Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
I have now to ask for a further Vote of Credit for war expenditure. The last Vote of £1,000,000,000 was passed by the Committee on 16th May. I then explained that, so far as could be foreseen, that sum would suffice to meet our requirements till a date in August, before which I would have to ask for a further Vote. Actually, the general flow of expenditure has conformed closely to our expectations, and it is probable that the Vote on which we are now drawing will be exhausted by the last week in August.
Since the beginning of the current financial year the average daily rate of war expenditure has remained fairly constant at about £13,250,000 to £13,500,000 a day, of which about £11,000,000 to £11,250,000 have been spent on the Fighting and Supply Services. During the last ten weeks, the rates have been £13,250,000 and £11,250,000 a day respectively. While I cannot, of course, rule out the possibility of appreciable fluctuations in these rates in future, the probability is that the further Vote of £1,000,000,000 for which I am now asking will cover our expenditure up to the end of October or the beginning of 48 November, and it will then be necessary to ask the Committee for a further grant.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I imagine that the Committee will accord the Chancellor of the Exchequer this Vote of Credit with its accustomed unanimity, and that Debate on the matter will not be long protracted, but it would be a mistake for persons in the country to assume from the celerity of this procedure, that what we are doing is not a carefully thought-out attitude and a deliberate intention. The fact is that now that the war has continued for close on five years and we have had these recurrent Votes of Credit brought before us, the routine of the procedure has been so fully worked out, and both the raising and the outlay of these vast sums so carefully dealt with, that the House of Commons feels that the actual passage of the Vote of Credit is not the most appropriate time for discussing the details. It would be wrong, however, for the general public to assume that because we can, and must for the purposes of the war, pay sums of £1,000,000,000 and vote them in the form of Votes of Credit, when the war is over sums of £1,000,000,000 can be handed out complacently for current income expenditure. On the other hand, it would be equally wrong if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his desire for economy, and his regard for the public purse, were to refuse a sum even of this magnitude for the capital rehabilitation of the country as a whole. I am aware that I must not pursue this theme to-day at any length but it is essential that we should compare like with like.
The expenditure on the war, though it has been going on year by year and has now reached nearly the end of the fifth year, is in the nature of a capital payment, which it has been vitally necessary to make, in order to preserve the integrity of our country and its civilisation. When the shooting is over, there will remain certain capital losses which have arisen in the course of and in consequence of it and which are, therefore, rightly regarded as an integral part of the war itself. And if it should prove necessary, in order to deal with those losses and rehabilitate the country, to spend a further sum of £1,000,000,000 for the purpose of such rehabilitation, it will not, in my opinion—and I hope it will not be in the opinion 49 of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—be right that such a sum should be grudged for such a capital purpose.
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
Before we part with this Vote there is one aspect of it to which I would like to draw the attention of the Committee for a moment. We are asked to vote this immense sum of money for the purposes of the prosecution of the war, and a very large part of it will actually be spent in the production of instruments and munitions of war. On previous occasions, when similar Votes have been put before us, our thoughts were entirely concentrated upon the war. To-day, that is no longer true. We are beginning to look a little beyond the period of the war, and I want to suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it might be well if a proportion—perhaps only a small proportion—of this sum were spent with that end deliberately in view.
I will give an illustration to show the Committee what I mean. Take the case of aeroplanes. We have produced during the war aeroplanes for war second to none in quality—fighters, bombers and so forth—but, in concentrating on that kind of production, we have fallen sadly behind in the matter of transport aeroplanes. I suggest that under that head it might be well now to spend part of this money on the development of transport aeroplanes, which could be used during the war with Japan, but having primarily in mind the possibility of post-war development. I do not think that we ought any longer to be content to go on relying upon our Allies to supply these things.
If I may give one other illustration, I will take the case of shipping. We have concentrated on the production of ships of war, and during the war we have not been told very much about them, but I have no doubt that they are very admirable ships of war. In doing that, we have had to neglect the production of merchant ships, and such merchant ships as we have produced, I understand, have been designed largely with regard to convoys, restrictions in speed, and so forth. I suggest that some part of this money might be usefully expended——
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
On a point of Order. Are we not voting money for the prosecution of the war? Surely any discussion as to the peace use of this money must be out of Order. The right hon. 50 Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) seemed continually to limit himself as to what he could discuss. What can we discuss?
§ The Chairman
It is, of course, true that the Vote of Credit is for expenditure arising out of the war, and it will not be in Order to discuss the use of this money for purposes not so arising.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am not suggesting that the money that is now to be voted for the purpose of the war should be used entirely for some peace purpose, for example, the building of cottages, or something like that. What I am trying to suggest is that in the spending of this money for the purposes of the war, we should, in certain cases, keep in mind our post-war needs. When I took the example of transport planes, I was suggesting something that will be required for war purposes in the war against Japan, but I am suggesting that we should keep in mind requirements after the war. With regard to cargo ships I was venturing to suggest that the time has come when we should consider whether we cannot produce cargo ships of moderate size, capable of a good turn of speed, which could be used for the war against Japan but which might also be of value after the war. I do not wish to pursue the point at any length, but I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to draw the attention of the Service Ministers, who are primarily concerned with the spending of the money, to that suggestion.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Before we pass this Vote of Credit I want to raise a matter which I, and others, consider of some urgent public importance, and of very great importance indeed to the fighting soldier. I should like to resist this Vote of Credit, which is specifically described as being for the "efficient prosecution of the war," because, in the opinion of many of us, the Government are not conducting affairs efficiently in so far as they relate to what I may term the use of the political or propaganda weapon in enemy territories. I address myself to this subject very much from the point of view of the soldier. I remember fighting against the Germans in the last war. I remember sitting out there for years, not really knowing very much what the war was about. I was even more astonished when I found that the Germans did not 51 know what it was about either, and the contention of some of us has been that it is of vital importance that the Government should make perfectly plain to enemy peoples, the kind of treatment they will receive when we have conducted the war to an efficient conclusion. Our claim is that the war is being unnecessarily prolonged, that money is being wasted, and that this Vote of Credit should not go through, unless the Government change their tone and introduce a really efficient and constructive propaganda element into their appeals to the German people. In this House, on 24th May, the Prime Minister said this, very much supporting what I have said about the point of view of the soldier:The duty of all persons responsible for the conduct of Foreign Affairs in a world war of this deadly character is to help the fighting men to perform the heavy tasks entrusted to them and to ensure them all possible ease in execution and advantage in victory. … They should always think of the soldier in the battle and ask themselves whether what they say or write will make his task easier or harder."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th May, 1944, Vol. 400, c. 763–4.]The whole burden of my claim is that the propaganda, such as it is—and there is very little of it—which the Government are using, is making it more difficult for the soldier to perform his task, and is only having the effect of reinforcing the Germans behind Hitler, instead of having the absolutely opposite effect. I decline to assent in continuing to grant thousands of millions to a Government which does not make proper use of one of our main offensive weapons. I would like to quote an extract from a letter on this very point which I received from Normandy this morning. It comes from a very excellent officer, who has fought all the way from E1 Alamein and knows what he is talking about:The fact remains that the political direction is a tragic mess, or would be if it even existed at all. It should interest you to know that all the prisoners taken in Normandy are convinced that they are going to be shot. Some even committed suicide rather than be captured. Many of them are boys of 17 or under. It is a crime on the part of the German leaders to have forced them to believe that they will be shot, but it is far more a crime—because it is a crime of neglect and makes our task more difficult—of the Allied leaders not to have told them by propaganda what peace will mean and that they will be treated as normal prisoners of war".52 If evidence was ever asked for, that the lack of propaganda is making our men face odds which they have no right to be asked to face, surely the quotation which I have just given to the Committee will support that view. The writer of the letter goes on to say:A military second front without a political second front will be a politicians' massacre. Unfortunately it is not the politicians who are being massacred but the youth of every nation on the fighting front.Some of us feel strongly on this point and have tried, from time to time, to raise the issue in the House at Question time and on other occasions. For years we have demanded that there should be a short, clear declaration to the German people and the people of other enemy countries, precisely for the very reason that we are voting money to-day, that is, for the efficient prosecution and conclusion of the war, and I suppose that I shall have to go on reiterating that any failure on the part of the Government to use the propaganda weapon properly must prolong the war, and will cause repeated efforts by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get more money out of us. What have we done; what has been the propaganda which is so deleterious in its effect? After years, we had the Atlantic Charter, and when we pressed for a clarification of that, we were told that the Government must have a Vote of Confidence.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
May I suggest that we are not limited by the language which the Government have used in the Vote of Credit? Hon. Members are perfectly entitled to move an Amendment to this Vote of Credit, on the ground that it is for the inefficient prosecution of the war. We are not bound to keep up a parrot-like repetition of the words because they have used the term "efficient prosecution of the war". They could have said that the money was for the prosecution of the war and have left out "efficient".
§ The Chairman
Certainly, by the terms of the Motion before the Committee; and it would only be competent to move a reduction of the sum.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and Stirling, Eastern)
Is it not in Order to discuss the degree of efficiency?
§ The Chairman
Certainly, that would be in Order if it related to expenditure arising out of the war.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am obliged for that Ruling. It will save time and save a great deal of needless repetition, because I can always go back to the term "inefficient prosecution of the war." I am saying that the war is not being efficiently conducted and I have taken that view ever since it started. Following the failure to get any real clarification of the Atlantic Charter, which would have been such a valuable propaganda weapon, we had that ridiculous and somewhat childish statement from Casablanca of "unconditional surrender." I am not going into historical records of what unconditional surrender stands for, but I would only refer to the effect that its use had in the South African war. In consequence of that shout, the war went on for a year longer than was necessary, and ultimately peace was made with the very people with whom a year previously we had declined to discuss matters. What happened more recently in Italy? As a result of the unconditional surrender shout, we "missed the bus." We spent the best part of six weeks in discussing the conditions of unconditional surrender, and that is why we have been so sorely delayed in our progress up Italy. If the right propaganda had been used, the march into Italy might have progressed with much better speed, with much less loss of life and of less difficulty for ourselves.
As a final appeal to the German people to overthrow their nasty Nazi taskmasters, which is what the Prime Minister is always advocating they should do, we had the Teheran Conference, about which we have never been clear what happened. The Prime Minister does not like answering at Question Time, and so perhaps we shall get an answer from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during this Debate. But the Prime 54 Minister's pronouncement in Debate made it clear to the German people that their country was to be cut up, and that he had agreed with Marshal Stalin to that effect. What would be more likely to make the Germans go on fighting harder than ever before? When I asked the Foreign Secretary whether there was disagreement or not, he made a statement which completely contradicts, in effect, what the Prime Minister said in Debate. And so where are we; and, what is of equal importance, where are the German people? How are they to know how they will be treated?
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
The hon. Member is complaining bitterly that Teheran decided that Germany was to be cut up. In justice to the Conference he ought to bring out the fact that our Allies were also going to be cut up.
§ Mr. Stokes
Certainly, but we are not fighting our Allies, not just yet—well, we are not supposed to be. I agree that the secrecy with regard to the compulsion of Poland, is just as reprehensible as the more blatant declaration of the dismemberment of Germany. What have we done to secure what our soldiers want—those who are sticking the stench and stink and mud and filth of the battle; what are we doing in order that they may find what they want, an army against them which is rapidly disintegrating, because it disagrees entirely with its own political leaders? We have bombed German cities to blazes, we have demanded unconditional surrender, we have promised to cut up Germany, and, apparently, to cut off East Prussia, about which part of the world the Prime Minister once said:The province of East Prussia, though originally in the nature of a German colonial conquest, has become a thoroughly German land with a population animated above all other parts of Germany by the spirit of intense nationalism.I do not see how, when we tell the German people that we shall cut away East Prussia, we are encouraging them to overthrow their present leaders, which is the policy advocated by the Prime Minister. In fact, the only kind of noiseful propaganda are the fulminations of Lord Vansittart in another place—a pathological case. The cumulative result produced in the mind of the German fighting soldier must make him a completely desperate man, as indeed is evi- 55 dented by the letter which I read earlier, in which officers say that the prisoners whom they have captured have been told they are going to be shot. When all the propaganda on our side is of a purely destructive nature, surely it is evident that the resistance on the part of the fighting Germans will be stronger than it would be if our propaganda were conducted along the proper lines.
I do not want to detain the Committee long, but I am also reminded of this matter. I know that talking about peace is not popular in the world to-day. I do not quite understand why. The soldier takes the view that the sooner the war is over the better, and he wants every means used towards that end. I am reminded of a statement published in one of the papers here in March of this year, saying, apparently, that the Germans had put through a peace offer, which was rejected. I agree that the terms, as recited, were not wholly acceptable. The fundamental points were that the Germans promised to evacuate all occupied territories, and to do away with their own Navy and Air Force. The great thing they did not promise to do was to upset the Nazi régime. But that is precisely what the Prime Minister wants the German people to do themselves. Yet our propaganda is, I think, conducted in such a way as to encourage them not to do so. Had we accepted the proposal as it stood, and added to it "and the overthrow of the Nazi régime," something good and proper would have been done to disintegrate the Nazi system.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Since we have already done away with their Air Force and Navy, what was the use of that offer?
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not propose to be led off on that track. The point I am trying to make is simply that our approach to the problem is wrong. What we ought to tell the German people is that we regard Germany as occupied territory, that we are coming to liberate them, and that we seek their co-operation in achieving that liberation. We should also tell them that we, as a working community of this country, wish to be friends with them. There are 80,000,000 of them, and you cannot exterminate the lot whatever some people may desire to do. The obvious way in propaganda is to make it plain to 56 them that they have a system which we abhor, and which must be got rid of so far as we are concerned, and that it is up to them to help to get rid of it. I am reminded again, on this matter, of the words of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has written many things in his life and this is one of his gems:We may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion so indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.Are we now setting out to create another Hitler? Are we not, by cutting Germany up, by bombing everything to blazes, by letting the soldiers themselves feel we are not going to give them fair treatment when they are captured, creating just that state of mind inside the bosoms of the German people which will force them to create another Hitler? Surely, we are. I submit that the Committee should insist on the Government taking thought and using this propaganda weapon properly. My suspicion is that the kind of treatment which this Government wish to mete out to the German people, would not meet with the approval of the British people, and that is why they would not declare it. Let me register my protest against the iniquity of failing to take the steps which are necessary to help our own soldiers overseas, and of allowing a state of things to persist which makes them face an army of desperate men instead of an army of men who, if they had the opportunity, would stop fighting and throw away their arms.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on a great many things, but I must agree with him that whoever invented the phrase "unconditional surrender" rendered a great disservice to our cause. It is quite obvious that the fighting will go on much longer if you create in the minds of those you are fighting, that state of mind which has already been created. I find that a great many very serious-minded and competent people—students of war much more than I am—hold this view also.
We are, however, discussing expenditure at the moment, and I would like to say a few words on that. For four and a half years I have been a member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure; I think my colleagues and I have 57 done a certain amount of good work. We have discovered a certain amount of waste and we have made recommendations which will, I hope, prevent some waste, but I am perfectly satisfied that at least £1,000,000 of the £1,000,000,000 which the Chancellor is going to get, will go down the drain. Wherever you go, the waste is quite fantastic. You cannot visit any military establishment without seeing waste. We do what we can to stop it, but it goes on, and I suppose as long as it exists, you will get the spirit "Well, there is plenty more where this came from." There was terrible waste in the last war and the same thing is happening again. I very much doubt whether the Ministries are zealous enough in trying to prevent this. It is curious that when one makes an inquiry—whether as a Select Committee or as a private Member of Parliament—the official explanation is always misleading. It is a very unpleasant statement to make, but I never quite accept the information conveyed to me in a letter from a Government Department. Their main pre-occupation seems to be to explain things away. It is only rarely that a Minister says "I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing this matter to my attention, and steps have been taken to prevent its repetition."
We are, I say, going to waste at least £1,00,000,000 beyond all possibility of doubt. Five per cent. of this £1,000,000,000 will go to a curious destination—about £50,000,000 will find its way into what is called the "Indian sterling balances." In this respect we are building up a bundle of trouble. At the outbreak of war, we made an agreement with the Indian Government that we would pay for all expenditure incurred outside the boundaries of India. That agreement was made at a time when we visualised—as has happened—Indian soldiers serving in France and in the Middle East. We are now paying for the whole of the Indian Army serving in defence of India the moment it gets outside the frontiers of India. I understand that the Government of India have now got sterling balances in London to the tune of £1,000,000,000. In other words, they have a claim on our reserves to the tune of £1,000,000,000 which is going to present us with an appalling financial problem when the war comes to an end. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has spent a lot of time talk- 58 ing about the banks. Sometimes Ministers pretend the banks do not create credit. Of course they do. Where my hon. Friend is wrong is that he thinks the banks make a lot out of it. They do not. The borrowing terms, so far as the banks are concerned, hardly pay for the book-keeping. Hon. Members can find this out for themselves if they take the trouble to walk into the place where my hon. Friend keeps his overdraft, and ask for the information.
§ The Chairman
The interest, as I understand it, is paid out of the Consolidated Fund—not out of this Vote of Credit.
§ Sir H. Williams
I think, Major Milner, that Treasury deposits by banks fall into a different category from the Two and a Half Per Cent. and Three and a Half Per Cent. Consols. All these, I think, come out of the Consolidated Fund but I am doubtful whether the Ways and Means advances, Treasury bills and Treasury deposits come out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
On a point of Order. Is there not a Motion before the Committee incurring a liability?
§ The Chairman
These amounts are, in fact, as I have indicated, paid out of the Consolidated Fund. They cannot be discussed under the Vote of Credit because they are not covered by it.
§ Sir H. Williams
What is equally true is that this £1,000,000,000 has to be paid, and it will be raised in part by taxation and in part by borrowing. Let us suppose that the taxpayer goes on strike and the banks refuse to lend the money. We should not be able to spend the money then because the Government would not have it. It seems proper to draw attention to the fact that the Chancellor does borrow economically with the result that banks are the only people who are not subject to Excess Profits Tax. If hon. Members make inquiries they will find that practically no money is made out of this arrangement by the banks because the terms are so low.
§ Mr. Stokes
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the banks do this with so little profit to themselves that we ought to have a "Help the bankers day"?
