§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
There is a Motion on the Order Paper standing in my name and signed by about 150 Members of all parties, relating to the question of the South Tyrol. On behalf of all those Members I would like to express our very sincere thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) for giving us the oppor- 283 tunity to hold this, as I think extremely important, Debate. But for his intervention it could not have taken place. It has been granted on a Supply day, upon which the official Opposition has the right to choose the subject. I do not propose to divide the Committee at the conclusion of this Debate, because this is not a party issue. All I propose to do is to state a case, and to ask the Committee to give it very serious consideration.
We have to go back a little, to begin with, into the history of this business. The Tyrolese are of German origin. They are a mountain people, and they have an affinity, and much in common, with the Bavarian mountain people, and the German Swiss. They have a culture and a tradition of their own. It is a good culture; and a good, liberal, tradition. The original Tyrolese Diet was one of the earliest democratic institutions on the Continent of Europe. From 1363 to 1918, nearly 600 years, the whole of the Tyrol was a part of the Austrian Empire. To be fair, it must be said that they were always allowed a great deal of autonomy by the Austrian Empire; and were left pretty free to conduct their own internal affairs. This position continued, as I have said, for nearly 600 years, until 1918.
In January, 1915, Italy began negotiations with Austria with a view to entering the war on the side of the Triple Alliance. Those negotiations came to nothing. The Italians were not offered enough by the Austrians, so very soon afterwards, a month or two afterwards, they entered into negotiations with us. The result of these negotiations was the secret Treaty of London, signed on 26th April, 1915. I do not think that this was a Treaty of which either Mr. Asquith or Sir Edward Grey, who negotiated it on our behalf, were ever very proud. The object of that Treaty was to get Italy into the war on our side. I am the first to admit that it was a very important objective. But I do not believe in secret treaties. And this is certainly not a treaty in our history of which we have any reason to be proud. However, Italy came into the war as a result of it; and the war was won.
We come now to the Treaty of St. Germain. The cession of the South Tyrol to Italy in that Treaty constituted the 284 first, and the gravest, violation of the principle of self-determination laid down by President Wilson at the Peace Conference. M. Clemenceau fought against it at all times. Mr. Lloyd George subsequently said that he bitterly regretted it; and so did President Wilson. Well they might; for more than anything else this cession of the Tyrol to Italy undermined the moral foundations of the Treaty of Versailles, and gave us that sense of guilt, that guilt "complex" about the Treaty, which did so much damage in the years that lay ahead; and which enabled Hitler, for one, to make so strong a case against us.
What next? For two or three years, I admit, all went fairly well. Then came Mussolini and his Fascists. The policy of the "Italianisation" of the Tyrol was introduced. I have no hesitation in saying to the Committee that it was a brutal policy, brutally carried out. All the old cultural associations of the Tyrol were dissolved. Italian instead of German was made the official language. All the German-speaking officials in the Tyrol were dismissed, and replaced by Italians. Even the names of the towns were changed. I frequently visited the Tyrol between the wars as I dare say many hon. Members did. One found the village of Sterzing, one of the loveliest in the Tyrol, changed to Vipiteno; and Bozen changed to Bolzano. Even the inscriptions on the tombstones were changed from German into Italian. This Italianisation policy also involved a substantial immigration of Italians into the Tyrol. They all crowded into the towns. Bozen alone had to accept 20,000 Italians. At the same time there were compulsory purchases of land; and hordes of Italian officials and civil servants came into this beautiful province. Nevertheless the Tyrolese held out. They refused to become Italians; and the Italians for their part refused to become mountain farmers. There has never been a genuine mixed population in the Tyrol, and there is not a genuine mixed population in the Tyrol today.
Worse was to come. The Berlin Pact, signed by Hitler and Mussolini in 1939, fixed the Northern frontier at the Brenner Pass. Under that Pact the people of the South Tyrol were given the alternative of voting for German citizenship, and leaving their homes and emigrating to the 285 Reich; or voting for Italian citizenship, with the probability of deportation to Abyssinia. Almost to a man they voted for German citizenship. But they did not go to Germany. They hung on, and stuck to their own soil. As Tolomei, the head Italianisator, said, they obstinately refused to believe in an Axis victory. The resistance movement during the war was undertaken in the Tyrol not by the Italians but by the Andreas Hofer Bund, which consisted entirely of Austrian citizens.
I ask, are we really to underwrite a filthy deal done by Hitler and Mussolini, which reeks of Nazism and Fascism, and characteristically ignores all human values? If we have to underwrite this filthy deal, why? Is there some secret agreement— another Treaty of London—of which we have not been informed and of which we know nothing? I hope that the Foreign Secretary, when he comes to reply, will enlighten us at least upon this point; because if we have not entered into some secret agreement, I cannot understand why he has agreed to this solution.
I come now to more recent happenings. Since May, 1945, a further 70,000 Italians have entered the Tyrol under a scheme of planned immigration. The provisions of the Hitler-Mussolini Pact relating to the emigration of the Tyrolese have not been annulled. The Tyrolese can still be expatriated from their homes as undesirable aliens. Lastly, Tolomei, the arch-apostle of the policy of merciless Italianisation, is reported to be back in the Tyrol. He was decorated by the Fascists for his services before and during the war; and, instead of being in the Tyrol, he ought to be in prison. What is the object of this? There can only be one object—to reduce the Tyrolese to the position and status of a minority in their own country. That is the objective. Is it to be wondered at that they fear that union with Italy, and submission to Italian rule, must mean the complete disappearance of Tyrolean life, traditions, culture and language, within the space of a few decades?
I have not had the advantage—I wish I had—of visiting the Tyrol myself during recent weeks. I must therefore quote to the Committee from two high authorities. The first is the special correspondent of "The Times" who recently visited the Tyrol, and who wrote: 286In all these bartered valleys there is scarcely a man, apart from the Italians imported here, who does not long for a return to Austria. There is no faith left in Italian policy…. Nearly all the Italian officials serving in the South Tyrol are the same men as under Mussolini, and 95 per cent. of the officials are Italians. Although it is now permitted to teach and speak German, many features of Fascist government are in danger of reappearing.My second quotation, which reached me only yesterday, is from the Catholic Bishop of Brixen:Fear and bewilderment have seized the minds of these Austrian Alpine farmers who are unable to believe that for a third time they should be made the victims of a political barter which would perpetuate that hostile Italian rule under which they have suffered for a quarter of a century…. In case injustice should triumph, every South Tyrolese who dares to take a lead in the people's protest now knows that he will have to suffer for it. As the spiritual leader of an unhappy people, I feel therefore that the nature of my office compels me to appeal to all free nations of the world not to allow the flagrant violation of these high principles—the right of self-determination and freedom from fear, as established in the Atlantic Charter…. To leave our land, against the entire will of the South Tyrolese people, in the hands of the Italian administration which brought the atmosphere of the Southern Italian slums into our clean Austrian towns, would be an injustice of the first magnitude… . The suffering which the world has endured during the dark days of the war will have been of no avail unless those elementary rights have been secured in which all free men believe.A word now about the frontiers. The Brenner frontier fixed by Hitler and Mussolini is a purely "prestige" conception, and is inextricably bound up with Fascism. It has no strategic importance today, for Italy or anywhere else. In the south, the Tyrolese are making no claim for the Trentino, which is predominantly Italian. As the hon. Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) has pointed out, the natural and proper frontier for the Tyrol, from an ethnic, geographical and economic point of view, is the Salurn Gorge, about 25 miles south of Bozen.
Let me turn for a moment to the economic aspect, upon which great stress has been laid, and in which I know the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is greatly and rightly interested. Much has been made of the power stations established in the South Tyrol by Mussolini, largely for strategic reasons and for the purpose of rearmament. The Austrians have proposed to develop a 287 sort of Alpine "T.V.A.," internationally controlled, for the benefit of Central Europe as a whole. That seems to be a logical and correct development; and the right way of handling the economic problems of this region and of others. But the Austrians have gone further than that. They have undertaken to give Italy treaty rights to the whole of the output of the power plants in the South Tyrol which have been erected by the Italians during the period between the two wars. The whole of the output of electricity from these plants can be devoted to industrial purposes in the North of Italy. I do not think the Austrians could have gone further than that. For the rest, so far as the economic problem is concerned, the produce of the Tyrol—agriculture, wine, fruit, and timber—is valuable and necessary for Austria, whereas it competes directly with Italian produce of the same kind.
I believe that the future of European civilisation depends in the long run upon political federation; but it will take time, it must take time. Meanwhile, do not let us delude ourselves, and salve our consciences, with the illusion that political frontiers are of no consequence. They are of great consequence. They can become festering sores, as they have done in the past, which hold up every promising economic and political development, and ultimately lead to war. I have no feelings of hostility against Italy, still less against the Italian people. We are her oldest friend. She stabbed us in the back in our weakest moment and our darkest hour, and she would have cashed in on our destruction. But that is better forgotten now. We want to revive Anglo-Italian friendship, and the tradition of Garibaldi. We want to give Italy the chance to become one of the great democracies of Europe; but it cannot be done on the basis of flagrant injustice.
I deplore—and I say it quite frankly to the Committee—the cession of Tenda and Briga to France. I deplore the decision not to give Trieste to Italy outright. And, for my part, I would like to give Italy the Mandate, under the United Nations Organisation, over Tripoli. But you cannot justify one injustice, or two or three injustices, by perpetuating another injustice. That is not the answer to the problem of Italy. The leaders of the Italian democracy in the past, men like 288 Salvemini and Sforza, have themselves admitted that the Italian claim to the South Tyrol is not justified. They did it when they were exiled from their own country under the Mussolini régime.
What is it that the Tyrolese ask? A plebiscite to decide their own fate. Is there anything anti-democratic about that? What have they got? A rough announcement from the Foreign Ministers that they are to remain under Italian rule. They have not even been allowed to present their case. They have never been heard in their own defence. Meanwhile, 70,000,000 of them, forcibly emigrated from their homes by Hitler and Mussolini, are treated as "displaced enemy personnel," and not allowed to go back to their own homes.
So many wicked things are being done in Europe today, some of them in our name, that we have grown callous and indifferent alike to the claims of justice and the cause of humanity. I think that is true of all of us, up to a point. I remember the bitter protests, especially the protests of the Left, against the Treaty of Versailles. By comparison with many things that are being done today, the framers of that Treaty were paragons of virtue; for it brought a measure of security and stability and prosperity to Europe, while we are bringing little but misery and fear and hatred. On both sides of the Committee we ought to face up to that fact. We have made little progress towards agreement with our victorious Allies in the war, and that is a tragedy. Admittedly the Foreign Secretary has put up a great fight for the right in Paris and elsewhere; we gladly admit that.
