Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding, £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services relating to Foreign Affairs and the foreign policy of this country and the Dominions, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945:
|Class I., Vote 4, Treasury and Sub-ordinate Departments||£10|
|Class II., Vote 1, Foreign Office||£10|
|Class II., Vote 3, League of Nations||£10|
|Class II., Vote 4, Dominions Office||£10|
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I hope the Committee will permit me to enter a plea for the modest request made from the Chair. The meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers, which covered the best part of three weeks, has now concluded, and very full statements to Parliament and the public have been made, individually by the Prime Ministers themselves, and collectively by the declaration to which we have all subscribed. I could not pretend that we have arrived at hard and fast conclusions, or precise decisions upon all the questions which torment this afflicted globe, but it can fairly be said that, having discussed a great many of them, there was revealed a core of agreement which will enable the British Empire and Commonwealth to meet in discussion with other great organisms in the world in a firmly-knit array. We have advanced from vague 763 generalities to more precise points of agreement, and we are in a position to carry on discussions with other countries, within the limits which we have imposed upon ourselves.
But this is a Debate upon foreign affairs, and nothing was more remarkable than the cordial agreement which was expressed by every one of the Dominion Prime Ministers on the general conduct of our foreign affairs and on the principles which govern that conduct, nor, I should add, on the skill and consistency with which they have been treated by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The utmost confidence was expressed in him and in his handling of all those very difficult affairs, in spite of the complications by which they are surrounded, and in spite of the need for prompt action which so often arises—for prompt action by the Mother Country before there is time to have full consultation. In spite of all these difficulties, the fullest confidence and pleasure were expressed in the work which my right hon. Friend has done. We therefore embark upon the present Debate with the backing of their good will from all these representatives of the Commonwealth and Empire—the word "Empire" is permitted to be used, which may be a great shock to certain strains of intellectual opinion. And we embark upon the present Debate not only with this backing of hearty good will, but with the feeling that this meeting of Prime Ministers from all over the Empire and the representatives of India in the midst of a second deadly war is in fact the highest pinnacle to which our world-wide family association has yet reached.
At this time, in policy and in war, our objective is the same, namely, to beat the enemy as soon as possible; and I am not aware of any action or of any studied inaction for which His Majesty's Government are responsible that has not been directly related to that single and dominant purpose. The duty of all persons responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs in a world war of this deadly character and of all who, in different ways, exercise influence 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. Everyone in a position to guide public opinion, like Members of this House 764 or of another place, or newspaper editors, broadcasters, calumnists, or columnists—I remember a tendency to throw the accent forward—and others—all of these should keep this very clear duty before their eyes. 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. We long for the day to come when this slaughter will be over and then this additional restraint which imposes itself on every conscientious man in war-time can be relaxed or will vanish away entirely.
I must make my acknowledgments, first of all, to the very great degree with which these precepts are followed among those who accept the task of guiding public opinion, and especially in the House of Commons, which is always so careful of the public interest and which in other ways has shown itself to be possessed of those steadfast and unyielding qualities in the face of danger and fatigue for which it has always been renowned, but never more renowned than now. I shall try to practise what I have been preaching in the remarks I have to make, and I am sure the Committee will remember how many different audiences I have to address at the same moment, not only here but out of doors and not only in this Island, but throughout the Empire, not only among our Allies, great and small, West or East, but finally, among our enemies, besides, of course, satellites and neutrals of various hues. I must, therefore, pick my way among heated ploughshares, and in this ordeal the only guides are singleness and simplicity of purpose and a good or, at any rate, a well trained conscience.
Since I last spoke here on foreign affairs, just about three months ago, almost all the purposes which I mentioned to you have prospered, severally and collectively, First of all, let us survey the Mediterranean and the Balkan spheres. The great disappointment which I had last October, when I was not able to procure the necessary forces for gaining the command of the Aegean Sea, following upon the collapse of Italy, and gaining possession of the principal Italian islands, has, of course, been accompanied by an exaggerated attitude of caution on the part of Turkey. The hopes we cherished of Turkey boldly entering the war in February or March, or at least according us the necessary bases for air 765 action—those hopes faded. After giving £20,000,000 worth of British and American arms to Turkey in 1943 alone, we have suspended the process and ceased to exhort Turkey to range herself with the victorious United Powers, with whom she has frequently declared that her sympathies lie, and with whom, I think, there is no doubt that her sympathies do lie. The Turks at the end of last year and the beginning of this year magnified their dangers. Their military men took the gloomiest view of Russian prospects in South Russia and in the Crimea. They never dreamed that by the early summer the Red Army would be on the slopes of the Carpathians, drawn up along the Pruth and Serreth Rivers, or that Odessa and Sevastopol would have been liberated and regained by the extraordinary valour, might and energy of the Soviet onslaught. Consequently the Turks did not measure with sufficient accuracy what might have occurred, or would occur, in Rumania and Bulgaria or, I may add, Hungary, what would be the result on all those countries of these tremendous Russian hammer blows, struck even in months which are particularly unsuitable for operations in these regions and which normally would be devoted to the process of replenishing the advancing front for future action. Having over-rated their dangers, our Turkish friends increased their demands for supplies to such a point that, having regard to the means of communication and transport alone, the war would probably be over before these supplies could reach them.
We have, therefore, with great regret, discontinued the process of arming Turkey because it looks probable that, in spite of our disappointment in the Aegean, the great Allies will be able to win the war in the Balkans and generally throughout South Eastern Europe without Turkey being involved now at all, though, of course, the aid of Turkey would be a great help and acceleration of that process. This, of course, is a decision for Turkey to take. We have put no pressure upon them, other than the pressure of argument and of not giving the supplies we need for ourselves and other nations that are fighting. But the course which is being taken, and has been taken so far, by Turkey will not, in my view, procure for the Turks the strong position at the peace which would attend their joining the Allies.
766 I must, however, note the good service and significant gesture rendered to us by the Turkish Government quite recently, and it is said that it has been rendered to us on the personal initiative of Turkey's honoured President, General Inonu, namely, the complete cessation of all chrome exports to Germany. It is not too much to expect that the assistance given us in respect of chrome will also shortly be extended to cover other commodities, the export of which, even if of less importance than chrome, is of material assistance to the enemy. If so, we shall endeavour to compensate the Turkish people for the sacrifice which their co-operative action might entail by other means of importation.
I thought it right to speak bluntly. Turkey and Britain have a long history. They entered into relations with us before the war when things looked very black. They did their best through difficult times. I have thought it better to put things bluntly to-day, but I cannot conclude, notwithstanding anything I have said in criticism, without saying that we hope with increasing confidence that a still better day will dawn for the relations of Turkey with Britain and, indeed, with all the great Allies. Always in recent decades there has been in the Mediterranean a certain tension between Turkey and Italy on account of Italian ambitions in the Greek Islands and, also, possibly in the Adana Province of Turkey. The Turks could never be sure which way the Italian dictator would turn his would-be conquering sword. On that score Turkish anxiety has certainly been largely removed.
The fate of Italy is indeed terrible, and I personally find it very difficult to nourish animosity against the Italian people. The overwhelming mass of the nation rejoiced in the idea of being delivered from the subtle tyranny of the Fascists, and they wished, when Mussolini was overthrown, to take their place as speedily as possible by the side of the British and American Armies who, it was expected, would quickly rid the country of the Germans. However, this did not happen. All the Italian forces which could have defended Italy had either been squandered by Mussolini in the African desert or by Hitler amid the Russian snows, or they were widely dispersed corn-batting, in a half-hearted way, the patriots of Yugoslavia Hitler decided to make great exertions to retain Italy, just as he 767 has decided to make great exertions to gain the mighty battle which is at the moment at its climax to the South of Rome. It may be that after the fall of Mussolini our action might have been more swift and audacious. As I have said before, it is no part of my submission to the House that no mistakes are made by us or by the common action of our Allies; but, anyhow, here is this beautiful country suffering the worst horrors of war, with the larger part still in the cruel and vengeful grip of the Nazis, and with a hideous prospect of the red-hot rake of the battle-line being drawn from sea to sea right up the whole length of the peninsula.
It is clear that the Germans will be driven out of Italy by the Allies, but what will happen on the moving battle fronts and what the Germans will do on their way out in the way of destruction to a people they hate and despise, and who, they allege, have betrayed them, cannot be imagined or forecast. All I can say is that we shall do our utmost to make the ordeal as short and as little destructive as possible. We have great hopes that the city of Rome may be preserved from the area of struggle of our Armies. The House will recall that when I last spoke on foreign matters I expressed the view that it would be best that King Victor Emmanuel, and above all Marshal Badoglio, should remain at the head of the Executive of the Italian nation and armed forces until we reached Rome, when it was agreed by all that a general review of the position must be made.
Such a policy naturally entailed differences of opinion which were reflected not only among the Allied Governments but inside every Allied country. However, I am happy to say that after various unexpected happenings and many twists and turns the situation is now exactly what I ventured to suggest and as I described it to the House three months ago. In addition, far beyond my hopes, an Italian Government has been formed, of a broadly based character, around the King and Badoglio, and the King himself has decided that on the capture of Rome he will retire into private life forever and transfer his constitutional functions to his eldest son, the Prince of Piedmont, with the title of Lieutenant of the Realm.
I have good confidence in this new Italian Government which has been 768 formed. It will require further strengthening and broadening, especially as we come more closely into touch with the populous industrial areas of the North—that is essential—but,. at any rate, it is facing its responsibilites manfully and doing all in its power to aid the Allies in their advance. Here I may say we are doing our best to equip the Italian force who are eager to fight with us and not in the power of the Germans. They have played their part in the line on more than one occasion. Their fleet is discharging a most useful and important service for us not only in the Mediterranean but in the Atlantic; and the loyal Italian Air Force has also fought so well that I am making special efforts to supply them with improved aircraft of British manufacture. We are also doing our best to assist the Italian Government to grapple with the difficult financial and economic conditions which they inherited from Fascism and the war and which, though improving, are still severe behind the lines of the Army. It is understood throughout Italy, and it is the firm intention of the United Nations, that Italy, like all other countries which are now associated with us, shall have a fair and free opportunity, as soon as the Germans are driven out and tranquillity is restored, of deciding whatever form of democratic government, whether monarchical or republican, they desire. They can choose freely for themselves. I emphasise, however, the word "democratic," because it is quite clear that we should not allow any form of Fascism to be restored or set up in any country with whom we have been at war.
From Italy one turns naturally to Spain, once the most famous Empire in the world and down to this day a strong community in a wide land, with a marked personality and distinguished culture among the nations of Europe. Some people think that our foreign policy towards Spain is best expressed by drawing comical or even rude caricatures of General Franco; but I think there is more to it than that. When our present Ambassador to Spain, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), went to Madrid almost exactly four years ago to a month, we arranged to keep his airplane waiting on the airfield, as it seemed almost certain that Spain, whose dominant party were under the influence of Germany because Ger- 769 many had helped them so vigorously in the recently-ended civil war, would follow the example of Italy and join the victorious Germans in the war against Great Britain. Indeed, at this time the Germans proposed to the Spanish Government that triumphal marches of German troops should be held in the principal Spanish cities, and I have no doubt that they suggested to them that the Germans would undertake, in return for the virtual occupation of their country, the seizure of Gibraltar, which would then be handed back to a Germanised Spain. This last feature would have been easier said than done.
There is no doubt that if Spain had yielded to German blandishments and pressure at that juncture our burden would have been much heavier. The Straits of Gibraltar would have been closed and all access to Malta would have been cut off from the West. All the Spanish coast would have become the nesting place of German U-boats. I certainly did not feel at the time that I should like to see any of those things happen and none of them did happen. Our Ambassador deserves credit for the influence he rapidly acquired and which continually grew. In his work he was assisted by a gifted man, Mr. Yencken, whose sudden death by airplane accident is a loss which I am sure has been noted by the House. But the main credit is undoubtedly due to the Spanish resolve to keep out of the war. They had had enough of war and they wished to keep out of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a matter of opinion."] Yes, I think so, and that is why my main principle of beating the enemy as soon as possible should be steadily followed. But they had had enough, and I think some of the sentiment may have been due to the fact that, looking back, the Spanish people, who are a people who do look back, could remember that Britain had helped Spain to free herself from the Napoleonic tyranny of. 130 years ago. At any rate the critical moment passed; the Battle of Britain was won; the Island Power which was expected to be ruined and subjugated in a few months was seen that very winter not only intact and far stronger in the homeland but also advancing by giant strides, under Wavell's guidance, along the African shore, taking perhaps a quarter of a million Italian prisoners on the way.
770 But another very serious crisis occurred in our relations with Spain before the operation designated "Torch," that is to say, the descent of the United States and British Forces upon North-West Africa, was begun. Before that operation was begun Spain's power to injure us was at its very highest. For a long time before this we had been steadily extending our airfield at Gibraltar and building it out into the sea, and for a month before zero hour, on 7th November, 1942, we had sometimes 600 airplanes crowded on this airfield in full range and in full view of the Spanish batteries. It was very difficult for the Spaniards to believe that these airplanes were intended to reinforce Malta, and I can assure the House that the passage of those critical days was very anxious indeed. However, the Spaniards continued absolutely friendly and tranquil. They asked no questions, they raised no inconveniences.
If, in some directions, they have taken an indulgent view of German U-boats in distress, or continued active exportations to Germany, they made amends on this occasion, in my view, so far as our advantage was concerned, for these irregularities by completely ignoring the situation at Gibraltar, where, apart from aircraft, enormous numbers of ships were anchored far outside the neutral waters, inside the Bay of Algeciras, always under the command of Spanish shore guns. We should have suffered the greatest inconvenience of we had been ordered to move those ships. Indeed, I do not know how the vast convoys would have been marshalled and assembled. I must say that I shall always consider a service was rendered at this time by Spain, not only to the United Kingdom and to the British Empire and Commonwealth, but to the cause of the United Nations.
