§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
The Debate to-day and yesterday has a double-barrelled character. It is dealing both with what is called strategy and with what is called grand strategy. By strategy, I mean simply the operations of war, by grand strategy our policy in international affairs, both as regards the war and as regards the settlement we have in view after the war. The Prime Minister covered both very extensively in his speech yesterday and I should not have much to say upon the course of operations—since I do not think this House is really in a position to judge—were it not for two speeches which were made yesterday, and on which I should like to make some very brief comment. The first was by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) who is not in his place to-day. He complained that the Prime Minister had not given us any idea of the plans by which he proposed to win the war. That really seemed to me an impossible demand to make to any Prime Minister or Minister of Defence in war-time. In the first place, the House of Commons has not the technical equipment to deal with operations. In the second place, it must be obvious that discussion of any plan would not only be in the presence of this House but in the presence of the enemy. So that seems to me a quite impossible demand to make. The Duke of Wellington, I think, would have been very much surprised if the House of Commons, at the time when Napoleon escaped from Elba, had asked him how he proposed to deal with the situation. We are facing quite as critical a situation at the moment and I suggest that operations are best left in the hands of those responsible for them.
It is true that this House is responsible for the character of the Government and the system of the higher direction of the war which the Government sets up. That is the business of the House. I gave my opinion on that subject two years ago, and neither the Prime Minister nor the majority of my friends in the House agreed. It is no use going back to that now that two years have passed. I wish only to say that events in the course of these two years have not given 855 me any reason to alter the opinions I then expressed. We must face the facts that conditions have changed entirely. Planning is now an inter-Allied business. We are combining our plans with two great Allies, one in America and one in the East of Europe, and also with another in the Far East and a number of other Allies. Immensely complex machinery has been set up, and I do not see how this House can do very much to criticise or improve that machinery, which, so far as one can see, is working admirably. There is only one thing I would like to add on that point. I am sure every Member in this House welcomed what the Prime Minister said about General Eisenhower and General Alexander. The way in which the staff work of the two great Allies has been not only combined but interwoven, is a very remarkable achievement. It reflects enormous credit both on General Eisenhower and General Alexander, and, for my part, I believe the Rouse may have confidence in the fact that operations here and in the Mediterranean are being conducted at the very top by generals with such a record behind them.
There was one other speech dealing with operations on which I should like to comment. It was the speech of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) who also, I am sorry to say, is not in his place to-day. He is the elder Cato of this House, the moral censor, and for my part I always welcome the outspokenness, candour and single-mindedness of his interventions in Debate. But I really think that he was confused in what he said yesterday. He seemed to be balancing military maxims and moral principles. He said, for instance, that it was a military maxim to attack the armed forces of the enemy. That is quite true but he seemed to forget another military maxim which is as important and as firmly established. That is to attack the rear communications and supply lines of the enemy. That is precisely what we are doing in this attack on Germany, her centres of production and centres of communication.
But I find myself very much in disagreement with him on the question of moral principle. He passed, by a transition which I do not quite understand, from the military plane to the moral plane, and said that the bombing of Germany 856 was, in his opinion, not justified morally. He developed that theme at considerable length. It is true that the distinction which civilisation has tried to draw for many centuries between combatants and non-combatants, between armed forces and civilians, has become very thin indeed, and indeed is almost obliterated. I remember early in the last war, when the Germans first began to bomb London—in the very mild way of those days—being very much puzzled on reflecting that if the Germans dropped a bomb on the War Office and killed Lord Kitchener they were conducting a legitimate operation of war, but that if the bomb hit Downing Street and killed Mr. Asquith that was an atrocity. I am bound to say that I did not see that that distinction was quite easy to maintain, since both were equally active in making war on Germany. I also reflected, and I think the House will agree, that it is very difficult to maintain the view that the blockade, which is our historical weapon, makes any distinction between armed forces and civilians. It attacks civilians first. Indeed, it has all through the history of war, and, unfortunately, as war becomes more complex, more totalitarian, it is a terrible fact that the line between combatants and non-combatants is obliterated altogether. That is a terrible fact about modern war. But what is the moral principle to be drawn from it? Surely, the moral principle is to end the war as quickly as possible. That is the most humane course, the only right course, and I would say to my hon. Friend if he were here that I do not think that in the weapons which this country is using to defeat its principal enemies it has any reason whatever to fear the moral judgment of the nations.
The Prime Minister paid a tribute to the part which all the men of these Islands have been playing in this war—to the Navy, which has had a marvellous record, to the Merchant Navy, which is really now a combatant force, to the Army which, after all, has shown that it is better than its German enemy in many fields already, to the Royal Air Force, which, in conducting the assault on Germany, is showing military superiority to the enemy and upsetting his military operations. I do not think that tribute could have been better timed. I regret one other thing about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley. He 857 revived the legend that the German Army was not really beaten in the last war. That has always been Hitler's speciality—always—and it is simply not true. It is the legend on which the whole of this ghastly war-machine has been reconstructed. To prove that it is not true, no more true than most of the other legends on which Hitler bases his astonishing view of history, I would quote what the leaders of fie German Army said at that time. Hindenburg, writing at the beginning of October, 1918, to Prince Max of Baden, who had just become German Chancellor, said:The gravity of the military situation admits of no delay.I underline those words, "the military situation"—not be it noted the situation on the home front in Germany. Ludendorff said—I want to save my army.To save his army from what? From the home front in Germany? Certainly not, It was to save his army from better armies that were knocking it to pieces in the field. That is the truth about the last war. I agree with my hon. Friend that we have to prove ourselves, man for man, the equals of the Germans in fighting, and I do not believe any race in the world will ever prove better. We have to prove ourselves the equal in fighting quality, and the better in organisation and equipment, and I believe that all our forces are doing that at the present moment. Surely at this moment, when our forces, and the nation as a whole, are facing one of the most critical and momentous periods in our war history, when we have before us a task far more serious, I think, than most people realise—surely this is a moment in which we should do nothing but bid "God speed" to our splendid lighting men and feel confident that they will show the quality which they have always displayed in our past history.
So much for operations. I now come to the broader subject of what I call grand strategy, by which I mean our international policy both in the war and in dealing with the peace settlement towards which we are working. A brilliant speech was made, among others on that subject, by my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). I think everybody will agree that his speech was an argument for university representation, which I hope 858 will not be thrown away upon those who are now considering that question. A Member who can make a speech of that kind is a tremendous asset to the House of Commons, and it is quite possible that Members of that type might not find it so easy to get into the House of Commons if we abolished university representation.
I fully accept the three principles which he laid down in regard to our foreign policy. He said, in the first place, that we must assert ourselves to the utmost to ensure that we had the trust of other nations, to prove that we were trustworthy. The second was that the whole Empire must be behind us in our foreign policy. The third was that we must maintain an equal status with Soviet Russia and the United States of America. I could not agree more, since with the help of some friends of mine inside and outside the House, I had the temerity last year to publish a book which really consisted largely of that argument. I do not believe the world has much doubt about our good intentions. I do not believe it ever had. I do not believe it has much doubt about our devotion to high principles. I do not believe it has any doubt about the liberal aspect of our policy, that is to say, that we want to stand for progressive and liberal movement so far as we can do so in the world without interfering in the internal affairs of other countries—which is an essential part of liberalism, and without which there cannot be continuous or sound foreign policy. The difficulty is not that the world believes that our intentions are not good. Moral reprobation, moral exhortation, have been our greatest exports over the past 25 years. When all other exports were falling, they rose every year.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Was it not the Liberal policy of this country during the nineteenth century, to foment rebellion against tyranny in many countries in Europe?
Sir E. Griģģ
No, Sir, but I am not going to be drawn away into historical argument on those lines. I am quite prepared to argue the point with my hon. Friend, but I do not want to keep the House too long, and it would be really going off my present point. What has been our difficulty? Our difficulty has been lack of principle in 859 making sure that our power was equal to the engagements which we undertook. That has been one of our besetting sins—adopting in international procedure the habit, which is condemned in private life, of issuing "stumer" cheques which will not be honoured when they are presented at the bank. The other condition in this country which has certainly militated against continuity in foreign policy, and, therefore, against the trust of foreign nations in us, is the fact that more and more in recent years foreign policy has been drawn into the arena of party discussion, and that each of the parties seems to be anxious above all, in addition to their domestic controversies, to prove that it has a better foreign policy than the others. Let me deal, in the first place, with the question which I have described simply as issuing a "stumer" cheque. Does the House remember—this is a very recent issue—that we guaranteed Czechoslovakia after the Munich surrender? What use was that to Czechoslovakia? We proceeded to guarantee Poland and Rumania. What was the use of that to Poland and Rumania? High principles, certainly; but a "stumer" cheque all the same. Let us bear that in mind as we proceed into a still more difficult era.
I remember a Debate in this House in July, 1939. The only possibility of our honouring engagements we made in that spring was for us to come to terms with another great military Power in the East of Europe. Russia offered us a military alliance. The House debated that subject in July, 1939. I remember the Prime Minister getting up in his place in our old Chamber, and arguing strongly and eloquently, as he can, for the acceptance of that offer. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also made a speech in the same terms in that Debate. How did we come not to accept the offer? I think for two reasons. First, we were perplexed and embarrassed by the difficulties made by the States neighbouring on Russia. The other thing was the suspicion of Russia, which could not be overcome. I remember an hon. Friend of mine—whom I shall not name—getting up and saying that the offer was a trap, set for us by Russia, which we should at all costs avoid. Looking back at what has happened since, I wonder whether it would not have been wise to be more realistic and 860 to avoid making engagements which we had no prospect whatever of honouring.
The Prime Minister and many Members have spoken about Poland. I agree that Poland in this matter is the test case. Like, I am sure, all other Members, I feel that we cannot pay too high a tribute to Polish endurance and heroism in this struggle. The Poles have done magnificently in the underground resistance movement in Poland—I do not believe there has been a single Polish Quisling—and they have done magnificently fighting by our side elsewhere. There is nothing that could be said that would be too high praise for the gallant Polish people. But the Polish people, like another great people nearer home, have one great fault, an inveterate historical memory. They have much excuse. Their history is a terrible history: all the same, I think it would be wise for them to remember at the present time that history is many-sided; that every nation has its own version, and is quite convinced that that version is the only right one. It has been said that you can prove anything from statistics: you can also prove almost anything, if you set about it, from history. We, who have some experience of difficult international questions, inside these islands and inside the Empire, have shown a wise capacity for forgetting. Take our relations with Scotland. Two hundred years ago, at the time of "the 45", our relations with Scotland and our treatment of Scotland were nothing of which we had reason to be proud, but we have managed to forget and harmonize them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Scotland has not."] Scotland is one of the small countries with an inveterate memory. The English people have been more tolerant and more ready to forget, not only the harm which they have done to other peoples, which is easy to forget, but also the harm which other peoples have done them. The same is true of Canada; the same is true of South Africa. We have been wise in forgetting these things, and in cultivating friendly relations.
We have, just across the Irish Sea, another nation with an inveterate historical memory. I do not think anybody can say that that nation stands higher in the world at present because of its insistence on those memories. From all this, I should say that Eire and Poland are both a proof that too clear, too vivid, too intense a memory for historical events 861 is fatal to its possessors. That is a thing to be borne in mind at the present moment, especially in regard to this matter of frontiers. I am not going to talk about frontiers in detail, because in many cases I do not regard frontiers as the main issue. History will prove almost anything in regard to frontiers, as in everything else, and on this matter, if you are going to get a suitable settlement compromise between people who really want to get on together is indispensable. That is essentially the course we have to pursue in many parts of the world.
On frontiers, I would most warmly endorse what was said by the Prime Minister, who spoke words of wisdom. What matters is not frontiers; what matters to us is a question of principle. It is the independence of Poland. That is what we guaranteed. By independence, I mean a country being strong, conducting its own affairs, choosing its own form of Government, able to look to the future with security, and based on really strong foundations, which Poland has never yet been in all its history. There is no question whatever that it is our duty to make perfectly plain to the Russian Government where we stand on this principle—the independence of Poland and the independence of all small countries who have been, and wish to be again, nationally independent. I cannot believe that in this matter we are really fundamentally divided from Marshal Stalin. It is remarkable that in the papers to-day there is published a message of his to the Red Army, in which he used these words—important and remarkable words at the present moment:It is this community of fundamental interests which leads to the cementing of the fighting alliance between the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, Britain and the United States of America.What is the most fundamental interest that, in fact, unites us? Surely it must be to work on the same principles in regard to the independence and status of the smaller nations. The most fertile cause of trouble between great Powers is the way they behave to smaller Powers. All history shows that. There is no interest uniting us and Russia more fundamentally than that of arriving at common principles on this question of the treatment of the weaker Powers. I said that I could not believe that Marshal Stalin was guided by any different 862 principles from ours. This is what he said himself, with his usual clarity of language, in his report to the meeting held an the 26th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution:Russia, together with her Allies, must grant the liberated peoples of Europe the full right of freedom to determine their own form of Government.On his own part, that was no new declaration. At the 25th meeting of the anniversary of the Soviet Revolution, he said:The programme of action of the Anglo-Soviet-American coalition includes the right of every nation to arrange its own affairs as it wishes.That convinces me that on this matter we need not fear a fundamental difference of principle. I hope that that is the case. We owe very much to Marshal Stalin. I, personally, am convinced that victory in this war would have been impossible for our cause but for the part which Russia has played. I am also convinced that Russia could not have played her part but for the supremacy established from 1929 onwards by Marshal Stalin. Had he not, through the method of terror, liquidated many of his enemies Russia would have been reduced to impotence at this period. It was Marshal Stalin's five-year plan, the development of natural resources, the development of factories, the development of mechanisation, in which millions of Russians have been trained, which have enabled Russia to roll back the German Armies and to achieve what she has done. I believe that he will crown that great achievement by showing that he is absolutely at one with us on this principle of freedom and independence for the smaller States of Europe.
I spoke about the danger of issuing "stumer" cheques and the great importance of making certain that our engagements did not run beyond our power to honour them. That, I think, is absolutely fundamental. After all, since we are not, and do not seek to be, a dominating Power, since the basis on which we work normally is diplomacy, the endeavour to harmonise the interests of nations—a process which I think has been unduly denigrated as appeasement—we can achieve those things only by trying to get our Allies and friends together on a basis of principle. That is our great rôle in Europe. There is one other thing that 863 we must remember, and that is that we cannot have a continuity of the trust and confidence of other people unless what we say in one year we honour in another, or if our foreign policy comes into the arena of party dissension in this House.
I would ask the House with great humility to let me tell them of an experience of my awn in this matter which goes back 23 or 24 years, but which, nevertheless, has the virtue of being a first-hand experience. I became private secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) in the spring of 1921, and I continued to be his private secretary until the fall of the Coalition in October, 1922. My duties related entirely to imperial and foreign affairs, and in the course of them I was naturally thrown into very close and continuous contact with the Foreign Office and particularly with Sir Eyre Crowe, the Permanent Under-Secretary, one of the wisest of those who have held that most responsible position. I went to every International Conference that was held by the right hon. Gentleman, the Father of the House. My business was not to take any part in the Conferences, as hon. Members will understand; it was to keep in touch with all the foreign members attending, not only with the principals but with the smaller ones, and I got to know most of them extremely well. In this capacity I think I was able to know what they really felt about this country. One thing that was very marked was that as from the spring of 1921 to the autumn of 1922 the influence of this country grew smaller and smaller and, what this country said at international conferences mattered less and less.
Why was that? The reason was that its foreign policy was constantly being discussed with the utmost dissension in this House, and foreign nations were being told by a very large number of Members of this House that the Government in no way represented the opinion of the country. That was my experience. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head, but let me give him the example of the Cannes Conference held at the end of 1921. At that conference we renewed our guarantee to the French of their eastern frontier and we managed to achieve a settlement of the reparations question, which was accepted not only by the 864 French but by the Germans. The conference collapsed. Why? It collapsed mainly because the French had been persuaded that the Government of this country would not be able to carry out its guarantee. [Interruption.] That is exactly what I complain of. It is always one side which is right and the other which is wrong. I beg the hon. Member to remember that his historical memory may possibly be extremely misleading.
After that conference M. Briand fell and the affairs of Europe went to another conference at Genoa, where relations were still more strained, and in spite of every effort to arrive at a settlement the only understanding that was reached as the result of this conference was one between Germany and Russia. That was the only achievement of the Genoa Conference. The assassination of Rathenau followed shortly afterwards.
Let me give hon. Members an example of a case of dissension in this House which led to what I regard as an absolute breach of faith to a very gallant Allied country. In the autumn of 1922, when Turkey, under her great leader, Kemal Ataturk, denounced the Treaty of Sèvres, the Greeks came to France and to us and asked whether they would be allowed to defend Constantinople. They said: "We have lost our possessions in Asia Minor, but we can hold Constantinople. We have good divisions at Chatalfa, and if you will allow us to hold Constantinople we can stop the Turks and arrive at a solution on the lines that the Allies have been backing all the time." We consulted France, and the French pointed out that under the terms of our agreement with Turkey, Constantinople was in the occupation of Allied troops and was neutral, and therefore we could not allow one of the combatants to take over its defence. That seemed to be an unanswerable argument, and we had to present it to the Greeks. The Greeks, in reply, simply said "We accept that, but we assume that the same condition applies to Turkey?" We assured them that the same condition applied to both combatants in this quarrel. But what happened? The Coalition fell and the Government in this country was changed. I do not know how it happened, for I had ceased to have any knowledge of what was going on, but it is a fact that a very few weeks after we had given that solemn undertaking to the Greeks the 865 Turks were in Constantinople. That is a terrible example of the way in which you may betray the trust which your own friends and allies place in you.