§ Mr. Boothby
I was expecting some objections from the hon. Gentleman. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, however, that even although the deals may have been very few, it is better to have no deals at all than dirty deals; and this deal over the Tyrol is, in my view— I say it quite frankly and crudely—a dirty deal, at the expense of a people who do not deserve it.
This is only part of the moral crisis in which we are all involved. The issue, of course, is whether the principles of 289 Western European civilisation, which are based on the values of the Christian religion and on democratic humanism—
§ Mr. Boothby
The hon. Gentleman may mock, but it is true so far as Western civilisation is concerned—whether those principles are to survive, or whether the powers of darkness, based on totalitarianism and pure materialism and force, which is the doctrine associated with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), will prevail. If the latter happens, two world wars will have been fought in vain. Too many people today preach the doctrine that respect for human rights and human personality, which is the root of our civilisation, is mere weakness—
§ Mr. Boothby
—and that there is no room in the modern world for kindness or toleration or mercy. I thought the hon. Member for West Fife would kick, and I am very glad that he is here. For centuries, this country at any rate has fought for justice and freedom, and for the liberation of oppressed peoples in Europe.
§ Mr. Boothby
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would go to Russia, and see how they treat oppressed peoples there. All I say is that, if we are to retain our position and our influence in the world, we must continue to stand for these principles. We really have no reason to apologise for our decency just because the rest of the world is indecent—for the time being. The voice of Gladstone has not been forgotten in Europe, and particularly in Italy and Greece. There never was a moment in history when that voice was more desperately needed than it is today.
That is my case; and I think it is not an easy case to answer. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary to stand firmly for justice and right and fair play, for which, whatever the hon. Member opposite may say, this country 290 is famous throughout the world. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot get this disastrous decision reversed in Paris, let him at least plead that the solution of this problem, as of so many others, shall be deferred for a period of years; that the South Tyrol, that unique and lovely country, should be placed under international control until passions are cooled. and until that reason which has long been lost in Europe has resumed her sway, as we must all hope it will do, over a distracted and war-torn Continent.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
I am very glad to have this opportunity of following the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in the very eloquent and moving appeal to this Committee on behalf of the people of the South Tyrol. I find myself tonight in a unique position. For the first time, I find it necessary to congratulate the Opposition, and to thank them sincerely for having on one of these rare Supply days, which they so much cherish, brought this subject before the Committee. I think they have taken that decision because they are seized of the importance of this question, just as I am. The importance of the issues that arise in this decision that has been taken with regard to the South Tyrol goes far beyond the immediate application and may have other applications, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen has pointed out, of the widest possible kind. It is true, of course, that the South Tyrol is a small country with a small people away down in Southern Europe, a people and a country that probably large numbers of our own people know little about, just as they knew little about Czechoslovakia before the war.
I am one who believes that principles of justice are not applicable only to great aggregations of peoples, but are of universal application to all peoples, to the weak and the small, as well as to the great and the powerful. It is because I believe that, and believe it very strongly, that I feel I must offer my protest here tonight, as I have done on a previous occasion, against what I believe to be an act of gross injustice to this country and people of the South Tyrol.
Ever since the decision was announced, I have tried to find some logical, convincing, reason why a Foreign Secretary 291 of a Socialist Government could ever have brought himself to assent to a proposal of this kind, remembering the history of the Labour movement of Great Britain, remembering the history of the international Socialist movement throughout the world in relation to the Italian persecution in the South Tyrol over all the years between the wars. It is beyond me to understand how it is that my right hon. Friend—with whose foreign policy in the main, as he knows, I am in complete agreement—should have been brought to assent to a proposal of this kind. I have listened to the explanations which have been given when I, and other hon. Members, have questioned Ministers from time to time about this matter. I have always been struck by the uncertain, wavering, nature of the answers, and the lack of confidence in the attempted justifications which have been put forward. I have come to what I think is a perfectly natural deduction, that this decision, assented to by my right hon. Friend, was a decision that he himself would not readily have made. It is a decision which I believe in his heart he detests. It is a decision, I conclude, that must have been forced upon him by pressure from other sources. I hope that is the explanation, as it seems to me to be the only deduction to be drawn from all the facts.
It is, of course, impossible to isolate the South Tyrol from general discussion of the entire European situation. We cannot understand what is being done with regard to the South Tyrol unless we try to bring that into relation with the general middle-European situation, and its problems. The South Tyrol is an important part of Austria—has been historically, and is now. Surely, it is a valid British interest, a valid European interest, that Austria—the new Austria now beginning to emerge from a welter of difficulties as a result of the war, should be capable of real independence, capable of freely developing within her own territory and able to play her part as an independent and free state in European affairs. It is a British interest to see to it that Austria is given, as far as we can possibly secure it, a reasonable chance of achieving that freedom and independence which I claim to be a European interest. But what are we doing here? Here is this little weak European country, with a great world metropolis to maintain as its capital, a country deficient in 292 natural resources, requiring all the possible assistance we can give it in order to give it the opportunity finally to emerge into real independence. I do not say that by giving the South Tyrol to Austria we shall make that final emergence into real independence absolutely certain, but I say that with the South Tyrol she will have a much better chance of achieving independence than she could ever have without it. Looked at from that point of view, this decision, to which our Government have assented, becomes all the more mysterious, and all the more inexplicable.
I want to put one or two points on the economic set-up. I questioned the Foreign Secretary some time ago with regard to the reasons for this decision. I was told, as I have already said, in uncertain tones, that the reasons were economic. As the hon. Member for East Aberdeen has shown, the whole South Tyrol in its economy is related with Austria and the North. It has no logical links with Italy and the South. The only conceivable economic proposition that comes into the question is the development of hydro-electric power, largely as a result of Italian attempts to Italianise the Tyrol. The solution of that problem has already been given. The Austrian Government were prepared to give Italy the fullest guarantee that she will be secure in her legitimate claim to the hydroelectric power she needs. That guarantee has been given, and it can be backed by a guarantee of the United Nations organisation. There is, therefore, no case on economic grounds why this decision should have been made. If there is no case on economic grounds, there is no other conceivable argument that will hold water for one moment as to why this quite monstrous decision should have been taken.
Last Monday I told the Minister of State that I had been receiving allegations from the South Tyrol to the effect that the Italian authorities have now, after the withdrawal of the Allied Military Government, reverted to the policies of the Hitler-Mussolini Agreement of 1939. Some evidence of that was given by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen. I want to confirm what he said. I happened during the last week or so to receive a document from an Englishman resident in the South Tyrol for some time, who has been observing the scene for himself. It is a document of great importance, 293 because it shows clearly that while, of course, we cannot accept his allegations as proven, there is at least a strong prima facie case for the examination and establishment of the facts, for which I pleaded last Monday. He says:It is a disturbing feature that, fundamentally, so little appears to have altered here since the days of Fascism. In accordance with the decree published by the prefect of Bolzano, all those dismissed under German occupation must be reinstated, which means in practice that all the personnel employed in the Fascist administration are coming back into their old jobs.He goes on:Whilst the Allied Military Government was here, some attempt was made to maintain an even balance between Italian and South Tyrolese employees in public offices. Since the Allied Military Government have left however the Italians are continuing their old policy of "Italianising" of the Tyrol by dismissing South Tyrolese employees and giving their jobs to Italians.Then he goes on to list by name a series of towns in the South Tyrol, in which German-speaking Tyrolese midwives and doctors have been dismissed from public offices by the Italian administration and replaced by Italian midwives and doctors, who know not a word of German, to work among the German population. I was told on Monday that there was no evidence that this sort of abuse was going on. I was told that the Italian authorities had given guarantees, they had made promises, everything would be all right, there was to be no recurrence of the old shames, the old persecutions and the old brutality. It is true that guarantees have been given; it is true that decrees are issued, formally correct, nice flowing decrees in beautiful Italian, promising all kinds of things to the population. But we have to go below the decrees, and find out the realities of administrative practice, and what this correspondent says is that in spite of the decrees the practice differs not at all from the practice of 1939.
He instances one specific case, of which I hope that the Minister of State will take note. He says:on 4th April this year a long and imposing-looking decree was published to control immigration from the South,an immigration only into Bolzano and Merano. The Italian authorities, after listening to the protests of the Tyrolese population, issued a decree, a long imposing decree for the control of the immigra- 294 tion, but in the reality it was possible for the Italians still to come up from the South to settle for a month in some other town in the South Tyrol apart from Bolzano or Merano and then, having become established as residents in the Tyrol, to move at their freedom into the two forbidden towns. He goes on to point the moral. He writes:This is an interesting example of the way in which the Italian authorities provide paper guarantees which have no practical effect at all. That is why the South Tyrolese have no faith whatsoever in any scheme for autonomy which would leave them under Italian rule.He accompanies his letter with a photograph which is very revealing. It is a photograph of a religious procession which took place in the town of Brixen in the month of June this year, a photograph which shows with the greatest clarity priests walking in their vestments, carrying the holy relics of their faith, followed, as is customary in such processions, by women and children attired suitably for the occasion, chanting as they go in procession through the streets of Brixen on the holy feast of St. Cassian, the patron saint of the town, but on either side of the procession march Italian carabinieri fully armed, a symbol of the democracy practised by the Italians in the South Tyrol in 1946.
The other day my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, speaking to the Anglo-American Society, said:I believe Great Britain has at this moment a greater moral consciousness of its duty towards others than probably it has ever had at any time in its history.I believe that to be true. I think we have a potentiality and capacity in this country for giving the world, on international realities, a tremendous, dynamic moral lead. But we shall not retain that moral ascendancy long, if we repeat what we are doing in the South Tyrol. Claims of moral ascendancy cannot be founded on acts of gross injustice and the perpetuation of old wrongs. I beg my right hon. Friend to have this matter reconsidered. I know the pessimists and the defeatists say that it cannot be done. "The Times" this morning, in its leading article, says in effect "We know about the injustice, we know about the wrong, but after this Italian agreement has been come to, after the herculean labours of the Foreign Secretary, for heaven's sake do not let us disturb it in any way." A lasting agreement cannot 295 be founded on such an injustice. If the attempt is made to make that agreement last, it will crumble in the same way as iniquities crumbled after 1918.
