§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Whiteley]
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
By the time I have finished my review of the foreign situation I may or may not have wearied the House, because at the present moment it is not merely one area of the world that is in difficulties and where problems have to be settled; it is the whole world. Therefore, I am driven to touch, in my review, on many problems affecting many areas. If I stick to my brief very closely this afternoon, I must ask to be forgiven. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I realise that anything I say not only affects this House and this country, but other countries as well.
Since I last had an opportunity of addressing the House on 21st February on the general question of foreign policy, many events have taken place in the endeavour to bring the world back to a peaceful state. The road of peace is a very hard one, especially when it is complicated by varying political conceptions in different countries, and the settlement of differences is often handicapped by the desire to secure the adoption of a particular ideology. But I am not pessimistic on that account. I am still wedded to Litvinov's famous phrase, used in Geneva before this last war, that "Peace is indivisible."It is for that reason that the basic aim of His Majesty's Government in their foreign policy will be to make the United Nations organisation work effectively; all international questions which arise must now be dealt with in relation to this new world fabric which we are bent on weaving and ultimately making effective, and which will some day —I do not know how soon—draw its power direct from the will of the people. In dealing with these problems, I can never get out of my head that there is 1826 something much more important than statesmen, who after all only hold office for what is a moment of time in the ages of history, and that is the masses of the people, who may be either at peace or at war in the future as the result of the action of statesmen at a given moment.
It is true to say that all the peoples of the world are seeking peace and prosperity, and if we interpret their feelings aright, I am sure they are ready to dwell together in peace, if allowed to do so. In this respect, they have everything to gain from extending the scope of, and trusting in, the United Nations organisation. If all of us are willing to have our actions judged in the light of day, we shall have the advantage of a common-sense view brought to bear on each problem by the greatest of all juries, the ordinary public. I am not unduly pessimistic but one has to look facts squarely in the face, however unpleasant they are. It is no use wrapping up one's thoughts in obscure diplomatic language. Foreign policy is not a matter now which is limited to a small section of the community. Total war has made everybody want to have their say as to their destiny.
I would suggest to the House and to the world, to all public men, constantly to remind themselves of this: If we do not want to have total war, we must have total peace. One of the fundamental things in striving to achieve this total peace and the effective working of the United Nations, is that we must not only be prepared to submit our claims but to make clear our motives and to try to understand the motives of others. When I say I am not unduly pessimistic, I have in mind the fact that the world problems which we have to solve now are far more complicated than those which faced the peacemakers of 1919. This last war disrupted Europe to an infinitely greater extent than the war of 1914–18. In the settlement of the last war Russia was not a party. Personally, I have always felt that was a tragedy. In this war she has made a tremendous contribution and has emerged from the defeat of 1917. It is an important step forward that she is to take part again, because it is only if Russia enters freely into the European settlement that there can be any guarantee of permanent peace on the Continent of Europe.
1827 On the other hand, the United States fought in the last war, took part in the peacemaking, and then withdrew into isolation. Now, everybody in the Western hemisphere, equally with other parts of the world, is conscious that the whole planet is involved. We have, however— and this is why our task is harder than in 1918—to get agreement between the West, which has a common culture and similar traditions, and the great Slav areas whose history and development have been on very different lines from ours. The great problem, and we found it all through the negotiations up to now, is to find what one might describe as a common approach. This involves patience and toleration but ultimately. I still believe, we shall achieve understanding. The only thing that will block understanding is if any of us develop exclusive power politics, and do not use our perfectly legitimate interests in a way that will, as I said at the beginning, ultimately merge into a world security scheme. The security of all countries must not be sacrificed by each country concentrating only on its own security.
If I may again refer to the different political concepts, there is, I think, rather unfortunately, running through all the speeches and writings of our Soviet friends the theory that they alone represent the workers, they alone are democratic. Their concept of certain other Governments is that they are either Fascist or crypto-Fascist, or something of that kind. This leads to the idea that the security of Russia can only be maintained when every country in the world has adopted the Soviet system. This, I think, is one of their greatest handicaps and a great obstacle to peace. I am sure I can speak, at any rate for the workers in Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, when I say we do not believe that the Soviet system would represent the interests of the workers nearly so effectively as the system which this Socialist democratic Parliament is now evolving in this country. I do not for a moment deny the right of Russia to pursue her own way of achieving an industrial revolution, but for us in this country, who started our industrial revolution over 150 years ago, to adopt the Russian method would really be retrogressive for us and would not represent progress. I have, I must confess, the impression that the majority of the 1828 working classes of Western Europe at least feel like us. Therefore, if we are to get real agreement on both sides, we must undertake to develop our political institutions in our own way without attempting to impose one system upon the other, and leave the people absolutely free to use their reason and judgment in their own way and, if I may emphasise, in their own time. Thus, we may evolve our different political organisations necessary to express our desires, but agreeing on one thing all the time, unanimously, that we will all combine to prevent a revival of Nazism or Fascism, such as cursed the world in the last few years.
This is an attempt to describe the background against which we have been meeting in the recent conferences. Conscious of this, I had a talk in Moscow last December with Generalissimo Stalin and I indicated to him that I would be willing to recommend to the Government of the United Kingdom that the Treaty of Friendship should be extended to 50 years. I had at the back of my mind the creation of some permanent link between our two countries which would avoid misunderstanding. I was ready to go to the extent of regular consultation, exchange of views, and helping in the development of the peace of Europe as well as facilitating the trade, commerce, and exchange between our respective countries. I regret that the proposal was not taken more seriously at the time, but I am still confident it will come yet. For my part, while I am Foreign Secretary, notwithstanding the rebuffs, I shall still pursue it.
There are many matters connected with the Soviet attitude towards the British Commonwealth and Empire which, at least, show a sense of realism. I think, for instance, that the Soviet Government, and, indeed, the United States as well, do really recognise the tremendous importance to the peace of the world of the maintenance of our position in the Middle East, provided that, ultimately, there is developed a regional organisatibn which fits into the United Nations security system which it is the intention of the Government to pursue.
Neither do I believe that there is any basis for real misunderstanding or fundamental disagreement over the Dardanelles. We have been willing, equally with our predecessors, to consider the revision of the Montreux Convention. What we are 1829 anxious to avoid, and I emphasise this, is to do anything, or agree to anything, which will undermine the real independence of Turkey, or convert her into a mere satellite State. But, with the recognition of these principles, I am convinced that these two factors are not irreconcilable. Let me go further and say that we will always welcome the mercantile fleet of the Soviet Union on all the seas of the world. We sail to the Baltic, but we have not got a base and have not got a port there. We will sail to Odessa again, to the Black Sea and Constanza, quite freely, but we do not ask for a base or military requirements to enable us to do so. Our aim, as a Government, is the free movement of shipping and the world's trade. Therefore, whatever responsibilities we undertake in the defence scheme of the world in any particular area, we give a solemn undertaking that they will be on a basis of freedom to all members of the Peace Club on equal terms. I believe that, if such an attitude is accepted all round, this great desire for bases can be considerably minimised.
This brings me to a very acute point that was raised in Paris relating to the Danube. M. Molotov observed in his recent statement that it cannot be regarded as correct that certain non-Danube States should assume the right to dictate their will to the Danube States, and impose a regime on the Danube which would take no heed of the interest of the Danube States. We have not sought to dictate. What we asked was that we should discuss and settle this problem, and I rather resent M. Molotov's attitude, If I may say so publicly, that, when we put up a proposal with which he does not agree, he seems to imply that we are dictating. We dictate to nobody, but we do ask that there shall be examination of our point of view when we put it forward on rational and reasonable grounds. That is not an unreasonable thing to suggest. It is what we apply ourselves in our own conferences and everywhere else, and it is not an unfriendly act to put forward an idea with which somebody else does not agree.
In order to explain our own standpoint in this matter, I will, if the House will permit me, recapitulate very briefly the more recent history of the Danube problem, which very largely applies to the Oder, the Elbe and other rivers so vital 1830 to the life of Europe. We discussed at Lancaster House the general question of the Danube regime, and we were anxious at that time to secure the opening up of all the rivers of Germany. Now, we were anxious to open them up not merely for a mercenary interest. There was so much starvation in Europe, and all of us could see the famine lying ahead of us. We had fertilisers in one place, grain in another, food in another, 'and, if we could, we had to get the great transport system of Europe going in order to minimise the sufferings of Europe. When we are accused of putting this forward for Imperialist or capitalist, or some other interest, I do beg my Soviet friends to get that out of their minds. Nobody in this House would violently accuse me of putting forward anything in the capitalist interest, after my long record of struggle in that field. What I was anxious to do was to get everything moving, and, after all, transport is the very great artery of civilisation.
