to be done with the Italian Colonies.
§ Mr. Thomas
What should be done with the Italian colonies depends upon what should be done with all Colonial territories. They should all be brought under some form of international supervision.
§ Mr. Thomas
Abyssinia must become a free country. I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for his intervention to show that this story is untrue. It has been very widely circulated. I will quote a few words from a Stefani message of 28th August:What is the purpose of the British manoeuvres which aim at fomenting a separatist movement in Sicily?
§ Mr. Thomas
No, under Badoglio. The quotation goes on:It does not seem to be very difficult to answer this question, when one considers the objects of the Imperialism of the seas which has always been their policy in the Mediterranean.There have been great fears and I hope the Foreign Secretary's categorical statement will now have equally wide circulation. I have been asked what I would do with the various Italian territories, or former Italian territories, if they were in my disposition. The line I should take is naturally that all Fascist conquests must go. There is no question about that among Italian anti-Fascists. Ethiopia must be restored to freedom. So must Albania. Included in those territories are the Dodecanese, which were never brought under Italian sovereignty until Mussolini appeared. They had been held as a pledge for the fulfilment of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1912 and owing to the rapid 148 incidence of the two Balkan wars and the Great War were still in Italian hands in 1919. Sovereignty was only asserted over them under Mussolini: Count Sforza has, himself, stated categorically:A free Italy would wish that these territories should go to the Greeks. When I speak of the national integrity of Italy I admit that the Dodecanese islands were never an integral part of our country. Mussolini's crime of invading Greece was stupid and unpardonable and the free Italy of to-morrow will gladly concede the Dodecanese to the Greek nation.
§ Mr. Thomas
The question put by Radio Roma on 7th September to the British Government was a perfectly fair one:We ask you, Britain and America, are you prepared to guarantee Italy's 1919 frontiers?That is the question. They fought on our side in the last war and lost 600,000 killed in order to redeem certain territories of theirs from German hands. It would give a very bad impression throughout Italy itself and throughout the world, if there should now be any attempt to sever mainland territories from Italian sovereignty. I submit that this is a fair question and that the frontiers of 1919 are a proper basis for the territorial settlement. It would mean, among other things, Fiume passing out of Italian sovereignty because it was only brought under Italian sovereignty by Mussolini in 1924. The position of Trieste is a little more complicated. Trieste would come within the 1919 frontiers, but its future will obviously depend on what is set up in the Danubian region to take the place of the vacuum that has always been left by the Hapsburg regime. Trieste would be a natural port for any Federation set up in that region. But even then, owing to the predominately Italian character of the town, the Italian flag should still fly over that city. That is the right basis for the territorial settlement which will have to be faced.
But there are even more important questions than territorial boundaries to be faced. If we cannot create a Europe in which it does not greatly matter on which side of a river a man lives, we shall have fought this war in vain. More important still than the territorial question, is the economic settlement that ought to be reached with Italy. There were acute 149 Italian economic problems before this war and they will remain after the war. They are in the nature of things and I submit that it would be in keeping with the Atlantic Charter that there should be generous treatment in two respects. Italy is a country over-populated in comparison with its resources. It has fewer material resources, almost, than any other country in Europe and its net reproductive rate is still about 1.13. The outside world dealt a very heavy blow to Italy after the last war when it virtually stopped all emigration. Before the last war, Italy used to send an average of 500,000 people abroad every year. The number reached 700,000 in 1913. The doors of the outside world were almost closed in 1921 and completely closed in 1924. They have never been reopened.
I suggest that we have a very real duty to try to re-open the doors of emigration. As the Prime Minister reminded us, 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people of Italian descent have made their home in the United States and have proved very useful members of that community. Many are now in the United States Forces liberating their home land. Many Italians also have made themselves most valuable members of the Commonwealth of Australia, especially in Queensland. I submit, therefore, that the United Nations should try to concert some plan for reopening the doors of the world to Italian emigration. There is one other method of dealing with a population which is surplus in relation to its resources, and that is industrialisation. Italy needs more industrialisation badly. She has very willing workers and has great inventive skill, but she has no raw materials. When we consider the automobile industry which Italy has built up without any steel to make the cars, virtually no coal to smelt the steel and no oil to put into the finished cars, it is a remarkable achievement. When the war comes to an end, there will have to be big international schemes of industrialisation. It would be in keeping with wise statecraft and with the Atlantic Charter, that Italy should get a fair measure of that industrialisation and that we should not make any attempt to cripple her industries permanently.
On the morrow of a great victory, there is always an outrush of sadistic impulses 150 in some quarters. It is far more difficult to conduct oneself properly in victory than in defeat. In this country we have a great responsibility to see that we bear ourselves as well in the days of victory as we did in those of defeat. It has ever been the genius of this country to pursue a generous policy towards a defeated foe. I suggest that it would be not only in the general interest of European peace but in the highest interest of this country that we should do our best, by generous treatment, to win back Italy, liberated from the taint of Fascism, to the comity of nations.
§ Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) makes me think of a gymnastic version of St. Athanasius—obscure, fanatical, dogmatic and usually in a minority of one, the hon. Member who spoke last seems to me to be qualifying to be the doctor Haushofer of the free Italian movement. I will not follow him in his geo-political excursions except to refer to his criticism of the strategic leadership of the United Nations. It seemed very odd to accuse General Eisenhower and General Alexander after all the risks they have taken of being lacking in enterprise. I think the fundamental error of his ideas is to over estimate the value of civil commotion and guerilla warfare under modern conditions. The really important thing as the Prime Minister said was to get the Italian Fleet, and only the legitimate Government who commanded the obedience of the Armed Forces could have produced that result.
I think I am the only Member present at the moment who has served on the Mediterranean station, and I think the House will bear with me if I pay a tribute to the man by whom above all this wonderful result has been achieved, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham. From the moment that he took over command of the Mediterranean station every one of us, whether immediately under his command afloat or in more obscure posts ashore, felt that we had a leader who was one of the great fighting admirals that the British Navy has produced. He showed not only the qualities of a great fighting admiral, but he has a knowledge of the details of the Mediterranean Sea unequalled by anyone in the Royal Navy. Apart from all the battles fought against the Italian battle fleet, we should 151 pay tribute to his leadership in those dark days of Crete when he accepted enormous risks and severe casualties but by doing it saved the troops involved, established an unbreakable comradeship between the Army and Navy and maintained the confidence of every man serving under him. It is right also to pay tribute to the Board of Admiralty and to the War Cabinet who accepted those risks and replaced those losses. I am sure that every one who has served under him shares the hope that he will never in this war go to an office desk but will always be leading His Majesty's Fleet at sea.
And in looking back upon the naval war in the Mediterranean, I think a tribute should be paid to the officers of His Majesty's submarines. I do not know whether the House realises the difference in the conditions under which German and British submarines have worked. The Atlantic convoys have been, from the point of view of the submariner, an ideal target. They are at sea for many days during which they can be located and hunted down. They have consisted of large numbers of merchant ships and very few escorts and up till recently they have had no air protection. And the Atlantic is an opaque and deep ocean, ideal for submarines. All these conditions were reversed in the Mediterranean. There the clear water makes it most difficult for the submarines to operate. The Italian convoys consisted of a few merchant ships with heavy surface escort and always an air cover; always able to do a short journey mainly under cover of night. The dice were loaded in every respect against the British submarine and yet they managed to maintain a steady toll of sinkings and losses of men and material, which were one of the decisive forces in the African victory and, like the Peninsular War, a running sore in the side of the enemy. They suffered severe and tragic losses and at this historic moment when the powerful Italian Fleet has surrendered itself I think their achievements should be publicly remembered in the House.
I would now venture to say one word about A.M.G.O.T. Most of us who served in the Middle East at one time or another took part in occupying enemy territory, and there are certain practical lessons which if hon. Members have not seen 152 themselves they can easily understand by an effort of the imagination. When troops come into a town to occupy it, the main things are to concentrate on the pursuit of the beaten enemy, to organise against counter-attacks, to devote every possible man to pursuing the battle and to divert as few men as possible to internal security in the towns occupied. For those reasons it is against our interest that there should be civil disorder and commotion in the occupied areas. Similarly, it is against our interest that there should be any form of looting, because the population has to be fed and if you interfere with the machinery of food distribution, it means that British rations and British lorries have to be diverted to feed the civilian population instead of supplying our own men.
We want to prevent any fighting soldier having to be diverted by civilian affairs. That is the, practical necessity for having a corps of specialist officers who speak the language of the country, who understand the system of government and of administration and something about the problems involved, to take over and keep order as soon as the troops have come in. When we take over a town there are, of course, a number of pro-United Nations groups who want to be revenged on anti-United Nation groups. There are also a number of tenants who are looking for an opportunity to shoot their landlords and a number of landlords who want to shoot their tenants. There are a number of gentlemen who have been waiting for a long time to throw a brick into the jeweller's shop and steal as much as they can in the ensuing commotion. There are a number of gentlemen who have personal spites of a matrimonial nature which they would take the opportunity of remedying under the cover of disorder. There is an apocryphal story that during the Johannesburg riots the head of a famous firm was seen at the window of his office with a sporting rifle shooting at his partners as they came up the street. That is an example of the way civil commotion can be applied to private ends.