The only way in which we can get lasting peace in Europe, the only way in which we can get a lasting foundation on which we can rehabilitate security in Europe, is to begin with a steadfast adherence to justice and right, and never deviate from it. No considerations of expediency, no matter how tempting they may be in the short run. are ever justified in the long run if they are bought at the expense of basic principle. What I ask my right hon. Friend to do now is to get back to the first principles of the movement in which he has played such an honourable part. I want him to take his stand securely on those foundations upon which our international Socialist movement was built, and if, in his foreign policy, he keeps a tight hold of those principles, then he will never go very far wrong, and he will be sure of the wholehearted support of all us who sit on these benches.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
I would like to join my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in assuring the Foreign Secretary that no one appreciates more than we do the many problems with which he has had to deal. But we feel that in the struggles to recreate the Continent at the end of the war, there are certain basic principles which must be followed. I have been lucky in having visited Austria recently, and at the same time I also visited the South Tyrol. The first thing that really impressed me is that this issue is not a local one. It is not one which affects only Austria, but is something in which all central European peoples are definitely interested, because to their mind this is the first occasion in which the Atlantic Charter has really come up for implementation. For all these peoples there is only one question, that is, whether this country and those other victorious Powers mean to stand by what they said in the Atlantic Charter, or whether, when the time comes for putting promises into practice, we shall merely deviate into whatsoever may be considered expedient for the moment.
296 On the immediate issue, I do not think that there can be any clash between us. We know how necessary it is for Austria to be a viable unit. We all know the strain which Austria is making on our resources at the moment. We all know that if Austria is not viable, is not independent economically, we can hope for no proper solution of the Danubian problem. In the viability of Austria rests the only practical solution to the Danubian problem. I do not think that any of us will quarrel about the right of Austria to claim the South Tyrol on ethnical grounds. I do not wish to worry the Committee with too many figures but I wish to quote a few. In 1910 there were 240,000 German speaking inhabitants of that area and only 10,000 Italian speaking inhabitants. By 1939, as a result of peace treaties and Italian immigration, the figures were 250,000 German speaking and 80,000 Italian speaking. By 1943, as a result of the Hitler-Mussolini agreement by which so many people were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia and elsewhere, the figures were 190,000 to 110,000. At no time and under no statistics available either from Italian, Austrian or any other source, has it ever been claimed that in the South Tyrol there were more Italian than German speaking people. In fact, I do not think anybody has seriously claimed that since 1363, which marks the beginning of the South Tyrol, has it been anything but a German speaking province, a province belonging to those other nations which formed, as it were, a bastion between the real German and Italian people.
The second question that is raised is on economic grounds. It is claimed that the South Tyrol must remain with Italy because it affects them and if they lose it their economic position will be seriously invalidated. There again, I do not think that any such claim can be maintained by a study of figures. Of course, agriculture is the main industry of that region. I think I am right in saying that 44 per cent. of the total population is employed in that one industry. If one may take the three principal things which they produce, of their fruit over 78 per cent. goes North over the Brenner Pass, of their wine 94 per cent. goes in the same direction, and also of their other produce somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60 to 297 70 per cent. In the history of the South Tyrol there never has been any appreciable trade between that district and Italy. All their products have gone North. It is not necessary to look far for the reason. Austria, and if one may go further, the Danubian provinces and countries, want desperately badly those things such as fruit and wine which the South Tyrol produces.
It is true to say that if the South Tyrol was aligned with Austria and with the Danubian trade, the present deficit of 18 million Austrian schillings would be turned into a net credit balance of 13 million schillings. I suggest that the mere inclusion of that province in the Danubian economy would result in making that part of Europe self-sufficient and able to play its proper part in a reconstruction of Austrian trade, whereas at the moment it is not only a liability to the Danubian area but also to those Powers who are trying to put it on its feet. That seems to be a simple and clear issue.
Much has been said on the question of hydro-electric power. I would like to add one or two words. No one realises more than the Austrian authorities what this problem means. I think right hon. Gentlemen on the Front bench opposite, the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, grossly exaggerate this problem. In the first place, the whole of this hydro-electric installation, except for a very few small units, is the result of the 20 years of Italian occupation. These power stations were put there deliberately with the sole reason of trying to make the South Tyrol an Italian unit. There is no other reason. They have been put there just as the aluminium factories were put round Bosen, merely for political purposes. There is no economic purpose whatever to be served by their location in that district. I think the Austrian Government have realised that it is no good presenting such a claim as that; they have to provide a solution as well if they are to play their proper part in the settlement of this European question. They have made what I consider to be a very genuine and honest offer. They have said that any Austrian electrical undertakings that were there before the time when the South Tyrol was handed over to Italy, shall revert to Austrian control. The same shall apply to Italian undertakings. Where there is any question of doubt, either as to ownership or as to the output of a factory, then 298 they wish to pursue a policy, if the Foreign Secretary will excuse my German, similar to Vorarlberger Illwerke Aktien-gesellschaft, which is established on international lines, controlled by a board of directors, and governed by a charter which gives no nationalistic control of that undertaking but which provides electricity for various purposes. They are perfectly prepared to do the same kind of thing.
When we consider this problem of hydro-electricity we should realise the quantities that are involved. The North of Italy produces 71.9 per cent. of the hydro-electric power in Italy. Of that 71.9 per cent., only 7.4 per cent. comes from the South Tyrol. That is a negligible quantity. Those figures are taken not from any Austrian source, but from the Annuario Statistico Italiano of 1941, which should be a reliable authority for this purpose. I must say that those figures will be increased from the 5 per cent., which I quoted, to 8 per cent. under the plan for which no figures are available and which was undertaken by Hitler between 1939 and 1943. Even so, it is a negligible quantity. I would go further and ask this Committee to consider the percentage of hydro-electric power which is used by the various undertakings. It will be found that of this 5 per cent. of the 71 per cent., 12 per cent. is used by the railways, 40 per cent. by the South Tyrolean industries and only 32 per cent. is exported to Italy. Therefore, the actual effect that such a transfer could have upon the Italian power situation is only 32 per cent. of 5 per cent. of 71.9 per cent. If anybody can work out that sum—I have not done it myself— they would find it is such a negligible quantity that it cannot be seriously advanced by the Foreign Secretary as a reason for perpetuating this injustice.
There is one further question which I would ask the Foreign Secretary. Surely, in these considerations such a thing as hydro-electric power, particularly when safeguards have been freely offered, cannot be considered to be a vital condition. If one thinks geographically of the East Tyrol cut off from Innsbruck and the Tyrol proper, if one thinks of the economic advantages which would accrue to Austria —a small country but still the centre of any possible Danubian organisation—then I feel that we are making a gross blunder if not in ethics, or moral principles, at least from a purely practical point of 299 view. That point of view is to re-erect in Europe at the end of this war something which will last. I think the Foreign Secretary, with much better wisdom than mine, will have in his mind the dissatisfaction and discontent which have been built up in the past not only in the Balkans but in the Danube. We can settle that by having a strong Austria. We can also settle it if we show the peoples in the area that when we said we stood by the Atlantic Charter we meant it.
This is the first time on which the principles there laid down—that small nations should be entitled to choose under whom they will be governed and would be given freedom and liberty—has been brought to a test, and, on this first occasion, it is shown that the Government, at the moment, prefer mere expediency to any of those considerations to which, in every part of this House, hon. Members have paid real and genuine tribute. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the problem, and I am certain that, if he does, in the future, he will not only find that he has solved a local problem, but, in acknowledging the justice of the claim and the sincerity of the real desire of the people concerned to return to Austrian rule, he will have done something that will leave, not only a mark for the future of our efforts to solve this problem, but, in giving these small people the real knowledge that this country stands by its word and means what it says in the Atlantic Charter that every nation, big and small, shall, out of this war, achieve true freedom, create a true standard leading to a sincere peace.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
I feel that this Debate is being conducted in face of some little difficulty. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has covered the subject so comprehensively that, having followed it with some closeness ever since the Peace Conference of 1919, I feel that there is very little material to add to what the hon. Member has said. In these circumstances, it seems to me to be useful that hon. Members who hold strong convictions on this subject should give expression to them with what brevity and emphasis they may, particularly as they will not have the opportunity of recording their views in the form of a vote. There is the further difficulty that, 300 if the Government's statement of their position is not to be made until the end of the Debate, we do not really know where to address our arguments, because we have never yet received any kind of explanation of the remarkable attitude which the Foreign Secretary, whose general policy I have always supported with the greatest earnestness and conviction, has apparently adopted, in assenting to this remarkable cession, or rather this surrender of what I would call a basic principle in international affairs.
I quite agree with my hon. Friend that this is not primarily a political issue, not primarily a strategic issue, not primarily an economic issue. It is, first and foremost, a moral issue. There is no greater blot on the Treaties signed in Paris in 1919 than this question of the cession of the Southern Tyrol to Italy. It would be disastrous if today, when we have the opportunity to reverse that iniquitous decision, we refused to seize the opportunity. I do not want to go into history too much. We are concerned with 1946, not with 1919or1915, but there is one material fact which I would like to impress upon the Foreign Secretary. We have been reminded of the huckstering that went on, perhaps inevitably, when Italy first approached Austria and tried to get what she could. Having failed to get all that she desired, he turned to the Allies and got considerably more from them. My hon. Friend might have added that, when Italy approached Austria, she did not even ask then as much as she subsequently asked from the Allies, because her proposals left Bolzen, now Italianised as Bolzano, in Austrian hands. What is material is that, in January of 1918, when no one knew of this secret bargain made with Italy three years earlier, two historic statements of principle were made—one by the President of the United States, and the other, by a curious but undesigned coincidence, in the same week, by the then Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Ninth and Tenth points of President Wilson's Fourteen Points—which have not lost their validity today; far from it—provided forthe reajustment of the frontiers of Italy along clearly recognised lines of nationality,'and the Tenth point, referring to Austria, proposed thefreest opportunity of autonomous development of the people of Austria Hungary.301 All we ask today is the recognition of the principle of nationality in regard to the Southern Tyrol and of the principle of autonomy in regard to territories which are truly and properly Austria. I do not want to moralise; moralising is not popular in this House, I think rightly, but we need to remember to what we are committed. There is no one in this Committee who would be willing to repudiate the Atlantic Charter. The whole of our foreign policy since that document was issued has been based upon it. The signatories to the Charter declared that they did not desire to see any territorial change which did not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the countries concerned. A debating point might no doubt be made to the effect that what is intended here is, in fact, a territorial change. That is, of course, true, but it is merely a reversal of a territorial change that was made contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants of that territory in 1919.
We have to decide in this matter what kind of a world we are living in, and what kind of principle is it desired to follow in our foreign policy. This question seems to me to be a moral challenge to the whole of our policy in international affairs, because it is a matter upon which principle and expediency find themselves diametrically opposed. I do not know what defence is to be put forward for the retention by Italy of the Southern Tyrol. On the former occasion Italy was given the Southern Tyrol cynically and undisguisedly in order that she might have a strategic frontier on the Brenner. I trust that we have advanced a little since those days, but whether we have or not, no strategic question arises, because, in these days of air-power, a mountain frontier is of very different strategic importance from what it was in 1919.