I have, therefore, no sympathy with those who think it clever, and even funny, to insult and abuse the Government of Spain whenever occasion serves. I have had the responsibility of guiding the Government while we have passed through mortal perils, and, therefore, I think I have some means of forming a correct judgment about the values of events at critical moments as they occur. I am very glad now that, after prolonged negotiations, a still better arrangement has been made with Spain, which deals in a satisfactory manner with the Italian ships which have taken refuge in Spanish 771 harbours, and has led to the hauling down of the German flag in Tangier and the breaking of the shield over the Consulate, and which will, in a few days, be followed by the complete departure of the German representatives from Tangier, although they still remain in Dublin. Finally, it has led to the agreement about Spanish wolfram, which has been reached without any affront to Spanish dignity, and has reduced the export of wolfram from Spain to Germany during the coming critical months to a few lorry-loads a month.
It is true that this agreement has been helped by the continuous victories of the Allies in many parts of the world, and especially in North Africa and Italy, and also by the immense threat by which the Germans conceive themselves to be menaced, by all this talk of an invasion across the Channel. This, for what it is worth, has made it quite impossible for Hitler to consider reprisals on Spain. All his troops have had to be moved away from the frontier, and he has no inclination to face bitter guerilla warfare, because he has got quite enough to satisfy himself in so many other countries which he is holding down by brute force.
As I am here to-day speaking kindly words about Spain, let me add that I hope she will be a strong influence for the peace of the Mediterranean after the war. Internal political problems in Spain are a matter for the Spaniards themselves. It is not for us—that is, the Government—to meddle in such affairs—
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
Why then in Italy? My right hon. Friend did remark, as regards the restoration of the Government in Italy, that it could not be Fascist. That was his declaration. Why not in Spain?
§ The Prime Minister
The reason is that Italy attacked us. We were at war with Italy. We struck Italy down. My hon. Friend, I am sure, will see that a very clear line of distinction can be drawn between nations we go to war with, and nations who leave us alone.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
Is not a Fascist Government anywhere, a preparation for an attack?
§ The Prime Minister
I presume we do not include in our programme of world renovation any forcible action against any 772 Government whose internal form of administration does not come up to our own ideas, and any remarks I have made on that subject referred only to enemy Powers and their satellites who will have been struck down by force of arms. They are the ones who have ventured into the open and they are the ones whom we shall not allow to become, again, the expression of those peculiar doctrines associated with Fascism and Nazism, which have, undoubtedly, brought about the terrible struggle in which we are engaged. Surely, anyone could see the difference between the one and the other. There is all the difference in the world between a man who knocks you down and a man who leaves you alone. You may, conceivably, take an active interest in what happens to the former in case his inclination should recur, but we pass many people in the ordinary daily round of life about whose internal affairs and private quarrels we do not feel ourselves called upon to make continued inquiry.
Well, I say we speak the same words to the Spaniards in the hour of our strength as we did in the hour of our weakness. I look forward to increasingly good relations with Spain and to an extremely fertile trade between Spain and this country which will, I trust, grow even during the war and will expand after the peace. The iron from Bilbao and the North of Spain is of great value to this country both in war and peace. Our Ambassador now goes back to Spain for further important duties, and I have no doubt he goes with the good wishes of the large majority of the House and of all thoughtful and unprejudiced persons. I am sure that no one more than my hon. Friend opposite would wish that he should be successful in any work for the common cause. My hon. Friend has been often a vigilant and severe critic of His Majesty's Government, but as a real Opposition figure he has failed, because he never can conceal his satisfaction when we win—and we sometimes do.
I am happy to announce a hopeful turn in Greek affairs. When I spoke last on this I described them as the saddest case of all. We have passed through a crisis of a serious character since then. A Greek brigade and a large proportion of the Greek Navy mutinied, declaring themselves, in one way or other, on the side of the organisation called E.A.M., the 773 Greek freedom movement, and, of course, against the King and his Government. The King of Greece, who was in London, was advised by nearly everyone concerned in Cairo not to go back and warned that his life would be in danger. He returned the next day. The situation was then most serious. The Greek brigade was encircled by British forces some 30 miles away from Alexandria, and the Greek ships which had mutinied in Alexandria harbour were lying under the guns both of the shore batteries and of our superior naval forces which had rapidly gathered. This tension lasted for nearly three weeks. In due course the mutinies in the Fleet were suppressed. The disorderly ships were boarded by Greeks, under the orders of the Greek Government, and, with about 50 killed and wounded, the mutineers were collected and sent ashore. The mutinous brigade in the desert was assaulted by superior British forces, which captured the eminences commanding the camp, and the 4,000 men there surrendered. There were no casualties among the Greeks, but one British officer was killed in the attack upon the eminences. This is a matter which cannot be overlooked. The greatest patience and tact were shown by the British military and naval authorities involved, and, for some weeks past, order has been firmly established and the Greek forces who were misled into evil deeds by subversive movements have been interned for the time being.
The then Prime Minister, M. Tsouderos, had already tried, before these things happened, to arrange a meeting of all representatives of Greek opinion and to construct his Administration so as to include them. He acquitted himself with dignity and was helped by M. Venizelos, the son of the great. Venizelos whom we all esteemed so highly in the first world war. At this moment there emerged upon the scene M. Papandreou, a man greatly respected, who had lived throughout the war in Athens and was known as a man of remarkable character and one who would not be swayed by party interests, his own party being a very small one. M. Papandreou became the King's new Prime Minister, but before forming his Government he called a conference which met last week in the Lebanon. Every party in Greek life was represented there, including E.A.M., the Communists and others—a dozen parties or more. The 774 fullest debate took place and all expressed their feelings freely.
This disclosed an appalling situation in Greece. The excesses of E.L.A.S., which is the military body operating under E.A.M., had so alienated the population in many parts that the Germans had been able to form security battalions of Greeks to fight the E.A.M. These security battalions were made up of men, in many cases, who would far rather have been out in the hills maintaining the guerilla warfare. They had been completely alienated. At the same time, the state of hostility and suspicion which led last autumn to an actual civil war, existed between E.A.M. and the other resistance organisations, especially the E.D.E.S. under Colonel Zervas, a leader who commands the undivided support of the civilian population in his area and has always shown the strictest compliance with the orders sent him from G.H.Q., Middle East, under whom all his forces have been placed. Thus it seemed to be a question of all against all, and no one but the Germans rejoicing.
After prolonged discussion complete unity was reached at the Lebanon Conference and all parties will be represented in the new Government, which will devote itself to what is after all the only purpose worthy of consideration, namely, the forming of a national army in which all the guerilla bands will be incorporated and the driving, with this army, of the enemy from the country or, better still, destroying the enemy where he stands.
On Monday there was published in the newspapers the very agreeable letter which I received from the leaders of the Communists—that is more than I have ever received from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher); perhaps he might write me one, to tell me that he confirms it—and the extreme Left wing party. There is published to-day in the papers the letter I have received from M. Papandreou, and another one to my right hon. Friend expressing the hopes which he has for the future of his Government, and thanks for the assistance we have given in getting round these troubles—what I call the diseases of defeat which Greece has now a chance of shaking off. I believe that the present situation—I hope and pray that it may be so—indicates that a new and fair start will come to Greece in her struggle to cleanse her native soil 775 from the foreign invader. I have, therefore, to report to the House that a very marked and beneficial change has occurred in the situation in Greece, which is more than I could say when I last spoke upon this subject. There was trouble with the destroyer we were giving the Greeks here, and while matters remained so uncertain, we were not able to hand her over, but I have been in correspondence with the Admiralty, and I hope that as a result of this reconstructed Government, and the new start that has been made, this ship will soon be manned and go to strengthen the Greek Navy as it returns to discipline and duty.
I gave some lengthy account last time of the position in Yugoslavia and of our relations with the different jurisdictions there. The difficulty and magnitude of this business are very great, and it must be remembered that not only three strongly marked races—the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—are involved but, further South, the Albanians are also making a bold bid for freedom from German rule. But they, too, at the present time are split into several competing and even antagonistic groups. Nothing is easier than to espouse any one of the various causes in these different countries, with all their claims and counter-claims, and one can find complete satisfaction in telling the tale from that particular standpoint. The best and easiest kind of speech to make is to take a particular cause and run it home on a single-track mind without any consideration of anything else, but we have to think of policy as well as oratory, and we have to think of the problem as a whole, and also to relate our action to the main purpose which I proclaimed at the beginning of my speech, namely, beating the enemy as soon as possible and to gather all forces for that purpose in priority to any other purpose.
I can only tell the Committee to-day the further positions which have been reached in Yugoslavia as the result of the unremitting exertions of our foreign policy. They are, in my opinion, far more satisfactory than they were. I have received a message from King Peter that he has accepted the resignation of Mr. Puric and his Cabinet and is in process of forming a new and smaller Cabinet with the purpose of assisting active resistance in Yugoslavia and of uniting as 776 far as possible all fighting elements in the country. I understand that this process of forming the new Government involves the severance from the Royal Yugoslav Government of General Mihailovitch in his capacity as Minister of War. I understand also that the Ban of Croatia is an important factor in the new political arrangements, around whom, or beside whom, certain other elements may group themselves for the purpose of beating the enemy and uniting Yugoslavia. This, of course, has the support of His Majesty's Government.
We do not know what will happen in the Serbian part of Yugoslavia. The reason why we have ceased to supply Mihailovitch with arms and support is a simple one. He has not been fighting the enemy and, moreover, some of his subordinates have made accommodations with the enemy from which have arisen armed conflicts with the forces of Marshal Tito, accompanied by many charges and counter-charges, and the loss of patriot lives to the German advantage. Mihailovitch certainly holds a powerful position locally as Commander-in-Chief, and it does not mean that his ceasing to be Minister of War will rob him of his local influence. We cannot predict what he will do or what will happen. We have proclaimed ourselves the strong supporters of Marshal Tito because of his heroic and massive struggle against the German armies. We are sending, and planning to send, the largest possible supplies of weapons to him and to make the closest contacts with him. I had the advantage on Monday of a long conversation with General Velebit, who has been over here on a military mission from Marshal Tito, and it has been arranged among other things that Marshal Tito shall send here a personal military representative in order that we may be kept in the closest touch with all that is being done and with the effect of it in Yugoslavia. This is, of course, additional to the contacts established with Marshal Tito at General Wilson's headquarters in Algiers and will, of course, be co-ordinated therewith.
It must be remembered, however, that this question does not turn on Mihailovitch alone; there is also a very large body, amounting to perhaps 200,000, of Serbian peasant proprietors who are anti-German but strongly Serbian and who 777 naturally hold the views of a peasant ownership community in regard to property, less enthusiastic in regard to Communism than some of those in Croatia or Slovenia. Marshal Tito has largely sunk his Communist aspect in his character as a Yugoslav patriot leader. He repeatedly proclaims he has no intention of reversing the property and social systems which prevail in Serbia, but these facts are not accepted yet by the other side. The Serbians are a race with an historic past; it was from Serbia came the spark which fired the explosion of the first world war. We remember their historic retreat over the mountains. A very large number of Serbians are fighting with Marshal Tito's forces. Our object is that all forces in Yugoslavia, and the whole united strength of Serbia, may be made to work together under the military direction of Marshal Tito for a united, independent Yugoslavia which will expel from native soil the Hitlerite murderers and invaders, and destroy them until not one remains. The cruelties and atrocities of the Germans in Greece and in Yugoslavia exceed anything that we have heard, and we have heard terrible things, but the resistance of these historic mountaineers has been one of the most splendid features of the war. It will long be honoured in history, and I am sure that children will read the romance of this struggle and will have imprinted on their minds that love of freedom, that readiness to give away life and comfort, and all there is around one, in order to gain the right to live unmolested on your native heath.
All I can say is that we must be given a little reasonable latitude to work together for this union. It would be quite easy, as I said just now, to take wholeheartedly one side or the other. I have made it very plain where my sympathies lie, but nothing would give greater pleasure to the Germans than to see all these hearty mountaineers engaged in intestine strife against one another. We cannot afford at this crisis to neglect anything which may obstruct a real unity throughout wide regions in which at present upwards of 12 German divisions are gripped in Yugoslavia alone and 20 in all—that is another eight—in the Balkans and the Aegean Islands. All eyes must be turned upon the common foe. Perhaps we have had some success in this direction in Greece. At any rate it sums up our policy towards Yugoslavia, and the House will note that 778 all questions of monarchy or republic or Leftism or Rightism are strictly subordinate to the main purpose which we have in mind. In one place we support a king, in another a Communist—there is no attempt by us to enforce particular ideologies. We only want to beat the enemy and then, with a happy and serene peace, let the best expression be given to the will of the people in every way.
For a long time past the Foreign Secretary and I have laboured with all our strength to try to bring about a resumption of relations between the Soviet Government and the Polish Government which we recognise—[Interruption.]—which we have always recognised since the days of General Sikorski. We were conscious of the difficulty of our task and some may say we should have been wiser not to attempt it. Well, we cannot accept that view. We are the Ally of both countries. We went to war because Germany made an unprovoked attack upon our Ally, Poland. We have signed a 20-year Treaty with our Ally the Soviet Union, and this Treaty is the foundation of our policy. Polish forces are fighting with our Armies and have recently distinguished themselves remarkably well. Polish forces under Russian guidance are also fighting with the Soviet Army against the common enemy.