Therefore, we discussed at Lancaster House the general question of the Danube regime, and Mr. Byrnes, from the United States, put forward a proposal for a provisional International Commission, but the Soviet delegation would, not accept it. They would have nothing during the occupation period. They desired to leave it to the individual Commanders to control navigation on the stretches of the river within their zones, regardless of the fact that, without a commission, there could be no coordination of the movement of traffic over the whole river, and also, at the end of the occupation period, when the Allied Commanders withdrew their forces, there would be a complete gap for a time without any control at all until a permanent Commission was set up. The practical effect of this deadlock has been to paralyse through traffic on what should be one of the main transport arteries between Central and South-Eastern Europe.
Let me give the House one consideration. There is an urgent need for the quick transport of grain from the regions of the Lower Danube, where the harvest is gathered first, to countries upstream, where it is still ripening. There is a difference of six weeks between the ripening of wheat in Rumania and Bulgaria, on the one hand, and Czechoslovakia and Austria, on the other. Normally, this traffic used to move exclusively through 1831 the Danube, but now there is no regular through traffic. I must confess that I do not feel happy that through some policy of some kind, which we do not understand, whole areas of Europe should go hungry because we will not agree to do the sensible thing and move grain and food freely through these great arteries. Let us fight on some other basis, not on the bellies of the people should this political conflict take place. I cannot accept that view as being a sound political philosophy. All our desire was to get this free flow as rapidly as we could in order to prevent this horror of starvation going on in so many areas.
We came back to the Danube question in our talks in Paris, when we were discussing the Peace Treaties for Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria. I took the same position as I had taken in London: the necessity for restoring freedom of trade and navigation on the Danube and those other rivers, and protecting the commercial rights of the States concerned— the principle, if you like, of the open door —requiring the re-establishment of the arrangements in force before the war with the proper participation of the Soviet Union. In an attempt to meet M. Molotov's contention, Mr. Byrnes suggested that we need only include in the Treaties a provision that navigation on the Danube should be free and open, on terms of complete equality, to the nationals, merchant vessels and goods of all States. In the interest of reaching agreement, I said that I would be willing to accept a clause on those lines, provided it was also agreed that a Danubian Conference could be called within a fixed period after the conclusion of the Treaties; and this, I suggest, was a very, very modest suggestion. But we could make no progress on those lines, and we had to defer it.
I think I have shown that there has been no question of dictating our will to the Danube States or of neglecting their interests, but merely of our wishing to restore our legitimate prewar rights and to make sure that our late enemies should not be free to hinder the revival of the machinery of international cooperation. I cannot see that our interests on the Danube in any way conflicted with those of the Danube States who, surely, all have an equal interest in the restoration of commerce and navigation in this 1832 great European waterway. But I am driven to ask what the Soviet interest in this matter really is and what motive they have in refusing to commit themselves to any arrangements such as suggested. Does their anxiety to consult the other Balkan States mean that Danube affairs are to be the sole concern of Danubian States and Russia alone? I cannot believe now that they would wish to maintain this monopolistic view, though one must admit that there have been signs of a very exclusive policy in this area. Rumanian Danube shipping, for example, is at present almost entirely con-controlled by a joint Soviet-Rumanian navigation company, known as Sovrom Transport, set up in July, 1945, and another powerful combine of the same kind in Hungary.
If Soviet Russia's only concern is to make sure that no injury is done to these countries' interests, she need have no fear that our participation in the Danube Commission would have this effect. Nor could any harm come of a clause in the Peace Treaties by which Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria would undertake to abide by the decisions of a Conference. They themselves would have a share in reaching these decisions on the basis of equality. What I cannot and will not contemplate is that this country, which for six years fought against the enemies of freedom, should, as a result, be squeezed out of an international body, the very object of which is to maintain in the navigation on these rivers the freedom for which we all fought.
Let me now turn from the Danube to the Italian-Yugoslav frontier. As a result of the discussions which took place on this question in London last September, the Foreign Ministers instructed their deputies to report on the frontier line, which was, in the main, to be the ethnic line, leaving a minimum under alien rule, on the understanding that a local investigation would be carried out on the spot. The principle which was unanimously accepted in London was this ethnic criterion, and I want to stress that. In accordance with this decision, a special Commission appointed by the deputies visited this frontier area in the spring, and they submitted a report which was considered by the Foreign Ministers in Paris. The report contained an agreed statement of the ethnic, geographical and economic data relating to the frontier territory.
1833 The lines proposed by the British, the American and the French Commissioners were not very different—and I would emphasise this—and, in our desire to arrive at an agreement on this subject, both Mr. Byrnes and I stated that we were ready to accept the line proposed by the French which would give Yugoslavia the far greater part of the disputed area whilst leaving an approximately equal number of Italians and Yugoslavs under alien rule. It was thus consistent with the decision of the Foreign Ministers in London in September. The Russian Commissioner recommended that the whole disputed area should be awarded to Yugoslavia, including certain areas which since 1866 formed part of Italy and, before that, of the Republic of Venice.
The effect of the Russian Commissioner's recommendation would be to leave no Slav-speaking people within Italy, at the expense of leaving over 500,000 Italians in Yugoslavia. This solution was defended by the representative of Soviet Russia and, in my view, was wholly irreconcilable with the decision reached in London in September that the frontiers should, in the main, be drawn on ethnic considerations, and should be so drawn as to leave a minimum under alien rule. I want, however, to make this very clear. The only attempt at compromise over this problem was made by the United States and Great Britain. We withdrew from our line, which was more in favour of the Italians, and the Americans withdrew from their line, which was still more favourable to the Italians, with the result that we left Pola and the Albona coalfields to Yugoslavia in order to try to get a settlement. But there was no move at all on the part of Soviet Russia to meet the compromises proposed by Britain and the United States.
There is another factor in this frontier problem which is very important, and that is the port of Trieste, and not only the port, but the city. The city of Trieste is overwhelmingly Italian, roughly, I think, 10 to 1, and I could not bring myself to hand Trieste over to Yugoslavia under those conditions. What worried us more than that was the question of the port of Trieste, and here again we were extremely disappointed at the opposition we met. In London last September, whatever might have happened to the town 1834 ultimately, we all agreed unanimously that the port itself must be an international port with an international regime, no matter under whose sovereignty the town itself was put. Trieste has to serve Austria, Yugoslavia, Northern Italy and the whole of Central Europe. If we do not want to create another Prussia it is very important that the trade should be drawn South and not north from Central Europe. We felt in London that Trieste must be an international port and not an international pawn in the game of politics. Therefore, we were surprised at Paris to find that even on the question of the sport, Soviet Russia appeared to have gone back on that agreement and would not even agree to discuss technical arrangements for the setting up of a free international port until the whole of the frontier question had been settled. It is one of the disappointments we had in peace-making, but we hope for better luck the next time we meet in Paris. But I cannot give way, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and agree that that vital port, with all that it means to Central Europe, should surrender its sovereignty in the manner now proposed.
May I now turn to Austria? The United States proposed that Austria should be put on the agenda at Paris. I know the feeling in this House and in the country about Austria. We have witnessed their tragedy, and it has been a tragedy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Twice." Yes, 20 years or more of it. I remember with very great pleasure, tragic as it may seem, that I helped to spend my union's money to find the means to defend the Karl Marx houses. It was one of the greatest tragedies between the wars; I know the feeling. Therefore, I supported the placing of Austria on the agenda. There are substantial reasons why the whole problem of Austria should be settled. One is that the three Powers agreed in Moscow in 1943 that Austria should again secure her independence and become an independent country.
Secondly, if Austria, along with Italy, has a peace treaty, there is no need at all for lines of communication or troops of any Allied Power in the whole of the Danubian basin and in the North of Italy as well. All the troops in Austria, Northern Italy, Bulgaria and Rumania, could be taken out, and the whole of those 1835 Danubian States could again begin to lead a normal life. It was for that reason that I regarded it as imperative that Austria should be settled, so that we could, as it were, with one clean sweep, terminate our liabilities in this area. It would have narrowed the area of the problems which we are left to settle. However, the Soviet Union argued that they were not ready to discuss Austria. I could not understand this, and I do not understand now. Since then, the United States have submitted a draft treaty, and in the Foreign Office we have a detailed one. I certainly believe that nothing would give greater confidence of peace at our next meeting in Paris, than if the Soviet Union came along ready and willing to settle the Austrian problem, together with the Italian problem, and that of the whole of the Danube basin, including the Danube to which I have already referred. I see in that, the best contribution to confidence and understanding in the whole of that area.
I was questioned the other day in the House on the ethnic problem of Austria's frontier with Italy, and I propose to deal with this. At the Moscow Conference in October, 1943, it was decided—at least, so I understood it as a member of the Coalition Government at that time—that it was the pre-Anschluss Austria that we were guaranteeing to restore. Therefore, when the proposal was submitted at the London Conference that she should be so recreated, I agreed, but I made a reservation that there might be minor rectifications in the frontiers in her favour. Knowing the country very well—I know the railways run in and out of certain places, which I thought rather silly—I thought the constant interruption of frontiers was not conducive to good trade and exchange, and I thought rectifications might be made which would be of benefit to her and her neighbours. I still think so. If I may say a word to Italy, I hope that in the settlement of these very difficult problems affecting certain parts of the South Tyrol, these two peoples will not become estranged. We get here a mixture of economic and ethnic considerations. Great electrical plants have been built, and watersheds are involved. The strategic considerations, which I now consider of less importance than ever, come into the picture, but I am hoping that these two countries who 1836 have been so antagonistic for so many years will use sense on this occasion, and that in these borderline Provinces like that of South Tyrol they will arrive at a sensible arrangement and assist in the peacemaking.