We may be told that this defence is based on economic grounds; the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has dealt effectively with that. I would say that we have to decide today whether frontiers exist for demarcation or for separation. If they exist for separation, then we have made no advance in the last 30 years. It is imperative that frontiers should allow the free flow of economic life and should not be allowed to impede the free passage of transport, and free prosecution of bene- 302 ficial trade with one another. It will hardly be argued that the perpetuation of an injustice, in itself, creates justice. It does nothing of the kind. It simply emphasises and intensifies the injustice, and it would be a greater injustice to leave the Southern Tyrol in Italian hands today than it was in 1919, when it was done under the sterner and irresistible compulsion of war.
My respect for the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State is such that it would give me genuine distress to see either of them standing at that Box and attempting to defend the indefensible. I appeal to the Foreign Secretary, with all the force with which I am capable, to do what he can to get this decision reversed or at least to get it reconsidered. It may be—it is the only explanation that fits the facts—that he has been compelled to assent to this injustice as part of one of those compromises to which men are driven when they meet their colleagues in international discussions. If that is so, I hope he will tell the Committee frankly what he can about it so that we may form our own opinions, that we may realise his difficulties and that we may certainly not judge it with the severity which some of us may be compelled to do unless we receive a much clearer explanation of the reasons for the action he has taken. If this decision cannot be reversed—after all, it has not been embodied in any Treaty—we hope that it will be postponed until those principles which are enshrined in U.N.O. and to which all of us have given our adhesion, have had time to take a hold on mankind and grow strong enough to throw up a barrier against this injustice.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
This is a case of the chickens coming home to roost. We can look back over 30 years to the infamous Treaties of London and St. Germain, and now we have to face the Peace Treaty of today. There is not the slightest doubt that some of the things that happened then, due, perhaps, as has been remarked tonight, to the stress of war, but which, nevertheless, were confirmed by the Treaty of Paris, are causing the greatest difficulty to the right hon. undoubtedly, present the same difficulties undoubtedly, present the same difficulties for him in the Peace Treaty.
303 I think that we must all feel, as has already been hinted by more than one hon. Member, that there is something in what the right hon. Gentleman has done with regard to the Southern Tyrol which he has been driven to do, some form of compromise he has been obliged to accept, because I cannot imagine that he has agreed to this matter on the principles of right and justice. I remember that when I spoke in the Foreign Affairs Debate in November, the right hon. Gentleman reprimanded me because I referred to the importance of ethnic considerations. I referred to the importance of ethnic considerations in regard to Trieste, which is a matter very much bound up with this question, when we look back over the years to the Treaties of London and St. Germain. But today every single ethnic consideration has been overridden in this question of the Southern Tyrol. When he was settling the question of Trieste and Venezia Giulia, the Foreign Secretary said that we must stick to ethnic considerations. But, when we come to the Southern Tyrol, we find that ethnic considerations have been violently trodden down.
As the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has pointed out to the Committee tonight, the Southern Tyrol has been definitely and unhesitatingly German for 600 years. During the whole period of the Austrian Empire, it never changed hands like other parts of the Austrian Empire. It was always unswervingly loyal to the House of Hapsburg; it followed it in its misfortunes and its fortunes, in its rise and its fall. The Austrian people, who philosophically viewed the Treaty of Paris which resulted in the cession of 47 million Austrians to other parts of Europe, have never ceased to mourn the loss of the half million Austrians who live in the Southern Tyrol. They believed that if ever a Labour party came to power in this country—as they did believe during the war and if we ever had a Labour Minister, particularly if he happened to be the present Foreign Secretary who has known the Social Democrats of Vienna and the Christian Socialists of the Provinces, and who has counted so many of them his friends, there might be a possibility of justice being done. But what are we doing today? By this decision, if it be persisted in, we are 304 actually underwriting the violence and tyranny of the Fascist regimes which made life for those who lived in the Austrian Tyrol so unbearable.
In spite of years of trying to Italianise the Austrian Tyrol, it has remained an unalterably alien pocket which it has been found impossible to absorb into Italian thought, culture or economy. The Italians found it impossible to make these South Tyroleans anything but unalterably Austrian in their culture and outlook. As probably my right hon. Friend knows, out of something like 109 local authorities, 100 of them had an Austrian majority, and some 56 of them had over a 90 per cent. Austrian majority. If a plebiscite were held today, the result would clearly show to whom the South Tyroleans think they ought to belong. I have not had the advantage which the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton) and the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) have had of visiting Austria recently. I thought that perhaps there was something in what my right hon. Friend seemed to be saying about always considering the general economic situation of an area when deciding its frontiers. But the case has been completely demolished on any economic ground by the hon. Member for Norwich and the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch. The ethnic considerations are such that nothing which my right hon. Friend could say would make us feel otherwise than that these have been ignored.
What is the position; what is the answer to his riddle? Why this contradiction in the method of treating Trieste and Venezia Giulia on ethnic grounds and treating the Southern Tyrol on completely unethnic grounds? That is what we are waiting to hear my right hon. Friend tell us tonight, and that is why this Debate is being held so that he may be apprised, not only of the views of the Committee, but of the very deep conviction and of the very strong justice which urges us to ask him to remember those men and women in Austria who fought Fascist aggression for so long and who formed the basis of the resistance movement there. We ask him tonight whether, if he cannot make any definite promise of a change, he will, as has been suggested by other hon. Members, put this matter off and give passions an oppor- 305 tunity to cool. Let us see whether the Italians will not take a different line over this. Nobody is more anxious than I am to see the Italians take their proper place in a happy and united Europe. I do not wish to do anything to upset the trend towards democracy which we see growing in Italy today, but I do not believe that this sort of thing is going to help, or that we can bribe them into democracy. We can only train them into democracy.
What is being done by the Four Power Conference in Paris, not only in regard to the Southern Tyrol, but in other respects as well? The deliberations there do not seem to me to have been based on those justices for which we as a country stand, nor on those justices which the Atlantic Charter promised to small peoples, but, rather, on a cynicism and on some underlying compromises which have yet to be explained and which will not raise us to, and keep us in, that prestige which we as a nation had hoped to attain.
§ 7.49 P.m.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
In view of the very eloquent speeches which we have heard tonight from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris), the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyrc), the specially very able speech we have just listened to by the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning), and also the wonderful speech by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton), I need only detain the Committee for a very short time with a few considerations which have not hitherto been brought forward.
I take it that the present situation, according to the official communiqué, is that the conference of Foreign Ministers examined in Paris on 24th June the problem of Austro-Italian frontiers. In the course of the discussion, we are told, Mr. Molotov, the Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs, declared that after studying the report of the Italian experts on hydraulic power, he could not consider the Austrian demands as some slight frontier rectifications. After a long silence, the other three Ministers for Foreign Affairs approved the views of Mr. Molotov. Mr. Byrnes proposed that the Committee should study the guarantee which could be given to Austria to enable her to use the railway line lead- 306 ing to East Tyrol, and Mr. Byrnes proposed that this clause should be inserted in the Treaty of Peace. That is the official communiqué.
But it is not merely a question of the Pustertal, the valley which carries the railway to East Tyrol. It is a question of these three historic valleys—the Upper Etch, which the Italians call the Adige, the Eisack, which the Italians call the Isacco, and the Rienz. There is no claim put forward, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen so strongly insisted, for the Trentino, which is admitted to be Italian speaking. The point is that we want to restore the old historic frontier of Salurn, the linguistic boundary on the River Etch near the pass which is called the Salurner Klause—that is to say, the mountain pass of Salurn. The borderline which runs across the Brenner is not an ethnographic, and it is barely a strategic, frontier. The linguistic border coincides with the real strategic boundary—it is a magnificent boundary—which runs across the Ortler Mountain which is over 11,000 feet up, to the Marmolata over 10,000 feet. It is not only a borderline, but it is much more suitable for defence than the longer Brenner frontier, which goes from the Reschen-Scheideck up to the Dreiherrenspitze, which is south of the Springs of the River Salzach.
Twenty-five years ago the Austrian delegation fought with tremendous persistency at St. Germain for the sacred right of Austria to keep the South Tyrol. The whole of the Tyrolese and the Ladinian communities—Ladinian is not a dialect of Italian; it is akin to the language spoken in the Engadine in Switzerland—sent an appeal to President Wilson in a last desperate attempt to avoid Italian domination' But the biographer of President Wilson said:The President had, unfortunately, promised the Brenner Pass boundary to Orlando, a solution which he subsequently regarded as a great mistake and which he deeply regretted.Mr. Lloyd George, as he then was, who also took part in this transaction, has stated his considered opinion in his most interesting book called "The Truth about the Peace Treaties," and these are his very words:The hacking off of essentially Tyrolese villages and valleys from the rest of the Tyrol 307 was incompatible with the principles of self-determination implicitly embodied in the original war aims of Allied statesmanship.Since 1918 this country of South Tyrol has been occupied and held down by alien armed forces—forces of the Italian military and police—which constitute an intolerable affront to this free and noble people. The people of South Tyrol view with alarm the possibility that this situation of 1919 may be repeated and that their unfortunate land may again be politically bartered for Italian prestige. It is on strategic grounds that this Brenner Pass was asked for by the Italians. What has been the result? They were given the Brenner. Protected by it, Italy attacked Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania and after the coup de Jarnac, struck against France, opened the defences of the North for the Nazi barbarians to close the Mediterranean and finish off the British Empire itself on African soil.
