§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
We have, in the course of to-day's proceedings, very properly paid a tribute to a great figure who has left this House, and who has left our midst. I would ask attention to another matter, that is, how to succour the living—because I do not think it is going too far to say that that is the point at issue—over a large portion of liberated territories in Western Europe. I cannot refrain from saying, as one who had the most deep affection and admiration for Earl Lloyd-George, that I feel his spirit is with us to-day in this Debate, because there is no subject in which, 1411 throughout his long Parliamentary life, he took more interest than that of how to help those who were in dire need of help. It will be quite impossible to go over the whole field of the conditions of Western Europe, of the situation that exists there to-day, and of the situation that may arise there. For example, there would be no time to talk of the case the enemy countries, but I may say in passing that in my opinion recent events in Germany, the tremendous successes of our Armies there, have exacerbated rather than diminished the problem with which we are faced, because without getting off the main line of my argument, I would like to point out that the immediate power of Germany to produce food and goods is being rapidly destroyed, her civilian population, at any rate that portion which is not being deported, very properly, to Russia, or killed by our bombs, will soon be largely wandering homeless and without food. It is quite certain that the Allies will feel a great responsibility in this matter after the occupation of Germany. Nor have I time to-day to talk on the subject of the refugee problem. Indeed, it would perhaps be improper for me to do so on this occasion because I perform, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, rather important functions in connection with refugees on the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees, of which I am Chairman. I will take the opportunity of saying, as a purely personal matter, in parenthesis, that I am in complete agreement with the policy of the Government on the question of refugees, and I have no criticism to offer.
I propose to confine myself to the case of the liberated countries of Europe. Those of us who are interested in this matter and who have, in private conversation, discussed the questions at issue, put forward four contentions. First, we say that the economic condition of freed Western countries is very serious. I think it is unnecessary, and would only delay the House and take up the time which is much needed for the many hon. Members who wish to take part in this Debate, to give chapter and verse for that statement, but it is a statement of fact, not mere assertion. I make no secret of the fact, I have nothing to be ashamed of, as an ex-Minister and a Privy Councillor, in saying that I have been in consultation 1412 with some very high Allied authorities. They have told me that I am justified in using that phrase, that the economic conditions of the freed Western countries is very serious, indeed, that it is resulting in malnutrition, and is sowing a possible crop of illness, tuberculosis, all sorts of deficiency diseases among the children of these countries.
Secondly, my contention is that this state of affairs means much present human suffering and future political danger and trouble. Thirdly, a great responsibility rests upon the United States and ourselves in the matter, since we command practically all external air and sea transport and, for military reasons, most of the internal transport. I would like to give the House some figures which I have taken the trouble to check, so far as I am able to do so—no doubt the Lord President, who is to reply, will tell me if they are incorrect figures—which I think are very striking. The Allied Armies are using in France 40 per cent. of all the locomotives, 50 to 55 per cent. of all the railway wagons, trucks, etc., 25 per cent. of all the passenger coaches and 4o per cent. of all the coal allocated to the railways—that over and above the terrible destruction which our bombing has necessarily done to the French economic system.
I would mention some very significant statistics and facts in this connection. The French pre-war merchant marine was about 3,000,000 tons. About 2,000,000 tons have been lost or destroyed, chiefly by necessary Allied military action. Of the remaining 1,000,000 tons about 200,000 is being used for various purposes, such as the coastal traffic in North Africa. The remaining 800,000 tons is still in the Allied shipping pool and has not been released. Recently enough shipping has been employed, so I am informed, to import 400,000 tons of cocoa into the United States, but no shipping can be found to transport 40,000 tons of cocoa to France which is at present rotting in North Africa. Some hon. Members might say, of what interest are these domestic details? They are a matter of life and death to the French people, a question of whether an individual French man, woman and child has a chance of decent healthy life, or whether he or she has not. I am informed that shipping is found to carry sugar from Mauritius to England, but not to carry sugar from the neighbouring island of Reunion to France.
1413 Vegetable oils are carried from Dakar to England, but not from Dakar to France. A large part of the sugar beet crop is in dumps in Northern France, and a lot of it is deteriorating for lack of lorries to carry it to the refineries. The sugar ration is about ¾lb. per month, when you can get it and that is not always. My fourth contention is that the question for decision is whether we and the United States have taken sufficient remedial measures; while admitting the supreme military needs of the moment, never forgetting that hungry people are never of a discriminatory nature, and that France, Belgium and Holland are democratic countries par excellence. If ordinary people there think that we and the United States have mishandled the food situation for military reasons, the war of liberation will cease to be as popular as it should be and the liberating Powers will fail to get the gratitude that they deserve. That is human nature especially with people who have been submitted to the torture and strain that these freed peoples have. It is no use deploring the result which will occur—we must try to prevent it.