§ Sir H. Williams
All I am stating is a fact, with which my hon. Friend is obviously not familiar, and I think it just as well that I should make him familiar with it. What I am concerned about is the piling up of these liabilities, partly through this Vote of Credit. A lot of people will come along and make claims when the war terminates for things which they regard, not as investments, but as cash. The £1,000,000,000, to which I have referred and which will be added to by £50,000,000 by this Vote of Credit, is quite obviously being regarded by the Indian industrialists, who wrote a pamphlet the other day, as money which they can spend, forthwith, whenever they like. Of course they will not be able to do this, but they think they can.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would not this £1,000,000,000 be in exactly the same position as the post-war credits? Is it not a fact that if everybody tries to spend these credits immediately after the war is over, their value will suffer, and that if people want to get full value for them they have got to fit in with a general plan to try to regulate our production and expenditure to meet each other?
§ Sir H. Williams
That is obviously true, but it is a credit repayable on demand. It is not a funded loan. We have not funded £1,000,000,000 worth of loan and brought it on to the Consolidated Fund. It is still, fortunately, in a place where I can discuss it. This £1,000,000,000 is a credit on which the Government of India are entitled to cash in, and the extraordinary attitude taken towards it by Indian politicians and industrialists certainly worries me. I think it ought to be made quite clear to them that, although there can be no breach of faith, nevertheless the £1,000,000,000 cannot be handed over to them when the war is over to be spent wherever they like. The Congress people, who appear to have a great support in this House—they represent the worst form of aristocracy the world ever invented—would take the greatest delight in spending that £1,000,000,000 in other countries of the world. I hope the Chancellor will tell this Committee and the people of India exactly what the position is because nothing could do more harm than for them to be deceived with regard to the nature of this very large credit which is being added to at the rate of £20,000,000 a month. It is a matter 60 which is going to impose upon us a problem of the greatest magnitude when the war is over.
My main purpose in rising was to express the hope that when we have voted this £1,000,000,000 for the prosecution of the war, His Majesty's Ministers will take a little more trouble to see that the money is not wasted. The waste is manifest in every direction. You cannot visit any establishment of any kind whatever, where there are goods belonging to the public, where you do not see waste of the most appalling kind. I do not think those in the Services—whether wearing uniform or not—realise how important it is to them in the future that this waste should be avoided, because it is clear that after the war we shall carry an appalling burden of taxation. They will have to make heavy contributions to it. It may gravely influence the whole of our employment problem, and, therefore, economy in public expenditure is so vital that I hope greater efforts will be made in future by His Majesty's Government than have been made in the past in this respect.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
I would like to bring before the Committee for a few moments the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I think that in that respect he has brought before the Committee a matter which is of first-class importance in the conduct of the war. There are really two issues before the Committee in this matter. One is undoubtedly a very controversial one: What should be said to the Germans to endeavour to make them abandon their resistance earlier than would otherwise be the case? But I have always found the greatest difficulty in understanding why there should be any controversy on the fact that something can be done in that direction, if certain things are said to the Germans. We have never had the case put to us by those who do not believe in political warfare, that it is wrong or impossible to say things to the Germans which would weaken their resistance. I feel, however, that until the opponents of political warfare put that case, one is entitled to assume that there should be general agreement, as to the sums of money spent by the Government on such matters as political warfare, and that they should clearly be spent in the most useful manner possible.
61 The Government have said on recent occasions, and as recently as to-day, that they seek the assistance of hon. Members in some of the problems which confront them. I think it is within the recollection of the Committee that the Leader of the House went so far as to say that on the matter of the flying bomb the Government would like to hear the views of hon. Members, many of whom, he said, had technical and special knowledge in connection with this particular form of attack. I was rather surprised to hear that myself, but the Leader of the House may have more knowledge than I have of Members with special knowledge of this novel means of attack. But if that be the attitude of the Government towards back-bench Members I think they might pay a little more attention to the views of those who, for two or three years, have been pressing that more emphasis should be given to the political warfare side of total war. I have said before, and I will not repeat the argument, which would only bore hon. Members, that one cannot keep too much in the front of one's mind, that modern warfare is much more than a mere matter of military operations.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
Does the hon. and gallant Member really think that modern warfare in that respect differs from any other earlier war?
§ Commander King-Hall
No, in theory, my hon. Friend is quite right, but perhaps I might put this point to him: that as war has become total, this realisation of the facts about war has become more important than it was in the days when war was conducted merely by the Armed Forces of the Crown, which contained but a small proportion of the civil population, as was the case for example in the Boer war. Anyway, I am glad my hon. Friend agrees with me that military operations are only part of total war. Surely we must all agree that if anything can be done to ease the task of our troops in military operations, those things should be done. I cannot but remember on this occasion that at the time when the Italian army was surrendering in a large and easy manner in North Africa, an hon. Member of this House said to me what a poor business it was, and what wretched people the Italians were, that they would not fight, and so forth. I said I thought that was an extraordinary attitude to take up. I said, "Surely you do 62 not want the Italians to put up as vigorous a resistance as possible?" I could see a conflict in his mind between a kind of old school-tie attitude of contempt for an enemy who surrenders, and a natural desire on his part that our troops should not find themselves confronted with unnecessary resistance.
What we have had really as a basic foundation for our political warfare operations has been this phrase "unconditional surrender". I simply do not know what it means. It may be said to mean unilateral surrender. If it does, I think the Government should make it quite clear, and say to the enemy, "We shall lay down the terms you will have to accept and you will have nothing to say about it. It is a question of taking or leaving them." Why will not the Government give some indication to the people of this country and to the enemy, what those terms are? Is the plain answer to that plain question, that the Government do not know, that they have not made up their minds? It may be that they do not know. I realise the difficulty—that this is not a question for them alone, it is a question for consultation with our Allies. But the war is, we hope, reaching its crisis and, possibly, its conclusion in the next twelve months. We cannot go on in this manner, not knowing even whether really important discussions at the highest level are taking place with our Allies in order to reach agreement on what those terms are.
I submit that we are now entitled to have an answer to three questions: Do the Government know what terms they propose to put before the Germans under this phrase "unconditional surrender"? If they do not know what they are going to put before the Germans, are they now in consultation with our Allies, in order to reach agreement on that matter? If they are in consultation, when do they expect to get an answer? Finally, when they do receive the answer, will they put it out to the German people publicly, so that the Germans will know where they are, and what they have to expect at the conclusion of the war?
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I want to put my point of view on lines somewhat similar to those of the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) but not altogether as he has followed those lines. First, I want to say to the Government 63 that I think they have carried on the war well up to the present time. If they had not, I would have criticised them long ago but, in the main, I think they have done as well as any Government could have done in carrying on the war to a successful conclusion. But, now that we are getting near the end of it, I want if I can to prevent slaughter as far as possible. I was perturbed yesterday when I read an account in the "Daily Despatch" from a war correspondent who has been finding out from the young German prisoners the attitude engendered in them by Goebbels' propaganda. They have the idea that if they are taken prisoner by the British or Americans, it means death, as well as all kinds of indignities. We must try to remove that belief because, so long as it exists, and so long as we have to fight and kill these people, it means that a number of our men are being killed too. I am more concerned with our own fighting men than with the Germans and, if it is at all possible to save some of them, by letting the German people know exactly where they are, I think we should try to get at the German people. I do not mean the extreme Nazis, but those who have been driven into war. We should let them know that when we have conquered them it does not mean that we shall treat them as though they have no right to live, except in a state of serfdom, because that is not our intention. As I understand it, it is our intention to treat these people as decent human beings when the war is over, and give them a place to carry on their work.
How can that be conveyed? This Vote of Credit carries within it the political propaganda of this country, and the best use should be made of it. I have always held to the term "unconditional surrender." It is the only thing we can demand but, when we get that, we must convey to them that they will have a fair deal from us so far as we are able to give it. I do not see how we can offer any other terms than that, but we must try to convey to these people that we are not as vicious or as cruel as Goebbels.
There appeared in the "Daily Herald" yesterday, a statement issued by the Miners' International Federation to our comrades the miners in Germany, because they are our comrades; we were associated with them before the war and 64 were helping to bring them to a proper status when war broke out. This statement points out to them that there is a final chance now to dissociate themselves from the Nazis, and create a position in Germany which will cause the Nazi leaders to get out of it, and not drive the Germans as they are doing. The appeal ends:Unite yourselves, organise the fight, follow the example of the heroes of the resistance movement. Act now to beat the common foe, and to make the way free for a better future in freedom and peace.No one can say the miners of this country have not been wholehearted in the prosecution of the war. We see a means here of telling our comrades, the miners in Germany, that we are anxious to treat them like brothers, if only they will use whatever power they have to overthrow the Nazi régime. Therefore, the appeal I make to-day is that, by all the means in their power, our Government shall try to put propaganda across to the German people, to let them know how we shall behave when we have gained victory. Victory is within our grasp, and I do not want the fight to be prolonged one minute longer than is necessary. I remember in the last war, when we were marching on Germany, some people said we ought to massacre the Germans. It is all very well talking like that, but at the same time as we are fighting the Germans we are losing our own men and that is what I am concerned about. I have been all for complete victory for the Allies right through the war, but I do hope the Government will listen to my appeal today and do something about it. The hon. Member for Ipswich, by his very enthusiasm, sometimes arouses antagonism from the other side, but he is just as keen as I am on this point of trying to stop the slaughter of our own men. I am with him on that point. Our desire is to break down German resistance by telling the people in Germany that the propaganda of Goebbels does not represent the true state of things. I think that would be a means of bringing this war to an earlier conclusion than is otherwise to be expected, and that is why I am putting forward my plea today to the Government.
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. 65 Tinker) because I was in the front line in 1918 and I think that one of the great mistakes made at that time was just what the hon. Member is pleading for to-day. If only we had gone into Germany there would have been one more battle, in which we would have reached the Rhine and occupied Berlin. Instead of that, and in order to save lives, Marshal Foch decided to accept the Armistice terms before that final battle could take place with the result that we did not occupy Berlin and even to-day Germans are saying—as Hitler has said many times—that the German army was not beaten in the last war. I say without fear or hesitation that unless we can defeat the German army and make known their defeat to them, they will be making plans again to start another war, if they are not doing so already.
§ Mr. Tinker
It was after the war that we did not take advantage of the position. That is when the trouble came.
§ Captain Duncan
I am speaking of the German army. We must defeat the German army, and make it known to the whole German people that they were defeated.
§ Commander King-Hall
There would have been no difficulty last time, presumably, about including in the Armistice terms the military occupation of Berlin.
§ Captain Duncan
I hope there will be no difficulty in the Armistice terms this time. Last time I was a young platoon commander, and I do not know what considerations caused Marshal Foch at that time to delete the occupation of Berlin from the Armistice terms. Nevertheless I hope the Government will not support that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh, because I am convinced that in the long run it would not be in the interests of peace.
I welcomed the hon. Member's statement that the International Miners' Federation had made an appeal to German miners. The more the trade unions get their appeals over to the German people, the better. But I would like to ask him how he expects to get these appeals over, because it is not at all certain that the people to whom these appeals are directed, are getting them or that they are likely to believe them if they do hear 66 them. Anything the Government can do to assist in getting trade union appeals across to the German people will, I hope, be done because I recognise its importance. I think it was done in the last war with good effect.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) made a characteristic speech criticising our treatment of Germany. I would like to say some critical words of the Government about their treatment of Yugoslavia. I asked a Question on this subject to-day of the Prime Minister. I am not saying that I know the facts. My difficulty, and the difficulty of other hon. Friends of mine, is that we do not know anything about what is happening in Yugoslavia. But I, and I expect other Members too, meet people in this country who have had experience of these Balkan countries. They say—and let us be frank and face it—that we have backed the wrong horse in backing Marshal Tito. The people who say this are not only those who have had experience of Yugoslavia. They say that we are throwing over the real leader of the Serbian people. It was announced in a newspaper recently—with what truth I do not know—that the Metchnik Croats had come to terms with General Mihailovitch. Are the Government right, in spending a lot of money on a mission to Marshal Tito, which includes two hon. Members of this House, one of them the Prime Minister's son, with probably a whole galaxy of other talent, and in completely ignoring the other protagonist—General Mihailovitch? Where does the evidence come from? Does it come from a liaison officer whose name, I think, is Colonel Bailey or is it the result of the Teheran Conference? If it is the result of the Teheran Conference, did it come from Russian or British sources? These are the questions that people in London, foreigners who have diplomatic posts, are asking. They are afraid. I am not backing one side or the the other, but if the Government intend to back one side, and have backed the wrong horse, let them have the courage to say so, and change their minds if they find they have made a mistake. Do not let them stick to Marshal Tito, if they find they are wrong. Let them have the courage of their convictions and change their minds, and at least have some official representation at the other Yugoslav headquarters if they find they have been backing the wrong horse.
67 My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), in a speech which was perhaps just a little exaggerated, made an attack on the Government on the ground that there was an enormous amount of waste. This £1,000,000,000 Vote of Credit is primarily a financial matter. I agree that there is, and always must be, waste in war because you often have to do things in a hurry without proper thought or time to consider the most economic way of doing them. A distinguished general told me once the best way to save money in this war is to shorten the war. Every day it is shortened, means a saving of £13,250,000. But I do not think that is the whole truth. At this point I would like to pay a tribute to the Select Committee on National Expenditure, of which I am not a member although I have read their Reports. They have done a tremendous amount of hard and honest work in reducing the amount of waste, but I think the Government must take notice when a member of that Committee gets up and says there is still an appalling amount of waste. I, in my official capacity, am not allowed to disclose what waste there is, but I can assure my hon. Friend that there is waste in my immediate neighbourhood. The War Office have appointed a Director-General of War Economy——
§ Mr. A. Bevan
Does the hon. and gallant Member mean that in his official capacity he is not allowed to disclose what waste there is?
§ Captain Duncan
I do not think it is appropriate in war-time. At any rate, it is an invitation to the Chancellor to make some inquiries, and that is all I meant. As I was saying, the War Office have appointed a Director-General of War Economy, and I have no doubt that he and his staff have done a great deal of good work. I would like to know from the Chancellor what other Departments 68 have Directors of Economy. What Economy Directors are there in the Ministry of Production or the Ministry of Supply? For instance, in time there must be, in the Ministry of Supply, a big change-over from certain types of production to others. There might come a time when we have reached such a large production of, say, machine-guns that that type of production can be cut down or turned over to something else. Are we doing that with sufficient speed? Are we reducing sufficiently quickly our capacity to produce? I asked Questions of the President of the Board of Trade to-day about trying to turn over to civilian consumption. Are real attempts being made, where plant has ceased to be used for war production because there is ample production in sight, to turn over to civilian production? If there were, economy would result and we should be preparing for peace. I am sure that the Government could do a lot more in the way of increased economy and I hope they will spare no effort to do so in the coming months.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I would like to refer for a moment or two to the discussion which took place at the beginning of this Debate. I have rarely heard a Debate on a Vote of Credit which has concerned itself merely with finance. The object of a Vote of Credit is to discuss policy and not finance, which can be discussed on other occasions. Therefore, my hon. Friends and I make no apology for raising general issues to-day. I would also like to say to the Government that they should ask their officials in the Treasury to draft these Motions with greater care. There is not the slightest justification for putting the word, "efficient," and I would ask the Chancellor to invite the attention of the Treasury to what occurred some years ago when, in a Supplementary Vote of Credit, in 1932, they used an adjective which resulted in a Debate lasting all one night and until one o'clock the following day. They ought not to use tendentious adjectives in a chaste Treasury Minute. If they do all that happens is that they open their front to the Committee and invite a Debate which, perhaps, they do not desire.
We all hope that this Vote of Credit, if not the last, will be almost the last that we shall be asked for in connection with 69 the European war. We know it will not last for the war as a whole, but we all hope that the war in Europe is now beginning to reach its closing stages and that we shall not be asked to discuss it much more again. I should have thought that this would have been the appropriate occasion for the House of Commons to have reviewed the situation—I do not mean purely from a military point of view, although I am not one of those who believe that the military conduct of this war is, or has been, efficient. I think I have made that clear on several occasions. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that this is the most efficient war Government we could have had. Having had no other Government, there is no standard of comparison. At any rate, I could think of a number of beneficial changes that might have been made. As my hon. Friend has no comparison, I do not think his judgment ought to be accepted at its face value. My hon. Friends and I make no criticism of the military conduct of the war to-day——
§ Mr. Bevan
We are entitled to do so, and the records of the last four or five years show that we are competent to do so—as competent as the Prime Minister, who is a civilian, or President Roosevelt, who is a civilian, or the Members of the War Cabinet, who are all civilians, are in the military conduct of the war.
§ Captain Longhurst (Acton)
The hon. Member is perhaps referring to the occasion in 1941 when he said the Russians would finish the war in a week.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
The hon. and gallant Member has made a charge against my hon. Friend of having made a certain statement. Will he furnish, not only to my hon. Friend but to the Committee, particulars of the statement and the date and the occasion on which it was made?
§ Captain Longhurst
I am not sure whether I may not have made a mistake in procedure in challenging the hon. Member. I admit that I cannot produce the 70 evidence now, but I will do so at the earliest opportunity.
§ Mr. Bevan
In point of fact I never said any such thing anywhere at any time. We are perfectly entitled, I say, to discuss the military conduct of the war. The reason why we did not do so was that, obviously, the war was reaching a crisis. The weapons to be used had already been made. No criticism here could have any real effect on them. Plans had been made and strategy decided upon and it seemed to us quite proper that, from that moment on, all that was left for us to do was to try to see to it that soldiers, sailors and airmen engaged the enemy under the best possible conditions, without being distracted or influenced by Debates in the House. So we refrained in those circumstances and for those reasons from discussing the military conduct of the war. But I warn hon. Members that, if some of them persist in the Vote of Thanks to the Prime Minister which appears on the Order Paper, it will not go through without resistance, because if the House of Commons is to achieve that last abomination of hypocrisy, it will be necessary for some of us to oppose it and to point out that there are certain things to be said about the Prime Minister's military conduct of the war which are not satisfactory, either to the House or to many people in the country.
Many of us believe that the war has already lasted unnecessarily long and that, after it became self-evident after Stalingrad that the Russian Army remained a force in being in the field, we should have taken much more imaginative and resilient advantage of that fact. We have not done so and, as a result, the enemy has been given far longer than he ought to have been given and we have suffered in this island as a consequence of it. Furthermore, we believe that the Mediterranean operations, so far from having contributed towards the success of the war, have been an unnecessary diversion of force. I do not want to go 71 into it too far, but I want hon. Members opposite not to imagine that silence on our side expresses complacence and satisfaction with the military conduct of the war.