§ Mr. Huģh Lawson (Skipton)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that this House is not the right place in which to discuss the foreign policy of the country?
Sir E. Griģģ
I will answer that question if the hon. Member will give me time. It is perfectly clear that we are entering upon a period of very great dissension and controversy in domestic policy. I do not know how matters will turn out, but I think the House will agree with me that we are not going to escape very intense controversy on all kinds of domestic policies. Who knows what the effect of such controversy will be on the Government? At the present moment I am only concerned with the effect on foreign policy. In that connection we recall the terrible story of our relations with France in a similar period, 22 or 23 years ago, and I sincerely hope that we shall not repeat the mistakes which we made at that time.
Speaking of France, I think the whole House will agree that a strong France allied to us is an indispensable factor for European stability. I am sure that we all admire the sacrifice and gallantry of those in the maquis who are now fighting. I sometimes listen to the French broadcasts and I must say they impress me very much. We are also glad to see that the Committee of National Liberation and the institutions set up in Algiers are going from strength to strength and establishing their authority with the resistance movement in France, which is essential. I shall be grateful if the Foreign Secretary will tell us, later in the day, something about the progress of our relations with France and of the new French set-up in Algiers. It would complete the very broad review of international affairs which was given by the Prime Minister. Foreign affairs must be discussed by this House. It is part of its responsibility to discuss them, but it must discuss them with a sense of responsibility, and not with the object of simply trying to prove that one party has a good foreign policy and another has a bad one, or of regarding foreign policy as a stick with which to beat the Government.
Let me remind the House of the achievements of this country. At the beginning of this century we suddenly undertook a tremendous change in our 866 foreign policy. Up to the end of the 19th century we had been splendid isolationists and our spendid isolation was based on naval superiority. But at the beginning of this century we entered an entirely new period of ententes and alliances. Those ententes were directed solely towards security. We did not endeavour to tell the nations with whom we were making agreements for the sake of security how we though they ought to conduct their own internal government. We were careful to avoid that because, otherwise, it would have been impossible for us at that time to have had an understanding with Russia and Japan. I think it is very remarkable that during that period, an immensely critical period in our foreign relations, all parties agreed, broadly, on the main lines of our foreign policy. The Liberal Government which came to power in 1905 had been consulted about the foreign policy by the Conservative Government, and took it over. The Conservatives thereafter backed Sir Edward Grey consistently. There was no dissension, and but for that and but for the sense of responsibility shown by the parties and by Members of this House at that time, our position would have been very grave indeed in 1910. I have given the House that example and I hope it will bear it in mind. This House has an immense responsibility for helping the Government to retain the trust of foreign peoples, for helping the Government to promote friendly relations between nations, and for adhering to the principle of non-intervention in other countries' internal affairs. I hope that in the future, when we are entering a period of even greater difficulty, this House, or any House that succeeds it, will rise to the height of its great responsibility.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Whatever one may think of the political views of the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), I think it will be conceded that we have listened to a very interesting speech both factually and as one giving us considerable food for thought. I would like, if I may, to draw attention to a remark made by the Prime Minister in his speech yesterday in which he warned us, in effect, not to indulge in easy optimism. Generally speaking, I think it would be agreed that whilst two or three months ago there was a general feeling in this House and throughout the country that the war was likely to be 867 finished within a reasonable time, there is to-day a hardening of opinion and, those who are au fait in the affairs of this country and of the United Nations seem to think that the war is going to be considerably harder in future than it has been up to now.
A month or two ago there appeared in some of the papers an article giving an account of a statement made by Major General George Strong, chief of the United States military intelligence, in a report sent to Congressmen in America. Reviewing the potential strength of Germany, he issued a very grave warning to this country and to America in regard to that strength. It is significant that only yesterday allusion was made, in the Press, to new rocket guns which the Germans are likely to use, and to which on this occasion General Strong referred as weighing less than a ton and being equal to six field howitzers weighing nine tons a piece. That valuation has not been contested. It may be true that we are faced with a weapon of very considerable potency which may exercise some effect upon the immediate outcome of the war. Secondly, General Strong stated that Germany has raised more than 60 new Divisions in 1943, each with 600 machine guns and 300 heavier guns. Germany has new tanks and guns equal to, or better than anything the Allies possess. He pointed out that the Air Force of Germany, in spite of immense losses was actually stronger than it was in 1939, and, but for the fact that Russia was in the war, it might have been as much as four to five to one against us.
He proceeded to draw a striking contrast of potential labour power by adding that, whereas in 1939 there were 23,000,000 workers engaged in war industry in Germany to-day that figure had been augmented to 35,000,000. The raw material position of Germany was good. They were nearly self sufficient in rubber, there was enough high octane petrol for their Air Force, the food position was better than in the last war, and their heavy industrial rations were greater than in 1939. He concluded that, in spite of the bombing of the Ruhr, in May and June, 1939, the amount of German output which was more or less put out of action was not more than three per cent.
868 I would not, with my very limited understanding of these matters, presume to say to the House that this was anything like a correct figure, but I would say to those people who have indulged hitherto in easy optimism, that this "gives us seriously to think." The recent air attacks on this country, though not by any means as formidable as those delivered by us against the enemy, are an indication that the enemy is still powerful and that all our powers of recuperation must be brought to bear, in order to bring the war to a quick and successful conclusion. Personally I believe in the old adage which says: "Pray for sunshine, but always be prepared for rain." I would purposely make the mistake of over-estimating the strength of our enemy, and go so far as to say that, in this war, as the Prime Minister himself indicated, the enemy is still united at home. There seem to be no schisms or cleavages in his internal policy and the various sections of the Army and of the ruling element in Germany are united. If that be so, I think it will be agreed that we cannot, for a single moment, under-estimate the fact that he will fight with tenacity, perhaps even greater than that which he has displayed up to now.
Yesterday, we were treated to a speech by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). I regret the hon. Member is not in his place. I was, indeed, very sorry to hear that speech, made by an hon. Gentleman presuming to call himself a Socialist, who in attacking the Nazi system of dictatorship attacked with equal strength the dictator system of Soviet Russia. It is an amazing thing, and one of those old tricks indulged in by people who wish to cast aspersions on the great Soviet Republic. I remember when I was a little boy playing with other youngsters, including some of the little girls of the neighbourhood. One little girl aimed a brick at another child and the brick, unfortunately, went through a window. I happened to be in the line of fire and I bowed so that the brick went over my head. It pays sometimes to be polite. The mother of the girl came to my mother—she was very worried about it—and said, "Your John and our Liz broke a window." I had nothing to do with the breaking of the window, though I was blamed, with the young lady, for that somewhat unconstitutional act. In the same way, the hon. Gentleman couples 869 the innocent with the guilty, as if both were parties in the same enterprise. I think it is very wrong in this House to do so. I can only describe the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs, or at least some Members of it, as political hermaphrodites. They are neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring, and certainly do not do justice to a party which was, at one time, an important factor in our political life. It is a sad reflection that from those benches we should hear such reactionary utterances.
May I say another word about the attitude of some of the politicians in this House towards Russia? They damn Russia with faint praise. I was at a meeting in the provinces at which a member of another political party stepped on the platform and alleged that I had paid too much regard to the effort of Russia, and intimated that I had, by inference, neglected the great efforts of this country, which of course was not true. He walked out of the meeting with a gesture of contempt, in spite of the fact that the meeting was non-political. I make these statements because there are men, not very friendly to Russia, who are anxious to use their position, so that after the war they will be able to perpetuate the present system of exploitation.
Take the situation of Poland. The Minister of Information has told us that, as far as Poland is concerned, some of their literature and newspapers are not conducive to the successful prosecution of the war and the friendly relationship of our Allies and as a consequence had to be banned. I happen to know, and some of the Press also know, that the Polish Army makes very considerable racial discrimination among their men in this country and a great deal of suspicion must fall upon those responsible for that disgraceful state of affairs. The Polish emigré Government said there certainly had been difficulties, and, as a result certain contacts had been made with military chiefs, but in spite of this, the state of affairs which I have indicated exists, and there are members of the Polish forces in this country who have literally threatened suicide because of the cruel discrimination that has taken place. Do we want to support a country with a Government of that nature? I most certainly would not. Believing, as I think every hon. Member should believe, in the freedom of all nationalities, I would 870 say with great deference, that that freedom cannot be rightly granted, unless the Governments of these countries give an indication that they are prepared to act in the spirit of the United Nations and Atlantic Charter.
Far too much solicitude has been shown to that type of Government, just as was the case in the Government of Finland during the early stages of the war, when the Russians were described as barbarians. This remarkable turn of attitude and state of mind cause us to think seriously whether we are actually fighting for the things we say we want. I do not want to use phrases which may perhaps sound allegorical or metaphorical, but we want to dispel some of these warm zephyrs of optimistic illusion and get back to the icy blasts of reality. Take the case of Spain. Here is a Government which is impertinent to Britain and which shows unduly favourable treatment to the Germans. Had they the power, courage, and strength, they would have thrown in their lot against us. Why, now should we manifest to Spain such a tender regard? We should rather take a drastic course and say that Spain should toe the line, and accept all the obligations of strict neutrality.
Some time ago a certain number of articles appeared in "Pravda" and other Russian newspapers which were circulated throughout the world. Many of us said we were alarmed and perturbed by the attitude of Russia, because doubts had been cast upon the veracity of statements made in this country. The Prime Minister is a most fascinating politician. I have always supported him because he has done a fine job of work, and I would not be so churlish, as to take from him because of political differences the great credit which is rightly his due. But persuasion tips his tongue whenever he speaks. Every time he speaks I am almost subdued because of the atmosphere of adoration that surrounds him. When I turn from his almost unrivalled position as a war leader, and pay regard to his post-war mentality, I am somewhat alarmed because I do not believe that pounds, shillings and pence, as the Prime Minister once said, will necessarily condition the amount of post-war reform.
I believe that if this war means anything to us, it is that by the united effort of the nation we can meet the needs of the people of this country. If people 871 have the will and the desire they can ensure that money will be a medium of exchange and the servant and not the master of man. But in the present prosecution of the war, when back-benchers get up to speak they are in a very difficult position. After all, we like to know something about the subject of a Debate in which we take part and for very obvious reasons, it is not always possible for the Government to supply vital facts which are withheld from us because they are euphemistically stated to be "against the National interests." When we seek to attack the Government or offer a criticism which is constructive, whether in regard to the prosecution of the war or the social legislation that we feel should be introduced we are handicapped because we are not given all the facts. But within the limit of our somewhat restricted knowledge, I am perturbed. I wonder why this much-vaunted second front has not been given more publicity. The appointment of big military chiefs; their names and various details of their careers have been given, and yet, we have received from the Government benches no clear unequivocal statement of intention as to the second front.
It is obvious that we cannot indicate the location or even the time of it, but I believe that we could re-affirm to the world the fact that we are determined not to regard bombing, effective as it undoubtedly is—and no one appreciates its effectiveness more than Members on this side of the House—as a substitute, nor was it ever meant to be a substitute, for the land operations which must inevitably follow. No one who is wise or intelligent, or even presumes to a little understanding, would under-estimate the enormity of the task which confronts us. The preparations have been made, and every effort should be made by Members of the Government to assure the U.S.S.R. that our intentions are as firm now as ever and, above all, that we respect their great effort. If I may ruminate for a moment and forget the very difficult atmosphere of this House—I always feel terribly impressed by it; I wish I could shake it off but, unfortunately, cannot—I would say that if we think for ourselves, in the spirit of true patriotism, loving our country and believing that, potentially and intrinsically, we are second to no other people in the world, in the character and courage 872 of our citizens, we must also never fail to forget the magnificent and unparalleled heroism, over a long period and a wide area, which is being displayed by the Russian people.
§ Mr. Mack
Coming from the hon. Member, that remark savoured of ill understanding. He of all people should have appreciated the wonderful effort made by Russia for the liberation of, the persecuted peoples of all countries. Even though it were belated, I still think that their action was magnificent. Although Russia did not come into the war at the very beginning—they had to play for time—and although the political heads of this country smelt badly in the nostrils of the Russian leaders at that time, Hitler stank. They always realised he was their most formidable enemy, not only because of his political power, but also because he was infinitely more powerful in arms and could deal, if necessary, a potent blow against Russia. Whatever may be said about that, the fact remains clear for everybody to see that, having entered the war, Russia threw everything into the struggle. She gave of her very best and this House should always pay tribute from the bottom of our hearts, to the undying glory of that great country. After the war I trust, and indeed believe, that, if we approach the U.S.S.R. in a spirit of understanding and broadmindedness, we can build up a great and enduring friendship which will serve us well for the future.
I do not wish to take up more of the time of the House, but I would say to hon. Members opposite that we on our side, have made very great political sacrifices for the sake of the war. It is common knowledge and relevant to this Debate to say, that we could have augmented our numbers very considerably if we had not subdued ourselves for the primary purpose of giving support to the Government. It is true that there are difficulties in respect of that; maybe the future will decide and we may have to alter our electoral truce policy. But this I would say, that when it comes to the question of sacrifice, members of my party are second to no other party in this House. We believe that the foreign policy of this country is open to grave review and this. Debate should give us an opportunity to strengthen our line 873 in certain directions and take the necessary firm action against Governments who are not responding in the way they should. If we do that, I believe we shall to a large extent have helped the cause of freedom in this war.
§ Sir Geoffrey Ellis (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
During this Debate a great many personal opinions have been offered on foreign affairs. There stand out in the Debate the speeches of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and that of the hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess of the University of Cambridge (Mr. Pickthorn). I do not propose to try to add anything to those two historical expositions. They will stand for a very long time in this House as speeches which were listened to very intently and they will be repeated outside.
I want, first, to direct myself to opinion in the country to-day. We have dealt pretty largely with foreign affairs and it is about time that something was said to the House concerning the opinions held by ordinary men in the country. I do not propose to offer my individual opinion at all but rather to record the opinions which I have experienced not only among my own constituents in Yorkshire, but among my own workpeople and my own administrative staff. The outstanding thing is the support given to and the belief in, the Prime Minister. They are a support and a belief such as very seldom come to pass in our history, but when they do, they take quite an odd form. The Prime Minister having gained their opinion and their confidence, there has succeeded almost a kind of friendly affection for all the work that he has done. That has been very much added to by the appreciation of our people of what the Prime Minister has given both in measure and in health, to this country. The same applies in lesser degree—because the responsibility is not as great—to the work done by the Foreign Secretary, or perhaps I should say, the work done by the two together in that sphere. That has been of more importance during this war than perhaps in any other war, in which our nation has ever taken part.
The Prime Minister has very justly pointed out to the people, the great share that is being taken by our own troops, both Colonial and home troops, in the war. That needed to be said, because the attention given to other troops— 874 whom we all agree are most deserving—had seemed to take away some of the merit of what our own troops have done. Perhaps it would be fair to say that the work done by our own troops had got a little out of perspective, in relation to that done by the troops of other nations.
Something has been said in this House and in another place about bombing. The people with whom I have discussed the question, are pretty much of one opinion. They hold the view that that is a question, the details of which can be known only to the Higher Commands, and that people who take certain views have something up their sleeves. That, of course, is another question. What I did hear very definitely expressed in all quarters was that the policy of "willing to wound and yet afraid to strike" was perhaps about the most stupid thing advanced in any war that had ever been fought.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to all of us on this side of the House, as it is to hon. Members opposite, has been the attitude of the ordinary man to Russia during the war. I have had many talks with my workpeople on this subject, some of whom one would call extremists, others of a middle mind and others of our own side. I have not heard on any one occasion, that what Russia and the Russian troops are doing to-day is in any way related to the particular form of government which Russia has at present or had in the past. The kind of expression one heard was, "This is something new. We have certainly to take account of this country in the future." That was the prevailing spirit throughout all the opinions expressed. One might put it in another way. It was said, "I do not know what makes these Russians fight in the way they do, but it seems to me that, if we had had our own country overrun, our people murdered and treated as these people have been, we would feel the same way as they do. "I believe that the strength of the Russian fighting to-day is largely due to the brutality which has been shown by their enemy. Whatever questions we may have to decide with Russia hereafter, they are quite other matters. The American troops are with us. The interest taken in them is quite different from that taken in Russia. I believe that their experience here will make our people understand 875 the United States of America very much better than they did before, and that it is going to make the United States understand us a very great deal more than they have done before. At any rate, one hopes that the mixing is all to the good.
A good many expressions of opinion have been given in this House as to the way in which Europe should be re-integrated in the future. I have taken some pains to discuss with people with whom I have been able to get into touch the basis of their views about—to put it frankly—our interference in Europe in the future. I have found a very interesting feeling—perhaps it is rather an insular mind—that we ought to interfere as little as possible; and that if we do interfere, it should be no part of our duty to tell any European nation what government they ought to have. I have never heard it go any further than this, "If their Governments have to be changed, we hope that there will be freedom for their people to think, say and do what they like, more or less, so long as they play the game with one another." I do not think that I heard an expression go further than that, among those who are vaguely called the common people. I can find nowhere any belief among the people with whom I have discussed this question—and it has been a pretty broad discussion—that there is any prospect of, or any desire for, the reconstitution of the League of Nations. A view I have found very strongly expressed is this, that the Allies have this job to do, and it should be for the Allies to decide in the end how Europe should be re-integrated, having full consideration, for all the opinions and feelings that may come to the individual nations concerned.
