HC Deb 07 February 1945 vol 407 cc2049-51
5. Mrs. Cazalet Keir

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the agreed policy of the United Nations that no Government in liberated countries will be formally recognised before a properly constituted general election with a secret ballot takes place.

Mr. Law

The policy of His Majesty's Government as regards the recognition of governments in liberated territory must depend on the circumstances of each case. It would not be possible to lay down rigid criteria in advance as suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Keir

Does not my right hon. Friend think that we ought to stand for, and insist on, free elections and secret ballots in all the liberated countries?

Mr. Law

I think the attitude of His Majesty's Government was made perfectly clear by the Prime Minister, in his speech on the war situation the other day. We do stand for certain principles, and we will do all we can to see that they are carried out. That is one thing, but it is quite another thing to constitute ourselves as a kind of honorary nursery governess in the countries of our Allies.

Miss Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the results of the elections will not be indicative of the real feeling of the people if, for example, the women's votes are excluded, and only half the community exercise the franchise?

Mr. Loftus

Does my right hon. Friend propose to apply the tests of freedom as given by the Prime Minister in his farewell message to the Italian people, as tests by which the Government will be judged?

6. Mrs. Keir

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the Government's policy of ensuring that a General Election takes place in all liberated countries at the earliest possible date, it is the Government's intention to stipulate that universal adult suffrage should be a condition of such elections.

7. Miss Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the intention of the Allied Governments to ensure that a free election and secret ballot is carried out in each liberated country by the supervision of the election in each country being undertaken by the Allied Powers with the least national interest.

Mr. Law

It has recently been made clear by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that His Majesty's Government will exert their influence to ensure that elections on the broadest possible democratic basis shall be held at an early date in all liberated countries. We clearly cannot, however, prescribe to the Governments concerned the exact conditions in which such elections should be held.

As regards the suggestion that the Allies might supervise such elections, I would recall the reply which my right hon. friend the Deputy Prime Minister gave on 21st December to the hon. Member for Bridgwater. His Majesty's Government would be prepared to assist in supervising elections if invited to do so by the Governments and peoples concerned, but they sincerely hope that such exceptional measures of intervention in the affairs of other States will not be called for.

Mrs. Keir

In view of the important part taken by women in the resistance movements, does not my right hon. Friend think that they should have some say in the future government of their countries; and could not our Government make a statement on this question?

Mr. Law

I think that that must be a matter for the Governments and peoples concerned.

Miss Ward

Has Russia the same ideas as the British Government with regard to free elections for the liberated countries?

Mr. Law

I can only speak for His Majesty's Government.

Mr. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that questions of this kind will come with a better grace in this House, after we have had an election of our own?