The infamous agreement to which allusion has already been made tonight, come to by Mussolini and Hitler on 23rd June, 1939, was the agreement by which Hitler betrayed the South Tyrolese and the people of Germanic race and language in order to forge and lubricate the Axis. When I pointed that out in a Question on Monday to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, he seemed to imply that this treaty was not any longer being enforced. But I have spoken to people who have been refused permission to return. There are 70,000 of them, and I want to know what guarantee is going to be given in order to allow these people who have been forcibly driven out to be restored to their native soil. When I said that tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon them the right hon. .Gentleman took exception to this phrase, but it is perfectly true. Let him remember that they were threatened that unless they left for Germany they would be deported either to Southern Italy or to Abyssinia. Even so, only those who were living in the towns—the flotsam and jetsam of the population— finally left. The farmers and peasants who had held their land for hundreds of years, remained rooted to the soil. We have been told that the Italians have given all sorts of pledges as to the kind of treatment they are going to vouchsafe now to these people, but I have here a 308 letter from a British officer who has been in charge of a district in that country. In order to be perfectly fair, I sent this letter to the Foreign Office, and they have very kindly returned it to me. This British officer said:The Italian Government has done everything it could do to remove or stamp out the old Tyrolese traditions and to italianise the people. Such things as forbidding the use of the German tongue, artificial importation of Italian settlers, mushroom factories and so on, have all been used in turn. Since its occupation"—that is, its reoccupation—it has been garrisoned chiefly by members of the co-belligerent Italian Fulgore Division and an almost negligible handful of American and British specialists. The Fulgore troops either on their own or on "inspiration" do everything that it is possible for them to do in order to terrorise the Tyrolese population. I myself have read through a wad of reports of their activities half an inch thick. The variety and enormity of these crimes is fantastic. The worst, signed and witnessed by five Tyrolese, told how Fulgore soldiers of the Bembo parachute division in the area of Dobbiaco entered a farm, having burst in the door, killed the invalid owner in his bed by shooting him through the stomach with a tommy gun, and left with all the money they could lay their hands on. Another of these reports told of how the members of this Division spent the evening in a bar, left without payment or, rather, the payment which they paid was a few grenades thrown into the inner yard over their shoulders. Cases of obtaining money at the pistol point or other small arms are numerous and organised burglaries of such items as tyres and bicycles are legion. One statement, again properly testified, reported that the colonel of one Fulgore battalion, on being reproached by the Burgomeister with the conduct of his troops, admitted that he had no further control over either his junior officers or his men.These are the statements made by a British officer. He says:All this cumulates in repeated demands of the people that they should be garrisoned by British and American troops, which would undoubtedly relieve the immediate situation. However, such conduct can only be an indication of what may be expected should all Allied supervision be removed, and a very great thorn in the place would be left there to fester.That is what a British officer has written with regard to what is going on in that country today. I am afraid that although very eloquent promises are being made at the present time, when it comes to the fulfilment of those promises the same thing will take place as took place in 1919. At that time we were given every possible promise that these practices would be stopped, and that every kind of toleration would be shown to these people. 309 In a Question which I put down, I asked whether we should not insist on the inclusion of some clause in black and white, for the protection of the minority, so that these things would not occur again. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, knowing his humane views, knowing his sincere love of humanity, to take steps to put a stop to these abuses, which have become far too prevalent, and which I fear may be increased as soon as all British and American control has been withdrawn.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
I merely wish to address one very short argument. The case for supporting the existing agreement is that it concerns one of the very few matters upon which we have been able to come to an agreement with the Russians. It is to that that I wish to direct my argument. On questions arising West of the Elbe it is a perfectly easy thing to come to agreement with the Russians. If it be a choice between right or wrong and wrong is chosen, if it be a choice between liberty of ancient homes or racial oppression and racial oppression is chosen, if it be a choice between economic sanity or economic insanity and economic insanity is chosen, then we can always come to agreement with the Russians.
§ Mr. Paget
And for this very simple reason: The Russian policy West of the Elbe is chaos. The Russians are resolved to make their system East of the Elbe work, and they are equally resolved, in so far as they are able, to prevent our democratic system West of the Elbe from working. Is it not time we put a term to this? Is it not time that we left the Russians to run their system in the East and denied to the Russians the further right to make life miserable for everybody who happens to live West of the Elbe? In seeking agreement with the Russians at the present time we are bartering our democratic heritage for a mess, and it is not even a mess of pottage.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I think it is fitting that we in this Committee should try to scrutinise impartially what can fairly be described as the only decision come to at the Paris Conference. However, because up till now all the 310 speeches made, with great eloquence and great sincerity, have been devoted to one side of the argument, and one side only, I think it is right that, in order to redress the balance a little, and at least to try to understand some of the arguments on the other side which led the right hon. Gentleman to the decision to which he has agreed, I should attempt to put some of those arguments. During the last 100 years the revision of frontiers has been the subject of more discussion, has resulted in more economic distress, more political antagonisms and more persecution than almost any other single factor. I believe that in this particular case, namely, of the Southern Tyrol, we should endeavour to discuss the question on its merits, and on its merits alone. I am not for one moment suggesting that any hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate—particularly the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), whose eloquence I always envy—has attempted to argue his case on any other basis than on its merits. But if there is one basis upon which to argue the question of the revision of frontiers which, I am sure, would be a wrong basis, it is that of sentiment. We should approach these problems rather by as fair an assessment as we can get of the economic, the strategic and the ethnic grounds.
On the strategic question, a number of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have argued that in conditions of modern warfare the Brenner is not a strategic frontier. That is a matter of opinion. Throughout the ages, and down to the 19th century, German and Austrian armies consistently invaded Italy through the Brenner Pass. Although conditions of warfare change, although we have to adjust ourselves to entirely new strategic conceptions, and although the Brenner frontier may not now have its former strategic importance, I do know—and I am sure any hon. Member on either side of the Committee who has served in mountainous country in this last war will share my feelings—the extraordinarily unpleasant sensation of fighting in a country where the enemy occupies the high ground while one's own forces occupy the low ground. No one can seriously argue that the Brenner has no strategic value for Italy. I do not think the Italian military authorities can fairly be blamed for arguing that to Italy it is of vital strategic importance.
311 I turn to the question of economics, and to the fact that the establishment of a hydro-electric plant, followed by the development of the metal, the engineering and the chemical industries, has transformed the life of the province of Bolzano. Hon. Members have argued what proportion of Italy's electricity supply comes from the hydro-electric plant in that province. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) put it at seven per cent. I myself would have put it rather higher, and I would have put it at a much higher figure as far as the electricity supply for railways is concerned. But even if the figure is 10 per cent. or 7 per cent., it is a fairly substantial proportion of hydro-electric power for a whole country to come from one area, and I invite any Hon. Member who thinks differently about it to examine for a moment what our reaction would be supposing, in quite different circumstances, we were asked to hand over to some other country 10 per cent. of our output of coal in the Midlands, even under guarantees. We should certainly not be thought unreasonable if we took rather a strong line about that, but it is what we are asking the Italians to do if this particular decision is reversed. I submit that on both strategic and economic grounds the Italians have a very strong case indeed.
Now we come to the ethnic grounds. There is no doubt that in the period between the rise of Mussolini and the Hitler-Mussolini agreement of 1939 the Austrian speaking population was grossly victimised. Nobody will attempt to deny that. Large numbers of Italian industrial workers were brought in, the German language was suppressed, there was discrimination against German speaking children in the schools, and all the usual set-up of the Fascist regime. It was in 1939, as my hon. Friend beside me has already said, that Hitler, in an attempt to come to an agreement with Mussolini, made a proposal that all German speaking inhabitants in these two provinces should be allowed to opt either to go back to Germany or to stay in Italy and assume Italian nationality. Some 166,000 opted in 1939 to go back to Germany, and by the middle of 1943, 77,000 had already transferred themselves to Germany. I would not for a moment ques- 312 tion the statement, which other hon. Members have made, that considerable pressure was put on the inhabitants of those districts to opt to go back to Germany.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
In 1943 Bolzano Province consisted of an Italian speaking population of 115,000 and a German speaking population of 159,000, and of those 159,000 63,000 had already opted to stay in Italy and assume Italian nationality, even under Fascism. Today, according to the figures in my possession, the German speaking population is 161,000 and the Italian speaking population 110,000, roughly. From the figure of 161,000, if you want to argue on ethnic grounds, you must subtract the figure of 63,000 for those who, in 1939, preferred to stay in Italy under Fascism and assume Italian nationality.
It is also a sad but undisputed fact that during the period between the Italian armistice and the total collapse of Germany a good many of the inhabitants of this particular area made no secret whatever of their sympathy for Hitler. I am sorry to say that, but it is a fact. It is also a fact that a large number of Austrians were recruited into the Austrian Army, particularly in the S.S. police regiments, of which one regiment in particular was operating until the very last moment against the Italian partisans in the Belluno area. Again, it is a fact, which no one can dispute, that in these particular S.S. police units were Austrian troops who took part in that most unpleasant massacre of Italian civilians in the Ardentine caves in Rome in the spring of 1944.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
I do not want to get into an argument with my hon. Friend, but it is a fact that some of them were Tyrolese. I can only say that the salvage, if that is the right word, of those innocent Italian corpses, which I myself saw being dragged out from the rocks which had been blown in on top of them, is one of the most unpleasant memories I have of this war. To sum up, in my view the Italians have a good case on economic and strategic grounds. On 313 ethnic grounds they have not quite as good a case as the Austrians, but it is not nearly as weak a case as a great many hon. Members have made out.
We now come to the question of whether or not there will be persecution in this dispute area, and that is what matters. A number of decrees have been issued by the Italian Government guaranteeing free use of the German language in schools, in places of worship, public meetings and the Press, laying down that religion shall be taught in the mother language, and that the decision as to whether children are taught in Italian or German shall be left to the parents, an adequate number of school masters being provided to teach in both languages. These decrees may or may not be put into effect, but if hon. Members who argue for the Austrians say that if the whole of the Italian hydroelectric supply system is handed over to Austria it is only a matter of a guarantee, which of course can be enforced by the United Nations, that the source of electricity should be available to Italy, it can be equally argued on the other side that these decrees, which are at least designed to create impartial, non-discriminatory teaching in both languages in the disputed area, can also be made good by guarantees.
In conclusion, I would remind the Committee that Italy has been told that she must work her passage. She is being deprived, quite rightly in my view, because of the grave injustice done to us earlier in the war, of her Colonies; she is with equal justice losing territory to Greece and to France; she is also losing territory to Yugoslavia, with some of which I agree, though I would not agree with any suggestion that Trieste is not predominantly an Italian town. She is losing portions of her fleet, with which I am in complete agreement, but when she is being asked, as she is being asked by some hon. Members this evening, to hand back to Austria a territory which was occupied and fought over very fiercely by Austrian troops right up to the end of the war, it is an entirely different matter. After all, Italy, after the Armistice, did at least something to earn her status as a co-belligerent Power. We used her fleet, her partisans were quite effective, she had three or four divisions in the line with us, and they fought far better against the Germans on our side than they had fought against us with the Nazis in Greece or in 314 the desert. And it was the North of Italy from which the Axis troops were finally pushed back in which the partisans did very well, indeed. I do submit that to ask Italy now to give back that area to Austria is like saying to the Italians, "We did not mean it when we said you could work your passage home. We did not mean it at all when we said that we wanted, you to have a stable Government and respect for the victorious Allied Powers. You are really receiving the same treatment as you would have received had you not collaborated with us at all." I should not like the Foreign Secretary to have to go to the Italian Government and say that. For that reason, I would support him in the decision he has taken.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
I want to make only two points, and I can make them very briefly. First, I should like to make clear to the Italians—I believe I am speaking here even for those who have criticised the settlement—that that criticism is in no way actuated by any anti-Italian prejudice. The net result of a Debate of this kind, when the preponderant weight of opinion has been in that direction, is dangerously liable to be so interpreted in Italy, and I do think it is a point well worth emphasising. I thought it was a pity that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) saw fit to remind the Committee, as he did, that—to use his own words—in our darkest hour Italy stabbed us in the back. He reminded us of that, apparently, for the express purpose of advising us it was as well to forget it. I am sorry he did not follow up with a reminder that Italy also fought, and fought very gallantly, on our side; that she suffered no fewer than 150,000 casualties; and that anybody who had any contact with her during the war knows she really did pull her weight. It is much more profitable to remember the time when she was on our side, than the time when she was not.