I agree that there is such a thing as high-tension international relationship between Allies; and we ought in this Debate to avoid saying anything which might make the relationship between us and the United States less good than I think it is to-day, but I would earnestly say that there is also a relation between us and the freed countries that is equally important. We must never discriminate between Allies, and say that it would be unwise to say a frank thing about one Ally because that Ally is powerful, but that we can say it about another because it less powerful. The Foreign Secretary, whom I am glad to see here to-day—I understand that he has to leave shortly because of an important engagement—would be the first to agree that we must treat all our Allies on an equalitarian basis, and that it is wrong to say that you should refrain from criticising one Ally but that you may criticise another. It is because I do not want to increase any tension, which I hope does not exist now, between us and our major Ally that I propose to make my speech mainly interrogatory rather than critical.
I want to say a further word about—to use an overworked term—the psychological condition of the Western freed 1414 countries. I think it is impossible to exaggerate the mental, physical, and I might say spiritual, strain that these people have gone through. They have these terrible memories of Boche tyranny. There are also bitter hatreds between individuals. Anyone who has gone to these countries knows that it is a common thing, when there is ill-will between neighbours, for one to go to the police to try to get the other arrested, on the ground that he or she was a collaborator; and generally there is the utmost internecine struggle. I do not want to be frivolous, but the term "Fascist" as applied in the one case by the Left to the Right, and the term "Communist" as applied in the other case by the Right to the Left, have become as meaningless as a certain vulgar term in this country. When you use that vulgar term in this country you do not mean that the person about whom you use it practises a certain vice, but that you do not like his face; and when someone is described as a Communist by those on the Right, or as a Fascist by those on the Left, it does not mean that that person is a Communist or a Fascist; but that the other people dislike his political point of view. So long as it goes no further that is a question of politics, but when it means trying to denounce people to the police, and getting them locked up, all civilised democratic life must be brought to an end if that policy is persisted in.
I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that most of those psychological troubles arise not only from the conditions of the occupation, but from the terrible lack of proper vitamins and nutrition for the inhabitants, which has reduced their physical powers and almost abolished their powers of moderation and judgment. I do not want to get on to a subject on which all the House may not agree, but I have a very strong feeling that the conditions in Western Europe are similar to those which my right hon. Friend referred to in Greece—and I supported him in that. What the ordinary people in the Western countries want is food, work at reasonable wages, housing, security for their businesses, freedom to choose their own Governments, and freedom for those Governments, when they are elected, to control the destiny of their countries. Especially important is the question of freedom for a Government to control the destiny of their own country. It is immensely important that the British and 1415 United States military authorities should exercise no more control than is necessary for military reasons, because nothing arouses greater suspicion in the freed countries than the idea that this is an occupation not for military reasons but for other reasons. That idea is fantastic: no one in this country or in the United States would attribute such motives to the Higher Command in France; but it is essential to have the minimum of interference, and to see that what interference there is takes the form of allowing the people to have as much transport as possible, and as much freedom of movement for that transport as possible. Deny these conditions, and I am sure that bitter internal hatred will persist. Violent political solutions of an extreme kind, possibly even a dictatorship of the Left or of the Right, will be advocated, and perhaps achieved.