When you come to the political conduct of the war it is really deplorable. At a stage like this, when all the Armies of the Allies are closing in on Germany, with the Russians almost close to the East Prussian border, with our Armies now in France, the enemy being pushed out of Italy and being bombarded by day and night from the air, it is an absolute tragedy that there is no statesman with any imagination or vision who can make a pronouncement for which the whole world, and certainly the German nation, is waiting. There are some Members on the Treasury bench, including the Prime Minister, who imagine that they are going to get an important niche in history for what they are trying to do. I hope I shall live long enough to see what the history books say about it. "Unconditional surrender" is a schoolboy's phrase, a childish phrase, the phrase of the man in the field, a general's phrase, a tactical phrase, the phrase of a man dealing with troops immediately in front of him, but not the phrase of a statesman. [An Hon. MEMBER: "That is very unfair to the generals."] A general must do so, unless he has instructions to the contrary, but it is not at all a statesmanlike position to take up. We have said it, but it did not mean "no conditions," because there are conditions. The phrase itself is childish. If it means anything at all, it means that we intend to occupy the country and have no dealings with anyone there.
Do we intend to conquer Germany in the field and occupy her, militarily and civilly, indefinitely? Of course we do not. We could not even if we wanted to. Therefore we must envisage the conditions under which the German people are going to live. There cannot be unconditional surrender because, if we said the conditions under which we envisage that they are going to live, those would be our conditions, would they not? Therefore, there could be no unconditional surrender. Do we not envisage any at all? Can it be that the reason why no pronouncement is made by the statesmen of this country is because they have no pronouncement to make? Can it be that they have drifted 72 into this situation without any plans for the future?
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
May I make an adult interruption? The hon. Member is accusing the statesmen of this country of not making any pronouncement. May it not be the fact that they have not yet been able to come to an agreed conclusion with the statesmen of the other countries, who are fighting with us?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is entitled to make endless speculations. All I can deal with are the representatives of this country here. I cannot deal with Marshal Stalin. I have not the same intimate communications with him that the hon. Member perhaps has. I cannot deal with President Roosevelt either.
§ Mr. Bevan
Does the bon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) know that the reason why no pronouncement has been made is that, although this Government want to make one, the Allies will not agree? If he does not know it, he has no right to conjecture it. All we can do is to +bring pressure to bear on our Government so that they, in their turn, may lay down conditions. We cannot enter into this labyrinth of subterranean speculation as to what other Governments will say. Let us deal with our own position. Is it a fact that our Government have not made up their minds on the matter? I am informed that President Roosevelt stated the other day that the armistice conditions have been agreed on. Did the hon. Member see that?
§ Mr. Bevan
It was a specific statement that armistice conditions have in fact been agreed. I should like to receive from the Government either a denial or a confirmation of that. I should like to know if they have made up their minds, first about armistice conditions, because, 73 if they have, it is nonsense to hold them back. If, on the other hand, President Roosevelt is correct and armistice conditions have been agreed upon, even if the Germans are not to be told about it, are not we to be told, because the conditions under which Germany will be expected to live when the war is over will very materially influence the conditions under which we live? It will be impossible to prevent the conditions of a nation of 90,000,000 having their influence on conditions in the rest of the world, especially in Great Britain. The welfare of our people is intimately bound up with what we decide for Germany, and our intentions towards Germany after the war, and with our peace aims for Germany after the war. A declaration of our intentions is at the same time a declaration of our peace aims. Why cannot we hear about them?
Sometimes I cannot understand my hon. Friends on this side allowing this situation to continue. In the last war one of our chief objectives was the abolition of secret diplomacy, and the first of the 14 points of the armistice conditions was open covenants openly arrived at—a point accepted even at that time by a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, so deeply suspicious were the democratic peoples of Britain and America of decisions being reached behind their backs. Now that we have a coalition of Labour, Socialist and Liberal——
§ Mr. Bevan
They have their influence on policy. We are informed that decisions have been reached, and those decisions have not been communicated to the House. Is that playing the game? Because, when the war is over, if those conditions are made known to the Germans, we should be tied by them in exactly the same way that we are now tied by the Italian terms. Even at this moment we do not know, and I believe the Italian Government do not know. They are trying to organise the life of Italy within a framework which is hidden from them. Badoglio knows, because he agreed to them. The King knows, because he agreed. But neither the people of Italy, though affected in the first instance, nor the people of Great Britain, in whose name they were made, know them. We therefore have, in this very fundamental matter of the international 74 framework of the future, politicians behind closed doors deciding, in our name, what the future is to be. I consider that the House of Commons is in a most undignified position in not demanding to know more than it knows at the present time.
The war may be unnecessarily prolonged by not making clear to the Germans the conditions under which we expect them to live. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) was surely wrong. There never has been a case in history of a nation collapsing in a purely military sense. When nations collapse, they collapse in both the moral and the military sense. There never has been in history, so far as I know, a nation which was defeated purely militarily in the field without any relationship to the political or moral context in which the defeat took place. When a country is defeated, the defeat is a combined effect. It is composed of military, moral and political factors. Therefore, when my hon. and gallant Friend says that we must be clear on this occasion that Germany is militarily defeated, that never happens and it is not happening even now.
§ Mr. Bevan
It has never happened with any nation, and it did not happen last time. The readiness of the soldier to surrender is not merely a military factor, but a military and political factor. It is, therefore, necessary that we should not only direct bullets at the enemy's body, but direct ideas at the enemy's brain.
§ Captain Duncan
I agree with that, but what I was saying was that Hitler, the German people, the German army and the German General Staff have continually said, since the last war, that the German army has never been defeated and that they were defeated by the defection of their own civilian population.
§ Mr. Bevan
Would we consider it to be a disaster or an advantage if, to-morrow, the German civil population rose against their rulers as they did before? Of course, it would be an advantage. The fact is that at some time or other in the fighting on the Continent of Europe, it will be shown that the ease with which our Armies are able to overcome the resistance of the enemy, or the state of the enemy 75 himself in resisting us, will depend very largely upon the estimate the soldier forms of the internal situation and in what kind of future he is going to live. Therefore, it seems to me apparent that the Government in not publishing the conditions of surrender, or the peace terms, or the armistice terms, or whatever they like to call them, neglect to reinforce our Armies with the most important political and moral weapons. Obviously we do not intend that the German nation should live under anything like the conditions that Goebbels describes for them. Therefore, anything that we say at the moment would be an improvement on the psychological attitude of the German people towards us and themselves.
Furthermore, there is nothing worse than for people to live in a mental vacuum of this sort. If you know what you are to put up with you can measure your present sufferings with future possibilities, but if you do not know the conditions under which you are going to live, all you can do is to hang on to the last moment hoping that something will turn up to save you. The argument is conclusive that if, as we understand, the Government know the conditions they will impose on Germany, the German and British people should be told at the earliest possible moment. It is a tragic commentary on the conduct of the war by the Government that this military stage has been reached without some imaginative, visionary, idealistic statement being made, to which the whole world could give its attention and behind which we could rally the enlightened opinion that still exists inside Europe.
Are we quite satisfied that the resistance movements in Europe among the Allies are being properly organised? I would like to address some questions to the Foreign Secretary. I find it rather difficult to phrase what I am going to say because I do not want to say anything that will be construed as of assistance to the enemy. There is some information that we have which it would be unwise to disclose, but the difficulty is that we are being blackmailed in this matter. The Government continually blackmail us, because if we say what we know, it will have certain advantages to the enemy; if, on the other hand, we do not say it, we cannot influence the Government's policy. It is no use saying it privately to the 76 Government, because they take no notice of that. Is it not an extraordinary fact that, although the Government decide that the military administration should take charge of a piece of occupied territory after our arms have conquered it—which I think is wrong, because it would seem to me that the territory should be handed over to the civil administration, preferably of the country concerned—nevertheless, before a country is conquered, and when the plans are being made, the resistance movements of those countries do not come under the military authorities at all?
Let me give a concrete illustration. We understand that recently General Eisenhower has stated that the Maquis of France must be regarded as a part of the general military forces of the Allies, and everybody welcomed the statement. Why is it said only now? Why was it that the organisation of the resistance movement in France, that is to say, the co-ordination of the Maquisards, was never at any time entrusted to General Eisenhower before D-Day? The co-ordination of the resistance movements of France, Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia still remains the function of a subordinate department of the Ministry of Economic Warfare. I do not want to give the name of the department concerned, but I can give it if I am challenged. These resistance movements, which are of the utmost military importance, are not, in fact, organised by the general concerned, but they are being co-ordinated, or unco-ordinated, by entirely the wrong sort of political organisation. If the head of the Ministry of Economic Warfare has nothing to do with the organisation of resistance movements, it means that no Minister is responsible at all. If, on the other hand, he is the person who is responsible, it frightens me, because I had some experience of the Noble Lord in this House, and one of the greatest wonders of the world is his appointment to any office at all. At this critical stage of the war, to entrust a most vital part of our military organisation to his Department is fantastic.
My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs smiles. Let me inform him that the reports sent from France by serving officers deplore the extent to which we have failed to give arms to the Maquis as part of the regular 77 forces under General Eisenhower. That is what we must do, because nothing would be more deplorable than for General Eisenhower to declare them as part of our general forces and yet not at the same time treat them as part of the general forces. That would, indeed, be a bad thing for everybody concerned. All our friends say that the reason why the Maquis are not able to give us the assistance that they could, and would, is because they are not sufficiently armed. Yet the Maquis have been in effective possession of a sufficiently large portion of France for us to have access to it for some time. My hon. Friend shakes his head, but let him get the monitor service of the B.B.C. and read what the Maquis leader said over the radio on Sunday night. The fact is that immediately after D-Day 120,000 young Frenchmen rushed to the Maquis. Other authoritative information we get from France shows that the Maquis are deplorably under-armed and are able to engage only in guerilla warfare, and that the Germans are forced to divert considerable detachments of their own regular forces in order to overcome those Maquisards who were offering resistance.
The General is not primarily a politician; he wants to win his war and he is concerned with assessing the military value and possibilities of a situation; and if before D-Day the Maquis had been handed over to the generals they would have done their best with them. Every statement that has been made by General Eisenhower and by General Alexander goes to show the importance they attach to the assistance they receive from the resistance movements in France and in Italy. But it is the generals who have had to make headway all the time against political resistance. My hon. Friend shakes his head and he, therefore, forces me to give some of the evidence.
§ Mr. Bevan
We are not concerned with the hon. Member's reactions at all. We are primarily concerned with shortening the war and saving British soldiers' lives, and not supporting the die-hard, backwoods reactionaries on the other side of the House. The evidence is piling up in this war that the short-term view that the generals take of the possibility of winning their campaigns is continually being interfered with by the long-term view that the 78 Foreign Office take of the kind of situation that will exist after the war in the countries concerned. That is why the Maquis have not had the help they should have had long ago.
I have said that I will give evidence of the interference by the Foreign Office with the military dispositions of the generals. I said last year that we received certain information from Greece about the relative effectiveness of the forces of E.D.E.S. and E.A.M. We were sending arms to E.D.E.S. under General Xervas. We were not sending arms to E.L.A.S., which is the military organisation of E.A.M. Under some pressure, very largely as a consequence of the brilliant work done by British liaison officers in Greece, and transmitted to the War Office here, we compelled the sending of arms to be used by E.L.A.S. in Greece. But this did not satisfy the political ambitions of the Government, because they were so anxious to support King George of Greece that it was not desirable to build up the power of E.A.M. So we got a period during which there was a tug-of-war going on between the War Office and the Foreign Office, a tug-of-war which resulted in the Foreign Office sending a certain gentleman to Greece. I will give his name, if my right hon. Friend wishes.
§ Mr. Bevan
The gentleman in question is a civil servant. This gentleman spent a month or two in Greece, although our liaison officers had been there for over a year and had been doing very valuable work. He came back, with a report for the Foreign Office, the whole purpose of which was to advise the Foreign Office how they could overcome the resistance of E.L.A.S. Part of the report was: "Send no further arms. Please do not conduct your operations in Greece in such a fashion as to make your support of King George of Greece too prominent." My right hon. Friend opposite shakes his head. He must not do so, because I have seen the document. Every piece of propaganda and every plan which we have used in Greece since then, has been in accordance with the report sent by that Foreign Office expert, who contradicted the statement of our military liaison officer on the spot, the purpose of the Foreign Office being to find local 79 grounds for their political pretensions, independent of the military possibilities of the situation.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Hall)
It was not my purpose to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I want to assure him that there has been complete co-operation between the War Office and the Foreign Office in this matter. Declarations have been made on a number of occasions, both by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and by the Prime Minister, that anybody fighting the Germans, any group, any partisan movement, will be armed to the capacity which this nation can arm it; and that policy has been carried out, not only in Greece, but in Yugoslavia and in France.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am not concerned with the Prime Minister's statements, or with the Foreign Secretary's statements. I am concerned with the facts, and my right hon. Friend must accept it that, in these matters, a whole lot of truth has been screened from the House of Commons. The same thing is true about Yugoslavia. There is more in these situations than my right hon. Friend imagines. We have not regarded these resistance movements primarily for their military value, but have been influenced all the time by certain political ambitions and political fears. My right hon. Friend need only look at the situation to-day, for example, in Cairo from which representatives of E.A.M. have gone back home, having failed to reach agreement. There is the impression that the negotiations were merely intrigues to try to impose King George upon E.A.M. It is no use my right hon. Friend shaking his head. Everybody in the Committee, on all sides, knows that one of the most remarkable things at the moment is the extraordinary royalism that the Prime Minister has developed. Whenever he sees a king he wants to put him on his throne, and if he sees one tottering, he wants to prop him up.
I apologise to the Committee for going on for so long, but I suggest that, if our Government find it hard to persuade the American and Russian Governments to come out with a declaration, the pressure of this Debate may help them to persuade their Allies that the time has come to do so. If, on the other hand, those Allies 80 have made up their minds, this Debate may help to prove to the Government that a belief exists in this country that a civilised nation makes war not only with weapons but with ideas, and that the time has now come for ideas to take the side of the soldier on the battlefield.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) that this is the appropriate occasion for a review of the Government's conduct of the war, since the House of Commons is being asked to pass a Vote of £1,000,000,000 for that purpose. We should have more of such Debates. They are helpful to the House and to Ministers, as the Prime Minister has said. In fact one of the weaknesses of Ministers when they take part in international conferences in America and elsewhere is that they have no vigorous and active public opinion from this country to back them up when they have to make a bargain, or reach an agreement, such as the Lord Privy Seal has had to do in regard to civil aviation, oil, or on political warfare. In whatever matter it may be, it is to the advantage of a Minister to be able to point to a discussion that is going on, strongly expressing public opinion in this country on these all-important questions.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot complain because we have not, on this occasion, had another of those shadow shows when he gets up and makes a few remarks and asks for £1,000,000,000, and my right hon. Friend from the Front Opposition Bench makes a mildly critical or constructive financial speech, and in a few minutes it is all over. Ministers cannot complain, because, if you work it out—and I have not done so in exact figures—it comes to about one speech per £100,000,000, ever since they first came to the Committee asking for these fabulous sums. This is the third credit the Chancellor has asked for, making £3,000,000,000, since April last. I sincerely hope that the progress of the war means that this will be the last of these Votes.
Some of the astronomical figure to which we are now asked to agree, is forrelief and rehabilitation of areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations.Now that the Government have a Debate on their hands, I hope we shall have a 81 reply from the Government Front Bench. I notice that the Minister of Agriculture has been in and out of the Committee several times, and he has been mildly interrupting during the course of the Debate. I can assure the Minister that he will not get his turn for his Debate for at least a moment or two. We hope that whoever is to answer for the Government will reply to some of the questions which have been put to him, which are important questions of policy. In the quotation which I just made from the Vote, presumably the word "areas" refers to occupied France and occupied Europe in general. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Does this mean that an agreement has been reached between this country, the United States of America and the French Committee of Liberation with regard to the issue of an Allied or military currency in France? I ask because this is now an urgent matter of administration. I should have thought that the House of Commons, which has been very discreet and patient about this and has not pressed the Chancellor or the Foreign Secretary unduly, would have been told whether agreement has been reached or not. It is some weeks old now and I hope we may expect a statement at the end of the Debate to the effect that this agreement has now been reached as a result of the visit of General de Gaulle to Washington and as a result of the Foreign Secretary's communications to Washington. I hope we may be given the terms and the commitments of the agreement on the issue of Allied currency in France. I hope also the House of Commons may have an opportunity to debate the matter. We have been put off several times when we have made a request on these lines to the Government. There are many questions involved, such as the nature of the financial commitments of His Majesty's Government and the point as to who is responsible for the necessary backing and guarantees, and whether the French Committee of Liberation is to have a hand in it.
There is another very serious problem involved. I would like to ask whether some of this money will be used for the rehabilitation of devastated areas. According to the pictures in the newspapers, places like Caen and smaller towns and villages which have been liberated, have been subject to so much shelling and bombing from both sides that they are 82 now in a pretty desperate state of rubble and ruin. The Government should tell us whether they have any efficient arrangement to enable the unfortunate refugees to be looked after in this country, and those who remain in France to be given a roof over their heads and food to eat. These French civilians have all been going through most terrible times. Their towns occupied by the enemy had no effective A.R.P. assistance such as we have had here during bombing raids. Evacuees who have managed to get over here have told the most awful stories of their sufferings in recent weeks. I hope the Government are going to give practical and organised assistance in housing and rehabilitating these liberated areas. As the Armies go forward, we may find whole communities that have been slaughtered, as in the case of that unfortunate village of Oradour-sur-Glane in which 800 people were foully butchered and done to death by S.S. troops of the Der Fuehrer division. I hope I shall not be out of Order if I suggest that we have now reached the point at which the Government should not merely issue a statement in the Press or on the B.B.C., or even General Eisenhower, the Commander-in-Chief, issue a definition of francs-tireurs or the status of the Maquis, but when an authoritative and solemn statement should be made by the President of the United States, the Prime Minister and Marshal Stalin. They should say exactly what we intend to do if this awful treatment is served out to other villages and towns in France.
It may be that the Germans intend to continue this brutal practice, the foulest method of the scorched earth policy on innocent people. What are the Government doing, to bring this matter home to the Nazis and the German people and let them know exactly what we intend to do, what retribution, trial and punishment we intend? Has the Prime Minister made any representations to the President of the United States or Marshal Stalin with a view to a solemn declaration being made on behalf of the United Nations, saying what we shall do if this treatment goes on? The important thing to do is to warn the Nazis by such a solemn declaration made by the leaders of the United Nations on behalf of all our peoples and not merely resort to ordinary broadcasts, exactly what we intend to do at the end of the 83 war, if the Nazis continue this same brutal destruction of the inhabitants of occupied France. Our first object should be to try to save the lives of these unfortunate Frenchmen, women and children, and the second, also of great urgency, is that we should state quite clearly, and formally through the leaders of the United Nations, not only the status which we are determined to attach to the resistance forces in France, who are from day to day increasing their efforts to help us, but the official position of the Maquis, the resistance movement and our clear definition that they are not francs-tìreurs. I suggest that Italy has given us a certain amount of experience in this policy of following through after military operations. Whichever Department is responsible for the Government—I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was able to find which Department in the long run was responsible—can we have an absolute assurance that as our blockade moves forward from France and from Greece and other occupied countries of Europe, the Government have a policy ready, a practical and agreed policy, a proper financial policy, a policy of rehabilitation and of real assistance in regard to housing and food supply so that these people may be given the immediate succour and assistance which it is the will of public opinion in this country to give them?