The charge of Fascism has also been hurled about the Committee. It is true that Italy was the first country to go Fascist, but it is true also that, persistently, there was a large anti-Fascist movement. There were men prepared to go into exile rather than submit to Fascism—100,000 of them in France alone. There were political prisoners in the gaols, to the tune of 35,000 to 40,000 315 throughout the régime at a time when the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition was paying florid tributes to Signor Mussolini in Rome in terms of fawning adulation.
§ Mr. Levy
It is well to remember that alongside Fascist Italy there was always an anti-Fascist Italy. Apropos of this question of Fascism, it is true, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe), I think pointed out, that the Tyrolese, the inhabitants of the South Tyrol, are strongly Fascist. That part of the country is the stronghold of Nazism.
But the point that I want to make is. that I do not think these are really the relevant considerations. I am trying to sweep them out of the way because they have obtruded detrimentally into this Debate. I think, as most Members seem to think, that the Italian claim is a very vulnerable claim. But we should not be surprised that she makes it. It is quite natural she should want to retain territory which—I thought it was an open secret—she did not really want originally in 1915, but which was, as it were, forced upon her by the Allies who wanted the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But be that as it may, she has been there for no less than 31 years. She has developed certain industrial interests, no matter what the percentage may be. I thought that it was 13 per cent. of the electric power plants there that feed Italy. Her nationals have settled there, and have sent down roots there. It is perfectly reasonable and understandable that she should make this claim.
But—and this is the second point I want to make—I do not think it is reasonable to try to isolate this question of the Tyrol from the rest of (he Italian peace settlement. One cannot do that. I am convinced myself, for example, that the Italians would be perfectly satisfied to allow a plebiscite in the South Tyrol, and to abide by it, provided there were also another in Venezia Giulia One cannot settle one claim completely irrespective of the rest. Where I think we are at fault is that we have conceded the 316 least tenable claim, and refused the more tenable. That situation should be put right, if it is not too late for it to be put right. It is no good saying to the Italians, "We know we have been unjust to you in Venezia Giulia. We know that we have put 200,000 Italians under Yugoslav domination there, and put only 15,000 Yugoslavs under Italian domination. We admit that injustice, but you really should not mind, because we are being equally unjust to the Austrians in the Tyrol."One cannot expect that to be a satisfactory argument. I know, of course, that to a Foreign Office considerations of justice are not paramount. They are obsessed with that academic folly, that pet vanity of clever men who are not quite clever enough, which they call "realism." I have little doubt in my mind that for this present orgy of "realism" all over Europe, it will be, once more, the ordinary man who will have to pay.
§ 8.28 p.m.
Mr. Harold Macmilian (Bromley)
It is a very old and great tradition of this country to take a great interest in the claims of minorities, particularly minorities that may be thought to be the subjects of injustice or persecution. Therefore, I think it is quite in line with that tradition that the Leader of the Opposition willingly gave this part of the Supply Day belonging, to the Opposition in order that we might have a Debate upon this question. It is not a Party question. There will be no Division taken. Therefore, the Committee can, perhaps with special freedom, rise to the great tradition of a deliberative assembly on an important public issue. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), and those who supported him, made a very moving case, and I have no complaint—nobody could have any complaint—with the general principles they put forward. Within the limit of their argument, I thought it was very conclusive. But, of course, there are broader points, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Benn Levy) has reminded us, which also have to be taken in conjunction with this single issue. I hope I may be allowed to develop, very shortly, some of those broader points.
I had rather hoped that the Foreign Secretary would have given a lead to the 317 Committee, in accordance with tradition, at an earlier stage of this Debate. I am sure that, in similar circumstances, my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) would have done so. But I realise that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, admirable as he is in frontal action, is very much seized with the tactical importance of never allowing his rear to be uncovered; and I would observe, that he always finishes Debates, and scarcely ever initiates them or takes part in the earlier stages of the proceedings. So, it is left to me, on behalf of my colleagues, to do my best, without all that information which the Foreign Secretary has available, to state some considerations which, I think, the Committee should have in mind.
First of all I want to make clear, what I think has been obscure, that this matter did not arise and was not dealt with by the former Foreign Secretary, either in the Coalition or Conservative Governments. The Moscow Declaration of 1943 has nothing whatever to do with the case, in the sense of settling this issue one way or the other. The Moscow Declaration declared void the German annexation of Austria. It declared that the Anschluss and everything done by Hitlerite Germany would have no weight with us, the victorious Allies, and the victorious Allies would wipe it away. It also called upon Austria in that year to make an effort themselves.Austria is reminded, however, that she has a responsibility which she cannot evade for participation in the war on the side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contributions to her liberation.I mention that because there has been some obscurity. I want to make it clear that, so far as the Moscow Declaration is concerned, it leaves these boundaries absolutely open to be decided by the Peace Conference, or the great Allies, as they think fit. There is no binding agreement.
I think it is very important that we should not be partisans in these disputed questions of foreign affairs so long as they are disputable. I agree that when right and justice are patently on one side, or when the rule of law has been challenged, we should stand out as fearless champions of the right cause. In those cases it is not merely a question of individual interest of a nation, but the whole world 318 interest which is threatened by a breach of the rule of law.
It is very difficult, I think, for Englishmen to avoid the temptation to think of particular friendships which they have created by their own contacts. They get very fond of people among whom the}' have lived, and particularly of the people for whom they have tried to work. This is an excellent trait, but it has certain dangers. I say this because I do not wish to be thought to be governed by any kind of bias or partiality in these matters. During recent years, I have tried to deal successively with French, Italian and Greek affairs. It was my good fortune to take some part in the restoration of the unity and pride of France, our ancient and dear Ally. In Italy I was present at the time, glorious in Anglo-American history, when the conquering and victorious armies turned immediately from the task of war to civil reconstruction, and in Greece after the suppression of an attempt to seize power by revolutionary conspiracy, when all our efforts were to bring counsels of moderation and reconciliation. Except for a few weeks right at the end of the campaign, I had no personal contact with Austria.
I want to make it clear that in anything I say I have not fallen to those particular partialities one gets from contacts of that kind. I deeply cherish all the friendships in France, Italy and Greece which I have made during those years. We must try to think of the future, and not, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough has wisely reminded us, too much of the past. We are indeed a generous nation, but it is not possible altogether to forget the past, and in this respect both Italy and Austria are ex-enemy countries, and both were governed by similar systems, Fascist or Nazi. The Italians did great evil in Greece and in the Balkans.
The Austrian Fascists, who, as the hon. and learned Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) reminded us, were largely recruited from this very area, did dreadful things in Rome, and, right at the end of the campaign, against the Italian partisans at Belluno. Both nations naturally disclaimed particular responsibility for these deeds done by previous Governments. It is said, I believe, that a nation has the government which it deserves. That is, indeed, a hard saying and, I think, cannot 319 be pressed too far because, after all, the British people have done well. Both nations are trying to restore democracy. Both are struggling against this past, and are trying to think of the future. Both of them, no doubt, would have tried to free themselves from this incubus had they found it possible. The Italians did succeed in 1943—
§ Mr. Boothby
I think that there is a slight difference between Italy and Austria, because Italy had embraced Fascism at one moment, and Austria was conquered forcibly by Hitler.
A great part of Austria returned the embrace with good will. Italy did manage to throw it off in 1943. For two hard years she had to work her passage. Three hundred thousand Service troops were made available. Six Italian gruppi, or divisions, took a vital part in the final stages of the campaign. There has been a good deal of talk about the partisan movement in Northern Italy, and I think that Field-Marshal Alexander would testify that without the efforts of the partisans we would not have brought that campaign to such a rapid and successful conclusion. Therefore, in considering this, we have to face realities. Italy has been brought up against territorial claims from four quarters: from France, from Greece, from Yugoslavia, and this Austrian demand. She has freely granted to France five out of seven claims. She has only disputed two, in which she has been overruled. One was the case of the Mont Cenis plateau, vital because of its hydro-electric workings and because the lake Moncenisio feeds the power stations which remain in Italian territory. The other was the case of Tenda and Brega where the claim of the Italians is partly ethnic and partly economic. To Greece they have admitted that they should quite properly hand over the Dodecanese. To Yugoslavia they had to make considerable concessions but I regard the settlement, to which the Foreign Secretary has no doubt had to agree, as the best that he could get, as unfortunate.
I could have understood adopting the French line had that been the final settlement and Trieste and all West of the French line remaining permanently in the Italian hands. But if it was to be left unsettled, and it was to be an international field, then it ought to have been 320 on the British line. That is the maximum territory in dispute. Therefore, the Italians have suffered a good deal. I think that in the bottom of their hearts the Italians probably would say to themselves that France, Greece, Yugoslavia; after all, were always on the Allied side. We must admit that an honest Italian would say that concessions made to them would in the long run be less felt in Italy because, after all, this is the penalty of defeat. It is not quite the same with Austria. Side by side with us, the Italian army engaged against the Austrian troops right up to the end of the campaign, and that psychological factor must be borne in mind.
The other general proposition which I should like to put forward in all these disputed claims is that, if they are taken singly, there is a tremendous lot to be said on both sides. That is one of the difficulties of getting the settlement. There are many factors to be taken into consideration, historical, ethnical, economic and strategic. In fact, no settlement can be made which does not attempt to strike a balance between all these considerations. We cannot "plump" entirely for one or the other. From the historical point of view, the claim to the Brenner Pass has been one of the oldest claims of Italy ever since the beginning of the Risorgimento. We have heard today about Garibaldi and Mazzini. This claim to the Brenner Pass is one which both Garibaldi and Mazzini put forward against the Austrian Empire.
The Economic question of the Tyrol is an important consideration and it cannot be left out of account. Ethnically, there is, of course, a balance certainly in the Austrian claim. There are 161,000 Italians, I think that is the present figure, as against 110,000. Strategically I would only say that nobody, not even the Romans, has ever succeeded in invading Europe from South to North through the Brenner Pass. That honour was retained for the victorious American and British troops but only after the end of the campaign. It has never been done in actual warfare. But how many times in history has there been a successful invasion of Italy from (North to South? I am bound to say that while it may not be a fashionable doctrine I should feel a little happier if the Brenner Pass were in hands where we have a considerable amount of influence in the future. Italian Govern- 321 ment policy and profession as to the new regime which they propose to introduce are certainly admirable in their aims. Nobody who has read the decrees or studied them carefully could fail to admit that they arc most generous concessions in autonomy, the return of the German language; indeed, an attempt to undo the brutal follies of the Mussolini persecution.