There are usually fifth columnists left behind whose job it is to promote civil disorder and so delay the pursuing troops. The first thing we have to get clearly into our heads is that order is a direct military advantage to our troops when they enter a place. When they get in they usually 153 find that the leading anti-British elements in the administration have gone. If there are any notorious ones left behind, it is for the civil administration to get them out, beginning from the top down. When they start on that process they need experts, because it is not everybody who says to them, "Lord, Lord," who are really our friends. The sole interest of most of the minor officials in the Mediterranean countries is what the French call "beef steak." Their main interest is a few piastres or lire a month, and they are perfectly willing to become competent traffic controllers or competent in working the harbour or in working wherever they happen to be needed. That is the strong justification for an organisation such as A.M.G.O.T. Once it is working we can get the two advantages which you can give to Europe, stability and liberty. You cannot hold a general election in the middle of a campaign.
§ Mr. Astor
If the hon. Gentleman likes to try and hold one in Naples to-day, he will find it very interesting and comparable to any of his best election meetings. A.M.G.O.T. is nothing new. It is the lineal successor to O.E.T.A.—Occupied Enemy Territory Administration. Nobody has noticed, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War usually hides the light of his good works under a rather prickly bushel, the admirable work that O.E.T.A. did in Ethiopia.. It came in after the troops, it prevented civil commotion, it eliminated the enemy elements, and it got the country on its feet economically and handed it over completely to the proper Government. I do not think anybody can criticise the way O.E.T.A. worked in putting Ethiopia on its feet. The head of that administration was Lord Rennell of Rodd, and his record there is the justification for his going to do the job in Italy.
We have heard with interest of the Mediterranean Commission, and I hope that if it is to go beyond the three great Powers of America, Russia and Great Britain, and if we are to have representatives of the French Committee upon it, the Greek and Yugoslav Governments will be represented also. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will be able to say a word on the subject. British leadership is going 154 to be the key to Europe. So far as I have been able to observe, all those workers of other nations which have been conscripted to go to Germany to work during the war in German factories have not been internationalised, but they will go back to their own countries more fiercely national than they were before the war. Greeks and Yugoslavs who have worked in Germany will go back more determined than ever to be Greeks and Yugoslavs. We must expect that every country in Europe will want to recreate its identity as fast as possible. We have no interest in preventing this, because Europe is a mosaic, a. pattern of great value, every country in which has given its quota to European civilisation. But the only country whose leadership will be able to overcome the excesses of fierce nationalism is Great Britain. We are the one country who were their friends during all the period in which they were subjugated. I hope therefore that we will get from the Foreign Secretary soon some more definite ideas as to the post-war organisation of Europe and the system under which this fierce nationalism will be integrated and fitted in to a general pattern.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid (St. Marylebone)
We have heard to-day from the Prime Minister that there is for certain to be a three-Power conference and that it is to be in Moscow. I was also glad to have the confirmation of the Press statement that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was to lead the delegation. Physical warfare and especially the second front will loom large, and so will political warfare and no doubt in particular the most effective means of undermining the Nazi grip on the German people. This is a question that will be bristling with controversy, such as, Is it any use appealing to the better instincts or at any rate the common sense of the German people, and, if so, can they be trusted after the war? On this topic there are, broadly speaking, two distinct schools of thought. There are those who believe that the majority of Germans are, deep down, good people, at heart anti-Nazi, and that given the opportunity as well as a little education they will keep Germany peaceful for an indefinite period, for they will be strong enough to suppress the bellicose elements within their country that the Prime Minister referred to to-day as "Prussian militarism." The majority of the British Trades Union Council are of 155 that opinion, and there are many in the United States of America who are of the same opinion.
The other school of thought takes an absolutely contrary view, believes that the majority of Germans are bad, inasmuch as that for generations they have had ruthless aggressiveness ingrained into their very systems, and conequently they approve whole-heartedly the Nazi outlook and can never again be trusted to govern themselves. For centuries, they have had a black record, but the culminating wickedness of this war has made them finally forfeit their right to nationhood. Germany as a nation must be eliminated, and until that is done there can be no hope for a lasting peace in the world. A large number of Britons are of that latter opinion, so is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and many Americans are of the same opinion, and I am intrigued to observe that the President of the United States, at a dinner that he recently gave to General Giraud when he was in America, referred to the "elimination of Germany" in a manner that left no doubt as to his meaning. Today I thought for one moment that the Prime Minister was about to go as far, but having said that "Prussian militarism" and all German tyranny must be obliterated he stopped short, and I, and other Members of the House, have no idea of how this Government or the United Nations intend to stop Prussian militarism bubbling up again in the future. No doubt that will be told us as time goes on.
The diametrically opposed views I have drawn attention to are, in my submission, the ideal fuel not only for trouble within individual countries but for trouble between the United Nations, which, after all, is far more serious, for such disagreements, could, for reasons I am coming to, prolong the war and eventually be the means by which the Germans, though defeated, would subsequently win.