In conclusion, I say that I am glad that this is in the Vote of Credit. I hope the Government will not only make clear that this Vote is for that purpose, but that they will tell us and the French people to-day some of the plans they have in mind, and what they intend to do. I agree with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that, more than ever, this is the time when we can get dividends from political warfare. Whatever we may be trying to do now in Normandy we can get the most tremendous results if we can get an agreed policy in political warfare, between the United Nations, with the object not only of saving British lives but of bringing a speedy victory and a sure and lasting peace. If that can be furthered, then this Debate has indeed been worth while.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I agree with my hon. Friends that it is of great importance that we should discuss at this moment the trend of the war, even 84 although the question does not, on the political side, come directly under this Vote. The speeches up to the moment, especially those of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), present a strange aspect to the Committee. Here we are, we believe, in the last months of the war; there are many who hope we may even be in the last weeks. Victory is not far away if our calculations are right. One man has had to have the dreadful burden in this country of making the final decision to plunge many young men to their deaths. The Prime Minister had to take the fateful decision that on a certain June day there would be an invasion of France. There is a saying that the three loneliest men in the world are a Pope, a Prime Minister and a general in the field. At some moment they have to take a decision alone and face their conscience, face history and face their God. And yet the speeches of these two hon. Members opposite are so jaundiced in their attitude towards the Prime Minister, so bitter and even so venomous, that I sometimes wonder who they think the enemy is that we are fighting.
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Member has quoted me as being venomous to the Prime Minister. For once in my life I was quoting the Prime Minister in support of my view on every occasion.
§ Mr. Baxter
The hon. Member cannot get away with that. It was an uncomfortable and unfortunate quotation with which the hon. Member intended to sting the Prime Minister and reduce his dignity as much as possible. There are many things about the character of the hon. Member opposite that I like very much. He has a conscience, and in other things he is a loyal friend and a good companion, but there is a quality in him, and a quality in the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, which Shakespeare depicted—despite a difference in physique—in the midnight hags round the cauldron in "Macbeth." Once these two get turning round it is:Double, double, toil and troublefor the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Baxter
I qualified myself by saying that there was a slight disparity in 85 physique. But, believe me, the spirit of the midnight hags of hell can be found over there.
It seems to me there is one awfully important point which the Committee should consider. I think we are forgetting exactly what happened at the end of the last war. We are facing very much the same situation now. There is not one of us in this Committee who would not, if he had it in his power, shorten the war by any hour that is possible. One of the most awful things that happened in the last war was that even when it was known in the Army that the Armistice was to be at 11 o'clock on 11th November, 1918, the Army still had to fight, and even in some cases attack, while they knew that at 11 o'clock the guns would stop. Hundreds of men went to their deaths at that time. That was a terrible thing. But I do put this to my hon. Friends with all the sincerity in my power, that while every one of us would shorten the war, and stop the war at the earliest possible moment, there is sometimes a danger in stopping a war too soon. It seems a dreadful thing to say, but consider what happened last time. There were exactly the same kind of speeches as these we are hearing now, urging that this awful carnage should stop. We had Lord Lansdowne's move; we had the same spirit, which is inevitable, of "Can we save some lives and bring the war to an end?" Foch was for marching through to Berlin, but this spirit won the day and I believe that was the faint beginning of this next war.
§ Mr. Baxter
Yes, I was not sneering at Lord Lansdowne's letter. Many of us in the Army at that time would have been glad if Lord Lansdowne could have had his way. I say there is the same spirit—I am not condemning it, it comes from the heart of all these hon. Members. But hon. Members to-day have been criticising very harshly the term "unconditional surrender," and it does seem 86 that that term is unfortunate, inasmuch as it must stiffen the resistance of the Germans enormously. All that I agree with. But, after all, in the last war it was unconditional surrender—it really was. The German Government sent their representatives to General Foch, and they said "We have come to ask for an armistice on the Fourteen Points put forward by President Wilson."
§ The Deputy-Chairman
We are going much too far into past history. It is all very well as an illustration, but we cannot now argue the facts of the past.
§ Mr. Stokes
With great respect, Mr. Williams, the hon. Member has made a statement which is entirely inaccurate. Surely——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member put one question. We cannot now go into a long Debate as to what brought about the end of the last war.
§ Mr. Baxter
My view is that the purpose of the German Government was to ask for an armistice as a preliminary to a peace treaty being arranged, based on the Fourteen Points of President Wilson. Everybody knows that; my hon. Friend must know it as well. Foch's reply was, "The terms are very simple. You will lay down your arms and withdraw to a position where you cannot renew the war again." The Germans were forced to accept that, and really it was an unconditional surrender. Subsequently the legend arose, first that we had cheated on the Fourteen Points, and secondly that their army was never defeated. I think the one thing that must be done this time to Germany is that every living German must be taught that their army has been crushed in the field, their air force destroyed in the air and their navy destroyed in the sea. They must drink the bitter waters of defeat to the very last drop this time, because otherwise the legend will grow again and once more they will 87 say—[Interruption.] These hon. Members are saying, "Why do you not tell the Germans what we intend to do with them if they surrender?" It was suggested several times to-day that we should say to the Germans, "Lay down your arms and we will do——"
§ Mr. Baxter
That is exactly the same. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] All right, I accept that. These midnight hags agree that in starting up their trouble——
§ Mr. Boothby
On a point of Order. I do not want to cross swords with the hon. Member, but is it in Order to describe an hon. Member as a midnight hag?
§ Mr. Baxter
Then I will drop "midnight hags," and refer to them as a pair of witches, and I hope HANSARD gets the spelling right. I want to put this last point, because while the hon. Members opposite speak with great passion, and plead that everybody shall be adult, they themselves put on a fairly juvenile performance. I will endeavour to put my final point, which is this: What possible terms, what possible forecast, if you like, of Germany's future could you give which was at once just and would encourage the Germans to surrender? As to saying that the Allied leaders are not in conference about these terms, that is, of course, ridiculous. What the terms for Germany are to be is being discussed all the time. But it may be necessary to reduce Germany for 25 years cruelly but justly—it may be cruel in its result, but just in its intent—to a second-rate Power. It may be necessary to cut down her imports, or to allocate them.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I should point out that, although we have had a great deal of latitude in this Debate, I do not think we can really discuss the full peace terms, which must be a question of imagination at this moment.
§ Mr. Baxter
With great respect, hon. Gentlemen opposite spoke at great length, 88 denouncing unconditional surrender. I am trying to point out——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
As I understood it, they were speaking on propaganda, which is being paid for on this Vote. If the hon. Member is laying down definite peace terms, that is where he goes beyond the terms of this Debate.
§ Mr. Baxter
I will abide by that, Mr. Williams, and simply make this point. It is practically impossible to announce anything but unconditional surrender. There should be a general indication to the German people that their lives will be spared, as far as possible, and that they will be able to live as a nation. But those are not conditions. The peace terms cannot be announced until the surrender of the army in the field and of the Government. That is all I have to say, but I come back to my first point, that the harassing of the Prime Minister, the withholding of one word of generous tribute to him, the denunciation of the military direction of the war—all this is discouraging to the troops, and apt only to take away from them the confidence which we know they have in the Prime Minister and in the generals. The attack which we have heard from—I shall change the metaphor—these Dolly Sisters, is ungenerous, unkind, and even venomous.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The Committee is much indebted to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for opening this Debate as to what answer should be given to the very simple question, which is on the lips of everybody, namely: What are we fighting for? What is this additional £1,000,000,000 for? What does this expenditure mean? What are the aims behind this vast sum of money? The Debate was conducted on a very high plane before the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) descended to pay undue tribute to the Prime Minister. The hon. Gentleman must not be offended when we criticise the Prime Minister. If he had been here as long as some of us, he would remember the Prime Minister sitting then below the Gangway. Nothing that has been said to-day; not all the vitriol and vinegar that could ever emanate from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and his friends combined, could equal the violent attacks of the present Prime Minister on the late Neville Chamberlain, when he was Prime Minister. I would venture the view, with all serious- 89 ness, that it was attacks of the present Prime Minister which killed the spirit of the previous Prime Minister during this war. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe it; and if I believe it, that is sufficient for me. I am glad to see the Minister of Labour in his seat. I will, however, first of all, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer one or two technical questions.
I think it would be well for the people of this country to be informed of the amount of the National Debt outstanding consequent upon the present war, and, in addition, the total National Debt outstanding as the result of the last war. Secondly, what is the Debt per head of the population now? It would be very interesting also, if we were given the amount per head of the interest on the National Debt, to be paid at the end of this war, supposing the war finishes this year. The right hon. Gentleman knows his arithmetic better than I do, and I should be very pleased if he would indicate to our people what they are in for. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) delivered a short speech, and warned us of what we might expect when the war is over. He said, in short, that we shall not be able to find money as easily in peace as in war-time. Unless I have mistaken the mind of the people with whom I come in contact, some Government—not this Government, because I hope they will not be in office—will have to give an answer to the question that will be put from thousands of lips at the end of the conflict, namely, "How comes it about that you could find £13,000,000 a day for war purposes, and cannot find even £1,000,000 a day to build houses when peace comes?" Some Government will have to find an answer to that pertinent question.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer that question, because this is a Vote in connection with the war, and not for peace.
§ Mr. Davies
Thank you very much, Mr. Williams. I, therefore, come back to the war. I hope the Committee will agree with me when I say that there is very much greater bewilderment about the objects of this war than there was about the conflict of 1914–18. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It suits the purpose of hon. 90 Gentlemen to say "No." I also lived through the war in 1914–18. [Interruption.] I would not, of course, fight in any war; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite, belonging to a Christian community, as I do, will not mind my saying that it is estimated that more people have been killed in war since Christ was born, than the total population of this world to-day. That is sufficient argument against war for me. Why are people bewildered about this war? We were supposed to enter this war in order to secure the independence of Poland. I do not think it an exaggeration to say that the one person who will, in the end, decide the future of Poland is not the British Prime Minister, but Stalin. I asked the Prime Minister to-day whether the Allied Powers had envisaged a Soviet regime in Germany, before or immediately after the end of this war. He said that they had considered that possibility. Then I reminded him that we spent £100,000,000 of British money at the end of the last war, to prevent the Bolsheviks coming into power in Russia at all. Indeed, it was largely because we spent that money that the Bolsheviks actually achieved power.
Let me put this point, from the propaganda aspect. I have never been able to understand how it is that we in this country assume that all the peoples of Europe would welcome us as their liberators. I have travelled Europe as much as most people, and I should be surprised if all the nations of Europe welcomed the establishment of democracy like our own in their respective countries. Take the following incongruity. Here is one thing which bewilders the people in this country. Finland is supposed to be the finest democracy in Europe, and she is fighting side by side with the cruellest Nazi Government on the Continent. On the other hand, one of the most Fascist regimes in Europe at the beginning of the war Was in Greece, and she, forsooth, is fighting side by side with the democracies.
The Government know, even better than I do, how deeply this war has affected the homes of our own people. Let me give just one case. Here is a boy, 17 years and eight months old, employed in an engineering shop on work of national importance. He recently appeared before a hardship tribunal, and asked for deferment from being called up, when he 91 arrives at military age. His father has been on the sick list for 10 years, and he has six brothers already in the Forces. Lo and behold, the hardship tribunal declined to give him deferment. When that sort of treatment is meted out to the people of this country, they say that all the Hitlers are not in Germany, by any means; and they are right.
In my contact with people abroad, I have yet to find that the human race, fundamentally, is divided into Jews, Gentiles, Germans, British, Italians and Americans. The human race is basically divided into good, bad, and indifferent; and you find the good, bad and indifferent even in this Committee, as well as anywhere else—and they would be found, I suppose, in the Reichstag when it existed.
Let me come to the chief point of the Debate raised by the hon. Member for Ipswich, namely, What should we tell the German people? It may appear strange to the hon. Gentleman over there that I am probably more opposed to Nazism than he is. The difference between him and me is that he is opposed to Nazism in Germany, and so am I, but I am opposed to the introduction of Nazi technique in my own country as well, while he apparently is not. I object to the working masses of my own country being bludgeoned, and turned into robots, as they are at present. And by the way, a pair of handcuffs is no more easy to wear because the links are forged by a trade union leader.
Some hon. Members have met German miners, German railwaymen, and German engineers. Does anybody suppose that all those engineers, miners, and railwaymen in Germany like Hitler? I should be surprised if they did. It may astonish hon. Gentlemen here to learn that there are some miners, engineers, and railwaymen in this country who do not like even our own Prime Minister. What I would say to the German people is: "You dispose of your Nazi regime, and we will then make peace with you, on the terms of the Atlantic Charter." The Atlantic Charter at one time meant something to the people of the world, and I regret, more than words can tell, that the British Prime Minister, whether he did it on his own account or not, has said, in effect, that half the human race are outside the terms of that 92 Charter altogether. What hope is there for the peace of Europe on those lines?
The hon. Gentleman opposite talked about keeping the Germans down after we conquer them, that they would have to surrender, and that we would make slaves of them if necessary. If this war ends this year, I would almost guarantee that the majority of the soldiers who will then be fighting on the battlefields of the world were mere boys in elementary schools when the war began. What, therefore, do they know about the reasons for this war? What do we, as Members of Parliament, know about the real reasons for this war? They have nothing to do with patriotism; we are not fighting for Christianity, or liberty, or freedom. As the late President Wilson said, all wars between industrial countries have their roots in commerce, finance, trade and tariffs. That is what this war is about, and the sooner we and our fighting men are told what the war is about, the better. It may appear strange to the Committee that my antagonism to war is based on the fact that every war is just the same; it does not matter to me what they are about. I object to young boys of 18 and 20 being sent to their doom by statesmen, who cause quarrels between nations, but who never fight themselves.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have great difficulty in seeing how this opinion of the hon. Gentleman is related to this actual Vote.
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry I speak so strongly against war. People say to me sometimes, "Why do you not agree with the Government; why are you so critical?" I say—and this is what I want hon. Gentlemen to remember—a Parliament would not be required if everybody agreed. Parliament was established because people disagreed with each other, and, having said that, I hope the Committee will understand me.
§ Mr. Baxter
I never said any such thing. as the hon. Member has attributed to me. I said that, at this moment, when we are approaching victory, no one has said one word to praise the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Davies
My last word is this. The soldiers, airmen and those engaged on our merchant ships and battleships ought to be told categorically, even at this late stage of the war, what in fact is the answer 93 to the vital question they put to us all—"What are we fighting for?"
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I had not meant to trouble the Committee to-day, and I do not now wish to make a formal speech—hardly even a connected one. On the other hand, much of what has been said has tended to come at a particular angle of criticism, and I think it would be unfortunate if some attempt were not made to balance that by indicating some distinctions which have not yet been made. I would not say that, in these distinguishable matters, the discrimination which I make is the right one, but I do think that there is a discrimination to be made on some of the points most vehemently made from the other side, and it is one that, I think, can usefully be made from this side. I was surprised how much less I agree with the last speaker than I might, normally, be expected to do. The thing on which I most disagree with him is his curious assumption, which he made near the beginning, that a member of a Christian community must regard death as the most decisive of all considerations. That seemed to me a very odd assumption. I disagree also with his assumption that it is wrong to suppose that Hitler was universally popular in Germany. The hon. Member derided us for thinking so. I think that until very recently, Hitler was very popular in Germany, and I think it is probably true, even in these days, that he is as popular in Germany as our Prime Minister is here. I think we make a great mistake if we are not aware of that. I was glad to know from my hon. Friend that, in the German tongue, the Atlantic Charter means something, because in English, I have never succeeded in getting very much out of it.
I wish to comment on the remarks of the hon. Members for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and their faction to distinguish between policy and propaganda. The distinction which I would make between policy and propaganda is this. I believe the hon. Members to be wholly mistaken in their estimate of propaganda, even if you call it political warfare. Warfare is political killing, and by doubling up the epithets and calling it political warfare, you do not get any further. In my judgment, propaganda is a 94 vulgar and undignified activity, and also an ineffective one. If without excessive autobiography I may give my credentials for expressing that opinion, I would say that I spent 1918 as the assumed expert in the War Office on the internal condition of Germany, and I did, then, see everything that anybody saw about it. I have no doubt at all that our propaganda had no effect at all on the course or finish of the last war. That was a legend which was invented; it suited the Germans and a great many people here. I would not withhold any of the money of this Vote because the Government are not doing more in the way of propaganda, but I think we were entitled to criticise insufficiency of policy, and if we were a little more dissatisfied even to withhold on the ground that the Government are not doing enough in the way of explaining their policy—which is not the same thing as propaganda. It is true that, in an earlier part of the war, we fought because we had to fight. It was a purely defensive war. The only war which we may be sure is right is the purely defensive war, but now, when we have got to this stage, we ought to be able to explain some of the decisions, of a positive kind, for which we are fighting.
Here I come to the second distinction I make. I understood that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was demanding an explanation by the Government now of the armistice terms which should settle the conditions under which Germans are to live in the post-war world. I think that was what the hon. Member was demanding.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was demanding that. I believe it to be a mistake to make that demand. I think we should distinguish with extreme care between armistice terms and peace terms. I agree in disliking the phrase "unconditional surrender," and I did not learn to love it any more, when it was explained to us that it was synonymous with "honourable capitulation." That seems to me a most gratuitous way of spoiling language. As for the armistice terms, they should be plainly a surrender. I would not use the epithet "unconditional." It is easier to sign on a dotted line if the dotted line is there first. Above all, I ask the Government to consider this point: the 95 armistice terms ought not to control or anticipate the binding peace settlement.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I have already apologised. I am pretty sure I am right about the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. My point is that it is a modern technique of democracy that no great question shall be decided except by popular consent, and also that no great question shall be put, until the terms of it, and the conditions in which it is put, are such that only one answer is possible. One of the technical forms of this new democracy is this business about White Papers and so on. It is the technique of saying (a) "The time is not ripe" until they say (b) "It is too late now; we have sold that pass." I am afraid that technique might be carried into foreign affairs.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid this is becoming far too much a lecture on logic, rather than a speech dealing with the actual Vote.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry if my speech is too logical. There was once a proposal to endow a Chair of Logic in my university, and a member of the Senate suggested that, instead of spending the £1,200 on that, it would be better to split up the money, and give £50 to each of the other professors, on the condition that they were logical. He was very much laughed at at the time, but I have always thought that he was in the right. If I can do so without offending your Ruling, Mr. Williams—which I would be the last man to do—I would argue that we ought not to go on indefinitely voting sums of money, even in such small packets as a thousand millions at a time, without being aware of the positive policy of the Government, and I believe that there could be a policy, quite simple, quite honest and clearly expressible, in which almost everybody would agree. I believe that such a policy would very much shorten the war. Indeed, if there had been, all along, such a policy, the war might now almost be over. I would advise the Government not to listen to the siren voices opposite asking them to spend now a larger proportion of this money upon propaganda than they have already spent, but to make plain the essentials of our policy.