Last, on the home front I find—and it is somewhat disquieting—that people appear to be in a kind of split mind, a mind which looks towards the war, and also looks towards the future of this country, without any reference of one to the other. I am quite sure there has been, and is still, a spirit of complacency which very dangerous, both for the future of the war and for anything we may be able to do in this country after the war. Unless we can get people's minds back to the main purpose of our lives at present, which is to win the war, there will be very little prospect of anything worth while to follow the war. The Prime Minister referred 876 to that in opening the Debate, and I do hope we shall get some support from the Press in that respect. Latterly we have had far too many banner-head notes about "rapid progress" and the "smashing" of this, that, and the other. It is a pity we cannot have from the B.B.C. a more reasoned exposition on these subjects, in which the dangers can be pointed out as well as the advantages. If we had, I think it would tend to keep minds a little more in perspective on this very difficult question.
It is going to be difficult to keep the minds of our people on Great Britain's share in Europe after the war. A duty has been imposed on this House, not only to debate here but to lead opinion outside this House. Happily, our foreign policy during the next few years—and I say this advisedly—cannot possibly be any question of controversy between parties in this country, for the simple reason that we have set out hands to the plough to go a certain way, and whatever party may be in power, whatever may be the results of General Elections, we have to implement the policy with which we entered the war. That means, obviously, that after the war we have to police Europe, until Europe recovers sufficiently to run on its own account. How it is to be done is quite another matter. From what I hear going about among people, I think a tremendous amount of education is needed on that subject, and the burden of giving this education is going to fall on the leaders of parties and Members of this House.
May I say a few words about the future of those countries in Europe which it will be our business to build up again? I respect the spirit of non-interference, and I am not going to suggest any desire to interfere in any way. But I would suggest that the reshaping of those countries is not altogether and, indeed, not mainly, a question of politics. The future success of anything we may do in Europe, will probably be found to be in the economic basis on which we choose to set Europe up again. It is easy enough, working from a political centre, to suggest that this, that, or the other frontier should be drawn here or there, according to the desires of politicians to make countries larger or smaller. That is an easy matter. But what really matters to the ordinary man, living his ordinary life and, more particularly, to the peasantry 877 of Europe—with which we are most concerned as these questions run throughout the Balkan States—is, what is his life? What does he do for a living? Where can he market his produce? Therefore, in settling any frontiers, and doing anything of that kind, it is not the mere expansion of a country that you have to consider. You have to be very careful indeed, when you separate any section of people from another, that you have given them a market where they can sell their produce.
There is just one other point worthy of mention. At the end of the last war, when Europe was set up again, there was a good deal of the spirit of erecting as many nations as possible. Many small nations were set up, but what was not carefully enough considered was, how those small nations were to govern their own affairs or, rather, whether those small nations, composed again of diverse elements, were going to establish a unitary government and centralise everything, or whether the elements might fight one another, or whether we should try to govern them by an extension of local government. The House appreciates what happened in Czecho-Slovakia and Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia to-day, the failure of central government is reflected in the two contending sections who are fighting first on one side and then on the other. Whatever is done in the future, I hope some regard will be paid to that kind of thing. We cannot dictate, but what we can say is, "It seems to us from what has happened, that your form of government has not yet been particularly successful, and since, according to the charter, or to the principles on which we govern ourselves, we believe in as much local government as possible and as little interference from the centre as possible, then it might be worth while, as a condition of our help in the future, that you should try a form of government which will at any rate not cause revolution among yourselves with possible repercussions throughout the whole world."
During this Debate we have not said much about the future of things at home. I think the time has come when we might ask the Prime Minister to give us some general outline of his feelings about the future—I do not say go into any detail at all—and in giving us that general outline, to remember—as it was put to me by one of my phrase-making industrial friends—that it is not much good erecting 878 a dens ex machina and putting him up in a kind of aloof Olympus. What will have to be done if the Government want the confidence of the people about the future, is for the Prime Minister to tell us, generally, what he has in mind. The confidence of the people is with him—not with his Government. Let me say quite plainly, and do not let me be misunderstood, that he is the driving force of the Government—he and the Foreign Secretary. If he would only give us, in a general way, what he feels about the future and what, in detail, he has delegated his Ministers to do, I am sure it would steady a great deal of the feeling that now exists. I am sure, still further, that it will enable a great many of us in industry and trade, to get some indication of the way in which the shape of things to come, is to be regulated, and enable us to get on with our work in a way we cannot otherwise do to-day.
§ Captain Grey (Berwick-on-Tweed)
For some considerable time now observers of the British scene have come across a curious yet incontrovertible fact, the paradox that in spite of over a year of almost unparalleled military successes, such as have hitherto in this war not fallen to Allied arms, our people have nevertheless been growing progressively more frustrated, progressively more dissatisfied. As the Prime Minister himself said yesterday, on the very eve of the second front—itself the most grandiose and most formidable military operation in the whole history of warfare—this feeling of frustration is still growing. I do not believe this feeling can be wholly explained away by the mere fact that after 4½ years of war we are not so fresh as when we began, or even by the further reason advanced recently in certain newspapers when discussing the results of recent by-elections, that it is merely general disquiet in regard to social reform—although obviously both those reasons have their part to play. I believe there is a third and main reason, and I think that the Foreign Secretary, in replying to us today, could do something to allay it. Fundamentally, I believe, people in this country are getting worried and anxious as to our position in the world after the war. They are beginning to realise that even if they get a progressive government after the war, unless Britain not only retains her old position in the world but can establish it on even firmer ground, 879 any hope of building up a finer life for our people is absolutely impossible.
It seems to me that, on the eve of our return to Europe, there are certain questions asked by our serving men, and by the people of Europe to whose help we are going, which should be answered by the present administration and never have been. I would ask the Foreign Secretary what, in his view, is to be Britain's position in Europe after the war? Throughout this war we have heard a great deal about the intentions of the United Nations. We have had the Atlantic Charter, and the very concrete achievement of a 20-year treaty of alliance with the Soviet Union. But when we return to Western Europe, the men and women of Western Europe know that the United States are 3,000 miles away. They realise, too, that even our Soviet friends are farther from them than we are, but they know that we are on their very doorstep and, what is more, they know from the history of the past 20 years that we have constantly shirked our responsibility to them. When we go into Europe, we are expecting these men and women to come out into the streets to fight Germans. I believe that they will come out in the streets to fight the common enemy, but they will come more willingly if they are given concrete assurance that Britain is going to resume its traditional role as the leader of progress in Europe and will do its best to help them.
I believe that the time has come when we must consider that the concerns of Western Europe are the concerns of our country. We do not begrudge the Soviet Union considering her own affairs; it is obviously of vital importance that she should have safety on her own frontiers, but the same surely applies to us. There is a tendency, when we consider this return to Europe, to use the phrase "fortress." I suppose it derives from the way the Germans talk the whole time about the "fortress of Europe." But I think we would be entirely wrong if we considered that in returning to Europe we were merely entering a Bastille, whose prisoners will flock out, cap in hand, delighted with what we have done. We are not returning to a fortress but to fortresses—fortresses whose garrisons have not surrendered but have gone on fighting for over four years, men and women who have been fighting incessantly for the way 880 of life they wish to build up in Europe. We know that their ideas are radical ideas, and it is of the very greatest importance, if we are to continue to influence the thought of Western Europe, that we should, once and for all, state that we are interested in their concerns. It is one thing to decide that we are interested in the affairs of Europe; it is another thing to get our ideas carried out and, unfortunately, we have seen, through no fault of the Foreign Secretary—indeed he resigned his great post over that issue, and all honour to him for doing so—the breaking up of the League system of collective security which disaster has, unfortunately, struck a deep blow at the cause of international amity.
We have seen built up in this war, as our Allies have gathered around us, an unfortunate system of power politics. We may not like that phrase, but I do not think anyone will deny that at the present moment international relationships are built on that basis. We have been given the examples of the "Big Four"—the Soviet Union, the United States, China and ourselves—who will, it is said, lay down the rules for the conduct of Europe and the Far East after the war. It is an illusion to imagine for one moment that we shall succeed in doing that. Four nations alone cannot do it. The only way to influence these people is, as Pitt said, having saved ourselves by our exertions to save Europe by our example.
Historically, Britain in the world has always been the leader of its liberties and the pioneer of progress. The question whether we influence the world after the war depends solely on whether we present to them the example of an efficient working democracy. I am concerned that we shall have the power to get what we say listened to; I think there is general anxiety in the country on this point. But the "Gloomy Dean" school of prophecy in our country is a small one; very few of our countrymen take such a pessimistic and irrational view of our future as Dean Inge. Throughout the past centuries, if you took the population figures of a given country and gave it adequate leadership and courage, you could be certain that that nation would be one of the leading countries of the world. Progressively with the passage of time those population figures have necessarily increased. When Hitler announced before the war that he needed living room, and we pointed out 881 that he did not on existing population figures, the reason he demanded it was because he was planning a much larger country and population. He thought that in the centuries to come it would be the large nations in the world which would rule, with populations much larger than European nations possess to-day. I hope we shall try to build up again a system of collective security, indeed, it is vital that we should. But the fact remains that in any conference we attend in the world, to-day or in those early formative years of the new world to-morrow, it is of vital importance that we should not only have a good policy but the power to carry it out.
How can we assure Europe that we in Britain possess that power? For some reason which I have never understood we have constantly underplayed our own contribution and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister point out yesterday instances of the great contribution which we have made in this war. There are other concrete signs we can show immediately. What is the average European saying now about our robustness as a nation? Take the five neutral countries in Europe at the moment. It is a curious fact—and I have not seen it commented upon—that there are only two who are playing satisfactorily our way, who are cutting down their supplies to Germany and are helping us all they can. Yet these two nations are those surrounded by Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, whose Governments are real democracies. Look at the other three neutrals. There is no need to mention Spain—indeed, the state of affairs there was foreseen before this war, which was why Members inside this House and many people outside were anxious that Franco should not win the civil war. Take the other two neutrals; you have a remarkable situation. You have our oldest Ally, Portugal, which is being constantly praised and with whom we have an alliance dating from the 14th century. Indeed, we are greatly indebted to Portugal for her gift of air facilities in the Azores, but if you look on the reverse side of the sheet she is, so far as I can see, the main source of supply for Germany for wolfram and tungsten, which goes into German armour-piercing projectiles. After Portugal's gift of air facilities comments were made in the Press that it was remarkable that Germany took no action, but Germany is 882 getting a lot of help from Portugal too so why should she? Our other Ally, Turkey, is in a similar position. Whereas the projectiles which hit our tanks are tempered with tungsten from Portugal the actual armour plate for German tanks is probably tempered by chrome from Turkey. So, when Europe considers our future in the post-war world, she witnesses that Spain has been able to treat us with contumely and she sees our own Allies able to supply Germany with impunity. Therefore, it is not unnatural that one of the greatest doubts in the mind of the European is whether we will be sufficiently robust. It would be well, I think, if we behaved with greater firmness.
There is a further aspect. I wish to assume—and I think it is fair to do so—that in the same way as Englishmen and women in our Alliance with the Soviet Union and the United States desire those Allies to be strong so that they can be of help to us, they, in their turn, wish us to be strong too. We discovered to our own cost when we gave a protective assurance to Rumania, for instance, before this war that there is no greater embarrassment than to make an alliance which you cannot support yourself with people who cannot help you themselves. I see nothing to conflict with the desire of Russia or America in our hope that there should be a more powerful Britain after this war. If we regard Britain as a small island off the West coast of Europe then Britain will not be powerful. Lord Halifax raised an issue in Canada about some alteration in Dominion status which caused some controversy and I would like to suggest to the Foreign Secretary, when such matters come up for consideration, whether it is not possible to give a new structure to our Commonwealth which can lead it to become a new League of Nations? It is now quite obvious to Dutchmen for example and other small countries, after four years' occupation, that they never had sufficient economic resources to be able to defend themselves on their own and that it was no good to rely merely on their innocence to save them. It is ridiculous to assume that Marshal Stalin would be offended at the thought of a strong Britain. He might, it is true, dislike the thought of a strong reactionary Britain, but it will be up to 883 us to see that we become a working and progressive democracy.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) when he said that insufficient publicity has been given to the launching of the second front. I sometimes wonder, when I read the newspapers and speeches of responsible statesmen and other people, whether we will not eventually even publish the map references and the time and date of our landings. In 1940 the "Voelkischer Beobachter" did not say that General Deitl and so many divisions intended to arrive in Norway in so many months' time. We did not know in advance that Hitler would invade Belgium on approximately a certain day. I think that such publicity is dangerous. As a consequence the Germans are filling France with troops—I think some 50 divisions are now garrisoned there—and this has been one of the main factors in the Russian advance in the East.
§ Captain Grey
The hon. Member had better not tell anybody in the Forces that we are not to have a second front. We who are in the Forces know only too well that we are. This campaign will make demands and sacrifices on the nation such as it has never had to face before. Things will be much worse than in 1940, when we regarded ourselves as gallant because everybody told us we were, though we had more food, clothing and houses and were much more comfortable than we are to-day, and casualties were then small. When we consider the casualties which will occur when the second front opens we can indeed see that there will be need for a guiding spirit and purpose to help the nation support the coming burden. There is little sign of such a spirit and purpose at the moment, and we must present something of an enigma to Europe.
I hope the Foreign Secretary will make it quite clear that when we go abroad we shall do so not only in the belief that we are trying to help our own position but that we are trying to build a better way of life for others. On the subject of our own Commonwealth the only statement the Prime Minister has made, so far as I know, on that subject was a somewhat 884 unhappy one. He said—I cannot remember the exact text—"I have not become the King's first Minister to preside at the liquidation of the British Empire." With that sentiment we are all in agreement, but those words gave the impression to the outside world that like Metternich we intend to "govern and change nothing." Although we have no intention of abandoning our leading position in the world we have every intention of altering and improving our method. We shall move with the times and I hope the Foreign Secretary himself at the end of this Debate—or perhaps the Prime Minister on another occasion—will make some such statement. If he did so I am sure it would save lives when we go into Europe and allay a great deal of anxiety both at home and abroad.
§ Major Morris (Salford, North)
In connection with the campaign in Burma, from which country I have recently returned, I am pleased to inform Members of the House that I have very little criticism to make. Indeed, if I do, I will be most careful not to say anything that would in any way add to the existing difficulties confronting the people who are charged with running the war in that country. Considering the conditions of climate, lack of roads, the jungle and jungle diseases, I am more than satisfied that the war in Burma is being conducted with the maximum efficiency. If anyone thinks otherwise, I would advise him to go out for himself and find what conditions are like in that country. Neither do I wish by any careless talk to give information to the enemy. I have discovered since I arrived back in this country that there has been much unfounded criticism of the strategy of the war, not only in Burma but on all fronts, regarding the efforts of those who have to make important military decisions. This has not sustained the morale of the troops.
But that is not to say that every aspect of the organisation of the Army in Burma has been perfect. There have been mistakes: much has been learned by trial and error. If anyone expected otherwise, he shows a lamentable lack of appreciation of the ramifications of an army in a country such as Burma. I have a message from the troops in Burma. They have had a long spell in the jungle and they would like to be told that they are not the 885 forgotten souls of the British Army and that, when the war is won and plans are being discussed and demobilisation priorities arranged, that fact will not be lost sight of. I know I shall not be betraying any military secrets when I call attention to the magnificent work performed by the tea planters of India and Assam in making the mountain track from Assam to Burma into the present first-class metalled road, which can now take three lines of traffic and without which our Army in Northern Burma would be in grave danger. I hope the Government will show appreciation of that magnificent work.
The main reason why I desired to participate in the Debate was to register an emphatic protest against the unwarranted criticism in previous war Debates levelled at the Government in general, the War Cabinet in particular and the Prime Minister in a three-starred particular, regarding the central direction of the war. The people who indulge in that criticism are the same people who did their best to reduce this country to a state of military impotence and who now say that our comparatively happy position is due to the military genius of Russia and her fighting qualities and leadership—with which I agree. They are the same people who, between 1930 and 1939, had we displayed this same tendency, would have been the first to condemn us.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman recollect the statement of Lord Baldwin about the way he deceived the country?
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
Does the hon. and gallant Member remember the present Lord Chancellor, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, boasting that he had not spent the money that was allocated for defence?
§ Major Morris
I remember many things. If that was our condition of unprepared-ness then it would have been worse if those hon. Members had been in power.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
Does the hon. and gallant Member by that statement seek to absolve those who were effectively in power all the time?
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Would it not be better if the hon. and gallant Member were allowed to make his speech?
§ Major Morris
I was amazed to find that the main centre of attack of the people who criticised the direction of the war was the Prime Minister. I am jealous of the rights of Members, but I am certain in my own mind that they betrayed a great lack of proportion in their utterances on that point. They fail to realise what harm they have done to our war effort, both in Allied and neutral countries, by attacking and criticising the one man who, in 1940, saved us from defeat. I shudder to think what would have happened had he not been on the bridge during that period. There is an old saying that no one is indispensable, but when that phrase was coined this country had not experienced a war like this or the one of 1914–18. In the case of the Prime Minister that adage is out of date. He is indispensable, and he is the only man in the country who could inspire the people to the endeavours necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. In so far as operations on land, sea and air and the grand strategy of the war are concerned, I am satisfied. There is a good team running the war, and what has commended them to my notice is their refusal to bow down to the clamour and storm of misinformed public opinion on the question of a second front. They have not been too precipitate. They have waited until there can be no mistake as to the result. That confirms me in my opinion that they are entitled to the utmost support of all of us.