Having previously advocated in this House the taking of no more chances with Germany as a nation, I was labelled in some quarters as an extremist, and I am very glad to see the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) in his place, because on that occasion he said that that view I expressed was "inane." He will recol- 156 lect, no doubt, that considerable publicity was given on the radio and in the Press the following day to that passage of words between him and myself, and as a result by various means it was brought home to me that there was a mass of opinion in this country that considers it will be inane if after this war we do not deal with Germany in an extreme manner, and that it would also be inane if we were to be guided by wishy-washy idealists such as is typified by the noble Lord.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Does the hon. and gallant Member think it wishy-washy idealism?
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
I was not referring to the speech of General Smuts. I trust though that I am at any rate sufficiently realistic to admit that it does not matter two hoots what has been planned for post-war Germany either by the British Government or by the American Government or, for that matter, by the noble Lord or myself, unless such plans can be reconciled with what Russia is planning for post-war Europe. That, it seems to me, is the all important factor, and that is something that has not been discussed to-day. What Member of this House could deny that everything points to this, that when this world war is finished Russia will be the dominant factor in Europe? Not only will she have a formidable, victorious fighting machine, on the spot, mark you, but, being at peace with Japan while Great Britain and the U.S.A. are becoming exhausted finishing the war in the Far East, Russia will be recuperated.
With the imminent possibility of a meeting between Russian, British and American leaders that we have heard about today, at which the fate of post-war Germany is sure to form a large part of the agenda, might it not be advisable for us, the representatives of the British people, to examine this problem that is bristling with contrary views and focus our attention on what are the Russian views? We can take it for granted that Stalin is not the kind of man to allow a foreign committee to be set up in Moscow unless he 157 approves of it. Neither would he permit such a committee to issue a manifesto unless he approved of that manifesto. The National Committee of Free Germans in Moscow has issued a manifesto that for some reason that I am at a loss to understand has been given very little prominence in this country. This Kremlin-inspired manifesto, because nobody will doubt it is anything else, is of the utmost importance, because not only does it show clearly the Russian plan for dealing with Germany, but it also has the remarkable feature of drawing together those who think there are sufficient "good" Germans to warrant their being entrusted with the Government of their country after the war and those that think that strong and evil influences will sooner or later after the war inevitably get control, and that therefore Germany will always be a menace and must be eliminated. This manifesto says something which is of considerable interest. It says that if the bona-fide anti-Nazi Germans can rise up and bring the war to a speedy conclusion, Germany can remain a nation and have a Government that will carry out the policy that is given in detail in the manifesto. On the other hand, if the anti-Nazi Germans are so few, so timid, or so weak that they are unable to do anything about the opportunitiy offered to them, what likelihood, asks the manifesto, is there of the so-called "good" Germans being able to control the forces of evil which would assuredly, sooner or later, rise up in Germany after the war seeking double revenge? In other words, if Germany cannot find her soul now, it will be most improbable that she will do so in the future, and consequently no chances can be taken, and she must be eliminated once and for all—that is to say, as a nation, not the inhabitants.
It might interest hon. Members to know the way in which these points are put by the Committee of Free Germans in Moscow, in other words, the Russian policy. The manifesto says:If the German people continue resignedly and submissively to allow themselves to be lead to their doom, not only will their forces be sapped and dwindle with every passing day of the war, but also their guilt will increase. Hitler will then be overthrown only by the force of the coalition armies, but this will signify the end of our national independence.Mark you, this is presumably put out by a Committee of Germans. It goes on to 158 say that it will not only mean the end of their State's existence butthe dismemberment of our Fatherland, and we shall only have ourselves to blame.The following is the same Committee's alternative if anti-Nazi Germans can end the war soon, as to some extent happened in Italy with the anti-Fascists. Germany to remain a nation, with a Government that would carry out the following salient points:The annulment of all laws based on national and racial hatred and of all orders of the Hitlerite regime which are degrading; the annulment of all measures of the Hitlerite authorities directed against freedom and human dignity; the restoration and extension of the political rights and social gains of the working people; freedom of religion, economy, trade and handicrafts.This, mark you, comes from Moscow. It goes on:The guaranteed right to labour and to lawfully acquired property; the restoration of property to its lawful owners plundered by the Fascist rulers; confiscation of the property of those responsible for the war and of the war profiteers; exchange of commodities with other countries as a natural basis for ensuring national welfare; the immediate release of the victims of Hitlerite terror and material compensation for damage caused.That is the tolerant policy inspired from Moscow. Few people could quarrel with it, that is to say, if the Germans are to be allowed to carry out any policy after the war.
It stands to reason that Russia would, for obvious reasons, prefer Germany to remain a nation and become a buffer State, but Russia is realistic enough to appreciate that if such a buffer State developed into a Germany governed by Nazis though no doubt under a different guise, it would be better to do away with the German nation altogether.