On the all-important subject of food and reasonable means of existence, some very wise words were used by a distinguished former Member of this House, Lord Templewood, at a luncheon the other day. Speaking with all the knowledge and authority gained from his recent post as Ambassador in a European country, he was reported in "The Times" as saying:Unless we made a swift and united effort, Hitler, although broken in the military field, would win in the civil. His would be the last victory, the victory that would count, the victory of destruction. He believed Hitler could only be beaten in this battle by applying in the civil field the strategy that had been so successful in the military—by a war on two fronts, material and moral. On the material front a much more concerted movement was needed than we had to-day. They needed for Europe a supreme commander, an economic Eisenhower, aided by an economic general staff. Unless there was some European personality of the calibre of Nansen after the last war, the machine of Allied administration was now so complicated and the demands on it were so great that relief would continue to arrive too little and too late.I should have thought that those figures which I gave—which I hope the Lord President will be able to deny, but which I fear are authoritative—very strongly supported what the noble Lord said. I would quote someone even more authoritative, a personal friend of mine, with whom I have some slight official personal relationship through his position in U.N.R.R.A. This is what Governor Lehmann, speaking 1416 with all the authority that he commands, said in New York on 26th February:It is absolutely essential that U.N.R.R.A. has adequate shipping, adequate supplies, inland transport, and the full co-operation of the Governments concerned in furnishing or distributing supplies.It may be argued—and certainly no one would have any reason to object to it—that our French Allies are not especially good at organisation. The individualism of the French character does not, as a rule, make for good organisation in that country. But for all that, it is the fearful ravages of war, although they may have been superimposed on this characteristic of lack of organisational power in France, which have been mainly responsible for the trouble. As long as there is that lack of transport, as long as there is that lack of food, no country can possibly deal with its black market. Black markets flourish in countries of scarcity. Therefore, it would be no good any hon. Member saying that France should try to deal with the situation. They cannot deal with it until we give them the ships and the wagons. The other day I saw a gentleman who is the first Regional Commissioner in Normandy, and he said: "You may very likely have someone in your House, who has been to Normandy, saying, 'I do not understand what you are talking about. When I was in Normandy I saw plenty of butter in the houses.'" My French official friend said: "That may have been true at the time of the invasion. To-day, in so far as there is any stock there, it cannot be moved where it is wanted." He gave me the figures—I have not got them here, and I shall not attempt to give them, but they were calamitously small—of the number of trucks and lorries placed at his disposal. I was told by someone, whose name I must not give, because he is a serving officer in the British Army, who has special knowledge of the subject, that every word that this distinguished French gentleman told me was true. He said that even in Normandy, unless they got transport before the next harvest, there would be a terrible lack of necessaries; which at the worst might lead to starvation conditions and at the best would lead to a very low nutritional standard for people who have suffered from four years of war in their country.
It is necessary to make one comment, which, I hope, will not be regarded as wounding. I make myself fully re- 1417 sponsible for this statement. Unquestionably the situation has been worsened by the confident belief of the military authorities, and presumably of the Governments of the United States and this country, that the war was going to be over earlier than it was. I must not be considered critical of any particular general if I say that the one respect in which the very famous men who lead our Armies are to be distinguished from the great Duke of Wellington—I think that in many respects they are equal to him in capacity—is that the Duke of Wellington never prophesied the end of the war. If people in the freed countries are given to understand that the war will be over by a certain date, it makes the situation worse. I believe that the great Allied Powers have been caught short: they believed that the war would be over sooner than it was, and that is one reason for this lack of transport.
I turn only for a moment to Belgium to say that the situation there is very much the same as in France. In Holland, I am informed on high authority, conditions in the liberated area are good, but in the occupied area they are calamitous. Speaking with all the power of, I would almost say, emotion which I can command, I want the House to realise the frightful conditions in Holland. I really would ask the Allied commanders—and I see no reason why it should not be done—to take note of this fact. Unless they can free Holland, even at some military cost, and at some cost in the time of the ending of the war, hundreds of thousands of Dutchmen will die of starvation in the next six weeks. The decision must rest with the Allied Governments and the Higher Command, but they have to realise that, if Holland remains occupied by the Germans and without help in the next six weeks or two months, hundreds of thousands of people will die of starvation. The information which has reached the Dutch Embassy here beggars description; and, incidentally, when Holland has been freed, it will be a major responsibility of the Allies to supply the food to feed its people.
My last point is this. Where is the food to come from, assuming that we deal with the transport situation? I have been talking mainly of transport. In France, if the transport is available, the question would be largely solved. It would not be so in Holland and it certainly will not 1418 be so when it courts to a question of feeding a large number of former enemy civilians as well. Where is it to come from? It is a very big question, perhaps too big to be more than touched upon in this Debate; it requires a Debate in itself. I do not think we can spare any food from here at this moment, but I think the Government might allow something which has been suggested in Questions again and again, and towards which, I do not know why, the Food Minister takes up such a very rigid attitude. It is that friends of France shall be allowed to give up food coupons if those coupons can be used to send food to France. It would be a gesture that would greatly please the French people. It is not a matter to be approached with a rigid, red-tape attitude. I feel that this is something that would please the French people, who may be quick to anger but are equally quick to rise to great gestures.