I want to make an appeal to hon. Members for conciliation, unity and a return of the spirit of 1940. That spirit is just as necessary now as at any time since Dunkirk. I have been amazed at the complacency of our people regarding the end of the war. There will be frightful battles and terrible carnage before the war is won. Every attack upon the Government, every seat lost at a by-election, recurring labour disputes and strikes, with consequent loss of production, are most harmful to the war effort. I make this plea for the men who served under me and worked with me in Burma.
887 They are much more concerned in a quick and victorious termination of the war and a speedy demobilisation than in any plans or discussions on future reconstruction. Their England is the England they left, whether it is the house in a small street of Salford, a country cottage, a suburban villa or a country mansion with broad acres—
§ Major Morris
Yes, or the slums. They want to get back to their wives and families, and the young men want to get back to their parents. Any one who has had the job of censoring their letters for over two years, will realise that that is their constant thought. I know that it is prudent to think of the future but in my opinion there has been too much talk of the future at the expense of the war effort. Winning this war remains our paramount job. All schemes of post-war reconstruction, no matter how grandiose, are nothing compared in importance with that paramount job. I know there are certain people who are thinking more of their political reputations than of the future of the country when the war is over and the men return, but to them political reputations do not count. No serving soldier cares a hoot about or is in any way interested in the ambitions of certain politicians. Their concern is to get back when the war is won to the England that they know and love. We are now on the eve of a mighty military enterprise. Does anyone believe that the men who are training for it, by hardening their muscles and strengthening their sinews, are concerned at the moment with post-war problems? Let us set an example in rededicating ourselves to the firm resolution to win the war as early as possible and set out soldiers, sailors and airmen an example of unity. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his conduct of the war. If his work can be measured in terms of men, he has not only a division. He has an army of many divisions. I trust he will be spared to lead us to a victorious and early conclusion of the war and to give us a lasting and beneficial peace.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I intend to resist the temptation to reply in detail to the many provocative and extraordinary points the hon. and gallant 888 Gentleman has made. I would only say that I am amazed at the poor view he takes of our people, because he has solemnly told us his conviction that, if it were not for one individual, the Prime Minister, the people of this country would have collapsed in 1940. I am sure the Prime Minister would not take that view and I look upon it as a gross insult to the people of our cities, who stood up to the blitz, to suggest that their courage and spirit are so poor that they depended on the existence of one man to stop them from collapsing. I will resist the temptation to go on but I really think the hon. and gallant Gentleman deserves it for the way he spoke. I am absolutely certain that he was betraying the hopes of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and their relatives here when he said that all that our soldiers abroad are concerned about is when they can return to this country, and that they do not mind the sort of country to which they return. I am sure every one will agree with me that they are most anxious that we should be conducting our affairs in Parliament and in the country so that they can be assured of a better country to return to than the one they left, of decent houses, and that they will not have to suffer from long periods of unemployment. Their major wish is to finish the war, but they are desperately anxious to come back to decent conditions. They are looking to us to see that we shape those conditions along the lines that they would desire.
I want to make one or two comments on the speech of the Prime Minister. I found that the most impressive part was the catalogue he gave of the contributions of the people of this country to the war. I thought that it was right that he should give us those facts and figures. It was an exceedingly valuable contribution to the knowledge of the peoples of the whole world. There are elements in some Allied countries who try to belittle the sacrifices and services of the people of this country. They are wrong in doing so, and the more it is known how much our people have sacrificed themselves, the louder and stronger and more effective will be our voice in European and world affairs. My complaint is that our voice to-day is not as effective as it could be, as it ought to be, and as it should be, because, while we have a military policy, we do not appear to have a foreign policy which the peoples of Europe can understand and appreciate. 889 We do not appear to have any clear-cut attitude on European affairs which will appeal to the peoples of Europe. That is a serious matter, because we risk losing the confidence and leadership of those European democratic, progressive and, maybe, revolutionary forces that will emerge at the end of the war and dominate the European scene. It is essential both to the future of Europe and to our future that we should have the confidence and friendship of those peoples.
There are three points which strike me forcibly, and two of them were omitted from the Prime Minister's speech. I hope that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will be able to say something on those matters which the Prime Minister omitted and which are of general interest to the House and the country. The first is Turkey. No doubt the situation there is one of delicacy, but, according to reports which have come to this country, there has been a very unfortunate turn of public opinion in Turkey against this country. In view of the hopes that were raised after the Teheran conference about our relationships with Turkey, the House will be interested to know, as far as possible, what are our present relationships. I would particularly like to know whether the large supplies of chrome are still going from Turkey to Germany in the same quantities as before, because chrome is a vital war material and it helps Germany's war industry. The other omission, which I understand the right hon. Gentleman is to repair, but about which, unfortunately, we will not be able to cross-examine him, is our relationships with Spain and the situation in regard to the supply from Spain to Germany of wolfram.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also talk about the supply of wolfram from Portugal to Germany. A great deal has been said about this matter, but, as far as I can see, nothing has been done. The fact remains that to-day wolfram is an absolutely essential war material for Germany, more essential now that Nikopol has been captured by the Russians and Germany is not able to get the magnesium. Yet go per cent. of Germany's wolfram requirements are coming from Spain and Portugal. That is the figure given by the Ministry of Economic Warfare. I understand that certain negotiations are going on with Spain, and perhaps we will be told something about them. I would like to know, however, what is happening with 890 Portugal, which is supplying the major portion of the wolfram. Have the Government made energetic representations to the Portuguese Government during the last few months? Have the Portuguese Government been made conscious of the impatience of the people of this country that the Portuguese people, our Allies, should be continuing to give such substantial aid to our enemies? I ask the Foreign Secretary not just to give us an answer saying that things are proceeding, but to give us either some substantial assurance on the matter, or take steps to stop this scandal continuing.
The other matter I want to deal with is the statement of the Prime Minister concerning the difficulties which have arisen between Poland and Russia. I do not want to say anything of the contributions to the war of these two countries or of our admiration of their people. That is not my purpose. I want to comment upon the two declarations made by the Prime Minister. One was that Russia needed reassurance against future attack by a readjustment of her frontiers. The second was that Poland should be compensated by having some part of German territory in the north and the west. There may be excellent reasons for readjustment of this or the other boundary, excellent ethnographic reasons. In this case there is such a reason. To suggest, however, that the alteration of boundaries can possibly create any reassurance to any country against further aggression is extraordinarily dangerous. To start with, it is nonsense.
Never in history has any boundary, however strategically favourable it may be, prevented a country from being attacked if another country wanted to attack it, and that is less likely to-day than ever since the aeroplane has come to play such a major part in war. Therefore, it is ridiculous to suggest that we should alter any boundaries in any part of Europe on strategical grounds so as to prevent a further outbreak of German or other aggression. I hope that that principle will not be accepted by His Majesty's Government or by any other member of the United Nations. If it is, it will lead to demands from all over Europe for boundary readjustments which are completely unjustifiable. Some such demands are already being made. The net result will be the creation of groups within new boundaries which are more likely to 891 lead to further unrest and war than to a pacification of Europe.
§ Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)
Suppose East Prussia were a part of Poland; does not the hon. Gentleman think that that would be a solution?
§ Mr. Strauss
I am coming to that in a moment. The statement by the Prime Minister that East Prussia is to become part of Poland is a very important new declaration of policy. May I read what the right hon. Gentleman said, referring to his conversation with Mr. Stalin:I also spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the North and in the West."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; col. 698, Vol. 497.]The Prime Minister agreed that a part of Germany—I assume that he meant East Prussia—should go to Poland. This is an important matter of principle, and it is a proposal with which I totally disagree. I would like to know whether he was speaking for a united Government in this matter, whether the Labour leaders in the Government agree to this proposal, and whether it may be assumed that the Labour movement is committed by it. It has never been before the House and never agreed among my colleagues that Germany is to be cut up after the war. This proposal is wrong for a variety of reasons. It is not likely to lead to any settlement of European affairs but will lead, if carried out, to a grave deterioration of European affairs. Moreover, it will be a piece of gross and stupid injustice. Let us consider the situation of East Prussia. By all tests it is a German territory inhabited by German people. By tests which have been made 97 per cent. of the people speak German.
§ Mr. Strauss
German is the native language of 97 per cent. of the people. Of the plebiscites made by the League of Nations after the last war, one showed that 92 per cent. and another that 98 per cent. of the people of that country wanted to remain with Germany. It will not be denied that by history and culture the area is German. I have no sympathy for a moment, and nobody in the House will have, with the Prussian landlords who have dominated that country for far too long. By their behaviour and outlook 892 they have been the major enemies of European peace for a long time, and I want to see them uprooted and driven out. To suggest, however, that these German people, 2,500,000 of them, should be taken over by Poland, and that that will lead to any betterment in the European situation, or to permanent settlement, seems to me to be quite wrong in justice and to be bound to lead to the opposite result.
§ Mr. Boothby
This is an important matter, and I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman one question. Does he regard Bismarck's Empire as sacrosanct, and does he want the future of Europe to be constructed on the basis of Bismarck's Empire?
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not think anything of the sort. I do not consider any boundary sacrosanct. I am prepared to change any boundary which can be shown to be bad from the ethnographic, historic and cultural points of view, but to change a boundary as the result of some other reason in the case of Poland because another bit of Poland is going somewhere else, and to do that for alleged military purposes, is a change to which I am wholly opposed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
Would not a transfer of population solve the problem?
§ Mr. Strauss
Even if we desire to contemplate moving millions of people, there are no Polish populations in Germany which can be transferred.
§ Mr. Strauss
We want to know how far this proposal goes. It has been suggested by the Polish Committee in Moscow that not only East Prussia, but Lower Silesia, Upper Silesia and the Danzig Corridor, comprising 7,500,000 people, should be transferred. It is true that these proposals have not been endorsed by the Russian Government or anybody else, but these demands are being made. We should have some clear declaration of policy from the Government at this stage because this matter is obviously urgent—about the breaking up of Germany, or any other territory, not for the sake of appeasement or the readjustment of unsatisfactory boundaries, but 893 as plunder to other nations. Has that been agreed to, and if so, to what extent?
§ Major Woolley (Spen Valley)
Would the hon. Member apply the same two tests to Austria that he has applied to Poland, of the percentage of the people who speak the language and the, other regarding bad landlords? If there were the same results, would he then say that Germany had a right to Austria?
§ Mr. Strauss
I cannot see the hon. Member's point. If the people of Austria speak German and the people of Germany speak German—as of course they do—and by some voluntary, democratic investigation they decide that they would like to have some economic or political union, that is one thing, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman must know that it is an unfortunate fact that the Poles and the Germans have never got on well together. They have always been at daggers drawn. To put under Polish domination a large, real German population would be quite wrong. It certainly would not accord with the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and would be bound to lead to disaster and future war. When it is suggested that some steps such as these are desired, in order to prevent Germany attacking Europe again and taking aggressive action, I am amazed at the lack of confidence of the United Nations in the actions which they are able to take to this end.
It does not seem difficult, if the United Nations are agreed and determined, to prevent another outbreak of war from Germany. It is, partly, a very simple technical problem. One has to deprive Germany of certain raw materials, and prevent any aeroplanes, military or civil, from being built in Germany, and the training of any German air crews. If you take those simple technical precautions and are prepared to see them carried out, it is quite possible to prevent Germany from attacking another country. If there is determination by the United Nations to do that, then there will be no war, but if there is no agreement among the United Nations on this matter, you can readjust your frontiers how you like, and you will achieve nothing. It may be asked whether Poland is not to be compensated for the loss of territory which may go to Russia for very good reasons, by being allowed to take under her domination some German territory.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
May I interrupt the hon. Member for one second, honestly not attempting to be unfriendly, but because I am not quite sure that I am following his argument? I did gather a few minutes ago that the one reason for redrawing a frontier which was always wrong, was the strategic reason but that you could have an ethnographic reason. I understand now that the redrawing of frontiers on the Russian side may be right. Is that for strategic reasons, or for what sort of reasons?
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
The latest form of the proposal includes a suggestion that Koenigsberg should be in the Soviet Union. Does my hon. Friend's censure apply to that proposal also?
§ Mr. Strauss
Certainly. I am not an expert on these matters and I would not like to give a decisive answer, but there appear to be ethnographic grounds for accepting something like the Curzon line.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Are we not getting rather dangerously near to racialism? How do we distinguish between racialism and ethnography?
§ Mr. Strauss
I would most strongly oppose the transfer of Koenigsberg, which is a wholly German city, and a stronghold of Social Democracy by the way, to any other country, unless the people of Koenigsberg were willing. To insist upon it for strategic grounds would be wholly wrong.
I am sorry that I have been so long over my speech, but I have been interrupted very much. I only want to make one more point. What is fair compensation to the people of Poland, for being deprived of some of their previous territory? What the people of Poland want is prosperity. They want employment and peace and to be able to live a decent life.
§ Mr. Strauss
The Polish Government may want something different, but it seems to me that ample compensation for the people of Poland would be to see to it that they got all the materials needed by them, in the way of machinery for their agriculture and industries, fertilisers, and electrical development facilities, to build up a prosperous economy. Poland 895 has been poor and restless in the past, largely for lack of those things, and for lack of credit and other facilities which would enable her to build up a prosperous economy. Provide those facilities for Poland and make Poland a prosperous country. Insist, if you like, that the Germans supply that machinery and materials, and I do not think that Poland will have any grievance whatever. In fact, she would be a far happier country than she has ever been before.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
How would the hon. Member arrange for her to have access to the sea?
§ Mr. Strauss
That is a matter of arrangement and of having railway facilities and leasing dockyards. With good will, that could be done. Switzerland, one of the most prosperous countries in Europe, has no port.
§ Mr. Strauss
I believe that it is along the lines of promising, not only to Poland but to our other Allies, that the United Nations will do their utmost when the war is over, not to readjust their boundaries, but to see that they are given facilities to build up a prosperous economy—and will see to it that they have them—so that they can increase, and may be to double the fertility of their soil, to set up small industries and enable them to trade and carry on their work without restrictive customs barriers, that peace can be secured in Europe. It is not along the line of redrawing boundaries.
It is along those lines that the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Government, should declare our policy for Europe. It is not enough to talk about the establishment of independent countries or the re-establishment of democracy. That is alright, but is largely words. Moreover, it may conceal the fact that we must bring about such an economic reorganisation of Europe as will bring prosperity to its countries. We must tell the people of Europe that it is our firm intention, not only of Great Britain but of the United Nations, to assure them security and prosperity, not through frontier re-adjustments, but by devising 896 such changes in their economic structure, whatever private interests may have to be uprooted in the process, as will make freedom from want for those people not just a slogan but a reality.
§ Captain Longhurst (Acton)
I should like, with all those uneasy emotions which older hon. Members will recall having experienced when they first addressed this House, to draw attention to another, and I hope not so controversial, aspect of our foreign relations, which seems to be in urgent need of review. I suppose it can best be described, though inadequately, as "national public relations." I mean the setting of Britain's case about British achievements, Britain's way of life and Britain's purpose, before the rest of the world. Salesmanship was never one of our strong points. I think we have always felt ourselves to be rather above that sort of thing—which is perhaps a legacy from the days when we could afford to. "Publicity" and "propaganda" are words which are discredited with us, and even the newer and more respectable "public relations" still carries with it a faint aroma.
It is widely admitted that successful partnership in war and, more emphatically, successful partnership in the uneasy days that will follow, must depend very largely on good will and understanding between what we call the man in the street, the average citizen, of the nations involved. Good will and understanding can be based it seems to me, not on high pressure propaganda or, as is our way at the moment, on low pressure understatement, but on plain, honest, blunt, straight, hard facts. That is what people want. I do not ask that we should go trumpeting round the world that Britain won the war, or any such nonsense. I only ask that when the time comes for other nations to make their assessment of us, that that assessment should be made on the basis of a knowledge of the truth and the facts about us. I do not want to go and plead with anybody to make a favourable estimate of us. All I ask is that they shall have the facts before them before they make any estimate of us.
What worries me at the moment is that we do not appear to realise that, while the responsibility for reaching the verdict is other people's, the responsibility for laying the facts before the jury, so to speak, is ours. We do not expect the average Englishman to spend his leisure 897 hours in informing himself about the war efforts of our friends the Russians or the Americans. He expects them, by the usual methods of publicity—newspapers, radio, newsreels, and such like—to bring such knowledge to his attention. In the same way, I do not expect the average citizen of other countries to go out of his way to investigate the part played by Britain or the Empire in the war. We have to carry the facts to him. From the facts which are set before him he will consider his verdict and form his opinion. He will not, I venture to emphasise, give consideration to facts which are not set before him. It seems to me that this has a doubly unfortunate result. Not only does he miss half of the story about us, but he may accept cunning falsehoods and unsavoury suggestions from the enemy which the missing facts would have counteracted, if only he had known them; but we did not tell him.