I am convinced that events will prove that the Germans must never again be trusted with power. I think that the Russians are inclined to that view, but apparently they want to make quite sure first, and at the same time to provide an opportunity for saving millions of lives and additional years of European devastation and misery. I am of opinion that we should support this Russian-inspired plan. I do not believe that the appeal to Germans will succeed, but that will anyhow have the advantage of shaking those who cling to the "good German" theory. It will have the even greater advantage that it might go a long way 159 to allay the suspicions of the Kremlin about our motives for holding back. Anyhow, what is going on at present is not only ridiculous but is fraught with ominous pitfalls. Few hon. Members realise that the Russians are constantly broadcasting to Germany the manifesto of the Free German Committee, while the only broadcast that we send to Germany on such a subject consists of the bleak and frightening words "unconditional surrender". If we do not want Russia to control Germany after the war, and if we desire to have a say in the matter, we had better drop this "unconditional surrender" cry and synchronise our political warfare with that of the Russians. If it is successful, it will come to exactly the same thing as unconditional surrender, but it will sound far more palatable to frightened or good Germans—or whatever you like to call them.
I think hon. Members will agree that the time has come when we and the Russians should be saying the same things to Germany. It would appear to be most desirable, if it could be arranged at this Three Power Conference, that a joint manifesto of all the United Nations should be plugged on the air. At the same time millions of leaflets saying the same thing could very well be dropped by the hundreds of planes that are going over Germany every week. General Eisenhower offered the Italians in a broadcast honourable capitulation and the right to become a happy country. Surely what has proved sauce for the Italian goose may be sauce for the German gander?
At present one thing is made quite clear to the German people, and it gives them encouragement and assurance of the wrong kind; it is that the Russians are not in agreement with the post-war European policy of the English-speaking nations, and, further, that it would appear that they, the Germans, are offered something out of the wreck by the Russians but that the British and Americans only offer unconditional surrender, followed by an ominous silence. Goebbels tells them that that ominous silence means annihilation and torture, or at best degradation of the worst kind. I would like to ask this question: What would happen if the Germans decided to accept the Russian offer? That opens up an interesting vista!
160 The Russians are no fools, and they are certainly realists. If we support them in this their shrewd attempt to get Germany to capitulate, they, the Russians, are the more likely to join sincerely with us in subsequently keeping the peace in Europe.
To me the pattern of this European mosaic is getting clearer. If it is the intention of our Government to permit Germany after the war to remain a nation —a grave mistake in my opinion—nevertheless if that is inevitable, as a realist I say, let us make capital out of it at once on the chance that lives and devastation may be spared, anyhow in this war. So let us desist from constantly shouting to Germany "unconditional surrender," and substitute something which, though it may come to exactly the same thing, may instead of frightening the masses in Germany into a stiff and lengthy resistance, encourage them to give in the sooner. At the same time, by putting forward a policy that has the blessing of Stalin, we should be removing doubt from his mind concerning the English-speaking nations' post-war plans for Europe, especially for Germany. If the Germans do not attempt to react to such a unanimous offer by the United Nations as the Italians did, the offer of a policy that any decent people of a defeated country would jump at, then surely the legend that the Germans are good at heart will be somewhat discredited, and all realists, whether Russians or members of our British Trades Union Congress, may have to admit that even if there are a few good Germans they will never be strong enough to stop this war or be able to prevent the majority of their race, led by Prussian militarism in some form or another, from eventually seeking revenge and plunging civilisation into a third world war. Consequently if they come to that conclusion then the only practicable alternative that will remain will be "No more Germany, no more war."
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I must refrain from the temptation to follow the hon. and gallant Member in some of his excursions into political philosophy, because I want to keep the few words I am going to say within the rigid framework of the governing military necessities which impose our actions upon us, and of the action which is to be taken, in Italy itself, to uproot and extirpate Fascism. 161 We have had to-day from the Prime Minister an extremely interesting general review of the war situation, a very satisfactory and very encouraging review. I do not complain that the Prime Minister did not enter more fully into the question of extirpating Fascism which is, of course, at the root of the war. But let me remind some hon. Members who have spoken so feelingly about Italy to-day that it was in Italy that a Fascist Party first gained its hold on the people. That is the thing which I think we should remember. I do not, as I say, quarrel with the fact that the Prime Minister did not give us any fuller statement about the extirpation of Fascism, but I think we should remember, when the whole of Italy is under our domination, as it assuredly will be at some not too distant date, that we have still to take measures to prevent the growth of Fascism in that country again.
