§ 11.9 a.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
I believe everyone in the House this morning feels grateful to the Government for having made it possible to devote a day to the discussion of European conditions. The anxiety and deep concern of the House has been shown in the terms and the signatures of a Motion now on the Paper which will be in the minds of every one present.
§ [That this House feels deep concern over the possibility that millions of men, women and children in Europe may die of starvation and cold during the coming winter, with the result that disease and economic and social chaos may spread over Europe, and therefore urges His Majesty's Government to take all possible steps to prevent this disaster, especially—
- (1) by using their utmost influence with those Governments who have been expelling vast numbers of Germans from their homes in Eastern Europe, to ensure that this expulsion should be discontinued at least until the winter is over, and if then resumed, should be carried out in an orderly manner as suggested in the Potsdam Declaration, and by agreement with all the four Governments in control of Germany;
- (2) by intensifying their efforts to secure a greater production of coal in the Ruhr by strengthening the incentives to the miners; also by increasing supplies of food and other necessaries for Europe through the release of stores of consumable goods and of means of transport, such as motor-lorries hitherto held in reserve for war purposes, also of cargo ships;
- (3) by setting up immediately a Supreme Economic Council to co-ordinate the efforts of all the Governments concerned in European reconstruction.]
§ That Motion is in the names of Members from every quarter of the House and it includes those who are best qualified by reason of experience and first-hand knowledge. I do not propose this morning to dilate at great length upon the actual conditions in Europe. We all know, to take a few examples, that France will again be cold and hungry this winter; that Belgium—a comparatively fortunate country—and still more Holland, will need extra food—meat, oils and fats. We know that, to take countries more fortunate as regards food such as Denmark, there is an urgent and desperate need of fuel. We know there will be deep distress in countries and parts of countries such as Greece, Jugoslavia and Poland. We know that there will be large numbers of available workers in intact factories in North Italy and in other countries, factories which could go a long way towards meeting the necessities of Europe, but which will be idle because of lack of coal and raw materials. We know that there is among the displaced persons a hard core of those who are not immediately repatriable, for whom conditions are still, after years of concentration camps, neither satisfactory nor even tolerable. We know that large-scale mass starvation is at this moment threatening in Austria. We know that there are millions—it may be 10,000,000 and it may even rise to 13,000,000—of refugees from East Prussia, from Silesia, and from the Sudetenland who are being expelled at short notice under conditions which must mean death on a large scale and probably disease, and epidemic disease, as well.
§ However, I do not propose to go further into the actual description of these conditions because I think the House has shown—for example, in the Debate on the Adjournment a fortnight ago—by the attitude of hon. Members who did not speak, quite as much as by the speeches of those who did, their awareness of the situation and their deep anxiety; and also because the Government in their recent statements, the Prime Minister in the emphasis he placed upon coal and inland transport, the Foreign Secretary in his description of the millions milling about in Eastern Europe and of the political consequences that are likely to result from that situation, and the Under secretary who more recently said it was impossible to over paint the potential gravity—2353
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I would draw your attention to the fact that a Cabinet Minister is not present. The Foreign Secretary, who is replying to these speeches, is not on the Front Bench at the moment, and in view of the importance of the subject, it is vital that he should be present.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. McNeil)
I am not certain that I am in Order in intervening, Mr. Speaker, but perhaps I might say that the Foreign Secretary is at a Cabinet meeting, and is coming here as quickly as he can. I am here, meanwhile, to see that no important point is made which will not be brought immediately to his attention. I am most sorry for that situation but it is unavoidable.
§ Sir A. Salter
I was saying that in view of the fact that at least recent statements by representatives of the Government have shown that they are aware both of the magnitude of the tragedy that looms ahead, and also of the political and other consequences that are likely to ensue, and in view also of the fact that others will follow me with direct and recent first-hand knowledge, I do not propose to dilate further upon the actual description of conditions now existing in Europe. I wish rather to emphasise another aspect of the question.
If, as is now probable, millions during this winter freeze and starve,this will not have been the inevitable consequence of material destruction and world shortage of necessities. There is no such material destruction, no such world shortage as to have made that tragedy inevitable. This is so important that I would like to make certain statements which, in the light of such information as is within my reach, I believe to be true, and I would ask the Government, with the fuller information which is accessible to them, either to confirm or correct those statements.
In the first place, as to the coal shortage—the most serious of all—the coal mines of the world are substantially intact. The undamaged mines are more than sufficient to produce all the coal that is wanted this winter. The disastrous fall in coal production is due to other causes, such as shortage of food or shelter, absence of sufficient incentives, difficulties 2354 of transport, psychological factors of one kind or another, which are in some degree more quickly remediable than the actual destruction of the mines would have been. Second, as to the inland transport, the next most important factor, it is true, of course, that there has been large-scale destruction of locomotives and railway wagons, but the needs of Europe this winter can be met by a full use of motor transport. Between 100,000 and 200,000 motor lorries can carry Europe over this winter. The lorries exist in the hands of the military authorities—American, Canadian and British—on the Continent and in this country. I know that something is being done, that some lorries are being supplied, but not enough, and not quickly enough. Much more could be done, and more quickly, in this direction. Thirdly as to food, there are ample stocks of wheat. The extra importations of meat that are required by Europe in order to increase coal and other production, and meet the bare necessities of civilian life, are not greater than the amount by which the meat allocated to civilian consumption across the Atlantic, exceeds the standard of pre-war per capita consumption.
§ Sir A. Salter
Yes, and not only there but elsewhere across the Atlantic, too. As regards sugar, with the aid of the stocks found in the Dutch East Indies, the extra shipping facilities that are available to bring sugar from distant sources, and with the production of sugar beet in Europe itself, if coal could be supplied for its processing, the shortage would not be serious. Fourthly, as to clothing, with the aid of the gift clothing which has been collected in large quantities in America and elsewhere, and with the aid of the releases that could be made from military reserves, blankets and so on, the clothing production of the textile factories of Europe could meet the necessities of Europe if coal and raw materials could enable those factories to be fully worked. Fifthly, as regards raw materials, there are, with few exceptions, and those not vital, ample stocks in the world. Sixthly, very considerable military reserves could be drawn upon for motor transport, food, medical supplies and other necessities, and from some civilian reserves to which I propose to refer later.
2355 Lastly, there is ample ocean-going cargo tonnage, both dry cargo and tanker, in the world to carry the supplies that are available and that are wanted. We have heard some references in this House to a shortage of shipping in relation to demobilisation, and quite rightly, but that is passenger shipping not cargo shipping. We have heard the Minister of Fuel and Power refer to the difficulties of tanker tonnage in relation to our petrol rationing. But that is purely a financial question, a matter of a shortage of sterling currency. If you take the tanker tonnage of America and Great Britain together, there is not only an amplitude but a surplus.
With all these favourable factors, why are we faced with a tragedy on this scale? Clearly, it is in the sphere of organisation, of administrative difficulties, of political and psychological factors, and, to some extent, of Allied policy, of Allied action or inaction, or inadequate action, that we must find the main explanation. To say this is not to suggest that Governments, least of all one Government, could have removed all these causes. Some perhaps go beyond the sphere of the control of Governments. But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a good deal more would have been possible than has been done to avert this tragedy; and I think we may also conclude that much can still be done, both to alleviate the tragedy and to abbreviate it.
In saying that, I do not wish to disparage what has been done; a great deal has been done. Still less should I like to make any reference to what is happening in the British zones of the occupied territories, without paying a tribute to what the British Army are doing, and have there done. If I refer particularly to the British zone, it is not that I desire to draw invidious distinctions between that zone and others, but because my information happens to be ampler about the sphere of British responsibility. It is true—and many here are direct witnesses to the fact—that the British Army authorities in Germany and the Low Countries did a remarkable job in bringing immediate emergency relief to Holland as soon as military conditions made it possible. I have direct evidence from the Dutch representatives on that 2356 point. It is also true that repatriation of displaced persons, with the exception of the hard core of those who, through some kind of political difficulty, are not immediately repatriable, was carried through with a speed and efficiency which, I think, exceeded all expectations. Evidence too comes from many witnesses, including many here who went to criticise and came back to praise, that the spirit and ardour with which British officers and men have turned to the job of re-establishing order and making the wheels of the economic machine turn are beyond all praise. I would like to say that, before going on to make certain suggestions as to what the Government might still do, and try to get others to do.
What suggestions do I make? They are not novel, but as they have not been fully adopted, I do not think they are the worse for that. They do not involve anything in the nature of hostile criticism of Government action. I am not asking so much for a change in Government policy or action, as that the Government should do more of what they are doing, and do it more quickly. In the first place, I suggest that even now renewed representations, if they are combined and made with sufficient urgency and emphasis, might secure that the conditions under which these mass removals from Eastern Europe are taking place, should take place more in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Potsdam Agreement. I think that they could be better regulated, and slowed, and to some extent postponed beyond the worst period of the winter. I think there are some indications—although here I can not vouch for my information—that the signs as regards the Czechoslovak expulsions are now more favourable. I think there is a chance that the situation might be improved by urgent and renewed representations. But in any case many millions will be moved. I think improvised arrangements might be made for dealing with these refugees in a better way than they are being dealt with at present. I also think that perhaps more use might be made of dispersal to villages, as distinct from large towns. I suggest too that better arrangements should be made for the displaced persons who are for the moment not repatriable, possibly by alloting special areas in which they could conduct their affairs with greater freedom and with a better chance than they have now.
2357 Next, I think that we could do a great deal—although much has already been done—to expedite the production of coal in the Ruhr, by giving every possible facility and by giving more incentive to the miners than they have yet had, possibly by allowing them the prospect of rather more participation in the results of their work, which might well result in more coal being made available for the liberated countries. I think, too, as I have already suggested, that a good deal more could be done in making military lorries available from British bases, as well as American bases, for the different liberated countries which most need them. I suggest that it would be extremely valuable if the Government would now, by an urgent piece of work, summarise the illuminating information that is now in their hands so as to give this country, our Allies and the world a graphic picture of what is the situation in Europe. That information could be fortified by statistical information in appendices and should include a statement as to the resources that are available in the world, as well as of the distresses of Europe itself. Then, with that action and with that information, I suggest that the Government might make a strong and urgent appeal to the United States of American and Canada first to join with us in giving urgent instructions to our respective military authorities, to give every possible assistance from military reserves, such as food, blankets and motor lorries, and to subordinate what, since the conclusion of the war against Germany and Japan, has to a large extent become military convenience, to urgent civilian necessity.
Then I would ask the Government to appeal to our trans-Atlantic Ally and member of the British Commonwealth to consider whether they would not give instructions to the Combined Boards to facilitate, in every possible way, the purchase and acquisition of food and other supplies by U.N.R.R.A., by the national Governments of the liberated territories and by the Allied occupying authorities concerned with civilian relief. I suggest that the Boards should be required to give priority to such purchases over an allocation to the home civilian public of amounts that are in excess of pre-war average consumption. That last appeal does not directly affect this country, but I believe, if the Ameri- 2358 can public, properly informed and properly approached, had the appeal made to them, there would be good hope of response. There is a great fund of good will on both sides of the Atlantic, which, I think, has not been adequately translated into Government action. We have been reminded of the existence of that good will in America by the recent remarkable report of the National League of Women Voters. We have had other signs too, in spite of the first mood of reaction after the strain of war.
I am not going to suggest that in this country there should be a reduction in the standard rations, or that there should be such a reduction of stocks as would seriously endanger the maintenance of those rations. Having regard to the character of the rations, and the difficulties of those who cannot supplement them either by unrationed food or restaurant meals, and having regard to the ampler resources available elsewhere, I do not think that such a reduction would be right. In saying this I am not speaking of the voluntary surrender of rations, of course; that is a different matter. I realise that I cannot now press upon the Government, as I should otherwise have done, or with the same insistence, the use of civilian stocks, in view of the irregularity that has been caused to our importation by strikes on both sides of the Atlantic, and by the uncertainty arising from the present financial difficulties. What I would suggest is that, as these obstacles in the way of regular importation disappear, the Government might draw upon these stocks. Quite obviously, if you have regular importation, you do not need reserves of the size which were prudently and rightly collected against the hazards of war and the submarine. I would like the Government now to undertake—and it would greatly add to the force of the appeal I have just suggested—that as regular importations become assured they will make real contributions from our stocks in priority over either an increase of our rations, or a removal of rationing.
I have said nearly all that I wish to say this morning. There appears in the Motion to which I have referred, a reference to proposals for a Supreme Economic Council. I believe that such a. Council, the purpose of which has to some extent been misunderstood, would have been very valuable at this moment 2359 had it been created some months ago. I think that it could be very valuable next year for the tasks of reconstruction. But the immediate necessities of the situation cannot wait for new machinery. I will, therefore, say no more now on that subject, because I do not want, for a moment, to divert attention from the imminent and grave tragedy that now looms before us. I think the Government will recognise that I have not, this morning, made anything in the nature of unfriendly criticism. Our object is to give support and encouragement, and not to attack. The Government, as we are, are aware of the supreme tragedy that now looms over Europe, and they, I know, would wish to do everything that is humanly possible. I hope that they will feel supported in their efforts by the result of to-day's Debate. I would like to make this last concluding remark: It is idle for the rest of the world to think that it can enjoy either prosperity or peace, if there is neither stability nor tolerable conditions of living for the ancient and populous Continent, Europe—the mother of civilisation, the mother of strife.
§ 11.36 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Devonport)
I would like to begin by thanking the Government for the opportunity of discussing this most important question to-day. Like the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in the Debate, I certainly have no desire to criticise the Government or to attack the Government on this issue. The Motion on the Paper, to which reference has been made, was signed by Members of all parties, and it commands a wide degree of assent. I am sure that the purpose which it seeks to serve will be sympathetically considered by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary in the first speech he delivered in that office said that the primary object of our foreign policy must be to secure the economic reconstruction of the world and, therefore, presumably of Europe. Some of us on this side of the House did not agree with everything the Foreign Secretary said in that first speech, but few would dissent from the main doctrine that the political problems, if they are to be solved, must be largely translated into economic terms. Compared with the economic ruin wrought by 2360 this war, all else is insignificant, and we are sure, therefore, that His Majesty's Government are eager to see the tasks of economic reconstruction undertaken in the most energetic and imaginative spirit, and in that sense, we believe that the terms of the Motion will be well received by the Government.
The speech of the Foreign Secretary, to which I have referred, was partly designed as an interpretation of the Potsdam Agreement. The Potsdam Agreement paid lip-service to the idea that eventually the German people might, under suitable supervision, be able to regain some tolerable degree of existence. Some of us may believe that there were other Clauses in that Agreement that make that prospect impossible. I would like to return to that argument later. The Foreign Secretary did attempt to put the most hopeful interpretation on the Potsdam Agreement. What has happened since? The question of deportations is referred to in the Motion. It is important to recognise that the Potsdam Agreement did not merely say that these deportations should be undertaken in a humane and orderly manner, it also said that these deportations should be suspended until there had been a report from the Control Council. His Majesty's Government obviously attach great importance to this provision, because, first of all, they raised the question of deportations at Potsdam, and then raised the question with the Polish Government directly, and raised it again at the Council of Foreign Ministers. Therefore, it is clear that, on a matter which was regarded as being of great importance by His Majesty's Government, there has been a clear, open defiance of the Potsdam Agreement. There has been a defiance of that Agreement by the Polish Government. So much was admitted by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs when he spoke in the Debate of 10th October, and there were other reports, terrible and tragic reports, which confirm that the breach of the Agreement has continued.
So far as the Czech Government is concerned, it may be that actual transfers have stopped. It is equally clear—and it may or may not be true—that there has been a plain defiance of the Potsdam Agreement which provided that there shall be humane and orderly treatment of these persons. We have plenty of eye-witnesses' accounts of the condi- 2361 tions that have existed in the camps where the Sudeten Germans, many of them with long records of Anti-Fascism, were being indiscriminately herded. We also have reports that deportations have now started up in a new way in Hungary. We believe we have a right to know from the Government if they can give us any further information on what the situation is about these deportations. We were told by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on 10th October, that the Polish Ambassador had called at the Foreign Office and informed the British Government that final, certain, and strict instructions had been given that these expulsions were to end. We would like to know whether that has happened. We think that we have a right to demand that a supreme effort should be made to see that these deportations are stopped during the coming winter. It is absolutely impossible to carry out these deportations according to the terms of the Potsdam Agreement in the winter. It would be difficult in normal times, but in the desperate circumstances of to-day it is absolutely impossible.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Is the hon. Member not aware of the fact that the war was fought in Poland and Eastern Germany, and that the whole country is devastated?
§ Mr. Foot
I am certainly aware that there has been great devastation in that part of the world, but the hon. Gentleman is not a great authority on the war that took place in Poland, because when that war started he was opposed to it. Therefore, we think that we have a right to demand that deportation should be stopped this winter. We think that is a right we have under the Potsdam Agreement, and we think that we have a right to demand that the Soviet Government should associate itself with the British Government in making representations to the Polish Government and the Czech Government and the Hungarian Government.
There are some people who say, "Why worry about the Germans when there are so many other people suffering in Europe? Cannot we consider our Allies first?" That is a very natural argument; it is sometimes also the plausible argument of those who wish to deny all responsibility for our neighbours in Europe. Those per- 2362 sons who deny the appeals of humanity towards German women and children are not likely to be the best champions of the principle of humanity towards other people. Moreover, we know that there is nothing in the sense of the Motion which has been put on the Paper to suggest that the Germans should take a place in the queue ahead of our Allies. What we are protesting against is the wanton and deliberate creation of a new sore, when all Europe is crying out from her wounds. The horrors resulting from these deportations are a quite superfluous addition to the tragedies and burdens already weighing heavily enough. For these poor, wretched people are being compelled to leave a desert behind them in order to make a slum. Moreover, many of these persons concerned are women and children. Speaking for myself, and as a Socialist, I will never accept the doctrine that their German nationality absolves them and excludes them from the bounds of human compassion. I do not want to weary the House with reports, but this is one first-hand report:From these bare facts the physical and mental conditions of the refugees can easily be imagined. There was an old woman in tattered peasant dress with a red scarf on her head and pitifully-worn boots on her feet. Her legs were swollen and she was quite exhausted. She had brought four grandchildren with her from East Prussia. Like her, they were all lying down during the day, too weak to move. The eldest child was suffering from an infection of the lungs; the youngest, two years old, looked like a small baby, apart from the size of its head. Their mother had died on the road; their father was last heard of at Dunkirk. The old grandmother had come to Berlin because most people were going that way, but she had nowhere to go from there. Her family had always been peasants and now they had lost their land. This complete absence of any future aim in life is often much worse for the refugee than his present privations. He carries on without hope.For women and children, creatures such as these, there is for their protection an older law than any promulgated at Potsdam:But whoso shall offend against one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.If these infamies are to be allowed to continue there will be a shortage of millstones to set beside the other shortages in Europe.
This Debate is not concerned only with the deportations and with our purpose to 2363 strengthen the hands of the Government in continuing the representations they have made. It is also concerned with the question of the treatment of Germany, or the economic reconstruction of Europe, whichever one likes to call it, because we shall never be able to separate those two problems. They are one and indivisible. As I have said, the Potsdam Declaration paid lip service to the idea that the Germans should be able eventually to regain some tolerable mode of existence, whilst ensuring, of course, that they were not able to build up again any military power. It may be that that Declaration at Potsdam, providing for the maintenance of German unity, has already been broken. It is also very doubtful whether the Potsdam Declaration and its clauses are workable at all, so far as they refer to Germany. By them, something like one-third of the territory of Germany has to be taken from her, some 57,000,000 people were to be crowded together in a space not very much bigger than the British Isles. Such a condition would only be tolerable, and such a system would only be workable, if those 57,000,000 people were allowed a considerable measure of industrialisation in order to maintain themselves. Yet, by another clause, precisely that degree of industrialisation was to be denied them. That industrialisation was to be taken away from them, partly to prevent them having the potentialities to wage another war, partly to' enable other Powers to carry out their policies of reparations. I think the time has come for us to consider whether we can go on with that unworkable policy defined at Potsdam, because we have at the present moment three great Powers pursuing different policies in this matter. It is no use trying to shirk these difficulties, and saying that, because we have these difficulties, we must allow these terrible things to go on. It is better to examine the policies, and see if we cannot make a new effort to get them into agreement.
The Soviet policy is fairly clear. Everyone understands that the sufferings they have been through have contributed to that policy. It is a policy of acquiring reparations from Germany, and in that policy they do not make any effort to distinguish between reparations and booty. Certainly it is not a policy for maintaining the unity of Germany as laid down in the Potsdam Agreement, and it 2364 is a policy which is adding considerably to the difficulties we have in our own zone, because of the expulsions taking place from the Russian zone.