Our effort to bring about a renewal of relations between the Polish Government and Russia in London has not succeeded. We deeply regret that fact, and we must take care to say nothing that would make agreement more difficult in the future. I must repeat that the essential part of any arrangement is regulation of the Polish Eastern frontier, and that, in return for any withdrawal made by Poland in that quarter, she should receive other territories at the expense of Germany, which will give her an ample seaboard and a good, adequate and reasonable homeland in which the Polish nation may safely dwell. We must trust that, when we all engage in the struggle with the common foe, when nothing can surpass the bravery of our Polish Allies in Italy and daily on the sea, and in the air, and in the heroic resistance of the underground movement to the Germans. I have seen here men who came a few days ago out of Poland, who told me about it, and who are in relation with, and under the orders of, the present Polish Government in London. They are most anxious that this 779 underground movement should not clash with the advancing Russian Army, but should help it, and orders have been sent by the Polish Government in London that the underground movement is to help the Russian Armies in as many ways as possible. There are many ways possible in which guerillas cart be successful, and we must trust that statesmanship will yet find some way through.
I have the impression—and it is no more than an impression—that things are not so bad as they may appear on the surface between Russia and Poland. I need not say that we—and I think I may certainly add, the United States—would welcome any arrangement between Russia and Poland, however it was brought about, whether directly between the Powers concerned, or with the help of His Majesty's Government, or any other Government. There is no question of pride on our part, only of sincere good will to both, and earnest and anxious aspirations to a solution of problems fraught with grave consequences to Europe and the harmony of the Grand Alliance. In the meantime, our relations, both with the Polish and the Soviet Governments, remain regulated by the public statements which have been made and repeated from time to time from this bench during the present war. There I leave this question, and I trust that if it is dealt with in Debate those who deal with it will always consider what we want, namely, the united action of all Poles, with all Russians, against all Germans.
We have to rejoice at the brilliant and skilful fighting of the French Moroccan and Algerian divisions, and the brilliant leading they have had by their officers in the heart shaking battle to which I have referred, and which is now at its climax. The French Committee of National Liberation, in Algiers, has the credit of having prepared these troops, which were armed and equipped by the United States under President Roosevelt's personal decision. The French Committee also places at the full service of the Allies a powerful Navy, including, in the "Richelieu," one of the finest battleships in the world. They guide and govern a vast Empire, all of whose strategic points are freely placed at the disposal of the United Nations. They have a numerous and powerful underground 780 army in France, sometimes called the Maquis, and sometimes the French Army of the Interior, which may be called upon to play an important part before the end of the war.
There is no doubt that this political entity, the French Committee of National Liberation, presides over, and directs, forces at the present time which, in the struggle against Hitler in Europe, give it the fourth place in the Grand Alliance. The reason why the United States and Great Britain have not been able to recognise it yet as the Government of France, or even as the Provisional Government of France, is because we are not sure that it represents the French nation in the same way as the Governments of Britain, the United States and Soviet Russia represent the whole body of their people. The Committee will, of course, exercise the leadership to establish law and order in the liberated areas of France under the supervision, while the military exigency lasts, of the supreme Allied Commander, but we do not wish to commit ourselves at this stage to imposing the Government of the French Committee upon all of France which might fall under our control without more knowledge than we now possess of the situation in the interior of France. At the same time I must make it clear that we shall have no dealings with the Vichy Government, or anyone tainted with that association, because they have decided to follow the path of collaboration with our enemies. Many of them have definitely desired, and worked for, a German victory.
In Norway and the Low Countries it is different. If we go there we shall find that continuity of lawful government is maintained by the Governments which we recognise, and with which we are in intimate relations. The Governments of King Haakon and Queen Wilhelmina are the lawfully founded Governments of those States, with perfect and unbroken continuity, and should our liberating Armies enter those countries we feel we should deal with them and also, as far as possible, with the Belgian and Danish Governments, although their Sovereigns are prisoners, but with whose countries we have the closest ties. On the other hand, we are not able to take a decision at this time to treat the French Committee of National Liberation, or the French Provisional Government, as it has been 781 called, as the full, final, and lawful embodiment of the French Republic. It may be that the Committee itself may be able to aid us in the solution of these riddles and I must say that I think their decree governing their future action constitutes a most forceful and helpful step in that direction. With the full approval of the President of the United States I have invited General de Gaulle to pay us a visit over here in the near future and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just shown me a telegram from Mr. Duff Cooper, in Algiers, saying that General de Gaulle will be very glad to come. There is nothing like talking things over, and seeing where we can get to. I hope he will bring some members of his Government with him so that the whole matter can be reviewed.
As this war has progressed, it has become less ideological in its character, in my opinion. The Fascist power in Italy has been overthrown and will, in a reasonable period of time, be completely expunged, mainly by the Italian democracy themselves. If there is anything left over for the future we will look after it. Profound changes have taken place in Soviet Russia; the Trotskyite form of Communism has been completely wiped out. The victories of the Russian Armies have been attended by a great rise in the strength of the Russian State, and a remarkable broadening of its views. The religious side of Russian life has had a wonderful rebirth. The discipline and military etiquette of the Russian Armies are unsurpassed. There is a new National Anthem, the music of which Premier Stalin—
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman had better be careful to keep in step. There is a new National Anthem, the music of which Premier Stalin sent me, which I asked the B.B.C. to play on the frequent occasions when there are great Russian victories to celebrate. The terms offered by Russia to Rumania made no suggestion of altering the standards of society in that country and were in many respects, if not in all, remarkably generous. Russia has been very patient with Finland. The Comintern has been abolished, which is sometimes forgotten. Quite recently, some of our representatives from the Ministry of Information 782 were allowed to make a considerable tour in Russia, and found opportunities of seeing for themselves what they liked. They found an atmosphere of candid friendliness and a keen desire to see British films and hear about our country and what it was doing in the war. The children in the schools were being informed about the war on the seas, and of its difficulties and its perils, and how the Northern convoys got through to Russia. There seemed a great desire among the people that Britain and Russia should be friends. These are very marked departures from the conceptions which were held some years ago, for reasons which we can all understand.
§ The Prime Minister
Certainly, on both sides. We have no need to look back into the past and add up the tale and tally of recrimination. Many terrible things have happened. But we began 30 years ago to march forward with the Russians in the battle against the German tyranny of the Kaiser and we are now marching with them, and I trust we shall until all forms of German tyranny have been extirpated. As to Nazism, the other ideology, we intend to wipe that out utterly, however drastic may be the methods required. We are all agreed on that in this House, whatever our political views and doctrines may be. Throughout the whole of the British Dominions and the United States, and all the United Nations, there is only one opinion about that, and for the rest, whatever may be said as to former differences, there is nothing that has occurred which should in any way make us regret the 20 years' Treaty which we have signed with the Russians, and which will be the dominating factor in the relations which we shall have with them.
I see that in some quarters I am expected to-day to lay out, quite plainly and decisively, the future plan of world organisation, and also to set the Atlantic Charter in its exact and true relation to subsequent declarations and current events. It is easier to ask such questions than to answer them. We are working with 33 United Nations and, in particular, with two great Allies who, in some forms of power, far exceed the British Empire. Taking everything into con- 783 sideration, including men and money, war effort, expanse of territory, we can claim to be an equal to those great Powers, but not, in my view, a superior. It would be a great mistake for me, as head of the British Government, or, I may add—speaking to this Committee as a most respected institution—the Grand Alliance, or for the House, to take it upon ourselves, to lay down the law to all those different countries, including the two great Powers with which we have to work, if the world is to be brought back into a good condition.
This small Island and this marvellous structure of States and dependencies which have gathered round it, if we all hold together, occupy a worthy place in the vanguard of the nations. It is idle to suppose that we are the only people who are to prescribe what all other countries, for their own good, are to do. Many other ideas and forces come into play and nothing could be more unwise than for the meeting of Prime Ministers, for instance, to attempt to prescribe for all countries the way they should go.
Consultations are always proceeding between the three great Powers and others, and every effort is being made to explore the future, to resolve difficulties and to obtain the greatest measure of common agreement on levels below the Ministerial level in a way which does not commit the Government. A few things have already become quite clear and very prominent at the Conference which has just concluded. The first is that we will fight on all together until Germany is forced to capitulate and until Nazism is extirpated and the Nazi Party are stripped of all continuing power of doing evil. The next is that the Atlantic Charter remains a guiding signpost, expressing a vast body of opinion amongst all the Powers now fighting together against tyranny. The third point is that the Atlantic Charter in no way binds us about the future of Germany, nor is it a bargain or contract with our enemies. It has no quality of an offer to our enemy. It was no offer to the Germans to surrender. If it had been an offer, that offer was rejected. But the principle of unconditional surrender, which has also been promulgated, will be adhered to as far as Nazi Germany and Japan are concerned, and that principle itself wipes away the danger of anything Like Mr. Wilson's Fourteen Points being 784 brought up by the Germans after their defeat, claiming that they surrendered in consideration of them.
I have repeatedly said that unconditional surrender gives the enemy no rights but relieves us from no duties. Justice will have to be done and retribution will fall upon the wicked and the cruel. The miscreants who set out to subjugate first Europe and then the world must be punished, and so must their agents who, in so many countries, have perpetrated horrible crimes and who must be brought back to face the judgment of the population, very likely in the very scenes of their atrocities. There is no question of Germany enjoying any guarantee that she will not undergo territorial changes if it should seem that the making of such changes renders more secure and more lasting the peace of Europe.
Scarred and armed with experience we intend to take better measures this time than could ever previously have been conceived in order to prevent a renewal, in the lifetime of our children or our grandchildren at least, of the horrible destruction of human values which has marked the last and the present world wars. We intend to set up a world order and organisation, equipped with all the necessary attributes of power, in order to prevent the breaking out of future wars, or the long planning of them in advance, by restless and ambitious nations. For this purpose there must be a World Council, a controlling Council, comprising the greatest States which emerge victorious from this war, who will be obligated to keep in being a certain minimum standard of armaments for the purpose of preserving peace. There must also be a world assembly of all Powers, whose relation to the world Executive, or controlling power, for the purpose of maintaining peace I am in no position to define. I cannot say. If I did, I should only be stepping outside the bounds which are proper to us.
The shape of these bodies, and their relations to each other, can only be settled after the formidable foes we are now facing have been beaten down and reduced +o complete submission. It would be presumption for any one Power to prescribe in detail exactly what solution will be found. Anyone can see how many different alternatives there are. A mere 785 attempt on our part to do so, or to put forward what is a majority view on this or that, might prejudice us in gaining consideration for our arguments when the time comes.
I shall not even attempt to parade the many questions of difficulty which will arise and which are present in our minds. Anyone can write down on paper at least a dozen large questions of this kind—Should there be united forces of nations? or Should there be a world police? and so on. There are other matters of a highly interesting character which should be discussed. But it would be stepping out of our place in the forward march for us to go beyond the gradual formulation of opinion and ideas which are constantly going on inside the British Commonwealth and in contact with our principal Allies. It must not be supposed, however, that these questions cannot be answered and the difficulties cannot be overcome and that a complete victory will not be a powerful aid to the solution of all problems, and that the good will and practical common sense which exist in the majority of men and in the majority of nations will not find full expression in the new structure which must regulate the affairs of every people in so far as they may clash with another people's. The future towards which we are marching, across bloody fields and frightful manifestations of destruction, must surely be based upon the broad and simple virtues and upon the nobility of mankind. It must be based upon a reign of law which upholds the principles of justice and fair play and which protects the weak against the strong if the weak have justice on their side. There must be an end to predatory exploitation and nationalistic ambitions.
This does not mean that nations should not be entitled to rejoice in their traditions and achievements, but they will not be allowed, by armed force, to gratify appetites of aggrandisement at the expense of other countries merely because they are smaller or weaker or less well prepared, and measures will be taken to have ample Armies, Fleets and Air Forces available to prevent anything like that coming about. We must undoubtedly in our world structure embody a great part of all that was gained to the world by the structure and formation of the League of Nations. But we must arm our world organisation and make sure that, within 786 the limits assigned to it, it has overwhelming military power. We must remember that we shall be hard put to it to gain our living, to repair the devastation that has been wrought and to give back that wider and more comfortable life which is so deeply desired. We must strive to preserve the reasonable rights and liberties of the individual. We must respect the rights and opinions of others, while holding firmly to our own faith and convictions.
There must be room in this new great structure of the world for the happiness and prosperity of all and in the end it must be capable of bringing happiness and prosperity even to the guilty and vanquished nations. There must be room within the great world organisation for organisms like the British Empire and Commonwealth, as we now call it, and I trust that there will be room also for the fraternal association of the British Commonwealth and the United States. We are bound by our 20 years Treaty with Russia, and besides this—I, for my part, hope to deserve to be called a good European—to try to raise the glorious Continent of Europe, the parent of so many powerful States, from its present miserable condition as a kind of volcano of strife and tumult to its old glory of a family of nations and a vital expression of Christendom. I am sure these great entities which I have mentioned—the British Empire, the conception of a Europe truly united, the fraternal association with the United States—will in no way disturb the general purposes of the world organisation. In fact, they may help powerfully to make it run. I hope and pray that all this may be established and that we may be led to exert ourselves to secure these permanent and glorious achievements which alone can make amends to mankind for all the miseries and toil which have been their lot and for all the heroism and sacrifice which have been their glory.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson (Leicester, West)
The Committee will, I feel sure, be united in congratulating the Prime Minister upon the speech that he has just made. Vast as was the canvas which he had chosen he has managed to display a power of composition which only a practised painter can achieve. By his examination of several obscure problems he was able to illuminate many dark corners and to dispel many 787 misty doubts. I think the Committee will agree that in his long speech he showed all that lucidity and all that humour which we associate with the gigantic speeches of 1940.