I turn from that subject to say a few words about Bulgaria. This affects the withdrawal of troops. In September, it was agreed that after the Peace Treaty all Allied Forces should be withdrawn from Bulgaria. A distinction was thus expressly drawn between Bulgaria, from which the evacuation of Soviet Forces would be complete, and Rumania and Hungary in which, even after the Peace Treaty, the Soviet Union would retain the right to maintain certain forces in order to safeguard her lines of communication with the Soviet zone of occupation in Austria. At that time we did not know how long the occupation of Austria would continue, but, I repeat, if my previous argument were adopted, the problem would not arise. In Paris it seemed to me that M. Molotov was abandoning the London decision, arguing that the lines of communication with the Soviet Forces in Europe had to be maintained by means of the Danube, that this river is in part of its course the frontier of Bulgaria, and that the Soviet Union accordingly required the right to maintain lines of communication for troops in Bulgaria as well as in Hungary and Rumania. In my view this argument is very, very ill-founded. My view is that when a peace treaty is signed with another country which has been a belligerent, every step that can possibly be taken ought to be taken to withdraw troops from the territory, and so remove the menace to other neighbouring countries who will always be under suspicions as to what you intend to do.
Before I leave the territory of the Danubian basin I would like to put this point very strongly. There have been a great many arguments about the " curtain."I must confess that our representatives have had every obstacle placed in their way. Deputations from this House, and from my own party, send me reports and advise me that we ought to establish trade relations. They appear to be unconscious of the fact that this is what we have been trying to do all the time. We have endeavoured to do it in the case of Rumania, we have endeavoured to do it in the case of Hungary; we have tried with all these countries, only to be met with 1837 obstacles everywhere. Perhaps we have been most successful with Czechoslovakia up to now. As regards Poland, the Chancellor and I tried to help them by offering to remit most of the debts incurred on behalf of Poland during the war. We have given liberally of our surpluses. We have made our contribution to U.N.R.R.A.—and our contribution is the second biggest in the world—without which all these countries would have found it very hard to survive. We have done all this, yet we find ourselves denounced from the very mouths we have fed. That does not seem to me to be right.
I would ask those who visit these countries to remember the help from U.N.R.R.A., that both the United States and ourselves have given. We, for our part, will not allow our representatives to do anything to hinder proper relations between the Soviet Union and these countries. However, we do ask for reciprocity. In the way of trade, in exchange and fair dealing we ask that we should be treated as decent citizens, and be allowed to restore our relations, which have always existed. In the case of Poland, I suggest that the acid test will be: Will she carry out the solemn pledge which the President of the Provisionl Government gave me at Potsdam, to have early and free elections?
I now turn to another subject which has been dealt with in the speeches that have been made, namely, reparations from Italy. As I understand the Soviet view, it is that because the Allied Powers have not been invaded, they do not understand the Soviet wish to be compensated for some of the devastation done by Italian armies. That really is an unjust insinuation. We have genuine sympathy with those who have suffered invasion, for the people of Russia, and for the people of Greece, to name only two. We also know how much the people of Malta suffered, and how much Italy's entry into the war at the time of our greatest emergency, when we were alone, cost us in men and materials. His Majesty's Government have incurred heavy expenditure in restoring that gallant little island of Malta at the present moment. Therefore, I refute the charge that we do not understand what invasion means. Indeed,, the cost of restoring this old city of London alone represents a colossal figure.
1838 It is suggested that a reduction in the occupation cost of Britain and America in Italy would enable Italy to meet the Soviet reparation demands. I suggest this assertion implies a total lack of knowledge of Italy's economic and financial situation. Italy has a debt to America, Canada and ourselves amounting to £165 million for the goods we have supplied to her by way of relief. U.N.R.R.A. has supplied assistance to the extent of a further £100 million. Therefore, there is a total relief debt of nearly £300 million, or about 1,000 million dollars. Moreover, Italy is experiencing a heavy deficit in her balance of payments; this has been estimated at £250 million for this year and £100 million for next year. Even before the war the value of Italy's exports was only 65 per cent. of her imports: the balance was covered iby emigrants' remittances, storage, freight and borrowing abroad.
The question arises whether our occupation is adding to Italy's adverse exchange position It is argued that out of our occupation costs this reparation can be paid. The answer is that Italy does not have to find a single dollar or pound of foreign exchange on account of the presence of American and British troops. We have exacted only lire costs and have, in fact, to find hard currencies ourselves to finance the supplies sent to Italy. If Italy is called upon to make reparation deliveries in the form either of existing industrial plant and equipment or of goods from current production, her ability to export and earn foreign exchange will be correspondingly reduced, and the assistance she will require from abroad will be correspondingly increased. This is not a matter of difficult economics; it is just a matter of hard facts. His Majesty's Government cannot be a party to letting the British taxpayer in for a procedure which would, in practice, amount to their money and labour going to a third Government as reparations on Italy's account. Our own policy towards Italy is, first to enable her to repay what has been supplied as relief; secondly, to help her restore her economy on a peacetime basis, and thereafter to remove any surplus war machinery and equipment which is not needed for peacetime economy. I do not believe that common sense and justice could permit any other course.
1839 There is another controversy raised in the speeches we have heard and the documents that have been issued, namely, the proposal for a Treaty Commission which would be responsible for supervising the execution of the provisions of the peace treaty with Italy. Soviet Russia objected to any supervisory machinery, either there or in the Balkans, and agreement to the proposals could not be obtained. I think this was a pity, because, without some machinery, I do not see how the provisions of the Treaty could be administered. Italian sovereignty would not be infringed, and Italy, as much as the Allies, would be in a difficulty without this machinery whenever any question arose about the enforcement of the Treaty provisions. In any case, our experience in other wars in dealing with this problem has shown the imperative necessity to have some judicial body to avoid long and protracted disputes.
I will now say a few words about the Colonies. In London last February the United States put forward a proposal that these Colonies should become international trusteeships under the United Nations. I must confess I was a little dubious about how this scheme would work out as there had been no scheme devised as to exactly how the United Nations organisation could undertake the day-to-day administration. However, I agreed to the idea in principle, and suggested that the deputies should work out the details ready for the subsequent Conference. At this stage the Soviet Union claimed the individual trusteeship of Tripolitania, at Paris. After a lot of discussion this scheme for the individual trusteeship by Soviet Russia was withdrawn; but in doing so the Soviet Government demanded that in consideration for the withdrawal we should accede to their proposal for Trieste. I am bound to say that I cannot accept such a proposition, because to hand over 500,000 Italians to Yugoslavia in return for a withdrawal of what I thought was an unfounded claim by Soviet Russia which would have had the effect of handing a larger number of Arabs over to a country they may detest, seems to me to introduce a method of dealing and bargaining in international affairs that is absolutely unjust and unsound.
1840 The Soviet Union, thereupon, proposed to support the French proposal that the whole of Libya should be returned to the Italians and that the trusteeship should be given to Italy. The United States said they would go along with this proposal if it could produce general agreement. I was prepared to accept it provided that Cyrenaica was placed under the trusteeship of the United Kingdom, for I have made plain on many occasions that His Majesty's Government intend to abide by the pledges given to the Senussis in Cyrenaica not to restore them to Italian rule. This pledge was given by my predecessor in this House:His Majesty's Government are determined that at the end of the war that the Senussis in Cyrenaica will in no circumstances again fall under Italian domination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th January, 1942; Vol. 377, c. 77.]The whole history of the thing is a pretty bad history. I must say there is no gain in it for anybody; Cyrenaica would be a financial liability to whoever got it. But there was a pledge, and that pledge was given in 1942, and they did come to help at that moment when we were fighting Italy; and we must honour that pledge. I, therefore, proposed that the matter be again referred to the deputies in order that the French proposals, the British proposals and the American proposals might be examined.
Now may I turn to Eritrea and Somaliland? I think that M. Molotov has been more than unjust in stating that we are trying to expand the British Empire at the expense of Italy and Ethiopia, and to consolidate what he calls the monopolistic position of Great Britain in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. In the latter part of the last century the Horn of Africa was divided between Great Britain, France and Italy At about the time we occupied our part, the Ethiopians occupied an inland area which is the grazing ground for nearly half the nomads of British Somaliland for six months of the year. Similarly, the nomads of Italian Somaliland must cross the existing frontiers in search of grass. In all innocence, therefore, we proposed that British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, and the adjacent part of Ethiopia, if Ethiopia agreed, should be lumped together as a trust territory, so that the nomads should lead their frugal existence with the least possible hindrance and there might be a real chance of a decent 1841 economic life, as understood in that territory.