What about American policy? Though American policy is not carried out in the same way as is Soviet policy, its aim is not very different, because this was the definition given by President Truman:Repartitions this time are to be paid in physical assets from those resources o£ Germany which are not required for her peace-time subsistence. The first purpose of reparations is to take out of Germany everything with which she can prepare for another war. Its second purpose is to help the devastated countries to bring about their own recovery by means of the equipment and material from Germany.To take out of Germany everything whereby she can make weapons, is also to take out everything whereby she can rebuild her life and enable us to relieve ourselves of the tremendous burdens which we have in Germany at the present time. Some people tell us in the newspapers that we must watch America and take our guidance from America. I do not believe that America has always been an infallible guide as to policy in Europe. We have a longer record in that regard. I believe we have a better understanding in that regard.
What is to be British policy towards Germany? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said the other day that it would perhaps be more a question of holding Germany up than of holding Germany down. That is, certainly, the dilemma, and it is a dilemma which partly dates—I am not saying this in criticism, it was agreed by everyone then—fromthe Roosevelt-Churchill Agreement at Quebec last September, in which it was stated that no economic rehabilitation should be undertaken in Germany except such as was necessary to prevent starvation or disorder. That is a very difficult clause to carry out. It is very difficult for the people in Germany who are grappling so nobly with these difficulties, because if, at one time, one is always being told "Do not do the job too well. Do not reconstruct too well. Do not help Germany to rebuild," perhaps there will not be any rebuilding at all. Our main concern in dealing with this problem is to make up our minds on exactly what we want. I suggest that what we want is, while ensuring that Germany is never able to arm again, to enable her to rebuild for 2365 the benefit of herself and for the benefit of Europe as a whole. That is my understanding of the statement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who once told us of the danger of allowing Germany to sink into the position of an economic slum. That was the meaning of his statement, I am sure, when he said that economic reconstruction must be the primary concern of our foreign policy. If we are to abate the terrible political furies which have scarred and shattered Europe so fiercely we must make a huge effort to re-summon all the peoples of Europe to their common task of trying to prevent catastrophe this winter, an economic catastrophe which will leave its record for years.
We have had plenty of examples of the dangers which will follow from pursuing the opposite policy, and it is the opposite policy we are pursuing to-day. There was a warning given to us at the end of the last war by Mr. J. M. Keynes, now Lord Keynes. He said:Economic privation proceeds by easy stages, and so long as men suffer it patiently the outside world cares little. Physical efficiency and resistance to disease slowly diminish, but life proceeds somehow, until the limit of human endurance is reached at last and counsels of despair and madness stir the sufferers from the lethargy which precedes the crisis. Then man shakes himself, and the bonds of custom are loosed. The power of ideas is sovereign, and he listens to whatever instruction, of hope, illusion or revenge is carried to him on the air.That was the prophecy of Hitlerism. What horrific shape shall we conjure from a Europe which to-day is in a much worse condition than Europe was 25 years ago?
Not only do we ask the Government, if they can, to make new representations about the question of deportations, not only do we ask them to consider earnestly all the practical suggestions made by the right hon. Gentleman for supplying food, transport and assistance to Europe. We also ask in this Motion that they should consider the whole question of the economic reconstruction of Europe. We should consider whether it is not possible for us to make a new effort, together with our Allies, to help in preventing catastrophe in Europe. If we find that our Allies will not act with us in this matter it is still our duty to do our best, to act alone. Nothing can absolve us from that duty. It is still our duty to show that this country of ours is the foremost champion of 2366 tolerance and decency on the face of this planet. It is still our duty to show the world that we are prepared to act, conquerors and conquered, in the name of humanity. A terrible and frightening winter faces us in Europe, but it can also be a winter in which our country has the honour to speak the voice of reason and of pity.
§ 11.57 a.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I am pleased to be taking part in a Debate the inception of which fell to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), who with me and a small handful of other Members in this House, first called attention in the last Parliament to the circumstances with which the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Foot) has just dealt. The support I, personally, had from Members, including the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power and the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), enabled me to obtain the Debate which then took place, and from which I shall later quote a few remarks to the House. It should not be thought, as it might be thought after the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport, that this matter is being approached de novo. What the hon. Member said to-day was said, in effect, quite a long time ago by a great many people when some who were outside this House at the time were silent.
There are four correlated aspects of this problem. There is the question of the pre-war political refugees, mainly from Germany, Italy, Spain and Czarist Russia—they have not yet been referred to, I think, in the Debate. There are the persons displaced at the time of the German Armistice; the persons displaced since, largely from Eastern Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and lastly, the problem to which the hon. Gentleman has been largely addressing himself, as also did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University, of supplying food and shelter for them and the rest of Europe's civilian population. I speak with some authority on some of these subjects, because I was Chairman and British Government representative on the Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees. I shall ask the indulgence of 2367 the House if on this occasion I speak rather longer than the ten minutes I usually allow myself, because I do not think that the present Government and the Government before that, the one before that, and the one before that, have had their full due in respect of what this country has done for refugees. I shall give some figures, which I think have not previously been given, which will show the extent to which Great Britain has acted. I do not object to the hon. Gentleman's fine peroration, but let him not be under the delusion that this country has not done a great deal in the last five or six years. I am sure he would not wish to do any injustice to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who I say to the best of my knowledge, speaking as a political opponent, is grappling with this matter to the utmost of his ability at the present time. I do not think that was the hon. Member's intention—
§ Mr. M. Foot
I was making no attack on the Government and was not suggesting that they had failed in any way. I was appealing for further action.
§ Earl Winterton
It was very valuable that the hon. Gentleman should appeal for further action. I am sure that the Government will listen to his very authoritative voice, although that is a matter for them and not for me.
On this question of food in particular, let me say, in recalling what took place in the last Parliament, that I do not wish to say anything which could possibly be a reflection upon any of my hon. or right hon. colleagues upon this Bench or upon Members of the Government who were also in the Coalition Government. But there is, unhappily, no reason to suppose that the anticipations or contentions which my right hon. Friend below the Gangway, the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and others, made in the Debate were in the slightest degree exaggerated. Let me read a Question which I put earlier this year. I am quoting from Hansard:''EARL WINTERTON asked the Prime Minister if he will cause a Command Paper to be published showing, on the information of British representatives, the amount of malnutrition and lack of commodities essential for health in France and the freed portions of Belgium and 2368 Italy; how far this is due to Allied military requirements of ships and rolling stock; and the steps being taken to relieve the situation.The right hon. Gentleman who is the present Prime Minister, and was then Deputy Prime Minister, said:''The responsibility for the provision of commodities essential to health for liberated territories during the military period is one for the Combined United Kingdom-United States military authorities.He went on to say that in making these preparations they had had to take into account the severe limitations imposed by shipping, port capacity and internal transportation; but I want to ask the House to note this in what he said:''But the reports do not indicate any serious malnutrition, except in certain areas where it existed before liberation." I went on to ask, in a supplementary question:In view of the fact that independent evidence completely contradicts what the right hon. Gentleman says, and is to the effect that millions of people are on the verge of starvation and in a worse state than they were under German occupation, how can the right hon. Gentleman refuse to publish information?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1945; Vol. 407, c. 2224.]Helped by the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Health and others, in supplementary questions, we eventually induced the Government to grant us a day for Debate. I think I am not breaking any rule of confidence when I say that it was as the result of the questions which we put in this House to the right hon. Gentleman that the present Prime Minister himself went to make a tour of investigation. So we can take credit in different parties, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite was associated with what was done. I mention it because I do not want it to be thought—although I do not want to elaborate the point—that there was no interest taken in this question until yesterday, because I can assure the hon. Gentleman that would not be true. We had a Debate. We were, on the whole, satisfied with the reply of the Prime Minister, then the Deputy Prime Minister, but we begged the Government to keep a very close watch on the situation. So much for the past.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate has admirably stated the case and I would like to say that I agree with the ipsissima verba of everything that he said. There is not a single point he made with which I am not in agreement. 2369 I think that is true of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. He has gone over and surveyed the ground so well that I do not want to go over it again, but I do want to ask the Foreign Secretary one or two specific questions. First, is the problem of obtaining the minimum of food and shelter necessary, and supplying it to the liberated populations of ex-enemy countries, being solved? On that question we want information from the Government. That is on the purely physical question. The next question is: When, where and how far docs U.N.R.R.A. operate? When I was Chairman of the Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees we had official relationship wish U.N.R.R.A.; indeed the Committee still has. It would be very wrong of me to disclose anything which should not be disclosed, but it would not be improper to say that in those days, two months ago, it was very difficult to obtain a clear statement as to U.N.R.R.A.' s operation because of the circumstances and the scope and ambit of its work.
I would, with respect, remind the House that this U.N.R.R.A. organisation started with a tremendous flourish of trumpets. It was to be the great organisation which was to deal with the whole situation. What we want to know to-day—really this is a question that we asked of the late Government—is, where, and exactly how, this U.N.R.R.A. operates and in which countries does it operate? Sometimes it operates for a time in one country, and then it is prevented from doing so. What are the circumstances which impede it? I find it rather disturbing that Governor Lehman, who is a personal friend of mine, and for whom I have a high regard, is constantly complaining, or urging that there should be more financial support given to U.N.R.R.A. If it were possible for the Foreign Secretary to say whether he himself is satisfied that the financial resources of U.N.R.R.A. are sufficient, we should all be very grateful. What are the views of the Government on the proposal of the right hon. Member for Oxford University which he made in the Debate last year that a British Minister should be in sole charge of the British share of the matter? I understand that this is being done. I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy is in charge, subject to the general supervision of the Foreign Secretary, of 2370 this question of economic rehabilitation and of the refugee question in Europe.
The next question I want to ask is this. What are the estimated shortages in countries in which we and the United States have facilities for access and observation, in the matter of food, fuel and a reasonable minimum of shelter during the coming winter? Perhaps I might repeat the question in another form. It is: What are the estimated shortages, giving a lump-sum figure, in the countries to which we and the United States have access and—here I am on more delicate ground but I think it is a fair question to ask—is there any estimate extent of similar shortages in the countries in the U.S.S.R. sphere where, unfortunately, our official means of obtaining information are limited? I think those are reasonable questions to ask.
Now I turn for a moment to this question of mass displacement. That phrase is a somewhat inadequate description of what is going on in parts of Poland and Eastern Germany. I should like to say that my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, as has indeed been made clear by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, most emphatically do not approve of the condition of affairs. It is only fair to the Foreign Secretary, and indeed to his predecessor, that we should realise that in this, as in so many other matters in Europe, the British Government do not control policy and events, and can only influence them by the discussion and persuasion which are possible with Allies. Someone may say that that is a very bromidish thing to say; that it is telling the House of Commons what everybody knows. That may be so, but there is a tendency, both inside and outside this House, to assume that the British Government have some particular moral power which enables them to do things which other Governments cannot do. I gravely doubt whether this is so, in the present state of Europe for the reason that, unfortunately, the ordinary international morality has, for a good many years past, ceased to exist. I doubt whether we do possess that particular moral power which enables us to do more than, for example, the United States, France or any other country.
I will make this observation, although many hon. Members will disagree with me and I am quite prepared for inter- 2371 ruption. I have never thought that Mr. Gladstone's method of declamatory moral indignation from this Box or the one opposite, about happenings in countries outside our governance, did much good, though it is a method or habit which many hon. Members of this House have followed ever since. Not only do I think that it seldom does much good, but I think that sometimes it enhances and increases the cruelty done to the victim. Lord Salisbury, when he was challenged about not having done something in the Balkans when Mr. Gladstone was in Opposition, said, "Unfortunately you cannot send a British battleship to the top of Mount Ararat." If anybody can tell me how we can possibly induce our Russian Allies, or our Polish Allies, to pursue a different course of action to that which they are pursuing, short of using force—which no one outside a lunatic asylum would suggest—I hope they will make the suggestion in the course of the Debate. Is it to be done by argument, memoranda, speeches—
§ Earl Winterton
On the Russians? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] I do not want to make this a party controversy, and hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to their opinion. I am a very contentious politician and I am the last person to stand on the side of any Minister, if I can avoid doing it. But I hope, in justice and fairness to the Foreign Secretary, that no one supposes that the right hon. Gentleman has not done everything that he can.
§ Earl Winterton
It is not. It is the only point. He has done everything he can to make this particular matter clear.
There is only one other thing that I want to say, because I am sure that everyone wants to hear the Foreign Secretary. I am too old a politician to mind utterly unfair charges being brought against any Government with whom I am 2372 connected. It is part of our trade. We enjoy certain privileges, and it people who do not know the facts say that the facts do not exist, that is their look-out, and we must put up with it. But many charges have been made against this Government and against various Governments of which I have been a Member and against the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council when he was Home Secretary, which were very unfair charges, suggesting that not nearly enough has been done in this country for refugees. Well, the statement is not true. I say, quite frankly, that I do not believe it is true and I would like, in a very few sentences, to give something of the history of the refugee movement.
The Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees, which was formed as a result of the Evian Conference, at which I represented the British Government and Mr. Taylor the American Government, was specifically formed on the initiative of the United States Government and with the strong support of the British Government, to deal with questions of pre-war refugees or victims, rather, of Nazi tyranny. I would ask the House to note these figures. There were, at that time, some 800,000 victims of Nazi persecution in Germany, mainly of the Jewish race. That was in 1938. Mainly between October, 1938 and the outbreak of war there were 400,000 refugees—I gave the figure 800,000 as rough, but this is the actual figure—from persecution who got out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and about 90,000 of them came to the United Kingdom of whom about 6,000 left for other countries, previous to September, 1939.In proportion to our facilities, and in proportion to our resources, this country, as a member of the Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees, did as much for refugees, including the Jewish, as any other member State, not even excluding the United States.
§ Earl Winterton
Not in this category of refugees. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman reminded me, for it is only fair to say that France gave great help. She also helped refugees from other countries apart from Germany, such as Spaniards. The point I want to make is this. Of the 2373 pre-war refugees, that is to say, people who before the war would have been classed as political and religious refugees, there is left to-day a number which is not very large: Spanish refugees in France, 200,000; German and Austrian refugees from Nazi persecution who are still without a permanent abode, 123,000; that is to say, only 323,000.
Having established how much we have done for the pre-war refugees, I come again to the question of the mass deportations. That has meant a vast new refugee problem in Europe, and I am going to end on a contentious note, which I cannot resist doing. Members of the Cabinet are not permitted to disclose proceedings of the Cabinet, but there is no law of the Constitution to prevent a former Cabinet Minister explaining his reasons for agreeing to a certain policy. Most reluctantly, in my own mind, I accepted what I hoped might be the Munich Settlement, because the information which reached me at the time was that another war in Europe would mean the end, at any rate for the time being, of a European civilisation. The information was that we could destroy Nazidom, or rather the German forces, not, as people outside supposed, in three or four months, but in three or four years war, but that in bringing down Nazidom or German militarism, which are one and the same thing, all European civilisation would come to an end. Events have proved that the information which reached me was correct. Personally, I think that the Nazi regime was so terrible, that it was right to do what we did.
"Vous I'avez voulu, George Dandin."
This country and all other countries which have taken part in this war, must realise the consequences of their action in the destruction of this frightful tyranny of Nazidom, which is only a continuation of the German militaristic tyranny. Members of the Government and some of their supporters may try to distinguish between the two, but the difference between Kaiserdom and Nazidom is only a question of degree. Its destruction has meant, for the time being, the destruction of European civilisation. As the hon. Gentleman opposite said, while that is so for the moment, there is no reason why we should enter into a counsel of despair, and it is our duty in this House and the duty of all Allied countries, at the earliest 2374 possible moment to make every effort to rebuild the civilisation which, at the moment, is in wrack and ruin.
§ 12.19 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I welcome this discussion on this terrible and vexed problem. The Noble Lord said that speeches in this House or any speeches politicians made did not have much effect, and I would only like to say to him that I wish there were similar Parliaments to this discussing this problem in an open, free and unfettered way in every country in Europe. There are two kinds of hunger in Europe to-day. One is physical hunger, but I sometimes think, from the information which reaches me, that the awful black-out over Europe is creating in that great territory a spiritual hunger which is more devastating even than physical hunger. If every country could get free Parliaments and free expression without dictatorship or orders, and if people could express themselves freely on these vexed problems, we might make a better world for the future than we have experienced in the last 25 years.
The problem we are facing to-day is not a problem exclusively confined to this war. It is really the culmination of nearly a 30years' war, for we have not only had the refugee problem, the displaced persons problem, the hunger problem and the denial of freedom since and during this war, but it went on in varying degrees pretty well all over Europe from 1914 till now. Some of the most terrible cases we have to face are due to the setting of people against people for reasons of military hierarchy or strategy between the two wars and during this war. I do not think there is anything worse in the world or more criminal than for statesmen to achieve their objects by stirring up racial hatreds and setting people against each other in various parts of the world. It is said that we want to outlaw war. I would in public first try to outlaw that as well if it were possible, because, however military leaders may desire this, let the people live their own lives whatever their nationality, and in the main the ordinary folk will live happily together. They never attack one another unless they are set about one another for some ulterior motive, for reasons of strategy or some- 2375 thing of that character. Even now that is the doctrine which I think will have to be accepted if we are finally to settle Europe on peaceable terms.
The Government, like every Member of the House and the country, are only too keenly aware of the situation facing Europe to-day. Some six weeks ago it seemed to me, from the reports that I received, that, unless some definite steps were taken and every means at our disposal were utilised, we were in danger of a terrible epidemic in Europe this winter. I pointed out at that time, both to other countries and to my colleagues, that, while the Channel could be used to stop Germans, it cannot stop germs. You cannot limit the devastation of an epidemic by a frontier or a strategic post. Having regard to the terrible epidemic of 1918, which, incidentally, killed more people than we lost in the war, hunger and privation may bring a further terrific human loss more devastating even than the atomic bomb. The House needs to realise how difficult it is to damp down and get control of all the things that occurred in leading up to and during the war and the human prejudices that have been accentuated thereby. This has a great bearing upon Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Eastern countries in their great desire to turn the Germans out. I should not like sweeping generalisations to be made; I think they are dangerous. Let it be remembered that many of those people who have been driven back into Germany proper to-day were people who were taken by Hitler and put on the farms of the Poles and others. This is not a beginning. This is a development of what has already occurred, and when these people come back into their territories they naturally want their homes and their lands back.
You have also a democratic country like Czechoslovakia was, and, I hope, will be again, which did its best under great provocation to settle as between Czechs, Slovaks and Sudeten Germans. As one who has known the international movement for 35 years and has met them in the trade unions and everywhere else, I ask Members to believe me when I say that, if left alone, there is not as much difference between these three peoples as there is between Scotsmen, Welshmen and Englishmen. If they are left alone 2376 economically and not stirred up, they always live together in perfect harmony. Then Henlein came along with all the stooges and agents of Hitler and broke up what was a great effort to create and build up a democratic State.
I do not think we need be too hard on Poland or Czechoslovakia. I am never tired of reminding this House and the country how long it has taken to build this State of ours. It has not been done in a minute. Poland was under bondage for 150 years, divided and cut up, and yet she preserved her nationality and culture in an amazing manner. Czechoslovakia, dominated by Austro-Hungary, had only 21 years to build a State, and no one can examine that 21 years without being filled with admiration at what they achieved. Then Hitler came along and used this minority crowd for ulterior motives. He destroyed their work, invaded their country and did everything of the most devastating kind. I cannot get out of my head that if somebody did that to me, that if I had helped to create an organisation of that character and my life's work was broken up, I could not feel very affectionate when the victory turned the other way. We really want to keep a sense of proportion in dealing with this terrible problem.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am asking my hon. Friends to keep a sense of proportion. If one had to handle a strike, as I have had to do, and found blacklegs coming in, it was not easy to forgive them for a considerable time. That never takes place in the law, so my hon. Friend has never had the experience.
It is quite true that revenge is sometimes as indiscriminate in its effects as the action for which it is taken, but there is this difference—one is the letting loose of an uncontrollable passion, the other is deliberate, organised and directed to a given objective. In order to keep a right sense of proportion I would ask the House to remember that we have never had it here. All the countries of Europe have had their Governmental machines completely destroyed. They have been overrun twice. I would ask hon. Members to imagine what this country would be like if it had been invaded by two armies, 2377 and the whole machinery of the Government had been entirely destroyed. Could we expect a new and improvised organism, brought into being in six months, to handle the situation to perfection? Really, it is asking the impossible.
I submit another consideration. For months, in the Coalition Government, we studied objectively the kind of situation we should have to face at the end of the war. We thought at one time that there might possibly be some form of central government let in Germany, something on which we could get a grip, and which would form a basis. But as the war went on, it became obvious to us all that the Hitler régime intended, if it could not win, to leave Europe in a state of complete anarchy. We had to alter our plans accordingly, and devise a system which would take the place of a non-existent organisation. Such a state of affairs is hardly over found even in a native country. There is always the head-man, or some form of organism. Germany, however, was left in a state of complete anarchy, the leaders gone, and the whole machine broken down.
It may be said that we were wrong to develop zones. Looking back, I think it would probably have been better if we had not done so, but there are very grave political considerations which I do not wish to introduce into this Debate except to say this: In the middle of a war you cannot eradicate confusion and all the rest of it unless you draw some line where your armies are going to stop. It is more easy to enter into a fight than to stop it, and it is the question of how, when and where you will stop it, that is always the great difficulty, especially under the conditions I have mentioned with 70,000,000 people in a state of anarchy. I long for the day when all nations will put their trust in a world organisation, because I do not think that frontiers and spheres of influence are as important as they used to be, in view of the development of science. I do not believe that the transfer of territory means so much in security. But there it is—nations which have been attacked look for security, and that search has a great bearing on their attitude of mind. The only way in which a situation like this can be resolved, is to allow the smoke of war to drift gradually away, to let fear die down, and confidence and cooperation take its place. I am not un- 2378 hopeful that in spite of differences, that will develop before long.
There is another matter of which I would remind the House, and that is that we spent six years inflicting the maximum damage on Germany. However hard the last war was, it was fought along certain lines, and behind those lines on either side there was not very much damage. Factories and the rest were left. But in aerial war we inflicted the maximum possible damage almost to the uttermost village where a works was to be found throughout that great territory. So, we face not only complete anarchy, but the damage done to German capacity, and however optimistic we may be, it is impossible for a nation like that to recover overnight. Another thing that has handicapped us is that, owing to the destruction of all freedom in Germany, it did not matter what we told them; they did not heed our warnings. We dropped thousands of leaflets pointing out what the food situation would be if they prolonged the war, but they had no means of expressing themselves. Not only had they no means of expressing themselves, but a nation which has lived under a dictatorship for 20 or even 10 years almost entirely loses the use of its reason. That has been our experience in dealing with these countries; they have no sense of judgment, because so long as there is a dictator at the top giving all decisions, the power of decision is lost lower down. I think that one of the greatest tributes to democracy is that it retains the power of responsibility and decision. The problem is very serious in Germany and in the neighbouring countries including Austria, and the Motion on the Paper calls upon His Majesty's Government to do a number of things.
§ Mr. Bevin
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; I shall learn procedure when I have been here another 10 years. In my innocence I had looked at the Motion on the Paper, but it is true we are discussing the Consolidated Fund Bill. I was going to say that anything we can do, by ourselves, in this matter, more than we are already doing, is very limited. I mentioned just now the fear of an epidemic, and I would ask my right hon. Friend, who spoke first, to appreciate 2379 that we have to build a defence. We are searching the quartermaster's stores, we are doing everything we can with vitamins and everything else to try to build, as it were, a cordon sanitaire by feeding the people in this area as much as we can. But resistance in our own country, with a few ounces of fat per week, is pretty low, and we have to balance that resistance in our own country against what we do overseas. The Government are trying to keep a balanced ration, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food will deal with later, and the two things must, from the foreign policy point of view, be kept very carefully balanced.
The shortages in Europe are due, in part, to the failure of exporting countries to make a maximum contribution to the needs of the world. Additional supplies, on a scale sufficient to bring any widespread relief, must be organised on an international basis, with the co-operation, in particular of the exporting countries. We must look to them to make a much bigger contribution. For instance, I should like to see much less wheat being fed to livestock in North America and more maize and other foodstuffs shipped from South America. Here the difficulty arises of a great political difference with regard to the Argentine. My information is that the Argentine is now burning maize for fuel because they cannot get any oil. If we could put the heavy oil and fuel into the Argentine, take the maize from the Argentine for the United States, Canada and ourselves, and then divert wheat to the people of Europe, it would be a perfectly commonsense thing to do. But politics intervene, and that is one of the troubles that I cannot deal with this morning. I have tried to do my best in my own field to get over that difficulty, because I am satisfied that the demands made by Field-Marshal Montgomery, General Eisenhower and others for wheat must be met, if we are to avoid a worse disaster this year. But the wheat must come from the territories which have it; there is no other way.
I have been asked about U.N.R.R.A. This is an interesting moment, and I have to be very careful what I say, because Congress is now debating whether it will give another £450,000,000 to U.N.R.R.A. If that vote is not carried, U.N.R.R.A. will be broken, and the situ- 2380 ation which we shall face in a few weeks' time will be disastrous. I can only hope that our friends in the United States will agree to make that contribution. Difficult as our own financial situation is—and it is difficult—we readily agreed to pay our 1 per cent. of our national income, if America did the same. That additional grant will help us considerably to tide over the winter. If anything I say from this Box to-day will help our American friends to make up their minds, I think it will be the fact that, with that grant, U.N.R.R.A. will be able to get on with its work. It has been said that U.N.R.R.A. came in with great trumpets. That is the misfortune of having a Press conference at the birth. You do not know how the infant will grow up. It is the custom now when anything is organised to open with a great Press conference, and things are painted in too lurid colours.
§ Mr. Bevin
Well, I stick to whisky. The difficulties of U.N.R.R.A. were inevitable—the difficulty of bringing a new organisation into so many countries, the difficulty of getting personnel, the claims for experts over such a wide field, all made the building up of U.N.R.R.A. extremely difficult. But let me say that I regard the evolution of U.N.R.R.A. in the last two months as most remarkable from the point of view of its efficiency. The change in personnel, the opportunity with the end of the war to release certain military officers and organisers, and thus to give U.N.R.R.A. a better start, has been of great advantage. But while we have done that we have had to bring Austria and Italy and the Ukraine into the ambit of U.N.R.R.A.' s responsibilities, so that while U.N.R.R.A. will be growing in strength and efficiency, given the necessary money, the responsibilities which U.N.R.R.A. is undertaking are growing as well.
I have already described the transfers of population due to the first invasion by Hitler. Now I come to the transfers due to the defeat of Hitler. When I reached Potsdam I was faced with this situation that from the Neisse to the Oder almost the whole area had been very nearly cleared. It was a vacuum. Between the eastern and western Neisse the people had gone out ahead of the advancing armies.
2381 There were coal mines there and you had to get them to work. I would not agree to final frontiers, but it was obvious that the right thing to do administratively was to put this area in the Polish zone. That gave them the Oder for their transport, and gave them a chance to get their economy going; for it must be remembered that owing to the adoption of the Curzon Line between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 Poles have been given the option to move from the east of the Curzon Line back into the new Poland, and, so far as transport will allow, large numbers of them are moving west into the new Poland. Then we took steps to prevent the drive that was going on from both Czechoslovakia and from Poland into Germany by a decision that there should be a hold up, but the evidence at the moment is that some of the Germans are drifting back into the Polish zone, and east of Stettin there is a tendency for those who went out to come back—in slight numbers.
But that is not the only thing. There were millions of people in Germany and the East, who had been brought there as slave labour, who were displaced persons. The House will appreciate the position better in terms of figures, as far as we can get them. Something like 4,000,000 Germans have left Poland—that is East Prussia, the new Poland and down to Stettin. Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other countries added large numbers. It is impossible to give a correct estimate, but as far as we can say there would be another 4,000,000 to 4,500,000,making about 9,000,000. Then there were the 2,500,000 moving into Poland. Then there were the 3,000,000 Czechoslovakian Sudeten Germans being moved into Austria. So there were anything from 14,000,000 to 15,000,000 people all moving at once, some one way and some the other, and there were 10,000,000 displaced persons—the forced labour people—to move out of Germany back to Italy, France and elsewhere. At a rough estimate we have had to handle in that territory since the war ended not far short of 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 people.
§ Earl Winterton
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many of these are what I would call unwilling migrants—I do not think he sub-divided the figures—the people who have been compelled to move, like the Sudeten Germans?
§ Mr. Bevin
I have not the figures. We cannot get statistics which are at all accurate from that part of Europe. Then there is another problem. I do not know how many Germans have gone from Germany to work in Russia. Nobody knows—only the Russians. The people coming into the western zone are, in the overwhelming majority, women and children, with no men. That is another terrific problem. I cannot reduce it to a nice statistical formula, because I have not the figures and I cannot get them.
I have tried to the best of my ability to see the problem as a whole. Just imagine 60 per cent. of the population of these islands being suddenly turned out of their homes and drifting somewhere else, and not all going one way. That is the picture. When I was going to the airport to leave Berlin I saw as many refugees coming out of Berlin as were going in. It was a pathetic sight—the stream of perambulators and small vehicles of one kind or another, and the people were nearly all women and children, with very few men at all. One could not help saying, "My God, this is the price of stupidity and war." It was the most awful sight one could see. It is a problem which it is almost beyond human capacity to solve quickly, and all I can say is that we will do our best.
What have we tried to do? At the Council of Foreign Ministers the American Government raised the question of the waterways of Europe. I say frankly that if we could get strategy and spheres of influence out of the picture nothing could do so much towards rehabilitating Europe as the setting up of the Commissions for the Oder, the Rhine, the Elbe and the Danube. America was quite willing to set to work the drags and all the other machinery which she possessed to try to clear these rivers and to get things going again. That would be a humanitarian thing to do, and I believe that if it is done it will not endanger Russia by one iota—or any other country. But there is that to be considered, and we must not forget it; and therefore things are left to the military commands, with the result that parts of the rivers are cleared and parts are not, and parts are used and other parts are not used at all. There are fertilisers in one place and other areas where the harvest will be bad because they cannot get those fertilisers. It is a 2383 question of the distribution of what is now available in Europe if only transport can be got to work. I make this most earnest appeal to my colleagues among all the Allies: "Whatever we may have to settle about our future relationships let us use every economic resource we have to stop the ordinary man or woman, who is not a party to this quarrel at all, from suffering and going on to starvation."
Then I raised the question of the Danube Basin. In the old days the Danube Basin fed Austria and all the territory around. The only way in which you can feed Europe properly is for the eastern and middle parts, which can produce a surplus of food, to feed the industrial areas. Now all the areas are deficiency areas, due to war having mobilised men and to armies living off the country. In certain countries in the East there are great armies living off the country and there is no surplus of food which can be sent to other places. I thought it would be a good thing if the Allied Control Councils in the Danube Basin were got together to consider what could be done and to ascertain whether there was a surplus of food in any areas. I knew that much could not be got for this winter, but we have to think of the following winter, when things may be much worse on account of growing physical deterioration decreasing the powers of resistance of people. Another good harvest might recover the position. In Yugoslavia food production is limited because, for some reason or other which I cannot see, they are maintaining an army of 400,000 to 600,000 men. It would be better if the men of that army were back at home growing food for next year. We are not going to attack Yugoslavia. Really we are not going to attack—
§ Mr. Bevin
No, we have not got it in our minds to attack anybody, and the sooner those fears can be got out of the way the better it will be. But you do not make things any better by force. If anybody tries to force me to do anything I fight. If anybody asks me to do something I try to see whether I can help them. I think that is the right human approach to all these problems. The 2384 question of coal has been raised. I ask the House to appreciate what has happened. The transport serving the mines was in a state of devastation and had to be put right. The mines themselves were all right. If one looks at the increase in coal production in the Ruhr, it is remarkable. As a result of the efforts that have been made there, production has risen from 1,200,000 tons of hard coal in June to nearly 3,000,000 tons in September, and output per man-shift has gone up 73 per cent, in the same period. Considering the low diet and the fact that only about 136,000 men are employed—about half the normal number—I think that is a really remarkable achievement. I have no doubt that with more appliances and more help much more can be done.
§ Sir A. Salter
The right hon. Gentleman will realise, of course, that the same mines probably produced at the rate of over 100,000,000 tons a year ago, and only a relatively short time ago seven or eight times the figure he has now given. It is still a very small proportion of the capacity of the undamaged mines.
§ Mr. Bevin
That is true, but on the other hand, it must be remembered that at that time, when the mines were under the German regime, most tremendous efforts were made to keep up coal production. The miners were given special food, even if other people went without, and transport was stolen from practically every country in Europe in order to keep those mines fully employed. Now that there has been this terrible devastation of transport and so on, it will be realised that we suffer a great handicap. There is no coal available in Germany for domestic cooking or heating—none at all. The greatest job we have at the moment is to keep the schools, institutions, and such industries as there are, going. That will be the great problem for this winter.
I could talk to the House all day, because the story is so vast, but I want to return to the question of the waterways. As far as the Rhine is concerned, we have done our best. It was entirely unnavigable, but it has been cleared by the efforts of the British and American authorities in recent weeks. We have set up, and there is working from Duisberg a very splendid Committee of British, American and French military representatives, assisted by Belgian and Dutch re- 2385 presertatives. We are hoping that the clearing of the Rhine will facilitate in that part of Germany at least much freer distribution and help the coalmines as well. We have established a new European Central Inland Transport Organisation and they are conferring with this Committee. There are very great difficulties in making the organisation work. As I have said, there was this great opposition in regard to the waterways.
Reference has been made to the question of giving more incentive goods. The trouble is that whatever goods one decides to give, there has to be the coal to process them, and therefore, there is a vicious circle. If you give something in that direction, you use up coal. There is no equitable balance of distribution throughout the area to-day. With regard to the release of military stores, as far as U.N.R.R.A. is concerned, practically the only lorries that were available in the liberated territories were U.N.R.R.A. lorries. We have recently released to U.N.R.R.A. everything we possibly could in the form of lorries in order to get it going, but lorries are only a very small thing compared with railways and waterways. They are helpful, but they do not solve the problem. There is also another vicious circle; directly you get the lorries you are held up for petrol. There is not the fuel for them. You are blocked every way you turn in trying to get this thing working.
With regard to organisation, which I am glad my right hon. Friend did not press too much, I really think we have enough organisations. The other day a colleague of mine came to me with a problem and argued it with very great eloquence and persuasion; I had to confess to him that I did not have the solution, so that I thought he had better go back and propose an organisation. Whenever you cannot find a solution, the thing to do is to set up a committee or organisation. I think we have enough organisations. What is really needed is an acceptance of certain fundamental principles. Are we going to try the economic approach for the redevelopment of the world with less fear than we have hitherto had? Let us always remember one thing. When we talk about a unified Germany, that is a nightmare to France, and there is reason for it. Three times in 100 years that great arsenal of the Ruhr has been turned to destructive purposes and we have paid 2386 the price. I reserved my position at Potsdam on the question of the Ruhr and the Rhine. I do not believe in giving a warlike race like Germany, uncontrolled by anybody else, another arsenal of that character. I do not want to ruin their peaceful industry, but I am entitled, as long as I hold this office, to say to the people that I want a reasonable insurance policy. If a fellow has shot at me three times, I do not see why the devil I should give him a better pistol to use on the fourth occasion. Therefore, when it comes to this enormous economic power, I think there ought to be, not so much territorial changes, as an international control of this kind of thing, which cannot be entrusted to one people. It is a very vital matter. I make no final pronouncement, but I want to make my position clear. I feel that some steps must be taken which will secure the development of the standard of life of the people and the use of their skill and ability, but not allow that great economic power to become part of another war machine in the way that has happened hitherto.
Therefore, on the organisation side, if ultimately we can get certain fundamentals accepted, making for the recreation of the life of the common people and the obliteration of the past from their minds and so give them a real chance, if only the nations can approach the matter without a sense of fear and that terrible feeling of insecurity, I believe that, with the will behind the organisation we have, we can very quickly rehabilitate Europe on peaceful lines which will be of benefit to all of us. Let us remember that, although so much of the wealth of the world has been destroyed, the creative capacity of the world is so great that we can, quicker than at any other period in history, recreate wealth and standards notwithstanding all the devastation there has been, if only the statesmen can be left free, without fear of one another, to devote their energy to creative work.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
In asking the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, I wish that I had the same courage as a former Member who sat here for eight years without making a speech or asking a question. During that time he composed a great work of history called 2387 "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." I cannot help feeling that perhaps some hon. Members opposite think one of us on this side could spend his time profitably in writing another "Decline and Fall." If so, it is a work for somebody with more experience than I have. My only excuse for intervening in the Debate is that I can perhaps make a contribution as a result of my personal knowledge of some parts of Europe.
I think that all of us who took part in those great military campaigns which led to the liberation of Western Europe were struck, from the moment we landed, by the danger and distress that were going to attend us in the task of liberation, and that after a very few months it became very clear that if the horrors of war were not to be followed by the horrors of liberation, we should have to take very drastic steps. The Foreign Secretary and others who have spoken have very rightly spent most of their time in discussing the immediate future, the difficulties of deportees, of smokeless chimneys and factories, blocked waterways, destroyed railways, and all the other things that must be remedied immediately if Europe is to survive the coming winter and the year after that; but I suggest that there is something equally important that lies behind it.
The Foreign Secretary touched on the fact that Hitler was determined that if Germany came down in ruins, it would come down in such ruins that nobody would be able to mend it; but Hitler's policy throughout the war, from the time he overran Europe, was to turn Europe into a slave State and destroy in the countries of Europe every vestige of national unity and corporate being. He used the worst possible types of politicians in all positions of authority, he debased the currency, he made a laughing stock, as far as he could, of all that those traditions that had four countless centuries made Europe great. This led to action by the Resistance movements, and they in turn tried to undermine what little was left of government and governmental institutions, for in so doing they could keep off the markets those things which the occupying armies depended on for their life. Therefore, though out the countries of Western Europe for six long years there were two opposing forces, one on the part of the Germans and the other 2388 on the part of the best elements in the country, both trying to pull down in ruins the authority of the Government and the State.
When I landed in France I was struck, not by the distress of the local population, which in many ways enjoyed things that we had not seen for many years, but by the fact that all corporate entity between various sections of the State had disappeared, that the villagers and country folk thought only of themselves, and the towns thought only of themselves. There was no longer that corporate feeling, that sense of national unity which alone can enable a State to be of service to the world as a whole and to guarantee a satisfactory way of life to its citizens. One found this equally as one travelled up through Belgium and Holland, that everywhere the authority of the State had been undermined and that even right down to local administration and local government there was a complete lack of confidence in these administrations to do anything; except possibly to take a cut from the racket of the black market. Very often it was the heads of the local government that were the kings of the black market. In one case that came to my notice in Brussels, the local burgomaster was found with a ton of butter in his cellar and that can be paralled and duplicated throughout Europe.
I feel that, in addition to taking these very necessary steps to ensure that Europe does not suffer more than is necessary in the coming winter, we must do our very best to bring back stablity of government to Europe. We must do our very level best to do everything we can to give back to these peoples that sense of security which they need. I do not think that our task can be completed or even started to be completed by the most generous gifts of food and raw material. That is not the essential. The essential is to revise in these people a sense of corporate unity, a sense that they can live. If you have seen the deportees in Germany, you realise that it is not so much starvation and distress; it is the hopelessness on their faces that strikes one that in fact they have lost their all. They do not know where to go and in many cases they hardly know where they came from. And that is the task before us.
2389 If, as a new Member, I may say something to the Government, I would say: Let us go to the root of this trouble and bring back into Europe those conditions of life which alone justified us in carrying through the fight. In conclusion, I say, with very deep humility, God grant that our efforts will not be too late, that they will be carried out in the same determination as brought us through the war, so that we may take our part in preserving our common heritage—the heritage of a thousand years of the greatest civilisation the world has ever seen.
§ 1.18 p.m.
Mr. Grossman (Coventry, East)
My request for the customary indulgence of the House is not purely formal, since we are dealing with a subject in which it is almost impossible to avoid controversy. I shall attempt therefore to stick to the facts and the observations which are the results of my personal experience during the war in studying this German problem, first in the Foreign Office and later at headquarters abroad. Before I come on to that, there is one reference I would like to make to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary with reference to ration cuts in this country. As the representative of a city like Coventry which has been extremely hard hit by the war, I naturally welcome his assurance that it would be quite an unreal form of humanity to impose any ration cuts on this country. My own feeling is that the genuinely humane person interested in European affairs is bound to realise that the best service we can do to help Europe is to get through this winter healthy, to be able to work, to be able to produce, to be able to be strong. Europe needs this country enough to accept that we must feed ourselves on our existing rations without cutting them any further.
I am sure that that will not be misunderstood by anybody in this House or outside. Our humanity has never been needed more in Europe than to-day. Those of us who have moved straight from Berlin to this capital and to this House are absolutely astonished at the difference between the two worlds. Here we have order, civilisation, decency and above all, as the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary stressed, here in this country we have the security in which a human being can look forward and 2390 think it worth while working. We feel that it is worth doing a job because it will not be taken away from us the next day or the next week by some occupying Power. Europe needs from us, more than anything else, that we retain those qualities of freedom and are able to be strong in our foreign policy in Europe to-day.
It has been the great good fortune of this country that in the long run real British interests have coincided with European interests—I say "real" British interests—have coincided with the interests of Europe as a whole. But as I think was implicit in many passages of the remarkable speech of the Foreign Secretary, we have to face one fact to-day which I do not think has been sufficiently stressed in this Debate. Europe is not united to-day. For good or for ill, one Europe does not exist. There is, unfortunately, an Eastern Europe and a Western Europe. That is the hard fact which limits the power of His Majesty's Government of operating in certain areas of Europe. It is a strange form of frontier. You can pass across it more easily than you could pass the frontier which is between two democratic States. Yet it exists—this dividing line, between the spheres of influence. It has been rightly stressed throughout the debate that the cardinal point of our foreign policy is to break down this division into spheres of influence. For as long as they exist, there is no peace or prosperity.
The problem of food which we are discussing to-day is merely one aspect of that central problem. To those people who are pessimistic and suggest that those spheres of influence have grown up recently for the first time, I would say that it is not a new phenomenon. It is not something which has suddenly happened. Two wars were fought in Europe, two quite separate wars, one in the East of Europe and the other in the West of Europe and in the Mediterranean. There is much more co operation at this moment going on in Berlin between the four great Powers than ever actually existed during the war even at the height of the war. There is no reason, therefore, for pessimism on this subject. These conditions and spheres of influence existed from 1941 on. We did what we could by liaison with the Russians. But any one who worked in G.H.Q. Algiers or S.H.A.E.F. realised the degree of integration between the 2391 Western Powers and the lack of integration with the Russians. We all realised that when peace came we were bound to be faced by this appalling and profound problem.
It is easy for a new Member to criticise but we have to realise that unconditional surrender was not only a formula for a tough policy to Germany. It was a formula to avoid discussing the future of Germany. It was a formula which prevented us from achieving agreement during the war when agreement was possible, and one which also prevented us thinking out the long-term problem of Germany, when inter-Allied unity could have been more easily won than it could to-day. We are paying the price now for our failure to plan in advance what we would do with Germany when the occupying armies arrived in Berlin. We have to realise when considering the expulsions in Eastern Germany that they are the result of a deliberate unilateral Russian policy. Since the fact is that there is no common policy, the Russians have worked out a unilateral policy; and because they have a unilateral policy, there is no common policy. The vicious circle goes on and on and meanwhile the spheres of influence become harder and harder and more separate.
When we consider how to break down the gap between the Russians and ourselves which is expressed and epitomised in the problem of the refugees, we have to see the thing in perspective. We have to realise that this ruthless unilateral foreign policy in Europe is based, as the Foreign Secretary stressed, on fear and insecurity, on the memories of 1933–41 and not, as some people believe, of 1918.It is based on the memory that there were politicians in Western Europe who systematically worked together to divert the Nazis to the East instead of to the West. This explains the economic policy of the Russians, which is based on the fear lest this should happen all over again in Western Germany. That is this fear that makes them act in this particular way, and impose these fantastic frontier adjustments in Eastern Europe. That is what makes them strip Germany down, expel millions from Poland and impose a drastic land reform this winter which creates virtual starvation. I feel that, looking at the thing objectively, you can say that the Russian policy to-day is a 2392 policy designed to turn Eastern Germany into a glaçis of the Slav fortress, in which the Slavs and Russians hope to enjoy relative security.
I must add one thing in fairness on that point. We can criticise that policy as being ruthless and inhuman but we must remember that at least it is a policy. When the Russians look West, can we in justice say that we have a policy worked out which is a real alternative to that ruthless Russian policy? It may be inhuman to expel refugees but at least Russian policy in Eastern Germany is carrying out the pledges we made year after year with regard to Germany. We said, "We will destroy the power of the Junkers, the big industrialists and the officers corps." That is what we pledged ourselves to do, but if a Russian officer went into the British zone he would not find us doing that. He would find the German soldier driving the officers about in their cars. He would find not a single big estate confiscated. Von Papen is under arrest but von Papen's family still own their mines and landed estates. The Russian soldier would say, "At least in my zone I am breaking German militarism." Land reform is essential in Germany if you are to break the German officers corps. German militarism is intimately connected with the big estates East of the Elbe—and in Western Germany as well.
Whether we recognise that land reform is necessary or not, confiscation of heavy industries in Germany and removal of the coal mines from their present owners is absolutely essential. But not one of these things is being done in our zone, while all these things are being carried out in the Russian zone with most appalling inhumanity and ruthlessness, and with all the more inhumanity and ruthlessness because of their fear when they see that it is not being done in our zone.
We have to look at that refugee problem in that perspective. We have to understand the appalling tragedy in the general framework of inter-Allied relations. The Russians, by carrying out this Eastern policy, are creating precisely what they wished to avoid. They are creating a Western bloc and driving millions of refugees West. The Junkers if deprived of their estates, will be driven into the British zone, which will become the refuge of anti-Bolshevik Germans. 2393 That is the problem they are creating. The worst of a unilateral Russian policy of this sort is that it does not create security for Russians and it destroys all the good work of the British administration in our zone in building up this winter a minimum subsistence diet.
I want to suggest one or two things we could do to break down these suspicions and thereby help the refugees. You cannot stop them coming into our zone for the simple reason that no British soldier is going to fire on women and children. Unless you fire on them, they will come in. We cannot go on importing a million tons of wheat bought with depleted dollar reserves. During this period there is nothing which can be done unless we can achieve an over-all agreement with the Russians for a common policy for running Germany as a whole. That, I believe, is the one central thing which has to be done to get a solution.
I shall be told that that is impossible. I do not think it is impossible. I indicated that our Russian friends are very busy on their policy and I indicated the absence on our side of a constructive policy for the ultimate destiny of Germany. To take one instance, I think I am right in saying that, when the Foreign Secretary spoke on the Ruhr, that was the first indication that the Government were moving towards what all of us have for long wished they should move towards—a firm statement on the future destiny of the Ruhr, which will, at the same time, give the French a sense of security, which they lacked between the wars, and incidentally, turn the Ruhr into something that will work for the good of Europe as a whole, and not for German militarism. I think I can speak for both sides of the House in saying that we should welcome that statement, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to put it forward in further detail as soon as possible. The second thing we have to do is to start work in our zone, not merely in administering it well—that we are doing—but on such things as land reform and confiscation of heavy industry which will indicate our determination that we are going to have no nonsense from German militarism. I believe that that will be perfectly compatible with maintaining efficiency in the zone; in fact I believe that coal production in the Ruhr would rise if the mines were confiscated from their present owners. If the Minister of 2394 Fuel and Power believes that it will raise coal production in this country for the mines to be nationalised, the same argument might well apply to German miners as well. The confiscation of the mines from their present Nazi military owners will give them an incentive to work. I think that it will assist production in the Ruhr as well as help to undermine the suspicions which exist among the Russians.
I think I have made it clear that there are ways in which we could break down these Russian suspicions, and they are ways which a Labour Government is particularly entitled to take. The whole problem of the destruction of German militarism is something that can only be solved by Socialist methods, and by attacking, not a group of individuals, but the social structure on which German militarism is based. If only, in our zone, we could have a directive for our men that it was not their job to pick out a few bad Germans and substitute a few other Germans for them, but to dig at the root of the trouble, which is the social system, to attack it root and branch. We should do it gradually, because you cannot do it quickly without upsetting production. In. these ways we could do more to get the Russians into a frame of mind ready for negotiating a common policy for Germany as a whole than we could by anything else.
I was enormously impressed when I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, by the determination of the British representatives there to get agreement with the Russians, if it was humanly possible. The same men who achieved Anglo-American integration in the Mediterranean, are at work with the same intensity and fervour on this question. When I was coming home, a distinguished general gave me this message, which I in turn give to the House. He said "Give us a policy and we can do this job. We must get an agreement. We shall get it because we must."
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Horabin (North Cornwall)
It falls to my happy lot to-day to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) and the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) on their maiden speeches. It is always a difficult thing to make one's first speech 2395 in this House, but I think the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch showed in his speech that he had three characteristics that are always appreciated by hon. Members of this House. He was short, he was to the point and he based his remarks upon personal experience. The hon. Member for East Coventry, we all know, has a great reputation outside this House for his extensive knowledge of the subject on which he has been speaking to-day. I think he proved his right to that reputation by the speech which he made here this afternoon, and I am sure the House will look forward to further speeches from him in our future Debates.
I would also like to congratulate most sincerely the Foreign Minister on the speech he made to-day, because it did give me a gleam of hope at last. He showed that he is basing the methods by which he is tackling his job in the Foreign Office upon the needs of ordinary people throughout the world, and also showed that he is tackling these problems with perspective and judgment. I also think that, in the course of his speech, he showed that there was not very much ground of difference between himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). There did seem to be common ground on this that, by and large, throughout the world, the means were attainable for preventing the starvation of millions of people in Europe this winter, provided that we could get rid of these obstacles of strategy and politics, that are still standing in the way of the right distribution of supplies. Unfortunately, that is exactly the position. It is strategy and politics that are standing in the way. The Potsdam Declaration was sensible and humane in what it had to say about the treatment of Germany, which was to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of German political life on a democratic framework and for the peaceful co-operation of Germany in international life.
That was the aim, but, since the Potsdam Conference, something quite different has been happening. As the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Foot) has said, we are compressing into a country very little larger than Britain, a population of something like 50,000,000 2396 or 60,000,000 people, and, at the same time, setting out to de-industrialise that country. Thank goodness, our military government is rather more human in its approach to the problem. In fact it appears that something like the fiendish Morgenthau plan is being carried out. Each occupying Power is carrying out a fundamentally different policy within its own zone. The Russians have already stripped their zone of all its industrial equipment. They are, quite rightly, carrying out reforms of land tenure in order to get rid of the Junkers, but, unfortunately, the reforms they are adopting in that area mean that the big food-exporting area of Germany is being reduced to the strip system of the middle age, with disastrous results for the food production of the future. Millions of refugees from further East are flooding into that area and are dying from exposure and lack of food.
In the United States zone, a similar policy is going on. They are carrying out a ruthless policy of pastoralisation. Members of the American forces, with whom I discussed the matter, are concerned at what is happening. They are engaged not only in blowing up but are also dismantling factories. They are rushing, at the moment, to transfer their local administration into the hands of conservative German administrators. In the French zone, also, conditions are appalling, because the French suffer from a great shortage of adequate administrators and they are living on the land in a way that will destroy any prospect of future agricultural revival in that area.
The British zone is rather better, and even my American friends agreed that it was the best administered of the lot. There has been no further destruction of industrial capacity since the occupation, but, of course, we have to face the fact that saturation bombing destroyed houses and industrial plant in an absolutely appalling way. The policy pursued with some ability by the military government is designed to win the battle of the winter. That is the battle that is pre-occupying the minds of everybody connected with the military government there. As the hon. Member for East Coventry has said, there has not been as much de-Nazification in our area as in others, and we lag behind in building up a German administration in the way that the Russians and Americans have attempted to do.
2397 Recently, I visited Germany with the Members of a Parliamentary delegation. In view of what has been said by the Foreign Secretary and in previous speeches, I do not intend to say very much about what I saw, but I did get a certain impression of the German people as being a badly frightened people. They are preoccupied with one thing only—the battle of the winter—and have no time to think about politics. When people say that ordinary Germans are still Nazi at heart, I beg them to withhold judgment for the present until the battle of the winter has been won. Could any people possibly think of politics when faced with the position that now faces the German people? The bombing and the influx of refugees have led to appalling conditions of overcrowding, and I would say, from the little I saw and from what I was told by members of the military government, that there is at least one family to every room, quite apart from any other refugees who are still coming in. As the Foreign Minister has said, there is no coal for the civilian population. I had intended to say something about coal production, but I am not going to pursue it, except to say that, during the week when I was there, there were 20,000 Ruhr miners who were ready and willing to work but who could not go down the mines because they had no boots. They had not got them, because the Government were unable to import either the leather or the boots.
The position, as I see it, even in the British zone, is grim and desperate at the present moment, and I am forced to the conclusion that, unless we really face the situation, the battle of the winter is going to be lost. I am feeling very depressed about it. If one adds suffering, overcrowding and lack of warmth—because there is no fuel for the civilian population to rations that are almost as low as in the camp at Belsen—one realises that death and disease will sweep even over the British zone in the winter. Disease knows no frontiers. The people of Holland, Belgium and France are also undernourished and will be the victims of any form of epidemic that comes along. I am depressed enough about the position to feel that, unless we face up to the problem now, we are going to witness in the coming months the greatest catastrophe the world has ever known.
2398 I did get one gleam of hope out of my visit to Germany. It was given to me by the attitude of the British soldier—not only the Tommies, but also the high-ranking officers. The British soldiers, thank heaven, are still clinging to that sense of decency which is the basis of our civilisation. I want the Government to consider this matter seriously and I want to give them a warning. The British soldier in the Army of the Rhine will not tolerate the starvation of children in Germany. Indeed, I may go so far as to say that, if our soldiers did tolerate the starvation of children in front of their very eyes, it would be one of the worst signs that our civilisation was finally doomed.
I want to relate two minor experiences that I had in Germany, in order to bring home this point about the attitude of our soldiers. I was leaving one of the units which we had been visiting, when three soldiers said they would like a private word with me as I was a Member of Parliament. They wanted me to understand that the Germans were hungry now, and that they were going to starve and die this winter. They went on to say, "That is your responsibility, not ours. It is up to you to do something about it." They did not talk to me about pay and allowances and demobilisation. They came, actuated by a sense of decency, to plead for the Germans. I went to one of the "other ranks' "messes, where there were 3,000 men being given a magnificent tea. There were big chunks of bread and butter, and mess plates piled high with meat and potatoes. In this magnificent building, the tables ran up to some French doors. Outside these French doors, in the sun, were a little German boy and a little German girl. The girl was standing there with a finger in her mouth, and both of them had that dazed look which comes with hunger. Their legs and arms were covered with sores. They were looking at the men feeding. The soldiers, of course, were forbidden strictly to feed the Germans, but I watched the soldiers flicking pieces of food off the tables to the feet of the children, and I felt as proud of them for doing that, as I felt proud of them for winning the war.
There is another aspect of this—the effect that the starvation of the Germans is going to have upon public opinion at home. When the Germans begin to die like flies—and it is the children who are 2399 going to die this winter more than any others, and perhaps some of the old people—public opinion, the conscience of both this country and of the United States of America, is going to be deeply aroused. It will swing, as it swung after the last war, in the other direction, and then public opinion in the two Western democracies will force their Governments to begin coddling the German people, thus preparing the ground for the success or of Nazism. That is the real danger.
I would make another point in passing. It is that poverty and hunger provide no breeding ground for democracy. How can we expect the German people to take any interest in politics and in democracy, if they are faced with empty bellies and the starvation of their children? As I see it, one side of this picture is this: We are at present fighting a battle to maintain our own sense of decency which is the basis of our civilisation. There is another—the material side—and that is the effect of the destruction of the German economy upon the standard of living of Western Europe. I think it has come out in other speeches this morning, particularly in the Foreign Minister's speech, that the well-being of Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Italy and Spain depends, to no small extent, upon the industrial output of the Rhur. I go further that than. The well-being of the people of this country depends upon the prosperity of Western Europe, and, therefore, it is vital, not only from the point of view of our civilisation but from our own selfish point of view, that the British Government should now seek to persuade Russia, and the United States, to abandon what "The Economist" quite rightly calls the lunatic policies which we are at present pursuing in Germany. I think there are two courses open to us. The best one, of course, would be to get Russia and the United States to act for Europe as a whole, but if they refuse to do that, we should act alone, and at least save Western Europe.
§ Mr. Horabin
My hon. Friend knows my views on India well enough. Perhaps I should talk bluntly about the reasons for the actual policies which are being make it clear to Russia, as the Foreign pursued, because understanding of this preventing the intervention of the Western Powers by the part they played in the "Hands off Russia" movement. I think if the present Government make it clear exactly where they stand in relation to Russia, that if we have the secret of the atomic bomb disclosed to us, we shall see it is disclosed to Russia as well; and if we Minister can, that we will use a revived 2400 alone will provide the basis for bringing the Big Three together on this problem. First, I want to talk about Russia, and I think I am entitled to talk about Russia because, when it was very unpopular to do so in this country, particularly in high places, I did stand up for Russia against Finland and I got into trouble from my own party and in my constituency for doing so. I played as large a part as any one in this country in the fight for the Second Front in 1942. I believe in Russia. I think Russia has done great things, but I deplore what is happening in the Russian zone at the present moment. I can understand fully the underlying reasons for it, and it is those that I want to discuss now. In modern times wars have always come to Russia out of Europe, and ever since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 the policies of the Western Powers have very largely been directed towards destroying the Soviets. I do not think we can blame Russia for believing that Britain and the United States of America made large contributions to the domination of Germany by Hitler, in order to provide the weapon for attacking Russia. The Russians today are remembering these things, and during this war and even since Germany's defeat they have seen Britons and Americans speaking words of good will towards Russia in public, while, at the same time, influential groups in both countries are dominated by anti-Russian sentiments and regard Russia as the main enemy. Therefore, I can understand Russia arguing that it is better that Western Europe should be Balkanised than that Germany should become a menace to her security.
This suspicion of Russia has been largely reinforced by the mishandling of the secret of the atomic bomb. That is the fundamental thing with which we have not yet dealt this morning. The new Labour Government are here and they have a. very great opportunity. After all, there are Members of that party's present Government who played a large part in preventing the intervention of the Western Powers by the part they played in the "Hands off Russia" movement. I think if the present Government make it clear exactly where they stand in relation to Russia, that if we have the secret of the atomic bomb disclosed to us, we shall see it is disclosed to Russia as well; and if we Minister can, that we will use a revived 2401 European economy in order to participate in the reconstruction of Russia, Russia will adopt a different attitude from the deeply suspicious attitude which she is adopting at present, just as Russia has no interest in European revival, and perhaps would rather see it a desert than a potential weapon for the carrying out of Anglo-American policies directed against Russia, so the United States, secure in its own continent, is setting out to destroy the economic basis of further German aggression by destroying the German industries. What the British have to think about is that those industries which the Americans are destroying, because they regard them as war industries, are also essential for peace; and in destroying the German war potential, the Americans are going a long way to destroying the European peace potential as well.
I think we must make it clear both to Russia and the United Stales of America that the way to prevent Germany rearming is not the method we are adopting at present. The right way is to control the production of end products—the tanks, guns and planes—and by refusing to allow Germany to produce any of those things in future. If we cannot control those end products, surely we are not able to control all the processes of the German economy. If we were to control all the processes, it would require an army of administrators that would rob us of those administrators and technicians which we so urgently need in this country in order to carry out our own reconstruction. If Russia and the United States insist, as they may well insist, on continuing their policy of destroying the German economy, I suggest we should pursue our own policy until they come to their senses. We must pursue the policies necessary to secure the possibility of a rise in the standard of living for ourselves, and also those policies that are necessary to preserve the last vestiges of our civilisation. We are, as the Foreign Minister said, in control of the Ruhr. If we cannot get the United States and the Soviet Union to agree with us, we should call together those nations which do depend upon the industrial complex of the Ruhr for their standard of living—Scandinavia, the Low Countries, France, Italy and possibly Spain, when it becomes a democracy—and set to work to develop its production for international purposes; in other words, for 2402 the well-being of the Western democracies. That is not going to involve any coddling of the Germans. What we have to do is to give them their minimum of food, clothing and other necessities. This policy, of course, will involve short-term sacrifices on the part of the nations which take part in it, but they will be making those short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits.
I suggest that this policy offers Western Europe the possibility of a rise in the standard of living instead of the poverty which must inevitably follow upon the Balkanisation of Western Europe which is taking place at the moment. It is a policy which accords with all the principles for which the Liberal and Labour parties stand, and for which, I hope, also the Conservative Party stands today. We are surely united in these things. We all stand for human decency and the brotherhood of man, which is the ideological basis of our civilisation. We all stand for the integrity of the human personality and we all believe that the State exists to serve the individual. Therefore, I feel that this new Labour Government has a great opportunity. To seize that opportunity, it also has to bring about changes in our administration of the British zone. I feel that the time has come to put a civilian with the rank of Cabinet Minister in charge of this problem—a man of great political knowledge and understanding necessary for accomplishing this very complicated job which goes far beyond the trade of the soldier. It needs an experienced statesman. We must, of course, speed up the administration in Germany under German people, because we have not the resources and skill to do it ourselves without seriously interfering with our own plans for reconstruction.
There are, in this country, many Germans who have been investigated and tested and who, as we all know and as the Government know, stand for exactly the same things as we do and who have the capacity to carry out this policy. These people have been ignored up to now, and I suggest that the time has come when we should make full use of them, not only to reconstruct Germany, but also to make their contribution to the rebuilding of a healthy and prosperous Western Europe. I feel that the bright light of our civilisation is flickering out, and I think that we in 2403 this House have a duty, and the Government have a very heavy duty, at the present moment to keep that flame alive as a beacon for the people of Europe as this awful darkness creeps across the face of Europe and threatens to engulf us all.
§ 2.1 p.m.
§ Lieutenant Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
I crave the indulgence of the House on this occasion of my maiden contribution to its Debate. I hope and think I shall carry with me, not only the good wishes, but also the aspirations and hopes of the people of Bedford—the constituency which I am proud to represent here—in what I say this afternoon.
The world is confronted with a moral crisis. We have struck out of the sky the crooked cross of malice, hatred and uncharitableness. Unfortunately, we have not put in its place that cross which is the symbol of self-sacrifice, of love, of charity, and of all those things which, down the history of mankind, have helped it to take a step forward. Instead, there is hanging over mankind a large black question mark which poses questions for mankind of the most serious import. It asks, "Yes" or "No"; life or death; the narrow way which leads through the plains to the uplands and the hills, or the broad way which leads to the desert of destruction? Are we our brothers' keepers, or do we only love our neighbours as ourselves, as long as they are not Jews, as long as they are not Russians, as long as they are not Germans, as long as the colour of their skin, their language, their manner and their attitude to life fits in with our own preconceived notions? The situation in Central Europe today is the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible malady which is afflicting humanity. It cannot be isolated, and if we allow Germany, the geographical centre of Europe, to become a cesspool of starvation and disease, 20 miles of water between ourselves and the Continent of Europe will not save us from its awful effects.
That is only putting self-interest first but that should not be our prime consideration; for, if what is happening in Germany is allowed to develop, civilisation as a whole in Western Europe will collapse in a welter of moral and spiritual 2404 degradation. Where part of humanity is in distress, the whole is under the weather. It is the same with each one of us—if part of our human body is injured, the effectiveness of its activities is diminished. Would that that principle had been accepted and realised between the two wars; would that we had had leaders in this country who realised that, when bombs were falling on Guernica they were falling on Stepney; that when the people of Abyssinia were being sprayed with mustard gas, those in the tenements of Glasgow, and the fishermen in Cornwall, and the inhabitants of every nook and cranny of this island were being brought into jeopardy because we were allowing this kind of thing to be put into operation without making a vehement protest and a firm stand against it. "God's in His heaven," and "Underneath are the everlasting arms"; if it had not been so, we should never have come through this supreme crisis of our national history. That will remain for ever true, but we cannot afford to flout the Divine Will as it is being flouted from one end of the world to the other.
Man has the choice today either to go forward or to go backwards into a bottomless pit. I may be called an idealist; I am not ashamed if that epithet is applied to me, for what the world needs today, is an infusion of idealism shot through with that realism which I am confident the Foreign Secretary has at the back of his mind in tackling the problems which confront him. We need to stand for the re-establishment of Christian principles in our individual lives, in the life of this country, and, through this country and its influence, in the life of the world, for Britain is the repository of all the hopes and fears and all the troubles, not only of its own inhabitants, but of thousands and thousands throughout Europe who are looking to us to-day to set an example in taking a firm stand over vital principles.
Let us, if we can, put ourselves into the shoes of the helpless and the homeless thousands of Europe—shoes that let in the wet, shoes that need soling and heeling, shoes which very often will not fit on to the feet of their possessors because they are swollen and aching. "And having done all, to stand"—to stand against all comers for the establishment of human rights and of human 2405 values. Thus and thus alone shall we keep bright that moral purpose and those spiritual values which the country sent the Labour Party into power to uphold, as I see it. The tide which swept us in must not be allowed to ebb. It will only be kept at the full, as I see it, if we play our part, each one of us, in securing those material conditions, wherever the writ of this country may run, which will give a chance for the fruits of the spirit to ripen and come to maturity. This is the Socialism which the people of the country endorsed at the General Election.
I salute those who have offered to give up some of their rations in order to put on their feet some of the distressed persons on the Continent. They are numerous, I am glad to think, and I wish it were possible that a system could be introduced here whereby each one of us surrendered a coupon when we fed in a restaurant and by that means saved food which, little as it might be in toto, would be something to relieve the situation which is developing in Germany to-day. Above all, I ask the Government to contriveby every means at their disposal some scheme whereby babies and youngsters in Germany can be saved during this coming winter. I myself, even though I be a bachelor, would be glad to pay for and care for a child if it could be arranged that some could be sent over here. I know there are many others who think as I do. In my own family I know there is a willingness to assist in this great humanitarian purpose.
I want to utter a word of warning now, and that is to caution every Member on this side of the House and on the benches opposite not to use this Debate as a means of accentuating any divergencies of views existing between ourselves and our Soviet Allies. We must look at things from their point of view, and make all due allowances for their attitude. We must remember that the suffering they have endured and the material destruction carried out in their country are greater than the suffering and material destruction which all the rest of the Allies put together have experienced. But we must tell them frankly that although it is only natural to have an urge to punish those who have wronged us. yet revenge sears and scorches the souls of those who practise it. At the highest level I believe there is, on the Russian side, a desire to co- 2406 operate. One of the problems that our Soviet Allies are up against is this, that the occupying forces they have in their zone of Germany are not top-grade troops. That is no fault of theirs, for the flower of their Army was slaughtered in some of the great battles which they fought on their Western front for the salvation of mankind. We must bear that in mind. We cannot automatically expect the same outlook to be developed in those people whose attitude of life is not quite as our own.
We must do all we can to remove the suspicions which they have of us, and which have been accentuated by the unnecessary prolongation of the Belsen trial, with the portrayal of all its pornographic details for all the world to lap up, and in the lapping up of which revenge and hatred have been fostered, even among some of our own folk here in Britain. So far as secrecy concerning the atom bomb is concerned, our policy should be to say: "This great discovery is yours. We give it to you and God bless you in using it for the healing of the nations." That is the attitude which we and America should take in considering whether others should be let into the so-called secret. With regard to the discovery of the power of nuclear energy, it seems to me that science has run away with man's conscience. That is exemplified by what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where man's conscience was flouted in the dropping of bombs without due warning on countless thousands who, in a flash, were wiped out and swept over the barrier between life and death.
The world needs conversion from the forces of fear to the energies of faith, faith in ourselves and in the good intentions of others, faith in seeing that the wandering nomads of the Continent are treated as a sacred and sacramental God-given opportunity for the rest of us to come to their aid. As Armistice time draws near once more and we think of the dead of all nations, and especially of our own, I am prompted to put the House in the spirit of two verses which appeared just after victory in the columns of "The Sunday Times." They ran as follows:
§ "Now the slow-moving sun grows full and very strong,
§ On the hill crest for which we struggled all night long.2407
§ And we who know the cost in tears, in sweat and blood,
§ Lift our scarred faces to the bright and healing flood.
§ You who have hewed the steps, and died upon the climb,
§ Giving your present for the world's uncounted time,
§ In spirit and in brotherhood are with us still,
§ Sharing our hour of victory on the sun-lit hill
§ That sunlit hill is, for the time being, overshadowed by the mists of misunderstanding, of revenge and hatred. It is for us, unitedly in this House, to dissipate these mists, and establish our feet firmly on that sunlit hill. It is for us to look to the promised land, and, inspired by ideals, to take a step forward towards it with our brothers and sisters all over the world.
§ 2.21 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Vane (Westmorland)
On rising to address this House for the first time I, like so many others before me, ask for the indulgence which the House grants to new Members. My excuse for intervening in this Debate is that I wish to speak briefly on one practical aspect of this problem—the administrative aspect. The importance of this struck me very forcibly when, the other day, I had the privilege of visiting Germany as one of a party of hon. Members who toured the British zone. Although I am speaking only for myself, I feel that there is little or nothing in what I am going to say which would not be supported by the other hon. Members who accompanied me, and I know they will support me without any reservation when I say, first, how grateful we are to all those who made our tour such a success, showing us the things we wanted to see, and generally making our short stay so interesting that we all wished, I think, that it could have been longer, and could have included a visit to Berlin.
A visit to Germany at this time was of special interest to me, because I had known Germany at another time of change—the Spring of 1933—when the Nazis came to power. I had then a special opportunity of seeing how easily the bewildered German people were brought under the control of a group or party who knew their own minds, knew how to give orders, and knew how to see those orders carried out. I believe that they would have achieved nearly the same success if 2408 they had not also committed themselves to the acts of brutality, which stain their name. At that time, I was a student at a German university. I quickly realised there was nothing to be done by staying in residence any longer, so I left the country sooner than I had intended. Perhaps, I can claim extra indulgence in that, if not a refugee, I am at least a near-refugee. No harm is likely to come to me, nor are my books likely to be put on the bonfires that were lit in the streets at that time. My professor was an honest scholar, and as devout a reader of the "Manchester Guardian" as any hon. Member here; 'but it was clear that even the university world had taken such a shock from the corning into force of the Nazis, that there was no purpose in a foreign student prolonging his stay.
I think that the lesson we should learn today is, first to make up our own minds about what we want to do with Germany, then know how to give the Germans orders, and then know how to see those orders carried out. It was against that background that I went to Germany, in particular to see the part played by the British military Government, and by the junior military officers of the staff captain level on whose initiative, at times like this, so much depends. Tribute has been paid to-day to the early achievement of the British military Government in the setting up of an administration which has begun to win the confidence of the German people. I was struck when being taken round an ersatz rubber factory near Hamburg, where one would expect to see sullen looks, to find men and women on the machines only too ready to talk and explain what they were doing. I think that it is a great credit to the British military Government that they have started to dispel this fear. Without dispelling it, there would be little hope of making any immediate progress. To-day we have already heard how, after dealing with this first problem, we have to face a bigger problem of planning more permanent administration. We have the problem ahead referred to in the Motion on the Order Paper, and, in addition, the intention of all refugees, or so I believe, to find their way to the British zone if they possibly can.
Unfortunately, as I said, we were not in Berlin, which is the best centre for looking at this problem of refugees. As 2409 I do not want to be dramatic, I will not say more, except that all I heard led to grave misgivings on my part as to whether agreement on administration between the Allies was all it should be. It is a rarity for them to agree on any policy of concerted action covering all four zones of occupation. In these circumstances, as always happens, there is little direction given from above to juniors, and even more initiative and responsibility rests on them than would otherwise be the case. I do not think we should under-estimate this responsibility, which is far greater than the responsibility which rests on the officers of the many voluntary and relief organisations who are also working in Germany.
I now come to my main contention. If the administrative measures which we propose, are to have any real success, it is necessary for us to recruit into this service the very best men we can find. I have never heard anything which leads me to believe that the big posts are not being filled with excellent men for the job, but I am far less certain about the lower grades. Until the other day, the terms of service were something like two or three years, and then, I think, one could take on for one year at a time beyond that. I think that it will be agreed that these are not the terms or conditions which should ever be offered in a service of this importance. I was glad to hear, on Wednesday, that these conditions have now been improved, and that officers can take on for a period of seven years. I hope that, as a result of that, a great many officers in the Army who have already some slight experience of adminis-trative problems facing us in Germany, will be attracted to transfer to Government military service. I doubt whether even this seven-year term is really long enough. People do not enter the Colonial service for seven years, but to make it a life career. Since I am convinced that the problems of Germany are not going to be solved in seven years, I feel we should offer to this service conditions comparable with those in the Colonial service. This is a task which demands quality, and numbers will never be a substitute for quality. We have not the man power, nor do we want, to undertake the Germans' work for them.
Although I do not wish, in any way, to belittle the importance of mobilising 2410 opinion and indignation here to-day, I feel it would be of greatly added value if we could have an assurance from the Government that they are taking practical steps in the routine work and day-to-day administrative difficulties in Germany. God knows, these are going to be difficult enough, even if things do not work out as badly as some of us may fear. Therefore, I beg the Government to try to make this service a real corps ďélite. If they succeed in doing that, and stop taking two bites at a cherry, it is really not a very difficult problem, and they will not only be giving this service its due, but making a real contribution towards solving this grim problem which faces us in Germany to-day.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
It is my pleasant duty to congratulate the two previous speakers on their maiden speeches. The hon. and gallant Member for Westmorland (Lieut.-Colonel Vane) spoke with a realism based on very recent and evidently highly observant observations of the conditions in Germany. The hon. and gallant Member who preceded him spoke in a rather more idealistic vein. In a sense he apologised for his idealism, but I think that is a thing for which no Member of this House need apologise. It is, I think, because idealism is in some quarters rather at a discount but this House respects and listens to, as do the public, those who show idealism, especially among the young. We shall gladly listen to both those speakers in any future Debates.
I wish to take the House back to a matter arising rather more directly out of the Notice of Motion which was, I think, the origin of to-day's Debate being granted. That Notice of Motion was signed by over 150 Members of almost every shade of opinion. I would like to remind hon. Members who have not signed it that it is still open to them to do so in order that foreign opinion and public opinion in this country may realise how wide is the interest. The point I wish to speak about is really the request to the Government which we put first in the Motion, that which concerns these widespread deportations of Germans from their homes in Eastern Europe. The other two points were dealt with admirably by my right hon. Friend who opened 2411 the Debate. As he is one of the greatest experts on the economic aspects of the question it is quite unnecessary for me to refer to them, except to say that I trust no opportunity is being lost, not only of doing all the things of which he spoke, but also, and I think he alluded to it, mobilising as far as possible all the resources of those countries which have not been so actively involved in the war as ourselves. I refer to Denmark, which is bursting with materials and eager to supply them, and Sweden, which is also said to be bursting with materials, and some of the South American countries.
To return to the question of these enforced expulsions, added to the existing congestion and devastation in Germany, I recall that they were described by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when winding up a Debate on 10th October, aswhat we have to admit may prove to be a catastrophe which has not been paralleled in Europe for centuries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1945, Vol.414, c. 370.]As to the nature of the catastrophe, it was indicated by one of the hon. Members for the Scottish Universities. As this was in his non-Parliamentary capacity, I may perhaps refer to him by name—Sir John Orr—when he said:I believe that in the coming winter in Europe more will die from lack of food and shelter than were killed in the whole five years of the war.Other estimates of the probable deaths vary from 4,000,000 to 14,000,000.What was said to-day by the Foreign Secretary indicated that he is in no danger of underestimating the vast scale of the possible calamity. I shall ask a terrible question. It is this: Whether this enormous mortality is regarded as a catastrophe by the Governments who are mainly responsible for bringing it about? Or is it an orgy of indiscriminate vengeance, or is it conceivably part of a planned policy of reducing the numbers of their potential enemies for several generations? That is a serious suggestion to put forward.
Every one knows which are the Governments which are causing, or at least acquiescing in, these expulsions, whether they take the form of driving people out or producing such conditions of starvation and ill-treatment that the people themselves flee in terror. They are the Governments of Russia, Poland and 2412 Czechoslavakia, and from quite recent information that of Hungary will probably have to be added. I intend to speak plainly, and in spite of several hon. Members who have warned speakers not to criticise our Allies, I shall disregard them and shall probably shock many of those who listen to me, those who are afraid of offending our gallant Allies. I believe I can do so because I am so complete an Independent that no one can suppose that I am the spokesman of any party. Also my record is such that no-one who knows it can possibly suspect me of political prejudice against these countries. In the case of Czechoslovakia and Russia before the war I was concerned in various active ways in seeking for friendship between their countries and ours, and in defending their interests when I had reason to think that those interests were not being properly respected, as in the case of Munich. I could give many proofs of all that but I will not take up the time of the House.
In spite of that old friendship of mine I say to any representatives of those countries whom my words may somehow or other reach, that there is a grave danger of their nations becoming actively disliked, and indeed despised, by great sections of people in this country and abroad, those sections who care for humanity and who are horrified at what is going on. There is the further danger that just those people who in past days had uneasy consciences about our treatment of Czechoslovakia and Poland are now tending to salve their consciences by saying "You see what these people are like, rapacious, cruel and barbarous. Need you really have been so concerned on their behalf?"
Just or unjust, what is the indictment that is bringing about this change of feeling? I cannot summarise it, however inadequately, without taking up more time than I would be justified in doing. I understand the danger of biased and exaggerated reports. All the evidence I am going on is based partly on the official reports of bodies such as U.N.R.R.A. and on official statements; partly on reports of reliable workers in connection with such bodies as the Red Cross, the Society of Friends, and the Jewish Relief Committee, and a good deal on the writings of correspondents in reliable newspapers of the most varied political 2413 complexion during the last few weeks. Taken together, they present a terrible picture. It is said, first, that in spite of the Potsdam Agreement, that expulsions resulting from frontier changes should be carried out in an orderly and humane manner, tens of thousands, indeed millions, of people—chiefly, as several speakers have said, women, children and old men—because adult men have either been killed or carried away into captivity or put to forced labour—have been expelled into a shrunken Germany. In the Berlin area alone it was quite recently admitted that there had been 10,000 refugees a day during the preceding month.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Will the hon. Lady, whose honesty is respected by all sections of the House, declare that Russia has acted wantonly and viciously in expelling Germans, many of them to die in the manner she appears to indicate, because I have been there and made close investigations, and I have seen no evidence of that?
§ Miss Rathbone
It really would not be fair to the House if I tried to give the evidence. I have said already that hon. Members can read the evidence for themselves and can put against it evidence that comes in a contrary sense. I only say that it looks as though these expulsions are deliberately carried out in spite of repeated remonstrances. Further, much of the evidence shows that the expulsions are carried out under quite unnecessarily cruel conditions. The usual method is to round up a household in the middle of the night or in the early morning and give them 15 minutes to 20 minutes to gather together as much food or clothing as they can carry in their hands and then to herd them together for hours or for days. Finally they are hustled into railway trucks or lorries so crowded that many of them die. Rape and robbery on the journey are said to be very common, usually by Polish youths.
One doctor in the British zone in Berlin said, and it is quite a recent statement, that during the past month 200 of the refugees arriving in the Berlin British zone were found dead in railway trucks. Many others travel by foot and among them the deaths are innumerable from starvation, exhaustion or suicide. That is a picture of a horrible technique which was practised, so far as I am aware for 2414 the first time, in 1940–41, by the Russians, when they expelled in that way hundreds of thousands of Poles and sent them into Asiatic Russia.
As to the Czechs, it is only fair to say that there is some evidence that the deportations, if they have not ceased, have considerably diminished since the Potsdam Agreement. I am sorry to say that there is very good reason to believe that what happens to all those whose expulsion is deferred is that they are turned out of their houses in the same way as though they were being expelled. The men are taken off to forced labour and the women, children and old people are herded into camps with inadequate food and clothing, to such an extent that very large numbers of them die. Further, those who are left free are treated exactly as the Jews were treated during the Nazi dispensation. They are forced to wear badges. They are not allowed to sit on seats in the' public parks or to enter public buildings. They are not allowed to post any letters and they are allowed only the same rations as the Jews used to be allowed under the Nazis, and they very often do not get them.
I just hate to report these stories about the Czechs, of all people. I have a particular admiration for the Czechs. I visited them for the last time in January, 1939, just over a month before Hitler walked in. I did it to try to hurry up the evacuation of those Czechs who were believed to be specially in danger. The reports about this matter come from sources which are reliable, and I will not waste time by giving them to the House now. I can tell anybody who likes to know, what they are. I believe that President Masaryk would turn in his grave if only half the reports are true, and I can only believe that Jan Masaryk and others at the head of the Government are unaware of the things that are said to be done in their names. But at least in that country there is as yet no iron wall shutting it off from the rest of Europe. There is no complete censorship. One of the most serious of the reports comes from Mr. Gedge, the well-known British correspondent in Prague. He describes fully the conditions in the camps—the bad food, the ill-treatment of the men, women and children, such as I have been summarising. Should there not be an authoritative deputation of people of undoubted 2415 integrity, allowed to go into Czechoslovakia and tell the rest of the world what is happening and what the condition of affairs really is?
I have spoken so far mostly of what is happening in Germany but very much the same stories are told about the expulsions to Austria. According to a very recent report from Vienna the Austrian Provisional Government have decided to make an appeal to the four Allied Powers to take action to bring about a cessation of conditions that are causing unending misery. What chiefly brought about the crisis was a report that Hungary were about to send hundreds of thousands of people into Austria. The total number of Germans living in Hungary is said to be about 400,000, and great masses of them have begun to be pushed towards the Austrian frontier. The Austrian Government remonstrated and asked, not only that the process should be stopped, but that food should be sent in by the Allies as well, so that enormous numbers of new refugees should not add to the difficulties already existing in Austria where the existing refugees are in danger of dying from starvation.
That is all I have got to say about expulsions. I should say one thing about those who have been rescued from the horror camps of Belsen, Buchenwald and so forth. Large numbers of them were Jews. We are getting very unsatisfactory reports of the conditions under which they are living. In view of what the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said in one part of his speech, his panegyric upon what this country has done for the refugees—I should like to remind him that in this matter we have, especially towards the Jews, a special responsibility which comes from the fact that if we had not closed the doors of Palestine, and the doors of our own country except for a limited trickle in the year or two before the war, hundreds of thousands of those who have perished or are in danger of perishing would be safe.
§ Earl Winterton
As the hon. Lady has referred to me I should like to answer her point at once. Of the 400,000 I referred to, there were opportunities for those people to go to other countries besides Palestine. They were offered two settlement schemes, but there was the 2416 foolish Zionist agitation in this country which said to those people "Don't go there. We want you to go to Palestine."
§ Miss Rathbone
I have my answer but it would not be fair to the House to refer to it now. I would make one final point. I do not appeal to the Government to have more sympathy, because we are perfectly sure that we have their sympathy, from the speech which the Foreign Secretary made to-day. I do not accuse them of lack of those things, but I am going to appeal to them to show the maximum possible imagination, initiative, energy and courage. By courage I mean moral courage. Physical courage has been shown so splendidly during the war by men and women combatants and civilians that we all take physical courage for granted. Moral courage is the quality for which the world is thirsting, and for the lack of which millions are threatened with death. By moral courage I do not mean reckless disregard of real difficulties and obstacles. I mean the kind of courage which enables Governments to speak to their own people and to foreign Governments with perfect frankness, speaking the truth as they see it, even at the risk of unpopularity and of giving offence.
Standing, as we do to-day, higher in the estimate of the world than we ever did before, surely this Government of all Governments can afford to show that kind of courage. Everyone knows that we are not out for imperial aggrandisement—not because we are less ambitious than other people, but because we have all the territory we can possibly want. Everybody knows there is only one thing we want, and that is the four freedoms, reasonable prosperity, and lasting peace. Do let us drive home to our Allies and to the whole world the lesson that freedom, prosperity and peace cannot possibly result from a policy of freezing or starving our former enemies to death. It can only result from a policy of justice for all and mercy for all who desire it. Let no Government and no individual fall back on the mean excuse that other countries can afford to do more and can spare more than we can, or that other countries have a greater responsibility than we have. Remember that all suffering is individual suffering. There is no such thing as collective suffering, and every man, woman and child whom we can save from undeserved suffering is 2417 worth the saving. Remember, too, that all responsibility is individual responsibility, that everyone in the world is responsible for every calamity that happens in the world, if he or she has left undone anything he could have done, without neglecting greater responsibilities, to prevent or mitigate the calamity even by one iota.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds (Dartford)
This is my maiden speech, and I know that those things that were told me about its being an awful ordeal are only too true. I know from my brief experience, however, that I will have the sympathy of the House. I hope to make a contribution, not by virtue of what I have heard, but by virtue of what I have seen. Two weeks ago I returned from Germany, where I had the opportunity in Berlin of seeing conditions at first hand. What is more interesting probably is that I was in the Russian zone, and I believe that I am the only Member in the House who has been there. Berlin is a city of ruins in which, it is estimated, there are 3,000,000 people. My chief concern is in regard to the young children, who are too young to know what the war was about. When I was in Berlin I had the privilege of going among the school children in the schools with the Minister of Education, and it was alarming to hear from them what they were expected to live on. Very few of them had anything for breakfast except one or two pieces of dry bread and ersatz coffee without any milk or sugar. The midday meal generally consisted of one course of either very weak soup or of potatoes only. The inquiry showed that for months none of them had had milk or eggs, and there is no sweet ration. The children of Berlin are starving; there is no other word for it.
I have been listening to some awful tales of what might be, but I want to give an aspect of the British sector of Berlin which exists and is really horrible. I am now referring to the refugee camps. I saw those camps and was in them late at night. What did I see? In one of them I saw the refugees trying to sleep, some of them sitting on the stairs, some lying in the corridors and some in tiny rooms containing 40 to 50 people packed like herrings. There were little or no sanitary arrangements and the stench was terrible. In those rooms was a big percentage of 2418 children one, two and three years of age. I was informed that in three months 84 children had been born under those conditions. The conditions were bad enough, but what of the food? I was informed by the German Red Cross that they had one meal per day which consisted of soup with bread. If they were lucky and there was any bread left over, they got it in the evening with a beverage without milk or sugar. On the night I happened to be there there was no bread left, so they did without. One of the camps was in an old prison in which there were 12,500 refugees. Many of them were young children under four. Never in my life will I forget that horrible picture, and when I left the camp I smoked a cigarette for the first time in five years to try and get rid of the terrible smell. I am not going to suggest that we in this country should cut our rations to assist, because. I am satisfied that we have reached the low water mark.
I recognise, in speaking with other experts, that the problem in Berlin is only a very small part of an enormous problem which extends over Holland, parts of France, Poland, Russia, Eastern Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary and other countries. Yet I believe that if we will, we can help. My suggestion to the Government is that they should take immediate steps to reduce the horrors of the refugee and transit camps, and also, that there should be additional food for the children in Berlin. I specify Berlin because I found the children in the country districts looking remarkably well. The children in Berlin are the problem, and that may apply to other large towns which have been devastated. These children in Berlin are not German children; they are purely and simply children, and all decent people of any civilised country are looking forward to the day when we will be able to educate them to take their place in a decent world. But I suggest with all the emphasis that I possess that it will be useless to send textbooks and teachers to educate those who manage to live when they have in their minds the horrors of seeing young children slowly and surely dying.
There is another way in which the Government can help in Berlin. It is in the matter of fuel. The people of Berlin have been told that there is no coal for them this winter, and they know that that is correct. There is fuel on the edge 2419 of Berlin in the enormous forest that reaches to the edge of the city. I have watched the German people trying to get that fuel for the winter, but, although they walk about, they are listless and have no interest in the future whatever. Their efforts to get timber into their little wagons are ludicrous. What are needed are the tools to fell the trees and transport to carry the wood. I believe that that can be done, for I saw many lorries lying idle. At the big football match at the Stadium I saw hundreds of Army lorries.
I believe that in that one direction alone a big difference can be made this winter, because if they have fuel they can get heat to warm their famished bodies, they can boil water—and the water is now contaminated and may be the means of conveying typhus—and in addition their lives can be made less horrible by the possibility of drying their wet clothes, because they must walk—there is no transport.
One other suggestion I would like to make is in connection with awakening the Germans to a sense of their own particular problems. Greater encouragement should be given to the trade union movement in Berlin. When I was there, trade unionists could certainly operate in the British sector, but, until two weeks ago, they could operate only provided that they did not interest themselves in hours or wages. There seems to be very little else to make their functions useful. I believe also that if it is desired to get the Germans working, and provide supplies for the Ruhr as well as to Berlin, some of the Nazis now in power must be removed from office to show that we really are going to clean up the evil Germany of past days.
Now for the Russian zone. I want to tell my hon. Friends that I did not get into the Russian zone very easily; in fact, I should not have got in at all by orthodox methods. I got in by unorthodox methods in spite of much good advice as to what would happen to me if I did. In fact, for a time I believed that advice and "got the wind up," thinking that if I did get in, I might never see this House again. But I got in, and I travelled nearly 250 miles in the Russian zone. While I realise that what I saw may not represent the general situation throughout the zone, it, at least, 2420 gave me an idea of what was being done in the particular part I visited. I well remember one night seeing the refugee trains leaving a German station. It was a horrible sight; half the people got on the train and the other half could not, and had to sleep in the station without knowing when the next train would be coming. When I asked what would happen when these people got to their destination, I was told then by officials who were with me that in all probability, when they left the train, they would be robbed of the things they still possessed; nobody would want them, and they would go out into the wilderness, and there wander until they died. That was the picture I was prepared to see. I am pleased to tell my hon. Friends on both sides of the House that I actually saw an entirely different picture. I visited many districts, and what I am going to tell the House is typical of what I saw. These people are not unloaded from trains and driven into the wilderness. They are medically examined, they are given food cards, they are found accommodation. More important than this, who does it all? Not the Russians—the Russians appoint a German Burgomaster, and it is his job.
My journey was not confined to the main roads, I went into the hamlets and villages. There I was able to speak with the people who had been removed from Poland, and I was able to see what was happening to them in their new life. I found them accommodated, often two or three in a room under compulsory billeting arrangements, but I also found that large estates had been split up and each refugee had been given from six to eight hectares of land. I saw their allotment certificates authorising them to work the land, and I spoke to many of them. What was their story? This is typical. They had not been forcibly evicted from Poland, they had got out of Poland because they knew that they were among hostile people, and that if they did not get out soon they would not be able to get out at all. They got out before it was too late. It may be correct that people have been evicted, but a big proportion of those to whom I spoke got out before it was too late.
In making a maiden speech I must not take too long, but I would just like to make a comparison between the people 2421 in Berlin and those in the Russian-occupied zone. It is this: the people in Berlin are starving, in the country districts they look well. In Berlin the people are extremely well-dressed—in fact, better dressed than people in London—in the country districts, among the refugees, clothing is very scarce, many of them having only the clothes they had on when I saw them. To sum up, as far as I saw in the Russian zone, I am satisfied that there is no evidence of vengeance whatever, but that, on the contrary, everything that is humanly possible is being done. In connection with the refugee settlers it is hoped that in the near future they will be organised under a system of collective farming. It may interest the House to know that on the last day before I left Berlin I had an interview—by unorthodox methods again—with the former Russian Minister in London who now is political adviser to Marshal Zhukov. I asked him some very pertinent questions. I asked him what would happen this winter: would the Germans perish in millions? His answer was:The Germans will not die, but live. We have enough food—not much, but enough—for them not only to live but to work. Of course. I can only answer for my zone, and, most important, it should be appreciated first that the population has increased; we do not know how much, but we think 20 per cent. Therefore, more than normal production is required. Second, the food production areas were, in many cases, battlefields and this has naturally cut down production below normal.Then I spoke about the people leaving the Berlin stations and asked if it was true that they were driven out. His answer, in a nutshell, was "No." He said that they were looked after by the burgomaster, and I saw plenty of evidence there myself which caused me to believe it to be true. I asked him if there were millions of people just milling around homeless in the Soviet zone, and he said:Certainly not. All refugees arriving are assigned to areas, and accommodation and food found for them, better where destruction is less, worse where nothing better is available. The idea of wandering homeless has no correspondence to reality.The final question I put to him, and it may interest hon. Members opposite, was this. There was a view current, I said, that if these people did not come from the East—I was talking of Poland—they could sit there in their homes, and live 2422 well; was that true, or was it the case that for many of them existence would be impossible if they remained among people who had no cause to love them? He said:Certainly, this latter supposition is correct. Remember, many millions of Poles have been exterminated by the Germans, and many of the Germans coming here feel, correctly, that they are in less danger in Germany.That corresponded with many of the stories that I was told in the course of my contacts with the people. My concluding statement is in connection with the question as to whether these people will live or die this winter. The answer does not depend so much upon human agency, it depends upon the weather. If it is a bad winter, many millions will die; if it is a good winter there will be fewer deaths. But, despite that, I believe that we are morally obliged to do all we can to alleviate this horrible position as far as possible.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Carson (Isle of Thanet)
At this moment of my maiden speech I call to my mind very clearly the opening remarks of the maiden speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Lieut.-Colonel Walker-Smith). He discussed, if I remember correctly, the relative desirabilities of a quick plunge by making a maiden speech early in the Session, and of gradual immersion, after listening to more experienced Members before speaking. I thought he was wrong when he made the quick plunge, but now I find myself agreeing with him. I decided to wait and gain experience but, as I am sure other hon. Members will appreciate, I was faced with the prospect of either making my maiden speech as soon as I could or finding some really reliable first-class lunatic asylum to which I could retreat. I hope that after hearing me hon. Members will not think I should have chosen the second course.
I have often heard an older Member congratulating a new Member who had just made his maiden speech on making an informative speech. I am not making an informative speech, probably a very ill-informed one. I speak not as one who has been in Germany recently but as somebody who was in Germany during the war, and for exactly two days after the Armistice was declared. With regard to men, women and children in Europe dying of starvation during the 2423 winter I do not want to talk. As far as our Allies are concerned it is obviously our bounden duty to assist them in every way in our power, and I am sure that His Majesty's Government would not lag behind us on this side of the House in that endeavour. I think there is no point at issue regarding this matter, and it is not a point I would wish to raise, but it is Germany itself that I want to deal with. I put my name to the Motion on the Paper which has been referred to and I agree with it in toto. I would like to make my reasons clear, and here I am speaking entirely for myself and not for this side of the House. Personally I do not care two rows of pins what happens to the German people, men, women or children. I do not care from the sentimental point of view. [An Hon. Member: "Shame."] All right, shame if you like. I have seen quite enough of them and what they have done to us and what they have done to people I know; but I do care from another point of view, that of the old lady with an umbrella in England who stood up during the war and said "Let us starve all the Germans after the war and let us do rather horrible things"—which I will not mention to the House—"to them." That was all very well in war. It was all very well then to say what we thought, but it is not right from the practical point of view. We do care for our own troops in Germany now and we do care for the Allied countries who fought with us during the war. If this mass deportation and this mass starvation in Germany should lead to disease, an epidemic may start in the East of Europe and spread like wildfire to the West, to Berlin and further Westwards, and may affect our troops. It might be cholera, dysentery, typhoid, or some other disease.
That, I think, is the first reason why we are interested in what may happen to Germany in the years to come. The second reason is that if we and our Allies allow Germany to starve and to become destitute we shall earn an even more supreme hatred than that which we earned after the war of 1914–18 and be building for another Versailles, another Hitler and another world war. I know that during the war our terms were "unconditional surrender," and though I will not say we gave an undertaking, we im- 2424 plied in what we said that when Germany surrendered, while we would not give them a peace with honour we would give them, shall I say, a peace with decency, and if we break that implied promise then we shall build up the hatred which existed after the last war and we shall be faced in years to come, possibly not in my lifetime, with a third world war.
Regarding point one in the Motion, mass expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe during the coming winter, we have heard a lot of talk about the Czechoslovak Government, the Polish Government and the Hungarian Government, but I do suggest strongly—and possibly I would not dare to suggest it if this were not my maiden speech—that, after all, Eastern Germany is in the main under the influence of the Soviet Union. I do not say they completely dictate policy, but I suggest that they do in the main guide and govern what the smaller Powers in Eastern Europe shall do. Therefore, the only way in which we can solve this problem is to approach the Soviet Union. Here is a question to which I should like an answer from His Majesty's Government. What about Soviet Russia? Is she willing to be reasonable on these matters? Will she agree to defer, or give her aid to deferring, this mass evacuation from Eastern Europe, or will she not; and if she will not can His Majesty's Government tell us what ideas they have on making her take what I suggest is a preeminently sensible step? We have four countries in power in Germany—the Soviet Union, ourselves, the United States of America and France—and I should very much like to know how much cooperation there is between them and whether there is to be further co-operation. We have not been told and I for one should very much like to know.
Regarding point two, I think that at the moment the only incentive we can offer to the miners of Germany to produce more coal is by providing better food and better accommodation. I think better pay is ruled out at the moment owing to the effect of the black market running in Germany and the instability of the German currency. It is no good giving to miners money which is so many bits of paper and nothing else, but something should be done to provide better food and better housing. Again I would emphasise that this is not because I care 2425 two rows of pins, or even one row, about the German miners, but I do care very much about how much coal they produce. You cannot expect a man whether you like him or not, to produce coal unless he is well fed and well housed, a man who is wet and hungry will not produce coal. Therefore, I suggest better food for them, any way; I am not competent to speak about their housing, because I do not know about it and I should welcome any information from the Government. Their food, however, should be at least equal to, though certainly not more than, that of miners of this country if we want the full output of which the men are capable.
As to the railways of Germany, when I was out there they were in a horrible state and I have no doubt they still are. As to motor transport, I should like to say—and this is from personal experience though I am afraid it is now rather out of date—that on the day the war finished in Germany we in my regiment, and I do not think we differed from any other regiment, had roughly one German private car to every officer and certainly one three-ton lorry to every squadron. The regiments I met had the same number of vehicles. When one went down a road on the day the armistice was declared, one saw at the roadside thousands of German three-ton and six-ton lorries waiting to come on to the main road and give themselves up. Directly alter I left Germany, I had a letter from a friend saying that all the private cars and most of the lorries had been requisitioned by the Allied Military Government. Doubtless they needed them at that time, but I would like to hear from the Government whether the whole of the German transport system which remained after the war has been handed back to the Germans to deal with this problem. They get practically no petrol. In many places we found lorries abandoned by the side of the road because of lack of petrol. But petrol and tankers are available. A tanker is a tanker, and it cannot be used for carrying rice puddings or anything else. The only problem in this matter is currency. Surely it would be possible to come to some arrangement with the United States and with other countries to provide some type of Lend-Lease to get essential petrol for Europe in the coming winter.
2426 With regard to the third point of the Motion, the immediate setting-up of a Supreme Economic Council to co-ordinate the efforts of all the Governments concerned in European reconstruction, I would like to ask again, how much will the United States and Soviet Russia cooperate with us? That is a thing we must know before we can go a step further. We cannot solve this problem, especially as far as Germany is concerned, by ourselves, and, as the Prime Minister has said, we cannot solve it on a zonal basis. There must be co-operation between all before we can solve it, and we must solve it, because the future of the world depends upon it. I ask the Government to tell us how much co-operation we are going to get, and hope to get, between ourselves, the United States of America and Russia.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mrs. Paton (Rushcliffe)
I ask the indulgence of the House on rising to address it for the first time. I have had no experience of Europe in the war or since the war ended, but my mind goes back 25 years to the time when I had personal and close experience of Europe after the end of the last war. I was very conscious at that time of the fact that we had to know the truth about conditions in Europe in order that we could tell our people in this country, just as we are telling them to-day, about the aftermath of the last great war and how it had affected particularly the lives of the children. So I went to Europe then to learn at first hand what were the consequences of the war and hunger and starvation on the lives of the children of Central Europe. My efforts were concentrated in that beautiful, once gay, and now most tragic, city of Vienna. There in Vienna we had five or six hospitals which were given over purely to the treatment of children who were suffering from the consequences of having lived through the last great slaughter. There they were, little children with legs like sword-sticks, with protruding stomachs, with large heads, many of them in plaster of Paris which they would have to remain in for two years at least; and these were the lucky ones, for the others had already died or been given up as hopeless and helpless.
Twenty-five years ago these things put a burning hatred of war into my heart, 2427 and I thought that the best thing anyone could do would be to spend one's life in trying to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. I hope this personal reference will be forgiven when I say it was for that reason that I joined this party of which I am now a representative in this House. I believed that the international policy of this great party was the only policy that would meet the situation and prevent the occurrence of another war. I think we can all agree on one thing. Whatever point of view we take about the guilt of nations in this war, I think we are all agreed that the children are the innocent victims of the sins of the adults—Their' s not to reason why,Their' s but to suffer and die.Yet some I hope will survive, and in this connection, and with reference to the remark of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson), that if we do not treat these people in Germany right—not that he loves the Germans—he fears the Germans will have their revenge in future years, I would like to tell of an incident that happened some years ago in Vienna when I was taking a meal with a German student who had been a pilot in the German Air Force. He was talking to me about the last war, and he said, "I accept the defeat for myself and I am prepared to take the consequences of defeat, but I will never forgive what I found when I returned to my home in Vienna, where my mother and my sister were suffering from tuberculosis brought on by malnutrition and starvation." Then he said, "If I live, to be 70, I will get my revenge."
I tried to argue and reason with him, but years later I received a letter from the same student telling me that he had joined the Nazi party and was only waiting for the war to come. That is the story of the making of a Nazi. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, speaking at the Food and Agriculture Conference in Quebec last week, said that hunger and starvation not only produce social unrest inside nations, but produce the conditions which make for war between nations. I believe that if the world had done its duty properly after the last war, and resolved that there should be no more war, and if we had had the foreign policy and economic policy to make war impossible, 2428 we would not have had a Hitler in Germany and a Mussolini in Italy, and we would not have had this war through which we have just passed.
I want to refer now to that attitude of mind which causes people to say to me, "It is all very well for you to talk like that, but charity begins at home." I often find that the people who talk in that way are the people who never show charity at home. But if charity starts at home, if it is a selfish and self-centred thing, connected only with one's own family or even one's own nation, it has lost its benign purpose and its ultimate influence. We were told during the war that by saving ourselves, and I believe it is absolutely true, we would save Europe and the world, and history, I believe, will always honour this country for carrying out that great mission in the world. But I believe that, just as in war, by saving ourselves, we saved Europe and the world, now only by saving Europe and the world can we save ourselves.