What I ask is: Can we honestly say that we have done everything in our power to put before the rest of the world the truth about Britain and the Empire, about our performance in the war and our intentions in the peace? Or are there still a few countries where our case is liable to go by default? We can only judge by results in these matters. We may be told that we are spending more money upon this sort of thing than we have ever spent before, but results are still what count. I hope that we are spending more money. We may be told that we have a new system of such propaganda—call it what you will. I hope we have, but the acid test is still, does it work? It seems to me, in all humility, that, judging by results, we are entitled perhaps to say that it does not. A monumental ignorance about Britain and the British Empire prevails, not only among neutrals, which is quite unnecessary, but among our friends, which is unforgivable.
What, for instance, is the opinion of the average Russian about Britain to-day? I hope that I am misinformed but I believe his opinion is that we are the people—I am talking about the Russian man-in-thestreet—who declined to launch a large-scale, and incidentally unprepared, land offensive in Europe last year. Not the people who pushed 19 vast convoys through the Arctic to his aid, to say nothing of those which perished in the attempt; not the people who sent equipment 898 for 20 a[...]moured divisions, 3,000,000 pairs of boots and 111 aeroplanes for every 100 we promised and other supplies too vast and varied to be chronicled—and no "cash and carry" basis either; not the people who in the dark days when his country had a peace pact with what is now the common enemy, took the decision to build the bombers and train the crews which, even now, as the Prime Minister told us, are drawing four German fighters out of five from the Eastern front. If the average Russian does not take these things into consideration when he makes his assessment of us, whose fault is it? Certainly not his. Probably he has never heard of these things. I suggest the responsibility must be ours and only ours.
I do not want to catalogue the whole sorry list of misconceptions about Britain and the Empire in various parts of the world but I think one or two more should be mentioned. I refer particularly to those which exist among the Americans, who by mutual desire as well as mere expediency are our natural Allies. I am assured that tens of millions of American citizens to-day are under the impression that the British Empire is a series of possessions held in dictatorial subjection by England, and that the Middle East campaign was fought by us predominantly with Empire troops. I am assured that many millions of others have no idea that, in the dark days when we stood alone, we sold out nearly all our foreign investments, and that vast aircraft plants in the United States to-day, which will come in so handy after the war, were conceived and financed by Britain. And many millions of others, I am assured, are under the impression that we might let them down in the Japanese war. How surprised they would be if they ever came to realise that we have lost far more in the Far East than they ever dreamed of possessing.
A distinguished traveller who is a friend of mine came back from the United States the other day from a lecture tour and told me how he was approached in one town by two school-teachers. They said, "We are friends of Britain, we are well disposed towards you, but there is one criticism which honesty compels us to make. It is about your administration in India." My friend braced himself for the assault, and very earnestly they said, "We cannot agree with your caste system there."
899 Whose fault is this shattering ignorance about Britain? [An HON. MEMBER: "American education."] Certainly not the Americans'. Never in history was there a race of more eager searchers after knowledge, more ardent accumulators of facts, than our friends the Americans. The fault is ours and ours alone. It seems to me that our whole system of public relations, call it what you will, upon which the future must so much depend, needs overhauling and perhaps completely reshaping. I think we ought to have some organisation calculated to detect, track down and refute any lie or misconception published or widely held about Britain or the Empire in any part of the world. I should like to say to people, "We do not in any way seek to make up your minds for you. That is your business. But we do respectfully ask, before you come to any conclusion about us, that you will have before you the following indisputable facts. That is all." I suggest that our case is one to be proud of. I say that it will bear examination by anybody. It never fails to make an impression on those who hear the truth of it, and personally I am very grieved when I see it, as I Think, in danger of going by default.
It is not my place at the present time to offer more detailed suggestions on this matter. It may be that hon. Members will feel that I have exaggerated the position and that things are not as bad as I have tried to make out, and that everything is being done to put Britain's case before the rest of the world before they form their opinion about us. Or it may be felt that perhaps the whole matter is not as important as I try to make out—in which case I shall be much relieved. But if hon. Members do agree with the point of view I have tried to outline, that if we do not put our case to the rest of the world certainly nobody else will, then I hope that they will agree with me in trying to press the Government to take more vigorous and more militant and more active measures to spread abroad in the world the truth about Britain and the British Empire.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
It is my privilege to offer the congratulations of the House to the hon. and gallant Member for Acton (Captain Longhurst) on his maiden speech. May I congratulate him on getting 900 off the tee with such confidence, in keeping with his world wide reputation as a golfer. Particularly I congratulate him on the long shot he took down the middle when he emphasised the importance of making clear to the world what we have done in the war and more particularly what proposals we propose to make as our contribution to the peace. I am sure we look forward to hearing from him again in the future. I want to look back to three of the speeches in this Debate, one of which I can pass over quickly, that of the hon. and gallant Member for North Salford (Major Morris), who came back from Burma and complained of the critics who have been complaining about the central direction of the war. My difficulty was that I did not understand how he knew the grounds of complaint as he had not been at the centre.
I want to deal with part of a speech made by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Griģģ). I took no exception to what he said, except that I think it lacked reality. I wondered whether I was really alive when I listened to some of it, as, for example, when he said we have the reputation of being Isolationists. It seems to me that for the last 300 years we have done more than anybody else to put our fingers into someone else's pie. That is why that statement to me lacked reality. He complained in particular that we had not entered into a Russian Alliance in 1939. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell the facts about what did happen in 1939. It seems to me that it is time the White Paper in relation to what is known as the Strang Mission was given some publicity, but on the question of Poland I more or less agreed with him—and with the Prime Minister for once. It seems to me that the recommendation that the Poles should now willingly accept what their friends wanted them to accept in 1920 is probably the best solution of a very difficult problem. But I join issue with him at once when he gets back to the old issue of power politics, as, for instance, when he ended by saying it was essential that we should have a strong France. He thought that we must not discuss foreign policy in this House, and he was prepared to hand over the control of our affairs to practically a dictatorship and leave foreign negotiations to be conducted behind the scenes. I support my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), who made an 901 excellent speech as to what might be going on behind the scenes of the Moscow and Teheran Conferences with regard to the partition of Germany, about which I will speak later.
I want to refer to the Prime Minister's speech, because I think it was the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) who said that this Debate is really a debate between the House and the Prime Minister. May I say at the outset I took a gloomy view of his speech? It seemed to me to lack any ray of hope or any real inspiration as to the future for the peoples of the world. There seemed to be a lack of any statement of real principle, economic or otherwise, and it seemed to me that after five months' absence it was really a great opportunity lost when all the world was waiting for something much more constructive and indicative of the future than he was able to give. He emphasised a thing that I have realised all along—I have thought that the war would not start until Easter, 1944—that we were quite wrong to think that there is going to be a sudden collapse and an end of the war in a very short time. I remember his statement in 1942 when he told us "the ridge was in sight." It may be that we mounted that ridge and toppled over it and found some more ridges ahead of us. It seemed to me that his metaphor was not as sound as it might have been. [Interruption.] War is like that, it might be. His policy appeared to me, to summarise his speech, to be back to monarchy in Europe and Imperialism, the tearing up of the Atlantic Charter, a dictated peace and another war in the future. I listened in the greatest gloom. I say to the Deputy Prime Minister that the tearing up of the Atlantic Charter indicated in the Prime Minister's speech is entirely contrary to the opinion he himself has stated and which the Labour Party stands for. The right hon. Gentleman himself said on 18th November, 1939:There shall be no dictated peace. We have no desire to humiliate, crush or defeat the German nation. All idea of revenge or punishment must be excluded. Peace, to be lasting, must result from the agreement of all, and not from the dictation of a few nations.With which sentiment I entirely agree, and I trust he still holds it. He went on, on 9th February, 1940: 902We are opposed to any attempt from outside to break up Germany. We do not seek the humiliation or dismemberment of your country. . We wholeheartedly desire to welcome you without delay into the peaceful collaboration of civilised nations.I did not read the Prime Minister's speech as conforming in any way whatever to these sentiments. He talked, as did my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth, about the agreement with Premier Stalin to cut up Germany. That is entirely contrary to what all of us on this side of the House stand for, and I should like the Prime Minister to know that a great number of us will resist it absolutely to the death. We are not going to have anything of the kind. It will lead to a great deal of trouble if anything of that kind is attempted. The Prime Minister went on to re-emphasise again that very foolish and unwise cry "unconditional surrender." So far as I can understand what he said, it meant and means the complete negation of the Atlantic Charter, which is the only positive declaration we have had given to us since this war started. Clause 2 of the Charter says:They (the signatories) desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.But the Foreign Secretary told us the other day that the Atlantic Charter does not apply to enemy territories. Then whom does it apply to? It is obvious we shall not give up our territories. It becomes a farce, and it means that the Government are running out of their declared policy of standing by the Atlantic Charter. My view of the Charter is that it is not good enough and ought to go a good deal further, but certainly it must not be abandoned. The fourth Clause refers to enemy territories specifically. This article says that the contracting partieswill endeavour, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.If those points had been emphasised in the Prime Minister's speech, more would have been done to make use of that invaluable propaganda weapon of which we have made so little use up to now. I approach the subject entirely from the point of view of the fighting soldier. In the last war, I remember the three years I spent in France, wondering what the 903 war was about and where we were going to. The average soldier does not want war to go on: he wants to get it over as soon as possible, to get a satisfactory peace; but he looks to the politicians at home to see that the peace is satisfactory. He believes that if the peoples in the enemy territories really knew the kind of peace to be offered them at the end of the war, that would do a lot to make it easier for him to overcome his enemies from the military point of view.
It seems to me that the cry of "unconditional surrender" is most unwise. Historically, it has proved futile. You have only to look back to the South African War to see what happened there. Lord Milner declared for unconditional surrender, and two years later Lord Kitchener had to abandon that position at Vereeniging when he made peace with the same Boer leaders. If we turn to the Italian front, we can see what happened there as the result of declaring to the Italian people that we would accept unconditional surrender and nothing else. We missed the bus. We spent six weeks talking about the conditions of unconditional surrender, and, as a result, we have not got so far militarily as we hoped to get. That "soft under-belly" is proving very much like a bristling porcupine. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, in an admirable speech on the subject, we continued to bomb the revolutionaries after they had given in, and after the appeal of the Prime Minister, who told them that they had one man and only one man to blame for what had befallen them, and that that man was Mussolini. Then, after they had unconditionally surrendered, we turned them over to Badoglio and the King. That simply reduced to farce any assurances given by this country. I do not want to delay the House by quoting reams of paper in support of my claim that unconditional surrender is an unwise cry; I leave it there, pointing out that history has proved it so in the past, and I am sure that when we look back in future on that declaration my view will be endorsed.
It would seem to me essential that we should make it quite clear to the German people what attitude we are going to adopt as and when any kind of occupation of Europe by us takes place. My mind goes back to the ridiculous rate of 904 the lira in Italy. A.M.G.O.T. fixed the rate at 400. In consequence, food has become so dear that the Italian people cannot buy it, and we have to feed them. Food has to be bought, with borrowed money, shipped to Italy, and given to the starving people. It would have a tremendous effect on the enemy peoples if we make it clear to them what their economic set-up is going to be in the event of complete military defeat, and if they were told that they were not going to be the victims of that appalling inflation which they experienced after the last war. Since we assured the Italians that, if they gave in, everything would be all right—and here let me remind the House that President Roosevelt assured them that accepting unconditional surrender did not mean that their country was going to be ravaged and everything knocked down—may I ask, do we really intend to go through Italy, on a voyage of destruction? It may be that some of these beautiful monuments were bound to be bombed to pieces. I do not complain about the destruction in the front line, which is inevitable in a war, such as happened to the monastery at Cassino—and here I would like to put on record my admiration of the fine words of the Abbot of Downside—but, when it comes to area bombing in the rear, we should take thought. We are told that bombing is very precise, and that there is no difficulty whatever in hitting military targets, but I beg our Government to take thought before destroying wonderful places like Florence. If our bombing is really so accurate, it is just as easy to hit a railway line outside the town as to hit it inside the town; and, as an engineer, I would point out that it is a darned sight more difficult to repair it outside the town.
As I have now got to the bombing question—and my views on this are well known—may I say that I listened with some astonishment to the Prime Minister talking about "the honour of bombing Berlin"? The dictators all use the same language: not long ago Mussolini talked about "the honour of bombing London." It may be that it has to be done, but, although mine is not a popular view, I have a fear in my heart that the flattening out of these towns of Germany is going to stand as a lasting disgrace to our name; and the people of this country are very much concerned about the methods which 905 are used. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to go, as he did the other day, to bombholes in London and say, "It is quite like old times." I do not find that to be the point of view of the average person. It is all very well for the Government, with dugouts costing a couple of million pounds to which they can go, but I think His late Majesty King George V best expressed the view of the people of this country on this subject. The story is told that the present Prime Minister—I think he was then First Lord of the Admiralty—in an interview with the King, in 1917, said, "You know, Your Majesty, I think it would have a most stimulating effect on the population if the Germans bombed London." To which His Majesty replied, "That may very well be, Mr. Churchill, but it would have a most depressing effect on me." The truth is that the mass of the people in all countries finds it extremely depressing. The important thing that makes it so vitally serious is that, as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) said yesterday, it opens up the whole question of the principles for which we are fighting. Let us not forget the contents of a Note handed to the British Ambassador in Moscow on 25th October, 1939 So far as I know, this attitude of the Russians has not been revoked since—I do not know. The note said:It is known that the universally-recognised principles of international law do not permit the air bombardment of the peaceful population, women, children and aged people.It would be interesting to hear whether the Russians have changed their attitude. I am not complaining of the immediate territory in the neighbourhood of the front line being destroyed. That cannot be helped. I have myself seen the most horrible and ghastly sights. But I protest against the awful stories which we read of these mass bombardments, of children on fire and people roasting by the hundred in the shelters, while we are claiming all the time that we are not going in for indiscriminate bombing. We are going in for indiscriminate bombing; and we should tell our people so, in order that they may know what is done in their name.
I agree with the hon. Member for Mossley in questioning whether it is strategically sound to divert for this purpose equipment which is needed for the military prosecution of the war. He talked 906 of the absence of long-distance fighters. Presumably he meant that the whole position in Italy might have been different if long-distance fighters had been available. I am thinking also of the absence of dive-bombers in the Pacific. One day there will be a terrific battle in the Pacific; and what shall we do then for our men on the ships? Whatever we say about the accuracy of our bombing, the only really accurate bombing is dive-bombing. If we go into that naval battle without carriers with properly equipped dive-bombers, I tremble to think of the effect on our gallant men and the loss of ships. I remember the struggle some of us had to get sufficient bombers to protect our Western Approaches. I would like to say to the hon. and gallant Member for North Salford (Major Morris) that the critics had a great deal to say about ships in convoy being left unprotected while this indiscriminate bombing of German towns was going on. The critics have been greatly justified in many of the criticisms that they have aimed at the Government. The House may not like it—it will probably laugh—but it is true that I had an overwhelming letter of praise the other day—which one day I will read to the House—saying how gratified the soldiers who battled all the way from El Alamein to Tunis have been at the action of those of us who were fighting the Government about the inadequacy of British built tanks.
It seems to me that we are now at a vital point. The Prime Minister, as I understood his speech, has thrown all principle to the winds. All the ideals for which we started this war have gone. We started off to defend Poland; we are now going to cut her up. We are now giving lumps of Germany away to Poland. That way lies war !
It is about time that some positive declaration of aims was made. I and some of my hon. Friends have said for weeks and months and years that we should do something to make the population on the other side disintegrate from their leaders, instead of, by the parrot cry of "unconditional surrender," reinforcing them behind Hitler. The Prime Minister, in 1941, used these words:I said the other day that four-fifths of the human race were on our side. It may well be an under-estimate. Just these gangs and cliques of wicked men and their military or party organisations have been able to bring these hideous evils upon mankind.907 I wonder how many of those four-fifths are still with us as a result of our complete lack of policy. He did not yesterday hold out one glimmer of hope to the ordinary people of the world. I wish we could have some declaration from the Government which would tell us, friends, neutrals and enemies alike, what contribution we are going to make when the conflagration comes to an end.
I and a great many of my hon. Friends here and millions of people outside are extremely suspicious of the Government. My own point about it is that the Government have not got the same aim as the people. They do not want the peace that the people want, and they do not dare to say positively what kind of peace they are contemplating or reveal to the country the secret negotiations now going on. I urge that we should have some constructive statement soon, and I warn the Prime Minister that the country is on its toes about this matter. There is a feeling of frustration. Ideals have been dropped. The Prime Minister said yesterday that we must not think of ideology. Ideals, in my view, should be clung on to in war. What are we fighting for? Will the Foreign Secretary tell us that it is not only unconditional surrender and the carving up of Germany which is the aim of the Government, but that a statement will be made soon on economic post-war policy which will help to bring about peace earlier than at present seems likely.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I should like at the outset of the comparatively few remarks which I propose to make to the House to make it plain to hon. Members, and particularly to the hon. Member who has just sat down, that I do not claim any privilege of being a Front Bencher. I have taken the view that when a Debate is taking place of minor importance, or in Committee, it is permissible for an hon. Member to sit on the Front Bench who is not a Member of the executive of the Labour Party; but I would like to assure my hon. Friends that I claim no right to do so on important occasions, unless of course, I am elected a Member of the executive of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
§ Mr. Boothby
As a back bencher, yes. This Debate has covered a very wide field. It has now been turned into a Debate on foreign policy. It started as a Debate on the whole conduct of the war, on strategy, and on home politics; and I confess I think it is very difficult to separate foreign policy from home policy at the moment, or indeed from the actual stratigical conduct of the war. The whole thing is interlocked and interlaced, so I am going to make an attempt to touch very briefly on each aspect; and I want first to deal with what my hon. Friend who has just sat down said on the matter of bombing. I believe, on the strategical side, that the two decisions taken by the Prime Minister for which he deserves great credit, and which we can now see to have been at the highest level of strategical thought were, first of all, the decision heavily to reinforce our forces in North Africa at a time when this country was in a position of considerable weakness and even of danger; and secondly, the decision taken in 1941 to give a high priority to the construction of heavy 4-engine bombers which have produced the Bomber Command we have to-day. It is above all, to these decisions, and to the resolute determination with which he waged the war against the U-boats—at one time our most deadly menace—that the Prime Minister will ultimately be judged as a War Minister. I believe they are of far greater importance than the more spectacular political speeches of 1940, when he acted merely as the inspired interpreter of the nation's will to survive.
So far as the bombing policy is concerned, we have seen something of what happens when you saturate the enemy's defences. We have yet to see what will happen when, as I believe is possible, the fighter strength of the Luftwaffe is completely destroyed. Then, I am convinced, Germany could be subjugated, and we could win the war in two or three months, without invasion. I recognise the sincerity of the views held by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who has just expressed them very forcibly; and I appreciate to the full what they mean to him. But I must say that I was very sorry to read this morning the observations made yesterday in the Debate by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I have sat in this House for many years with the hon. Member for Mossley, 909 and I have seldom known an occasion on which his political activities were not mischievous, and injurious to the interests of this country. One of the first, and worst, efforts was when he persuaded the Mining Association of Great Britain in 1926 to defy the Government, and to defy this House, and prevented the present Prime Minister from coming to a reasonable agreement with the miners at that time. The results of his policy are with us to this day. He has pursued with relentless and malignant hostility the only two contemporary statesmen of authentic genius that this country possesses; and I venture to say, even now, that had either the present Prime Minister or my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George), or preferably both, been members of the administrations which, according to the hon. Member governed this country with so much vigour and vision between 1931 and 1939, we might not have fetched up on the beach at Dunkirk.
The hon. Member for Mossley is always looking for some method of chastising himself, presumably for the goad of his soul. I have no objection to that, but I do strongly object when he tries to introduce his private masochism into our public life. What worries him now, he says, is not the effect of the war upon the Germans, but upon ourselves; and he goes on to suggest that we regard revenge as, itself, a creditable thing and rather enjoy the thought of bombing open towns and women and children. That is merely untrue. What seems to me to be much worse than untrue, is when the hon. Member says that we have put the young men, who are now conducting our bombing offensive against Germany with a courage unparalleled in the annals of war, on the wrong side in this war.
The hon. Member for Ipswich never said anything like that. I think it was a wicked thing to say. The hon. Member for Mossley said he had knocked about among members of the R.A.F. I had the honour to serve as adjutant of a Bomber Squadron in the R.A.F., and I would like to say that these young men feel, and I think feel rightly, that they are the spearhead of the attack upon Germany by this country. If it were not for them, we should be leaving the Russians to do practically the whole job at the present time. They also feel, and I think 910 rightly, that they are doing more than anyone else to bring this war, with all its slaughter and misery, to a speedy end. And I think it is monstrous for anyone in this House to say of these young men that they have been put on the wrong side in this war. I think it is necessary for some one to repudiate that statement emphatically.
I would like now to revert for a moment to the general question of strategy. Since Tunis and Sicily it has seemed to many of us that the politico-strategic decisions of the United Nations have fallen somewhat below the level of events. It is too early to give final judgments, but I would like to put one or two considerations forward to the House. First of all, the system of combined staffs has been much praised. I think we have also to recognise that it has its defects. It lacks the pervasive authority, the singleness of purpose, the driving power and the flexibility of a great individual commander, such as we see behind the great Russian offensive. What happens at these innumerable inter-allied and inter-Service staff meetings? None of us know; none of us can be told; but I think it reasonable to assume that every possible objection to a particular course of action is cogently advanced, and that the dangers of such a course are not overlooked. The result that must often follow is a compromise decision, a lack of flexibility, and slowness is action. [An HON. MEMBER: "Coalition."] Well, there you are. I am not suggesting the system should be replaced, but I do think that its defects should be realised.
What has taken place in the Mediterranean in the last few weeks and months? I should like to tell the House of a very interesting talk I had the other day with a young officer who has just escaped from Italy. He speaks fluent Italian, and got away from the Germans in the north of Italy at, and following, the time of Mussolini's collapse. He told me that at the time of the collapse the whole population of Northern Italy thought the war was over; and all came out in procession, and went to look for Union Jacks and United States flags. What happened? The next night we gave Milan the biggest bombing it ever had. I am in favour of the bombing policy, because I think it is the way we shall win the war; but I am not in favour of that. What worries me is that, whoever gave 911 permission to carry out that raid could have had no conception of using the civilian population of Italy to liberate themselves from the German oppression.
The next thing he told me was that, for several weeks, the Germans had no forces at all in Northern Italy; and that, instead of dropping bombs, we should have been dropping arms. Even if we dropped a battalion or two it might have done some good. I feel that, when all the arguments are concluded, we missed a great political opportunity in Italy immediately after the request for an armistice. I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Ipswich said about unconditional surrender. Technically, unconditional surrender is impossible; but here we come back to the Staff talks again. The Casablanca Conference decided we must have unconditional surrender, so unconditional surrender it had to be; and we went on arguing about it for eight weeks, when we should have been taking over Italy on any terms we could, and exploiting the tremendous political opportunity provided by the unexpected fall of Mussolini. May I remind the Foreign Secretary of two aphorisms of the late Lord Fisher, who was something of a military genius? The first was "The essence of war is speed"; and the second, "Prudence in war is imbecility." His Majesty's Government might well take those two observations into serious consideration.
I want to turn now from strategy to politics. The mood of 1940—when none were for a party and all were for the State—is fast disappearing in this country, and we have to face the fact. Why? Is it because the will to beat the enemy is less? The answer is an emphatic "No." Is it because the Government are not in possession of a policy or a theme? I think the country does feel this, to a considerable extent. Is it because the United Nations no longer appear to have a common purpose beyond the immediate defeat of the enemy? I think there is also some truth in that. I think Europe feels it, and many people in this country feel it. I believe the mischief began in this country when it was laid down that no measures were to be taken by the Government that might affront or upset either of the main political parties. That seems to me to be nonsense. It is the business of a Government 912 to have a policy, and no Government can expect that everybody will agree with that policy. Nobody talked like that after Dunkirk, when the Government were accorded complete power over all property and persons in a few hours. [An HON. MEMBER: "For the prosecution of the war."] All right, for the prosecution of the war.
Now where has this policy led us? It has certainly led to many months of paralysis on the home front, where widespread speculation in land has gone on for months, unchecked by the Government to this day. It has led to what I maintain is a series of uneasy compromises in the coalfields, which have led to no good results; and, finally, it has led to the frame of mind which directs the civil servants not to speak to Sir William Beveridge because he is preparing a report on full employment after the war. That seems to me to be ludicrous. It seems as if the Government were afraid, or almost afraid, of having any kind of positive policy. Or do they think it does not matter? That is not the view of the men and women in the Forces. There was an excellent paragraph in a leading article in the "Observer" a fortnight ago—This is the first age in which it has been openly regarded as wrong for a nation, a Government, a party, or even a newspaper to have a policy. First, the fear of war, and then the war it caused, have been used to justify this denial of responsibility. Five U.S. Senators accused Britain of having a world design; and we are shocked, not, as we should be, because it is unhappily quite untrue, but because it is even suggested.There is a very great deal to be said for that point of view. You cannot wage war without a policy, or without politics. War is politics; and, in the final analysis, an instrument for executing political policy. Unless you fight for political principles, and are convinced that there are no other means of making those principles prevail, it is madness to go to war at all.
The speech of the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) fascinated and interested the House yesterday. The hon. Member analysed our faults of omission and commission before the war in a most interesting manner. But I want to suggest that our supreme fault before the war was a reluctance, an almost invincible reluctance, on the part of the Government, the House, and the public, to face unpalatable facts. I think that 913 was the worst thing of all. Perhaps the most unpalatable fact is that politics is, in fact, an exercise in power; and that you ought not to enter into commitments that you cannot implement, if necessary by force. Without power, you cannot achieve anything. The hon. Member went on to say that the main objective of our foreign policy should be to be trusted by the states of Europe. I agree. But what is, and always has been, the main ground of European mistrust of this country? I think it is that a great many people have always thought we were humbugs and hypocrites, and very often did not mean what we said.
I take, as a brief illustration, the Darlan affair, which, I think, lends colour to this view. When we gave him political power in North Africa, the faith in us of the underground movements in Europe was temporarily shattered; because they knew then, what we know now, that Darlan was a double-dyed traitor. [HON. MEMBERS: "We knew it then."] Well, we were not so sure. I come now to the question of Poland. I must say I find it very difficult to listen with patience to those who supported the Munich agreement indulging in a fit of morality about Poland. In the words of a very great man, "Let us clear our minds of cant upon this subject." At Munich, Hitler compelled Britain and France not only to sacrifice Czechoslovakia, but also their alliance with Russia, which was the only thing that could have saved Poland from subjugation, and the only thing that could have saved the world from war.
§ Mr. Boothby
I am suggesting that it was the Munich Agreement that definitely prevented us from having it, and that the way Russia was treated at that time made it inevitable that we could not have it. That was the first major victory of the aggressive Fascist States. We ordered the Czechs to hand over territory that did not belong to us, "for the sake of a quiet life." That may or may not have been an act of political expediency, but it was certainly an act of cynical political immorality. I go so far as to say that it is sanctimonious humbug to suggest that it was anything else.
With regard to our guarantee to Poland, it is very relevant, and not in the least 914 impolitic, to consider the question of frontiers, from which the hon. Member for Lambeth, North (Mr. G. Strauss) ran away so hard, showing a lack of realism and a reluctance to face up to the facts characteristic of this country. Frontiers are relevant.
§ Mr. Boothby
He also mentioned heavy machinery, economic well-being, and a good many other things, as being of greater importance than frontiers.
§ Mr. Boothby
That was the impression that he conveyed, and I will leave it to the OFFICIAL REPORT. I want to ask this question, which is frightfully important. When we guaranteed the independence of Poland in 1939, did we, for example, guarantee Vilna and Teschen? I hope we did no such thing. We strongly opposed the annexation of Vilna, in defiance of the Supreme Council, in 1919. I do not think that we could have agreed to the annexation of Teschen after Munich, when the Czechs were on their backs. I therefore deny that we are tied to any particular frontiers of Poland, and it is a mistake to think that we are. I agree that many hon. Members do not think so; but hon. Members on both sides, in this Debate, have maintained that we are bound to the present frontiers of Poland by the guarantee of 1939.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The Prime Minister said that what we guaranteed was the independence of Poland.
§ Mr. Boothby
I agree. I cannot understand the attitude of hon. Members who were shocked by the Prime Minister's attempt to get agreement between Poland and Russia on the basis of the Curzon line in the East, and compensation for the Poles from Germany in the West. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will deal with this matter. Are we going into a Peace Conference regarding Bismarck's Reich as sacrosanct? It was a mushroom empire, founded on the most ruthless use of force. The people of 915 Prussia, of Saxony, of Bavaria, of the Hanseatic towns, and, of the Rhineland, differ profoundly from each other. It was merely because Bismark "pulled a fast one" in 1870.
§ Mr. Boothby
On the question of separation, I would be in favour of asking Germans. I have long thought, and thought after the last war, that if Bavaria had been given the chance of separating from the rest of Germany, it would have been a good thing for Bavaria, for Europe, and for the world. I come back to the question of power. The victories of the Red Armies will liberate the peoples of central and Eastern Europe, and constitute the title-deeds of the Soviet Union to play a major part in the settlement of this part of the world, and also to security from attack in the future. Any peace in Eastern Europe which is not underwritten by Russia will be no peace at all.
§ Mr. Boothby
No, it is because Russia has power. Let me quote Mr. Walter Lippmann on this point:A settlement which was such that it could be maintained only by aligning American, and also British, military power against Russia ill Europe would set the stage inexorably for a third world war.I come, in conclusion, to the question which has dominated the Debate, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary: What is our foreign policy to-day? We have not yet had an answer to that question. Are we afraid of revolution in Europe? As against my hon. Friend, who made such an interesting speech, I do not think it is in accordance with British traditions to be afraid of revolution in Europe. At any rate it is not in the tradition of Fox, Palmerston or Gladstone. I can see the argument in favour of retaining Badoglio, for the time being. He has delivered the goods. [An HON. MEMBER: "Has he?"] By goods, I mean battleships and cruisers. But I can see little that can be said for retaining, even for the time being, that King 916 who has delivered nothing but slavery and misery to his people for the last 20 years. Let me quote what the great Jefferson said:Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the are of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.The Prime Minister referred the other day to the "old cause of freedom and progress." It is a good cause. Let him base the policy of his Government upon it. Let him allow the people to argue and vote about domestic issues if they want to do so, as they clearly do. Let the twin planks of Government policy be reconstruction at home, and rebellion against Fascist tyranny abroad wherever it can take place; and let us help wherever we can. If the Prime Minister will do these things, he will become again a national and not a party leader, and he will restore the national unity for the testing days that lie ahead.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Plymouth, Devonport)
My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has spoken, as always, easily, fluently, controversially and comprehensively. On to some of the fields upon which he travelled, I shall be obliged to follow him, but not, however, on to the strategic terrain which he surveyed. The trial of strength in Italy is, if one may borrow a metaphor, sub judice and, therefore, exempt from detailed examination and comment. The fighting on the Nettuno beachhead affords an opportunity for the trying out of methods which will be exploited by both sides on a wide scale in the forthcoming second front. Meanwhile, whatever questions may be in our minds, whether about the meteorological or geographical conditions, or why we did not advance after our initial success, can be left in suspense. General Alexander, from his past record, is entitled to the full confidence and trust of this House and the country.
Whatever may be the tactical lessons, or the strategic lessons, whether there may be advance or retreat, the doom of Hitlerite Germany is sealed. What is interesting to examine is not the past but the future; what use are we to make of that victory which, we have been told, may surprise us at any time? The effort of this nation is without parallel in the 917 long story of human endurance and striving. We reached, perhaps, the highest point of our moral prestige when our physical strength was at its lowest. It would be a perverse fate, indeed, it, our unstinted efforts having made victory for the other United Nations possible, we were to have a vision less clear than theirs of what the nature of the peace should be. I propose to lay my reflections, such as they are, before the House and to point tentatively—for none may speak with confidence in these matters—to certain conclusions.
Our two great Allies with whom we share the responsibility for shaping the new world, strong as they are, are each determined to become stronger. Both are following an expansionist policy. I have not regard to words but to facts, and these, I propose to examine cursorily. Even before the United States entered the war, she was pushing the shield of the Monroe Doctrine further Eastwards, and, fortunate indeed it was for us, that that was the case. First to Greenland and Iceland—[HON. MEMBERS: "Eastwards?"] Eastwards from America. First, I should have said to the Caribbean—to the West Indies—then to Greenland and Iceland, and ultimately to Suez, to the Red Sea, and Eritrea. Since she entered the war, the inexorable requirements of her defence have dictated that she spread a network of outposts and stations to the Far East. Is it conceivable that the aerodromes so elaborately constructed, and the ground staff of a connection which enables the world now so conveniently to be circumnavigated, are to be disrupted at the end of the war? Is that conceivable? Is the whole system, necessary for the security of the United States and the discharge of her responsibilities, to be uprooted? Is the United States going to pick up her marbles and go home? If anyone were tempted to reach that conclusion, he would find a corrective to it in the permanent stake which is being inserted in Arabia and the neighbouring countries. This is the natural biological urge which drives all nations forward. A pipeline is to be constructed by the United States Government 1,250 miles long at a cost of 160,000,000 dollars from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and the declared official purpose—there is no concealment in these matters—is to sustain the United States Navy and Air Force not only in 918 war but in peace, and to support the United States foreign policy. America is following in the 20th century the policy which we followed in the 19th century. That is very fortunate for us if the tendencies are frankly realised.
What of Russia? Parallel with the military growth has gone an enlargement of the foreign policy. It has been stated in Moscow that the Soviet Union intend to exert in peacetime on world affairs an influence corresponding to the investment which they have made in war. Who can complain of that? It is, however, an expansionist policy. There is a policy towards neighbours. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), in his most interesting and suggestive speech, stated that the policy of Russia towards her neighbours had been defined in some speeches from which I think he read extracts. I am going to look at the facts because the Russians know what they are doing, and they are quite candid about it. Some of Russia's neighbours have been incorporated in Russia already. The other neighbours are to enjoy independence, but the crucial question is, What does independence mean in this context? That is the crucial question. Independence can be enjoyed on three precisely defined conditions. The first is, that these independent nations do not group themselves together in such a way as to form what is called a cordon sanitaire. The second condition is that their frontiers correspond with the requirements of Russia's strategic security. The third is that they have Governments which are well-disposed towards Russia.