I was very much moved by the evidence which my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (brought -Forward that these provisions were not being carried out.
If that is so, I think the Foreign Secretary will agree that great responsibility lies upon the Great Powers to insist that they shall be carried out. I do not believe that the present Italian Government, who are really trying to establish a decent, democratic way of life, arc trying to bluff us over this. They may not, of course, have full control of the Italian organisation of government, because they are only just rebuilding the government of Italy, but I am certain that the Foreign Secretary will use every effort to insist that they are carried out not only in the letter, but in the spirit. In all these varying considerations I find it very difficult to reach a definite conclusion for one side or the other, but I do feel in my own heart that the only final solution will be by direct negotiation and agreement between Austria and Italy. I believe that along the lines of attempts of these two nations, now restoring or trying to restore their democratic government lies the hope of a more happy solution for the future than if this Committee tonight were to come down on either one side or the other, and appear to endorse those recriminations over a sad past rather than look more hopefuly to the future.
As one who speaks with some emotion on a matter which is so dear to us all, and after having seen so many sad disputes in the Mediterranean area, I think we must look at the European peace settlement as a whole. I should be sorry if this House were to decide one way or the other on one individual, selected, problem, taken out of the whole. If we do that, if we think of the special item, 322 what is the result? It is that the process of the Balkanisation of Western Europe is being developed. That is its real danger. What is the true and best tradition of Europe? It is metropolitan, and not provincial; Imperial in the best sense, and not national; catholic, and not sectarian. Europe is old, alas, perhaps, too old, but its true traditions are these. It was the rise of nationalism and individualism, beginning with the Reformation and Renaissance, which brought splendid and glittering benefits to mankind. It brought many noble deeds and high traditions; it made great contributions to the British character and its development, but it contained the seeds of danger, even decay. Nationalism in an extreme form led to Chauvinism, a militarism, and destruction of Europe by itself. Individualism, preached to the extreme, taught man to elevate his status above its true position, to forget God, and led to atheism and communism. The need for Europe is to revert to its old tradition, and not to concentrate on the disputes which spring from the nationalist traditions of the last few centuries. Its need is cooperation, even fusion, certainly economic, and probably political. To return to this immediate problem, Italian democracy, the tender plant which we are trying to re-establish, cherish and strengthen should, I believe, in direct negotiation with the new Austrian democracy, look towards economic fusion and assistance, rather than to redevelopment of these old political boundary disputes.
As for Austria's future, it lies Westwards and Southwards, and nowhere else. Therefore, when all these disputes in which Italy is now engaged affect those countries, do not let us forget that France, Italy and Austria have the same great traditions, both in the civil and religious sphere. These territorial disputes have caused friction out of all proportion to their true importance. We should throw our influence towards harmony and reconciliation. We should beware of making a Parliamentary decision at this moment on this single issue, for I verily believe that if it is by this method that the map of Europe is to be redrawn, if this is to be the future of Europe, then there is no future for Europe. Europe, or what is left of Europe, must unite, and must be rebuilt on the basis of unity. The word "European" must be 323 restored in the language, and have meaning. The New World, in this respect, is giving a great example to the old, and, on the American Continent steps are being taken far more effectively than in the old world. I think we have a particular part to play, because we have shown that in our own association of peoples, in our own Commonwealth, we have been able to make a combination of freedom and order. Therefore, I trust we shall do our best to elevate these questions beyond these immediate disputes, not make a decision now upon one small portion, however important it is to the people concerned, of the whole picture, but rather throw our weight into a purpose which, I believe, is essential if Europe is to be preserved, the writing away of these purely national boundaries and disputes, and the bringing into being of a new economic and even political order.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the position of His Majesty's Opposition that they have no views as to whether the Southern Tyrol should be Austrian or should be Italian?
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
Like the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), I find myself in a difficulty in dealing with just one phase of a long and protracted negotiation. I also find it difficult to place a complete picture before the Committee, in view of all the problems one is trying to deal with in Europe at the present moment. This story of Austria was dealt with during the days of the Coalition Government. Much has been said today about the Atlantic Charter. I make this solemn confession. I was a party in that Government to the Atlantic Charter, and one of my first experiences, almost before the ink was dry, was to find myself, in that Cabinet, deciding whether I would accede to the new Polish frontiers, which I have never yet been able to reconcile with the Atlantic Charter, but to which the very necessities of war at that time compelled me to agree. I ask the Committee to remember how difficult these circumstances are. I have heard a good deal today about the 250,000—rather fewer than 200,000 now—German-speaking people in the Tyrol. I have had to face the move- 324 ment of millions of German-speaking people from East Prussia. The first day I was in office, when I went to Potsdam, I had to face the demand for the new Polish frontier on the Oder, by which 13 million people had up to that time been driven Westwards. In the end I agreed that it should be administered as a Polish zone, because I felt there was nothing else to do in the light of the circumstances that war had created.
Since I have been in office I have seen over 2,000,000 Sudeten Germans go out of Czechoslovakia and I have seen millions of people in Europe hounded from pillar to post, and whoever was or was not responsible for the war I can never get out of my mind the conviction that ordinary men and women are never responsible for war. They may be incited to support this or that leader, they may be organised in this or that way to support a particular nationalism, but left alone they are ordinary decent people who live ordinary decent lives, and there is not much difference between these races, if left alone, any more than there is between a Scotsman, a Welshman, or an Englishman.
§ Mr. Bevin
Or an Irishman. One thing that I am always thankful for is that I have not the principle of self-determination to apply to Glasgow—or even to New York. This question of setting race against race is, I think, one of the horrors that have developed in the last 30 or 40 years. I am told that the Tyrolese are people who have lived there for many years, but if one talks to Italians about the Hapsburg monarchy they will always remind one that it was the Tyrolese who found most of the soldiers to defeat or resist Garibaldi, so I do not think that playing on the names of these patriots has anything very much to do with the present situation.
The problem of Austria was raised at Moscow in 1943 and this was the decision, although no one has mentioned it; it was reported to the House at that time, but when my predecessor made the report not a voice was raised:Having taken counsel together in the spirit of the Atlantic Charter"—It is good to have a text: if one cannot get it out of the New Testament, one 325 should go to the Old, but one should always have a text—the Governments of the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R. and the United States are agreed that Austria, the first free country to fall a victim to Nazi aggression, shall be liberated from German domination. They regard the union imposed upon Austria by Germany"—I emphasise those words—They regard the union imposed upon Austria"—not the Versailles Treaty—the union imposed upon Austria by Germany on 15th March 1938 as null and void. They consider themselves as in no way bound by any changes effected in Austria since that date, they declare that they wish to see re-established a free and independent Austria, and thereby to open the way for the Austrian people themselves to find, in association with those neighbouring States which will be faced with similar problems, that political and economic security which is the only basis for lasting peace. The Austrian people must, however, remember that they have a responsibility which they cannot evade and that in a final settlement account will inevitably be taken of their own contribution to the liberation of their country.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but while he was not in the Committee I did make reference to the Moscow Declaration. I said, I think with truth, that the Moscow Declaration left the matter completely open; it did not limit what was to be the frontier of Italy but merely stated, as the right hon. Gentleman has now read out, that the German occupation of Austria was to be considered null and void. This left the matter completely open and it was never settled by that Declaration what was to be the final settlement of the Austrian frontier. I wish to make that point because I think it is fair that it should be made; I leave the other argument where it rests.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am coming to that point in a moment. We have to read these words in conjunction with another matter, with which the right hon. Gentleman was associated, the Armistice made with Italy. At no point in the making of that Armistice was there a suggestion that Italian territory would be disturbed. It was Italy as she then stood with whom we made the Armistice, and made the declaration that if she worked her passage we should do certain things.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am also coming to that in a moment. It is true that no one stipulated that there should be no change of any kind in frontiers. Let me remind the Committee that Austria is not yet free. One does not know whether Eastern Austria may not be cut off. The situation is very delicate, even at the present moment. The trend of things makes one wonder what the ultimate fait accompli might be. I have to watch that as well. The right hon. Gentleman said that we have to take economic and strategic considerations, and various other things, into account. The decision on Austria was not made at Paris. It was made in London last September. At that time I was not forced to agree to it. I am not going to say so in this Committee. If I agree, I must take my responsibility for agreeing; I am not going to hide behind a plea that I was forced to do a thing. I did it, and I did it with my eyes open.
We got to the question of beginning the Peace Treaties, as laid down at Potsdam, before I went there. The Committee will remember that four countries were to discuss the Peace Treaty with Italy. Three countries had to discuss the Peace Treaty with the German satellite States and two countries had to discuss the Peace Treaty with Finland. That was the Moscow arrangement of the Council of Foreign Ministers. I will not criticise it, but it has given me a few headaches ever since to work it. That Council is certainly not a peace conference by any stretch of imagination. The House of Commons agreed to the Potsdam decisions, and I have to carry them through.
There were always suggestions by other States surrounding Austria at that time that claims should be made upon even her limited territory. Rumours were abroad in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia about eating into even the small Austrian territory as it was. Austria was at that time occupied and governed by the Allied Control Council, and was a long way from being independent. It is not independent yet. I felt that it was wise, in the light of those circumstances, to begin to recreate Austria and to make sure that the Moscow decision was translated into fact by a decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers, before we began the discussion of any other Treaty. I think that was a very wise step. Therefore, the 327 decision was that the frontier with Austria would not be changed subject to the decisions to be reached by the Council on any case which Austria may present for minor rectifications in her favour. I thought it was wise to stop a whole lot of claims coming and disrupting this country, which was created so badly by the Versailles Treaty.
The question then was—what is a minor rectification? I must confess to the Committee that I thought at the time that an area such as Pusterthal with the railway running round would have been regarded as a minor rectification. I have no doubt that this will be argued at the Peace Conference. But in the end, in view of all the difficulties that arose with regard to Trieste, and all the other lines that have been argued, I gave way on that point to make sure of maintaining a definite decision, and that I did not regret. In connection with this, a lot of people—and in this Committee today— keep talking about the independence of European countries. I wish these people would start using another word—the "inter-dependence" of European countries. Whenever one comes to this wretched problem of trying to create independent countries, with its exchange balances and its uneconomic frontiers, one is absolutely driven to desperation whichever way one goes. The river is on one side, the railway is on another; the village is on one side and the market is on the other. Really, this attempt to cut up Europe into all these independencies, which rose out of the Wilson formula, drives me to desperation in attempting to get any economic order for Europe. I do not make any apology for saying that. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) has made reference to the Wilson position. I have looked at the line that Wilson drew. Wilson proposed to put into Italy Merano, Bolzano, down the Pusterthal and right down to Albona in Venezia Giulia. That was the Wilson line, but after his discussions and at a later date—although he acknowledged, as I understand, that he regretted it—he did include the Brenner. I have met Dr. Gruber and I have met his attacks.