As has been said before in this Debate, epidemics have their victims marked out regardless of national boundaries. They wipe out the innocent with the guilty, and, as has been said also, this was shown in the last war. I myself do not remember Armistice Day of the last war. My life was despaired of because I was suffering from the epidemic which raged at that time. Many of us in this House lost our dear ones in a matter of three or four days: taken ill on the Monday and dead on the Thursday. I wonder if it is still possible that there can be anybody in this country or in any other country who does not recognise that this world is one—it is one economically and it is one spiritually. The hurt of one is the hurt of all. It is not a case of merely looking after yourself, it never really was. It is a fundamental truth that, by looking after the interests of others, we do look after ourselves. We are our brothers' keepers and if we safeguard the interests of others our own interests are also safeguarded.
Mention has been made in this Debate of the offer made by certain groups of people and by certain organisations in this country, that those of us who would be prepared to give up our coupons and rations should be allowed to do so. We 2429 have had this offer made by organisations like the National Council of Women, the Women's International League and the Society of Friends, who in a petition have collected thousands upon thousands of names of people willing to give up their own points, and if it could be arranged for those points to be collected they would gladly have them used to assuage the starvation in Europe, or of any country to which food could be sent. I ask the Government if they will consider that proposition. It may not be practicable; I do not know. I feel that if there is a will there is a way, and if we cannot do things on a big scale these things should be done. Every one of us who can give up one point should be enabled to give it up, so that such points could be used in order to get food to starving Europe where it is most needed. A drop in the ocean, yes, but heaven help us if we fail to give that drop towards the ocean in order to stop the misery that abounds there now.
Mention has also been made in this Debate of idealism. I have never been convinced that anything that is ethically wrong could be economically or socially right. In fact, I have always believed the opposite. The one thing we have to do in regard to all our policies, apply to all situations more and more, is not to say, "Is this competent or is it practicable?" but," Is this right in the eyes of moral law and of truth?" We have to say then, if it is right, "God helping us, we will do what is right, come what may."
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)
I ask the indulgence and forbearance of the House in this my first endeavour to address this Assembly. During the course of this Debate there have been a large number of speeches given by those who have had first-hand information on their subject and, therefore, what I have to say I am going to restrict in time, because I feel that there are many others who have points which they wish to bring to bear on this discussion. As a newcomer to this House I am very conscious of the fact that during this Debate all the speeches have been made from the centre of the House, inasmuch as that all Members have spoken from the same point of view, and I hope that whatever notice 2430 His Majesty's Government may take of the words I have to say, they will regard them in that light. This is above all not a party matter. It is a matter which concerns intimately all of us in this country. Speaking only for myself, I must say that I had the highest regard for what the Foreign Secretary had to say in his speech and the way in which he said it. I believe that he touched upon the essence of this problem—and let us not get away from that—when he said that he wanted to dispel the chronic apprehensions that prevail among statesmen throughout Europe. I believe that if the Foreign Secretary succeeds in that endeavour he will have largely solved the problems of Europe and of the world.
A few weeks ago, on the Motion for the Adjournment, there was a discussion along the lines we are following to-day. It was raised by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and supported by an hon. Member from this side of the House. I listened intently throughout that discussion and since then I have tried to make what research I could into that question. As it appears to me, the problem is not only one of Germany but of the whole of Europe. These things of which we talk to-day are going on not only in Germany, but in Yugoslavia—and in that connection I would like His Majesty's Government to tell me whether full facilities are being accorded to U.N.R.R.A. in that country—in Holland, Austria, Hungary, Poland as well as in Germany. The result of all this is that this winter, and probably again next winter, disease will be rampant on the Continent of Europe. Disease, as the Foreign Secretary has said, cannot be prevented from crossing a frontier because it has no passport. Disease will cross water barriers, water barriers 20 miles wide, and it will spread its evil tentacles until it has ravaged and pillaged the whole of the Continent.
I would like to suggest just two courses which are open to His Majesty's Government. The first, as was said by a speaker on this side of the House, is to build up the morale of the German people. It has been destroyed for a period of 10 years. They do not know how to govern themselves, and we in this country, possibly the greatest colonisers the world has ever seen, are able to help them and to teach them to go along the road towards their own recovery. Secondly, I ask His 2431 Majesty's Government—and I believe they will do this—to exert their utmost endeavours towards stopping these mass deportations that are going on between countries. I fully believe that that is the problem and that if His Majesty's Government will do all in their power—and there is much that they have not done yet that can be done—they will be rendering the greatest service possible to humanity, for, if we do not do what we are able to do, we shall find, I feel, that there will be a British-made nail in the cross of Europe's crucifixion.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
My first task is to congratulate no less than four maiden speakers—the hon. Member who has just sat down, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds),the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) and the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mrs. Paton). They have given us very good and varied speeches, two of which particularly commended themselves to me, and we shall, I am sure, be glad to hear all these speakers again. I do not want to take very long at this stage, but I came to the House hoping to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in a certain event, and I fear that that event has happened, and it is that the very wide and terrible campaign against our friends in the Soviet Union has found echoes in this Debate. In a very large part of the Debate anything said against the Soviet Union appeared to me to be said most soberly and reasonably, and with proper regard for the consequences, but now I am very unhappy to say that the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), who has been in her seat nearly all day, has caught this disease which 20 miles of water cannot prevent spreading across from the realm of Goebbels. The hon. Lady is much respected by all of us and is generally so careful in what she says; at any rate, she is not subject to the reproaches that can be made against most of the people who speak against the Soviet Union, that they never take any notice of the sufferings of anybody unless those sufferings can somehow be blamed on the U.S.S.R. Naturally, I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Dartford on the subject, because what I want to say is given immense point by what he had said.
2432 What I want to say to the hon. Lady is this. After interviewing a number of people who have come from various parts of Europe, including several newspaper correspondents, I have received stories which were the exact opposite of the stories which she tells us she has received. I will tell the House a little of what some of these people told me, having regard to the speech of the resourceful and clear-headed Member for Dartford about his progress into the Russian zone, a visit which completely refuted everything he had been told in the past. This is the point of what I want to say to the hon. Lady. One must expect these stories. Goebbels had been working on them for years, and certainly a number of people in this country have been doing their very best to back him up, but, when I am able to test them by means of people who have seen things for themselves, I find that these stories are false. I say to the hon. Lady that, if we hear these stories, and if, after listening to the clear-headed hon. Member who has seen for himself, we apply what he said by way of analogy to all the other stories we have been told, and we do that systematically and carefully, Goebbels will truly be dead.
I do not know whether it is in the recollection of hon. Members, but the hon. Lady committed herself to say that Russia, and some of the other countries in Europe, had deliberately committed themselves to a policy of destroying the Germans in order that there should be fewer Germans alive. It makes me feel that one virtue which the legal profession possesses, although I do not claim to possess it markedly myself, namely, the power to weigh evidence, is a more valuable quality than is generally realised. What is the position today? The Soviet Union has a policy, as, indeed, a distinguished hon. Member on this side of the House who is not really friendly to the Soviet Union said earlier in the Debate. That policy was pronounced a long time ago, and it was that the Hitlerite State must be destroyed, but the German people and the German State must remain. Maybe the German State does not remain, but the German people do. I think it is the policy of the Soviet Union to establish a government of anti-Nazi Germans and to build up a democratic Germany in accordance with the decisions of the Potsdam Conference. That is inconsistent 2433 with the policy of destroying Germans, I do not want to say anything now against our present Government. It is far the best Government the country has had, though not as good as the next one will be, but what is its policy towards Germany? I agree with the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) that it has no policy at all yet. Surely if there is any country that does want, according to its policy, to say nothing of the principles by which it lives, to keep the German people alive and make them useful to the rest of Europe, it is the Soviet Union, and, of course, also the Socialist Party in this country, but the Socialist Party in this country have not got power. Hon. Members opposite must wait a few months yet for that.
The hon. Lady also said that it would be a tremendous advantage if people could go freely into Czechoslovakia and see what is happening. I do not know who told the hon. Lady that they cannot, but I have talked within the last fortnight to two very intelligent and able newspaper correspondents, one of a newspaper well on the Right and the other of a newspaper fairly well to the Left, and both of them happened to have been travelling about in Czechoslovakia and are still alive. Not only that, but they gave me an account of the position there comparable with the account given by an hon. Member about the part of the Russian zone which he saw. I do want to impress upon hon. Members, and on people outside, many of whom deserve the warning more than the hon. Lady, that these stories are attempts to try to destroy the friendship between this country and the Soviet Union and that they are doing the work of Hitler and Goebbels after those foul beasts are dead.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that it would help things very much, in particular as far as Czechoslovakia is concerned, if journalists could go there to see for themselves what is happening, and that it would help the position still further if the Russians did not create so many difficulties about visiting the Russian zone in Germany?
§ Mr. Pritt
I have been making inquiries, and I find that, while it is not easy, it is perfectly possible to do that without the unorthodox methods of my hon. Friend, and that any journalists not appearing 2434 to be descendants of Goebbels can go into the country. But the hon. Lady said, "Do let us criticise the Soviet Union, but do not let us be frightened." I reply, "By all means, but do not let the sacred right of criticising the Soviet Union be used to spread stories about the Soviet Union which you do not even know are true, and do not let us imagine, like so many people do, that the right of criticising the Soviet Union means that you can slander it for 24 hours a day and seven days a week, because, if so, all your children will die in the third world war, not, as one hon. Member opposite suggested, after his death, but even before he has time to have children."
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)
I feel urged to speak to-day for the first time in this House because I have lately returned from Italy and Greece—two countries to which little attention has been paid during this Debate, but whose conditions are only one degree less threatening than conditions in Germany and in Eastern Europe, I am encouraged in so doing by the customary courtesy and indulgence afforded to Members who address this House for the first time. One thing has emerged very clearly from this Debate, and that is that on both sides of the House we no longer think of Britain as existing in isolation from the rest of Europe. We recognise that among the body of nations when one member is in pain, that pain communicates itself to all its other members. To-day we realise very acutely the truth of the words which John Donne wrote 300 years ago. He wrote:No man is an island, entire in itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the maine; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontorie were, as well as if a mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.We are all involved in mankind and we recognise that, during the coming winter, if I may paraphrase the end of John Donne's sermon, the funeral bells which toll for the children of Europe, will toll for our own children unless we do something active now in order to restore Europe to economic health. I speak of economic health rather than of a political restoration, because I believe profoundly that: most of Europe's ills are based on 2435 Europe's economic disorders. The worker is unwilling to work, if he does not feel that at the end of the day, he is going to get enough to buy the next day's bread; and the merchant and the trader are unwilling to send their goods to the market and prefer rather to hoard them, unless they feel that in exchange for their goods they will get a fair economic price instead of a sackful of worthless paper. That impressed itself upon me when I was in Greece, because there I felt, above all, the political disorder had its origin, not so much in constitutional questions nor merely in matters of difference of politics, but in the fundamental fact that the inheritance of Nazism in Greece has led more or less to economic chaos.
I visited a prison in Corinth and spoke to some of the 580 E.A.M. prisoners who were detained there. Among them was a Greek soldier who fought in the Albanian mountains. When I asked him what he considered Greece needed first, he answered that Greece needed, above all, bread, work and liberty. I hope His Majesty's Government will encourage the emergence in Greece of a moderate Government which will be able to restore those liberties which we, in this country, regard as being elementary, and which to-day in Greece are only imperfectly realised. I have every hope that in Greece the introduction of a Habeas Corpus Act will enable those 580 men who have been lying in Corinth gaol for so many months either to have a proper and open trial or to be promptly released.
Even more important than that, I feel, is the question of how Greece is going to exist through this coming winter. U.N.R.R.A. is doing great work in Greece, abundant supplies are flowing in there, but that in itself is not enough. We must continue those supplies, but we must not encourage a remittance man's mentality in Greece, just as we must not encourage that mentality throughout Europe. Relief and rehabilitation do not consist merely in giving charity. We must certainly use every philanthropic means in order to save the lives of the people of Europe, but, above all, we must help those countries to get on to their own feet and, therefore, not only must we use the instrument of U.N.R.R.A. but we must also use every other means in order that these countries may be able to re-establish 2436 their industries, and so provide work for their people during the coming years.
In addition to that, although the goods are entering Greece in plentiful supply, and although the people who work and collaborate with U.N.R.R.A. are working energetically for the relief of Greece, it is a fact that because those goods are distributed through the Greek Ministry of Supply and through committees appointed by the Greek Minister of the Interior, out of every 100 per cent. of U.N.R.R.A. goods sent into Greece, more than a quarter are either diverted into the black market or are stolen or disposed of in some other way. That is not merely hearsay, although I have heard it often enough from many sources in Greece, but it is also my personal observation when I was there. In Megara, I was surrounded by literally dozens of Greeks, who urged on me that in that particular town of about 16,000 people, of whom approximately 6,000 were literally destitute, something should be done in order to make sure that the goods delivered to Greece by U.N.R.R.A. should be properly and fairly distributed without political favouritism and without any of the diversion of supplies which had been going on. Therefore, I hope His Majesty's Government will, as soon as possible, urge the sending to Greece of a Civil Service Commission. I believe that is something which is already being considered. If that Commission does, in fact, go to Greece, I hope it will undertake as one of its first tasks to re-form and re-organise the Greek Ministry of Supply. If that is done I am sure it will be a relief not only to the Greeks but also to the British and American taxpayers.
Beyond that, I feel that we must give to the Greek peasant, worker, industrialist and business man the feeling that, in future, Greece will not be permanently dependent on charity, but will be able to establish herself as an economic unity once again. I would suggest with great respect that His Majesty's Government should propose to the other Great Powers the creation, preferably in the Balkans, of a Balkan trading corporation in which all the major Powers would hold equal shares. The function of that corporation would be to buy the produce of the Greek peasants and industrialists, and sell to them in return those things which the Greeks will be eager to buy and which 2437 we ourselves, like the other Powers who take part in that corporation, will be anxious to sell to them. We know how the present economy of South-eastern Europe could be vastly improved, if only they had the mechanical agricultural implements which they need so desperately. I hope that, in future, Great Britain I have one of the great exporting tractor industries and I hope that the constituency which I represent—Coventry, West—will be able to play some part in the export of those tractors and of that agricultural machinery which is so badly needed for the reconstruction of Europe.
I suggest that it should be possible to establish in the Balkans a trading corporation—a great Balkan trading corporation for that kind of two-way traffic. I hope that in that corporation, we shall collaborate very closely with our great Ally the Soviet Union, with our great Ally the United States of America and with our great and renascent Ally, France. In that way, I hope, not only shall we be able to help Greece—as one example—to reconstruct herself but, in addition, instead of the Balkans being a point of separation between the Powers, a point where their contentions focus themselves, that they will form a point at which we shall be linked with the other Powers to develop together the economy of Europe in the interests of Europe.
Though I have spoken mainly of Greece, I would like to refer briefly to Italy. In Northern Italy we have one of the great industrial centres of Europe. We have those vast and important factories, almost untouched, whose wheels to-day are slowly turning to a stop and where, during this winter, unless something is done to restart those factories, there will be over a million workers standing idle, resentful, sullen and rebellious. Those works are capable of producing machinery, motor transport, rolling stock and electrical equipment—all things which Europe most desperately needs, all things which Central Europe needs most urgently, and which neither we nor America will be able to supply. Let us not abandon Italy entirely to U.N.N.R.A. Let us not devote ourselves to sending to Italy, in the form of relief, fully manufactured goods which the Italian workers are themselves capable of manufacturing. Let us rather help the Italian workers once again to re-establish the Italian 2438 economy. My observation in Italy showed me that Italy is one of those ex-enemy countries which are genuinely anxious to return as soon as possible to democratic conditions. There are, approximately—I have this figure from the Secretary-General of the Italian trade union movement—3,000,000 organised Italian workers who are anxious to revive Italian trade unionism and to reconstruct their previous democratic form of organisation. Let us help Italy, not only in Italy's own interests but let us, even more than that, help Italy in the interests of Europe.
Finally, I would say this. In Trieste we have one example of how, in conjunction with our Allies, we can make a place, which has been the centre of possible antagonism between the major Powers, serve Europe. I think that Trieste should be regarded not as the port of Italy nor as the port of Yugoslavia, but really as the port of Central Europe, for which it was really designed. I believe in that way we can help the prosperity of Europe—by internationalising Trieste, by internationalising the railways, and having a joint control, by the Allies who have combined so well in war, combining equally well in peace, I believe we can lay the foundations for European properity. "No man is an island…we are all involved in humanity." I hope that we shall remember that, not only during the coming winter, but during the arduous years when we are building the peace.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
I am happy that it has fallen to my lot to follow the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman), who has just given us the pleasure of hearing his maiden speech. I feel sure every hon. Member has listened to him with close attention. I would like to congratulate him not only upon his fluency, eloquence, and deep sincerity, but on his very full knowledge of the facts, most moderately and tolerantly expressed. I earnestly hope that this Debate will not end only in words after all the speeches which have been made, so full, as practically all have been, of deep sincerity and sympathy for those who are suffering terribly in various parts of Europe. I fear that when all has been said, nothing will be done. It is so easy to make speeches, so 2439 easy to call attention to the desperate condition of Europe, which none of us can deny and which all of us know can scarcely be exaggerated. I want to know, when the voice of Britain has spoken through so many of her representatives in Parliament, representing the voice of humanity—as Britain has always done throughout the centuries—what will be done at the end of it? That is what I want whoever replies from the Government Benches to tell the House. Most of the many speeches which have been made have, inevitably, covered to some extent, the same ground. They have dealt with different countries—the hon. Member for West Coventry talked about Italy and and Greece; others have talked about Czechoslovakia; something has been said about France and Belgium; much has been said about the conditions in Germany, and something, I expect, has been said about the tragic conditions in Poland.
I want to make it clear that I hold no brief for the Germans. They are a cruel, aggressive and sadistic race. They sowed, and now they are reaping what they deserve, but all the same it is impossible to ignore the fact that the situation in Germany to-day is the responsibility of this country to a large extent. We simply cannot allow wholesale starvation and wholesale sufferings on the scale of which there has been most abundant evidence, and whilst I have no sympathy whatever for the German race, or for the German people, who have brought all this upon themselves, it is our duty to do all we possibly can to alleviate starvation, to prevent the spread of terrible disease, and to do our duty by humanity for humanity's sake.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman excuse me for a moment? Is he aware of the fact that in Scotland we have the highest rate of infant mortality of any country in Western Europe, and that in India there is periodical famine?
§ Major Lloyd
I have no doubt there is some truth in what the hon. Gentleman has delighted in having the opportunity of saying, but we are discussing now the state of the Continent of Europe, and to that I would again turn the attention of the House. The facts that have been quoted 2440 by many speakers to-day are really a most terrible indictment. There is no doubt that, as hinted at by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), if not actually stated, the Potsdam Agreement has been broken, and is a dead letter. It has not been broken by this country, but it has been broken none the less. Therein lies a major tragedy. If the Agreement had been kept, and deportations from the various parts of Eastern Europe, which are a major part of the trouble to-day—had been organised with any sort of efficiency, unity and humanity then few of the tragic tales which have been told to-day could have been told. As I have said, the Potsdam Agreement has been broken; that is the major thing which has been shown in this House to-day. I would like to hear from His Majesty's Government whether, in their opinion, that statement of mine is true, or whether they deny it, and, if so, on what grounds they deny it.
§ Major Lloyd
I now pass on to what is more important to us here, the question of that part of Europe in which our Allies live. I do not want to ignore the terrible state of Germany, but my sympathy is much greater for the terrible state of our Allies who fought beside us and bled with us. There is overwhelming evidence from many sources that conditions in the countries of some of our Allies are appalling, are just as bad as conditions in Germany and, in many cases, worse. Unfortunately, it is not easy to get the other side of the iron curtain and. learn the facts so that it is, therefore, always possible for people to deny them. But, gradually, more and more people are getting on the other side of the iron curtain. Sub rosa or otherwise, they manage to get there. You cannot keep the truth from the people for ever, and, gradually, the truth is beginning to leak out. The situation in Eastern Europe is simply desperate.
Fortunately, we have lately had a visit to Poland by members of the United States House of Representatives. They went, they saw and they have come back, and they are telling their people what they saw. I could wish that this House of Commons would send a Mission, representing itself, to some of the coun- 2441 tries from which we want to get the truth, which we find it so difficult to get, and that that Mission would report back to this House so that we could hear something which we could discuss. If America can send a Mission to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria, and its responsible men can go back and report to their House of Representatives, why cannot the British House of Commons, the British Parliament, also send a Mission of that character?
I would ask the Government whether they will seriously and sympathetically consider that suggestion in order that the British people and the British House of Commons may be adequately informed as to the situation which exists in many parts of Europe and in Allied countries, where our Allies are suffering terribly at the present time. I hope that the Minister who is to reply to the Debate will make a direct reference to that suggestion on my part, which I think is reasonable and would be appreciated by the whole country. If that can be done by America why cannot it be done by us?