There is no concealment; that is the policy of Russia towards her neighbours. The illustration of it is now being afforded in the case of Poland. It was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham that we went to war to preserve the independence of Poland. I do not think we went to war for any such reason. We went to war to substantiate the principle of negotiation. We were not adhesive to any particular Polish frontier. Was that frontier to be revised by the free consent of the peoples concerned or was the solution to be imposed by force? That was the issue. I take it that my right hon. Friend's opportune restatement that His Majesty's Government will not consent to any territorial adjustments, except by way of a freely negotiated settlement with the peoples concerned, still holds, and 919 must hold. I think my right hon. Friend showed wisdom and courage in restating that proposition.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, the other day. I hope what we heard yesterday about the Curzon line is not to be taken as prejudicing in advance that freely negotiated settlement. It would, indeed, be paradoxical and unjust if, having assisted Poland to protect her western frontier from a slight revision, we were to press her contrary to her own intentions and the powers of her Government to sacrifice one-third of her country in the east. I quite agree—and I think the House must agree—that it is desirable that a working accommodation should be reached between these two countries. I have no doubt that under the experienced and impartial handling of my right hon. Friend the conditions will be created in which such an accommodation can be reached. But what I want to assure myself of is this: that we stand were we have always stood in this matter—in favour of the principle of negotiation. If that principle is sacrificed in any particular then there is no assurance that the new world will be any better than the old. I only pause to make that observation because I think hon. Members should speak their minds on this question in order that there may be no mistake about what British public opinion might be.
There is the wider Russian foreign policy. There is the constitutional revision. Whatever the internal implications—
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I hope my right hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt so that there shall not be any misunderstanding. He was not implying, I am sure, in what he said, and in his remarks about what I said—by which, of course, I stand—that His Majesty's Government themselves would not be entitled to have an opinion, and express that opinion to their Allies.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I have no desire to suggest that His Majesty's Government should not have an opinion. I want to assure myself on the statement that during the war no territorial rearrangements will 920 be recognised unless they are freely negotiated.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The Polish Government are in a difficult position. Being an emigré Government, they suffer from certain inhibitions which might not govern other Governments.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I suggest that they do in the sense that other emigré Governments represent their people, as, for instance, Dr. Benes' Government represent Czechoslovakia.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Well, they are the only Government with whom it is possible to deal. A treaty was made with the Polish Government, not only by ourselves but by the Russians. I feel satisfied with what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary says if he reiterates that declaration. I have confidence in the impartiality of his judgment and I wish that the Poles also shall have that confidence. Therefore, I hope that the reference to the Curzon Line is not to be taken as prejudging that case. If it is to be so taken, then the good offices are, in some sense, compromised.
Before I leave this question of Poland may I say—because I think it is one's duty at this juncture to say what one thinks in these matters—that there is a proposal to compensate Poland for an adjustment of her boundaries on the East in favour of Russia by a gain of territory at the expense of Germany on the West. None of us in this House can have any tender feelings towards Germany, nor can anybody be so narrow as to hold the opinion that frontiers can never be adjusted. Of course they can be adjusted. I only want to enter this caveat. If it is proposed to resort to the uprooting of a great bulk of the German population and its transference somewhere else, then I think there is a risk that you will create another irridenta in Europe.
§ Sir Malcolm Robertson (Streatham)
What does my right hon Friend mean by uprooting of Germans? From what part of Germany?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
From East Prussia. If that is the proposal I say that we must be careful about the creation of a new irridenta. I do not wish at this stage to say any more on that point.
To come to the wider Russian policy, whatever is the constitutional revision, whatever effects it may be intended to have internally, it will also have an external effect. It is directed to the remedying of the essential weakness of the Treaty of Versailles, namely, the proliferation of small independent sovereign nations which cannot defend themselves or protect their economic entity. It offers to such small nations the possibility of protection within the Soviet system, within the Soviet Union. That is bound to have a transforming effect in Eastern Europe.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
The small neighbours of Russia are invited to enter the Soviet Union upon the terms announced under the constitutional revision. That is bound to transform the framework of Eastern Europe.
§ Mr. McGovern
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about free negotiation is he aware that one of the greatest dangers is that the Soviet Union will reject the emigré Governments and will select and train Governments of their own for these territories and proclaim that as free negotiation?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I have passed that point and I do not desire to add to what I have said upon it. The framework of Eastern Europe is going to be altered. There is no alternative before these nations. If they wish to enjoy protection, they must join the Soviet Union. There is no alternative scheme. I want to suggest that we also should have a policy in regard to Europe. I suggest that it should be an alternative policy and, if possible, one propounded in complete agreement with our Ally. The institution of small sovereignties in Europe has no roots in the traditions of Europe. It is a modern conception, although from the bitter 922 memories and experiences we have of the wars caused by it we must think that it is almost a law of nature. It is not. It is modern. After each war in Europe—the Thirty Years' War, the wars of Louis XIV and the Napoleonic Wars—there have been revived projects for bringing unity to Europe, for restoring the conception of Europe as a single family. Even in the Anglo-Russian treaty of 1805 there was a provision for the establishment of a federative system in Europe and it was laid down in a Clause that except under such a system there could be no protection for small nationalities. Owing to other developments, thought was diverted from this hopeful proposal.
In 1919 President Wilson dominated the peace settlement with his conception of autonomous and unqualified sovereignty, and 13 new such sovereignties were created, but it was quickly apparent that the system would never work. M. Briand in 1930 put forward a scheme for federative union which would give to Europe the same solidarity as exists in the United States. The proposal was widely supported. It was put forward by the French Government, supported by Belgium, Poland and other countries and widely supported in Europe, but broke down upon the question of whether the Soviet Union and Turkey should be incorporated within it. The ground is in good condition to-day for the replanting of this seed. There are only two possibilities for British policy in Europe. One is political federation and the other economic federation. If you cannot achieve the political federation then for heaven's sake let us have economic federation, the outline of which I laid before the House recently. Unify the services of Europe which are common to every country in Europe, namely, the railways, the post office. Institute a central bank with a single currency, and regionalise or perhaps continentalise electricity and other services. But we must have a policy for Europe, otherwise the Russian proposal holds the field.
There is no alternative for the small nations of Eastern Europe except to incorporate themselves in this great multilateral Soviet State. Far from complaining of the Soviet's proposal, I think it should stimulate us to act upon the same lines. General Smuts has proposed that Britain herself should become involved in Europe. He wants to fill in our moat.
923 I think that is a very dangerous development, which would not be necessary if we had a federative system in Europe, either political or economic. Britain has everything to lose by unsettlement on the Continent. It diverts her efforts. She cannot enjoy prosperity while there is unsettlement in Europe. She has already lost much of her strength through two great wars. She must not run the risk of a third. Therefore, she must have a positive policy equivalent to the Russian policy in the East of Europe.
Again, this Russian constitutional reform should be noticed by our Empire. It is strange that, at a time when we are finding it difficult to get any unitary principle in our Empire, the Soviet Union should feel itself centrally so strong that it can devolve some of its powers. It is to be noted that, whether at Moscow or Teheran or anywhere else, this country goes to the council chamber as Britain and not as the representative of the Empire which she is entitled to lead. It becomes pressing, if we are to play our full part in the world, to bring about some articulation of this Empire. The minimum requirements are that there should be a single foreign policy and a single defensive policy. This is sheer commonsense.
In the world of to-day events move too swiftly for improvisation to take the place of forethought. We must unify this Empire for a material reason also. Why should this Island bear the whole cost, as it did in peace-time, of Imperial Defence? Some criticism has been made to-day of the hesitations which have occasionally characterised our foreign policy in the past. Is it realised that at each stage the Government must endeavour to make sure that the Empire will agree? When Mr. Chamberlain is criticised for not having brought this country into war earlier, is it realised that he might have endeavoured to save Europe but might have lost the Empire? It is urgent that this Russian example should be followed with appropriate modifications both in Europe and in the Empire. I know that these are questions of great perplexity. They are problems which baffle human minds. The Government have great cares. Ministers bear them as lightly as may be. It is easier to propound solutions in these matters than to apply them. The spirit in which I put these proposals forward is, therefore, one of understanding. I 924 advance them in the hope that we may be able to play in peace, that high and pre-eminent part to which our efforts in this war have entitled us.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I should like at the outset of my remarks to echo what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in welcome to the Prime Minister in his review of the foreign situation which he gave us yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the very important but specialised points to which he devoted his interesting speech. I want to come back to what I conceive to be the three major points in the speech of the Prime Minister. The first point which struck me as being of the greatest importance was the growing preponderance of the Allied Forces over the forces of the enemy. The striking facts which he gave us, including the great part which Britain has played in the past and the increasing part which will obviously be played by all the three Allies in future, demonstrated unmistakably that any hope in Germany of their victory in the war must be finally laid aside. It may be that they can still inflict injury upon our fighting forces and upon our civilians at home. Grievous as that may be, it will not alter the fact that the possibility of turning the scales once again in their own favour has gone for ever. That does not, of course, mean that victory for us is in any sense already within our grasp.
We have exceedingly difficult problems to face in the future that will exercise all our capacity, all our man-power and all our courage and determination. The country has had some misgivings in the matter of the Anzio bridgehead and some feeling that the unexpectedly favourable opening was not exploited to the fullest possible extent. It hopes that the lessons which that invasion has taught will be fully borne in mind in the much larger problems of the invasion of Europe known as the second front. This House would welcome an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that in that dangerous and hazardous enterprise, to which we are necessarily committed, there will be no rigidity of design or fixity of time-table which will prevent us taking advantage of any favourable opportunity which the hazard of events may bring about.
925 The second great point which emerged from the Prime Minister's speech was the growing strength of the weapons of destruction. Since the war began the power of destruction on both sides has enormously increased. Every day that the war continues new, more powerful and deadly weapons are being brought into play. This cannot but be a very alarming thought to the minds of all people who love their fellow-men and the material constructions that their civilisation has created. We have already seen in Italy a considerable part of that fair land destroyed by war. We do not know how much more will be destroyed before the war comes to an end. When we come to the countries which are liable to be over-run in the future, to the fair land of France and to the Low Countries, our minds are sensitive to what is likely to take place. I do not give these facts in order that we may be deterred from whatever military action may be necessary, but I think that the House must brace itself to face them. They will have a bearing on what I propose to say in the later part of my speech.
The third essential fact in the Prime Minister's announcement was the complete uncertainty as to the length and further duration of the war. If I, in a position of far greater ignorance, may venture an opinion, it would be that the date on which the war will end will depend on the character of that end. It may be that the war will end owing to a definite defeat in the field and the rout and retreat of the German military forces. It may be; on the other hand, that it will arise from a collapse at the centre of the whole Hitlerite State. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), in a thought-provoking speech, stressed the importance of military defeat on the future mentality of the German people. I cannot imagine that even he would regret a coup d'état inside Germany if that had the effect of shortening the war. In any case, the German armies have already been beaten in Russia, in Africa, in Sicily and in Southern Italy, and the degree of defeat inflicted on them in other theatres of the war will not radically alter the facts or for that matter the power of some future German statesman, if he be so minded, to misrepresent them as has already been done with regard to the events of 1918.
926 Seeing that Germany has not now any real chance of staving off defeat it is not merely in the interest of the Allies but in the interests of the German people themselves that they should overthrow Hitler and bring the war to an end at the earliest possible moment. It is, of course, this that Hitler is most concerned to prevent. Only the other day he told the German people that the only choice before them was victory or annihilation. If that were really true it is a pity that he did not enlighten the people on this point at the time when it was still open to Germany, in peace, to hold an honoured place in the councils of the nations, before he let loose the catastrophe which has already devastated great parts of Europe and which is now beginning to devastate the German Reich itself. In fact, his statement is a lie, as many statements that he has made in other fields have been. He is once more endeavouring to mislead his people. The choice before them is not victory or annihilation. It is true, of course, that he and other war criminals who are responsible for inflicting this great wrong upon mankind and for the brutalities which have been an integral part of it cannot be allowed to go unpunished. It is true that the victims of his aggression cannot be expected to restore Germany to the position she held before the war, or to leave open to her the possibility of repetition of those horrors at some future time, but the Allies do not contemplate the annihilation of the German people. The suggestion is inherently impossible, and has in fact been explicitly repudiated by every one of the major Allies.
So far as Russia is concerned, I will take a quotation from an order of the day by Stalin, given on 23rd February, 1942, on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Red Army. In that Order Stalin said:Sometimes, the foreign Press engages in prattle to the effect that the Red Army's aim is to exterminate the German people and destroy the German State. That, of course, is a stupid lie and a senseless slander on the Red Army. The Red Army has not, and cannot have, any such idiotic aim. The aim of the Red Army is to oust the German occupationists from our country and liberate Soviet soil from German Fascist invaders. It is very-likely that the war for the liberation of our Soviet Land will result in the ousting or destruction of Hitler's clique. We would welcome such an outcome, but it would be ridiculous to identify Hitler's clique with the 927 German people and the German State. Experience of history shows that Hitless come and go, whereas the German people and the German State remain.He confirmed this on 6th November, 1942, when, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Soviet State, he said:We have no such aim as to destroy Germany, for it is impossible to destroy Germany, just as it is impossible to destroy Russia.As to the United States, President Roosevelt said in the course of a radio fireside talk on 12th February, 1942:We have made it entirely clear that the United States seeks no mass reprisals against the population of Germany, or Italy, or Japan, but the ringleaders and their brutal henchmen must be named and apprehended, and tried in accordance with the traditional processes of criminal law.In this country, and in this House, hon. Members will recall a speech in which the Prime Minister, referring to any such idea, spoke of, "not staining our victorious arms by ill usage of the vanquished people." Only yesterday, in his speech in this House, he used these words:Unconditional surrender means that the victors have a free hand. It does not mean that they are entitled to behave in a barbarous manner nor that they wish to blot out Germany from among the nations of Europe. If we are bound, we are bound by our own consciences to civilisation. We are not to be bound to the Germans as the result of a bargain struck. That is the meaning of unconditional surrender.'In making that quotation I should like to make a passing reference to a few previous words in the speech. In that same speech, the Prime Minister said:There will be, for instance, no question of the Atlantic Charter applying to Germany as a matter of right and barring territorial transferences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; col. 699, Vol. 397.]I think it should be clearly realised that when the Prime Minister is speaking of the Atlantic Charter not applying to Germany he is referring to paragraphs 2 and 3. In order to make that point clear I will read them. Paragraph 2 is:They desire to see no territorial changes which do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.Paragraph 3 is:They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.Then there is a further sentence. As I understand it, the Prime Minister did not mean to exclude from applying to Germany 928 paragraph 4, which reads as follows:They will endeavour, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access on equal terms to the trade and to the raw materials which are needed for their economic prosperity.The Prime Minister clearly did not intend to indicate that paragraph. The same applies to paragraphs 5, 6 and 7, which are expressions of wish.
In my submission it is clear from those utterances that a German people content to live in peace with their neighbours will have a right to share the economic heritage of mankind; but so long as the German people sustain their leaders in aggression and brutal onslaught on the liberties of other nationalities, the Allies have no alternative but to destroy their armed forces wherever they may be found and to destroy in Germany the means by which she wages war. It is for the German people to decide whether they will be annihilated in war or take their share in building up a peaceful and prosperous world.
That brings me to my final point, as to what constitutes a prosperous world. Without world prosperity, reaching down to the common people in every land, there can be no chance of stable peace. It is worth recalling to this House that this war is in some remarkable respects a repetition of the war in which this country was engaged over 100 years ago, against another dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. Like Hitler, he had subjugated a considerable part of Europe and claimed that he was going to defeat this country and carry it out by invasion. The point I want to make is that it was the misery of the French people, the way in which they were held down and deprived of the heritage of mankind, that started the French Revolution. It was the French Revolution that threw up Napoleon Bonaparte. He was defeated only after a long and hazardous struggle, in which the greatest part was played by the people of this country at that time.
I am in no doubt that it was the presence of 6,000,000 people unemployed in Germany, which situation he falsely laid at the door of the Treaty of Versailles, that enabled Hitler to secure power. Without those 6,000,000 angry and determined people, Hitler would never have had the chance to get ascendancy and to bring the 929 present disasters upon Europe and mankind. That is true, whatever legend as to the invincibility of the German Army there may have been, and whatever other myths and lies he may have succeeded in spreading in his country.
Germany cannot win the war. Our own tasks will be heavy in the future, but the day will come when we shall have won the war, when Hitler will have disappeared just as Napoleon Bonaparte did 130 years ago. And shall we then have permanent peace? Shall we have banished the spectre of war for ever? What guarantee is there that some other clever demagogue might not arise perhaps in Germany, or it may possibly be elsewhere, and wish to throw the dice of war? If there are in his country misery and a degraded life for a large section of the people very likely he may be successful in raising his people behind him. He may rouse them to some such awful enterprise. By that time, 20 or 30 or more years after the end of this war the powers of human invention will be much greater even than they are to-day. It will be possible for nations in those days to create engines of destruction compared with which even the fearful things of the present time will seem small and insignificant.
Is it too much to say that if another war breaks out between great nations which are anything like equally matched the whole visible material signs of Western civilisation will be swept away? Therefore, I say that our one hope is to see to it that in the future the rich heritage of mankind becomes the property of every class in every country of the world. On that sure and broad foundation and on that alone can the peace of the world be enduringly established.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreiģn Affairs (Mr. Eden)
The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has contributed to this Debate, as he always does, a thoughtful examination of our problems. I would like straight away, if I might, to reply to one of his points which is of military consequence. He asked whether we had, if I understood him aright, learned the lessons of the Anzio bridgehead—he put it more politely but that is what he meant—and whether we could not make sure that there would be no rigidity in operations elsewhere whenever they might come about. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman and 930 the House that one of the advantages, one of the great benefits we shall derive from these operations, is the lesson they are now teaching us in that most difficult of all forms of warfare, amphibious warfare, I can assure him on that point that he need have no anxiety as to our willingness to learn. For our ability to learn I do not pledge myself.
This Debate has ranged wide. If I may be allowed to say so without impertinence to hon. Members in all parts of the House, I think the speeches that have been delivered from all parts of the House have been of a quite exceptionally high standard and I think hon. Members generally have that impression. I shall not try to single out all the remarkable speeches that I consider have been made in this Debate. I have jotted down a list but I came to the conclusion that it would be impertinent of me to read out a catalogue. I think there has been throughout the discussion generally a desire to contribute to an examination of our manifold problems. The question is, what should the Government spokesman do at the end of such a two days? I think, if it is convenient to the House, that I will spend the first part of my time in answering a number of detailed questions that have been put on various points of policy. If I hop about from point to point with the abruptness but without the agility of the kangaroo I hope the House will make allowances. Then I would like, in the concluding part of the time at my disposal, to venture on that field, so instructively examined in the last two days, of the general foundations and principles of our foreign policy, and try to answer some of the questions put on that subject. I feel a little nervous about that with so many historians about, but I will do the best a layman can.
Before I answer some of the questions I would like to extend on behalf of the House our congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Acton (Captain Longhurst) on the admirable maiden speech he made to-day, and the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Flight-Lieutenant Teeling) on his maiden speech yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) asked me about the Far East, and earlier to-day a speech was made—I am sorry that the House was not then so full as it is now—by my hon. and 931 gallant Friend the Member for North Salford (Major Morris), who is just back from an active part himself in the war in Burma. Part of his speech led him into controversy with hon. Members above the Gangway. It is not to that I want to refer because I think the controversy merely concealed some valuable things he had to say which were not controversial at all. He spoke of the troops there, and said he brought a message from them as to whether we could assure them that they were not a forgotten Army. I think this House can give that assurance. I think the House can say that they understand only too well what are the exceptional demands that have to be made upon our troops in that theatre of war.
I think if any of us had a choice we would say that of all the ordeals to which military forces can be put warfare such as our troops are now engaged in on the Burma frontier is perhaps the toughest job of all. We do think of them, and what I have to say in answer to the right hon. Gentleman is also an answer to them. He is right when he says that there is no distinction in the mind of His Majesty's Government between our enemies. We are determined to continue the struggle against Germany and Japan until both are utterly defeated. That should need no emphasis, because what hope of durable peace could there be if either one of them was free to start again his attacks of vengeance and tyranny upon neighbouring States?
We understand only too well how long drawn out has been the agony of China, cut off as she is to so large an extent from contact with the outside world. But we pledged ourselves, in the words deliberately used at the Cairo Conference, "to persevere in the series of prolonged operations necessary to procure the unconditional surrender of Japan." May I say that when we think of China we think also of our Ally the Netherlands, and the many millions of loyal subjects of the Netherlands Empire in those Far Eastern lands. I have often thought that, broadly speaking, the story of the administration of those territories by the Netherlands before the war was one of the proudest examples of what can be done in that way.
Now I come to my first kangaroo hop nearer home. One or two hon. Gentlemen 932 referred to France. The reason why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not deal with that yesterday was simply that we decided on a certain division of labour: he could not cover the whole field, and he asked me to make some reference to-day to the French situation. I think I have an encouraging report to give to the House in this respect. The French Committee of National Liberation set up in North Africa, is steadily broadening its scope and adding to its authority. General de Gaulle is the outstanding figure, but he is surrounded now by a Committee of authority and supported by an Assembly which has also acquired a collective sense, and which, I observe, has already inaugurated debates even more heated than those which we have in this Chamber. The functions which the National Committee are now exercising are very great. They administer the whole of the former French overseas empire save only Indo-China, and they are financially independent. They have powerful squadrons at work in the closest co-operation with us. Afloat, they have one of the most powerful battleships in the world, the "Richelieu," which is at this moment working with the Allied Fleets. The French Army in North Africa is already formidable, and is to play a notable part in our future operations. Even now the French Auxiliary Corps, which has been fighting so valiantly and so powerfully against the Germans, has won distinction.
There is great comfort in all this. I think it bodes well for the future. The military contribution of the French National Committee, and of the French Empire over which they preside, increases, and before this conflict is at an end their military contribution—and I use the word "military" in the widest sense—to the Allied cause will be great. There is no doubt that the French people—every report that we get shows it—are waiting eagerly for the hour of liberation. No statement in this House about France could be complete without saying, in one sentence, that our thoughts are with the French patriots who are to-day harassing the Nazi oppressor by all the means at their disposal. There is a movement there which is steadily growing. We are doing, in conjunction with the French Committee, all that we can to support it. One word about the future in connection with 933 France. When Europe has regained her freedom, France has a notable part to play. We shall all need her. Do not let anyone think that there can be a vacuum there, or a weakness there, which will not be felt throughout the whole structure; so we shall do what lies in our power to help her, now and always. When France has regained her freedom we shall work with her as loyal friends and partners in an enduring friendship.
I turn to another country, Spain, about which I have been asked some questions. We have never asked for anything from Spain but strict and honourable neutrality. In the dark days of the war—the very dark days of the war—when we were alone, the attitude of the Spanish Government, in not giving our enemies passage through Spain, was extremely helpful to us. It was especially so at the time of the North African liberation. But as time has passed, we thought it right to draw the attention of Spaniards to certain practices by which they were helping the Germans. In view of the way the war has turned against Germany, in view of the falling out of Italy, we considered, in full agreement with our American Allies, that Spain could not any longer plead alarm at German concentrations on the Spanish frontier as a reason for endeavouring to placate Germany by lapses from neutrality. Therefore, as Spain was now in a safe and strong position to preserve the integrity of her soil from any form of invasion or undue pressure by Germany, we considered it time to ask her to take a stricter view of her obligations.
This we have done. We have made, in conjunction with the United States, a series of requests to her. We hope that Spain will consent to our requests. There is no intrusion on Spanish sovereignty in making these requests. We are certainly under no obligation to part with our limited oil supplies unless we choose to do so. The attempt that German propaganda is making to suggest that this is an affront to Spanish honour or dignity, is, of course, entirely beside the mark. Far from having towards Spain, our desire is to see her prosperous and peaceful, and the words that the Prime Minister used at the Mansion House, 18 months ago, in that connection, still stand. Conversations are now proceeding in Madrid, and I will report further to the House as soon as I am in a position to do so.
§ Mr. Eden
The German espionage system is one of the points which has been raised, and that is active at Tangier. If my hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me, I think I should be wiser not to list now all the points that are raised in the negotiations.
Reference was made to wolfram supplies from Portugal to Germany. It is true that conversations are proceeding now with the Portuguese Government on this subject, and we have left them in no doubt of the importance we attach to this question. We feel that we are justified in asking a country which is our Ally to take urgent steps in connection with traffic in a metal which is vital for war munitions.
I turn to one or two of the wider considerations raised in this Debate. To my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirrall (Captain Graham), I must say that I am not sure I can travel all the way with him in the principle, which he seemed to announce, of legitimacy. I thought—and here I am getting into historical trouble again—that it was more than 200 years since a foreign monarch tried to tell us that that was the principle which we should accept, and we said, "No." My impression is that we have always in our history taken the view that we would not fight a war to impose a certain form of Government on another country. Therefore, I am not in entire agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend when he asks me to adopt the principle of legitimacy. Our position is rather that the peoples of Europe should be free to choose, and when we have come into a war in history it has always been, surely, because one man, or one State under the leadership of one man, has sought to impose this particular system upon the whole of Europe. It is the story of the Napoleonic wars, the story of the German wars and it is the reason why we are at war now.
I submit to the House that that position be accepted as being our position, and as being the position of our Allies, including, let me say, the exiled Governments here, because each single one of them, I think, has made a declaration that, when they get back to their countries, they are at once going to subject themselves to the will of their people. They are aware that, however closely representative an exiled Government may have been, it must have 935 lost some contact with its people. From what I have heard said about some of my poor right hon. Friends, who have been away a year or two, I shudder to think what might be said about even this Government if we were away for five. The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) said we were afraid of revolution. Everybody thinks His Majesty's Government are afraid of something. I do not known why. We are not afraid of revolution; we are just not revolutionaries for its own sake. We try to see which method is going to get us the victory. Will the hon. Member bear with me while I read a passage in a speech in which I indicated the principles on which we are working?
§ Mr. G. Strauss
I did not ask that question. I think the right hon. Gentleman must have confused some other hon. Member with me.
§ Mr. Eden
I apologise. I want to explain what our principles are, and I may say that I laid them down with the assent of my colleagues in the Cabinet. People sometimes say "Does this represent only you?" This represents the view of the Cabinet. There are three rules. First, to give all the practical help in our power to those elements in all countries which are actively resisting the enemy. Can anybody take exception to that? Rule 2 is to make clear that, as far as we can exert any authority it shall be used to ensure that these countries shall be free to choose their own Governments when they are liberated. What is the exception to that? Rule 3 is to work in the closest possible accord with our Allies. Those are the principles that we seek to apply, but it always happens, if I may be allowed to say it, in the conduct of foreign affairs that people are apt to say, each critic from his own point of view, that you are not applying a principle accurately at all. I tried to show clearly that we are applying these principles with the greatest impartiality, and I can tell the House that I am not really much interested in the politics of Marshal Tito at this moment, or the particular hue or colour of them. In a war, the activities of our armies, and the fighting in the field—are all one. You cannot separate them even if you would. The hon. and gallant Member for Wirral was inclined to question the numbers of the forces 936 behind Marshal Tito. Well, I may say the more there are the more Germans they will slay. I do believe that the principles I have laid down are the only ones you can follow, and that, if you depart from them, manifold troubles will arise.
Let me say one word about Poland, and it will only be one word, because the House will understand that the Prime Minister's words which he used yesterday were very carefully chosen, and that we are still in negotiations, the outcome of which all of us have very much at heart, and I may only too easily say something which might make our task harder than it is. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said:Marshal Stalin and I also spoke and agreed on the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the North and in the West."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February; col. 698, Vol. 397.]The hon. Member for North Lambeth said that he took exception to that because of the action which he conjured up of a possible large transference of German territory to Poland and so on. I am not going into that at this time, and quite obviously, whatever is done or is agreed, if agreement is reached and when it is reached, it will come before the House, but I do want to put this consideration before the House. The hon. Gentleman was speaking as though the position in that part of Europe could bear some parallel to the position at the outbreak of the war. It bears hardly any. An enormous and horrible transformation has taken place, for instance, over the whole of what was formerly Western Poland. Germany has removed populations wholesale from vast tracts of territory, millions of people, and in many cases they are now dead. The position is, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, and, I ought to add, said with the knowledge and approval of his colleagues, that he and Stalin spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany in the North and West. That represents the position of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does that then mean that His Majesty's Government have abandoned the principles of the Atlantic Charter?
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member is always just a little quicker than I am. I was 937 just coming to the Atlantic Charter myself. I think it was very well dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) a little while ago. What I am about to say does not mean that we wish to try to claim some strained or unilateral interpretation for the Atlantic Charter, All the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister intended to convey, as indeed he clearly said, was that Germany would not, as a matter of right, be able to claim to benefit from the Atlantic Charter in such a way as to preclude the victorious Powers from making territorial adjustments at her expense. There are certain parts of the Atlantic Charter which refer in set terms to victor and vanquished alike. Article 4 does so. But we cannot admit that Germany can claim, as a matter of right on her part, whatever our obligation, that any part of the Charter applies to her.
§ Mr. Eden
It may not be the convenient point for the hon. Member. May I refer to one other matter in that connection? I ought now to say a word about foreign policy in general and to try and meet the criticisms which have come—I admit it frankly—from many parts of the House, pointing out that such and such a country has got a foreign policy and asking "Where are you?" I will try to explain where I am. First of all, I must say that I find it hard to conceive a clearer definition, or explanation, shall we say, of our position to-day in these very uncertain times than that given by the Prime Minister yesterday. I make no secret of the objective which we have set ourselves, and do set ourselves, in foreign policy.
May I explain this matter again, as I see it, and see whether I can carry the assent of the House with me? I say, first, that the maintenance of peace, after this conflict is over, depends upon a close and intimate understanding between the nations of the British Commonwealth, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. If we can achieve this understanding, then all our problems, however difficult, can be resolved, and if we cannot achieve it, I say to this House, there is, in my judgment, no hope for lasting peace. This seems to me to be fundamental. When I say that, I must not be taken as meaning, and I hope the House will not take me as meaning, that on that 938 account any of the three great Powers would have any justification for ignoring the rights of smaller nations. Each people has a just claim to lead its own life. But it does mean, that, unless we three can reach a common understanding and accept common principles for the guidance of our foreign policy, all Powers, great and small alike, are going to suffer.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Captain Grey), in the course of a very remarkable speech, said, what my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) said, that many people in Europe were looking to us to see whether we would be good Europeans; and that they feared that after this business was over we would draw back again. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that there is support for the fear, to a much greater extent perhaps than we understand, that we may go back into some form of semi-isolation. It is good that it should go out from this House that there is no body of opinion in this country, no body of opinion in this House, that does not clearly understand that we have to play the full part we can in Europe commensurate with our strength.
May I say a word about the object of our work at Moscow and Teheran? What we sought to do there was to get this understanding and this foundation for common policies between us, and, as a result of those meetings—I do not for a moment pretend that a great part even of our difficulties were resolved—if you compare the position now between the three great Powers with the position before that meeting took place our policies are more closely related than they were at that time. One of the results of that Conference, the House may remember, was the setting up of the European Advisory Commission in London. That Commission is working now, not, I am thankful to say, with publicity, because this is the sort of work which is better not done in the full glare of publicity. But they are at work on the problems which are going to confront us the moment the military might of Germany is broken, and that work is making good progress. There the representatives of Great Britain, the United States and 939 Russia are meeting very frequently to do their work.
I am not trying to underrate the magnitude of the work we have to do. There are many difficulties in reaching even a broad basis of understanding and still more difficulties when you come to interpret that basis in the province of parallel foreign policies. With thousands of miles separating the great nations, geography imposes some very stern limitations. But there are, I believe, certain influences which help us in our task. All three of these great Powers—and China too—are fundamentally interested in the preservation of lasting peace when this conflict is over. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Here-Belisha), in the remarkable speech he made just now, spoke of the expansionist policy of the United States. I am not worried about that.
§ Mr. Eden
I did not think that my right hon. Friend was worried. I am pleased when I see the United States—and it is perhaps rather impudent for a representative of this Government to say—interested in world affairs, because that is a partnership which, even if we argue or disagree about it, is infinitely, as the right hon. Gentleman agreed, preferable to the United States not taking such part. And equally so with regard to the other great Powers, I do not believe it would be to the lasting advantage of the peace of Europe that Russia, after the conflict, were to say, "I retire into my fastnesses. I go back into isolation. I am not going to play my part in the reconstruction." So we have these things in common.
There is one assurance that I would like to give before I sit down, because I think that it is perhaps the most important matter that has been raised in the Debate. I think as I listen, particularly to many hon. Friends on this side of the House—I do not think that I am wrong—that they have a suspicion, or an impression, that in some way or other, either at Teheran or at Moscow, we committed ourselves to limit or exclude our interest in certain parts of Europe. I can assure the House that there is no 940 foundation or truth in this at all, absolutely none. We have not agreed to any spheres of influence. We have not been asked to agree to any spheres of influence. We have accepted no barriers. We have not been asked to accept any barriers. We are absolutely free to interest ourselves in the affairs of Europe and the nations of Europe and no spheres of influence have been agreed to by anybody. There is the account which my right hon. Friend gave yesterday of Yugoslavia. I am not discussing whether our action has been right or wrong, but one thing is quite clear, we were there first. That was because of physical reasons; but because we got there first there was no question of anybody suggesting to us or inferring that we were wrong in taking any action. We were there first, but that does not prevent us from discussing with other Powers the problems there and elsewhere. There is the problem of Greece and of aiding the guerrillas. We have had the help of both the American and the Soviet Governments in trying to reach a settlement of the differences between these bands.
A final word and I have done. Europe in these last four years has suffered deeply and our task is going to be infinitely harder than it was after the last war. I do not think that we should disguise that fact from ourselves at all. My right hon. Friend made a plea for unity with foreign Powers. If I may interpret that, it was not that we should cease to debate them or criticise them, but that we should all have a sense of the responsibility of this country and of the events which are taking place around us, and that, as far as we could, we should shape our arguments to create unity in the events of the world rather than otherwise. Now you may say, what are we trying to do? We shall try to use our influence and our authority to bring about friendship between Allies where friendship is indispensable to the further continuance of peace. We shall do our utmost to use our influence so that Europe may regain its corporate life and so that individual nations in Europe may regain their individual life. That is the policy upon which His Majesty's Government are engaged. I can only promise plenty of difficulties, plenty of disappointments, in the times that lie ahead. I do not, in my experience, remember a period when foreign policy was so difficult to 941 conduct as it is just now. I can only say that we shall use all our strength to pursue the object which I have laid before the House and I trust that we may not fail.
§ Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.