96 There is one other point which is, perhaps, not in Order, but which is in reply to points raised from the other side, and I hope I may get away with it. It was assumed a great deal on the other side, and most of all by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, that there had been interference with the stragetic conduct of the war in order to favour parties of a particular political complexion. That may, for all I know, have happened here and there. My hon. Friend's expertness seemed to be about Greek politics. What expertness I have about Greek politics does not go later than Thucydides, and so I would not compete with him there. But I do know something about Yugoslav politics, and I knew in an English way a little about French politics in the years before this war, and when one has that advantage, it is possible to read between the lines of the newspapers a little more than they say. With regard to Yugoslavia and France, I am perfectly certain that hon. Gentlemen opposite are mistaken, if they think that what was our strategic desire, has been refrained from, because of tenderness for parties of the Right. I am perfectly certain that the contrary is nearer the truth.
We all think we know something about English politics too, and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that we can disagree here about English politics. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale suggested that I, and other hon. Members on this side, did not care so much about the soldiers killed. [Interruption.] Well, he appeared to say that. The shaking of a head on the Front Bench forced him to produce evidence which he would not otherwise have produced, and when I condoled by saying "Bad luck," I certainly thought he said he was more interested in saving the lives of soldiers. I am not objecting to what he said. All I am trying to get hon. Members opposite to see is that we find it very difficult to agree with each other about English politics, and I beg of them to believe that it is possible for them to be mistaken about French or Yugoslav politics, or the politics of any part of the Continent.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
There is at least one thing on which I can agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), in that it would be desirable for the Government and the Prime Minister, if possible, to be a little more explicit in any statement that 97 he might make at some future time on the immediate aims of the Allies, and particularly in regard to the conditions under which Germany will be asked to lay down her arms. I think I may say that the majority of the Members on these Benches feel that at least one thing must be decided, that Germany shall never again have the opportunity to do what she has done in the past. Everything that is done, all the immediate post-war aims, the conditions under which she must surrender, must have that one thought in mind, and whatever may be the interpretation of the words "unconditional surrender" that is the main principle that must be borne in mind. I am pretty certain, too, that those are the views of our great Ally in the East, Russia. She has not seen the fairest provinces of European Russia devastated twice in a generation without being prepared to see to it that that does not happen again.
I will not detain the Committee for long, but I have risen because, as one who entered Germany very soon after the Armistice following the last war, I was able to see at first hand the kind of thing that went on the moment Germany signed the Armistice. I was one of those who went to Germany feeling very different from what I felt when I went out. During the time I was there I learned a good deal and I remember that from the very moment that the Armistice terms were signed, the régime who had been responsible for the war and who stood behind the Prussian military machine got to work again by means of the historical and very much used method in Germany of political assassination. My point is that in the Armistice terms, it must be definitely laid down that, for a long period, Germany must be occupied by a military force. The occupation of Germany by military means is absolutely essential in order to prevent that which happened the last time. I am convinced that there are many decent, progressive, civilised people still in Germany. They are not all either dead or exiled, there are some there even now, but I am convinced they have not the slightest chance of getting the upper hand and being able to guide the destinies of their country unless they are protected by the military occupation of Germany.
§ Mr. Price
There must be no repetition of what happened in the last quarter of a century. That is my main point. Whatever else may be the terms of "unconditional surrender," I am convinced that there must be put into it a long-term military occupation of Germany. At the same time we should not try to squeeze out her economic life; nothing either in the Armistice terms or the later terms need do that. She must be allowed to continue, if only to allow the progressive elements of that country to come out and get the upper hand. If any of my hon. Friends are trying to suggest that the immediate post-war terms are to be made anything like as liberal as they were the last time, I think they are wrong. We must take the most drastic measures now in order that we can be more liberal later.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I only rise to utter a few sentences. I have been driven to do so by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who, I am rather sorry to see, is not in his place. This has been rather a curious and rather a ragged Debate. In some senses it ought to be, one of the most important Debates the Committee has ever had. We are discussing the whole future of the world. I do not think that anybody really can expect the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to announce, on behalf of the United Nations, the whole of our peace terms or proposals.
§ Mr. Boothby
You may have ruled it out of Order, Mr. Williams, but with all due respect the gist of every speech in the Debate so far has been to ask the Chancellor to announce on behalf of the United Nations the whole of our peace proposals for the next 100 years in the next half hour. I suggest that this would not only be unwise but impracticable. My hon. Friend was demanding, as he had the right to do, a unilateral declara- 99 tion on behalf of His Majesty's Government; but he was demanding the impossible. It would be a most undesirable thing for His Majesty's Government to set out at any length their propositions with regard to what to do with Germany, without previous consultation and agreement not only with the United States and the Soviet Union, but also with the United Nations as a whole. It is ridiculous to expect the Government to make a unilateral declaration of this kind.
§ Mr. Stokes
Will the hon. Member explain why the Government permit their late diplomatic adviser to make preposterous declarations?
§ Mr. Boothby
I did not know that Lord Vansittart had any connection with the Government. The hon. Member, instead of being a midnight hag, is becoming a military dictator in his old age, if he is now to stop private citizens from expressing their own views.
§ Mr. Boothby
I thought the hon. Member was proposing that Lord Vansittart should be interned under 18B.
§ Mr. Boothby
It would certainly be within the power of the Government to do so; and we would have no power to challenge the decision, as the hon. Member knows very well.
I do think—and this is the main point I got up to put—that as the war reaches its climax some general declaration of intention should be made by the United Nations as a whole; and also I would like to suggest that perhaps we might be given a rather more clear statement than we have hitherto been vouchsafed of the facts with regard to the resistance movements in various European countries. There is one point on which hon. Members on both sides in this Debate have been unanimous, and that is that we are kept in sublime ignorance of what is going on in countries like Yugoslavia and Greece; and, recently, as far as the Maquis are concerned. We get the wildest statements in the Press and in periodicals 100 on both sides, for example with regard to Marshal Tito and General Mihailovitch; and the ordinary Member of Parliament does not know what is really going on, or what the views of the Government are. I think I am in Order, as some of the Vote is for these purposes; and I shall only say to the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a general demand from all sides of the Committee that, as soon as it is practicable or possible, the Government might give us a little more information with regard to what is actually going on in the resistance movements in these countries.
So far as the general definition of "unconditional surrender"—which is the immediate war aim of the Allies—is concerned, I am not going to suggest that, in the end, it will not have to come to that, as it did in 1918; but the t's must be crossed and the i's dotted as well. In the political, as opposed to the military sense, there is no such thing as unconditional surrender; and you have to lay down some kind of conditions. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has just come into the Chamber, and perhaps I might take this opportunity to offer him belated but none the less sincere congratulations upon the great success of his policy with regard to the French National Committee. I have many times in this House made his life a burden to him during the past few years upon the question of our relationship with the Free French. He has now done a great job, and deserves the very sincere congratulations of the House as a whole on the satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations.
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to reply to the Debate, I would be grateful if he can say whether the matter of the francs has been finally cleared up to the satisfaction of all parties. That was an aspect which gave us all some anxiety; and, as we were apparently responsible for the issue of francs, we really had the right to know whether it was all O.K. There was a moment when President Roosevelt said we had backed this issue, and His Majesty's Government said they had not; and as we have some responsibility for money issued in our name, I think we should be told what has happened.
In conclusion, may I refer to my original request for a declaration of 101 general intention on behalf of the United Nations? We have heard a certain amount of "hot air" in the Committee to-day about all the jolly things we have to do to the Germans to persuade them to lay down their arms and to be good boys again quite soon. But I think the people of this country will demand that the first and fundamental general intention that we should make clear to the world and to the Germans is that this thing must not and cannot ever happen again. Whatever happens, we have to take the necessary practical and military steps to see that it cannot happen again. I am not one who believes that the indefinite military occupation of Germany is a practical proposition as the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest.
§ Mr. Boothby
I only refer to things that are likely to happen. I have recently been reading some of the literature of the closing phase of the last war, and particularly of the life of that very great man M. Clemenceau. I strongly recommend hon. Members to read some of the things he said. They take your breath away today. In the closing phase of his life, about two years before he died, he received a deputation of Canadian ex-Service men. He said to them: "Between us we fried to do a great thing, and we very nearly succeeded. Unfortunately, we failed, and it will all have to be done over again, and I am not so sure about what will happen next time. But it is no fault of yours that we did not succeed." That was a remarkable thing to say in the early 1920's. I feel, in the final analysis, that so far as the Rhineland is concerned, it was Clemenceau and Foch who were right, and the others who were wrong in 1919; and that is something that we ought never to forget.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think the Committee is perhaps ready to hear some observations from this bench on the Debate as far as it has proceeded. I am not trying to bring the proceedings to a close. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be here, prepared to take up any further points that may be raised.
§ Mr. Stokes
I was given to understand that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was going to answer points on this Debate. Is that so?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I was about to observe that the Debate had ranged over a very wide field. From my point of view it has been a very interesting Debate, perhaps all the more because many of the points raised are not points on which hon. Members would expect me to comment in any great detail; but I have one or two Observations of a perfectly simple character to make on that part of the Debate which has been concerned with foreign affairs, armistice terms, and so forth. First of all, let me say just one word about the subject of propaganda to which, in the earlier part of the Debate, so many hon. Members referred.
I agree with my hon. Friend the senior Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that it is very important to distinguish between propaganda and policy. Some of the criticism of propaganda, when you come to analyse it, was really criticism of fundamental policy. I would say, however, that, so far as propaganda is concerned, I do not share with certain hon. Members the view that the word "propaganda" is an unpleasant one from which one should shrink. It had a very dignified and even noble origin—the spreading of faith—of which no one need be ashamed. But if it has not succeeded, for example, in eliminating from the minds of those fighting on the German side the ridiculous idea that if they are taken prisoner they are going to be maltreated, of course we must go on and try to do better, because ideas of that sort ought to be eliminated.
When you come to the question of policy a very different field is opened up. A good deal has been said by speakers in this Debate about the implications of unconditional surrender, and questions have been asked as to what we were doing—whether we were doing anything at all, whether we were doing it alone, or in conjunction with our Allies—towards settling the details of the armistice terms. Here, again, one must avoid misunderstanding. There is all the difference in the world between armistice terms and the terms of peace. Armistice terms have to be determined in advance, but you can take more time about the terms of peace, and much time will be occupied after this war in settling the terms of peace.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether the Government have decided on this occasion, as at the end of the last war, that armistice terms and the peace treaty are to be taken separately?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The terms of surrender are what I mean by armistice terms. I am going to say a word about that presently. It seemed to me, listening to hon. Members who took this opportunity of giving to the Committee and to the Government their views of these wide topics, that very little account had been taken of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had said on two quite recent occasions. The first occasion was on 22nd February, when he dealt at some length with the implications of the term "unconditional surrender," and the second occasion was on 24th May, when he dealt further with the same subject and gave a general indication of the kind of post-war organisation which the Government had in mind. I wish to assure the Committee that a very great deal of attention has been given to the working out of detailed terms of surrender. In conjunction with our Allies, and at the proper time, public statements will be made on that subject. This is not the time now when discussions are proceeding, but very great attention has been given to that matter.
A question was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) about the discussions with the French, and my hon. Friend who has just sat down alluded to that subject also. When the Government are in a position to make a definite announcement, one will be made, but I can say this, that discussions have proceeded very satisfactorily during recent weeks on the question of currency and the responsibility for the francs that have to be issued in connection with the liberation of Normandy. Substantial agreement has been reached between ourselves and the representatives of the National Committee, and I hope that before long that understanding will be translated into a general agreement with which our American Allies will be associated. Everything promises very well indeed in that direction.
Perhaps I might be permitted to pass to some of the matters raised in the Debate which are more particularly my concern as Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Interruption.] 104 I suggest that hon. Members might very reasonably refresh their memories, as I have done within the last half hour, by referring to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said covering most of the ground which has been covered in today's speeches.
§ Sir J. Anderson
That may well be, but my right hon. Friend has been present during part of the Debate and the Under-Secretary has also been here, and I have no doubt that they will take account of the various views—to some extent conflicting—that have been expressed.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to be content, but I would venture to make the observation that the matters that have been raised are of great importance and it would, I think, have been easier, perhaps, for the Government to arrange a full reply if some indication had been given in advance. I have no ground for complaint at all, but it would have been easier if some notice had been given of the intention to bring these topics forward.
There are quite a number of matters, apart from foreign affairs, armistice terms, and the like, raised in the Debate with which I should like to deal. The suggestion was made by the second speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) that we had reached a point in the war at which we ought to begin directing our war expenditure to take account, to a greater extent, of postwar problems and post-war requirements. I can only say on that that this Vote of Credit is specifically for the purposes which are set out in the formula, and I think the formula is, for present purposes, quite a good one. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) when he criticises the use of an adjective in the formula. He said it was a tendentious adjective, that the use of adjectives had got Governments into trouble in the past and would get them into trouble in the future. But this adjective is not a bad one; it represents a commendable aspiration with which I do not suppose anyone would wish to disagree. 105 May I tell my hon. Friend of a talk I had with an Indian dignitary who was speaking about public affairs? He said that in his opinion—and I quote his own language—there were two bloody words; one was "efficiency" and the other "economy," and the less he heard of either the better he would be pleased. I hope there is no hon. Member in this Committee of that mind.
§ Sir J. Anderson
My language did not match his. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) referred—as did my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain A. Duncan), who is not here at the moment—to the question of waste. He referred in modest terms to the work the Select Committee had been doing these last few years, and I would like, in passing—it is the first opportunity I have had—to pay my tribute to the work of that Committee. Those who range themselves on the side of economy and care in public expenditure are with me. It is the business of the Treasury, so far as the resources of the Treasury allow, to see that there is no avoidable waste, and the Treasury are very powerfully aided by the deliberations and the recommendations of such a body as the Select Committee. Nevertheless, we must all recognise that the war is essentially wasteful, and action has to be taken under war conditions which conduces to waste—hasty action, sudden decisions to meet changing circumstances—and it is, of course, not always as clear as it should be to the people concerned, when they see so much absolutely unavoidable waste going on, that it is still nevertheless important that waste which can be avoided should be avoided. However, I do assure the Committee that great care has been taken by the responsible Departments in arranging their organisations to ensure that as close attention as possible shall be given at all times to the importance of economy.
There are various kinds of economy. There is economy in expenditure in the first instance, but just as important a form of economy is economy in use. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington referred to the fact that the War Office quite early set up an or- 106 ganisation under a Director-General to concern itself entirely with securing due economy in the use of equipment, and he asked whether other Departments have done the same. According to my information, there are in the Departments mainly concerned, in the Air Ministry, in the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and certainly in the Ministry of Supply, corresponding organisations with that purpose in view. While I am perfectly sure that nothing like perfection has yet been attained, I am sure that these organisations are serving a very useful purpose.
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon also referred in the course of his speech to the question of Indian balances, the sterling balances which are being accumulated to the credit of India as a result of the course of the war. I do not know whether I should be in Order in going very deeply into that topic but I would like to make this observation. In the first place the problem is not one which concerns India alone; it concerns the Middle Eastern countries, some of our Dominions, and some foreign countries which are building up sterling balances which, in aggregate, already amount to a very large sum, and, before the war ends, will certainly amount to a still larger sum.
The next point I want to make on that is that it is not merely a question of accounting as between Governments. In the case of the Indian balances, for example, I believe the greater part of the balance which has been accumulated represents the reserve behind the Indian rupee currency. Payments have been made for an issue of rupees which has been used to purchase military supplies, and the sterling credits rest here, in accordance with the law which governs the rupee currency, as a backing for that currency. It is not a question for the Government of India primarily, or for the Government of India alone. It is too early to pronounce finally or definitely on this very important and somewhat difficult problem, but this can be said with certainty, that the whole matter will have to be handled in association with the other States concerned in an orderly fashion, with a view to ensuring two things—first, that no insoluble problem is allowed to arise and, secondly, that the matter is handled in the interests at once both of the 107 creditor and of the debtor. If those principles are kept in view, I have no doubt that we shall be able, when the time comes, to handle this matter satisfactorily. However, I would not disguise from the Committee the fact that we are here presented with a formidable problem of which we have not hitherto in our history had any comparable experience.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked me some questions about the National Debt—what it was going to amount to, and what we are going to do about it. I cannot tell him what it will rise to because I cannot see far enough into the future, but I would refer him and other hon. Members to the figures given in the Budget White Paper, to which I have often had occasion to refer, where hon. Members will find set out the total of the National Debt as at 31st March, 1944. It is a simple matter to make a calculation of the rate at which that sum is increasing.
Now I come to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) in his opening speech following my initial remarks. I always pay very close attention, as he and the Committee know, to anything that may fall from him. He referred to the request which the Government put forward for a Vote of Credit of £1,000,000,000 as a request for something in the nature of a capital payment. I should prefer to call it a non-recurring payment. Then he went on to say that he hoped that if Governments had occasion to make similar requests after the war, the money would not be grudged when it was no longer required for war purposes. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton raised something of the same point, but I think he was called to Order, perhaps because of the way he put it. I would like to make this observation. As the Committee well realises, we are spending on the war and other public purposes at approximately twice the rate at which tax revenue is being collected. Now we are able to do that because there are savings available which are sufficient to bridge the gulf. If if were not——
§ Sir J. Anderson
—that those savings were there, we could still raise the money, 108 but the result of our raising the money would be to create ever-increasing inflation. Now after the war, when money is required for whatever it may be—for capital purposes—we shall still have the same problem, to ensure that the money is there. There may be a limit, there will be a limit, to what can be made available without inflation—I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me—for postwar purposes, and where that limit is put depends upon the wisdom of the Government and the discipline and restraint of the people of this country. To the extent to which they are prepared to refrain after the war from unnecessary—perhaps wasteful, but I would say unnecessary—consumption expenditure, to that extent will the amount available for rebuilding our shattered equipment be increased. That is the consideration which we must always have in mind in approaching our post-war problems. Subject to that observation, which I offer in order to avoid any risk of misunderstanding, I certainly agree with the observations of my right hon. Friend.