I am going to mention a matter which I have pondered whether I ought to mention, but I feel I am justified in doing so only because it affects a country, in the shape of the United States, which has been in the very van of humanity and of succour to countries in distress. What that nation has done in famine relief in China through the American Red Cross is one of the most magnificent tales in the history of national philanthropy. Therefore, I do not think that the facts that I am going to mention would be considered by the great bulk of opinion in that country as facts which should not be stated at this Box. I am informed on high authority, which I hope is wrong but which I fear is not, that the U.S. Army rations are about twice those of the British in quantity. They are about four times those of the British civilian, and they are nine or ten times those of the average civilian in France. But what follows is even more striking in contrast.
I understand that, under the Hague Convention, when German prisoners are captured, the private soldier has to be given more or less the same rations as those received by the American G.I. A friend of mine, occupying a very important position, but whose name I cannot mention in this Debate, has said that another friend of his, a very high-ranking officer of the R.A.F., was present in one of the parishes or districts, French districts, on the border-of Germany, which 1419 had just been liberated. There had been a fight in the village, in which a number of Free French who had joined up with the American Army took part, and they took a number of German prisoners. There was a scene of great rejoicing, with the Free French shaking the hands of the Americans. Then, their looks turned to blank astonishment and dismay—the looks of the F.F.I., the Maquis, and especially of the children—because they saw those German prisoners being handed out American Army rations and receiving oranges, cigarettes, meat in tins, and everything thing that they themselves had dreamt of but had not seen for four or five years.
I only mention these facts. I do not suggest a remedy. I think it would be out of Order to do so, and it would certainly be tactless; but I think they should be mentioned in the most public way they can be—in this House. If these facts are anything like true, they will make ill-feeling in France, not so much directed against us but against our Allies, which will take years to remove. I know something of rural France, and I know the suspicions which existed in France after the last war. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that those suspicions were largely founded on the quite wrong belief that we were a wealthy country and had all we wanted, and that we thought the Germans, on the whole, better than the French and always treated the French worse than the Germans in the long run. Nothing could be more calculated to support that belief than this disparity between the rations which the German prisoners get, those which the military of the Allies get and those received by civilians. I am convinced that we shall have to deal with this situation and deal with it drastically. For example, what is going to happen when we go into Germany? Are we to continue to treat the German prisoners in this way? Are the prisoners in the cages to be given all the food they want while the starving population get nothing? This would be the best way of preserving that legend I have mentioned. There is no better way of appealing to an ignorant and gullible population. I call attention to these matters and ask that something should be done about them.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
May I ask the Noble Lord how he would meet the difficulty which is in the minds of many of us? How can we diminish the rations of the German prisoners without breaking the International Prisoners of War Convention?
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Lady is the last person with whom I should wish to quarrel, but she must appreciate that I must be very careful what I say. If she thinks, she will see that there is only one way in which we can reduce the prisoner of war rations, and I am not prepared to advocate that course. If she has followed my argument, she will see why I am not prepared to argue that point. I do not think it is our duty. I regard the hon. Lady's interruption as friendly, but I do not think it is our duty. I would not like to advocate that course, for certain reasons, and because I do official work which brings me into communication with the United States. I call attention to the matter and suggest that it is a matter for the American Government to take up. I must, however, say that I have had from French people a somewhat unfortunate impression of what they regard as the high scale of living of U.S. Headquarters far behind the lines, compared with that of the civilian population around them. That is a thing which I think should be rigidly prevented, and I would like to say, now that we have got our forces into Germany, that the number of headquarters, both British and U.S., in the free countries should be kept as small as possible, and that they should be pushed, as quickly as possible, into enemy territory. I think that only those absolutely essential for clearing up remaining pockets of resistance should remain. We do not want to have what happened in the last war; a vast army located behind the lines, feeling a sense of great importance, and with people going round presumably on business, but in cars containing cases of wine and scent for their lady friends. I am told that that happened in the last war, but I have no personal knowledge of it. It is a serious point, which requires very serious consideration.