Now I want to refer to another question, whether U.N.R.R.A. supplies are really getting into the hands of the people for whom they were originally intended. Various nations are making their contribution to the expenses of U.N.R.R.R., but however great their sacrifice it is not enough. Much more money is needed, and more supplies. But those who do make a contribution to this great beneficent organisation, which is doing its best in most difficult circumstances, should have the right to take the greatest interest in seeing that the supplies of food are reaching the people in a fair and equitable manner, and that they are not being doled out with political motives. Unfortunately, there seems to be considerable doubt as to whether this is being done or not. I have here extracts from reports made by United States Congressmen who visited Poland, and their indictment of the situation in regard to U.N.R.R.A. is powerful and damning. I would like to quote briefly to the House what one of these Representatives, Mr. Gordon, has said:I find it impossible to find adequate words to describe the particularly horrible plight of Poland and the devastation caused by the present Soviet occupation. Economic conditions are worsening every day instead of im- 2442 proving, because the Soviet Army not only lives on the produce of the Polish land but also loots and removes everything it cannot consume on the spot.Referring to U.N.R.R.A. he goes on:The Polish people, I say definitely, are not receiving any assistance from U.N.R.R.A. as everything U.N.R.R.A. ships to Poland is seized by the Russians and in most cases sold on the black market at staggering prices. The looting of food supplies shipped to Poland begins in the Roumanian port of Con-stanza. Goods are unloaded there and sent either to Russia, or find their way directly into the black market.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say how long Mr. Gordon spent in Poland? Was it any longer than the time which the American Congressmen spent in Oslo, where they arrived on Sunday night at 10 p.m. and left for Stockholm the following morning at 10 a.m.?
§ Major Lloyd
There may be something in what the hon. Gentleman says. I am merely quoting what Mr. Gordon says, which was endorsed fully by his associates
§ Flight-Lieutenant Haire (Wycombe)
I would like the hon. and gallant Member to know that I have penetrated this iron curtain during the last few weeks. In fact, I have only recently returned from Hungary and I would like to tell him what I saw there. I was given all facilities by the Hungarian and Russian authorities, and I would like the hon. and gallant Gentleman to know that the situation, although very serious, is not desperate.
§ Major Lloyd
I am, unfortunately, not in the position of having visited these countries; so few of us have. That is one of the reasons why the Government should consider sending out an impartial Mission in order that the truth may be revealed. None of us completely knows the truth. We can only get information from various sources, and I have just been quoting one responsible source. Mr. Gordon goes on:The U.N.R.R.A. Mission in Poland is headed by a high Soviet official, who is deputy toy Mr. Lehmann, who is head of the whole organisation. This gentleman runs the whole of U.N.R.R.A. as an autocrat, and refuses to listen to any complaint. There is not one Pole on this Mission and the few 2443 American officials who went to Poland with this Mission were forbidden by Russians to wear U.N.R.R.A. uniforms in order to prevent the population from knowing that an international body had arrived in Poland. The poverty of the people in Poland is beyond description. Poland is a Soviet province.The Government cannot ignore some responsibility towards our Allies. Law and order seem to be breaking down in Europe. What is the Government going to do about that? What is the Government's policy in regard to Europe, and with regard to the breakdown of law in Europe, which seems to be one of the major difficulties at the present time? If the Government have not got a policy, let them say so. If they have got a policy, and it is fundamentally opposed to what is going on at the present time, let them say so, too. Let them be frank with the country. We cannot stand for connivance in a situation of which the whole of our people fundamentally disapprove. I know that the Government do not connive, and that they disapprove. But let them say so now, so that the British people can be absolved from any sort of participation by tacit consent, in a situation which we all deplore. The voice of Britain has spoken, and splendid speeches have been made to-day which should shock the conscience of the civilised world. The truth is, at last, beginning to be known, and this Debate will have done a great deal towards making it more widely known to the British people, from whom the truth of these matters has been hidden, for far too long.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Sir Benjamin Smith)
I do not propose to be led off into a criticism of any foreign Government today. The Motion that was put on the Order Paper on this subject, raised, specifically, several items, but more specifically the question of food for Europeans. One has listened to many maiden speeches today—many very able speeches—but in none of the speeches in the House have I found any real matter regarding food and how to get it to Europe from this country. No one will deny that the food position in Europe generally leaves much to be desired. So far as some parts of Europe are concerned, the food situation gives rise to great anxiety. I do not think that we should overdraw the picture. Conditions are not consistently bad. It is only in certain areas, notably in ex-enemy coun- 2444 tries, that there is real danger of starvation. In most of Western Europe, the levels of consumption prevailing are far from being starvation levels, although they may, in some cases, involve considerable hardship. There are even regions where, in some respects, the diet is better than our own.
According to the best estimates available, the calorie level of food consumption per head per day for the average non-farm consumer, taking into account both rationed and unrationed food, varies from as low as 2,000 calories in France to nearly 3,000 calories in Denmark. In Belgium and Holland the figure is about 2,200 calories; Norway, 2,400; and these figures compare with our own of between about 2,800 and 2,900 calories. A diet of 2,000 calories a day, provided it contains enough proteins and other essential nutrients, is sufficient to maintain a reasonable nutritional standard for a limited period, although it is not high enough to permit anything approaching full physical vigour for the population as a whole. Calories are not the whole of the story. In regard to particular foods, such as fats and meat, consumption in most Western European countries is also much less than pre-war. Our total fat consumption in the current half year is only 33½ lb. per head per annum, as compared with 45½ lb. before the war.
§ Sir A. Salter
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the calorie level varies from 2,000 to 3,000, apart from ex-enemy countries. Does he really mean 2,000 is the lowest calorie level for any country in Europe other than ex-enemy countries?
§ Sir A. Salter
The right hon. Gentleman named only France, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. There are quite a number of other countries in Europe.
§ Sir B. Smith
That goes without saying. If I did name the countries, the right hon. Gentleman cannot accuse me of giving any picture other than that of the countries which I did, in fact, name. The black spot is the ex-enemy countries. In the British zone of Germany, for example, it is only possible to aim at a theoretical ration equivalent to about 1,550 calories. In most places even this meagre ration cannot be fulfilled in prac- 2445 tice. The actual consumption level varies between 1,300 and 1,400 calories per day. The conditions in Germany are bound to be distressing, and they are likely to get worse during the winter. These conditions result from the wide-spread collapse of the whole German economy during the final stages of the war in Europe. We cannot expect a situation of this kind to right itself in a few months.
Even in Germany, however, as endorsed by one hon. Member, the farming population are reasonably well fed, as they are in other European countries. It must be remembered that a considerable percentage of the total German population is rural. Our own difficulties are increased, because the population of the British Zone of Germany is mostly urban. I think that only about one-seventh of the population of the British zone is classed as rural. It is in the towns, and among the millions of displaced persons that the greatest distress is to be found.
The right hon. and learned Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) asked whether it was possible to quote figures of the total shortages of food, clothing and shelter in those parts of Europe to which the British and United States Governments have access. It is quite impossible to give such figures. It all depends on how you measure shortage. Nor do I think that figures given in thousands or millions of tons would convey much to hon. Members. The figures which I have just quoted of the calorie values of the present rations in these countries give a general picture of the position as far as food is concerned. We must not overlook the great efforts that have been made, both by this country and other countries, to relieve the situation. This country alone, between D-day and the end of September last, sent a total of 850,000 tons of food to Europe. This will reach, I think and hope, something like 1,000,000 tons by December this year. It was only possible to do this by imposing considerable sacrifices upon ourselves. Stocks which were used for this purpose, might have been used for making very welcome increases in our own rations, but we deliberately pursued a policy of keeping our own rations at a comparatively low level, in order that stocks of food might be available for Europe after its liberation. Apart from 2446 our own contribution very substantial contributions of food have been flowing into Europe since D-day from other sources, particularly from North America. In view of the heavy demands on shipping and port facilities during most of this period, for the movement of military stores, the movement of such large quantities of foodstuffs to Europe was an exceedingly creditable performance.
The supply of additional food for Europe on a scale sufficient to bring about any widespread improvement in the situation, must be organised on an international basis. This country is an importing country; none can deny that. Such a supply can only be organised with the full co-operation of the food exporting countries. They, alone, have the necessary supplies. So far as supplies are available, the international machinery for allocating them, as the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) has said, is the Combined Food Board in Washington. They determine the allocations. The requirements of the various countries of the world are considered by the Combined Food Board—
§ Sir B. Smith
On requests from the Governments, and wherever shortages exist they allocate in equity to all countries. The requirements of the various countries of the world are considered by the Combined Food Board, and the limited supplies available are shared out among all countries. The Governments of Europe as well as U.N.R.R.A., as members of the Commodity Committee of the Combined Food Board, take part in the work of allocation. This procedure ensures that the claims of all countries that need supplies are fully considered—I do not say fully satisfied, for no country is fully satisfied.
Unfortunately, the world food supply prospects for the coming year are seriously disquieting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University in his opening remarks gave the impression that there were good supplies of certain foods that could be used to relieve the position in Europe. I should like to dispel that impression at once. In almost all the main foods we are facing deficiencies on the world balance sheet for the next 12 months.
§ Sir A. Salter
I mentioned a very definite statement, which I asked the Minister if he would confirm or correct. For example, in regard to meat, I asked if it was not the case that the extra importations which Europe requires are not greater than the extent to which civilian consumption of meat has been increased across the Atlantic above pre-war standards. Is that correct?
§ Sir B. Smith
I think that is correct. I will come to the point as I proceed. I will give an example immediately. Of meat there is a deficiency of from 500,000 tons to 750,000 tons, of oils and fats nearly 500,000 tons, of sugar 750,000 tons or more. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a stock of sugar found in the Dutch East Indies. It is true that we did unexpectedly find a large and welcome stock there, but it is not more than sufficient to fill the gap which exists in our figures which would otherwise probably have necessitated further cuts in consumption.
The right hon. Gentleman further indicated that there is plenty of wheat in the world. I only wish I could endorse that statement. I am at this moment particularly concerned with the world wheat position. The only hope of avoiding further serious hardship, and possibly famine conditions in certain parts of Europe and elsewhere this winter and next spring, is by maintaining an adequate flow of wheat imports, and we must clearly devote all our efforts to securing this objective.
Until recently wheat was one of. the few foods of which there was no shortage. World stocks were at a high level, and the export demands had diminished on account of war conditions. But with the liberation of Europe, and later the Pacific, an exceptionally heavy demand coincided with, and was aggravated by, adverse weather conditions in many areas. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the drought in Australia has destroyed a good deal of the wheat, the drought in Argentina has destroyed a good deal of the wheat, and where there has not been drought there have been rains which have destroyed equally a good deal of wheat.
It is not yet possible to make a final assessment of the position, but it is clear that it will call for very careful and prudent management of world wheat supplies 2448 during the next nine months, and the utilisation of all stocks in excess of minimum requirements which must be carried over into the next season. It will also be incumbent on all countries to maximise the collection of their home-grown bread grain and to utilise it to the greatest possible extent for direct human consumption, thereby lessening their dependence on imported wheat. The adoption of this policy in the exporting countries should also free more wheat for export. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is a little difficult to specify countries in this House without causing offence, but he has been in a country where I have been, and he will understand exactly what I mean. The use of wheat and rye, in particular, for direct human consumption should be given full priority over the feeding of animals. That, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, is going on even now in some parts of Europe. If these measures are taken effectively and speedily, I hope and believe it will be possible to meet in full the essential needs of the world for wheat for direct human consumption. The matter is largely outside the jurisdiction of this country and this Government. Success depends on the wholehearted co-operation of exporting and importing countries alike. The House may be sure that for my part I will spare no effort to secure this objective.
I should refer here to a valuable piece of co-ordinating machinery which has been operating during the past few months under the aegis of the Emergency Economic Committee for Europe. A Subcommittee for Food and Agriculture has been set up on which various European countries are represented, and of which we are the Chairman. This organisation works in close touch with the Combined Food Board and other international bodies. The object of the Committee is to assist the European countries to make the best possible use of their own food production and resources to feed themselves, and to see that the best use is made within Europe of any surplus which may arise in any European country, and generally to provide a forum where exclusively European problems in food and agriculture can be thrashed out. It also acts as a focus for the exchange of information on economic questions, and useful results have already been achieved. The right hon. Gentleman may say "Has 2449 it fed anybody?" One can only hope that by close application to its work and duties it will be able at least to get a fair and equitable distribution of the things that do exist because, as I am sure the House will recognise, no onecan divide food over any part of the world unless the food is there to be divided.
I think I have said enough to show that this country has already made a great contribution to Europe out Of the stocks of food no longer required for military purposes. Ours is a food importing country. We depend for a large proportion of our food supplies on imports. There are only two possible ways in which we can conceivably make any future contribution towards the requirements in Europe. We might make further calls upon our stocks or we might reduce our own consumption and so render more food available to the food supplies for other countries.
During the last 12 months we have already made inroads into our stocks of food. By the end of October, our total stocks will have been reduced, in 12 months, by more than 1,500,000 tons—no small contribution to the liberated countries. We have gone as far as we can safely go in this direction. Certain minimum stock levels are essential, in order to maintain distribution. Moreover, we have to think of our future position. In view of the world shortage of many foods, there is a real danger that we may not be able to obtain the full supply of imports needed to maintain the present ration scales. I need hardly remind the House of the difficulties that have arisen since the cessation of Lend-Lease. That has not helped this country in any direction with regard to the procurement of food from the United States. Until those difficulties are resolved, we cannot be certain for more than a short period ahead what supplies we shall be able to obtain from what source, to say nothing of the fact that whatever we need now from the United States will need dollars and hard money, which, on this side of the Atlantic, is in very short supply.
§ Sir A. Salter
Can the Minister make any comment on the quite specific suggestions I made? While fully recognising that he cannot reduce the standard ration and that he must keep stocks to ensure 2450 supplies during the dislocation following the termination of Lend-Lease, and due to strikes that are taking place, I would ask whether he is prepared to make a contribution as and when it becomes possible, in priority either to an increase in our own rations or to freeing some commodities from rationing?
§ Sir B. Smith
I would say "No" to that. I think my first duty in this country is to restore the cuts that have taken place in the rations since VE-Day. If there are any surpluses over that, the right hon. Gentleman and the House know that I am not an unkindly person. If there is anything above that, no one will be happier than I in joining with anybody in doing the best I can to alleviate the misery that we know is going on in other countries.
§ Miss Rathbone
Would not the right hon. Gentleman admit first that the rations which he wants are, even at their present rate, very much above those enjoyed by any country in Europe, and that, according to figures which I got from him, the majority of the staple foodstuffs in this country are neither on rations nor on points, and are in fairly abundant supply?
§ Sir B. Smith
The point I have been making is that there is a possibility that some of these non-rationed goods may have to come on the ration—and hon. Members can take that with serious import. The right hon. Gentleman remembers that I was saying that I would be only too happy if conditions were such that I could do something after having met the requirements of this country. We have to remember that we are calling upon people day after day to work to redevelop our export trade and upon miners to give us more, and ever more, coal. These people have lived on a very "samey" diet for the last six years and I should be lacking in my duty if I did not endeavour to achieve some variety for the people of this country to give them some moral uplift, after they have done their part in winning the war. I repeat that that would not preclude me, should the opportunity present itself, from trying to alleviate the distress which may continue with increasing force during the coming months.
§ Mrs. Paton
Would my right hon. Friend say whether he thinks it practic- 2451 able to ask for volunteers in this country to surrender points?
§ Sir B. Smith
I cannot be a party to people surrendering points, for the reason that it would break down my whole system of distribution. I cannot.
I do not want to promise too much, but I would rather like to finish what I wanted to say. Much has been said in this House about our having food that is now surplus to military requirements. I beg the House to see that I am not such a bad housewife, I might almost say, as to go on supplying the demand for the military while demobilisation is taking place. What, in fact, happens is that they have to live on the stocks that they have, so that I do not have continually to replace them. I am very proud of our Services. At my request, the various Services, Army, Navy and Air Force, have voluntarily cut their rations. Naturally, the right hon. Gentleman and the people for whom he speaks will say, "Why can't we have them?" The object of cutting those rations was to ensure the continuation and the fair distribution of supplies of existing stocks in this country. That was the object, and it is for that purpose that they will be used.
The hon. Lady who has just interrupted me asked whether people cannot give up points. I have looked very carefully into that suggestion and I will go as far as to say what I think will meet the right hon. Gentleman and the people whom he leads. Here and there will be something thrown up in the course of the changes that are taking place and in demobilisation. I would be very happy to meet, if they agree, a delegation of the people who have been sponsors to this Debate and to tell them, after a survey of such supplies that I get, how I can best distribute them; but I am afraid that, whatever there is, will be distributed only in the British zones in Germany and Austria. I cannot hope, whatever small amount I am able to give, to make any contribution to the larger problem. We did not create that problem. They are the creatures of their previous Government and are the sufferers thereby. I yield to none in my sorrow and sympathy for the way in which their minds have now been disabused. Nevertheless, if it would meet the right hon. Gentleman, I 2452 would undertake, say, in 10 days from now, when I can get some sort of survey made, to meet them in so far as I can. It will always be on the condition that I will not reduce rations in this country. While I hold this job, unless there are shortages over which no one has any control, I personally will not be a party to reducing rations in this country below their present standard.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)
Will my right hon. Friend also receive a deputation which will advise him where points can be distributed in this country?
§ Sir B. Smith
I can assure the House that I lack no advice as to what I can do in this country. I have met many deputations, and the answer I always give is that I cannot amend my present distribution by meeting the demands of this, that or any other body. I must maintain the system I took over and improve it wherever I can. I repeat that I shall be happy in ten days' time to meet the right hon. Gentleman and I hope I shall be able to give him some small measure of satisfaction.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
Could my right hon. Friend tell us what is the stock position with regard to synthetic vitamins, and whether they could be sent to Europe?
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
And will the right hon. Gentleman say why considerable difficulties have been put in the way of the manufacture of synthetic vitamins?
§ Sir B. Smith
I have put no difficulties in the way of their manufacture. This again is a dollar question, but I think I am right in saying that it may be possible to purchase with francs some vitamins in Switzerland.
§ Mr. McAllister
Surely my right hon. Friend is aware that his predecessor was able to accumulate large stocks of vitamin B1 in particular, and that they were not all used. Could not these be sent to Europe?
§ Sir B. Smith
There were large stocks, but if you stop making them you gradually consume the stocks.
§ Sir B. Smith
I did not. Three questions were put to me. The first was whether more lorries could be made available in Europe. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has already dealt with this point. I am informed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that a large allocation of lorries for military purposes has recently been decided upon. Another question was whether the Government will publish a statement of the European position, with statistical information, etc. I am informed that the question of producing such a White Paper could only be considered if it became a much more important thing than it is now looked upon to be.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Could my right hon. Friend make known what he has said already about the contributions which have been made by this country to Europe? I understand that nearly all the contributions were made up to four months ago. Could we have a White Paper showing what was done up to that time? It would make it clear to us and to the people in Europe.
§ Sir B. Smith
I do not propose to publish a White Paper on that. I have given the House my word for it that we have done these things. It is not easy in the present position of the world to make specific statements on this, that or the other stocks. My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) will know my difficulties, and my word must be accepted that the stocks are in the condition in which I say they are. I have no object in hiding what stocks we have. The fact is that the stocks we have are hardly sufficient now to maintain the existing ration. I am hoping that in the course of events, when negotiations are probably proceeding in other places, we may be successful in them and that that condition can be overcome.
§ Sir A. Salter
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what he meant when he said he could not publish a White Paper unless the matter became more important? 2454 I urge him to reconsider whether it is not of sufficient importance to do the clerical work necessary to put in a popular form the information that is in the hands of the Government.
§ Sir B. Smith
It would be a very big project and would take quite a time to do, but I will undertake to look into the matter again.
I was also asked whether we would appeal to Canada and to the United States. They are as aware of this problem as we are. They have made and are continuing to make large contributions to ameliorate conditions in Europe, which are naturally larger than those made by this country, they being exporting countries. I think that I have said enough to put the position of this country and this Government pretty clearly before the House, and through the House to the people of the country. While not denying that terrible conditions exist in Europe, and while knowing that they will continue to exist, yet I and the Government and the Members on this side of the House cannot be parties to any further reduction in our rations. If, however, anything should accrue to us, we shall be only too happy to share it with the people for whom the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have spoken.
§ Major Guy Lloyd
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has prepared only answers to the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, because every other speech has been completely ignored, and several other questions were raised?.
§ Sir B. Smith
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not mind if I say that I have tried to deal with what I think are the important questions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.