I think I have covered all the points affecting the Treasury which have so far been raised in the Debate. I could have spoken at greater length, but it is not necessary. If any other hon. Members wish to raise further points my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be delighted to deal with them. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about francs?"] I thought I had made it clear that currency discussions were proceeding satisfactorily, that an understanding had been reached between ourselves and our French friends, and that I hoped that that understanding would be translated into a general arrangement with which our American friends would be associated.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I feel the Government will deceive themselves if they think that the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made to the Debate so far will satisfy either the Committee or the country. A great many questions have been raised, rightly, in this Debate which require an answer, because they are questions which are in everybody's mind, not merely in this country but in the countries of our Allies, in neutral countries and, I think one might say without exaggeration, in all the nations of the earth. We are spending money at a rate 109 of £13,000,000 a day. Nobody regrets it, nobody resents it, nobody would spend one penny less than was necessary to bring this war to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible moment, and when the right hon. Gentleman talks about a limit of expenditure after the war I think we might part company with him. At any rate, he did not suggest, and would not suggest, and no one would suggest, that there could be any limit of expenditure beyond which we would not go in order to achieve victory. If we part company from the right hon. Gentleman on that point at all it is on this ground: that the great mass of our people will submit to the same discipline and the same restriction as they do for war purposes in order to satisfy the constructive aims and purposes of a society in peacetime, and will do what they can, when the time comes, to secure for themselves a Government which regards the aims of peaceful reconstruction and establishment of a sane and civilised economic society after the war in the same way as they regard the urgency of questions during war-time.
The right hon. Gentleman said that war was wasteful. It is not only wasteful of money; it is wasteful of life and humanity itself, wasteful of civilisation. We submit to it because it is necessary, and if we were to try and agree upon war aims or peace aims I think one aim upon which we would all agree would be so to fight and end the war that never again shall the world be subjected to so tragic a catastrophe. The Government do not seem to have addressed their minds at all to what those conditions are. A good deal has been said to-day about Germany and the treatment of Germany after the war. I have no particular reason to be very tender towards Germany or the Germans. I have no reason to be over-sentimental about them. But we must be realistic. I would like to ask Members of the Committee whether they really believe that if there were no Germans in the world the problem of perpetual peace would have been solved. I think it is a fair question to ask.
People talk in one and the same breath about never letting this happen again and all sorts of things that will be done to Germany, as though by your treatment of Germany alone you can solve all the conflicts between man and man, class and class and nation and nation that end in 110 catastrophes of this kind. If the answer to my question were "Yes" then there is no need to have any war or peace aims. If by the non-existence of any Germans in the world the problems of humanity were solved we need have only one war aim—to kill every German, woman and child as painlessly, quickly, efficiently and economically as possible. But nobody believes that. There are other reasons. It is not true that if you were to wipe Germany off the face of the earth, if you were to wipe out everything that makes up the German nation, you would still have no fear of conflict between nations again and might not still have to organise your economic life so as to build armaments and all the rest of it. It is these other questions which have to be solved.
When we talk about unconditional surrender we know, because it has been said repeatedly—and it was said by the Prime Minister in answer to a Question of mine in 1942—that there are great differences about these matters, inside this country and outside. It is not right that we should waste our energies on controversy or divide the Allies against themselves. We must maintain national unity. We must maintain Allied unity. So I think this slogan of unconditional surrender was devised in the first place in order to draw a curtain over controversy and in order that we should not get down to questions on which we differ. It may be that that was a wise thing to do at the time but, the more you insist upon unconditional surrender, whatever that may mean, the more exclusive becomes your own responsibility for the management of affairs after the war has been won.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
The hon. Member is now discussing affairs after the war. In strictness, this Vote is limited to the prosecution of the war.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sorry if I have transgressed, and I will endeavour not to do so, but it must be germane to any discussion on whether the Government are entitled to this £1,000,000,000 or not to ask whether it is to be used in such a way as to lead to a state of affairs where repeated demands for that purpose will not be made, or whether it will be used in such a way as to make demands for money for war purposes perpetual. In other words, I think that, before considering whether money is to be granted or not, we are entitled to ask the Govern- 111 ment about their policy, and that was what I was endeavouring to do. Unconditional surrender means the exclusive responsibility on the Allies for defining what their ultimate purposes are, and we are entitled to ask what steps have been taken so far in laying down plans. What steps have been taken so far to end controversy? How far have the Government got in the direction of being able to define, not in detail but broadly and simply, the lines on which they envisage the ultimate peace settlement? They cannot invite people to go on in this waste of blood and treasure and perpetually put into the background the purposes and aims for which they invite the sacrifice.
The right hon. Gentleman drew a distinction, it may be a sound one, between armistice terms and peace terms, and he said, with regard to armistice terms, that we ought to have them ready as quickly as possible, whereas about peace terms we might take our time and see how the world shapes itself afterwards. That may be so, but he said that conversations about armistice conditions were well advanced, from which we take it that they are not completed, so that if there were a collapse to-morrow or next week or next month—and who shall say that that is impossible?—we should apparently not be ready even with armistice conditions. Is that a fair interpretation of what was said or not?
§ Sir J. Anderson
No. I said that discussions were well advanced. The hon. Member must not infer that we should not be ready if the occasion suddenly came upon us.
§ Mr. Silverman
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say in plain terms whether, when he says that discussions are well advanced, he means that they are completed or are not yet completed. He complains that I interpreted what he said as meaning that they were not completed, by which I mean that armistice conditions were not yet agreed upon. I think I am entitled to ask whether they are or are not agreed upon. If the right hon. Gentleman will not answer, I think I am entitled to repeat what I said, that his speech meant that even armistice conditions are not yet agreed upon and, if they are not, I think 112 I shall not be accused of talking in the language of too great extremism if I say, after four and a half years of war and after two years have elapsed since the Government committed themselves to the slogan of unconditional surrender, it is about time the Allied nations knew what the armistice conditions would be that they wished to impose upon the defeated enemy when that military defeat was complete. It seems to me to have a direct bearing upon the course of the war, and upon the length of the war, because if the Government know what the terms are upon which they expect the enemy to surrender there would seem to be no particular reason for not letting us know and letting them know.
We pay a certain amount of attention to German propaganda. Goebbels, we are told, had an article in his journal last week in which he repeated the old lie that Germany was fighting a purely defensive war. We know that German prisoners that we capture expect to be shot. There is the story of the wounded German prisoner who came to this country and insisted that he had a right to be put into a hospital in German occupied-England. It is a well authenticated story which was in all the newspapers. I only quote it in order to show that it is all very well to sneer about propaganda, but that is the effect of German propaganda upon German minds and, if we convince 60,000,000 people that they have nothing whatever to hope for after the war, if we convince them that they dare not surrender because they will be shot if they do, it is necessary either to confess that that is true or to state what the truth is and get it home to people as efficiently as we can. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pick-thorn) drew a distinction between propaganda and policy which I was unable to follow. I should have thought that propaganda is nothing more or less than the whole apparatus and machinery whereby you make your policy plain to the world, and we do nothing about that. May it not be that our propaganda, understood in that sense, has been so ineffective precisely because our policy itself is unknown? We have Snot anything that we can propagate, nothing to offer, no picture to place before the world of what they may expect when the fighting is at an end and victory, which has cost so much, has been achieved.
113 I do not want to make a purely party political speech, but it is the common feeling of people in this country that the time has come when the Government and the Governments of the Allied Nations may be called upon, now that we are on the very eve of victory, for a constructive statement of the kind of world they wish to see follow the victory achieved by so much suffering. People talk a great deal about Germany. Do not let us forget our own status in this respect. I am very far from saying what some people seem to have read into speeches made to-day, that it is all our fault. Of course, it is not. I do not believe that we had any option but to declare war, as we did. I do not think we have had any option but to put in everything we have and everything that we can bring together in the common effort of humanity.
But the raising up of the evil, the putting of the evil thing into the seats of power in Germany and the world, was not the responsibility alone of the German people. We had our share of the responsibility for that. Between 1933 and 1939, when we poured money into Hitlerite Germany and sold them raw materials for armaments, when we made treaties behind the backs of France to allow them to build a navy in contravention of the Versailles Treaty, when we allowed them, with our moral support, to enter the Rhineland, Austria, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Abyssinia, and when we sought to enter with them into an alliance on the basis of that evil thing, what is there that the German people are accused of with regard to Hitler that we ourselves have not been guilty of too?
§ Mr. Silverman
I only suggest that it has some relation to two questions: Whether the time has not come when the Government ought to declare what is the general pattern of the peace that is in their minds, and what that pattern ought to be. To the common mass of the people it is not true that the war ought to get less ideological as it goes on. It ought, if anything, to get more ideological. The war can only be rightly understood as a world-wide civil war on an ideological basis, with all the forces 114 of reaction ranged on one side and all the forces of progress on the other. That may be an over-simplification, but in the main it is the true picture. It would be a great disaster if the Government were to seek, by holding back or by vagueness or by waiting until political affairs were on their side, to give a twist to the direction of the war which would land the world again in a short time into the same catastrophe from which are painfully and slowly emerging.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I should like to congratulate the Chancellor on his highly selective speech. He selected very brilliantly 10 per cent. of the Debate in order to provide the material for 90 per cent. of his reply to it. I understand that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is replying further, and I will have a question to put to him in a moment. It is a good sign that the Foreign Secretary is present. I do not know whether he will relent and make some observations later in the Debate. If so, I hope that he will deal with the serious allegation made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) that we have sent far from adequate supplies of arms to the Maquis. That seems to me to be a matter of immense importance at the present moment, and I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman makes any observations in the course of the Debate he will deal with that allegation. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to say anything now I will give way.
§ Mr. Eden
I would merely say that if the hon. Gentleman wishes information of that kind I should like notice of it. These are questions which concern very far-reaching military matters. The arming of the Maquis is a military matter of secrecy, and I should have to think carefully before saying anything about it.
§ Mr. Driberg
That should have been said before when the allegations were being made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who went into it in some detail——
§ Mr. Driberg
He made some strong statements which should have been dealt with on the spot by a Ministerial representative.
115 The Chancellor, I think, was quite right in referring the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and others back to the speech of the Prime Minister in the foreign affairs Debate. There, I think, can be found the solution of the differences which the hon. Member for Cambridge University remarked between his own interpretation of the Government's policy and that of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. There is really no difficulty about this business of the political tinge of the Government's policy with regard to Europe. The Prime Minister in his speech made it quite clear that the Government were approaching foreign affairs in Europe at the present time in a purely opportunist frame of mind. He praised Tito, which was welcome to me and unwelcome to some hon. Members opposite. He also praised Franco, which was extremely unwelcome to me and to hon. Members on this side. Incidentally, the National Council of Labour has issued a strong statement criticising that passage in the Prime Minister's speech.
I want to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury one rather more narrowly financial question which I hope he will be able to answer. Can he tell the Committee what is the source of the large and increasing sums of money which are being spent year by year by the Polish Ministry of Information in issuing lavishly produced propaganda of all sorts? It seems to me a matter of some interest, if the source of the money is ultimately the British taxpayer, and I wonder whether the Financial Secretary could tell us a little more about it.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
To-day has been a significant day, a day of portent. It is clear that Members on both sides of the Committee are now getting deeply concerned about what the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) called the positive policy of the war. We are feeling at the moment that military victory is quite certain. I have heard it expressed to-day over and over again.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
Some of us are wondering why so many Members seem to think that victory is just round the corner, because many of us do not think so.
§ Mr. Cove
I am glad I have had that interruption, because I am no military 116 man, but I have heard a number of speeches which seemed to show complete confidence that military victory was near, was in the relatvely immediate future. I am not competent to judge about that. I would only say in passing that as far as a pure amateur like myself is concerned, I have seen no criticism of the Government on the long-term strategy of the war. It seems clear that the Government budgeted and planned, in view of the circumstances that obtained, for a long war and that a long war suited the conditions of this country. What is true, however, is that, whether the war ends in a short time or not, it has been on now for four or five years and has now assumed the character of a war of attrition. The war, lasting as it has, has drained this country of many of its capital assets. There can be no doubt about it, and we have to face it.
What have we done? I am not a financial expert but have we not been spending about half of our national income on the war? Have we not had to realise our foreign assets? I know that some people think that that does not matter and that we shall be better off for it. I am not saying that I subscribe to that view, under Capitalism. If we could completely change the social system we might be better off, but under Capitalism the loss of capital assets abroad is a real loss. For instance, there has been a loss of productive agencies in America. Take the case of Courtauld's. We had to sell our assets in Courtauld's in America. We lost income from it, and transferred the burden of interest to this country. The taxpayers of this country have to pay for the loss of the investments in those industries in America. Take the National Debt.
§ Mr. Cove
The nation will have to take it. We can no more escape a debt nationally than we can individually. Economically, what does it mean? It means that private claims upon the State increase. Investments are made—I do not want to go deeply into this point—but the essence of the National Debt is that private individuals have an increasing claim on the national income, and those claims have to be paid for. The result is that war is, financially and economically, pure, undiluted waste and that the nation has to pay for it. I have said all this in order to 117 point out that the war, now that it has proceeded for so long, has assumed—indeed it has not only assumed, but it actually is in its very essence—an attritional affair, and it is all the more vitally necessary that there should be a statement of positive policy by the Government.
This nation cannot afford that this war should go on and on. This nation cannot afford to rely purely and solely upon a military victory. The cost in blood is too much, if it is to be fought upon a purely military basis. I see before me the picture of France and the result of the blood-letting of France during the last war—drained. I hope that in view of the great seriousness of this issue to the existence of our national life the Government will not rely merely on guns, armaments, military strategy and policy, but that they will come forward with a policy for—and this is an awful word to use in these days: it has jumped to my mind and I hope there will not be shouts about it—the appeasement of Europe. I was afraid there might be a reaction to that word. We cannot settle this problem merely by having a policy of killing Germans. You cannot kill 80,000,000 people.
§ Mr. Cove
All right, make it 60,000,000 or 30,000,000 if you like. It still remains true that we cannot settle Europe or have any sort of forecast of security and peace by a mere policy of killing Germans. [An HON. MEMBER: "We cannot have it without."] It is most unfortunate. It ought to be, as it were, a by-product of our policy, but the terrible and unfortunate thing is that we have to kill Germans and our own boys as well. And the killing will not solve this problem. I have here a sentence spoken by General Smuts about the signing of the last peace. He said, speaking of the Versailles Treaty:This Treaty is simply a liquidation of the military situation of the world.It solved nothing and did nothing positive or definite. Are we to be in the same position after this war? I recall a paragraph from a book in which the writer commented that we had lost the war to save democracy, because if anything had gone down in Europe and was not saved after the last war it was democracy.
§ Mr. Cove
That was the slogan, and it went a bit further. My hon. Friend need not get disturbed. I do not mind disturbing him, but the fact is that we may win this war in a military sense and lose it in other ways. Something more than the defeat of the German army will be needed to defeat Fascism. When I hear from hon. Members on the other side of the break-up of Germany and of the smashing of Prussianism, I ask myself, "What do they really mean? Are they prepared to smash up the land-owning interests in Germany?"
§ Mr. Cove
When the Government say they are prepared to destroy the great industries in Germany, what do they mean by it? Do they really mean that they want to create an economic and social revolution in Germany? There has been no external or internal evidence that they mean anything of the kind. What it really comes to is—and I will be perfectly frank—that the present Government, constituted as it is of all the parties, cannot he the instrument to win the political victory in this war. It may be that they will win the military victory, but it is quite clear to me——
§ Mr. Pickthorn rose——
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Is the hon. Member suggesting that all parties should fight the war but only the Labour Party should enjoy the victory?
§ Mr. Cove
I am going to be perfectly frank with my hon. Friend. I am not afraid. I will say that if this war is to be won in the real sense there must be in this country and throughout Europe deep, revolutionary, social, economic and political changes, big, complete. Anyone who reads the history of Germany after the last war will come to the conclusion that the revolutionary forces in Germany did not get far enough. I would say to hon. Members, particularly to my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, do not let us rely any more on the policy of balance of power. Do not let us rely——
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is really going too far. A good deal of what he is saying is beyond the scope of the Vote. I have given him a good deal of latitude and I hope he will confine himself to the Vote.
§ Mr. Cove
If that is so then the remark applies to many other Members of the Committee. The whole Debate, when you were not in the Chair, Major Milner, has ranged throughout the wider issues of the war and its meaning and purpose. In any case I would end by saying that it is imperative that this Government, this country, should take the initiative. Are we to be dragged at the heels of American Imperialism? [An HON. MEMBER: "Or Russian."] Or Russian. All right. I will accept that. Have we no positive policy of our own? Have we nothing to assert? Have we no meaning, no purpose, no policy, in this modern world? I feel deep in my bones that if this country pursues this war purely and simply on the basis of blood letting and killing, on a military basis, this country will live to regret it. It has to find a moral purpose, it has to find a political policy, which will command the adherence of all those forces in Europe that will help to liberate mankind from the Fascist régime from which they have suffered.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I make, of course, no complaint at the course that this discussion has taken, but I think I might be allowed to say that I should have appreciated it had the hon. Gentleman and others who have raised this subject been good enough to give me any notification that they were going to do so. I do not think it is an unreasonable thing for a Foreign Secretary to say, at a time like this, that if the Committee were going to ask for a redefinition of unconditional surrender, and as one hon. Gentleman has quite gaily said, the whole future pattern of peace, they might have let the Foreign Secretary know perhaps a few minutes beforehand. I always try to meet——
§ Mr. Silverman
I think I was the author of that unfortunate or fortunate phrase as the case may be. Would it be fair to suggest that this pattern we are talking of might have been something with which the right hon. Gentleman had been concerned for a number of years, so that a few moments' notice would not have made a great deal of difference?
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member with his experience knows that one may be deeply concerned with a matter but may have great doubt as to how to put one's thoughts in public. If it is any comfort to the hon. Gentleman I can tell him that we are deeply concerned with these matters. We have thought about them. We have ideas about them. He said he was terribly anxious lest victory should come too quickly and we should be caught napping and not have our plans ready. Of all my anxieties at this moment that is by far the least. Victory cannot come too quickly, and when it does come we shall be ready with these proposals.
§ Mr. Eden
Not at this stage, certainly not. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman will himself reflect a little he will see, without my explaining to him, why it would not be a very wise thing to make these proposals public at this particular moment. I would like to carry this a little further. If I may say so I slightly resented some of the speeches I heard to-day—a repetition over and over again of how much hatred the hon. Gentlemen—one or two who spoke—had of war. Of course, so we all have. It is no particular monopoly of one or two hon. Members to tear a passion to tatters and say "We hate war," as though we on this side did not hate it just as much. When the hon. Member who has just spoken says we can win the war and lose the peace, I agree with him. I would say that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) would do just that with the language he has been using. He has got the whole problem, if I may say so with respect, completely wrong. His reading of the German psychology and German people is completely wrong. He said earlier in this Debate that if we were not careful—I wrote down these words, I hope I got him right—we should soon be forcing upon the Germans another Hitler. Does he really believe that? We had better understand where we are in these matters. Does he think Hitler is someone who has been imposed by the errors, great or small, from without Germany? I absolutely contest that. I say that Hitler is symptomatic of a dominant German mentality.
§ Mr. Stokes
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct him. I never used those words at all. The right hon. Gentleman can see the OFFICIAL 121 REPORT to-morrow. The burden of my argument was simply this. The way the Government are going will force us to do just what the Prime Minister said in the statement I read out, that the condition in which the Germans will find themselves, defeated and down and out, is one in which, if we found ourselves in the same position, he hoped we should find someone as indomitable as Hitler to lead us back to our rightful place.
§ Mr. Eden
If there is no difference between us I hope to carry the hon. Member with me. Does he agree that the policy of Hitler and for which Hitler stands is symptomatic of a dominant sentiment, force and tradition among the German people? I would like an answer [Interruption]. I see we do not agree. Then we have been talking about a real difference. It is just as well that everyone should know.
§ Mr. Eden
Does the hon. Member really think that proves anything at all, that in 1870 "The Times" said the Germans were a peace-loving people? I would say that the hon. Gentleman is quite right when he says we can win the war and lose the peace, but not in the sense he thinks. I think we should win the war and lose the peace if we did not take every military and political precaution in our power to see that Hitler, who is not an accident, but a symptom of a certain mentality, or his successor, never had the like opportunity again. [An HON. MEMBER: "The German people put him there."] Of course the German people put him there.
§ Mr. Eden
If the hon. Gentleman really believes that Hitler did not have at that time the support of the German people, and that he does not represent a certain 122 quite definite German mentality, he is living in a most dangerous world. I say that our first duty is to see that the power never passes into such hands again. The hon. Gentleman's policy would make that quite inevitable. Let me come to the question of the Atlantic Charter. I was asked, quite without notice—and I do not complain—to give another definition, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, of the Atlantic Charter. I rather resent the suggestion that we have to take our policy from American capitalism or from Russian Communism, whatever it may be—that we have to take our policy from our Allies. That is not particularly helpful to us at the present time. I am afraid that I have not had time to consult our Allies, since the hon. Gentleman spoke, as to the definition which our Allies want us to give, but I do not need to do so, because we have expressed ourselves very definitely on this point already. I want to refer to what the Prime Minister said, to which we have no present intention of adding anything at all. The Prime Minister said: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——[Interruption.] I hope the hon. Gentleman will listen to me.We are not to be bound to the Germans as the result of a bargain struck. That is the meaning of unconditional surrender."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1944; Vol. 397, c. 699.]That is the meaning by which we stand. We are not prepared to be bound as a result of a bargain struck. [Interruption.] Let me make my speech. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is perpetually ebullient: he cannot restrain himself for a moment. If hon. Members cast their minds back to the last war, they will remember the Fourteen Points. We are not prepared to put ourselves in that position again. The hon. Gentleman said—and it was a fair point—that, as a result of our not defining our position more clearly about unconditional surrender, we are handicapped in our propaganda. If that were true, it would be serious, but I think it is not true. Those who follow the matter will know that our propaganda to Germany has not been unsuccessful in this war.
§ Mr. Eden
I am telling the Committee what some people who study the matter consider. I want to tell the Committee about the German prisoners recently captured, since our landing in Northern France. Of those prisoners, 77 per cent., on interrogation, admit to having read our pamphlets, or having listened to our propaganda. That may not be very strong evidence, because prisoners may say these things when they are not true; but 40 per cent. of them had our leaflets in their possession when they were captured. That does not sound like very unsuccessful propaganda. The interesting thing is that they regard them as being something in the nature of a passport if and when the moment comes for them to surrender. I do not think that the Committee need feel that our propaganda is bad, or is handicapped by this lack of definition of what is meant by unconditional surrender. I am sure that hon. Members will realise the reasonableness of this, and that it is quite impossible for me at such short notice to attempt any further definition of any kind of what has been said in the past, but I hope that I have done enough to redress the balance, and to show that neither our propaganda nor our policies have done anything to prevent a victorious conclusion, which is the one aim and object of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
In this Debate things have been said on both sides of the Committee which have been said in many rooms and in many discussion circles in the country. We are discussing the thing which is uppermost in the minds of all thinking people, and, although those hon. Members who have raised the matter may not have given notice—I do not know—that they are going to raise it, it is a perfectly legitimate Debate to raise on the third Vote of Credit for £1,000,000,000 to be asked for in six months. Why the Government should assume that they can come to this Committee every two months, and get £1,000,000,000 and have only a half-minute speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a half-minute speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), I do not know. They should always be prepared to defend their policy. They have done as well as they can, but it has not satisfied me at all; 124 it has only made me all the more anxious. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary finished his short speech by saying that 40 per cent. of the prisoners captured had our own leaflets on their persons. Would there be any objection to letting Members of this Committee see the contents of those leaflets? They are in this country now, and it would not give any information to the enemy. It would let us see how efficacious the leaflets have been. If it is true that 40 per cent. of the German soldiers now falling into our hands have been so impressed by the contents of those leaflets that they have surrendered, I should very much like to know—and I am sure the Committee would like to know—whether we can see them.
I want to make a point which I am sure is fundamental. It is interesting that very few Members of the Conservative Party have spoken to-day. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) was interested in Indian credits, and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) was interested in supporting the Prime Minister. Otherwise, the Government—and I have been in the Committee the whole day—have had no support from their majority. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are all supporting them."] Yes, by silence about what they are doing. There is a fundamental difference in outlook, as well as in policy, between people who are supporting the Government on that side, and some of us who are concerned to see whether the peace is going to be a sure peace. I know that none of those hon. Gentlemen are likely to lend their hands to bringing about a system which is going to eradicate war.
§ Mr. Boothby
Did the hon. Gentleman hear the two best speeches in this Debate, which were by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen?
§ Mr. Bowles
I heard quite enough of the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). I then went out, and I thought I had done my duty. I am sure that he made quite a good speech.
§ Mr. Bowles
In a critical sense. There is a tremendous degree of complacency 125 running over those Benches which is not shared by the great mass of the people of this country. I would very much like to make it clear that there is a fundamental cleavage, not only in this House, but in the country, as to the causes of war and the way in which those causes can be eradicated. I feel that we are now being asked to give £1,000,000,000 to carry on the military aspects of the war without paying sufficient regard to the political implications of the war itself. I have said before, and I think it is sufficiently important to say so again, that I do not believe that peace can be won by a Conservative-dominated majority Government. I do not believe that even the Prime Minister, with all his great flair far oratory, can free himself from the political make-up of one side of this House. That has disturbed a great many people in this country.
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
The hon. Member has raised a point of very great interest to this side of the Committee. Is he suggesting that the foreign policy of this country should always be a foreign policy dictated by the party that happens to be in power; and is it to vary every five or ten years, according to the variation of majorities in this Parliament? Is his idea that the foreign policy of the country should be a purely party affair? We would like to know.
§ Mr. Bowles
I certainly do. In my opinion, the foreign policy of any political party, or of any Government, reflects its domestic policy. The foreign policy of this country from 1931 onwards until the war, represented the Government's whole belief in anarchy, either at home or abroad, and I am perfectly sure that, if the Labour Party had had a majority, it would have pursued a very different policy. On the heads of hon. Members opposite, really and truly, are the lives of many thousands of people at the present time. I am aware that many Conservative hon. Members have not been in this House very long, but Conservative hon. Members have dominated this country for something like 20 years, and pursued their foreign policy and are clearly responsible for the war starting in 1939, and the right hon. Gentleman has a great deal of responsibility himself.
§ Sir E. Grigg
;: I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. He has given me the answer for which I asked.
§ Mr. Bowles
What I feel so anxious about is this. The policy being pursued, and the expression of opinion by the Prime Minister, in a speech the other day, that the war is becoming less and less ideological, fill me with the most awful fears. It is an ideological war. What is really happening is that either vested interests, through Nazism and Fascism, are going to keep the people down, or the people are fighting for their own liberty. That is what the war is about. Because hon. Members of the House of Commons and of another place believe in vested interests, and not in liberty, they are pursuing all the time this foreign policy.
§ Mr. Bowles
Absolutely, and one of the greatest, in which I am personally interested. I am trying to argue the case that it is natural and inherent in Conservative make-up that they believe in the private enterprise system and in vested interest. They do not make any bones about it at all. On the other side, there is the struggle of the people to become independent. That is what the war is about, and when the Prime Minister paid his wonderful compliment to General Franco he angered millions of people——
§ Mr. A. Bevan
On a point of Order. Is not the reference by the Prime Minister to General Franco a part of the prosecution of the war, or was it merely an interpolation?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman has been all over the place, and has given a long historical disquisition. I do not think the Debate can be carried on on those lines. This is not a Debate on foreign policy, but upon expenditure arising out of the war.
§ Mr. Stokes
On that point of Order, Major Milner. May I call your attention to the words of the Vote of Credit—"the efficient prosecution of the war"? What my hon. Friend is arguing is that the Government are conducting it inefficiently.
§ Mr. Bowles
Surely, it seems quite clear that the Committee is being asked to give another Vote of Credit for £1,000,000,000 for the Government to go 127 on in their old ways, which, to my mind, are not satisfactory. Really, our only opportunity for criticism is to take this chance of criticising everything that is germane to their conduct of the war, whether it involves pleasantries concerning General Franco, or whether it concerns the ability and skill with which the landings in Normandy were planned. Surely, all these things may be discussed; otherwise, the Committee is left completely helpless. The Government have asked for another £1,000,000,000 to carry on the war, and they are not going to get it unless they have majority support. They have got that majority, which is the most fearful thought of the lot.
Behind the Prime Minister are people who are leading this country, and, as far as they have any influence, other countries, into the same position in which they were in 1918–19. I should have thought, having had some experience of trying to get people to agree with me, or to surrender, if you like, all we need say is "We will stop fighting, if you will accept the following terms." I cannot understand the mystery in which this "unconditional surrender" slogan is wrapped up. Is the suggestion that the Germans are such awful people that you will not even tell them on what terms you will call off the fight? Are they to be mentally bullied, as well as militarily bullied? [Interruption.] Hundreds of thousands of Germans, who fought Hitler years ago, have given their lives. Having sat here for some years now, I do not believe that, as the war becomes militarily more successful and, therefore, ideologically more important, you can have a really satisfactory ideological solution from Members of different political faiths. I cannot see how it is possible, for instance, for certain Labour Ministers to agree with certain things which the Prime Minister has said. It is past my comprehension, and I hope they will remember that this war is the result of the pursuance of a Conservative policy during the last 20 years. I say in conclusion "For Heaven's sake, stop going on allowing the Conservative majority in this Government to pursue the policy which has been so fatal in the last 20 years."
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)
I did not intend to take part in this general Debate on the inter- 128 national implications of the war, which undoubtedly was unexpected. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) was understood, rightly or wrongly, to say that this Vote should not be made the opportunity to discuss the conditions of peace. I make no complaint. On the contrary, I think that my hon. Friend behind is justified in taking any opportunity available to ventilate his ideas and prosecute his purpose, but it would be unfortunate if the impression were to get abroad, through the Press to the German people or above all to our Allies, that there was any weakening in our determination to prosecute the war to complete victory.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am only too glad to get that definite statement from the hon. Member. The impression that I and many Members got in listening to the discussion was that there was a wavering in following the policy of unconditional surrender and complete victory.
§ Mr. Bevan
I must, in the interests of the good name of this country and of ourselves, ask the Committee to agree with me, hon. Members opposite as well as here, that there has not been the slightest justification for hon. Members to get any impression of that sort at all, and the readiness of certain hon. Members to say it shows how far they will sacrifice the interests of this country for party purposes.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am only too glad. I do not withdraw a word, and I am only saying what impression I got.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to be unfair to anybody, but since that is the impression made on his mind, can he point to a single speech or a single passage in a speech which could justify any such impression?
§ Mr. Silverman
So far as I have heard in the Debate there has not been any speech which has objected to unconditional surrender. What has been said is that, after you have had your unconditional surrender, you have a job to do, and it is the Government's business to tell us how they propose to do it.
§ Sir P. Harris
I think that most Members who heard the discussion got the impression, as I did—I am glad to have it denied—that some Members were doubtful of the wisdom of the policy of a fight to a finish and unconditional surrender. If my hon. Friend says he is not, then we know where we are. I hate war, as do all Members in this Committee, but I am afraid that the Germans will not understand they are defeated until their army is defeated in the field and they are forced to surrender. As to the conditions, which the Foreign Secretary and the Government will have to define in due course, for the future of international affairs, the Government are not in a position to make a statement solely on their own account. The hon. Member seemed to forget that Russia is going to have a great deal to say. We cannot ignore Russia when we dictate terms of peace. I am not so sure that Russia may not be in Berlin before us. That may arise, and some people may desire it, and I do not say that I do not. Not only this nation alone is going to define the future organisation of international affairs and our relations to Germany. The United States have a right, because of their contribution both in material and men, equally to have a say in the matter. I think that we should have a full-dress Debate on the right occasion on foreign affairs.
§ Mr. Bevan
Is the objection of the right hon. Member, as the usual channel of the Liberal Party, merely due to the fact that the Debate has taken place today without his approval beforehand? He wants a Debate, on what? Foreign policy. He wants unconditional surrender. On what does he want the Debate?
§ Sir P. Harris
The hon. Member is interrupting all the time and no one is allowed to speak without his butting in. This is such an important problem that the Committee as a whole should under- 130 stand it and there may have been a wrong impression that there was to be such a Debate. I did not realise that there was to be a full-dress Debate on international affairs and conditions of peace. That is what I meant by the appropriate occasion, when Members are warned and are prepared.
§ Sir P. Harris
I always support the hon. Member having his cut-in and I do not think that the Chair is unfair or does not give him a reasonable chance. I have intervened—and I think I have achieved my purpose because of the interruptions—in order to make it clear to the world that at this time, when we see prospects of victory and the Allies are working for a common end, this nation is determined to fight the war to a successful end and to insist upon unconditional surrender.
§ Captain Longhurst (Acton)
I am very grateful for the opportunity of making what I suppose is a personal statement. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who were present in the Committee earlier in the Debate that I made an incautious interjection in a speech by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan): He was stating that he and his friends had for many years made very common sense criticisms of the higher strategy of the war, and I interjected to say that perhaps he was referring to the time when, in 1941, he said that the Russians could finish the war in a week. He took exception to this, and so did many hon. Members opposite. They said that I must produce evidence or apologise, which I said I would do. I have great pleasure in producing the evidence. It is from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 5th November, 1940.
§ Captain Longhurst
That is the whole point. The hon. Member was referring to certain financial interests in America, which, it was alleged, were not favourably disposed towards the Soviet Union. He said:I do not think the Government should be amenable to influences of that kind. It would be disastrous because, powerful though the help of America may be, the Soviet Union could bring this war to a conclusion in one week."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1940; Vol. 365; c. 1301.]I hope, Sir, that honour is satisfied.
§ Mr. Bevan
On the contrary, the hon. and gallant Member has twisted the whole position. The statement that he made was that I said Russia would win the war within a week, but what the hon. and gallant Member has done is to dig up from the context of the argument in 1940 a statement which was made, that in certain circumstances Russia could end the war within a week, and he regards that the amende honorable. In point of fact, the hon. and gallant Member got himself into a hole and fell into the mud at the bottom of it.
§ Mr. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I had hoped that this Debate would have been terminated by the speech from the Foreign Secretary, but it is clear from the reception given to that speech from this side of the Committee that we are left still more in the dark as to what is precisely the Government position, and it has become increasingly clear from some of the subsequent speeches that there is something more than innocent misunderstanding of the points that have been made from this side of the House. We had the right hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) a few moments ago trying to interpret the representations made from this side of the Committee as a wavering in the determination to persist with the prosecution of the war. But the most significant point about that is not his suggestion or his misunderstanding or misrepresentation, but the glee with which that was taken up by hon. Members on the other side. I noticed particularly that amongst those who were so avidly cheering that misrepresentation was one hon. Member who, a few moments before, had been accusing us of being too confident in our victory. That kind of thing, I think, does not add to the dignity of this Committee or to a Debate on a subject so serious as this.
When we come to the Foreign Secretary's speech, I think it would be regarded as a fair representation of it, boiled down, to say that he made two points: first, that Hitler was a representation of a dominant type in Germany, which he modified later to "a certain type in Germany." The second, and main point, was that our main objective in the pursuance of the war was to ensure that never again should Germany be in a position to carry out an aggression such as she has done on these last two occasions. Well, 132 so far as Hitler being representative the German people or of a dominant type or mentality within Germany is concerned, I find that very difficult to follow when I recall such names as Franco, Mussolini, and others who have bespattered, not this particular part of the globe, but this particular period of history, which is a significant fact.
The encouraging feature about this Debate to my mind is that there has been evidenced so much concern on both sides of the Committee about this question of where we are going to when the war is over, in other words, what is the political policy of the Government in the prosecution of the war? As has been pointed out from this side of the Committee, no Member on either side has been prepared simply to support the present uncertain situation, certainly not within my hearing. On the contrary, the Conservative Members I have heard speak in this Debate have themselves expressed some concern about the absence of any declared statement. There has, therefore, been a significant change of tone in the whole atmosphere on this particular subject from what has been apparent from my readings of HANSARD, which was my only access to the Debates in the House until a few months ago. I regard that myself, and I believe many of my hon. Friends so regard it, as a very important omen.
I think it is generally believed throughout the country—whether erroneously or not, and I am no military expert but I think it was supported by General Montgomery himself yesterday—that we are now approaching the time when the Government will have to declare some armistice terms, peace aims or something—"before Christmas" was, I think, the term used by that eminent General. In these conditions it is all the more disturbing that of all matters on which the Government show complete confusion and embarrassment, it is with reference to peace aims, whether in terms of the Atlantic Charter or anything else. In fact, I, as a comparatively new Member, have been struck by the fact that the Prime Minister himself immediately goes into a flounder of embarrassment whenever the Atlantic Charter or peace aims are mentioned. Only to-day, when a Question was put on the possibility of Germany turning Communist, and what her attitude would be in that set of conditions, 133 the Prime Minister side-stepped the Question quite frankly by saying there is to be no question of Germany escaping just retribution by embracing Communism at the last moment. Does he think that is an understanding of the German psychology by the Government, of which the Foreign Secretary apparently knows so much, that the German people themselves, even the German Communists, or the German resistance movement that will spring up, would allow the Quislings, the Lavals simply to say suddenly, "We are Communists," and let them get away with it? There is no country in Europe or on the face of the earth which would be taken in by any change of mind by Mussolinis or Lavals, or any one else in that set of circumstances. But there is certainly no doubt at all that this confusion does exist in the House of Commons and this embarrassment does exist in the minds of the Government. Therefore, when we are called upon to vote this £1,000,000,000 credit and give our consent to it, we should endeavour to raise these matters with the Government.
I believe it was only last week that I myself put a supplementary question in the House to the Prime Minister whether, in support of that ardent desire, which so many Ministers have expressed, that the German people themselves should arise and throw out Hitler and the Nazis, they would give the same advice to the German people as to all other resistance movements not to be too precipitate in case they might undo any good they were seeking to do. That was reported in one of the newspapers as having caused some amusement in the House. But why? If it is a question of tactics, if we are looking for Allies within Germany—and presumably there are at least a few potential Allies left even after the concentration camps and the refugees and those murdered by the Nazis—if it is a question of a tactical rising in support of the Allied Nations by any section of the German people, surely the same tactical rules apply to them as to any other resistance movement, and we should be giving them advice. But we are not. We are simply telling them that they have to rise, precipitately or not, in order to make some kind of a demonstration, however futile it may be.
Where are we getting? So far as any declarations have been made to the Ger- 134 man people of our intentions in the event of their having a revolt, in the event of their joining the resistance movement throughout Europe, in the event of their forming a democratic Government or any other Government, they have been confined, I believe, to quotations from various statements from parties outside the Government. The peace aims of the Labour Party, enunciated by Mr. Attlee in 1940, were broadcast to Germany, as to the rest of the world, without comment. The Atlantic Charter has already been broadcast, I believe without comment. In passing, this Atlantic Charter business, which is the thorn in the flesh of the Government, apparently, although it is of their own creation, is really a puzzling situation, because the Atlantic Charter undertakes that there shall be certain conditions at the end of the war, certain guarantees that there will be no interference with frontiers; that there shall be no interference with the rights of peoples to choose their own Governments, and so on. But we are told that that Charter will not apply to Germany. Now to whom is it intended that that Charter shall apply? To Switzerland? To America? To Sweden? Or to whom? If it meant anything at all, it meant a declaration to the enemy peoples as to our intentions and our good will. There could be no other interpretation, and for the Prime Minister to say that, having made that declaration, it shall not apply to Germany is just cancelling the whole declaration.
I hope I shall not be misinterpreted, as some of my hon. Friends have been, as making a sentimental plea on behalf of the German Nazis, or, in fact for the German nation. I certainly do not agree with the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) who holds out to us the anticipation of an indefinite term of years of mass occupation of Germany. Not because I object to the Germans being policed, any more than I object to South Wales miners being policed by our own policemen. It might be a desirable thing, but is it physically possible? Is it suggested that after our lads have defeated Germany they are to be sent to fight Japan for five or ten years, and then come home and spend the rest of their lives occupying Germany? It would take a very big Army to occupy that country for an indefinite period of time.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think to pursue this question of occupation will be getting on to peace terms, and away from the actual Vote.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Yes, but that is a very different thing from laying down complicated terms on peace matters. A wide discussion has been allowed on this Vote to-day and a great many details have been discussed, but there are limits.
§ Mr. Silverman
While not in the least dissenting from the view that there are limits, Mr. Williams, may I point out that my hon. Friend was dealing with the question of the Army of Occupation in Germany, which would, presumably, be paid for out of this Vote?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, the hon. Member mentioned a term of a good many years, which this Vote would not cover.
§ Mr. Bevan
This Vote of Credit asks for a large sum of money for the effective prosecution of the war, and the prosecution of the war covers a very wide number of considerations. The Foreign Secretary gave us to-day a piece of information which we had not had before, namely, that if the Germans surrendered to-morrow the Government have already spent money, and will spend money, on the terms they have agreed, which would carry us on for quite a period.
§ Mr. Hynd
I was trying to keep to the arguments which were used by previous speakers, Mr. Williams. It is difficult to take part in this Debate if one is not 136 allowed to deal with the points which have been put forward. Without desiring to go into an indefinite period after the war, I want to warn the Government that if the war should end before this £1,000,000,000 is exhausted, and they intend to launch out in Europe with a colossal "Black-and-Tan" régime, it is not likely to be more successful than were our experiments in Ireland and India. As has been said, if you were to destroy the whole of Germany you would not achieve lasting peace, simply by doing so. In fact a much higher intelligence than Lord Vansittart tried an even more ambitious experiment, many years ago, when he tried to blot out the whole of humanity except two people, with the result we can see to-day. The argument put forward by the Government has been that they are quite prepared to formulate their armistice terms and, if necessary, their peace terms, but they say that unfortunately we have Allies to consider, notably America and Russia. Is it not a fact that both President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin have made clear declarations in regard to the long-term approach to the German problem, and that it is our own Government which is the defaulter in this respect? If the other two are in agreement, there is no substance at all in the argument that our difficulty is that we cannot get agreement with them. What is the reason far the Government's attitude? It was made clear by the Prime Minister a few days ago when he stated that the war, from his point of view, was rapidly losing its ideological character, and that was underlined in his unfortunate and unhappy remarks about Spain.
The Chancellor made only a passing reference to the subject which has been the main part of the Debate to-day. He underlined the significance of his statement that we are capturing German prisoners who are under the impression that they are to be shot. That, he said, was because of Goebbels' propaganda, and we must counteract it in the interests of saving British lives, and in the interests of demonstrating to these German soldiers what was our attitude to them when they were captured. Well, if it is important on a small scale, why is it not equally important, when dealing with the large-scale conduct of the war, to impress upon the German people as a whole that we are 137 not prepared to destroy them all, or do things to them or do things to either their industries or their land that we are not prepared to do with our own. These are questions which are in the minds of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, at a time when everybody is looking forward to the possibility of victory, and when all the European resurgent movements are looking, for a lead, to the country which stood fast for democracy in 1940. The first meeting between representatives of resistance movements in different parts of Europe has already taken place. Do the Government think that these movements are meeting without any attempt to approach a common policy for the postwar period? When we have this feeling that we are approaching victory, now is the time for the British Government to give a lead.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
I wish shortly to deal with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). When the hon. Member was denouncing with the utmost bitterness something which he called "vested interests," he said they were the reason why we were not conducting this war properly and would not get a real peace. I interposed to ask him whether industrial insurance was a vested interest, and he was good enough to reply that it was. In the opinion of the hon. Member and his colleagues, I am the representative of a vested interest but, at any rate, it has in my case morally forced me to become a poor man, whereas in the hon. Member's case his vested interest has been extremely fortunate for him——
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I was listening closely. The hon. Member was answering a point made earlier, and I was waiting to see how far it would develop.
§ Mr. Bowles
It has developed sufficiently to envelop my personal fortune, and the hon. Member's personal misfortune.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
This has been a very wide Debate, and a considerable number of accusations have been thrown across the Floor, from one side to the other. I understood that the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) was answering an accusation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It may be, then, that I made a mistake and, if so, so much the worse. I acknowledge it at once. But I do not think this Debate can develop into a Debate on private enterprise.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I had finished the remarks that I had to make. The hon. Member for Nuneaton had made certain definite statements and I interposed by his permission. He then said I had only interposed to create prejudice. I certainly interposed to create prejudice. It was my intention to create prejudice, and I did create prejudice in the mind of the Committee. But that is enough of that.
With regard to the hon. Member's argument, probably the Chair will agree with me that we have transgressed the bounds of relevance on several occasions and the Chair has had to take action but, if I am not mistaken, the hon. Member was quite in Order in his argument. It amounted to this, that it is not worth while spending this large sum of money, unless we can have a Labour Government immediately after the war and that, if we were to have a Government of any other party, except presumably the Communist Party, the money would be wasted. I submit that the hon. Member is quite in Order in arguing that point, and that I shall be in Order in endeavouring to refute his argument. We are, I suppose, fighting the war for one purpose, to prevent the Germans imposing upon us by force of arms a certain way of life and certain political institutions which to our mind are revolting, and we think it worth while to fight to the death to prevent them imposing those institutions upon us. Let us see how Germany came to fall under the domination of Herr Hitler, and how Italy came to fall under the domination of Mussolini, and how Russia came to fall under the domination of Mr. Lenin—three political dictatorships. It came in each instance as the inevitable result of having a Socialist Government before. Not one of these dictators could possibly have 139 attained power unless there had been a Socialist Government before.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
May I put this point, Mr. Williams, for your decision in order to show that this is relevant to the argument adduced by the hon. Member for Nuneaton? The whole of his argument was this. "We will not grant this money because we do not think it is worth while to continue the war unless we have a Socialist Government afterwards because, if we do not, we shall not get what we are fighting for and we shall have another war in a very short space of time." That argument ought not go out from the Committee without some refutation, if refutation is possible. I submit with the greatest humility that I might be entitled within limits to refute that argument.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
What we cannot discuss are the types of Government and different peoples' ideas of how to govern in these countries. I imagine, if the argument has already been used, that it is not worth while spending this money unless there is to be a particular type of Government, it would be only right to put the reverse side.
§ Mr. Bowles
I was arguing that this is not purely a military but also a political effort as well, and I do not believe in a secure world peace without a Socialist policy being pursued.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
By your favour, Mr. Williams, I will proceed a little distance further along that path of refutation. I put it that we should produce exactly the same state of affairs in this country which inevitably resulted in dictatorship in three other countries, and this £1,000,000,000 might thus very well result in our getting a state of affairs which is the exact opposite of what we went to war to produce. Accusations have been thrown from this side of the Committee at the Government for not being Socialistic enough. What can they expect the Government to do? It has 18B, it has the direction of industry and the control of prices, it throws people from one place to another, breaks up families and removes them from their homes. What more in the way of Socialism could you possibly have?
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
Is it not true that the majority of the Members of the Government who have imposed this policy are Tories?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
It is rather difficult to say offhand whether they are or not. There is such an enormous number of Socialist Ministers and Socialist hangers-on of one sort or another that it is almost impossible to say which particular party has a majority. It is most unfair to charge this Government with not being Socialistic enough. Their supporters above the Gangway, who are always saying they want a Socialist regime, are getting a Socialist regime. What more do they want? All the "vested interest representatives" have objected to Parliament being superseded and to laws being made and carried out by Ministers. Every Member of the Labour Party says "The more of these orders the better." Therefore I say it is most ungrateful of that party to attack the Government. I am attacking them for being too Socialistic, that is to say, for introducing exactly the system that we are endeavouring to fight against in Germany, and it would be a most tragic thing, after all this, expenditure of blood and treasure, that we should find ourselves under a Socialist or totalitarian regime such as we are supposed to be fighting against. I hope the Government will pull itself together and, if we grant them all this money for carrying on the war, at least see that, having won the war in a military sense, we have not lost it in every sense that matters.
§ Mr. Stokes
I should not have ventured to speak again but for two facts, first of all that the Foreign Secretary challenged me for having raised the Debate without warning, and secondly because he failed altogether to reply to the main point that I put. I am bound to say, on behalf of my hon. Friends who have supported me for the most part, that we are extrèmely dissatisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's reply and we shall propose to return to it on the earliest possible occasion.
The Foreign Secretary has complained that I gave him no warning. I wish to remind him and others of what happens when one does give warning. I speak with some feeling on this matter. I think it ridiculous for a Government that comes to the Committee for a Vote of 141 £1,000,000,000 not to expect to have it debated and to have questions asked as to policy. My mind goes back to what happened to me on the vital question of tanks. [Laughter.] There is nothing whatever to laugh about. In an endeavour to be accommodating to the Government and to the Leader of the House, I spent the best part of 15 months upon the question of a Debate on tanks, but whenever I tried to get a Debate I was always blocked. When I received a letter from Normandy to-day I made up my mind I would not give any notice of this Debate. I was determined to raise the issue without notice, for fear of being blocked again. The letter which determined my attitude was this:The basic fact, known bath to the Germans and our own troops, is that in the fifth year of war we are still outgunned in tank warfare. For about three years the Ordnance authorities have known that the Germans employed an 88 m.m. gun. Yet they have continued to produce tanks to oppose the 88 m.m. with inferior armour and inferior armament. That in itself is an indictment of the Government which it should not be possible to level against them. … The lives of one's friends have been and are being sacrificed a few miles from where I am sitting now because our leaders have pinned their faith on quantity and, either through shortsightedness or incompetence, or both, neglected quality.I take that as an indictment of myself for not being more forthright and insistent in raising the question of equipment.
I did not raise this Debate for the purposes of a party wrangle, but because I believe, as an ex-fighting soldier, that the political weapon can be made more use of and that the Government are doing nothing to that end. May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that he took me wrong and that he agreed he did? I used the term "propaganda" possibly in a wrong way. What I meant was the propagation of a positive policy through the propaganda machine, whereas he was thinking of propaganda as the sort of lying outburst that comes over from Germany. I do not mean it in that way. I meant that, given a constructive policy, which we ought to have, we ought to use the propaganda machine for telling the truth to the German people. May I say to my hon. Friend, to the Foreign Secretary and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, all of whom seem to be confused in their terms, that I understand quite well the difference between armistice terms, peace 142 terms and peace aims. I am not demanding armistice terms. Others may do so, but I do not think it practicable. I am not asking for peace terms, for they can only be drawn up when peace comes.
I am demanding peace aims. Peace aims, as I understand it, are a declaration of principles which hold good at all times under all conditions for all people. We have had nothing of that kind from the Government. All that we have got are the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Then the Prime Minister goes to Teheran, and, by agreement with Stalin, tears the whole lot up without consulting this House. One of the questions I put to the Foreign Secretary was whether his version of what happened at Teheran or the Prime Minister's was the correct one. I asked him at Question time last week, and he would not answer clearly. I asked the Prime Minister, and with great disrespect to the House he merely treated the thing as a joke. It is not a joke at all to millions of people when we cannot get constructive answers, and in that respect the Prime Minister is as big a failure as anybody else. Does the Atlantic Charter hold good or not? Has it been agreed, or has it not, to partition Germany and to hand over East Prussia to Poland, or partly to Poland and partly to Russia? The Prime Minister made it clear in his speech on 22nd February that that had been agreed to at Teheran. The Secretary of State said in the House last week that no final decision was taken. Where are we? Why should we not know? Why cannot the Foreign Secretary give an answer to that question to-day? He must know perfectly well. It is an outrage that we should not be told what the real position is.
Another point which the Secretary of State made was this. He asked me to agree with him that Hitler and his backers represented what. I think he called the dominant mind in Germany. I agree that Hitler and his gang represent a certain type of mind that exists in Germany, but there are others, and it is no use the Committee shutting its eyes and pretending, as I have heard hon. Members on the other side do, that all the Germans are bad people. I agree that a great many of them may be, but I prefer the views of General Smuts on this matter to those of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who has long since strayed from the paths 143 of rectitude in the judgment of other people. General Smuts said on 5th September last year:The Germans are not all Nazi monsters, moral perverts or devil worshippers, infected with the satanic virus of Hitler. There was another and better Germany which must have passed through hell in witnessing the brutal and lawless inhumanity of its people. Deep revolt is brewing inside Germany, which must, in the end, be more catastrophic for Hitler and Nazidom than even the horror of the air by night.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am merely quoting what Smuts said. I have not the advantage of being in contact with him, but I have no doubt, the hon. Gentleman having asked his question, that General Smuts will send him a reply. His pronouncment continued:Of all the vast forces gathering for their doom not the least will be the fifth column inside Germany, which represents the revolt in the German soul itself. Let us realise the significance of this and remember it when we come to pass final judgment for the crimes that cry to Heaven.The whole burden of our complaint to-day has been that the political weapon has not been used to help our soldiers bring the war to a most satisfactory conclusion at the earliest possible moment. If General Smuts is right, and I believe he is right, why are we not making use of those latent forces in Germany which would rise and do what the Prime Minister said should be done, overthrow the Nazi régime? My appeal to the Government is to give us some specific assurance that they will make some declaration of principles on which peace is to be founded, and that they will give us another early opportunity of discussing it in this House.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
The Government ought to understand from the fact that we have had this protracted Debate, which was started by back bench Members, that there is a substantial desire on the part of a large number of Members to have a Debate on this point before we part for the Recess. That ought to have been made manifest to the usual quarters by the fact that 70 Members of the House 144 signed a Motion on this matter which appears on the Order Paper. If the usual channels do not pay enough attention to what we want we must take advantage of Parliamentary procedure in order to bring our points of view before Parliament. It is unfortunate that when we do it in this way we should be exposed to the kind of misrepresentation that we had from my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). It would be unfortunate if the assumption was made outside the House that anything we intended to do was in any sense directed to weakening the war effort of this country or to modify the acerbities of our feelings against the Germans. On the contrary, we want the Government to reinforce the efforts of our arms by a declaration of political intentions. I addressed certain questions to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which he did not answer or go anywhere near answering. I shall want an answer to them, and, if I do not get it, I shall make another Parliamentary opportunity of raising the matter again before the Recess.
On this occasion we are in the position of demanding a reply. Usually, the right hon. Gentleman winds up a Debate by answering nobody, passes us off with a number of verbal ambiguities, and expects us to be satisfied. We are not satisfied. He made one admission, which was that His Majesty's Government had already decided the terms which will be presented if Germany Collapses. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh yes, he did, the Armistice terms. Certainly. We want to know what those terms are, because they will be made in our name. These men have not been entrusted by the people of this country to make decisions over their heads. They are our representatives, while our friends, sons, brothers and fathers are fighting to achieve the results. Neither the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs nor all the rest of them, are yet entitled to use the bodies of our people as pawns on a chessboard; so we want to know what those terms are. If the Government do not tell us what they are, we shall insist upon hearing them before we agree to the Recess. We regard them not only as part of our war equipment but as one of the guarantees that we shall not have to go through this bloodbath once more.
§ Question put, and agreed to.145
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; for relief and re- habilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.