The Prime Minister has given us a very detailed survey of current foreign affairs. He has dealt very lucidly, in great detail, and with amazing frankness, with the countries, one by one, about whose policy we have been in doubt and whose special conditions have sometimes exposed us in our turn to policies which have seemed at the moment to be policies of hesitation. But he has not dealt, and perhaps did not intend to deal, with foreign policy as such. He indicated the nature of the world organisation which he had in mind; and it is evident that that organisation is conceived by him as something approximating to the League of Nations but a League of Nations with overwhelming force. Such an organisation would command the willing assent of the great majority of the people of this country and will meet with the support of all the Governments of the United Nations. I feel myself that the faults of the Covenant of the League are not to be sought in its drafting and not in any way in the nature of the provisions which it contains, but it was fundamentally based on a conception of human nature as naturally pacific. In other words, it was based on an interpretation of human nature which, had it been a correct interpretation, would have rendered any league unnecessary. It therefore failed owing to the fact that it promised to do everything for everybody everywhere; thereby it inflated its own currency. I am sure that if the new world organisation is based on the certainty of contribution and certainty of effort, we shall have, not an inflated, but a deflated currency in international order.
I regret to some extent that the Prime Minister did not reaffirm or outline the traditional principles of British foreign policy. It is fashionable nowadays to consider any traditional principles as old fashioned. I cannot conceive, however, that principles which have been absorbed, stated and practised by such diverse characters as Castlereagh and Canning, Palmerston and Gladstone, Grey and Arthur Henderson—principles which have become part of the natural atmosphere of British foreign policy—can ever become otiose or outworn. It is necessary that 788 they should be reaffirmed on occasions. These principles, some people imagine, have been profoundly altered by changes in the balance of power and alterations in means of communication. This is not so. The principles remain exactly the same. The method of their application has slightly altered. Those principles are based upon the immutable facts of geography. They impose upon us a consistent attitude and policy. They are based upon the dual fact that this island is, in the first place, a tiny little territory situated off the peninsula of Europe, from which it is separated by only 26 miles or four flying minutes. In the second place, our principles are conditioned by the fact that we are at the same time a vast Empire spread over the Seven Seas.
Our attitude, our policy, the principles of our policy, the tradition of our policy, must therefore always be dual. Our foreign policy must be both general and special. It must be world-wide and local. It must be oceanic and Continental. When we talk of a great world order, a great world organisation, we are talking of general policy, not of special policy. What distresses me about the policy of the Government in recent months is not their general, or oceanic, policy, which seems to me in every way admirable and consistently carried out. Their Continental policy, however, their European policy, seems to me—and I know the difficulties—to be in certain respects uncertain and timid. I am well aware that my right hon. Friend has done his best—and that is saying a great deal—to drive a straight furrow. I recognise that this is difficult for him because his plough is yoked on one side to a young Eagle apt to indulge in flights of fantasy, and, on the other side, to an enormous Bear whose reticent attitude about her own intentions is only equalled by her suspicion of the intentions of others. This hampers my right hon. Friend's style. Moreover, even the best principles of foreign policy must occasionally in war-time be sacrificed; but I feel that we have in this war gone a little too far sometimes in displaying deference to what may be only transitory opinion in Moscow and what may be only transitory opinion in Washington.
What therefore are the essential, basic, traditional and consistent principles of British foreign policy? They are based upon our dual position, our oceanic and Continental position, and upon the fact 789 that we are, in a way, the most vulnerable and, in another way, the most invulnerable of all nations. We have, therefore, as our first principle the protection of the coast and communications of this island by the possession of a Navy, and, we must now add, an Air Force, more powerful than that of any conceivable enemy. The United States is not a conceivable enemy. In the second place then our principles of policy are based, and always have been based, on the identity of our interests with the vital and primary interests of the majority of other European countries. We are absolutely conditioned by geography; and, as Sir Eyre Crowe stated, it is almost a law of nature that we should find ourselves the natural enemy of any country or group of countries which seeks by power to dominate Western Europe. That must always be so. However great the world organisation, the new League of Nations, may become, however powerful the force it will possess, there will always be anxiety about what is happening four flying minutes away.
It is that consideration which, to my mind, we are neglecting. We are not taking sufficient account of the rights, interests and independence of the smaller Powers of Western Europe. I know that it may be necessary in war-time, especially in the fifth year of a long and deadly war, to exert pressure on neutral and small Powers which we should never dream of exerting in normal times, and about which we should feel horrified if someone else exercised it themselves. We may have had to act in regard to neutrals in a way which, whatever may be the immediate advantage gained, may in the end cause us feelings of regret. I only hope—and I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees—that when the war crisis is over and we have a new peace conference, a new peace congress, we shall do everything in our power to exercise the influence which we have achieved, to see that the small Powers, the weak Powers, are taken into consultation and treated with such deference and respect as will do something to efface the impression left by the rather highhanded methods which we have used in the last few months.
To return to our own region, to our own frontier. I cannot fully explain either to myself or to others the true nature of the policy adopted by His Majesty's Govern- 790 ment towards France. I hope that in this Debate Members of all parties and from all benches in the Committee will take occasion to impress upon the Government that public opinion is indeed confused and somewhat distressed by the negative attitude now being adopted by His Majesty's Government towards the French. The British public has an amazingly keen, quick and true instinct in foreign affairs. I think that in this French question their confusion has been caused by the fact that two instincts have been brought into play. The first instinct is a political one, an instinctive feeling that a weak or unfriendly France would be a danger to the security of this island. The second instinct is a more human feeling, a feeling which I am sure every Member shares, that when you have been fighting with a man at your side and he has been knocked out and rendered almost unconscious, and when you turn round and see he has recovered and is fighting again as well as and even better than before, your natural instinct is to cheer him, to be delighted, to welcome him.
It seems to me and to many Frenchmen that the United States Government, with His Majesty's Government in their train, instead of helping the French and welcoming them, lose no opportunity of administering any snub which ingenuity can devise and ill-manners perpetrate. I hope that my right hon. Friend will go further than the negative and even ungracious statement made on this subject by the Prime Minister. After all, we treat the French as full Allies in Italy; they are fighting for us and with us. In the battle line they have complete equality of status, even a preference, but the moment we get on to the diplomatic field we ignore them and snub them. It is most unwise, most weak and most ill-informed of the United States Government to refuse to accord any special recognition to the National Committee or provisional government. I am convinced that this is a grave error of policy. It is not only inexpedient, it is not only unfair but it may expose us to an absurd situation.
I expect every moment to open my paper and read that the Soviet Government have recognised the De Gaulle Committee as the Provisional Government of France. We will come in late, ungracious, ungenerous, and unthanked, creeping in at the last moment and giving no recognition of the deep feeling of respect and 791 admiration that we have for what the National Committee has been able to do. We refuse to recognise them. There may be reasons for this which are not within our control. But we go much further than that. We refuse to let them communicate at a moment of immense urgency with their Government in Algiers. We refuse to allow them to attend the European Council; this appears to be grotesque. Here is an allied body discussing the future of Europe and France is not to be there. This is grotesque. It is a discourtesy such as one would hardly adopt towards a neutral and certainly not to an Ally which has recovered herself and regained her repute among the nations of the world.
I know that it is said—and I also know that my right hon. Friend will be the last to assert it himself—that the objections to treating the National Committee in a different way come not from here but from Washington. I find it difficult to believe that. I feel to-day, as I have always felt, that if you have a reasonable, sensible and just proposition to put forward you always find that, in the end, the United States people and Government will agree. It is lamentable when one considers that long 150 years tradition of intimate affection which has existed between France and the United States, that, owing to some curious prejudice on the part of the State Department, that great tradition is being seriously endangered. I only trust that when my right hon. Friend has heard what other Members have to say—and I am sure that Members of all parties feel as deeply as I do upon it—that he will realise that there is wide perturbation on this subject and that he will revive and restate those ancient principles of British policy which, if I may quote a phrase of the Prime Minister's, have beenhanded down to us by the ancient architects of our magnitude and renown.These things are our special regional responsibility, and not that of the United States. We are pledged to take a special interest in these matters in the House of Commons, and we hope and pray that, just as we welcome at the Front the cooperation of the French soldiers, so we will, in the councils of Europe and elsewhere, welcome the presence of France as an equal, an Ally and a friend.
§ Mr. Cary (Eccles)
I do not wish to inflict upon the Committee some of the smooth and easy phrases which could be said in praise of the important speech which opened this Debate, but I would like to say this of the Prime Minister: the whole nation has admired the way he has inspired, directed and presided over the conference of Empire Prime Ministers. The good example he set may will count as a new model, in the endless adventure of leadership and good government. The Prime Minister, at the conclusion of his speech, dealt with some of the broader hopes for the future; if my right hon. Friend has anything to do with post-war consultations between the nations, in the same way as he has presided over the consultations of the British Commonwealth, perhaps the future of a new, international supervising authority will be launched in the happiest circumstances.
I feel that many Members of the Committee were slightly troubled in mind on Thursday morning last when there appeared, or rather re-appeared, in the headlines of the newspapers, the term "League of Nations." At the beginning of this Parliament, the League of Nations Union had more vice-presidents per square inch on the Floor of the House of Commons than there are parsons to the square vote in the constituency of the distinguished Burgesses for Oxford University. I should say that the two things which created most suspicion among the countries in the last 20 years have been the League of Nations and gold. Gold was dealt with in a recent Debate, which showed clearly that little can be expected from that glittering, decorative, ornamental but quite useless metal, in rebuilding the world. Perhaps it is not of the substance which inspires good manners or wise electioneering among mankind. I say to Members of the Committee that it would be infinitely better for the future, if the old League of Nations were left undisturbed in its buried partnership with gold.
In seeking a new prospectus, I do not think new capital or enthusiasm is likely to be attracted by using the title of the old firm, "League of Nations." The sort of body we want in the future is one that will have the power this time to enforce decisions. Therein is the touchstone of its future. If we ignore that point we shall get into great difficulties. If there 793 are great arguments between the House of Commons and our Service Departments through the Committee of Imperial Defence or between the Service Departments of important nations arguing as to the sovereignty of their Services, then there will be what I would call a paper authority, good at welfare, but without power of enforcing decisions. In those circumstances we should only return at the end of the war to the tragedy that we saw at Geneva before it broke out. Let us never forget that if some nations allow again their destinies to be taken over by sham statesmen like Mussolini and Hitler, or by the worst type of nouveau riche like Ribbentrop, and those nations are admitted to membership of a new international Power, in my opinion a third world war is certain in the future.
Field-Marshal Smuts has reminded us that if we attempt to proceed by a process of over-simplification and falsification, we shall see even worse dangers, troubles and tragedies than we have known in the past. If I may venture, without impertinence from these benches, to criticise so great a man as Field-Marshal Smuts, I would say that I think he has misled opinion, in perhaps one of the most important speeches he has made in his life. He was reported as saying some time ago, within the precincts of this building:France has gone, and will be gone in our day, and perhaps for many a day;and, in reference to Germany:Germany will be written off the slate in Europe for long, long years.Surely, the true lesson of history is the resilience of nations. I think we may be greatly surprised after the end of the war, to see the rapid recovery which the French people—and the German people if they are free—will make in an effort to rebuild the world again. If that be so, and if they are resilient, Great Britain, France and a reformed, reorganised, free and democratic Germany, may be taking their part in a wide, comprehensive federation of States in the rebuilding of the world as we would like it to be. If their total populations, roughly 165,000,000, with their immense resources and their great ports, like the Pool of London, Hamburg and Le Havre, located so close together on one part of the surface of the globe, could co-operate, indeed the prospect for the world would then be bright.
794 If I could express a wish for the future, in fulfilment of British foreign policy, I should like to see most, first that our old ties of friendship and understanding with France were restored in full. In listening to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) I was a little confused by his references to our neglect of the French National Committee. I thought he was making a charge against the authorities in Washington, but at one moment he seemed to turn from Washington and to direct his argument to the Foreign Secretary here. I hope that the neglect has been in Washington; I have yet to be persuaded in the course of the Debate that the neglect rests entirely upon the shoulders of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. With the restoration of our old position with France I should like to see, secondly, the coming into existence of a new federation of German States, taking their full share in the stability and peace of Europe. Our approach to those two most desirable objectives does not begin in some obscure European capital, but begins in the assistance which Members of the Committee can give to the Government in framing a realistic foreign policy.
In my opinion, a House of Commons of the future, deeply divided on issues of foreign policy, would be a House of Commons which had already lost the peace. If the House is to retain some of the functional power which has accrued to it in war-time—the Select Committee on National Expenditure is a good example—then new methods and ways must be found of keeping Members better informed in regard to the course of foreign affairs, and to prevent political parties from splitting apart on the main lines of policy. May I put a suggestion before the Committee? I have tried to choose my words with care. It might be desirable for hon. and right hon. Members to impose upon themselves a self-denying ordinance, bringing to an end all unofficial party foreign affairs committees and setting up in their places one official, single, all-party Foreign Affairs Committee.
§ Mr. Cary
Perhaps, in an honorary capacity. Such a committee as I have in mind would receive evidence from all persons wishing to bring to the notice of Members generally facts and figures in foreign relationships, issue printed reports of a special or general character and, if the Committee will forgive me putting it in these words, acting at all times as the chief custodian of Parliamentary responsibility in checking and advising the Executive.
In addition to the work of this powerful committee it would also be the duty of the Executive to issue, at suitable intervals, printed statements on the course of foreign affairs and the effect of British foreign policy in relation to them. Such statements from the Government would form the basis of all future foreign affairs Debates. My imagination has not taken me into that world of possibilities of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament—particularly for occasions of acute crises in foreign relationships.
This war has imposed upon us all an irksome political discipline. But I venture to suggest that the tolerance we have been wise enough to show to one another has enhanced the reputation of Parliament, and made in a family sense new friendships and understandings across the lines of political parties. Yet our native talent for political controversy and energetic political thinking has not suffered, and indeed may have been improved by being freed from some of the stale arguments and ways of the 19th century. I feel that the times in which we live, and will come to live at the end of this war, will demand the competent discharge of duties rather than the assertion of rights. An immense responsibility will rest upon the Members of this Committee. I should dread facing the future if we were to return to the form of Foreign Affairs Debates which used to take place in this House of Commons before the war. I hope that the energy and attention which the House of Commons gives to the future of, foreign policy and any other subject in which it may be allowed to do so will go forward on a basis of party consultation and coalition, I think that is absolutely vital. The British people, the electorate, have a strange intuition about foreign policy and foreign affairs. I feel perfect- 796 ly certain that my electors do not want me to return to my constituency to engage in what I might call trying to pick to pieces the works of the Foreign Affairs watch. They want me to go down to my constituency and tell them that the time is right. I want to keep my eye on the time; I do not want to go to meeting after meeting upstairs or on the Floor to listen to the individual sections of foreign policy, and to hear the actions of foreign countries picked to pieces, and made the subject of party capital. That is not the way to the future. Let us avoid returning to that form of Parliamenetary life.
I have spoken long enough. There are many other things on which I should have liked to have said a few words. There is the whole question of the relationship between home and foreign policy. There is the question of the restoration of the prestige of the Foreign Office, and the strengthening of the office of the Foreign Secretary, in relation to the head of the Government—a condition which did not exist before this war. There is the important question of the conversion of the Enemy Department of the Ministry of Economic Warfare into a permanent economic intelligence service for the Foreign Office. Lastly, there is the reform of the Foreign Service. It is the instrument that has to execute the policies decided by this Committee. I look upon Missions abroad as equal in importance to the future Debates which must take place in the House of Commons. Our foreign policy may be everything that is desired to satisfy national honour and security; we may have in our service men and women of the highest talent to execute that policy, but if Missions abroad are badly served from the centre, badly housed, ill-informed and understaffed, with few persons caring for the higher motives which must surround the task of representing a great nation overseas, then our foreign policy must begin its descent to failure, sometimes to failure which will bring not discomfort, not distress, but perhaps acute misery to hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of people.
All these things will have to be threshed in the months and years to come. Not a Member of this Committee would deny to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, their prayers for the successful outcome of the work of his Department An unforgettable task is not 797 the surest guide in an unpredictable future. This much is, certain; the question of our power to put anything back exactly as it was before 1933 does not arise, and in the alternative, our chances of framing a foreign policy likely to please all our friends is equally remote. Some members of the Committee might have seen that splendid play "St. Helena" which was produced at the Old Vic some ten years ago, in which that fine actor Mr. Kenneth Kent played the part of Napoleon. The last part of the first Act of that play was devoted to illustrating the disdain with which Napoleon regarded Admiral Cockburn, not so much in his capacity of governor of the island but because he represented that great Service, the British Navy, which had done most at that time to bring about the downfall of the Grand Armies of France. Napoleon hated the sea; so too does Adolf Hitler. I implore Members of the Committee in the future not to allow the first insurance of a realistic foreign policy to go out of the hands of the nation. That first insurance of a realistic foreign policy is British sea power, and the greatest disservice which Members of this Committee could do to the world, would be to allow that first strength of the British people to be filched away by some supervising international authority which knows too much about paper resolutions and crying afterwards, and too little about battle stations, hitting first and the true interests of the British race.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
Among many contentious subjects, the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Cary) has revived the question of a Foreign Affairs Committee of both Houses. I do not think that that suggestion will commend itself generally to Parliament. It would, I think, be the first step in taking away that control of the British people over foreign affairs which he mentioned. It is not a system that has worked well in countries where it exists. It would derogate from the responsibility of Ministers to this House, and it would, I think, do away with the great usefulness of those committees set up by Private Members on their own initiative. Much of what is done in foreign affairs is done in the first place by someone who has a bee in his bonnet and converts others to his views. I hope that these committees will flourish in the House. But the hon. Member had a good purpose in view. He wanted to see greater 798 unity in foreign policy in this country. That is a need which no one can gainsay.
As I am the first speaker from the Labour benches to-day may I draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that we in the Labour Party have recently made our contribution to that subject? The National Executive of the Labour Party has issued a statement on foreign policy which will, I think, in many parts commend itself to the House generally. We should not expect our opponents to agree with our argument about the necessity of Socialism for world peace but they will welcome the forthright statement that in order to secure the reign of law you must have the backing of force. That is said as categorically as it can be, and I hope it will be regarded as our contribution towards securing unity in foreign policy in the troublous times which lie ahead.
It is a great inspiration to a young Member like myself to listen to a speech such as the Prime Minister made to-day. I am forced to wonder at the Providence which has always matched the hour with the man in British history. In the course of that remarkable speech he took the liberty, which may well be excused on Empire Day, of describing the British Commonwealth as the British Empire. He went on to express a wish for the fraternal association of the British Empire and the United States. As it may be that the Prime Minister does not read the "Daily Herald" so often as perhaps he ought, may I draw the attention of the Committee to an article by Mr. Sumner Welles in the "Daily Herald" this morning? Speaking with all the authority of a former American Under-Secretary of State, he says:I think there can be no question in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the United States that the continuing influence of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the world of the post-war period is essential to the basic interests of the United States.There is no doubt that that is so, and we can, without any disloyalty to the greater ideal of world unity, be loyal members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There is no contradiction between the two ideals. Naturally what the Prime Minister said about Italy was of great interest to me and I hope the Committee will permit me to express my gratification. I have spoken on this subject before, and I do not propose to do so to-day; but I would like to express 799 my deep thanks for those wise and moving words that the Prime Minister used.
I want to say a few words about a subject which was touched upon only lightly in the Prime Minister's great speech: that is, the terms which will be granted to Germany when her forces are finally and irretrievably defeated. That is a subject which has been recently considered by the European Advisory Commission, and it may not be much longer before it becomes a matter of topicality. I suppose we are all resolved that, whatever mistakes we make at the end of this war, we shall avoid the mistakes we made at the end of the last war: if we are to make mistakes at all, let them at least have the merit of originality. One mistake which we made at the end of the last war was that, after having beaten the German forces to their knees and forced them to sue unconditionally for terms, we did not have on the Armistice terms the signatures of Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Instead, the terms were signed by a Centre Party leader, Erzberger, in the name of a Socialist Chancellor, Ebert. That meant that the German Army was able to pretend that it bad never been beaten in the field, and it gave the Weimar Republic a damnosa haereditas from which it never recovered. We thought we had the signature of a good German on the document; but we do not want the signatures of good Germans: we want the signatures of people who stand for something in Germany. It is important that, at the end of this war, we shall have committed to acceptance of unconditional surrender representatives of the German armed forces, of the German bureaucracy, and of the other elements which have formed the framework of the German State.
§ Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
Does not my hon. Friend think that it would be a very good thing, if the man is still alive, to have the signature of Adolf Hitler, and those of others who were mainly responsible for the outbreak of the war?
§ Mr. Thomas
I doubt very much whether Hitler's signature would be any good on any document. If Goering is still alive at the time, I think that his signature would be well worth having, as he probably stands for more in Germany than Hitler does himself. We cannot say 800 who will be alive; it is dangerous to mention names. When the hand of the assassin and the suicide have done their work we do not know who will be left. When our armies triumph, we may find Germany in such a state of complete disintegration that no one there can sign any document. There may be a period during which we shall have to take over the control of Germany ourselves. But we are fighting against the most highly disciplined country in the world, and I shall be surprised if, after a period, these elements in Germany do not raise their heads again.
As I have said, it is dangerous to mention names; but a few names may be the best indication of what I mean. If Rommel is still alive, and is still regarded as the darling of the nation—as he was recently called by the German wireless—his signature might be desirable on the document. There is every reason why he should not be left to preach the legend of another stab in the back by Jews and Socialists and others. Another man whose signature might be obtained is Dr. Meissner, who, it is well to remember, has been Secretary of State in Germany from 1920 onwards. He has been pursuing the same policy, whether his master was the Weimar Republic or the Nazis. Then there is Dr. Gauss, of the German Foreign Office, who has been at his post for a similarly long period. Hitler and others get the limelight, but these men are equally important. There are other people who have been put into cold storage for a time, it may be with the idea of bringing them out when the moment arrives. I refer to such men as Dr. Schacht and Von Neurath. Their names ought to be on the document. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will be a long list."] I see no objection to having a long list of names on the document.
I would like to ask for information about another aspect of the terms to be granted to Germany. When the Foreign Secretary replies, I would like him to say what measures he proposes, so that France and Poland may be associated with the terms to Germany. Those two countries have a special interest in this matter. It is most necessary that they should be assured that no future aggression comes to them from that quarter. The Prime Minister has paid a just and moving tribute to the work they are doing 801 on the Italian front and the whole Committee will echo that tribute. They should be taken into consultation on these terms. Let me raise a few points that concern France in particular. The first is the large holding in French firms that has been acquired by German firms in the course of the war. In some cases these holdings were confiscated by the Germans for non-collaboration, and given to such firms as the Hermann Goering Werke and the I.G. Farbenindustrie. In other cases, German firms have themselves acquired these holdings, with the help of a very favourable rate between the mark and the franc.
In these cases, if the matter is left for settlement after the war, the Germans, having paid francs for some of these holdings, would be able to set up a claim for compensation. The matter should be dealt with in the Armistice terms. I submit that these holdings, acquired by Germany in the course of the war, should be handed over to a body of trustees representing the French people as a whole. It would be undesirable to give them to a body of sequestrators, who would try to find the original holders, the greater part of whom have been paid in francs already. The procedure I have suggested is desired very strongly by the Resistance Movement in France, and by the French authorities in Africa, and it is by the French people as a whole that these holdings were really paid for. The French people are being compelled to pay very large exactions to maintain the German Army of occupation, and indirectly this is the means by which the Germans have acquired their holdings.
There is one other related matter about which I would like to say a few words. I would be very grateful if the Foreign Secretary would inform us about the present state of negotiations for the revision of the agreement made between General Mark Clark and Admiral Darlan, on 22nd November, 1942. There have been protracted negotiations on this subject. The agreement had many conditions which were inevitable at the time but which are no longer applicable when the French are fighting so gallantly at our side in Italy. Some of them resemble the terms that a victorious power would impose on a defeated nation. When the Giraud regime was set up, negotiations were started for a revision, and further negotiations were set on foot when the 802 French Committee of National Liberation came into being. Negotiations were actually begun in November last, when the British and American Governments accepted the view that the agreement was out of date in the changed circumstances, but they were broken off in January, and I do not think they have been resumed. My suspicion is that they were broken off owing to the question whether the French Committee should be recognised as a Government or not.
I do not wish to enter into that question, which has been dealt with so sympathetically by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), but I would like to interpose a belief, from my own contacts, that on the French side there is an understanding of the British Government's position in this matter. M. Massigli, for example, in a recent speech in Algiers, explained that, although the British Government had not been able to grant the French Committee the status of a Provisional Government, they had accorded it the prerogatives of a Government, and, in particular, he mentioned that the French Government were allowed to recruit soldiers on British soil for their own Forces, which, after all, is one of the greatest privileges of a Government. So the matter seems to me to be not quite so bad as the hon. Member for West Leicester made out. Although we do not call the French Committee a Government, we do give it many of the prerogatives of a Government.
The Prime Minister dealt, at the end of his speech, with the future organisation of the world. He dealt with it briefly, and I shall deal with it even more briefly, but there is one thing which it is desirable to say. In my opinion, that world unity for which we are hungering will not come about by paper theorising. A great deal of harm can be done by beautiful paper constitutions, for which there is no backing in reality. Any world unity must be founded on the interests of the countries concerned, and I think it will come out of existing institutions. We have, in the course of the war, achieved a great amount of unity already in the United Nations. Many of my hon. Friends are very keen, as I am, to see an international police force, but what many forget is that we have already an international force in existence. There are in the British Forces, Belgians, French, Czech, Dutch, and Polish soldiers, serving with ours, 803 under the same command. There is in existence a real international force, and it would be a tragedy if, after the war, all that were split up into its component parts. If we are to achieve world unity, it will be through that measure of unity which we now possess.
The leasing of bases is another fruitful idea developed in the course of the war, and it is one that may be of great value in the world of the future. Possibly, the idea of lend-lease is another that will help to bring about unity. On the economic side, I am sure that the sterling area of pre-war days is something that will also help to bring about that close association of the nations of Western Europe with ourselves that is so much desired in so many quarters.
The question of frontiers is very important, and they will have to be settled. I believe Mr. Cordell Hull has said there are about 30 waiting for settlement and they are probably all as potentially dangerous as the Polish Eastern frontier. But our great task, as I see it, is not simply to demark new frontiers, but to make frontiers less important than in the past; we can do that by economic arrangements, such as the sterling area I have mentioned, and if we pursue these questions along these lines, they will probably cease to trouble us to the extent they have done in the past. We are moving into a period when great decisions will have to be taken; it is one of the most thrilling periods in the history of the world in which one could have chosen to live. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary may congratulate themselves that they have the responsibility of handling great affairs in such times; I think we should also congratulate ourselves that such people are here to make the decisions in our name.
§ Lord Dunglass (Lanark)
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) will forgive me if I give what I hope will be an orderly place to his point in my argument and refer to some of the questions he has raised about the future world organisation for the maintenance of peace. I would like, however, first to congratulate the Government on the outcome of the Dominions Conference. The Prime Minister has come here from a most notable meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers, has come fresh from it and has been able to tell us that they have achieved what 804 I think is a very impressive unanimity—a unanimity which serves the double purpose of confounding our enemies in the war and heartening our friends, and which shows us to-day that the British Empire is capable of being a potent and benevolent influence in world affairs in the future.
The statement which was issued about agreement on principles which should underlie and govern international and foreign affairs after the war was of deep significance, because, if the Empire countries and ourselves are agreed upon those principles, then it implies two things. One, from the point of view of security, is that we can rely upon the active cooperation of the Dominion countries in foreign affairs in fair weather and in foul after the war; and—let us make no mistake about it—there are going to be many periods of both, and we shall need their co-operation. The other is on the political level: for, such is the way of the world, if we claim influence with America and Russia, then we must have a rough equality of power, and, without the backing of the Empire countries for our foreign policy, that power would fall to pieces. Now, however, we can talk on equal terms.
I wish to refer to a point raised by the Prime Minister when he talked about political developments in Greece and Yugoslavia. Lately, observing things, as I have had to do, from a distance, it has given me great concern to see, in those areas in the Balkans and Mediterranean which have always been rich in political adventurers, how certain figures are written up by the Press, how they bloom for a short time and how, according to their colour of red, pink or blue, they attract the support of different factions in this country. This is a matter of great concern, and it is not a basis on which one can run one's foreign policy. It is quite impossible to do that. It seems to me that there are only two bases on which the Government in this country can deal with countries like Yugoslavia and Greece. First, there are the Governments with which we have had contact, political contact, since the beginning of the war, and we must preserve them and help those Governments to be true representatives of their own countries. The second thing is that there are certain military organisations who are, at the moment, harassing 805 the Germans. It is our clear duty, and, indeed, it is to our selfish interest, to do all we can to assist them. Sometimes, I am bound to say, I wonder where people collect their information about these curious figures who rise up in these countries. I sometimes think that the Foreign Secretary must wish that he had more information than he has. Certainly, for myself, I am willing to allow the Government to run their foreign policy—which they are doing with some success.
Foreign policy, as the Prime Minister pointed out, must be conditioned by military requirements, but the time is coming, we hope soon, when foreign policy will have to stand on its own legs, and if those legs are to be sound, then a great deal will depend upon a proper reading of the lessons of history and upon a comparative and approximately accurate assessment of political tendencies, particularly on the Continent of Europe. For the last four years I have had very little to do but study these problems, and I cannot say that the lessons of history are particularly encouraging. A study of the nature and history of man, for instance, would give very little ground for the assumption that he had either the ability or the wish to live at peace, but, of course, we must not carry that thesis too far, because it leads to a policy of despair, though to ignore it would be a policy of folly. I think it was the Prime Minister who, in this House earlier in this war, reminded us that Europe alone in these last few years had produced at least two men who would bear favourable comparison with any of the barbarians of the past. What is more sinister to me is that these people attract to their standards other people who are willing to be associated with them in their atrocities. That is a deplorable thing in this so-called twentieth century of civilisation, but it is a thing of which we must take account if we are to be realists. We must realise, I think, that there is no real promise of security in human nature itself.
May I now turn from man the individual to man as organised in society, and to his attempts to live at peace and to organise peace among nations? Such as they are, they are to his credit. But now, we are thrown back upon the theory that, if peace is to be won and achieved, it can only be done if it is backed by power. That may be so, but let us be frank and admit that it is an experiment. 806 It is true, aeroplanes and guns and tanks may be the foundation for the maintenance of peace, but they are quite certainly the indispensible raw materials for war, and I think we must realise that, during the experimental period, the balance between peace and war will be precarious and the transition from one to another easy and may be abrupt.
Then there are the attempts of countries to live with one another from day to day and in the ordinary foreign relations, and I would like to say -a word about that. There used to be a time when it seemed that the word of a nation, as given to another in treaties, conformed to some moral standard and was an absolute measure by which the intentions of one country to another might be gauged. What is the position now? The last 30 years have been more prolific in treaties and agreements than any other period in history, but the Committee will recollect that the concern of the majority of Governments in that time was much more with finding loopholes in the letter of the agreement than in observing the spirit of it. For myself, I put this collapse in moral values and moral standards in the world at the very foundation of the feeling of lack of confidence and insecurity in Europe to-day, far more so than this frontier or that, far more so than the possession of economic resources for defence. The unhappy thing is that, when the fundamental values are debased, it takes time for them to be restored, and that is why it is absolutely vital that the great Allies should be honest in their public relations with each other and in their relations with smaller countries dependent on them.
My last item is the condition of Europe as it will emerge after the defeat of Hitler. Without going into any details it is perfectly clear that it is going to be a cauldron of suspicion, civil war and revolt. There is no security there. Hon. Members may think that I have been too much concerned to prove this state of insecurity, and there is, of course, a brighter side, but my concern leads to two conclusions. First of all, there is no foundation, in morals or in facts, upon which you can surely build a collective peace system on the model of the League of Nations at the present time. That must be a slow organic process, and the best that you can hope for at present is to maintain order by military supervision.
807 There simply is not, at the moment, the necessary minimum of confidence on which a big international organisation could be built. Unless this basic insecurity is realised, and unless its implications are accepted, by the people of this country, it is my personal fear that our energies will be diverted and our sentiments harnessed to planning an international authority so that a Government in the post-war world will only get the most grudging consent for the defence plan which is vital to our security. I want the Government to tell the people that, if that were to happen, we shall be unable to shift the burden of our own defence on to the shoulders of others—and that a security plan must have first priority on important man-power and money and materials and all our resources. My anxieties are not exactly without reason. I have come fresh from going round the country lately and talking at meetings on the new security problems raised by the increased technical development in air power, and I have found that, particularly among the younger people who have stayed at home, and there are many of them in the mining areas and in agriculture, there is little realisation of the effort that will be required of the country if it is to maintain itself in security. Only the other day I was talking over these problems, and some of the new problems which the war has brought about, with a young man, who said, "That will be all right; we have no need to worry about that; it will be looked after for us by an international Air Force." When I questioned the wisdom of that he argued with me not on the basis that I was half-witted, which I could have understood and appreciated, but as though I had been guilty of some disloyalty.
I want to say a word about the question of divided loyalty as between the claims of an international world authority and the interests of one's own country. It is a false dilemma; I do not believe it exists. The Foreign Secretary will understand, when I use the argument which I am going to use, that it is quite impersonal. I take his position and the position of his office. The Foreign Secretary in war-time, in his foreign policy, has to conform to military requirements, but in peace-time, it is my strong conviction 808 that, subject to a code of international morality, his business is so to arrange the foreign relations on the highest political level that he obtains the maximum degree of security for his own country. He is British Foreign Secretary first; whatever other position he may hold in world councils is a secondary affair. There is this House of Commons. We have a world contact which gives us world responsibility, but if there is any conflict between the claims of a world authority and the interests of our own country, I do not need to ask where our duty lies. There is no option; of course, we represent our own people. It is important that we here in this House of Commons should make this clear, because the people will follow us, and unless we do so, we shall have a revival of that anaemic internationalism which we knew between the wars and to which I fondly hope that Russia has now given the coup de grace. We shall have a revival of the mentality of the peace ballot and we shall have the resurrection of those people who never tire of telling us that every country was in the right except our own.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
Does the hon. Member consider that the statement of the Prime Minister about the setting-up of a world authority, armed with power to preserve the peace of the world, is a form of anaemic internationalism?
§ Lord Dunglass
I want to make clear that we are in an experimental stage. I think that the hon. Member will agree that this whole conception of international organisation backed with power is new. It is experimental. We have no guarantee whatever that it will succeed; we have no guarantee even that the three countries who have the power at their disposal will be able to live at peace with each other. We hope so, but we do not know. Meanwhile, I am pleading for a security plan for ourselves which will enable us to meet every situation whether this international organisation for peace fails or succeeds.
I want to say a word about the plan raised particularly by the hon. Member for Keighley. The information that I have given, I think constitutionalists will agree with me, is true of every country, every foreign office and every legislative assembly, and that only on the basis of 809 home-based security and a feeling of confidence can you get the necessary detached and disinterested to play an impartial part in a wider world organisation. Home-based security must come first. I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Keighley about a world organisation and about a security plan for this country. In the last Debate upon Empire affairs almost every hon. Member concentrated on the need for a security plan. I was glad to see it. It is half-way to creating a public opinion which is willing to defend itself, and that is half-way to security. I do not think that it is possible or desirable to produce a detailed security defence plan at the present moment, and I only express the hope that the Government have been able to give the necessary data to the military planning authorities on which they may get their defence plan ready.
I want to look at some of the governing elements which will help us to decide the shape and the scope of it. It has been pointed out that a great Power, if it wishes to protect its people and its possessions, must command certain assets. There is man-power, raw material, industrial capacity, and last—and the one with which I particularly want to deal—there is depth in defence in terms of modern air power. The cases of America and Russia are instructive in this connection. The last of these requirements is causing them much concern; it is driving each of them into a policy of expansion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has just come in, and I think he raised this point in a previous Debate. They are both going in for a policy of expansion. Their methods are different but their goal is the same, and it is, to obtain depth in defence. I do not think that I need give a detailed example. Russia has already annexed the Baltic States; she asks for a great slice of Poland; Rumania has made a contribution; she will have military agreements with Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia; and she may make further demands on Finland. I am not criticising, but stating the facts. Here is a policy of expansion and that is the reason for it. Similarly, America has taken over a portion of Greenland. She has bases in the West Indies. She has declared that the West coast of Africa is essential for her security, and there are her oil interests in Arabia. 810 The only question is: how far will she go? The tendency is absolutely clear.
What of ourselves? For ourselves there are two immediate aspects of this question. There are two areas where, as the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) put it in a previous Debate, we might be "Pearl-Harboured" in a night; one our bases in the Eastern Mediterranean and the other in this Island. There are the immediate problems in the Mediterranean European orbit. The other is the political problem I mentioned earlier which the Prime Ministers' Conference has gone a long way to solve, namely, that if we are to exercise equal influence with America and Russia we must have a rough equality of power. In America and Russia, certain of the requirements I have mentioned, man-power, industrial capacity and raw material, are self-sufficing. Our two problems lie mostly in the realm of supplementing our man-power and of supplementing this deficiency in depth of defence in these two areas. We have certain reserves of strength. There is the Empire. We can count on that, but let us consider that the numbers even of this country and the Empire put together would not enable us to meet attack from a first-class European Power. There is this additional point that in modern war, with the technical developments repeatedly made, there may be a time lag between the mobilisation of the Empire for war which might be fatal to ourselves.
My conclusion is that we must supplement, if we can, our Empire power. An almost ideal solution would be if the Americans agreed to integrate their defence policy absolutely with our own. Again, I feel that we have been successful in our relations with the Americans and I feel pretty sure of their co-operation after the war, but it is the degree of their co-operation of which I am uncertain. They will probably wish to draw the line of their defence system inside a circle which we would consider would give the best defence for ourselves. Therefore, I come to the conclusion again, that even if we get American co-operation, we should supplement it by some regional security system in Western Europe. I have a strong preference, if there is to be some such regional system, that it should be cemented by specific military treaty.
I prefer that to federation, and for this reason. Europe, if it likes—and it would 811 be a good thing—can federate itself, and again the right hon. Member for Devonport the other day mentioned an economic federation. That would give Europe strength and cohesion but it would not give it enough to meet an emergency. I do not want to see this country take part in the organisation of a European federation for the reason that it would be too abrupt a departure in British foreign policy at the present time. I prefer, therefore, specific military agreements which aim at a closely unified defence scheme between this country and the countries facing us over the Channel and lining the shore of the North Sea. That seems to me to fit in as the logical development of our foreign policy, as we have run it since the beginning of this century, and to be in keeping with the development of our military policy. We have always tried with our limited land forces to combine them to the best advantage with our incomparable naval power, and now with our air power. The advantage of a regional plan of this kind with Norway and with Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France would be that it would enable us to assume commitments which we could undertake and fulfil.
These military agreements and treaties would have to give as well as gain advantages. They must be mutually agreed between these countries. For my purpose it is enough to consider the advantages at the moment which we in this country would gain. They would give us the necessary geographical depth in defence and the additional manpower which would be right on the spot to hold the fort until the arrival of the big battalions of the Empire and America.
The Foreign Secretary if he wished to be the architect for such a scheme would meet with great difficulties at the present time. He has to deal with exile Governments who have not the ultimate authority in their own country, and I would not ask him to do anything impossible. But if he can indicate at the end of the Debate the kind of political framework within which a military scheme could be laid down, I think it would be of assistance to us. Until lately I would have resisted any claim to a closer definition of our foreign policy. There is one over-riding reason now why we should have some closer definition of 812 our post-war policy. The objections to such a scheme of Western regional alliance in Europe bring up two objections. One is that it is a revival of power politics. All I can say is that power politics are ruling the world at the present time.
The other is much more serious, that it would run counter to the interests of Russia and would, eventually, lead to a clash between Russia and ourselves. I believe that is absolutely false reasoning. I believe we could achieve this regional Western European pact with Russia's approval, and that there would be nothing in it to which they could object. Two things are necessary in our dealings with Russia. The one is absolutely clear speaking upon moral issues when they arise and when we differ, and the other is to make absolutely clear to Russia, beyond doubt, where our vital interests lie in Europe. If they know where our vital interests lie then the Russians are realists enough not to run up against them, but, if they do not know, there might be danger of a clash.
I am grateful to the Government for giving us the opportunity of this Debate on foreign affairs. I hope there will be more and that we shall have a Debate upon our own organisation in this country which deals with foreign affairs at some time, but, in the meantime, I would like very much to congratulate, as I did at the beginning, the Prime Minister on the outcome of the Dominions Conference which puts the Empire behind our foreign policy. This is an immense help and of deep significance.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
In common with many of those who sit on these benches, I have listened to the speech from the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) with a great deal of misgiving, for reasons that I shall adumbrate later when I come to consider the formation of the machinery for post-war security. But before I come to that, there are other matters on which I wish to touch. I rise in this Debate with a great sense of responsibility. The subject matter of our foreign relations, both during the war and after the cessation of hostilities, is one of supreme importance. The time of our discussion is significant, being as it is on the eve of the opening of a new chapter in the struggle. Decisions taken by the Government now on foreign 813 policy may have an important bearing both on the character and length of the struggle, and on the stability of the peace which follows it. My sense of responsibility is increased by the fact that I speak not only for myself but, so far as I am able to reflect them, for the views of my party. My party yield to none in their faith in the British Commonwealth, which has so magnificently stood the test of these terrible years. Without any legal ties or binding Constitution, it has faced the common peril, with common ideals and common purpose, and its members have exhibited a loyalty to one another which is unsurpassed in the whole history of the world. Not only during, but after, the war we shall welcome any applications of friendly association which commend themselves to all sections of the Commonwealth, and we hope that the Commonwealth will be extended to include, as the Prime Minister said only the other day, the great Asiatic sub-continent of India and also the Colonies, in so far as they fit themselves for self-governing status.
But when we say that we shall welcome applications of friendly association, I want to make this one proviso. It is that this association shall be inclusive and not exclusive, that it shall permit of the closest relationship possible with our partners in the war, particularly with the great Republic of the United States and the great confederation of Republics the U.S.S.R., and also with the great Asiatic country of China, which, during this tremendously long-continued struggle, has shown the utmost fortitude, resource and determination. This must be extended still further to cover the other friends that we have throughout the world. This view, that it must be an inclusive and not an exclusive association, has been reinforced by the statements put out by the Prime Ministers and, in particular, by what was said by Field-Marshal Smuts in his speech at the end of last week. These were his words:But let there he nothing exclusive about it and let it not exclude close collaboration with Russia. Thus would arise a triple bulwark—i.e., including the United States of America—of the great Powers against aggression.Mr. Mackenzie King used these words:If at the end of hostilities the strength and unity of the Commonwealth are to be maintained, these things will be achieved not by policies which are exclusive, but by policies which can be shared with other nations.814 With these sentiments my party is in full agreement. This, indeed, must be so, because while it would be possible for the United States to take a somewhat isolationist view—the United States of America stretches from one great ocean to another—and while it might be possible for Russia to take an exclusive view—it is a colossus which stretches across two Continents—the British Commonwealth and Empire extend to every one of the Seven Seas and it has territories in five out of the six great Continents of the world. Therefore, only in association with the rest of the world can we hope to obtain peace and security for ourselves and our Colonies. We cannot isolate ourselves from world war because our interests are so closely bound up with those of the world that we must be part and parcel of its fortunes.
I come, in the next place, to the question of the resurrection of Europe. First, during the war we have, if the adventure on which we are shortly to commence succeeds, a tremendous problem in the restoration of the life and freedom of the occupied countries as they become liberated from the yoke of the aggressor. As to this I would only say that we must refuse no sacrifice that will help to restore, at the earliest possible moment, the life and liberty of those peoples who have been up till now overrun. They have been bearing the most terrible privations, and they will require the utmost help and consideration. It is of supreme importance that we should so arrange the government of those countries, as they are freed, that they can obtain adequate material resources for their food, their clothing and their shelter, in so far as it is possible to give them, and we must be most careful that no financial considerations block that advance. Above all, we must not only restore their material prosperity, but, in so far as it has been impaired, we must restore their self-respect. I am sure that is of extreme importance.
When the war comes to an end Europe must not merely be restored; it must be placed on a sounder foundation than it ever had before. Europe is an integral unit which has never been realised since the days of the Roman Empire. It is one of the curses of the Nazi ideology that there is often a germ of truth in some of the ideas which they have most gravely prostituted. Such an idea was that of 815 a united Europe, and because Hitler has besmirched it with his horrible Gestapo methods that is no reason why we should not cleanse it from the mud flung over it and ennoble it as one of the great pillars of future civilisation. The integrity of Europe, translated into actual fact, may mean some derogation from absolute sovereignty, and that can only happen if the component States of Europe voluntarily accept it. But I believe that such acceptance is essential if we are not to see once again a Balkanised Europe in a worse form than before.
I am not visualising some fancy paper creation of a confederation of Europe, but some friendly arrangement for mutual sustenance and succour and, to this extent, I am quite prepared to go with the Noble Lord who spoke before me in welcoming regional associations which will help towards that end. Some of the countries in Europe will, I hope, bend towards the British Empire. Some may bend towards Russia. I hope, also, that we may have throughout Europe democratic Governments. I listened with care to what the Prime Minister said and I was glad to hear him say, of course, that we would not tolerate undemocratic Governments in the enemy countries. I think he went too far when he was dealing with the non-enemy countries. I can quite understand that it is not for the British Empire or the Government of this country to go crusading and tilting at all kinds of persons who may not fulfil our ideas of democracy, but that is not to say that we should in the future connive at the destruction of democratic Government as we did in the days before the war.
The next question I come to is, What part is Germany going to play in this reconstituted Europe? It is not necessary to subscribe to the exaggerated views, which I believe are belied by history, that Germany has been the aggressor all down the Christian era. That I believe to be absolutely false. It is not necessary, I say, to subscribe to that view to realise the grave crime, the most hideous probably in all history, that has been committed by the German rulers at the present time, for which the instigators must be punished. I do not think anyone with any sense wants to be easy or soft with the German rulers. They will have to be punished for their crime, and the German 816 people as a whole will have to suffer the consequences of steps taken in their name. The innocent as well as the guilty will suffer, the innocent probably more than the guilty; those who stood out even more than the others because, being more sensitive, they will feel the punishment greater. Perhaps the greatest punishment of all that will fall on the German people is the environment of hatred with which they will be surrounded after what has been done by them and in their name during this war.
Fear and hatred are both very natural human qualities. To some extent they may not be bad things, but fear and hatred are unwise counsellors and worse masters, and if we allow our reason to be clouded by fear or hatred we shall not take the course most suitable for ourselves. Before the war, not only throughout Europe as a whole but inside this country, fear of war played a very large part in bringing war about, and it was the purpose and the design of the Nazi and Fascist régimes to create that fear throughout Europe; just as the beasts of the field make a loud noise to terrorise and paralyse their future prey. Equally there may be a danger of allowing hatred to decide the issue. As I have said, I have no desire, and I do not think any sensible person has, to be soft with Germany, but the most important thing of all is to prevent a recurrence of this horrible outrage, and therefore Germany will have to be subject to external restraint for a considerable number of years after the war is over—what, in the case of a private individual, would be called preventive detention. That will have to go on until she has lived down the hatred which surrounds her at the present time. Precisely what form that will take will have to be worked out when the time comes.
Now with regard to reparations. When the reparations scheme was worked out at the end of the last war and the first figures were put out, I said to myself "Cela ne marchera pas"—"That will not work." I knew it would not work. I did not know what would happen but, in fact, those ridiculous reparations were the cause of a very large part of the financial disasters of Europe in the years that followed the war and we must have no repetition of that kind of thing. We must be very careful about this, too. If we 817 set Germany to do the work, if it is suggested for a moment that the other nations shall sit around supinely watching Germany do the work, this is what will happen. The German people, with all their faults, are an industrious, original, vigorous people and we shall have to be careful that they do not get control of all the means of production in their country, in which case they would fit themselves more for a repetition of the struggle than they have done before. Therefore, I find myself in very full agreement with the statement which appears in the Labour Party's manifesto with regard to the post-war settlement which says that, so far as reparations are concerned, they ought to be of a character which will work themselves out in five or six years. I think that is a very sound and sensible suggestion—instead of hanging a millstone round the necks of the German people, which was partly responsible for the European disasters that took place after the last war.
Now I come to the mechanism of security. I find myself in considerable agreement with the speech of the Prime Minister, with this proviso, that in my opinion—and I think it is the opinion of those who sit behind me—the old League of Nations could have been made to work. It did not work not because of the failure of its machinery but because of the failure of the men who ought to have been able to use it. There was a lack of courage in the nations, and I am afraid that was reflected in those who were governing this country at the time, and they failed to use the machinery and to give the lead which the world looked for in working this out. I was not thinking so much of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, because, to do him credit, there came a time when he realised that his colleagues were failing in their duty and he came out from the Government at the time.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I am most interested in the remarks of my right hon. Friend, but the reflection which was passing through my mind was that the trouble with the League was that our membership was weak, and the very great powers of co-operation needed were not there.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I am not denying the defects of the League, and I quite 818 appreciate the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made, that there was not a strong membership of the League. That is quite true. Nevertheless, I am still of the opinion that had there been sufficient courage, the action taken by the Duce could have been prevented by the existing powers of the League. However, that is all past history. I agree with the Prime Minister that we should have the League brought up to date. Let us have it with new powers, added strength, and then I hope we will secure a more universal if not a fully universal membership, and that at any rate the United States, Russia and China, will all be parties to it.
Now I am coming to the point made by the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark to which I take exception. He asked us to imagine a position in which the Foreign Secretary had two conflicting interests, one that of his own country and the other that of the world; how would he choose? He suggested that we should all say, "Throw the world over and consider the selfish interests of our own country." I do not think the real dilemma is correctly stated. I do not believe that the vital, wise interests of this country can ever conflict with the interests of the world as a whole. If this country, for its own apparent immediate, selfish ends, sets out upon a course which is contrary to the interests of the world as a whole, it is doomed to failure. It is only through the interests of the world, and through always putting those in the first place, that this country can be wisely directed in its own interests. Therefore, I disagree entirely with the conclusion which the Noble Lord reached; and I would go further. He said, "Let us have regional military commitments with some of the countries in Western Europe," and to those commitments he proposes to look for the salvation of the future. It was because we looked to those, and to those alone, that we failed at the outbreak of this war.
§ Lord Dunglass
I made it absolutely clear that this was to be supplementary to Dominion and American backing, both of which I resolutely counted upon.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I quite appreciate the point; the Noble Lord need not have interrupted, because I did not say anything different from that. What he did say was that we are not to think of the interests of the whole world, we are to subordinate those—
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I do not want to put it too strongly. He did pose the issue that the selfish interests of this country might conflict with those of the world; that we had to put our own selfish interest first; and that, if we had that backing, instead of putting our whole strength and weight on the world mechanism we should put it on this regional organisation of the western Powers in Europe, and that that would see us through. It would not. That is just what we had before and it failed, and it would fail again.
Now I want to come to the economic future. In the first place with regard to aviation, military aviation is quite clearly one of those things which must be supervised by the world States if we are to prevent a recurrence of this war. My own view is that we shall have to have something in the nature of an international inspectorate to see that countries do not surreptitiously build military aircraft. But that is not enough. Civil aviation, quite clearly, must also be recognised as part of a great international scheme. The party for which I speak is a Socialist Party, and we are Socialists because we believe that unless the State controls certain big activities, those big trusts will control the State. Now precisely what happens in what is commonly called the municipal position of the State applies to the world as a whole. Unless some international authority controls the great aircraft trunk routes, then the owners of those aircraft—whether a nation or private individuals—will tend to control the policy of the world. That is a danger to which we are fully alive. But that is not all. Great combines, cartels and all sorts of trade associations are spreading from one country to another, and they also will exercise powers over the lives of individuals and powers over the Governments of nations unless steps are taken to prevent it. We in the Labour Party are out to prevent that taking place.
Finally, we are determined that there shall be welfare for all. We have to start at home and in our own Colonies. We can no longer permit poverty and destitution to be rife in our midst. We are going to start at home and we hope that, through the organisation of the International Labour Office, we shall extend 820 those improvements that we make here and in our Colonies to the whole world. If we do that, I think we may use, slightly changed, the words spoken by the great Pitt, about the War against Napoleon, and say: "In the military, the political, and the economic spheres, the British Commonwealth has saved itself by its exertions and the world by its example."
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) would agree that the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) who preceded him was one of the most interesting speeches to which we have listened for some time. I shall be expressing the opinion of the whole Committee in welcoming the Noble Lord back restored in health, and we shall look forward to renewed contributions of the same calibre from him on foreign affairs. He referred to a question which has been in the minds of most of us, that any international set-up or co-operation in the future must have force behind it, and, as one distinguished Dominion statesman has said, it must have teeth. There is another side of this, however, to which I thought he would refer in his interesting discourse. One of the tragedies of international co-operation before the war was that there were different Governments in office in different countries of different complexions. One of the difficulties was that there were a Left Government in France and a Right Government in this country, or vice versa, and that was one of the problems in reaching political agreement on international arrangements. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary, with his unrivalled experience of Geneva, when he is listening to these Debates casts his mind back to the early days of the experiment of the League of Nations. He must often reflect that, in the end, you can only achieve that about which you can get agreement. You can have the finest leadership, you can go to Geneva with the right policy, but you are not going there as one Power but as one of 66 Powers, and if among the other 65 there are those who disagree with your policy, you can only try to get them to accept it by being persuasive and showing strong leadership. If you cannot get them to accept it by this means, and you wish to insist upon your policy, then the only way you can get it is to use the bayonet 821 —and that is of course unilateral action and not international co-operation.
I was interested in what the Noble Lord said about the future of the Foreign Office. During recent years a considerable change has taken place inside the Foreign Office, both as regards its functions and its handling of policy. In some of the great Cabinets of the last century foreign affairs were very much the responsibility of one man, the Foreign Minister. After the last war almost every Foreign Secretary was presented with what is called the pro-French thesis of Anglo-French co-operation involving staff talks in some form or another, and tried to get it through the Cabinet. The Foreign Secretary who got nearest to its expression was Sir Austen Chamberlain, with his Locarno Treaty. But now foreign affairs have become a question of Cabinet responsibility, and I sometimes think, when one hears a certain amount of criticism of the policy, confined to one man, that we ought to remember that foreign policy is to-day not the province of the Foreign Secretary alone but is, in effect, the responsibility of the whole War Cabinet. The hon. Member for Lanark also referred to the fact that the Foreign Office will have to take a greater interest in questions of economic policy. Some years ago there was some criticism that the Foreign Office was in danger of becoming a post office, as the Department of Overseas Trade and the Treasury extended their powers. I think we ought to pay a tribute to such men as Sir Victor Wellesley, who pioneered in the early days, and was responsible for setting up, in the Foreign Office, a Political Economic Department, which proved of tremendous help, and does to-day at the Ministry for Economic Warfare. More and more then it becomes axiomatic that the Foreign Secretary will have to collect around him, as it were, a bureau of experts to constitute, in a sense, almost a small foreign affairs cabinet, to deal not only with the tremendous issues on international finance, economics and armaments but also what the Prime Minister described to-day as questions of machinery for collective security.
The Prime Minister took us on a delightful tour throughout 33 United Nations today. I think he cleared the air somewhat with regard to Turkey and Yugoslavia, but I must confess that when he came to Spain, I got the impression that he was 822 addressing, if not the Consevative Conference, the "Diehards" of his own party. I must agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) inferred, that what the Prime Minister said about our tolerant attitude to General Franco is far from being new, although I would like to see it in HANSARD, because I am certain that this statement of policy will have to be carefully examined to see its full implications. Listening to the speech of the Prime Minister, I wondered how much of it was the Prime Minister and how much of it was the Foreign Secretary, or whether the speech was a hybrid. This is not only a Debate on foreign affairs; it is the first opportunity the Prime Minister has had of reporting upon the results achieved at the meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers. But before I come to that I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary a question with regard to the shooting of 47 Royal Air Force officers in a German prison camp. Last night the B.B.C. broadcast the information that the Air Ministry repudiated a story that had been published the same day by the "Daily Express," and I would like to ask whether that means that the Air Ministry have in their possession more authentic information than the Foreign Secretary has been able to give so far to the House. When the right hon. Gentleman replies to the Debate tomorrow I hope that if he has anything further to convey on this fresh statement we shall be told of it.
As I have just said, the Prime Minister was reporting to-day on the result of the Dominions Conference which he referred to as a "meeting of minds" or a concerting of plans for the final overthrow of Germany and Japan. I would like to add to the congratulations which have been extended to the Prime Minister, not only for having brought together this Conference—better late than never—but because the success of the Conference owes much to the influence and great personality of the right hon. Gentleman. I think the House of Commons would like to pay a tribute to him for that. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some information as to what happened. I would call it an inspiring defence of the status quo, including plans for international co-operation. Unless there is more we can be told later when all the Dominion Prime Ministers reach home, I would say that 823 many problems have been left to a future Imperial Conference after the war to decide. I am disappointed; I hoped that this question of improving the machinery for consultation would be dealt with by the Conference on this occasion. I read carefully the statements which have been made by the various Prime Ministers who have taken part and it seems to me that we are still prone to look at world events in blinkers. In fact, we are living in an age of large scale organisation and the influence of vast areas such as the Russian Empire and the American Continent, but from the beginning to the end of the Conference all the statements that were made followed on the same line as the Prime Minister's speech in the Mansion House, when he said he had not become His Majesty's first Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.
There is not one spark of new vision of Empire in any of the declarations made to the world as a result of this meeting. We need more than Kipling and an occasional conference if we are to find something solid to replace the old imperialism which has gone. Whether the House likes it or not, this new conception of a democratic Commonwealth—and on this occasion I am not referring in any way to the party led by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland)—will come. It will come because it is in tune with the 20th century and its ideas, and with the young people who are fighting this war. This new conception of Commonwealth, this more effective machinery for closer co-operation, this idea of concerted policy making between the members of the British Commonwealth, will come perhaps when Canada, or public opinion in Canada, realises that this idea is the counterpart of independence and not the old imperialism dressed up in some other Whitehall clothes. The Dominions must have a voice in the actual making and forming of foreign policy. Maybe the method is for the High Commissioners representing the Dominions to be made very High Commissioners, able to meet the Cabinet on a ministerial level on all questions of foreign, Dominion and Colonial affairs.
The question of security has been the keynote of this Debate and although I realise that a great deal of thought has been given to this matter I do not think 824 we have gone far enough. It may be that even with the addition of force behind international co-operation, it cannot be completely effective in the new world. I do not think that the British Empire could stand another Singapore misconception of defence. What does that mean? It means that in planning our Empire dispositions on security in future the Committee of Imperial Defence must be more than a body of Whitehall chiefs. What is called I believe the 10-year rule must not apply to industrial war potential. It means that the Committee of Imperial Defence must take into consideration the whole question of industrial strategy and the decentralisation of aircraft and armament production. Surely one of the lessons of Singapore is that if the British Commonwealth of Nations, or the British Empire, as the Prime Minister called it, is to continue to organise, as a unit, its own defence, it is no good starting off with concrete docks at Singapore or a number of tanks and warships and feeling that you are secure. On the Prime Minister's definition an aggressor, provided that he remains under the guise of neutrality, can make his preparations at any time and attack the British Empire at the weakest possible point. He gets three or four years' start.
Our problem in the Pacific was getting fighter aircraft on tramp steamers to try to give air cover to our troops. You cannot have any system of international co-operation unless you have decentralised your war potential so that you can have a nucleus of production available in each strategical area. It cost this country months, almost years, before we could finally come to close grips with the main enemy. Therefore if you are going to co-operate as a Commonwealth unit in a larger system of world councils, the first and the basic thing that you have to do—and the Dominion Prime Ministers and representatives of the Empire will have to face this sooner or later—is not to rely alone on your guns and tanks and airfields but so to organise your industry and economic co-operation that it dovetails into your Commonwealth trade arrangements and is part of your Empire planning as a whole.
On the last occasion when the Prime Minister addressed Parliament on this subject he criticised me because I said the world was one and indivisible. So it is, if you fly in an aeroplane and regard it 825 from the air, as Sir Walter Layton said in his interesting Sunday Postcript. The Australian Prime Minister said the other day that he hoped there was going to be a tremendous development of civil aviation and a concerted plan for the British Commonwealth of Nations. He also said that you must build up this system of air communication so that the ordinary common people of our lands can travel simply and easily throughout the Empire. Let us have these visits between the ordinary people of our country so that they can get to know each other in peace as well as war. Official party delegations, when they go on these visits and are given lunches and receptions, get nowhere. I ask hon. Members to talk to the young Dominion pilots who are flying bombers into the heart of Germany and ask them what ideas they have for the future. They have new ideas. Are you going to give them an opportunity in this country and in the British Commonwealth, to find expression for these new ideas, or are they going to find the response in America?
I believe that is the choice we shall have to face sooner or later. The Prime Minister has saved the traditions which came from the 19th century. As a result of this war, we may give the 20th century another chance to find its way. I am appealing for the beliefs of the young men in this war to find their way into Government policy, and I am appealing for the young nations of the Commonwealth and the Dominions, that their ideas on the future of the world shall find their way to the highest level of Ministerial policy on Dominion and foreign affairs. One of our tragedies is that after the last war the old men again took charge of the direction of policy. The result is a tragic repetition of history. I listened with great interest to the Prime Minister's idea of setting up a system of universal co-operation. I am pleading, in a world in which America and the Russian Empire have great power, that the British Commonwealth shall act as a democratic and concerted Federation or delegation. I am appealing to the Government to consider, at a future Empire Conference at the end of the war, the setting up of a Commonwealth Council in London. I look to this as a steppingstone to world government and eventual world peace.
§ Captain Grey (Berwick-on-Tweed)
These two days of Debate can be amongst 826 the most important of the war, for they are concerned not only with our international relations as they are now but as we hope and intend them to be in that difficult period after Germany has been defeated militarily and we are faced with the simultaneous problem of crushing Japan and laying the foundation of an international authority under which all nations can enjoy the benefits of the Atlantic Charter with some assurance of a lasting and just peace. I was all the more delighted, therefore, when I learned that the Prime Minister himself was going to open the Debate and I looked forward to hearing him fresh from his deliberations with his Dominions colleagues lay before the Committee what would, in effect, be a united statement of the aims and intentions of our Commonwealth and Empire in the post-war world. The need for such a statement has been of growing and increasing urgency for many months, and it is a truism that there is no other individual in the Commonwealth so suited to the task. One may indeed say of him what John Selden said of Sir Robert Shirley in the days of our Civil War:whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst times and hoped them in the most calamitous.What I want to appeal to the Leader of the House to do to-morrow and the Prime Minister on some other occasion is to lay before the world our intentions and aspirations with the eloquence and vigour of 1940. I am persuaded that there is as much need now as there ever was four years ago for the world to be quite clear what Britain and our Commonwealth stand for and we must be quite precise in revealing our ambitions. It was no particularly courageous act in 1940 for the Prime Minister to state that we intended to continue the battle till it ended in the defeat of Germany, for the whole country was behind him. Only people abroad could have imagined for one moment that we might give in. When we were alone, we were free to make our own decisions and say what we liked. It requires, however, infinitely greater courage when surrounded by Allies to continue to hold and maintain the same ideals as when alone, but I believe that it is essential that we should do so.
What, then, are the ideals and aspirations with which Britain went to war and has been waging war? The right hon. 827 Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) said two months ago that we went to war for the principle of negotiation as opposed to a fait accompli or force majeure, and that is undoubtedly one of cur aims but we also need to state equally clearly our other aims and intentions. It does not matter if they have to be modified afterwards in consultation with our Allies. Parliament and the country fully realise that when we are one of a large alliance we cannot get everything we want, but it is alarming to find that after four years of war we ourselves have no clear idea of what it is that our country stands for, and the ignorance of foreign countries about us under these circumstances is understandable.
It is obvious that peace no less than war has its strategic foundations, but I disagree with a very great deal of what the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) said. It seems to me that the interests of this country and the Commonwealth are quite clear. Alone among all the other Powers we have possessions throughout the whole world. We are therefore in the unique position of having to regard threats to peace in any quarter of the globe as a direct threat to [...]s. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we should get an international authority with, as Sir Walter Layton said the other night, "teeth" in it. I am quite persuaded that if it is difficult to get agreement among the United Nations to produce this international authority now when we are at war and united against Germany it is going to be infinitely more difficult in time of peace, when our bonds of union are slackened by lack of a common aim. One of the most vital necessities for our defence after the war is not only a question of weapons and men but of getting the moral leadership of the world. If you look at the 19th century, superficially I suppose our strength lay in possessing the most powerful fleet in the world and the largest industry, but in addition a large amount of our influence lay in the fact that we were known everywhere as the champions of democracy and political liberty.
If we are to influence the world after this war it is not solely a mechanical problem of providing our Commonwealth and Empire with adequate defence. That 828 problem is not the main difficulty for it can be solved industrially and is largely a question of organisation. We need in addition both a world international authority and British influence and power on our own doorstep, West Europe. This is undoubtedly the last war that we can fight as an island Power. We were saved in 1940 not by our own exertions alone but also by the Channel. In 10 years' time the latter will afford about as much protection as the Rhine did to France in 1940. It runs entirely against the traditions of our foreign policy to become actively committed on the Continent, but I believe we have to realise once and for all that we are now a Continental Power to all intents and purposes, and not only a Continental Power but the one whose leadership since 1940 has done most to inspire occupied Europe. I do not suppose there has ever been a time when we have potentially been so great an influence as we are at present in Western Europe. I appeal to the Leader of the House and to the Government to try to take a lead in producing the ideals and mechanics of a policy for West Europe as a whole. It is of the utmost importance that if we are to have a policy for Europe our relations with our Western European Allies during the war should be on the closest possible terms.
Here I would back up the speech of the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) on the subject of France. I find it extremely difficult not to be indiscreet on the subject and I have spent a considerable time in wondering how to phrase what I want to say tactfully. It does seem to me necessary that we should recognise the French National Committee in Algiers as the Provisional Government of France. I am not going to accuse Washington or the Foreign Secretary or any particular person or country of being the cause of recognition being so far withheld. There seems to me only one possible reason why it has so far been withheld. This is where the need for tact comes in. If one studies the situation in French North Africa and if one meets some of our French Allies, one has occasionally, as a democrat, cause for anxiety. I have no doubt that many well-meaning people who do not desire to give recognition to the Provisional Government fear that, when it returns to France with an 829 Army behind its back, it may impose an authoritarian regime on the country.
I know also the argument that French North Africa is not France and that the strength of the Provisional Government is at present of necessity largely in the Colonies. But it seems to me, if that argument is true—and I do not believe it—that the one way to strengthen the millions of Frenchmen who believe in democracy is to recognise the present Provisional Government. If we do not do so anybody in France who dislikes democratic institutions can say that the reason why we refused recognition was that we, being in a dominant position, did not want to see a strong France rise again. That sort of argument is being made in France today. Field-Marshal Smuts's speech is quoted by Goebbels, and the whole time, we have this great nation, reborn under most terrible suffering in this war, with its nerves very raw, having anti-British propaganda pumped into it by Vichy, which it is vital that we should contradict. I believe that if we recognise the French National Committee as the Provisional Government of France the commonsense and patriotism of Frenchmen will see to it that we get a democratic France. I ant very far from being persuaded that the majority of the National Committee—
§ Whereupon, the YEOMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.