I only say this in conclusion. I put these facts, which I believe to be facts, before the House. I believe that, given the opportunity in the next few months, these three magnificent Allies of ours— 1421 France, Belgium and Holland—will rise in time to all their former greatness. I believe these countries cannot be destroyed, at any rate morally, but we can do immense mischief to them, and both the United States and the British Governments must be extremely careful in their economic and military policy in the next few months. I find myself in absolute agreement with words used by the "New Statesman" in a recent issue, because I think it puts the whole matter into a nutshell. It will be remembered that Hitler said—and let the House remember that he said it again and again to certain people, hon. Members of this House, who were unwise enough to go to see him before the war, and he has said it during the war: "You do not understand the German people. We would rather commit suicide than surrender, but, in our suicide, we will bring down all Europe and will leave Europe a devastated and starving area." Let us take care that, in our policy, we do not, quite involuntarily, ensure that a portion of that comes true, because if the results, or what are considered to be the needs, of waging war effectively in Germany involve the population of the free countries in strains and deprivations which they think are not necessary, it will have done a great deal to create that state of affairs. I conclude by quoting from the "New Statesman":It is just as essential to provide Europe with work, food and transport as it is to defeat the Nazis in the field.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I am very glad that we have had this opportunity of a Debate on this important subject, arising, I think, out of the visit of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister to France and Belgium on this question of supplies to the liberated areas. I do not know why the Noble Lord turned round and said I was going to disagree with hint—
§ Mr. Greenwood
Well, the Noble Lord hinted at it. We are facing the making of the new era after the Western victory, and I say that supreme victory comes first, not only in the West, but in the East. There is nothing that this country would do to hinder the end of the war, or to postpone it by a day, or an hour. On the other hand, whilst the dominating 1422 aim of the people of this country, of our Dominions and of our Allies is the final destruction of the forces working against us, then, a first measure, quite clearly, even in our own self-interests—but I would not put it on that basis—must be the sustenance and the rehabilitation of the people who have been overrun, despoiled and disordered by the Nazis. The Prime Minister made a great declaration, which I heartily approved. I was then, with the right hon. Gentleman, a member of the Cabinet. This was as early as August, 1940. It was a declaration of policy which binds us in honour and which we must try to fulfil. The Prime Minister said, on 20th August, 1940, in this House:We can and we will arrange in advance for the speedy entry of food into any part of the enslaved area, when this part has been wholly cleared of German forces, and has genuinely regained its freedom. We shall do our best to encourage the building up of reserves of food all over the world, so that there will always be held before the eyes of the peoples of Europe, including—I say it deliberately—the German and Austrian peoples, the certainty that the shattering of the Nazi power will bring to them all immediate food, freedom and peace."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 194o; Vol. 364, c. 1162.]The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has had to leave, but I may recall that in June, 1941, there was a conference at St. James's Palace which he and I attended—I referred to it in a speech rather over a year ago now, in the House of Commons—and at which we dealt with these problems. The Prime Minister himself was present on that occasion. In September of that year, we had a further inter-Allied conference. The British Government were taking constructive action then before our great Ally the United States of America came into the war. At that conference in September the Ambassador from the U.S.S.R. was present and again there was a declaration which I will repeat:It is the common aim—(that is, of the Allied Powers present, assented to by the U.S.S.R.)—to secure that supplies of food, raw materials and articles of prime necessity should be made available for the post-war needs of the countries liberated from Nazi oppression.These are the decisions to which this House of Commons, this Parliament, this people and all the Allied nations are committed. What is the position now? The kind of situation that might arise was known long before our invasion of Europe. It was foreseen. We had the Hot Springs Conference—another of those 1423 marvellously named places which we do not possess in this country—dealing with the whole problem of nutrition in the future. It made a great contribution to the future permanent policy of the world with regard to food supplies and nutrition, but there is now a more immediate situation. I think that Britain has done its best. Britain was first in the field of all the Allies to deal with the question of the rehabilitation of the overrun countries when they were freed. That will always stand to our credit, and that undertaking we must in honour fulfil to the utmost of our ability. I remember the Debates in this House about A.M.G.O.T. and the discussions we have had on U.N.N.R.A. and Greece. It would appear that there are some defects in the organisation of this great plan. I, like the noble Lord, do not wish to be controversial, nor do I wish to utter one word against either a great Ally or a small Ally, but it would appear to me that the centre of gravity, the headquarters of this great organisation, ought to be in Europe and not on the other side of the world. I express that as a personal view, strongly held; I have held it for a long time. I would have thought that this country was the best headquarters for the succour of Europe and that we could take the food and supplies the liberated people need.