My view about this bit of territory, which has about 200,000 people, is this. I must not use the word "anschluss," I suppose, but if I may use it as an illus- 328 tration, the solution is an anschluss Southwards and not Northwards, and merging economically, by trade and customs unions, Austria with Italy and the territories to the South. It is said that they are an agricultural community, but there is one great income they threw away under Mussolini. As I have said to the Italians and the Austrians, they ought to restore it. If one looks at the line which is called the French line from Trieste through Gorizia to the North to the Brenner, it is all in Italian territory. That, I think, is an advantage, and there is a market, if handled properly, for a tourist traffic in this territory which ought to enhance the standard of living enormously, if there are no passports, no visas and no blockages of one kind or another. I am aiming for that. I really want to see that. I made a reservation in the Paris Conference which all the four Powers accepted, that on the railway running from the Brenner around to Lienz there shall be no barrier of any kind in order that communication right through Europe up to the Brenner may be free for all people, and the Italians must not put any blockage in the way of people moving about in that area. Economically, I think it is a great advance. These experts are really marvellous about electric units. I do not know anybody who can prove that something was unnecessary so well as a person who talks about voltages and units. The fact is that there will be very little electricity drawn by Austria from those watersheds and from the electric stations on that side. On the other hand, I am quite convinced that it is a great economic asset for both.
What is the use of deducting railways? One of the economic necessities of a district is electric railways, and if anyone tells me that all Italy uses is so much per cent. when you deduct the railways, I say that one of the first great advantages in this area right through into Switzerland is having these great electric railways. Therefore, the development of electricity on that side is very important. If the territory remains where it is, what is to prevent the Italians and the Austrians having joint public utility companies for its proper development? That is what I have put to both of them. I think it would be of enormous advantage.
The same thing has happened on the Mont Cenis on the French side. It is said 329 that we have left the water in France and the power stations in Italy. We have made provisions that the water must always be available to Italy, and it would be a contravention of the treaty if at any time France prevented the water being used for electrical development on the Italian side. It is the same with Tenda and Briga; the electric power stations are on the French side there, and the Italians, if they were wicked, could interfere with the electric power right down to Nice quite easily if there was a big development in that territory. We have therefore taken precautions in the treaty that neither the French nor the Italians must interfere with the supply of power on either side of the watershed in that territory.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about hydro-electric power, but would it not be equally true if the Southern Tyrol were Austrian?
§ Mr. Bevin
That is a matter of opinion, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the hydro-electric experts who have been studying the problem say that the great economic connection is the line I have indicated.
As to the ethnic principle, this is a very difficult one, and it cannot be dealt with in complete isolation. Take the line referred to by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Trieste. I would have liked at least to get that line down to the Canal, if not farther, but there were certain difficulties to go South of the original British line to Pola. I do not think it is wise, unless the treaty is discussed as a whole, that I should enumerate them tonight. However, they are pretty obvious when you are dealing with the Slav countries in the orbit of the Russian influence. In connection with that, one had to have regard to the claims made for North Africa by the Russians, and Tripolitania and many other claims. The hon. Member for, is it North Aberdeen?
§ Mr. Bevin
That is not settled yet, but we have given a pledge to the Senussi, and I am not going back on it. If the Senussi came to help the Desert Rats I am not going to desert them now. Remember that the Senussi live right up into Tripolitania, and they are Arabs, and I have to have regard to them. That is one of my big contests that has gone on in the Conference. I have created the situation that in accordance with our pledge the Arabs have to be heard as well as the neighbouring territories before that issue is finally settled. I say, Do not have one gospel for the Tyrolese, and another for the Arabs.
§ Mr. Boothby
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Arabs had got to be heard. When has he ever said that the Tyrolese have got to be heard?
§ Mr. Bevin
I will deal with that. On the question of the Tyrolese and the North of Italy, nowhere in the Atlantic Charter was it ever suggested that territory had automatically to be transferred differently than the way it was dealt with in 1919. It is open for claims to be made, and the Tyrolese will have a right to be heard at the Peace Conference. This is the first Peace Conference where the defeated nations have a right to be heard equally with the victorious nations, and where the Treaty has been sent to every nation —to the defeated as well as the victorious —in order that they can state their case.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris
This is very important. When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Tyrolese will have an opportunity of stating their case, does he mean that he is open to persuasion? Has a binding decision not yet been taken?
§ Mr. Bevin
I would not say that. In a Conference with four Foreign Ministers, when one deals with a recommendation, it is like a Cabinet of this House. One argues one's recommendation, but it is open to 21 nations to reverse it. That is their business. Let this be said, instead of we four Foreign Ministers expecting the whole Conference to be a rubber stamp to everything we have done, we have undertaken to take account before the final draft of every recommendation made by the Conference I do not think we could do more than that. I have not tried to ignore the rights even of the defeated nations. In my opinion a mistake was made at Versailles. I think a mistake was made in not bringing Russia to the Versailles Conference. I think the whole of the world's history would have been different if that had been done. This is not a new idea, I said so at the time.
§ Mr. Bevin
They were not even brought in and when they arrived at Cannes two statesmen had a golf match and upset the whole show. But in this case I am particularly anxious to see and hear what is said on these issues. The Italians are very upset with this Treaty. It is alleged by their Press and their statesmen, we have dealt with them very hardly. Personally, I do not think so. We have left the Colonial problem open. I do not think there was any claim by the Italians to Fiume. I think the escapades of D'Annunzio, which were officially given authority by the Powers afterwards, were a profound mistake. There is a debatable point about Pola, but there there is a great naval base. True, it is wrecked at the moment. It is not a commercial place in the ordinary sense of the term, like Trieste.
There is a case, and I am bound to confess it,which no doubt they will argue, about these little towns down the coast line. I feel that a case was made out— 332 but in the inner conference agreement had to be obtained—that in the end they might have come further South. As I have already said, when it comes to Trieste itself I had to ask myself this—I fought for Italy to the end, I do not apologise for it, but all the time I had this lurking fear—if Italy is the sole possessor of Trieste on a purely nationalistic basis will Trieste serve her purpose for middle and Southern Europe? As the Committee knows, I am an old transport man, and I can never get out of my head the desirability of a great port of that character being so developed as to serve not one nation but to be an outlet for all those nations in middle and southern Europe.
Let me put another consideration. Supposing the line had been drawn as the Italians wanted. The Italians are a defeated nation. Supposing that armies were lined up on the frontier, with the opportunities present of a coup again, such as occurred at Fiume at the end of the last war. With the irredentist feeling in the Slavs, who want this outlet, would Italy be able to defend it? What would be the position? I am making quite a frank statement to the Committee. I came to the conclusion, in the end, after weighing all the considerations that the probability was that in Italy's own interest, a strip of territory, guaranteed by the United Nations, not like Danzig, not with a corridor across it, but a kind of Hanseatic port, serving the great European area, would serve a better purpose, and make a meeting ground between the Austrians, the Slavs and the Italians, not only on the ground of race, but on the common ground of commerce and production in that area.
I took the risk, and I do not apologise for it. I think that if the Italians will bury their feelings and if the Slavs will drop their racial antagonism which has been developed over centuries, and if they will now turn together in this enclave from Monfalcone down to the South of Trieste, they can make that a meeting ground for commerce, for business, for shipbuilding, for an outlet to that great territory. We desire to bring some of the other races into cooperation, particularly in the port organisation. I repeat we have provided for international territory, not only in Trieste. But in any case the port has to be an international port. In that sense I want to see Czechoslovakia play her 333 part. If we are to prevent a resurgence of Germany, particularly of Prussia, I am attracted by the idea of bringing European commerce more to the Mediterranean and less to the Baltic. If the southern German area, and Austria and the States around there and Czechoslovakia—are attracted by a well developed, well financed United Nations port like Trieste, which will not be a strategic port, which will be purely a Hanseatic commercial port, with that common ground, and looking 20 years ahead, I see the possibility of a great unification in the economic field in that area.
I hope I shall be justified in the judgment at which I arrived. In the North I felt that, after what we had done to satisfy the Yugoslavs in the South, we were on common ground in dealing with Trieste. I have made it quite clear, as an old port man, that the point of delivery from rail to ship should be equal for everybody in the world, with charges the same, barging the same, overside, shore side, all the same to every nationality in the world. I felt that really I have done a good job as far as Trieste was concerned. That is what we must strive for, that is the basis. Having done that, should I rob, shall I say, or make more difficult the position of Italy in her recreation? On the pure ethnic ground, I had 200,000 out of a population in Europe of many millions. I weighed the economic advantages, I weighed the opportunity of Austria combining with Italy in a common customs union, or something of the. kind, coming south in her development and associating again on this little bit of territory of the Bolzano province, and uniting together with Italy. Weighing it altogether, I believe the combined effort is in the interests of Austria, Italy, and the middle European territories.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
With your permission. Major Milner, I would like just to make one or two observations to the Committee before you put the Question. It used to be the custom in past years for the Opposition to oppose the great majority of the outstanding Votes on these last two allotted Supply days. Later, it became the custom to vote against certain Classes. If, for instance, one takes Class V, the Opposition might oppose it on the ground that they are not satisfied with the Government's handling of housing; but if one examines Class V it 334 is found to contain a number of Votes in addition to the Ministry of Health— for instance, old age pensions and supplementary pensions. Class VI contains the Vote of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, which we debated yesterday when the Opposition expressed their dissatisfaction by moving a reduction, but it also contains the Vote for food production services, the Forestry Commission, the Development Fund, and so forth. Therefore, we have been giving very careful consideration to the policy which, as a responsible Opposition, we should follow in dealing with this matter, and I rise to say on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these Benches that in view of the manner in which these numerous Votes are grouped, it is not the intention of the Opposition on this occasion to oppose them.
We have had the customary opportunity during the year of discussing individual Votes on the allotted Supply days and we feel, having availed ourselves of this, that we should allow the matter to rest at that on this occasion. There may be a case for regrouping these numerous Votes which at present amount to ten Classes not including the Service and Revenue Departments. These ten Classes contain a total of 147 Votes. I do not, therefore, wish it to be thought because we do not oppose any of these Classes on this occasion that it will necessarily be the practice for all time. It will be a matter for decision as to what is the wise, sensible, practical course to pursue.
That a sum not exceeding £2,292,030 be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1947, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the salary of a Minister of State.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, forthwith to put severally the Questions. "That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments, the Navy, Army and Air Services be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates":