§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.37 P.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I very well remember how on the mercifully few occasions upon which I went into immediately active service, on the first of those occasions, a kind friend, observing my extreme terror, told me that one would get used to it, and that it was less bad on each subsequent occasion. My experience did not bear out that well-meant prediction. I found myself more terrified upon each following occasion. When this House is engaged in debating these very great affairs, as we were yesterday, and are again today, I find it increasingly difficult to flog myself into believing that anything I might say would be at all likely to affect the history of the world. Therefore, I hope hon. Members will acquit me of over-estimating my personal importance, or of having any personal resentment, if I say that this seems to have been, so far, a rather odd form of Debate.
Today we have not now before us either the right hon. Gentleman who was the only one who spoke for the Government yesterday, or the right hon. Gentleman who is, we are given to understand, to reply for the Government today. We all fully understand how overworked Ministers are, and indeed many ofus warned them that they would be likely to get into this sort of predicament; but they chose it, and I think it proper to begin by saying that, in my judgment, it is really not-a proper use of the forms of the House that, at a great crisis, foreign affairs should be debated in the manner in which we have been forced, by His Majesty's Government, to debate them on this occasion. I quite understand the argument that where an Opposition asks for a Debate it is upon their own heads; 1314 they have asked forit, and the Government may decide in what order their spokesmen shall address us. Nevertheless, I would ask right hon. Gentlemen, particularly the Leader of the House, to consider this question which I am about to put. Is it not really blackmailing an Opposition upon its virtues, for the Government to treat it as we have been treated on this occasion? The Opposition has not pressed for this Debate during weeks during which it might have been perhaps embarrassing to the Government. [Interruption.] That is true, surely? Therefore, if the Debate occurs now, rather than two weeks, or four, or six weeks earlier, it is in some sense upon the initiative of His Majesty's Government that we are having it now.
I would suggest that there are really only two ways in which the foreign policy of this country can be debated. I would not for a moment suggest that we did not yesterday have a great many very well-informed and very instructive and useful speeches, and I would be the last to suggest that we are likely to get, in any respect, better ones today. But I would suggest that that is not the same thing as debating foreign policy. There are as I say really only two ways in which foreign policy can be debated. One way is when the Opposition want to make a flat, direct, all-out attack upon His Majesty's Government for their foreign policy. If the Opposition want to say, "You should never have touched the U.N.O. meeting" or "What you have done there is worse than no good," or "Whatever else, you should not have let U.N.O. meet in London," then clearly it is up to the Opposition to expound its case first, and upon that case debate can proceed. But when His Majesty's Government have the fortune— and I do not say the undeserved fortune— to know that that is not the intention of the Opposition, then there is only one other way upon which we can debate foreign policy as such and as a whole, and that is that His Majesty's Government should expound to us what they consider to be the main facts in foreign policy and their own principal immediate intentions, and that upon that thesis thus laid out we, the rest of us, should debate. I suggest to the Government that to have the kind of order of speeches we have had yesterday and today, and the kind of attend 1315 ance on the Ministerial Bench that we had yesterday and today— with all respect to the eminent and agreeable figures now adorning that enviable situation— to have a Debate in this order and with this kind of attendance really is an improper use of the Government's rights in the matter of distributing Parliamentary time.
I pass from that preliminary remark—[Interruption.] I do not think that right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite should endeavour to waste time by either unnecessarily interrupting or making what I may describe as un-articulated sounds. We have a very short time for this Debate and I am very anxious to be extremely brief. I propose now, if I may be forgiven for the old-fashioned procedure, to refer to the remarksmade yesterday by the Minister called the "Minister of State." I have never quite understood what that meant, but I think the House knows to whom it refers. As we have been told on so many occasions that this U.N.O. meeting was the last chance of civilisation; and I would beg the right hon. Gentleman not to tell us again that this is the last chance of civilisation. Civilisation has had many last chances, and it may be in fact that the last but three went wrong and that what we now have is not civilisation. However that may be, when the weary Titans upon the Front Bench opposite tell us that this is our last chance, they really ought to remember that it is they who are the champions who are going to fight this final battle for us, and it may be necessary for them to cheer themselves with the feeling that this is the decisive moment, but they really ought to remember that the spectacle of any particular one of them couching his lance for our very very last chance is not always calculated to encourage the rest of us.
The Minister of State went on to tell us that nobody at the United Nations conference thought that that occasion was one of power politics. I found that a very odd observation; and so I think did some of the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters, because the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), I think particularly, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Newcastle (Major Wilkes) left us under no doubt that they thought this was an occasion of power politics.
1316 Indeed, for my part, I have never understood what politics could be without an essential element of power in them; and it is not only some of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters in this House who believe that this was an occasion of power politics. A good many of his supporters in the Press have taken the same view, rather particularly the more you go Leftwards in the Press. So have leading American commentators and so, curiously enough, has M. Malenkov, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—bracket, Bolsheviks, unbracket. He was making an address on Soviet Election Day, and this is what he said:It is no secret, however, that our friends, too, respect us because we are strong. It should always be remembered that our friends will respect us only as long as we are strong. The weak are not respected. And, moreover, it has been proved many a time that the weak are beaten.We had better be quite sure before we go into an organisation which is the last chance of civilization— and which proposes to save civilisation upon the basis of discussion— that the primary terms of political discussion are similarly defined by the parties going into the experiment, and so long as that is the view which M. Malenkov takes,and of which I should be the very last to complain, so long it seems to me rather regrettable that British Ministers should take the opposite view. Then the Minister of State came to what he called the four difficult questions upon which the conference hadbeen working and of three of them he said that practical results of importance were obtained. The four were, if I remember aright, Persia, the Levant, Indonesia, and Greece. He did not tell us upon which of them practical results of importance were obtained. He did tell us, in a rather amusing fantasia upon the letters S and U— which reminded me of a famous poem by the French poet Rimbaud— that they improved relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, between the United Statesand us, and between us and the Soviet Union. He did not explain how these results were obtained. The one indication he gave of the results, as evidence that relations between us and the Soviet Union have been improved, was that previously, in recent weeks and months, there had been a great stream of propaganda against His Majesty's Government from Russia 1317 and Russian-controlled sources. But there was no evidence that that stream of propaganda had dried up at all— none whatever. It is very difficult for us to check these things, but, for example, there was an article in the London edition of the "Soviet News," I think the day before yesterday, about General Anders. I am not suggesting whether that article was right or wrong, but it was on thebasis that General Anders was a notorious Fascist, and that he was being managed by us, and so forth. It really does not look as if the right hon. Gentleman's evidence about our Ally's propaganda can be taken very seriously.
'However, the more important part of his remarks on these four questions with which the Conference had to deal is this. The right hon. Gentleman said:I am certain there is a credit balance.… 1 do not think any small Power will ever again hesitate to put a complaint before the Council "— [Official Report, 2Ist February, 1945; Vol. 419, c. 1257.]Will no small Power ever again hesitate? Will Persia never again hesitate? It seems to me a very odd theory of success that the Conference had before it what I may call one real fox, and three red herrings— I am not a sporting man so, if I get metaphorically mixed, I hope I shall be forgiven— of the three red herrings, two were extremely red, and one was at least recognisably and undeniably Ied. It seemed to mea very odd account of a hunt to say that it really did awfully well, because the result apparently was that all three red herrings after careering up and down a bit disappeared in blue smoke, and that everybody forgot about the fox.
That really was what wewere told yesterday. I do not know if that is the official view, but if it is, I think we should know, and if it is not I think we should be told. I think we should also be told what is expected to happen about Persia. I hope we shall not be told that theview to be taken is that which I gathered was desired by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). I am sorry he is not here to correct me if I am wrong in my impression of his argument. He told us that when he was in Persia he found that the British officials there were taking a purely legalistic line, "a treaty has been broken and that is that." I do hope we shall not be purely legalistic, but in this and all kindred matters I hope we shall be as legal as we can possibly be. 1318 That leads me to the main thing I wish to say. The right hon. Gentleman said that the new hope for civilisation needs a basis of accepted general and constitutional law more than anything else. I agree; I believe it to be a fundamental and fatal fallacy to suppose that if only you get economic arrangements right, then your constitutional and legal arrangements will come right of themselves. It has been a common view in our generation— a view which it would not be proper now for me to argue; though I quite seethere are arguments for it, I believe it to be profoundly mistaken, and I believe that the more population increases, and the more the capacity to move about the world increases, the more it is impossible for men to make any economic arrangements that will, in any way, satisfy any considerable section of them, except upon the basis of law. What happens in any other connection than the international when due process of law has broken down? In no other connection does anybody say, "Due process of law has broken down; therefore we will not have anything to do with law as previously understood, but we will start to build up a whole new system of law from scratch, and upon that system of law we will get the world going again." Nobody would think of doing that after a great civil war, or after any kind of collapse of law and order inside our own country. With all the concern that I can be supposed by anyone to feel for anything beyond my own immediate interests, I beg right hon. Gentlemen opposite to believe that there is an alternative suggestion which really ought to be considered.
What has become of the old law? I really do not want to ask embarrassing questions, but this is a subject which cannot be discussed without embarrassment for everybody who is discussingit, so let us all frankly face it. I do not, I say, want to ask embarrassing questions, but I should like to ask about our conceptions and assumptions of law, and I am very glad to see the Attorney-General in his place. I am not qualified to lecture the House about international law; but I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman upon what basis of international law can it be right for an occupying Power, for us, or our Allies partly relying upon the force they draw from their alliance with us,. to do what we are doing, for example, in Japan, to abolish Shintoism 1319 and to abolish feudalism so-called? I do not suppose for a moment that it is feudalism in any of the senses in which I learned those words, and I have no idea what Shintoism may be, but whatever Shintoism and feudalism are, and for the purpose of my argument it does not matter what they are, I ask upon what basis of law, as understood in Europe any time these last two thousand years, can an occupying Power without negotiation or treaty, merely by right of its strategic success, set about to alter the religious establishment or the land-holding arrangements of any country? Is there some principle or practice of international law to that effect? I should have guessed not. I have asked questionsabout it in this House, and while I am not sure if I have asked them of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, I have certainly asked his colleagues on the Front Bench, and I have not been told that there was some principle or practice which I had forgotten.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The whole point— [Interruption]— I am not saying it is not a good thing to abolish Shintoism or the old system from Japan. I do not know. I am not asking that. WhatI am saying is that there is a need and a duty to get people back to a law-abiding habit of mind, to taking it for granted that they know what will happen next, that they know to which courts they may go if they think what happens next is not what they are entitled to, that it is a long odds-on bet that if they get a decision from the court that will be carried out— these are the things we have to get back. All I am asking is whether we can most hopefully work up to these things from scratch, froma general free-for-all debate in the Central Hall, or whether we might try to go back and pick up that line where that line was broken, and mend it and improve it.
There are many other questions of the kind that might be asked: for instance, about movements of population. Here is another question: how many people are there now in Europe, homeless, roofless, almost unclad, with no tools, no property, no reserves, worst of all, no hope? Are there 20,000,000? Are there 40,000,000? I believe not much less. What happens 1320 when large numbers of people have no hope? A man who has no hope will not trouble to put in next year's cabbages, will hardly trouble to stuff a rag into the hole in his window to keep out tonight's rain. There will be no hope in Europe, nor indeed will there be any Europe to hope for, until these people have some sense that law— not some new iaw, not some new law however much better— but that the sort of law, the kind of predictability and the kind of enforce-ability to which they are accustomed, is back in a way which they can recognise, and is flowing in channels which they can perceive.
I believe that this is very much the greatest question before us. I do not wish to say— or rather, I do, to be honest— a great deal more about it, but I do not think it proper to detain the House to explain at greater length what seem to me to be the gaps in our thinking about this question, and what even now, perhaps above all even now, might be done. 1 would like to say atleast this: that all law becomes meaningless when technical and semi-technical words are used without strict accuracy. Where is sovereignty now? The Minister of State yesterday, and some others of our leaders earlier have spoken of it as to be partially surrendered. I do not believe the way to get peace is by nations being prepared to give up bits of sovereignty. Mr. Vyshin-sky said something of the surrendering-sovereignty sort in the Central Hall. On the other hand, I could produce statements of his colleagues whence it would appear that Mr. Vyshinsky was a deviationist, because the strict party line seems to be against any giving up of sovereignty. Let us try to use it with some degree of similarity of meaning. For example, I do not see what is left of the accuracy of sovereignty when there seem to be bodies in the State, not being or forming its highest or sovereign body, who yet claim the right to participate in its outward relations and obligations.— [Interruption.]— I like to study the hon. and learned Gentleman's countenance, but it does make debate difficult if so many varied reactions are to pass across it like a camera obscura. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to interrupt or controvert what say, I should find it easier if he stood up and was more explicit.
1321 I think the word "sovereign" needs much clearer handling, and the word "majority" needs very careful handling. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State told us that to make a democratic world we must have majority decisions. What sort of majority? Majority of all countries, majority of countries within U.N.O., majorities of populations, majorities with a veto for some powers, or without, or what? My last word is this. If we think we are going to get a longer and better peace than ever our grandfathers had, by. starting from scratch, instead of trying to pick up the last line of peace and law there was, and continuing from it and improving thereon; if we think that democracy and Fascism— if that word means anything— are words that ought to dominate foreign policy, I feel sure we are destined not only for a bitterer but for a speedier disappointment than men in our situation, with our strategic wealth in their pockets, have ever been destined for in earlier days.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Manchester, Rusholme)
In rising to address the House for the first time, I am fortified by the knowledge that kindness and consideration are invariably extended by the House to maiden speakers. I was particularly anxious to speak in this Debate, because I have long been specially interested in foreign affairs, and because I believe that the happiness, welfare, and social progress of our people depend on the good management of our relations with other Powers. Owingto the stress of war the insular habit of thought has been broken down, and people in Britain today are much more conscious of what is happening abroad than they were previously. It would not be very easy today to throw a friendly democratic country to the wolves on the excuse that it wasa far off country of which we know nothing.It is precisely because of that public consciousness that the people are somewhat puzzled and uneasy at certain aspects of our foreign policy today. Some are cynical. They believe we have gone back to the old bitter cycle of political and economic crises leading inevitably to war, and that there is nothing to be done about it. I do not share that cynicism. In common with the majority of the 1322 people, I have a great faith in Labour and in the Labour Government. But I do not believe that public criticism can altogether be ignored. It is felt that when our policy meets with such hearty approval from the Opposition, there must be something wrong with it. It is felt that when the Tories applaud, it cannot be a Socialist policy.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
In fact we are the unfortunate heirs to the traditional policy which dates back to Castlereagh after the Napoleonic wars, and Curzon after the last war. We have not entirely broken away from it. That policy is one of bolstering up reactionary monarchs and decaying regimes wherever we can find them. In that policy I believe we can find the explanation for the antagonism between ourselves and Soviet Russia. It is an antagonism, not of peoples, but of policies. We are suspected of pursuing a policy of bolstering up reaction in Europe while the Soviet are supporting the policy of revolutionary forces in Europe. I believe that is the explanation of our armed intervention in Indonesia, Indo-China, and Greece. It is the explanation of the maintenance, at the expense of the British taxpayer, of General Anders' anti-Soviet Army in Italy. I believe it is behind the refusal to give Russia thosevital scientific secrets to which she is entitled as a fighting Ally. I also think it is behind the abuse that is showered on Russia because of her attempt to obtain that information by other means. All this suspicion and antagonism result from a misconceived policy.
It is also the result of our hostility, thinly disguised, to those countries which have thrown off reactionary regimes. That hostility even goes to the extent of refusing to surrender many notorious quislings and war criminals who are at present basking in the sun of Italy or Egypt, in spite of repeated attempts for their extradition.
I have recently been to the Balkans. 1 have travelled by jeep through Serbia, Macedonia and Albania. I travelled without Government escort, I talked with all manner of people through the help of the correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph." I also met many members of the opposition. I was most impressed 1323 by the tremendous enthusiasm of all the people in Yugoslavia and Albania to build up, for the first time intheir history, a real and full democracy, based on the social and economic interests of the common man. The opposition— and there is an opposition though it is unorganized—except for some notable exceptions, seemed to rely on the forlorn hope of Allied military intervention to establish them in power again. One of the most disturbing things I found when I was out there was that the opposition assumed that, because I was an Englishman, I was necessarily a reactionary.
In Albania I had the opportunity of talking with many of the refugees from the Greek province of Chamuria. There are 25,000 Albanian refugees who have been driven out of their native villages in Chamuria by Greek terrorist bands led by General Zervas. They are living in the mostacute misery in ditches, tents, old round houses on the roads. The Albanian Government cannot do very much for them, being short itself. U.N.R.R.A. is doing its best, but is itself short of supplies there. Most of these refugees have stories to tell of massacres in their villages by E.D.E.S. troops, of babies being tossed on bayonets and other appalling atrocities almost incredible today. I ask my right hon. Friend, who has a special responsibility in Greece, to make representations to the Greek Governmentto instigate a proper inquiry into these atrocities. If the inquiry justifies what I have said, then I would also ask for the appointment of an international commission to resettle these refugees in their native villages, with full guarantees of securityand support.
I have the greatest admiration for the abilities and personality of the Foreign Secretary. I believe that, in time, he will lead this country on a real Socialist foreign policy, breaking with tradition, and in that way will become the greatestForeign Secretary of our history. I now venture to make a suggestion. It maybe considered presumptuous of a new Member to do so, but if it is, I can answer in the words of the Greek wood-carver who addressed the wood he had carved into a statue of Zeus: '' You need not be so proud. I knew you from a plum tree." If the right hon. Gentleman 1324 is to follow a policy of standing up to countries, and I believe some countries should be stood up to, let him stand up to Franco Spain, Portugal and the Argentine. Let him, instead of standing up to Russia, rather adopt a policy of conciliation, of collaboration with Russia, to break through these great barriers of 25 years' suspicion and mistrust, and to work with Russia, on a democratic basis, for the rehabilitation of Europe.
We are living in an age of great scientific inventions and discoveries, which are breaking through the confines of the existing society. We must adapt ourselves to the new environment or perish. It is the duty of the Government, and especially of the Foreign Secretary, to secure for us that adaptation. I believe they will do so, and if they do they will be certain not only of the full support and approval of this generation, but will be regarded with gratitude and admiration by all common men and women to the end of time.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Captain Bullock (Waterloo)
May 1 begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Hutchinson) on his maiden speech? It was spoken with great clarity, and had the considerable advantage that on this side we could hear every word he said.
If I may have the attention of the Foreign Secretary for a few minutes, I would like to ask him a few questions on the subject of Austria All of us who have been studying Austria in the last 20 years are worried as to what line His Majesty's Government propose to take at the forthcoming Peace Conference on the subject of Austria. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and his advisors are studying the past 20 years and making notes, mental and otherwise, as to the history of the Austrian Republic during those 20 years We must remember that the Austria of prewar years was an artificial creation started by the Peace Treaty of St. Germain and largely sponsored by France and England. She was the first ex-enemy State to be 1 member of the League of Nations. She had full belief in the League of Nations and President Wilson's famous points. She was encouraged, not only by the sentimentalists in this country but by the then Government of this country, to maintain her independence, to reinstate herself and to become a working Republic in the fraternity of Europe.
1325 Unfortunately, those 20 years have been 20 years of failure. She relied on the League. As time went on she was greeted only with platitudes. She looked towards her neighbours and found mistrust, high tariffs, jealousies and little support. Of the great Powers of Europe she relied mainly on France, and when France was a strong country, she had her full support. That support was largely given to her as a buffer to Germany. We must always remember that from the day when Dr. Renner left Vienna for St. Germain there was a great demand for inclusion in Germany by the Austrian people. It was not the Germany of Hitler, it was the Republican Germany of the Weimar Republic. This was checked by every means, by France and this country. All sorts of suspicions were directed against this movement, but it was the natural desire of the Austrian people of those-days to become free members of the German Republic. I have no time to go through the history of all those years. They are years that I have studied very carefully, and have written and spoken about. There are, however, certain outstanding features, of which one was the refusal to allow Austria to form a customs union with Germany. The Government of the day were in favour of that, but were beaten at the Hague by one vote—I think by Chile, or some other South American Republic. The whole matter was rather clumsily handled, and left a scar on the minds of the Austrian people, who felt that they were being hemmed in on all sides and were not free to follow their natural desire to form a customs union with a country that was friendly to them.
I would urge that in the new treaties the economic side should come first. The Austrian people arelazy people. They are not workers like the Germans. Work is not a spiritual quality to them; the Viennese have a saying that only a man who starves should work, and if he works when he is not starving he is a madman. I admit that the Viennese are slightlydifferent from the rest of Austria. The Austrian working man has some of the finest qualities in Europe, but he was betrayed many times, largely by certain sections of his own people. I have always believed that the Austrian working man— I am notspeaking politically of the working class— would have defended his country against Hitler to the last, if he had had 1326 support from the League of Nations— from this country and other countries which I need not name. But they were always met by platitudes. They were told that His Majesty's Government have Austrian interests very much at. heart," "His Majesty's Government view the Austrian situation with great gravity," "The Austrians are asked not to bring their case to Geneva becauseit may interfere with the Disarmament Conference." I therefore urge the Foreign Secretary to realise that Austria is one of the great questions of Europe. Austria is the gate to the East; geographically, Austria is of vital importance. I have many contacts with Southern Europe and I know that the Austrian people look to this country and that, in particular, they read every work spoken by the Foreign Secretary.
There is something that binds us to Austria. I am not speaking as a Catholic, because I was born aProtestant and remain a Protestant, but 90 per cent. of the people of Austria are Catholics, and when 90 per cent. of any country are of one practising faith, there must be a bond with Western civilisation. We have a certain faith in this country and in this House, quite apart from party politics, and that is faith in Western civilisation and culture. Austria has the same traditions as this country and France had. It is for us to back them up, it is for us to realise that they are not a strong country, they are not a country of fighters. They need the support of a conqueror; they love a conqueror; they greeted Napoleon with flowers, and Hitler with shouts. They look to us as the conquering nation in Europe to give them help, support and advice. I urge the Foreign Secretary, in his reply, to say a word about Austria. We do not expect him to say very much at the present moment, but we do hope that he will bear in mind the vital importance of Austria in the crossword puzzle of Europe today.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
I am glad to have been able to catch your eye today, Mr. Speaker, because there are certain questions I wish to raise, and they are not unimportant ones. We have heard a great deal about Russia in this discussion, and as a matter of fact I was in Russia as far back as 1912, in the old Tsarist days. Here is the passport I then carried with me; there were very 1327 few countries in those days where a passport was needed, but Russia happened to be one of them. On getting to Russia in Tsarist days— and you have to know those days to understand the present Russia— it was very significant to see the great difference between the wealthy classes and the poor classes. I went to St. Petersburg, and I was invited as a guest to the Cadet Club. One of the pranks they played was what they called a "fish pond." They drew the piano into the middle of the Club, poured 25 full bottles of champagne into it, and then emptied a bowl of goldfish into that. That was the sort of thing that really caused the revolution in Russia— the stupid wasting of money while people were starving.
Once the revolution had started, the Russians themselves had very little knowledge of what to do, and it must never be forgotten that the revolution did not start from below, it started from above. People in Russia were so fed up with that type of living that the upper classes revolted against the Tsar and threw him out. Russia then was an autocracy, and there was no organised opposition ready to take over thereins of Government. There was no system to which the Russians could turn for their Government, and it was the Germans who brought in the Bolsheviks from Switzerland to take possession.
President Wilson, in drawing up his Fourteen Points, gave a very clearguide about Russia. Woodrow Wilson in the last war was as great an idealist, as great a man of civilisation and foresight, as Roosevelt was in this war. Amongst the Fourteen Points, which did a great deal to end the great war of 1914–1918. pointNo. 6 was this:The evacuation of all Russian territory, and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest co-operation of other nations in the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy, and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing, and more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.1328 That was point six of Woodrow Wilson's 14 points. What happened? The American nation denied Wilson and refused to enter the League of Nations. That was the principal cause of the breakdown of the League of Nations. The conception was great It was an American conception and yet the Americans denied this work of their own great citizen. This gives me great misgiving because we are now going to entrust America with the seat of the new World Organisation. Are we doing the right thing in allowing the Americans, with their vitriolic political temperament, to have in their power his great organisation? We have seen that not only did they deny Wilson after the last war but after this war, shortly after the death of another great American idealist, Mr. Roosevelt, they have done away with every single executive, except one, of the Roosevelt administration. Are we going to allow the seat of the new world organisation to be in America?
What is there against continuing the world organisation where it first started, in Geneva? There you have the Palace of Peace; there you have the tradition and a great cosmopolitan people. There is no reason except, as is said, that Russia will not have the seat in Geneva. She feels' hurt that it was in Geneva that she was forced out of the League of Nations. Also at the present moment there is no diplomatic relationship between Russia and Switzerland.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to ask him to clarify one point? He speaks critically and disparagingly of the American people for having thrown out all but one of President Roosevelt's ex-Ministers. What then does he think of this country that threw the whole lot of them out, including the Prime Ministe
§ Mr. Baxter
That is not quite the point. The hon. Member was disparaging them for that action. For that reason would he say this country should not have the United Nations?
§ Mr. Follick
I am trying to prove that the seat of the world organisation should not be in America.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
Was not the interjection by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) completely and utterly irrelevant?
§ Mr. Speaker
I rather thought it was, but no point of Order arises because it was not out of Order under our Rules.
§ Mr. Follick
Finally, with regard to Switzerland, we have there a nation that has not been at war with any other nation for over 300 years. Surely, the home of the world organisation should return there. If not, would it not be better to have some extra-territorial area established for the world organisation in which it would not have a seat in any of the great nations at all? As Russia was excluded from the League of Nations, we are having exclusions from this present world organisation. How are we going to build up aworld organisation if we are to exclude a large part of the world? At the present moment there are 13 European nations of 150,000,000 people not included in the world organisation. Of those, one of the most enlightened and cultured nations that the world has ever seen, namely, Sweden, is not included. We have got Chile, Honduras and Nicaragua in the world organisation but Sweden and Switzerland are outside. What sort of world organisation is that?
I do not know, but I have had some experience amongst these things and I cannot see how we are to balance the world organisation as it is now. There is a great gap between national Parliaments and the world Parliament. In our ordinary system of government in this country we have local governments, the county councils, and the national Government, which is the House of Commons. Then we give a great leap from national Government to world Government so that we drag up in front of the world Government questions that cannot be properly settled by the world Government andwhich ought to be settled by regional governments. An example came up in front of the world organisation, U.N.O. in the recent Session. That was the question of Azerbaijan. That has been a question which has disturbed the near Asiatic Powers for the last90 years yet U.N.O. are asked to settle it as if it was an entirely new question. It is a very old question.
In a similar way we have other questions which are brought into this world 1330 organisation and which ought to be settled by regional parliaments. In Europe for 300 years we have had the question of Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany. We bring in Chilians and Peruvians and other South American nations to adjudicate on this question. They know nothing about it at all in a similar way as weknow nothing about a similar question in South America, the question of Tacna and Arica. I do not know whether anybody in this Chamber knows of the question of Tacna and Arica, yet that is as important a question in South American politics as is the question of Alsace-Lorraine in Western European politics. If we are to allow the world organisation to decide on these questions of local and regional interests, what would happen supposing the Northern Irish question were taken into U.N.O. to be decided. Do the representatives of Nicaragua, Honduras and the other Central American Republics, Haiti and so forth, know sufficient about the question of Northern Ireland to adjudicate upon it?
What would happen if Denmark started demanding the return of the Orkneys andShetlands? The Orkneys and Shetlands, as a matter of fact, do not belong to Britain. They are in pawn with Britain for 40,000 golden florins. If Denmark suddenly came back with the florins are we going to allow—
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
In the interests of accuracy, is it not a fact that the Orkneys and Shetlands are pawned to Norway and not to Denmark?
§ Mr. Follick
I believe that at that time those countries were in the same realm. They were pawned to pay a dowry for Margaret to marry James III of Scotland. I believe they found 38,000 florins for the Orkneys and they could not find any more so they chucked the Shetlands in for the other 2,000.
Trieste is not a new question; it is a pre-last-war question. When I was a student in Italy, students used to go regularly to Venice before the last war and burn the Austrian flag in the Piazza San Marco. These appear to us to be new questions, but they are regional questions that ought to be settled by regional parliaments. Before the last war, there was coming to a head in Europe a Latin union, which comprised Italy, Spain, 1331 Portugal and France, which settled a great many questions, currency questions, customs questions and so on, and, if it had not been for the war, that would have gone further and may haveled to some sort of federation. We have had the German Federation, which sprang up at the beginning of last century and finally became a definite Federation with the coming of Bismarck, and which, unfortunately, came to a head with all the tragedy that Bismarck brought upon the world. If these federations could be encouraged to go forward, we could form regional governments, and, in any case, the development of such federations cannot be stopped, as we shall not, in fact, be able to get on without them.
Wehave discussed in this Chamber the question of Russia. Why is Russia turning towards the West? Russia is more or less bound to go towards the West, because she is realising that, in time, the East will have to be handed over to the Asiatic peoples and thus Russia will be forced into Eastern Europe. We have to contemplate the rise and industrialisation of China, and we must not forget, in speaking of the industrialisation of China, that Japan, in 1853, had not seen even a telegraph pole or a railway track,yet by 1900 was prepared to face up to one of the. strongest Powers in Europe and by 1906 had beaten that Power. What is going to be the extent and effect of the industrialisation of China in 50 years time? She will be able to take advantage of all the specialists which Japan will not be able to employ, in the same way as the Russians, in their first Five Year Plan, were able to use the knowledge of all the unemployed German and Austrian specialists.
If we can only develop this regional Parliament idea, we could create Parliaments which would settle these great regional questions, which we cannot settle by pushing them on to the world organisation. If we build up from local government to national Government and regional Government, and, finally, the world organisation, the latter would then only be there to settle questions of world importance. If we do that, we shall create the possibility of a strong, lasting, permanent world organisation. If we do not do it, and do not have these regional Parliaments in between, we shall find that the world Government will collapse at 1332 some future time in the same way as the League of Nations collapsed in the past.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
In the short time available, I want to address myself to the question of Poland, but I realise that I cannot possibly cover all the ground which I should like to cover. I do not for one moment pose as an expert on Poland, but I did, while there in January, have exceptional facilities for meeting the most interesting people, and I did not make the mistake of listening only to the official point of view.
I have an intense admiration for Poland's gallantry during the war, and I am mindful of the fact that they were our Allies from the first day of the war to the last, and that they, alone of all occupied countries, produced no Quisling. No country has suffered more than Poland in this war. The Poles have suffered more than six and a half million dead, and apart from that, as a result of recent negotiations, nearly 50 per cent. of their territory is now incorporated in Russia— an area which includes 80 per cent. of prewar Poland's oil supplies. Their material losses have been immense, and we should be mindful of the fact that it was their independence that was the immediate cause of our going to war. I would like to read an extract from the Crimea Agreement, part of which was read only yesterday by the Foreign Secretary, because it is upon this extract that the future of Poland must surely be decided:We reaffirm ourcommon desire to see established a strong, free, independent and democratic Poland. The Polish Provisional Government of National Unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot.There are six legal parties in Poland today. The political scene is dominated by the Polish Workers' Party— P.P.R, who are Communists. They fill most of the important posts in the country, but, in fact, their importance appearsto be in inverse ratio to their support in the country. The last figures I could obtain showed that there are no more than 200,000 members of the Communist Party in Poland. They have the active support of the Polish Socialist Party— P.P.S. In my opinion, P.P.S. has sacrificed many of the sound and moderate Socialist opinions, for which it stood before the war, by 1333 compromising to the extent to which it has done with the Communist Party in Poland. P.P.R and P.P.S thus control the Government. Under them, there is no freedom of speech. The Press is muzzled and violently censored, and only six out of the 293 daily and weekly newspapers are allowed to print anything in any way anti-Communist. The tone of the Government-controlled Press is often violently anti-British, though there has been some relaxation in this in recent months. Private conversation is seldom free, and I found few people, though some, who would talk in front of a man whom they thought might be a party man, by which I mean, in Poland, a Communist.
There is no freedom from fear in Poland today. The concentration camps and prisons are full to overflowing. I personally asked the Prime Minister how many political prisoners there are today, and he said he could not tell me, but that they had released 42,000 in the last few months and that this was an example of the tolerance and freedom in Poland today. I asked another leading member of the Cabinet in Poland, a Communist, the same question, and he said that 12,000 had been released since last summer. Hon. Members can draw their own conclusions. These men and women have been arrested without trial, without any right of appeal, and, frequently, without even knowing the charge against them, and sometimes they have been released too, with no explanation. I found many examples of this. There have been many political murders in Poland, and several of M. Mikolajczyk's lieutenants have been murdered in recent months in circumstances that seem to indicate complicity of the secret police.
There is, on the other side of the balance-sheet, a small organisation, probably not more than 1,000 strong, I was told by a leading Communist, which is called N.S.Z., which, since the first day of the war, has looked upon Russia as no less an enemy than Germany and which is still carrying on armed anti-Communist activities. The police are under the command of men trained for many years in the Russian Secret Police, and, in the larger towns, there are detachments of the Russian Secret Police known as the N.K.V.D. As a result of all this, millions of people in Poland are living in fear.
1334 Russian troops in Poland are in very considerable numbers, though I was not able to make any accurate estimate of their strength. Men who are Poles by birth, but who have a Soviet 01 Russian background or upbringing, are in many important posts in Poland. Some of these men are actually Russian. Examples are to be found in men like Radkiewicz, in General Korcyz, who is chief of the General Staff and who was for many years in the Russian Arm, and another who is chief of the Air Force. In the infantry, the Russian influence is much less than it was, and many Russian officers have recently been replaced. In the specialist arms, however, there is still a very high proportion of Russian officers, and in the so-called Polish Air Force, some 90 per cent. of them ate Russian. The Navy is little less Russian.
I do not intend nowto touch on economic and social problems, except to say that the Government in Poland are making great efforts in these directions, and that in this they have the general support of the country as a whole. The country wants a Left-wing policy— there is no doubt about that— but the Provisional Government have no mandate to Sovietise Poland, as they are doing at the present time. The sixth legal party— I have left out three which are insignificant— is the Polish Peasant Party(P.S.L.), which is a Left-wing party. Its policy is, indeed, more radical and Left-wing than that of our Government, but that is of no concern to me It is generally agreed that that party has the support, or at any rate the good will, of more than half thecountry; in other words, it has more support than the other five legal parties put together. It believes in democracy and freedom, as we understand them in the West. In the Praesidium, which has only seven members, that party has not been represented since Mr. Witos died some two or three months ago. I ask the Foreign Secretary whether this is that broadening of the basis of the Government which is one of the indispensable terms on which we recognised the Provisional Government. By what possible excuse hasMr. Witos not been replaced by a member of the Polish Peasant Party? In the National Council, as far as I was able to find out, the Polish Peasant Party have no more than 25 representatives out of 500. They may have a few more. I ask the Foreign. Secretary to tell the 1335 House whether this is that broadening of the basis of the Polish Government as the result of which the Provisional Government was recognised.
I want now to say a few words about the possibility of holding free and unfettered elections in Poland. When are these elections to be held? It is very many months now since we recognised the Provisional Government. Are these elections to be held in June, or are they to be put off still further? I feel that the House is entitled to know. The P.P.R. and the P.P.S. are not keen on elections, although certainly they are pledged to hold them. These elections will not settle any difference between the political parties in Poland; they will settle the fundamental issue whether Poland is to be governed bya system based on the Western interpretation of democracy or on the Russian interpretation. That is what they will settle if they are free and unfettered. It may well be that after the elections a coalition Government will best be able to deal with the many grave problems facing Poland. There is, then, the question of whether or not the elections are to be conducted on the block system. P.P.R. and P.P.S. favour the block system, naturally, because they know they have little support in the country. They constantly emphasise national unity. Mr. Mikolajczyk, and Mr. Popiel, the leader of the Work Party, are the only two party leaders who have not so far agreed to the block. The question on every Polish tongue is whether Mr. Mikolajczyk will run his own candidates at the elections. It was suggested to me by members of P.P.R. that if Mikolajczyk runs his own candidates, there may be trouble from the extreme Left, and it was even suggested to me that this trouble might have the support of Russia. That suggestion came from members of P.P.R. and P.P.S. That is a definite threat. I submit that trouble is no less likely in Poland, where political feeling runs high, if Mikolajczyk is forced into not running his own candidates. It was suggested to me by members of P.P.S. that only the Communist Party, or P.P.R., will be acceptable to Russia. I would like again to raise the question whether or not a small body of foreign observers or some international commission should go to Poland to advise 1336 and assist the Provisional Government in the conduct of the forthcoming elections. We are a signatory to the Crimea Agreement, and I was most disappointed when the Foreign Secretary, replying to a supplementary question which I put to him yesterday, said:1 really cannot lake on all the burdens of all these countries. We have got the undertaking of the Provisional Government, and 1 cannot anticipate they are going to do wrong. I must see whether they do."— [Official Report, 20th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1128.]It was only a few weeks ago that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary referred in general terms, which included Poland, to police States. I ask him, if the facts I am putting are true, as they are, whether he has any confidence that the present Provisional Government in Poland will conduct these elections in a free and unfettered manner. If the elections are held on a block system, they will be a farce, and might just as well not be held, because they will settle no issue, and will do no more than perpetuate a Government on gangster lines against the will of the people.
The choice is for the Poles, and for them alone. Surely, I am right in saying that the role of British foreign policy must be to create the conditions in which thePoles can choose their own Government. If they want a Communist Government, and my conclusions are wrong, that is their affair; if they want a Government based on Western democracy, as we understand it; that also is their affair. The role of British foreign policy must be to smooth out the difficulties, to speed the day when Poles of all political views will be free to live their lives in freedom from fear and freedom from want. It cannot be any part of our policy to help any one political party into the saddle. We have a duty to Poland, and it is a duty we cannot shirk. We hope to see established a Poland which can live in friendship and co-operation both with her great Eastern neighbour, Russia, and with the Western Powers.
I want to put one very direct question to the Foreign Secretary before I conclude. If the Polish Provisional Government continue to violate, or to violate more than they are doing now, the terms on which they were recognised, will His Majesty's Government make the strongest possible protest, and in the event of that protest not being effective, will His 1337 Majesty's Government withdraw recognition from the Polish Provisional Government in the same way as they withdrew it from the Poles who were governing from this country?
It will be a sorry day for British foreign policy if it should get into the hands of certain Communist and near Communist elements in the Socialist Party opposite, if it should get into the hands of certain elements who are already showing that their ignorance is only equalled by their narrowmindedness. I would conclude by saying that while British policy remains in the hands, the capable hands, of the present Foreign Secretary, I have no fear that this country will not honour its pledges; I have no doubt that we will discharge our duty with purpose and with sincerity; I have no doubt that we shall not discard any of the principles for which we went to war. I say "Good luck" to him in his onerous duties.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), enjoyed himself very much yesterday. He made a flamboyant speech in the best Edwardian manner. Beneath its tropes and metaphors and amusing allusions it contained a great deal of reason and common sense, particularly whenhe spoke in favour of personal, direct negotiation with Marshal Stalin, with which I fully agree, and of which I will say something more in one minute. I do not intend to occupy more than three minutes altogether with my speech.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of speeches which 1 and others delivered on Greece a year ago as "fustian." The only "fustian" spoken yesterday was that particular part of his own speech. Speaking for myself, I stand by every word I said in those speeches which have never been answered on the Floor of this House, although the ex-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs once promised to answer them, but failed to do so. I say again that one reason why we went to Greece at that time was to prevent the Left Wing Movement forming the Government of the country. The Regent of Greece told me himself that, but for the British, the Left would have won. I am sorry they did not. The right hon. Member asked why we now supported the retention of British troops. The Left Wing laid down their arms,and we are 1338 not going to leave them to the mercy of the armed Right. That is the answer. I could say more, but I want to conclude on quite another note.
I feel the greatest concern about the breach between Soviet Russia and' ourselves. I do not agreewith what the Minister of State said yesterday, to the effect that the debates in the Council had actually improved the relations between the Soviet Union and ourselves. I have the greatest respect for the Minister of State, but that statement was an utterance from Cloud-Cuckoo Land. Today throughout Central and South-East Europe and through the Middle East, reactionary circles are spreading rumours of an inevitable war between ourselves and Russia. I certainly do not agree with that, but a situation is developing which is full of dangers. This much is certain: Without friendship between Russia, America and ourselves, there can be no peaceful constructive settlement in Europe and Asia and no solution to the problem of the atom bomb, and the whole conception of U.N.O. will fail utterly.
Russia has a case. Russia has certain fears and certain aims. We want to know clearly what they are. I believe that agreement can be reached if we know what they are. I believe that the fears can be dissipated and agreements reached, as the right hon. Gentleman stated yesterday, by personal, direct negotiations on the highest level. A meeting should be arranged as quickly as possible between the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Marshal Stalin and Mr. Molotov. It should take place immediately. That is the proposition I put before the Government, and I urge it with all the force I can command. I believe it is the only way by which a constructive peace can be secured. Drifting may lead to catastrophe. I ask the Government totake steps to avert that fate before humanity drifts to doom and to disaster.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
We are drawing near the end of what has been a very important Debate. I shall not follow the line taken by the hon. Gentleman who hasjust spoken, or accept his invitation to answer a speech on Greece which he said I did not answer during the last Parliament. I will make only two comments on his Greek observations. It is not true to say that we went into Greece to prevent a Left Government 1339 being returned. It is true to say, as the records will show, that we went there at the invitation of all Greek parties, including those of the Left. To oversimplify the Greek issue is to risk not presenting the facts fairly to this House.
The Debate has been marked throughout, on the part of all Members who have spoken, by a sense of responsibility, and indeed, by a sense of anxiety as to the international situation which is now confronting us. Two reflections came to my mind, as I listened to myhon. Friends and to hon. Members opposite, as to the feelings which dominated, our discussion. The first was the anxiety felt by hon. Members in all parts of the House, and expressed by the hon. Member for Brox-towe (Mr. Cocks), about the international situation in general and about Anglo-Soviet relations in particular. The second reflection was that there is in all parts of the House a deep fund of good will from which I can fairly tell the Foreign Secretary he can draw. All parts of the House have shownit.
I must mention one 0r two speeches, particularly the maiden speech yesterday of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). All of them— and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree— showed a constructive desire to help the right hon. Gentleman with his formidable task, which he is shouldering with characteristic courage and determination. At any rate, it is certainly in that spirit that I shall try to address my observations to the House this evening. I havenot been altogether happy about the form the Debate has taken. It is a pity, as my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said a little while ago, and unfortunate, that we have had to wait until the very end of the Debateto hear a statement of policy from the Government.
I did not understand, when the Business was announced last Thursday, that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Minister of State would give us on the first day any broad survey of the international situation as, I think, we naturally expected. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman not doing it, because I know what a hard time he has, but I did hope that the Minister of State would do it yesterday. Instead, he gave us a very clearly stated account 1340 of the work of the different United Nations organisations. I do not want to be disrespectful, but, so far as that statement was factual, most of us could have obtained every word of it from a newspaper. I shall comment upon his statement in detail, but I think that the Minister was definitely over-optimistic in the view which he took.
As to the work of the various United Nations organisations, it is very difficult for those of us who have not been at the meetings to form a just assessment of what happened. The best which could be said about it is that I believe few organisations could have supported so severe a strain as the United Nations organisation has sustained from the outset, and the fact that it has survived is an encouraging start.
It is equally true that those discussions have also left in the public mind what "The Times" this morning describes— I think, rightly— as a sense of great uneasiness. As I listened to this Debate and realised that it would be my task to sum up before the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary spoke, I was conscious of that position, too. Though I am afraid I have inflicted far too many speeches on foreign policy in my time, I do not think I have ever known one where it was more difficult to offer some constructive suggestion in a situation which is, none the less, I am certain, troubling every hon. Member in this House.
If I may, I want to try to look at the causes of this unease and make one or two suggestions which might help to remove them. Let me start, first, with what, I think, troubles us all most— the present state of Anglo-Soviet relations. It has been said many times in this Debate— and I think with truth— that it is difficult for us to understand the profound impression that has been made upon the minds of the Soviet Government and the Soviet people by the wide and deep invasion of their land by the German armies and by the distress and suffering that accompanied that event. That is perfectly true, and it is perhaps difficult for an island people entirely to understand it because, despite the fact that modern inventions have resulted in our being militarily no longer an island, it is, none the less, true that our mental approach to this question is still the mental approach of an island people. Phvsically, 1341 perhaps, if I may, I could give one illustration. I happened to be in Moscow in the winter of 1941, about Christmas time, when conditions were about at their worst for Russia, and pretty bad for us at that particular phase of the war. During an interval in our discussions, Marshal Stalin arranged that General Nye and myself should go up to what our Russian Allies called the front— which was as near as they thoughtit reasonable for any foreigner to go, because they were always anxious we should not get into trouble— so that we could see the prevailing conditions in that area. I wish I could give to the House the sense I got— and several hon. Members in this House have seen many battles— of what the Russians were feeling about this German tidal wave which had not, perhaps, up to then, so far as they knew, reached the high-water mark, though it was only 50 miles from Moscow.
I am convinced thatit is the scourge of that invasion— and not the only one in this century— which is the dominant motive in Soviet foreign policy. It does not excuse some things which I shall talk about in a moment, but it is there. Coupled with it is the memory that it was only 80,000,000 Germans who nearly dealt a mortal thrust to 180,000,000 Russians, and a determination that, so far as lies in the power of the Union, Germany shall not be in a position to do that again. That, I think, is the second dominant note of Soviet foreign policy. I say those things, not to excuse, but so that we may try, in fairness, to set out the position as it seems to be. This determination not to allow Germany to be in a position ever to do this again and this alarm— Ithink that that is the right word— which the near approach of the Germans to Moscow created, have resulted in Soviet determination to have as friendly neighbours as they can. And there, almost at once, their policy results in difficulties and complications for the Soviet Government's Allies.
It often happens that those whom the Soviet Government think they can trust among their neighbours are not those whom the majority in those countries wish to govern them. That is undoubtedly true. Inevitable friction results, and it is really too over-simplifying the issue to speak like the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) spoke in the Debate yesterday. He com 1342 plained of American reluctance to recognise the Governments set up in Rumania and Bulgaria. Russia, no doubt, regarded it as legitimate to set up those Governments in those particular countries, but it is pardonable that other countries should have their doubts as to whether those Governments are truly representative of those countries. If they have those doubts, it is inevitable they should hesitate to recognise them.
Now a word about the relations of the Soviet Union with the other two Powers— ourselves and the United States. I believe that the Soviet Union are sincere when they say to us that they want to collaborate with ourselves and the United States, their two great partners in the mortal conflict from which they and we have only just emerged. I think, also, that the Soviet Union are sincere in wishing that the United Nations organisation should function. It can only function if there is a measure of understanding betwen the three great Powers. That far. I think, we are agreed. But here comes the rub. While Russia wants this collaboration— as I say, Iam convinced sincerely with the other two great Powers— she appears only to want it on her own terms. That will not work. Sooner or later, that must land us all into difficulties. It cannot be acceptable to the Allies of the Soviet Union that the Soviet Government should just repeat that formula of the need for unity as a sort of abracadabra and then, having said it, pursue any policy she likes, quite regardless of the feelings or interests of those who have been her Allies. That is the heart of the problem, and it is only right that we should fairly state it to our Allies. There can be no true understanding between Governments which permanently stand a strain of that kind.
I hope I may' be allowed, without conceit, to introduce for a moment a personal note. It is nearly eleven years since I first went to Russia and had my first conversations with Marshal Stalin, M. Molotov and M. Litvinov. We had very long, exhaustive conversations about the relations between our two countries, but I will not weary the House with an account of them. We afterwards issued a document which I would rather like hon. Members to look at again, because it is of interest in our present state of relations. I am not going to quote it 1343 except for one short passage which shows where we ought to be in our relations with the Soviet Union and where we are not at the moment. It says:The representatives of the Government were happy to note that there is at present no conflict of interest between the two Governments on any of the main issues of international policy and that this fact provided a firm foundation for the development of fruitful collaboration between them in the cause of peace. They are confident that both countries, recognising that the integrity and prosperity of each is of advantage to the other, will govern their mutual relations in that spirit of collaboration and loyalty to obligations assumed by them which is inherent in their common membership of the League of Nations.I say, substitute the word "Charter" for "League of Nations," and that is the basis upon which our policy with our Russian Ally ought to rest, but I cannot truly say that it is the basis on which it rests now. I am bound also to say— and I. say it as one who has long been anxious for collaboration with the Soviet Union— that the fault, in the main, is that of our Soviet Ally. I am now going to give one or two reasons. I wish to take up the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean about the situation in the Middle East. He complained that our policy in Persia, for example, was to keep in power what he called the nobility— I will quote his words— thosewho have been to Eton and Balliol, to Harrow and Trinity, Cambridge, who know the Persian classics."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1174.]That is all right, but let me tell him, incidentally, that knowledge of the Persian classics is not confined to what he is pleased to call the Persian nobles, any more than, so far as I know, a knowledge of the classics is very widespread among the same kind of people in this country. However, he is quite wrong in his definition of our policy. We have never sought to back one particular Government in Persia, or, indeed, any particular Government in Persia.
Here, I think, is the fundamental problem which the House has to face about these countries. We did not elect the Medjliss. The system under which the Medjliss is elected may not be a good one, but I am not responsible for that, and neither is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
1344 The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean asked: How can you expect to have our conception of democracy in the Balkans and in the countries of Eastern Europe?" If he does not expect to have our conception of democracy there, why does he expect to have it in the Middle East? It suited his argument with regard to the policy of Russia in the Balkans, but he used an argument exactly to the contrary with regard to Persia. I will tell the hon. Gentleman what we have to face. In none of those Middle Eastern countries is there a democratic Government in the sense that we understand it— a parliamentary one— nor is there likely to be one. The hon. Gentleman spoke of our attitude to the League of Arab States. I think that was a perfectly correct attitude— one of encouragement, but not of interference in their arrangements. We have tried from time to time to encourage these Middle Eastern lands to broaden the basis of their prosperity, to increase the wealth of those who have far too little substance on which to live. I know— and so does the right hon. Gentleman— that many times ambassadors— or some of us, at least— have given that advice on instructions, when we have had actual contacts with these people, but that is as far as we have gone, and the House ought to consider whether we would be justified in going further.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman admit that, if we and Russia took action together in Teheran, we would get a somewhat different Government there than there is now?
§ Mr. Eden
I am not sure about that, Let us look at this carefully. I think this is important and fundamental to our Persian policy. Supposing we and the Russians did agree that one party was better than another, is it really our business to impose that party on Persia, and ought we to? The hon. Gentleman will remember, for instance, that in the time of Edward Grey, in 1906, we tried to do that sort of thing. It was a terrible failure and we got ourselves absolutely detested by every section of the Persian people. If we ourselves, or in conjunction with Russia, said to any of these other countries, "This and that is what you should do "— in fact, in other words, if we tried to govern them— we would be
1345 opening ourselves to the very charges which were hurled at us yesterday by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) I think the Russian attitude is wrong. I think their interference in the internal affairs of Persia is contrary to the treaty they signed, and if we did it we would be acting contrary to the treaty which we signed. Persia should work out these things for herself, with any encouragement and assistance we can give, but without ourselves or our Ally saying. "This, that, or the other party is the one which should be put into power."
I apologise for that digression. There are one or two other things to which I would like to refer. I have one other point of criticism to make to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. I am sorry for talking so much about his speech, but it was one of great interest. I did not like the regrettable sneer at Congress. After all, Congress is the elected Assembly of the United States, and, anyway, this is not a very good time for such sneers. It is difficult to minimise the part that America can play, if shewill, to help to lead the world at a time like this; nor, if I may say so in passing, do we improve our relations with one Ally by sneering at another. In this present serious and anxious position, it is obviously the desire of His Majesty's Government topursue a constructive policy, and to try and bring about an improvement.
I would like, if I may, to make one or two suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject. We would be glad to hear, if he can tell us, any information, first of all, about the general Far Eastern situation. I myself am not going into that; it has been touched upon by so many other speakers. But, coming nearer home, I would like to ask him whether he can tell us anything about the prospects of some form of closer understandingbetween the countries of Western Europe. I know what the earlier difficulties were. Until those countries were liberated, and until, in some cases, they had had their elections, they did not want to enter into commitments— I think rightly so— but now that period is passed, and, while nobody cares more than I do for good relations with the Soviet Union, I cannot now or at any time admit that they have the right to complain if we 1346 choose to make arrangements with our near neighbours in Western Europe.
It is only fair that I should add, so far as I can remember, that no statesman of the Soviet Union has ever raised to me any objection to such a course. I have seen plenty of it in the newspapers, but I do not think any such objection was raised by any statesman of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, I can remember one particular occasion when the Soviet Union took exactly the opposite line and made it clear that they did not take any objection to our making such an arrangement. However, whether they do or not, we are obviously entitled to make such an arrangement, and it is clear to us all that it is in the interests of the peace of Europe that we should do so. Therefore, any information the right hon. Gentleman can give us— not forgetting that all these arrangements are allowed for and arranged for in the Charter itself— would be very welcome. There is no question of replacing the authority of the Charter.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the other subject which he touched upon— with regard to Germany and our policy towards Germany? I feel that perhaps one ought not to raise that question without trying to make at least one constructive contribution on the subject. I will try to make one. I believe itwould be to the long-term advantage of Europe if the Ruhr were internationalised. I can see no disadvantage— although I do not know what the position is in respect of our Allies— in our making that arrangement. Of course, that by itself would not be a guarantee of security in the West, but it would be a step which would assist to create a sense of security, and I can conceive of it being so worked out as to be to the economic advantage,. not only of Germany's neighbours but also of Germany herself.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer before I close. There were occasions during the war, as the right hon. Gentleman will remember, when we had the opportunity of full discussions on foreign policy with the Prime Ministers of the great Dominions. Those discussions were of immense benefit to us. The position is quite unique in the world now. The Prime Ministers of the Dominions, and, of course, the Ministers of external affairs, have access to all the information to which we have access. 1347 They know exactly as much as we do on every subject. Yet they bring to our problems a fresh mind and a different angle of approach. For my part, I was never so heartened by any experience during the whole of the war as by the meetings— which the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman will remember, because they sat through them all— of the Dominion Prime Ministers held in London in 1944. If it were possible— I do not know whether it be so or not— to create the opportunity for another such meeting in the course of the next few months when developments and foreign policy are certain to be so important, and when the right hon. Gentleman's task is so complex and difficult, I believe he would find it of inestimable benefit.
Let me conclude as I began. We are at an anxious moment in the state of relations between the great Powers. Any hon. Member could feel the sense of that weighing on us while listening to this Debate. We have all pledged ourselves to observe the Charter which we drew up at San Francisco. If we carry out that pledge, not only in the letter, which is always so capable of argument and interpretation this way and that, but in the spirit, then the nations can move forward to an era of prosperity greaterthan has ever been known. My hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University was, I submit to the House, right in what he said in relation to the rule of law. Unless there is an observance of the rule of law none of our plans however well conceived, and none of our Charters however well drawn up are going to be worth very much. If we can work in that spirit our problems can be solved. But if we do not, there is a real danger that suspicion will grow, until it hardens into lasting misunderstanding.That is the anxiety which I feel today, which might be an immeasurable calamity for the human race. What steps the Government think it right to take to meet the situation are for them to say. I am not suggesting who shall see whom, or when anybody shall meet anybody. That is for their initiative. There is the problem. With all our hearts and minds we seek to help the Government in their task. Any endeavours which the right hon. Gentleman makes to this end will have the support of the House and the people. From the 1348 bottom of our hearts we wish him God speed in his harsh task.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I thought that before I made a statement in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) it would be a good thing if I heard the opinions of the House, which would allow me to reply to the many points that were likely to be raised in a Debate of this character. After all, I have made four rather long and wearisome speecheson foreign policy since I have been in office. In that I think I have beaten the record of my predecessor. I confess I was concerned about having this Debate at the present moment, when I felt it might be wise to let the controversies cool down a bit before we had another Debate. But this Debate has been extremely helpful and constructive, and certainly it will assist me in the difficult task that I have to carry through at the present moment.
I would like to say this to some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I have been told that when the Opposition cheer me I am wrong. But you know, you cannot carry out a foreign policy on a very narrow and limited basis. Neither can you alter history by a slogan. I said to Mr. Vyshinsky in a talk the other day that I did not think we could set down our difficulties on a piece of paper and solve every one of them. I felt that if we could get confidence in one another we could grow together. I repeat that: We could grow together. It is the task of growing together that is the purpose of my policy. Let me assume for a moment that the imperialisms of the past have caused friction and difficulty. for strategic or any other purpose in any part of the world. I remember saying to the Generalissimo in Moscow, "Do not let us throw in any sand. Let us keep the ball bearings well oiled. Let us try to make the machine run smoothly, and in the end we will solve these difficulties in the course of time." This war ended only nine months ago, and I am not apologetic for the progress we have made. It has taken a different line from that which everybody thought it would take. There have not been any, and I venture to suggest there will not be any, of the general Peace Conferences we understood at Versailles I am not sure 1349 that that is too bad. Versailles set down a very rigid treaty and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, who has been in the Foreign Office for many years, knew that the rigidity of that treaty meant that revision was very difficult. The circumstances of modern life and the modern world will mean that rigidity will be the enemy of a long-term peace. I am not too sure that the controversy and the fluidity of the situation will not in the end produce better results.
If I may deal first with the last questions put by the right hon. Gentleman, I will take the question of a Western union. Nothing has percolated through with greater acrimony than the question of a Western bloc. I deliberately raised this question in Moscow. I said, "You want friendly neighbours. Well, in my street I want friendly neighbours too. I am entitled to have them, but I will do nothing that injures you. His Majesty's Government will do nothing about which they do not inform you. We will tell you everything. We havea treaty of friendship, and I mean friendship, I mean it in the terms stated in that treaty." For the first time, I will reveal to the House and to the world that I said, "If you want to change that from 20 years to 50 years, I will advise my Government to do it." 1 do not think I could do better than that. If it is to be amended in order to make it more acceptable, or to be changed in order to give confidence, I am willing, also, to look at that. But I cannot be accused of not wanting friendship for the Soviet Union— for all time if I can get it.
Now with regard to Germany. Germany is a very vexed, difficult problem to solve. We acceded to the Oder and the Western Neisse at Potsdam; and so all you can do for Russia, Poland, and the satellite Statesyou have done. You have done it in the war and immediately at the end of the war. But the heart of aggression in Germany is the Ruhr. That is the peak. I frankly confess that we have not made up our minds about the Western frontier, for that is what it means; but I have had a very strong committee working— two committees: one on the political solution. I have studied very closely the proposals of France. I have not rejected them; I have not accepted them. I do not know at the 1350 moment whether they are quite workable. But I am convinced that you have got to settle the ownership of the Ruhr, that is to say the ownership of the industries of the Ruhr. The heart of the general staff in Germany was the industrial lords of the Ruhr; and the Ruhr must not go back to their possession and it must not be controlled for that type of mentality.
The second thing about the Ruhr which attracts me is this. The Ruhr is a great productive area, potentially. A lot of people of our Allies say, "Deprive it of all its productive capacity for security's sake." I have to ask myself, Will that succeed? If we go on the basis of the reparations payments now being discussed, I am afraid that you will create a recrudescence in Germany that will be disastrousfor peace. The trouble with the Ruhr was that its full potentialitymight not be realised unless 65 per cent. of it went into munitions— and I have known it for a good many years. On the other hand, the standard of life in Europe is lower. Ought I,then, to aim for a policy by which the Ruhr should be a productive unit for Europe as a whole, including Russia, including everyone, so that its products go East and West, in order to develop the standard of life in Europe? Or ought I to restrict it? I confess that at the moment, if I may say so to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, I have not yet, from the purely security angle, arrived at a conclusion. My industrial instinct— which probably is not a security instinct; andI want to draw the distinction— tells me that the right thing to do with the Ruhr is to own it publicly under international control, with each Government owning a share in the concern and sitting on the governing body, not private individuals, forthe sheer sake of security; and then to consider whether the Ruhr products could not be limited— which is a point my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr Lytteltou) will appreciate— to what I call the partially manufactured states, leaving no unfinished ends, which are convertible into munitions very quickly in the Ruhr; but allowing all its potential manufactured ends to pour into Italy, Yugoslavia, and anywhere else, in order to develop them, letting them spread over the whole of Europe.
That is a point I have to consider, and on which I have to arrive at a conclusion. But I can assure the House I 1351 am giving the utmost study to the problem. I am in the closest consultation with France, Belgium too. Holland, and all those affected When I am ready and they are ready then we must consult the United States and we must consult Soviet Russia If 1 may say so publicly to all of them.. "Please do accept our good intentions in this matter. For after all, France has bled three times. We have bled twice. Do not, please, accuse us, who have shed so much blood in the last 10 years, of wanting to create the very weapons that have bled us so bitterly during this period." Unless good intentions are accepted and they are put on the anvil of discussion, the situation is hopeless.
1 have been asked about Austria. 1 am one of those who believe that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was economically right but politically wrong. It was an economic unit, and the cut-up that took place, from the point of view of the standard of life of the country, was impossible. I do not know, it is too early yet, but I can say both we and the United States of America— although Austria was incorporated in the Reich and, therefore, is not quite in the position of Italy and the Balkan States with which we were at warare ready to re-create the position by a new peace treaty, as the only means by which we can get a legal clarification of the position of Austria in the new creation. All I can hope is that all these States, although they are politically separated from the point of view of government, will not go on creating tariffs and all the other restrictions against one another. Let trade flow freely between them so that the standard of life may be raised.
I was asked by the right hon. Gentle- man the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) about Italy, which I regard as very important. I think Italy has gone a long way— to use the words of the late Prime Minister— to work her passage. I want to try to do justice in the settlement of the Italian treaty, if we can, and to settle it on a basis that will not produce the antagonism and difficulties that may lead to conflict between Italy and her neighbours again.
I think that the nationalisms around her are being pushed a little too far. We have to exercise a good deal of common sense. But when you get to these fron- 1352 tiers, you are faced with very great complications and the conflict between what is called the ethnic frontier and the economic necessities of the case. You have great electrical power in the Tyrol, but the territory is ethnically Austrian. Is it beyond our wit and our power, in the end to see that that great economic power, which the Italians themselves have created, is made to serve both Austria and Italy— and still solve the ethnic problem? I cannot answer that at the moment; I can only postulate it. When you get down to Trieste, you find the mines and the bauxite. The ethnic line may be in Yugoslavia or it may be in Italy— 1 do not know— but why cannot there be, wherever the ethnic line goes, joint companies, or some arrangement under which both can have the benefits of these raw materials that existin territories of that kind? Why is it necessary to set people to fight one another when, in the normal arrangements that can be made between countries, these great raw materials for the benefit of everyone can flow through these territories?
I do not pretend to give an answer, but these are the problems. I find myself in constant conflict over the economic facts. After all, what do the people want? They want homes, food, light, markets, and they want to enjoy the decencies of life. The mere drawing of an ethnic boundary ought not to mean poverty to them, and the raw materials ought to flow, whichever way it is. Therefore, I appeal to all these countries not to allow their nationalistic feelings to override their common sense in dealing with the economic difficulties. The same thing applies to transport. The transport of Middle Europe and Southern Europe and Northern Italy must have an outlet to Trieste. If the industries are to be maintained, then why deny the ordinary transport facilities, simply because itruns across the frontier? These are the kind of problems which agitate my mind more than anything else. While I want, and His Majesty's Government want, to give nationalistic aspirations the greatest possible chance of expression, I do not like to do so at the expense of a low standard of life for the people concerned.
I am asked by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) whether we arrived at terms of reference at the Foreign Ministers' meeting in London. Yes At the Foreign Ministers' meeting, we did 1353 arrive at terms of reference for the Italian treaty, and the Council of Deputies, now working on the job, are doing so on the basis which we then devised. I would again say, what I said in an earlier Debate. There is so much talk about Fascism and Communism and everything else. The principle which His Majesty's Government must apply to Italy is this: we cannot treat Italy in this settlement as if Mussolini were still alive. We made a mistake with Germany at the end of the last war, in my view. We did not hang the Kaiser, but we went on as if he were still there, and we treated the Weimar Republic as if it had been the Kaiser's republic. I think that was a great mistake which we made, instead of nursing it into strength. I do not want His Majesty's Government to make that mistake. I realise that, like Greece and Italy and all the other countries that have been under dictatorshipI think I used this illustration beforethey have lost their political legs. They are like a man who has been in bed for many years and begins to recover, but is unsteady politically. What is the use of ignoring him? The question is, shall we impose another dictatorship from outside or inside, or shall we help him to get his muscles b.ack in order that he may stand on his own feet and walk erect? In Italy, they are making a very great recovery. They will have very great difficulties. I do not underestimate them, but anything His Majesty's Government can do in order to restore Italy to her old position, not as an imperialistic countrywhich Mussolini made the mistake of trying to create, but as a cultural and useful member of the comity of nations, we shall try to do, and we shall try to do it without detriment to the neighbours of Italy, which are also affected in the discussion. Italy's problems are not merely political, they are economic as well. I can assure her, as I would any other country, that in her attempt to restore her economy we will co-operate, with any others who can help, just as we are doing in Greece at the present moment to restore her economic life and put her on her feet again.
Another question was raised about Greece. Greece comes up in every Debate with amazing regularity. I was asked about the Dodecanese. As I understand it, neither the Russians nor anyone else object to the Dodecanese going to Greece. I did, however, agree in Moscow— because 1354 I might as well tell the House that I was considering handing over the administration of these islands, in order to bring our troops away, to the Greek Government; I do not want to keep British troops in all these places when I would rather 'have them here at home— that it was better to leave it till the peace treaty in May. But on principle I understand that there is no disagreement. As regards the claims against the integrity of the Greek mainland, I have never heard a claim made, and I cannot imagine that there will be one. The Greeks had claims against Albania, and they have raised questions with regard to Bulgaria, on the frontiers, but these they must argue when the time comes. They must present their objective and have it discussed. With regard to Greece generally, one has seen in the newspapers— and I pay great attention to the advice given to me in the "News Chronicle" by the hon. Memberfor Bridgwater (Mr. Vernon Bartlett)— that I ought to postpone the elections. It is not for me to postpone them or anything else. The line I have taken is this. Everybody is agreed that these elections should be on 31st March, and I take this view, rightly or wrongly, that the thing for Greece is for once to be consistent. Once a thing has been decided let it be carried through as the best contribution to the stability of that country.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
1 am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but may I assure him that I perhaps did not express myself very clearly, because actually what I wrote entirely agrees with his policy?
§ Mr. Bevin
Then the sub-editors must have altered it. My hon. Friend and I know the dangers of sub-editors. I saw in that paper which always supports the Government, "The Times "— it supports all Governments— that they take the same line, but I do emphasise this. We have been through discussions on this business in perfect good faith, andon the advice of that Government I have said these elections will take place. It is not my decision; it is their decision. If you want to stop this bickering between great Allies about a particular country, in my view it is better to be consistent and gothrough with it and get it done. That is the only point there is in it, and I think in the interest of Greece it should be done, because what we are anxious to see is the 1355 elections over and a stable Government established. It has been suggested to me that we ought to reform the Government before the elections. I am only grateful it was not tried before the Election in England. I think it is much better to do it afterwards. There have been so many Governments in Greece that I had a feeling it was farbetter to get the elections over and see what the opinion of the people is. Then when you know that form a Government— let it be a Coalition or whatever form it takes. I think that is the commonsense line of approach to the problem.
May I say a word about Turkey? This is another question which looms large in this controversy about the Middle East. I raised this question in Moscow, and I frankly confess to the House that His Majesty's Government were troubled about what looked to us like a war of nerves, going on with Press polemics on both sides. I would say this to this House and to the world: One of the greatest dangers to international peace is Press polemics very often on wrong premises, producing misunderstandings and keeping people on the jumpI think that is very bad. There are two points in this controversy; one is the two provinces and the other is the Dardanelles. In the case of the two provinces, as I understand it from what I have read, the frontier between Turkey and Russia was fixed, notby conqueror and vanquished, but by defeated Turkey and an unfortunate Russia which had not come too well out of the last war through no fault of her own. Therefore, this cannot be said to be an imposed frontier. There is the point of view of the people living in those provinces, but as far as I can study it, there has been such movement of population that there is no nationality problem at all. Therefore, as the frontier was drawn I believe. by the Generalissimo himself, it is a matter of regret that itis now the subject of controversy and a war of nerves.
The Dardanelles presents a different problem. Somebody yesterday raised the question of whether we offered Constantinople to "the Tsar in T914–18. We seem in. that war to have done an awful lot of things of one kind and another which I do not doubt have harassed every Foreign Secretary since, but the idea behind Russia's mind is that we are prepared to treat her in an inferior way to 1356 that in which we treated the Tsars. 1 do not want to do that, but what we offered the Tsars is, I think, unnecessary in the modern world with the United Nations. That is the difference. We are ready to consider either with Turkey and Russia as Allies or allow them themselves to consider without us a revisionof the Montreux Convention, but in that revision we are anxious to keep the international aspect of these waterways in view. I am not too sure that it contributes to world peace that one particular Power as against another should have bases in a particular spot.
The question of the Great Belt and the Skagerak was raised, and I agree that as long as Germany is defeated there is no need to do anything as far as the Skagerak is concerned. It is an open, free waterway to all nations entering or leaving the Baltic. In that case that is the policy of the British Government. Therefore I say my answer,is, "I would like to see your proposal." When 1 am accused of being antagonistic to Russia or any other country my policy is to examine proposals, not accusations. There is a great distinction between hurling accusations and putting proposals before us, and I do plead with all countries in the world, which have anything to discuss with us, to put proposals before us and let us see whether we can agree.
It is said we are drifting into war with Russia. I cannot conceiveany'circumstances in which Britain and the Soviet Union should go to war. The Soviet Union has a territory right from the Kuriles into the satellite States. It is the greatest in the world— one solid great land Power. I cannot see about what we have to tight. Certainly it never enters my mind and I am certain it does not enter the mind of any of my colleagues in the Government. I approach America in the same spirit. I would never think of, and I never could see— and I am sure no party in this House ever sees— the possibility of war between us and America. I do not think of it in the other case either. I say this very emphatically that in considering in our minds all organisations for States there can be no policy or anything else which will lead to a conflict with either of these great Allies.
If I may return to Turkey for a moment, I want to say we have a Treaty with Turkey. I really must be frank and 1357 say I do not want Turkey converted into a satellite State. What I want her to be is really independent. I should like to see the treaty of friendship renewed between Soviet Russia and Turkey. I cannot see that that conflicts with the treaty of friendship with us and I must say thatif anything could contribute to confidence between us it is the right attitude of mind of both of us towards that particular case.
I said I would do my best to bring that about and I repeated this to Mr.Vyshinsky in London. He referred to the fact that theGeneralissimo had said he had no intention of war, that he wanted to settle these things amicably; and I believe that. Why should I doubt it? When I had discussed the Western bloc with him, or, rather, not the Western bloc, but the Western arrangement forfriendly neighbours, Mr. Vyshinsky's answer to me was, "I believe you." If two of us believe each other that is half the battle.
May I turn now to Persia? I was asked in this House whether I would safeguard British interests, and I replied that I would safeguard them anywhere. But I do not regard this Persian affair as a question of competition between Russia and ourselves; that is what I tried to prevent. I confess that I was concerned by the character of the Azerbaijan movement. I know that this movement began— if I may say so with respect— in 1914 in a very similar set of circumstances, and while I was not suspicious I wondered what really was going on, particularly as the Press and everyone else were excluded. I think that when a. thingis not open to the light of day that contributes to suspicion, and that is exactly. what has happened. I also had a vivid recollection of the difficulties of Sir Edward Grey in 1907, and naturally I wondered whether a policy was being followed which might lead to a controversy which I thought would be quite unnecessary if there were talks. Therefore, when I went to Moscow I had a discussion about this matter, and I think the right hon. Gentleman is quite correct when he says that from the point of view of democracy, free elections and so on, we would not hold up Persia as a paragon of virtue.
The 1906–7 Constitution of Persia itself has never been operated. Had it been, Persia would have been a federal State. 1358 The language question, the minority question, I felt, would have been dealt with, and, therefore, I wondered whether, out of all the agitation of the Tudeh party and many other good people in Persia, a tripartite Commission of the three Allies could go to Persia and— taking the1906–7 Constitution as a basis— deal with such problems as the language problem which is very vital. While we accept Persian as the national language, the minority languages are very important from the point of view of unrest in these countries. There was also the problem of Turkestan and, in addition, it is no use disguising the fact that amidst all these troubles there were the very vital interests of the United States, ourselves, and Soviet Russia in regard to oil, with which so much ofour defence was concerned. I, therefore, proposed terms of reference— which I did not draft until I got to Moscow— for this Commission to consider, and I really thought they would be adopted. I made it clear in the document— I was quite honest about it— that I had not got the concurrence of the Persian Government because I had had no opportunity to consult them. But subject to the concurrence of the Persian Government, I was prepared to agree to this tripartite Commission. When I raised the question of the concurrence of the Persian Government there were objections, and as a result my suggestion did not go through. On my return I renewed my efforts, but on that occasion I could not get the Persian Government to agree.
It has been suggested in many places— and by inference in this House— that the trouble over Greece and Indonesia arose from the fact that I was responsible for putting Persia on the U.N.O. agenda. As a matter of historic fact— rather outside my province because it is an independent country— I gave advice to the contrary. I felt that U.N.O. was such a new organisation that to introduce disputes at its first meeting might endanger its success, and I still had faith that if they would agree to the tripartite Commission I might still make a contribution towards settling the Persian affair once and for all, both for Persia and for the great Allies affected. One thing that must be done when a small country happens to possess a vital raw material is for the Allies so: to arrange their business as not to make the small country the victim of controversy between the big Allies. I think 1359 that is sound policy; I tried to do it, and failed. I can but apologise for failure. At least, I tried.
Accordingly, it was put on the U.N.O. agenda, and I have no doubt that probably our Soviet friends were suspicious of me— I have an honest face but it does not impress them somehow. So they dumped in Indonesia and Greece, but I did not mind that at all. It is said that because this occurred we have endangered the relations between the Soviet Union and ourselves. I do not agree.
After all, those who make up the Soviet Union are members of the proletariat, and so am I. We are used to hard hitting, but our friendship remains. I do not think an exchange of views of this kind does any more harm than the exchanges of views at a Labour Party Conference. Over and over again, I have seen it prophesied that our party would be split over such events. Without introducing party differences, may I say that I realise that Conservative Party meetings never last more than two days, and that the resolutions are carefully prepared beforehand? Every care is taken to see that no controversy ever arises. Their training isin one school; ours is in another, and I think the knockabout method is not too bad, after all. At least, let me say that I am sure the friendship between Mr. Vyshinsky and myself is just as close as it was when he came, and even closer. The newspapers said that he taught me to play chess and that I taught him to play darts. As I have said, I do not think any harm has been done at all.
Objection has been taken by one Member to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said yesterday, that no small nation, in the future, need fear to put its grievance 'before the Security Council. I think we have removed fear, and that the Security Council did very "well. How could it do otherwise when I was one of the principal members? The discussion was frank and open, and I think the solutions have been good. The case of Persia remains on the agenda, I know, but if they are not satisfied the Persians will come back. In the case of the Levant we are getting out of there. I was rather glad that they brought their case before the Council because my predecessor would agree that the commit 1360 ments and counter-commitments in that territory were very embarrassing. As a result of the discussion of the Security Council a lot of the troubles which were left behind by SirEdward Spears, who sat for Carlisle in the last Parliament, have been removed from me. I am glad they have gone. There has been a real opportunity to start with a clean sheet, and deal with" this problem in a thorough and proper manner.
I have been asked for a statement about the Far East. I was very interested in the discussion in another place yesterday, when that rather pompous Minister of Food in the late Government referred to the food situation—
Mr. QuintinHogg (Oxford)
On a point of Order. To what extent is it permissible, Sir, for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to Debates in another place?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If I think the right hon. Gentleman is contravening the rules of procedure I shall stop him.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member may be aware of what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to say, but I am not.
§ Mr. Bevin
Food is the immediate problem of the Far East. Is it right, on either side of the House, or in another place, to talk about this matter as if it referred
1361 only to Great Britain? Are the 500 million people of India and the East British subjects or not? I put that challenge to everybody who intends to refer to this problem in future. If we claim to be an Empire, and to be responsible, then the talk cannot only be about these Islands; it must be about the people in the British Empire, who are subjects ofthe King. As I have said, the first and greatest problem we have to face is the food problem. For five or six months,as Foreign Secretary, I have been studying this question, the difficulties of which have been added to now by the failure of the monsoon.In addition I think my predecessor will agree that there was really no general method of dealing with the Far East as a whole. The Foreign Office dealt with one aspect, the Colonial Office another, and the India Office another. I felt it was essential— and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington will agree with me—that in the light of the rise of the independence movement all over this territory, which must be faced, and which we do not intend to frustrate, there, had to be a general policy.
I would therefore like to announce to the House that we have agreed on what seems to me to be a first-class organisation to grapple with the problem. The organisation will be stationed at Singapore. Lord Killearn will be the Chief Commissioner, and around him will be every Governor, representatives of India, and representatives of all other countries in the area, who will be consulted, and who will sit in a purely consultative capacity. The more I study this question the more Ifeel convinced that this famine can be fought. It can be fought if the available resources of the world are distributed properly, month by month and territory by territory, as production comes in, if we carry on propaganda which will teach cultivation toenlightened people, and if Great Britain makes a really first-class effort to assist these people to get over this great difficulty.
That will lead to the next phase. There are Indonesia, India, Malaya, Ceylon, and a new China emerging. There is all that new development, and 1 think the policy we have to follow so far as the dependent territories are concerned which are emerging into independence, is to nurse them, guide them, help them to change over as 1362 a going concern, to keep their administration intact, to provide them with experts. I am not too sure that from the point of view of our own interests in this country we should not do far better by helping these countries and assisting them from a purely trade point of view in trade and commerce thanwe did under the old-fashioned Colonial system of the past. That is our policy for the Far East.
There is one point 1 missed, if the House will forgive me for returning to it, the question of Poland At Potsdam I had long discussions with the Polish Provisional Government, as I reported to the House before. The question of elections was agreed, and the method by which they should be held under the 1921 Constitution. They should be free and unfettered and, in addition, I on my part would endeavour when the time came to settle up this military problem and the question of the Polish Army. It must be recognised that if the Polish Army is to be settled, the soldiers must receive assurances that, when they return, they will be treated as to rights and privileges equally with everybody else in the country. To that end I have been in negotiation with the Polish Provisional Government, and have now a statement which I have undertaken to broadcast to the troops and, on that footing, to endeavour to get as many as I canto return to Poland. In fact, I think these magnificent troops will be an asset to Poland if they return, but we must be sure that they will be treated fairly when they return.
I wanted, in my discussions with the Polish Vice-Premier, to remove this from the Press controversy altogether. I thought this hurling of charges at, one another did not solve the problem. What advantage is it to put a clever question to me, and for me to give a cleverer answer, when I do not secure one Polish soldier a bit of land back in his own country; or what good is it writing articles when I do not solve the problem in consequence? Let this be said: His Majesty's Government take this view— and this is very dear to us however much anybody in this House agrees or disagrees— that when men have fought with you, or stood by you, it is against our religion to let them down. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] These cheers from the other side—
§ Mr. Bevin
E.L.A.S. turned against us when we entered Greece. I explained last week that if E.L.A.S. had gone through, as they originally promised to go through, it would have been all right; but when we were marching after the Germans, they were marchingback to Athens for civil war. That is not quite friendly. But I say this: these Polish soldiers were given certain promises. We have to try to solve the problem and I ask the House to help me solve it. All I want to do is to help these very ordinary men,because they are not all General Anders; most of them are ordinary people, many of them are from the East of the Curzon Line, many of them are from the territory which has now gone to Russia. I have a most complex problem. Have they to be returned to Poland? Have they to be returned to the East of the Curzon Line? It is not merely writ ing an article which settles this problem, it is a question of dealing with every individual man. I am not antagonistic to winding this up. I must wind it up, but I must wind it up on a basis of justice and equity. I cannot throw these people to the wolves—
§ Mr. Bevin
If I threw them into unemployment; if I gave them a bit of money; if I just dismissed them; if I said, "You have finished your job; that's an end to it." I have never let a victimised man down in my life and I will not be a party to it in this case. I say, let me wind up this business on a perfectly rational, sound basis, and do not make these men. the bulk of whom, thousands of them, are just ordinary soldiers, the mere tools of political propaganda.
In addition I have a great admiration for Poland itself. What country has gone through more than Poland has gone through— subjected to the tortures of great Powers, divided? If you say that the Poles can never agree— who can agree when they have lived the life that the Polish nation has gone through? Not merely an underground army for this war, but an underground army for nearly two centuries; an underground army that has had to fight for liberty. You may as 1364 well accuse an Irishman who was an expert— he is growing out of it now— at it for many years. No, I understand the man who has been at the bottom and who has had to work by the underground method. You cannot change that character in a moment, and if these antagonisms exist, let us have patience and toleration in order to get the thing cleared up. I will do my best, and I hope to be able to face this House with an honourable solution of the problem which will be satisfactory to Poland and, I hope, satisfactory to the conscience of this nation, which has at least used these men to defend our skins when the enemy was nearly into Cairo.
One word about the Dominions. I was asked about a meeting of the Prime Ministers. I want to assure this House that all through this business I have been in the closest consultation with the Dominions, and I venture to suggest there never was such unanimity among the Dominions as in the difficulties we arefacing now. The Prime Minister has invited the Dominion Prime Ministers to this country, and we hope we shall meet them before the Peace Conference in May.
May I say one word about America? As I said earlier, it is sometimes suggested that we "gang up" against Russia. The difference in the position is that America and ourselves lay our cards on the table, and discuss our proposals, and they range over a tremendously wide field. It is not merely a question of foreign policy when we are dealing with America, it is everything. During the last few months, we have dealt with the loan, we have dealt with Bretton Woods, we have arrived at an agreement on telecommunications, on civil aviation, oil, and a whole' host of settlements. I would be quite willing if theSoviet would join us in the oil agreement as an international agreement, because that would solve the conflict over oil as between the great Allies for ever. We have agreed to call an international conference on trade, in addition to the agreement on telecommunications, civil aviation and a host of other matters. The U.S.A. joined us in dealing with a matter which we will be debating in a few minutes, a great act of co-operation to find a solution of the Jewish problem in Europe and Palestine.
1365 In order to grapple with the vexed problem of the Far East, in Korea we are developing the four Power trusteeship and we have worked out agreement in regard to Japan. In all these fields, the State Department, and other Departments of the United States Administration, have been in discussion with us. I invite the Soviet to do the same. I am more concerned with the economic rehabilitation of Europe than I am about geography. When I see millions of people suffering in the world, I would like to be sitting down considering how, and in what limited space of time, I could conquer hunger and misery. I would rather do that than be arguing about 19th century imperialism. I invite the House to- join with me in this effort. That is my attitude. I am more concerned with seeing the standard of life for the common people raised, than with grandiose development of any other grade of society. I really want this, and if I can be accepted as being truthful, I hope that is the basis on which we shall work. Indeed, nothing would giveme greater joy at this moment if it were possible, not to have one plan for one country, but, with all the devastation in the world— in all the great cities of Russia and the East and of our own country and all the Allies— and the waste of substance and wealth that this war has meant, to see an international pool of resources and effort for the rehabilitation of the world. The happiness of the human soul is better than victories in any other field.
I hope the House will appreciate that in this great era the world has too many things on its plate and the whole world is in difficulty. You cannot deal with one problem and solve it. The whole difficulty arises out of the greatest catastrophe that has fallen upon humanity. But I can say I am notpessimistic; the greater the difficulty, the greater the opportunity. When I say I am not prepared to sacrifice the British Empire, what do I mean? I know that if the British Empire fell, the greatest collection of free nations would go into the limbo of the past, and it would be a disaster. I know, further, it would mean that the standard of life of our constituents would fall considerably. Therefore, I say, give us a chance to carry this evolution of free nations and the growth of independence still further, at the same time maintaining our standard of life. In conjunction with our Allies and small 1366 countries let us prepare the soil in which these great plants of democracy may grow together for the benefit of humanity.