That is not done merely by having an efficient civil affairs military organisation, A.M.G.O.T. or whatever its name may be. I have nothing to say against A.M.G.O.T. as the civil affairs organisation under military control, which, as an hon. Member on the other side said, does, of course, relieve the Fighting Forces for the work of carrying on the war. But A.M.G.O.T, should, I think, be recognised quite clearly—I hope the Government will give us an assurance on this, as I believe they can—that A.M.G.O.T. is a purely temporary expedient for the purpose of maintaining civil control under war-time conditions, when it could not in fact be maintained by the ordinary civilian methods. I do hope that on the next Sitting Day we may perhaps learn from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who I understand is to reply, some of those conditions of armistice which have not yet been revealed to us, the political and economic conditions, which will have a great deal to do with the question of extirpating Fascism. I do not want us to tie ourselves down to the little details, but I think we ought to make a plan with regard to Italy, which can be applied in other Fascist countries too.
Let us remember that when Germany is conquered, as Italy soon will be, the same problem will arise, but in a more acute form, because of the greater size and the different form of organisation in that country. But it also arises in other countries. It will arise in Hungary and 162 probably in Bulgaria. The Fascist disease is not confined to Italy and Germany and their satellites and certain other nations which will spring to the minds of hon. Members. Fascism is regarded by those who are authorities on South America as the disease of politics in South America. If anyone likes to consult a recent authoritative biography on Simon Bolivar by, I think, Mr. Rourke, he will find the opinion accepted by South American opinion, that the tendency to authoritarian government is the political disease of South America. We can learn best by applying our policy to Italy itself how we are going to cure this disease of Fascism. Obviously, we must suppress Fascist organisations. That has been done in Italy, where the Fascist organisations as such have gone. How far, however, is Marshal Badoglio contaminated with Fascism? How far is the House of Savoy contaminated with Fascism? How far are some others in that country Fascist in sympathy and inclination? A.M.G.O.T. is in charge, but that is a temporary expedient.
We must create conditions—and I have no doubt that A.M.G.O.T. is preparing the way—for a genuine democratic choice of the people, on a plan to suit Italy, not on a British democratic model. It might, for instance, be on the Soviet model. It might be based on Army units and agricultural and factory units. They had something like that in 1924. That might be the method by which Italy most naturally expresses herself. We must also call into consultation the International Federation of Trade Unions, to get their advice as to what was wrong, and what in future will be wrong unless it is changed, in Italian labour conditions. Fascism does not arise out of the natural wickedness of the human heart, but out of the economic, and particularly the labour, conditions that affect large masses of people. It arose in that way in Italy, it arose in that way in Germany, and I believe it may arise in that way in other countries. What are the labour conditions which ought to be changed? The International Trade Union movement ought to be able to advise us on that.
There is another international organisation which ought to have a big say. What are the conditions with regard to labour—the employment of labour, the 163 hours and all kinds of conditions, including the wages—that we ought to lay down for Italy in future? I do not hesitate to go into this amount of detail, because it is essential that we should attempt to lay down a basic foundation of social justice in Italy by getting the International Labour Office to state what the conditions in that country should be. There should also be minimum conditions of health. There, again, we have another international body, the International Health Organisation of the League of Nations, still functioning, although rather scattered at the moment, and still controlling immense stores of information. It has access to very expert scientific opinion. We should ask that body what ought to be the standard of nutrition of the Italians and take steps to see that that standard is provided.
I remember reading some of the earlier accounts of the landing of some of our Forces in Sicily among extremely illiterate and to some extent starving people. Under those conditions in Italy you will always get something like a Fascist growth. There has been established recently by the conference at Hot Springs an international food organisation which has undertaken to make suggestions by which arrangements can be made in all countries of the world for a proper provision of food. If you can do that in Italy—and Italy, I believe, could be very largely self-sufficient—you will do more to uproot Fascism than even by dismissing some of the Fascist officials. This organisation of labour conditions and food conditions is enormously important.
There is yet a further organisation which is very important. In Italy much of the power of Fascism came from the organisation of the Fascist corporations, which really meant monopoly capitalism controlling the industrial life of Italy. What are we going to do about monopoly capitalism there? Are we going to allow it to continue in Italy, or are we going to take it under our control? That is one of the bastions of Fascism. If we leave that as it is, what will be the result? Just the recrudescence of Fascism. There is also the question of international cartels. How far is the monopoly capitalism in Italy linked up with the monopoly cartels? How soon are we to take steps to sever those links and bring Italian capitalism 164 rigidly within the control of the Italian people?
I believe that the suggestions I have put forward ought to be carried out by agreement between the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and that they should be ratified as soon as possible by a meeting of a body in which many of us, including the Foreign Secretary, once had the very greatest faith—that is, a meeting of representatives of all the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary, no doubt, will remember that when the first meeting of that body took place quite early in the war, there was a feeling that here we had the nucleus of what might become a real League of Nations. That body has not met for a long time as a whole body. I am not sure that all who now belong to the United Nations have met as a body, although numerous other bodies have met, and there have been numerous contacts. I hope that these questions concerning the extirpation of Fascism in Italy and Germany and other parts of the world will at not too distant a date come before the whole Council of the United Nations, in order that decisions may be taken.
It is possible that some of the things I am suggesting may strike the House as being on the lines of rather too big-scale international organisation. In order to extirpate Fascism however we must have international organisation on a larger scale than ever before. Fascism is the opponent of every kind of real progressive expansion and of the growth of human civilisation and of the human spirit, and it can only be combated by an international organisation which strengthens the international understanding of all mankind and makes us realise that all mankind is one family. That has been said in' the United States of America recently by Vice-President Wallace and it has been said by Mr. Wendell Willkie, who has expressed it in his book "One World." It has been expressed by various representatives of the United Nations and is implied in the declaration, which is accepted by all United Nations, that, after the war, we must unite together to keep the peace, if necessary using armed forces as the trustees of civilisation for that purpose. It has been said even by Socialists here and by Socialists in Russia, speaking of the future civilisation as one in which we 165 shall have a classless society—in which all distinctions of class shall have gone. I prefer to look forward, not as far as that, but to a state of things in which the United Nations may meet together and form themselves into an organisation on the basis of a world equalitarian organisation, with various differences between themselves but with equality and with a real and sincere desire to forward the development and progress of the world. We can extirpate Fascism by lifting up the standards of the world materially, mentally and spiritually. That is the only way, finally, in which Fascism can be extirpated.
We are facing a world revolutionary change at the present time and must be prepared to adapt ourselves to it. We must face the fact that we are in the midst of that revolutionary change. We must make sweeping and great decisions based on reality and the great knowledge of organisation which exists in the world and the great experience we have in Great Britain and the British Empire. We have great knowledge of constitution building and a thousand years' experience of an Empire governed according to the traditions which control us to-day in this House. If we will put all our energy into the task of building the organisation necessary to create security for the civilisation of the future, I believe that we can do it.
The alternative is war. I speak very feelingly, because I have been in, not two wars, but in three and they are extremely stupid—but have a tremendous attraction. Any man with blood in his veins, when there is a war on, likes to be in the fight. That is one of the terrible dangers of war. War is one of the most ancient of human institutions and if we are to outlaw it, that can only be done by making the spirit of adventure so much a part of our ordinary lives and organisation that it will not be necessary to invent wars to give vent to it. Unless we take international decisions on a big scale, then within 15, 20 or 25 years there will be another world war, when the resources of science will have evolved even more diabolical instruments than those available at the present time. It is a physical possibility that these instruments of destruction might be so destructive that it would not be possible for civilisation—its fabric and human material—to stand up against complete destruction.
166 With regard to Fascism in Italy at the present time I believe that we have there a concrete case of a people who will be amenable to direction. They have made that unconditional surrender, for which I, personally, think there is no need to apologise at all. They have now to have imposed upon them certain conditions. Let those conditions be such as shall establish such an economic life for the working people, such control of capital for the business organisations as shall do, at any rate, a great deal to prevent the bad conditions of life which are the soil in which Fascism rises. I do not believe we can extirpate Fascism by passing pious resolutions. It is essential to carry this war on to the bitter end, however bitter it may be. I associate myself completely with the Prime Minister when he said that the next period of the war will be more severe than any period we have had up to the present time. Whatever the severity, whatever the bitterness, I believe that if when the time comes, as it will shortly come in Italy, we put our minds to planning the future with a social basis such as I have suggested, we can put Italy on such a foundation that Fascism will not again arise.
We shall learn by that experiment—for it will only be an experiment—how to deal with the much more serious problem of Germany. It is no use thinking that we can destroy Germany as a nation. It is no use thinking either, that all the Germans when the war is won, will, just because they make a profession of faith, have given up Fascism. They will have done nothing of the sort. The whole history of Germany points to the fact that for a long period of time they have been militaristically-minded and that they have a dangerous social tradition behind them. I believe that we can learn, by applying the ideas I have indicated to Italy, how to carry out the much bigger task in Germany. We must not be afraid when we are doing this of big international ideas. We must not be afraid of ideas like those of the Vice-President of the United States. We must rise to great ideals of international organisation on the basis of a world equalitarian civilisation.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
At this late hour, and as the last speaker on the first day of this Debate, perhaps it will not be out of place for me to make reference to the loss which the House has sustained by the 167 death of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do this with some diffidence but I do it with all the greater sincerity, because ever since he became Chancellor I think I have had three Questions down to him every Tuesday, and any attacks that I have made on him have always been answered with courtesy and great good humour. I should not like this occasion to pass—because I shall not get an opportunity to-morrow—without paying my respects, on the passing of a man who had the regard of every Member of this House.
I would like to challenge a great number of things that have been said by various hon. Members during the Debate, but following what I conceive to be not the custom of the House, practically all the persons who have spoken have gone away, which makes it difficult to speak on the motif of their speeches, without, apparently, incurring the risk of being accused by them of discourtesy. I cannot do more in their absence than defend my own point of view. My hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) disliked an interruption on my part, with regard to the attitude of the Communist Party to the war effort. He emphasised the great enthusiasm of the Communist Party for the war, and I pointed out that until the Communists were dragged into the war by the perfidious attack by the Germans on Russia they were bugbears to every employer of labour. I stand by that. I have nothing to apologise for. It is so, and there is no sense in ignoring the truth. Now they are most enthusiastic supporters of the war effort. I do not deny that either, but I am certain that, if things went the other way, they would change too. I have no use for the political philandering in which they indulge. The hon. Member also had a side glance at me and an hon. Member for Liverpool, implying that attacks on him and the Communist Party came from the Catholics, and he made some remark of the attitude of the people of my religious faith in Spain. Let us be clear about this. There were a great number of Catholics in Spain who supported the Spanish Government against General Franco, and I, for one, was at pains, though I was not often reported, to make it clear that I was against Franco as strongly as anyone else. I resent oppor- 168 tunities of this kind being taken to try to put wrong words into people's mouths.
There is another hon. Member who is not here, but I can go for him all the same —the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor), who sang the praises of A.M.G.O.T. Lord Rennell of Rodd is an estimable person, a very capable banker, no doubt a very honest man and a diehard Tory.
§ Mr. Stokes
Well, I withdraw. He is not a die-hard Tory. But I do not wish to attack him. It is a ridiculous word, but, whether you approve of A.M.G.O.T. or not, they personally represent the most reactionary elements, and it is an astonishing thing also that this organisation happens to be tied up with the rather arbitrary fixing of the rate of exchange in Italy. The hon. Member for East Fulham really cannot expect progressive forces to be entirely enthusiastic about the formation of A.M.G.O.T. or the attitude of the members of A.M.G.O.T. since their taking over of power in Sicily and Italy.
Then I should like to go for the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid). I could not understand what he was driving at, but he had made up his mind that he was going to exterminate the German nation. I call that schoolboy stuff. I do not know how you can exterminate a people anywhere, and, if these total warriors want to do it, I suggest that they do a bit of total warring and do it themselves. My own experience is that it is an uncomfortable adventure. I drew the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to what General Smuts had said, and his reply was that he was not interested in General Smuts and that he was making his own speech. I will quote what General Smuts said, because I think it is much more important than what the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone said. On 5th September General Smuts said in Johannesburg:The Germans are not all Nazi monsters, moral perverts, or devil worshippers, infected with the Satanic virus of Hitler. There is another and better Germany, which must have passed through hell in witnessing the brutal and lawless inhumanity of its people. Deep revolt is brewing inside Germany which must in the end be more catastrophic for Hitler and Nazidom than even the horror of the air by night. Of all the vast forces for their 169 doom not the least will be the fifth column inside Germany, which represents the revolt in the German soul itself.That is the point so many Members on this side of the House have constantly emphasised and for which attitude they have had no vocal support from the Government benches. General Smuts concluded:Let us realise the significance of this and remember it when we come to pass final judgment for the crimes that cry to heaven for vengeance.With that I dispose of the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone.
Now I come to my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), who has just sat down. I would not really wish to join issue with him on any great point except to emphasise that we have been witnessing for the past four years the death pangs of the old order. That is a thing which the Government Front Bench have altogether failed to realise. If the Foreign Secretary would only face up to that fact, we might get along a little bit faster. My suspicion is, and I agree it is only suspicion—.I do not mind if the Foreign Secretary laughs—that the right hon. Gentleman does not want a departure from the old order. I do, and that is the substantial difference between us. He does not want to support the forces in Italy which want to see the end of the old order. He does not want to support the forces in Germany which want to see the destruction of Nazism. Indeed, I have always said that the City of Lon- 170 don's only complaint about Hitler and his gang is not what they have done but that the City of London is not in the racket. Yes, that is so. I have only to quote the sayings of some of our great financial pundits, some of whom are wandering about the United States at the present time. The only thing they really object to is not what Hitler is doing—they might not like his individual beastliness; that is another matter—but that economically and politically what he is doing precludes them from continuing with their racket. That is what I and a large number of other hon. Members on this side of the House have complained about to the Government. They have not even come out with a clear declaration of what they do mean. There is all this talk about the Atlantic Charter. What does the Charter say? There are eight clauses in the Charter, which was conceived at lunch-time and given birth to at tea-time. That is what happened, and the Foreign Secretary knows it; he knows the incidents of the birth of the Charter. Perhaps he and I will have an opportunity of explaining the Charter a little more fully, because in the absence of a declaration from the Government, except unconditional surrender—which is the most puerile bit of statesmanship ever forthcoming from responsible people—
§ It being one hour and a half after the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Order of the House this day.