I would like to refer to this aspect and I hope my right hon. Friend may say something about it. There is a very grave world problem to-day. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the food situation in the world as a whole is, this year, somewhat grim. The food supplies available in the world, apart perhaps from wheat, are likely this year to be lower than they were last year. We have the tragic situation that where territories have been liberated, the people are starving, that they are hungry and their crying needs ought really to be satisfied and answered. With every territory that is liberated, those cries will rise louder and louder to the heavens and more and more people will rely on our consciences for their sustenance. The real question is, Is there enough food in the world available now to satisfy the reasonable needs of the peoples of the world and to succour the devastated areas?
My right hon. Friend the Noble Lord has referred to American Army rations. 1424 I do not want to go into that question. Those rations seem to me to be ample as far as I have opportunities of judging them, but that is not the point. The real point is, if we have now a reduced world supply of food, then we must come to the priorities of its application. You mast feed your fighting men; nobody would complain about that. You must feed your civil population; no one would complain about that. Whether the civilian population in certain great territories over in America should treat themselves as handsomely as they apparently have done, is another matter, but it is important at this stage that we should declare two things. The first is, this country does not beg for food from any Ally. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came down in person the other day to deny certain statements that had been made that we had 700,000,000 tons of food stored away in order to fill the bellies of the people of this country, and he came down and told the truth—that it was 6,000,000 tons. We do not beg for food. If we have to tighten our belts again to fulfil the obligations of honour which we have undertaken, we will do it. I would be sorry if we had so to do, but at least we are entitled to make an appeal to the great food-producing countries of the world to come to the aid of the starving peoples in the West of Europe.
Although I do not want to use the word "merely" in any small sense, it is not merely a case of humanitarian interests, though they are considerable and important, and, to me, primary. Unless we can mobilise the world's food resources now in order to take them to the people who have been battered nigh unto death by the Nazi terror, unless we can bring to them the aid and nourishment that they need, Britain's future will indeed be bleak and hard. And unless we bring food quickly, there will be famine and death in the so-called liberated areas. No area is liberated if it is under the menace of hunger and death and disease. In the so-called liberated areas we shall face a problem the like of which the world has never seen, not even in the grim days of the Black Death.
We have to take this problem seriously into our consideration. After the last great war there was an enormous amount of suffering, an enormous number of deaths due, first, to preventable diseases, and, secondly, to 1425 sheer starvation—numbers paralleling the numbers who had been slaughtered in war, or who had died bf their wounds. The situation may very shortly become even grimmer than that. The situation will be worse, because there has been a greater migration of people during this war. We have had mass movements, slaves driven into new countries, carrying with them—if I may use the term—their indigenous diseases and unaccustomed to withstand new diseases in the areas into which they went. That situation itself must lead to a situation on the Continent of Europe, the like of which we have never seen before. Whatever Dumbarton Oaks may say about international organisation after the war, and whatever organisation they may establish to deal with territories after the war, disease germs know no frontier, and this country may be just as open to some of the grievous diseases as those countries where they may arise and develop after the fighting has ceased. The problem has become complicated because of the difficulties with regard to the breakdown of normal food production in Europe. It has been further complicated by the breakdown of transport in Europe. It has been terribly endangered by the actual breakdown in many of the countries in South-Eastern, Eastern and Western Europe of the health services, and we may, therefore, very shortly be facing a terror that we have not known hitherto.
On the health side, I believe myself that the first need is food. I do not say that that is the final thing. There are three problems. The first is: Is the world willing to share its available food supplies amongst the people who need them? The second is: Can we do something to improve the long-distance transport of food? Shipping is a very grave problem—I appreciate that to the full—but in view of the urgency of the food situation, can anything be done in the coming weeks and months to improve the long-distance transport of food from the food producing areas to those areas, in the West of Europe particularly, which so urgently need food? Then there is the equally important question of internal transport and distribution on the Continent. It is little use loading up ports on the West of Europe, loading up Antwerp, for instance, with food, unless you can distribute it. I hope the agencies for distribution are 1426 all right, but I have the gravest fears as to the adequacy of internal transport on the Continent at present time. There are bridges down, and railways damaged; there are not nearly the number of locomotives on the lines as formerly, indeed, but a fraction of what there were. There are very few lorries, and so on, available. This problem is really a vital problem, and I think we are entitled to ask the Government whether it is not possible to transport—I know this means sea transport as well—over the water, the lorries and vehicles which, to-day, by the thousand are being stood aside and are more or less out of use. That, I suggest, is clearly a matter of primary importance and might succeed in saving a very large number of lives. It is, however, not merely the question of food. In the Resolutions adopted by the Allied nations—
§ 5.33 p.m.