But what attracted M. Molotov's criticism was, I am sure, that I suggested that Great Britain should be made the administrating authority. Was this unreasonable? In the first place, we were surrendering a Protectorate comparable in size to the area we hoped that Ethiopia would contribute. Secondly, it was a British force, mainly East African and South African, which freed this area; and it was a British, Indian and South African force which bore the main brunt of restoring the independence of Ethiopia and of putting the Emperor back on his throne after several years' sanctuary in this country. We do not seek gratitude on that account, but I think it right to express surprise that our proposals should have met with such unjustified criticism. After all, when we were defeating Italy in East Africa, Britain was open to invasion, and we were fighting alone. I hope the deputies at the Paris Conference will now consider a greater Somaliland more objectively.
All I want to do in this case is to give those poor nomads a chance to live. I do not want anything else. We are paying nearly £1,000,000 a year out of our Budget to help to support them. We do not ask to save anything. But to have these constant bothers on the frontiers when one can organise the thing decently —well, after all, it is to nobody's interest to stop the poor people and cattle there getting a decent living. That is all there is to it. It is like the Englishman's desire to go into Scotland—to get a decent living. We must consider it objectively. If the Conference do not like our proposal, we will not be dogmatic about it; we are prepared to see Italian Somaliland put under the United Nations' trusteeship. I should also like to see some arrangement whereby the greater part of Eritrea is awarded to Ethiopia. Eritrea is entirely an artificial entity. It cannot, as I see it, stand toy itself, but only under some system of trusteeship. But, whether I am right or wrong in these deductions, all I ask is that either the United Nations Organisation or the deputies or some commission should study this problem and report to us, in order that we can get a proper and correct settlement. How this can be interpreted as a desire to extend the British Empire I really cannot understand.
1842 The next problem that has puzzled me is that of the Dodecanese. We have cleared up the whole island problem in the Adriatic and agreed to transfer certain islands to Yugoslavia and demilitarise them. Yet when we come to the Dodecanese, while we are constantly told that the four delegations are agreed that they shall be given to Greece, the Soviet delegation will not give effect to this until every other territorial problem has been settled. I do not understand why the Dodecanese, about which there is apparently no dispute, should have to await settlement until we have solved every other problem.
Now may I come to Germany? I must be wearying the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is a good story"]"It is evidence that the whole world is in trouble. That is the explanation of the length of my speech. I have already mentioned the attempt to interest the Soviet Union in a fifty year treaty of friendship with us, but I must confess we were more than agreeably surprised when we received from the United States a draft treaty for 25 years, to ensure that Germany remains disarmed at the end of the period of occupation. It was, however, marked " Very Secret " and it was enjoined upon me that I should not allow it to leak. Accordingly, it was discussed only in a very limited Governmental circle. I was unaware that the United States was going to bring this out at the Paris Conference, or I should have got myself authorised to give it more support in the initial stage. Immediately it was released, however, I communicated with the Cabinet, and, later, was able to announce to the Conference that we warmly welcomed it.
Having regard to what happened at the end of the last war, I must say that these proposals of the United Stales Government, through Mr. Byrnes, left with me the impression that here at last we had something which would give us peace in Europe, and allow for normal development over a sufficient period to eradicate the warlike spirit of Nazism in Germany. It was, therefore, a matter of profound regret to witness the way it was received by the Soviet representative. Inferences and charges about the present disarmament arrangements were made to counter Mr. Byrnes' proposals. At once we agreed that if there was any doubt as to what each of us was doing in the 1843 way of economic and military disarmament in Germany, a Four-Power Commission should immediately investigate all the zones, not merely one, and see exactly what was happening. This is still under discussion—however, we must not become weary in well-doing.
I believe that if the Soviet Union again study the draft Treaty and realise what a protection for " peace indivisible "This means, they will come round and not miss this great opportunity. In fact, I state to the Soviet Government: "If you value peace above all else, do not miss it; it may never come again." For France, it is vital. She has been invaded and smashed three times in 70 years. For Britain who has been drained of her resources in two great wars, it is indispensable. "For the Soviet Union who have been invaded so many times, I should have thought that a Four-Power Pact, carried out with vigour and honesty between us, would have created a situation far more secure than the harnessing of a few satellite weak states as buffers between them and a possible future aggressor. I will not admit failure yet. We will try again. If I can make one great appeal to the United States, it is this: " Do not be daunted by a first refusal, due in my view to an unjustified suspicion. The rest of us in Europe, at least, not only welcome your proposal, but look upon it as giving the greatest possible hope for the removal of misunderstanding and the creation of confidence."The proposal implies on the part of the United States the acceptance of obligations and the utilisation of what, I think, is one of her finest qualities, her great idealism, which seems to spring from a great vision of peace, resulting in action of a kind which will, if carried into effect, bring immense relief to millions of toilers throughout Europe.
The French urged that Germany should be put on the agenda at the Paris meeting, and at that stage we were willing for a general preliminary discussion. I indicated to the House in my speech on 21st February that we were studying the Ruhr. We are fully conscious that the Ruhr is an arsenal of war. It is from there that the great German military staff drew their assistance and support. We are no less insistent than the French that this arsenal shall not be used again for war. As the Ruhr has a great potential for war, 1844 so it has a great potential for peace and the raising of the standard of life right throughout Europe. To that end the Cabinet have studied carefully papers advancing preliminary views as to how the Ruhr might possibly be organised. While they have not yet come to a final conclusion, I did ask for authority that these preliminary proposals might be examined objectively with the French, the Dutch, the Luxemburgers and the Belgians in the first instance. This was in accordance with the decision we arrived at, that we should pursue the subject through diplomatic channels in the first instance.
My idea was that if those of us who have been so vitally affected in the West in the last two great wars could come to some preliminary agreed conception, we might find a common basis upon which to consult the other Powers concerned. There are clearly two points of view. The French believe that only by the separation of the Ruhr politically can security from German aggression be achieved. I have felt in my study of the problem that the creation of a separate province under international control, to be fitted ultimately into a federal Germany, if one were established, might be a better safeguard. This is a debatable point, but I would like to stress that I am fully conscious of all the dangers inherent in a strong centralised Germany. These different viewpoints are, at present, under expert and urgent consideration.
Therefore, in no dogmatic sense, and in no secret way, we have approached this problem. It is not a case in which you can arrive at dogmatic conclusions and impose them upon others. We must evolve the right solution for the security of Europe. When the time comes and further advance is made, I shall be very happy to put the whole proposal before the House, but I do not think at this preliminary stage I can say more. In this connection, the French have pressed the point whether the Saar should at this stage be separated from Germany. At the same time, the United States have urged that a special body of deputies should be set up to study the German problem in two phases, one, giving effect to the Potsdam decisions, and, two, in ultimate design of the new Germany. I could not at the meeting in Paris agree to the separation of any part of Germany without going into the whole question of Germany's frontiers as a whole, and 1845 knowing what the new Germany was to be. I proposed a resolution in the following terms:That we appoint special deputies to examine the whole problems of Germany, to study the implementation of the decisions of Berlin, to study proposals to lead up to the preparation of a Peace Treaty and the fixing of frontiers, taking into account the views expressed by this Conference on Germany and its future, and to present an interim report at the meeting of 15th June.I desire to make it clear that in any final settlement His Majesty's Government, subject to the adjustments of reparations and other obligations which are involved, favour the transfer of the Saar to the French, but I would prefer that the German problem should be considered as a whole before that final step is taken. There was an attempt by our Soviet friends to make a special point of the Ruhr, but my attitude has been all through that we must not only know what is happening in the Ruhr, but what is happening in Saxony, in Thuringia and everywhere else, including the French and American zones.
That brings me to the point of the present situation which is causing so much difficulty. The Potsdam Agreement envisaged Germany being treated as a whole, which meant that the surplus food supplies of the East would feed the West, and the goods of the West would go to the East, and so on; and sufficient earnings would be produced, so that Germany would not be a charge on any of the Allies. That was the basis. We, His Majesty's Government, cannot accept the position which involves a budgetary expenditure of £80 million a year to subsidise Germany. We cannot accept the position that the Soviet zone is an exclusive place, while our zone alone is wide open for inspection, and we are subject to accusations for which there is not the slightest justification. As soon as that point of principle is settled, as I hope it will be, and there is a real, honest endeavour to tackle the whole problem, I believe that we can make progress on the German situation.
In addition, we have had great trouble and great difficulties over the level of German industry. I had my view, when I was a member of the Coalition Government, and I see no reason to change it now. The facts are the same. I came to the conclusion that Germany should be allowed to produce 11 million tons of steel 1846 for rehabilitation. This was the yardstick for determining the level of her industry. I believe that was the unanimous decision among us, after months and months of weary study. We were first offered a capacity of 5.8 million tons of steel. That amount produced in Germany would mean £100 million expenditure on our Budget, subsidising Germany, because the steel production determines the level of practically all the other industries in the country. Therefore, I had to fight very hard, and, finally, the capacity was settled at 7½ million tons. I accepted this with great misgivings, but had in mind the reservation that, if it did not turn out right, we could reopen. Of course, we shall not reach 7½ million tons for some time, but I still think that it may have to be revised. If, on the other hand, as I have figured it, 11 million tons of steel capacity seems dangerous on security grounds, the solution would appear to be to place the Ruhr, where the bulk of steel capacity exists, under international control. This would take the sting or danger out of the Ruhr, and allow it to become not a German industry but a European industry, which would develop the life of the community of all the peoples of Europe. I would limit the Ruhr production, so far as I could, to partially manufactured commodities, allowing the finishing end to be spread all over Europe. After all, it is the finishing end of this industry which is most quickly convertible into war potential.
May I turn—I am very sorry to be so long—to another very vexed problem which has agitated the public, and that was the proposal to call a conference of the 21 nations, in the event of our not being able to agree in Paris. The United States and ourselves came to the conclusion—and this is not " ganging-up "— that we could not go on in a state of war for ever. Have we the moral right to say to the rest of the 21 nations, who were actively engaged in the fighting, and who, it has been agreed, should be brought in to discuss the treaties, " You must go on in a state of war for ever because we four gentlemen cannot agree "? Really, that is an intolerable situation. The purpose of the Four Power meetings was, as I understand it, to facilitate the making of peace and not to obstruct it. If the four cannot agree, it seems to me a perfectly reasonable and democratic proposal to let daylight into 1847 the problems by the rest of the 21 nations involved expressing their views, and, out of their views, possibly finding a solution. His Majesty's Government, able as we are, do not claim to have a monopoly of judgment. There are other countries, if not other parties, which may be of inestimable value in finding a solution to these problems. M. Molotov's attitude was that the proposal would end in two conferences. I tried to fathom this out, and, in the end, I came to the conclusion that what he meant was two opinions. Therefore, you cannot move at all if there is a diversity of opinion.
It is very difficult for us to accept rule by one party or one opinion. It is an intolerable situation, and we shall never get peace, if that goes on. Our position is that if we cannot get agreement of the four in the Council of Foreign Ministers, we should take our work before the conference of 21—both the drafts we have agreed, and the questions on which we have failed to agree—and if we still cannot get agreement on calling the conference of 21, it is obvious that the world cannot be left in this undecided state. We cannot be forced to aquiesce in a indefinite stalemate. We must regularise our relations with the ex-enemy countries. It cannot go on very much longer. There have been, in the course of these difficulties, other ideas promulgated, but I will not pronounce an opinion upon them now. I propose to make another effort at agreement before deciding on any final or alternative form.
If I may lead this tour of the horizon from the troubles of Europe, to those of the Middle East and Far East, I had better stop on my way because I know that hon. Members are interested in Palestine. The report of the Palestine Committee has been carefully studied by the United States and the British Governments. It has been circulated to the Jews and the Arabs. We await their observations, Which I hope, in spite of public statements and demonstrations, will be constructive and assist in finding a permanent solution of this problem.
I have been asked, as this Debate was coming on, to deal with Indonesia. The return to Batavia at the beginning of May of the Lieut.-Governor-General, Dr. Van Mook, marks a new stage in the long drawn out negotiations between the Dutch 1848 and the Indonesians. I say to the Dutch and Indonesians that I hope this will prove the final stage. I do not propose to give the House details of these negotiations because they are primarily the concern of the two parties affected, but the House will, however, be aware from the reports of the Debates in the Netherlands States General last month that the Dutch approved the policy of the late Netherlands Government as regards the grant of autonomy to the Netherlands East Indies. I am anxious that all British Forces should be withdrawn from the Netherlands East Indies as soon as possible. While the military task of evacuating Allied prisoners of war and internees and Japanese Forces from the interior of Java is proceeding slowly and steadily, it has not yet been completed, but I hope that it will not be delayed too long. This Indonesian problem has given us a good deal of anxiety.
I do not propose today—I will leave it to other speakers—to deal with the question of Japan. But after dwelling on the vast problem of Europe and the Paris Conference, I did not intend today to broaden the Debate any further, except to make one reference to our work in the Far East in dealing with the great problem of food supplies and its effect on economic policy in that area. It will be remembered that I reported to the House that we found it necessary to set up a Special Commission for South-East Asia in Singapore. Lord Killearn was put in charge of this and has had to set on foot the vigorous campaign for improving the production and distribution of food as a defence against the famine which threatens South-East Asia, as well as India and China, and which affects the whole political situation in that territory. In order to provide efficient machinery to help him a special Cabinet Committee was set up, under Lord Nathan, to concert action here at home. Since Lord Nathan's arrival he has had two conferences, one food and one on nutrition at Singapore. The whole problem is being studied afresh.
As a result of those conferences we have been given a clear picture of the extent of hunger and under-nourishment in South-East Asia, and many important measures have been taken for increasing production and improving the distribution of foodstuffs within the framework of the Combined Food Board's allocations. The 1849 primary object of these measures has been to increase the acreage sown with rice and other crops We have aimed at introducing more stable economic conditions, with a greater flow of supplies as an incentive to the cultivator. Inducement goods have been provided in the shape of tools and equipment and consumer goods, such as textiles, etc. An agreement has been concluded with the Siamese Government for the purchase of 1,200,000 tons of rice during the next twelve months, and we have taken steps to rehabilitate the Siamese internal transport and railway system. The Government of Burma have been able to makeavailable several hundred thousands tons of old rice. The Netherlands East Indies have agreed to sell some 500,000 tons of unmilled rice, but apart from the immediate question of food, Lord Killearn has taken over from Admiral Mountbatten many of the coordinating economic functions which the Supreme Commander exercised. I felt it was important that these should not be allowed to lapse, even after the resumption of civil government. There is one essential thing in the Far East in my view, and that is the coordination of our effort over the whole of that territory, to contribute as far as we can to improve the standard of life there.
Finally, if I may go back again, I find from Press reports that we are alleged to have indulged in a bloc. I gather the interpretation is that we are engaged in some conspiracy for acquiring bases in various islands of the Pacific and Atlantic areas. The way it is put out to the world would impute a very sinister ring to what is a. very straightforward affair. In the course of the war which has just closed, the United States Government established bases, on a number of islands administered by Governments of the British Commonwealth, for the sole purpose of prosecuting the war against the common enemy, and with the willing consent of the Governments concerned. They spent a lot of money on those bases, and naturally they want to know our views about their future status and maintenance. Quite apart from any question of their future military value, many of those places are important from the point of view of civil aviation. We have been discussing all this with the United States and the Dominions. I hope we shall be able to make arrangements which will be to the general interest, and I trust that what I have said 1850 will prevent any further ill-grounded suggestions that we are engaged in some sort of conspiracy in this matter.
As I am on the subject of bases, I should like to call attention to the announcement made this morning that the British and United States war time air bases in the Azores were handed over to the Portuguese Government on Sunday, 2nd June. As the House will be aware, these facilities in the Azores were granted to us and the United States in 1943 and 1944 respectively, on the understanding that British and American forces would be withdrawn at the end of the war. The use of these facilities contributed materially to the success of the Allied war effort, and I should like to take this opportunity to place on record the very great assistance rendered to the Allied cause by the Portuguese Government in granting these facilities, which proved of very great value not only in connection with the war against the U-boats, but also in assisting the passage of aircraft and supplies from the Western hemisphere to the European and Far Eastern areas. In this way the 600-year-old Anglo-Portuguese Alliance once again proved its value.
In conclusion, I repeat that I am not unduly pessimistic. I do not think that it will be impossible for us at our next meeting to arrive at agreed conclusions. There is no real and insurmountable division. If all parties will try, Europe can revive and security for all can be provided. But they must try; we can and we must, if everybody is willing, bridge the gap now existing between the East and the West, since otherwise the peace will be no more durable than that after 1919. The disadvantages of such a state of affairs both to the West and to the East would only be too apparent. For only so can relations of real- confidence be established, and real confidence involves mutual respect and trust. It has been said in the past that East and West will never meet. The science of man has settled that. Not only must we meet, we must understand and learn to co-operate. It is my belief that mutual respect and confidence is now in the process of formation. The task is admittedly difficult. I cannot promise success at the next conference, but I will do my best, in the interests of the common people of the world, to deserve it.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I am sure the House will be grateful to 1851 the right hon. Gentleman for his massive review of events in the foreign sphere, and for the serious and important contribution which he has made to our Debates. His speech takes its place in the trilogy of utterances of the Foreign Ministers of the three major Allies, and I think we welcome what he says and shall take due note of it and examine it in detail. I am sure the House will sympathise with me in having to follow immediately after so complicated and lengthy a pronouncement. I cannot be expected to traverse it in every detail, nor need I detain the House unduly long. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that peacemaking is a privilege. We might also say that it is a penance, a long drawn out and tedious affair, full of the anxieties through which the right hon. Gentleman has passed and through which he will undoubtedly still have to pass. I am sure that it is right to strike the note that patience is necessary. I should like to re-echo what was said by Mr. Byrnes, in his broadcast statement, that we are not likely to see any " flashing diplomatic triumphs." Nevertheless, through the path of patience and hard work, much may be done, and this Debate will be valuable if we contribute of our best to it.
The right hon. Gentleman made comparison with 1918. I have been inclined to look even further back, to an even greater peacemaking, after the Napoleonic wars. It took place amid difficulties similar to those which are facing the right hon. Gentleman today. In the period immediately following it, our Foreign Secretary, Canning, wrote to one of his ambassadors:What is the influence we have had in the counsels of the Allies, and which Prince Metternch exhorts us to be careful not to throw away? We protested at Laibach, we remonstrated at Verona. Our protests were treated as waste paper and our remonstrances mingled with the air.The right hon. Gentleman must sometimes feel that his protests are treated as waste paper and that his remonstrances mingle with the air. Despite those humiliating sensations I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that some of our most distinguished Foreign Secretaries, his predecessors, have had to go through similar experiences to those through which he is passing today, and that they have, in the end, as was the case with that particular Conference, secured peace terms which re- 1852 sulted in as long a period without war as our modern history has shown. We can only trust, if the right hon. Gentleman's diplomacy does not confine itself to protests and remonstrances, but consists in the active building of friendships, that we may perhaps be successful on this occasion.
Despite discouragement, the right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, press ahead with a rather more positive policy than he has been able to announce in his speech this afternoon. He has of necessity been obliged to establish the British position upon a great many subjects and in a great many directions. We agree with him that our ultimate objective should be the restoration of the rule of law and of international machinery; but we also add to that the need for a more positive policy in preserving the interests and the way of living which we share with the common inheritors of the traditions of our Western civilisation, interests with which the future of this country is intimately concerned. Certain of my remarks will be directed to making more positive suggestions than the right hon. Gentleman, in his responsible position, feels able to make today, towards cementing closely the bonds of friendship with our Western neighbours In that way, any speeches that we may contribute from this side of the House will dovetail in with those of the right hon. Gentleman.
Before I come to that aspect of my remarks, I would say a few words about some aspects of the international problems mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, we have no quarrel with his description of the legitimate aspirations of the Russian people, and, in particular, of their search for warm seas, which is a historic necessity and a historic need of the Russian people. W3 do not quarrel with the suggestion of the revision of the Montreux Convention. We very much support what the right hon. Gentleman said about the need for maintaining the independence of Turkey. In addition to what the right hon. Gentleman said, I also hope that it may be the case that the pressure—for one can call it nothing else—coming upon Turkey from her Eastern boundary, from Azerbaijan, will be modified, so that the tension under which the Turkish Government are living at the moment and the economic stress which is resulting in the country, may be somewhat mitigated.
1853 We similarly support the right hon. Gentleman's plea for the freeing of the waterways of Europe and, in particular, of the Danube. We would desire to see, as soon as possible, Austria free and the Austrian Treaty ratified. We would go further and desire to see more progress made with the Italian Treaty, to which the right hon. Gentleman had not the opportunity to devote a great deal of time. It is three years since Italy signed the armistice. For a year and a-half the Italian Forces assisted ours in driving the enemy from the soil of Italy. Now the Italian elections are over, and it is to be hoped that Italy may take her place in the society of democratic nations. In this connection I support the right hon. Gentleman's plea for coming to a conclusion in these questions of peace treaties, and for not letting these matters dangle too long, despite the fact that in the immediate future the right hon. Gentleman is, quite rightly, proposing to give another opportunity to the Big Four to settle the matter, if they can.
In the matter of the Italian Colonies, I feel that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who is unable to be here today, would wish to support the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman about our pledges to the Senussi. In general, leaving aside the details with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal, we do not see very much with which to quarrel in his statement about the Italian colonies.
Before I come to the point about closer friendship with our Western neighbours, I want to refer to remarks which the right hon. Gentleman made about the Middle East and the Far East. We welcome the statement he has made on plans for increasing the supply of food. I welcome the activities of Lord Killearn. We wish to hear from the Government—I want to be quite emphatic here—their attitude on Far Eastern problems. We have raised this question in more than one foreign affairs Debate, and so far we have elicited no statement from the Government as to the situation in the Far East or to their attitude to the problems there. The right hon. Gentleman said that questions might be asked. I would ask him what the position is in Japan. Is there any proposition for the appointment of a British political officer in Japan, to take his place and to play his part? I trust that may be so. At present we feel that we are not fully 1854 and properly represented in that country. Further, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the internal position:n Japan? Can he enlarge upon it by giving us some description of the position in China and Manchuria. I understand that, as a result of General Marshall's mediation, the situation in Honan and Shantung has definitely improved and that the position in Manchuria is quieter. If that be the case, we should like confirmation of it from Government sources.
I would like to ask whether our trade position is being watched in China, so that our trade may expand in those regions. Are our consuls re-established in their positions in China? Have they re-established their contacts? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is our intention to send any sort of mission to the Far East for the purpose of developing our trade there? Leaving the Far East, I would ask similar questions about South America. Is it proposed, and has any step been taken by diplomatic initiative, to improve the opportunities and chances for our trade in South America? Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to tell us about the situation in South America? That is a brief survey of the ground which the right hon. Gentleman covered in his massive review.
Now I come to the main part of what I want to say, and I begin to deal with the central problem of all, that is, the problem of Germany. I remember M. Litvinov making the statement that peace is indivisible. We are ready to accept that as the philosophy which should animate not only ourselves, but our Russian friends as well, in dealing with this central of all the problems in foreign policy at the present time. However, I trust that the Soviet Government will not make a paraphrase of that motto of Lord Curzon which we used to find on our passports some years ago, after the last war. The paraphrase which differs from the original would run, " Let us have what we now hold."That would indeed be a most unfortunate alternative motto. Let us, therefore, adhere to the maxim laid down by M. Litvinov that peace is indivisible. It would be tragic if the peace settlement were merely a registration of those frontier lines upon which the victorious armies finally stabilised their positions. I do not wish to support Mr. Lippmann's opinions, in view of his recent extraordinary statements about the supposed 1855 activities of the British in the British zone of Germany, and their use—which perhaps he may not have foreseen—by Russian propaganda. But I would like to borrow from one of Mr. Lippmann's recent articles a phrase in which, in his inimitable style, he invites his own State Department to invest in the central issue of Germany " a fraction of the brain power, the nervous energy and the moral passion that they have devoted to secondary issues."That invitation could equally well be given to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends at the present time.
There is no doubt that the central problem at the present time is the question of Germany. The right hon. Gentleman, very rightly, in our view, welcomed Mr. Byrnes' proposal for a 25 years' disarmament treaty. I had intended to ask the right hon. Gentleman for an explanation of his extraordinary caution over this proposal. As far as I know, from my sources, which, as the right hon. Gentleman will realise, are almost entirely the public Press, these ideas were put forward as early as 20th September, 1945. But the right hon. Gentleman has explained that the question was put to him in private, and that he was aware of it, and that he was not, therefore, put into a position to be able to come out more positively in favour of that proposal during the course of the recent meeting. The right hon. Gentleman has made his explanation, and he has now more than made up for any lack of time by his generous tribute to the proposal and to the great idealism of the American people which animated such a proposal. He has, in homely language, used the expression, "Don't miss it."That, I think, is a sentiment which we should all support. This proposal is one of very great importance, and we on this side would like to support the initiative, and encourage the British Government from now on to support it to the full. We welcome the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that it should develop into a Four-Power Pact.
But what we are not quite so happy about was the inability of the right hon. Gentleman to go any further today, at any rate in giving us more detailed views about the future of Germany. We agree at once that his proposal that the Powers of the West should get together to make some preliminary investigation is a sensible one. Without the Powers of the West 1856 getting together to discuss these matters, it would be impossible to reach any sensible solution. We also support strongly the right hon. Gentleman's view that there should not be set up a strong centralised Germany. I have read some particularly excellent articles by M. Francois Poncet, giving the French point of view, which indicate that it was the militarists and the junkers who went for a centralised Germany, whereas it was the democrats and others who went for the federal type of Germany. I hope and believe that the French will be in general sympathy with this idea, providing its details are worked out to their satisfaction. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might go further in making proposals for some sort of federalised Germany, and I trust the fact that he has not been able to go further today means that he may be able to consider this and go further on another occasion. Surely, it would be a very sensible solution of the German problem that there should be areas, such as Schleswig-Holstein and the Hanseatic area, Greater Hanover and the vital area, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, of the Rhineland and the Ruhr and perhaps Westphalia, which should be units within this federation and which should aim eventually to link up with units from the other side of what at present is the line of division. These units should then join together in some sort of over-all customs union, and, as a vital feature of the plan—to which the right hon. Gentleman did refer—the industrial area, including the arsenal of the Ruhr, should be internationalised. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman could not go further with that actual conception, but he did give us an indication that it was at least in his mind. I agree with him, as I am sure many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will do, that the Saar should eventually go to France.
But where we are perhaps more disappointed is that the right hon. Gentleman has not given, to me, at any rate, an impression—which I am sure is present in his mind, because he must be seized of the terrible problems which are facing us in Germany at the present time—that he has an alternative plan in his mind to take the place of the Potsdam Agreement. The Potsdam Agreement was based on the fundamentally sensible conception that German unity in the economic sphere shall be regarded as a 1857 necessity, for the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman gave, namely, that Saxony and Thuringia need steel from the Ruhr, and the workers of the Ruhr need food from East of the present line. If that be accepted, we realise that that must be the ultimate aim. As lately as 10th May, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that quadrilateral control would be the Government's objective for the time being; but the fact is that this system and that plan are not working out as they were intended to work out, and that something like an economic morass is likely to occur in Germany, a position as sombre as the imagination can paint, unless we are ready with plans in the event of the ideal of a plan of a united economy not working out. It seems to me that if the overall aim cannot be obtained, the Government should immediately set about making the areas of a future German federation, which lie within our control, viable in the economic sphere. The position in the British zone is very serious, as anybody knows who has visited the zone recently. It is said that many of the 500,000 irrepatriables are in the British zone. In this connection, I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, who is to reply, what the Government propose to do with regard to the Sub-Committee of the United Nations which has reported upon displaced persons, and whether it is their intention that the International Refugees Organisation shall eventually be attached to the United Nations.
When one looks at the British zone and at the question of reparations, one begins to sec the strength that there is in the British zone itself. For example, no less than 262 of the plants scheduled for reparations to go to the various countries, including Russia, are within the British zone; there are only 174 in the American zone, and from 20 to 30 in the French zone. This indicates in itself the industrial potential that there is within the British zone, and that we are, in fact, interested as to over 50 per cent. in the problem of reparations. If that be the case, I should like to ask whether it is the Government's intention to follow up the recent American démarche in the suspension of these reparations and in holding them up at the present time.
If it is their intention to follow the American policy, and if they are con- 1858 templating positive moves to restore the economic position in the British zone—I suggest such a step should be a part of a wider agreed scheme of economic reform to take the place of the Potsdam Agreement itself. I am sure if the right hon. Gentleman were to tackle this, as I am sure he intends to do, with bigger determination, he would have the support and sympathy of many on all sides of the House. I cannot help thinking—and I do not want to be mealy mouthed in this matter—that the whole of our British prestige is involved in the manner in which we administer our zone in Germany, and a bigger drive ought to be undertaken than is contemplated at present. We have not been satisfied with the answers given in this House in Question and answer and in small Debates on this question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself deplored the immense amount of money we have had to spend in the area. It would not be so bad spending those vast sums of money if we were satisfied that a bigger drive was being undertaken and that this area was and will be a credit to British administration and to the British name.
I should like to agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks on the importance of associating France with any re-creation of Germany or with any question dealing with the central problem of Europe. The French attitude, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, is usually severely practical. The French will be more interested in taking a share in the potential means of recovery, and not simply in accepting from the right hon. Gentleman a promise of security. Therefore, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will approach this problem of closer friendship with France from the angle of German reconstruction. In the first place our relations with France have gone on for something like 150 years without ever being really formalised. But now in my view the needs of Europe, of Britain and of France demand that the right hon. Gentleman should double the rôles of Cobden and Lansdowne; by that I mean that the right hon. Gentleman should come to an understanding with France and should take into consideration the whole of the economic aspect as well as the political aspect. There has been a great deal of loose talk about closer understanding with France. I am not referring now to the right hon. Gentleman, but that 1859 loose talk has been in the country and in the Press. If we are to have closer understanding with France we must realise that unless we associate France with the problem of Germany, we shall not have any satisfactory understanding. In the second place, we shall have to realise there must be some aspect of economic aid. The recent financial agreement, which bears all the stamp of the Treasury in its most astute and keen mood with its cash and carry aspect, has not been, to put it mildly, very well received in France, and the right hon. Gentleman will, I think, have to consider sterling credits if he is to restore the position in that direction. Similarly, what is often forgotten in closer understanding with France is that it will be necessary to consider the Arab world and African policy. Therefore, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will pursue a closer relationship with France now that the elections are over and the French are moving in a direction which means a return to normal conditions.
I trust that closer relationship with France will form a part of a wider understanding amongst the countries of Europe. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington spoke on 21st February he asked the right hon. Gentleman what progress he was making in this direction. The last message the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington gave to me was " Put that question again to the right hon. Gentleman." We have heard very little of progress in this direction. I should like to feel that the right hon. Gentleman in his task of making positive friendship was drawing much closer to some of those countries in Western Europe with whom we have shared so much and do share so much of our common civilisation. I should like to look to some sort of—and this is a name familiar to the right hon. Gentleman—" cooperative society " among the nations of Western Europe. I use that phrase not only to excite the sympathy and interest of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, but to attempt to show that the objective of such a move would not endanger or damage any other single power in the world. There should be nothing less dangerous than the conception of drawing closer to our Western neighbours. Such a society or such a federation would be based on the culture traditions of 1860 Western Christendom and cemented by political and economic ties specifically provided for in Article 52 of the Charter of the United Nations. Our major Allies themselves have developed intimate relations, the one with their sister Americans and the other with their immediate neighbours in the West. I cannot but feel that in one case such a course, if adopted with far more determination and far more drive than the Government have already given or shown, would be very much to the interests of Great Britain at the present time and very much to the interest of the other countries concerned.
I promised not to detain the House too long, so I will conclude by saying that our aim on this side of the House is to encourage British diplomacy to take the initiative rather more than is indicated in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and not to beat the air or be too cautious. In our relationships with the United States, with Western Europe, with the Far East, or with South America they should go ahead and widen the existing friendships. While our main object should be to restore international law and morality, the right hon. Gentleman should meanwhile set about the tasks nearer at hand in a more positive way than that which he has been able to give us any indication of today. M. Saurat, writing a letter as recently as 22nd May, said:If there must be two camps in Europe they must collaborate.I think that was the message of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, M. Saurat went on to say:In order to make both camps in Europe collaborate they must exist.In our view, the Government are not taking positive enough steps to make the camp to which we belong exist, and to do more than exist—to live to the full an economic, political, cultural and spiritual life, the traditions of which go back so far in the history of our Western civilisation.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)
In rising to address the House for the first time, I would ask for the indulgence which the House always gives so generously to a Member making his maiden speech. I feel all the more hesitant about intervening in this Debate after hearing the Foreign Secretary's account of the appalling responsibilities which face him and which face the 1861 statesmen of the world today. It is quite clear that as he surveys the present international situation, he must regard each problem as an essential part of a general pattern. The House does not need me to stress this point, but I do mention it because of the two problems to which I wish to refer today. I mention them because they play a part in that overall pattern—that pattern of foreign policy which has to be smoothed out in order to enable us to achieve the necessary balance and prospect of peace.
The first subject to which I wish to refer is Austria, and I do so with some delicacy and hesitancy in view of what the Foreign Secretary had to say. But there are many Members, especially on this side of the House, who feel most anxious and most saddened by the refusal of the recent Conference to allow the prospect of the return of the South Tyrol to Austria. I well realise that the difficulties in satisfying Italian demands, or I should say in maintaining the life of Italy, are very great, but, nevertheless, I think we have a special responsibility towards Austria, because it was through our weakness in 1938 that Austria was overrun by Germany. I was in Berlin in those. painful days of February and March, 1938, and it was clear then unless a decisive word was spoken by this country Austria would be lost.—and Austria was lost. I therefore feel that we have a special responsibility for that unhappy country.
If it were possible today to achieve a true federation of the world it would not be necessary to talk about returning bits of territory to one country from another, but that situation does not exist, and in those circumstances the old saying that if Austria had not existed it would have been necessary to create her, is still good today. I feel that it is in our interests, as well as in the interests of justice and right principles, that we should do our utmost to strengthen the position of Austria. The Foreign Secretary spoke movingly of the feeling that he and those of us on this side of the House have for our social democratic brothers in Austria. The Social Democrats in Austria are united with all parties in their request, their demand, for the return of the South Tyrol as being essential for the consolidation of Austria. I do not want to say more on that, except to mention that in so far as there is a pattern in our foreign 1862 affairs, I believe that Austria is as important to our Middle East position as Italy, or any of the other countries which we are striving to support and encourage in these difficult days.
I would like to refer to a matter which has not been discussed in this Debate. It is one which I and others believe to be of the greatest importance to international relations. It is the much discussed subject of the international control of atomic energy. There is, at least, some reason to believe that our earlier policy with regard to control of atomic power was one of the causes of Russian suspicion, that suspicion which the Foreign Secretary today said he is willing to attempt to allay. I do not propose to go into the rights or wrongs of the decision which was taken last year, because I believe that this country did attempt to give a lead to the world on the subject, and that when the; Prime Minister took the initiative in instigating the action which led to the declaration of November, 1943, that represented a genuine effort on the part of this country.
The main point of that declaration, which stressed the need for international control of atomic energy, seems to have been forgotten here. We have lagged behind America, because in the last few months a very remarkable report has been produced by the American Lilienthal Committee. Their report seems to have escaped notice in this country, certainly official comment. There is good reason to believe that this report may be adopted by the American Government, and be put forward by their delegate to the U.N.O. Commission on atomic energy. It amounts to the first real proposal for international Socialism, and I know Members opposite will forgive me for calling it international Socialism, since one of them has just suggested a " Cooperative Party " for European nations. I am sure they will agree with the proposals in that report, that control should be effected, not by a mere system of inspection, but by international ownership of the main atomic production plants, as well as of the necessary raw materials.
I believe these proposals are a remarkable advance towards that international cooperation for which we are striving. I think we all recognise that international rivalry, in economic as well as military affairs, is one of the main causes of fear 1863 and suspicion. Historically, this has always been true, and it is just as true today. In fact, fear of the use of atomic weapons has heightened that rivalry, has made it more intense, so that the need for obtaining control over certain raw materials, which was part of the vicious circle which led to both world wars, applies just as much, if not more so, to those substances, uranium and thorium. Rich sources of those materials are to be found in relatively few parts of the world, and I believe that by allowing this vital problem to be solved on a national competitive basis there may result tensions of such a nature that the world may be threatened without any overt action or any deliberate action of power politics on the part of any country in the world. The Lilienthal report, which I have not time to discuss in detail today, suggests that international control of atomic energy would not be possible as a result of a mere system of inspection. The report urges that if an international agency can be set up, which will be engaged in its development and operation, it will be able, far better than a national system, or system of pure control, to discharge the proper functions of safeguarding the world's future by safeguarding its fears of the use of the atomic bomb.
It has therefore been proposed, in this report, that an international agency should be set up with express jurisdiction to conduct all intrinsically dangerous operations in the field of atomic energy. That means all activities relating to raw materials, the construction and operation of production plants, the conducting of research and the making of explosives. It is possible to allow a large measure of atomic energy research, and the use of atomic energy for power, to be handled and developed by national agencies, provided that certain dangerous operations are controlled and owned by this international authority. I believe that in this plan lies the most fruitful prospect for the future. In it I can see one of the few opportunities for positive action towards peace that lie in front of us today. If we adopt these proposals, if we can give them encouragement, there is a positive line of international development. I believe that the setting up of a sort of super-national authority would represent a definite step towards that world federation which many of us believe to be in- 1864 evitable, and the only possible future for the nations of the world.
I should therefore like to ask that the Government should make some statement on their attitude towards this report. I believe it is vital that the whole world should know where we stand in the matter, and I also think that such a gesture would be of the greatest significance in the present world situation. I am so convinced of this that I earnestly pray that we will strive as hard as we possibly can, by publicising our attitude and by working for it, to create some sort of organisation such as is proposed by the Lilienthal Report, because that will represent the first tangible sign of an effective United Nations organisation, and it will then take a concrete form in which the Powers who today seem to be in such a sorry state of disagreement can find a real measure of common ground.
I conclude by quoting from the introduction written by the distinguished board of consultants who produced the report:We have concluded our deliberations on this most difficult problem, not in a spirit of hopelessness and despair, but with a measure of confidence. … It is worth contrasting the sense of hope and confidence which all of us share today with the feeling which we had at the outset. The vast difficulties of the problem were oppressive, and we early concluded that we could only make recommendations and stress the limitations of the proposals, but, as we steeped ourselves in the facts and caught the feel of the nature of the problem we became more hopeful. That hopefulness grew not out of any preconceived " solution " but out of a patient and time-consuming analysis and understanding of the facts that throw light on the numerous alternatives that we explored.So, five men of widely different backgrounds and experiences who were far apart at the outset found themselves, at the end of a month's absorption in this problem, in general agreement. That Committee say that they believe that others may have a similar experience if a similar process is followed and a similar determination shown. I believe that this is a message of hope to the world, and that the experience of the men who produced that report may be of value not only because it provides a practical solution to the most serious problem that confronts us in international affairs today, but also because that approach may ultimately enable others to tackle the problems that face us throughout the world and enable them to be solved in the same way that 1865 this problem of atomic energy can be solved, provided we make up our minds to base our decisions and our actions on the United Nations Organisation
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
It is my happy privilege to be able to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) upon his maiden speech. He has chosen a subject which will certainly occupy the discussions of this House on many occasions in the future, and I am sure that the House will look forward to his contributions upon that subject whenever it is discussed. I think hon. Members will probably all agree that the Lilienthal Report to which he has referred is a most valuable contribution towards the task of preventing the new discoveries connected with atomic energy from proving to be the destruction of the world. I am sure the whole House will join with me in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on the way he has made his maiden speech.
I was happy to hear the speech of the Foreign Secretary and to follow the lines of his argument. At these international conferences he has certainly stepped far above the position of being a mere party representative, and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) this afternoon indicated how far the Minister, in his attitude at the Paris Conference, had represented the views of both sides of the House. I was happy in particular to hear what he had to say about Italy. We have not yet seen what the revised Armistice terms are but I hope they will be found to relieve Italy of most of the onerous obligations put upon her when fighting came to an end. The Foreign Secretary said some time ago, in reply to a supplementary question, that he felt that Italy had worked her passage home, and the Under-Secretary, in the course of a brief speech upon the Adjournment the other night, indicated that the attitude of His Majesty's Government to Italy is one of great good will.
What the Foreign Secretary said today clearly indicated, I think, that he will continue in the meetings of the Big Three to defend Italy from the demands both for the cession of Trieste and for the payment of reparations. When one considers how much greater were the losses inflicted 1866 by Italy upon the British Empire than upon Russia, and when one recalls that we are not making any claims for reparations but, on the contrary, are doing all we can out of our own resources to restore Italy to prosperity, it would indeed be monstrous if that contribution were made still more onerous in order that reparations coud be received by another country which has suffered so much less severely at the hands of Italy than we ourselves.
It was about Germany that I wanted especially to speak this afternoon. I had once thought that statesmen would net again make the same blunders that they made at the end of the Four Years War. I knew that blunders would be made, but I thought that they would probably be the opposite blunders. However, the Potsdam Agreement far exceeded in folly the economic clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. It was unfortunate that Lord Keynes, being too busily occupied with other matters, and being also in the service of the Government, was not able to write a sequel to "The Economic Consequences of the Peace " and entitle it, "The Economic Consequences of Potsdam," but already the economic consequences of Potsdam are plain for anyone to see.
I think that even if the Potsdam Agreement had been carried out in full the idea of the de-industrialising of Germany was folly from the beginning. I believe that if there is to be a prosperous and happy Europe, it is essential that Germany should remain a great industrial country. Peace is not to be found by reducing a great country to a state of economic misery. I fully accept what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon; I agree with him that it is important that there should not be re-created a politically strong and united Germany because that would at once again become a menace to the peace of the world, and I welcome therefore what he said about the idea of a number of federated German States. If that is done, there can really be no justification for the deliberate de-industrialisation of Germany.
That is made even more obvious when we remember that most of the countries surrounding Germany are expelling their German minorities. I make no complaint about that. The German minorities in nearly every country proved to be a source of danger and unrest, and I believe 1867 that the policy of exchange of populations is one which can, with advantage, be applied. At the end of the Four Years War it was applied between Turkey and Greece, and the relations between those two countries have been uniformly friendly ever since. If these German minorities are to be expelled from their countries, it is essential to give Germany the industrial capacity to reabsorb them. When, finally, we remember that 12 to 15 per cent. of the prewar income of Germany came from those Eastern lands which have been annexed by Poland, clearly it would be impossible for Germany to remain in any kind of normal existence unless it were able to retain its industry. But foolish as the Potsdam agreements, in my submission, were, they were at any rate not so foolish as to imagine that that policy could be carried out unless Germany did remain a united whole. That is exactly what has not happened. As the Foreign Secretary described to us in detail today, the different zones in Germany have been divided and we have every reason to believe that the great food-raising areas which are in Russian control are exporting food to Russia while the British zone is suffering from something approaching famine.
I recognise that the Government find themselves in an extremely difficult position. What means of pressure can we bring to bear to re-establish the unity of Germany in a general industrial sense? What indeed can we do to get Russia to join in the general pool for the distribution of food? I put a Question to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs the other day and learnt that U.N.R.R.A. is sending large quantities of food for the relief of the Ukraine. We know that Russia has sold large quantities of grain to France. I read in the paper that a large quantity of grain had been sent from Russia to Czechoslovakia, and I read at.the same time—I want to give the whole picture as I see it—that Russia was now shipping a certain amount of grain for the assistance of the American zone. Again, in answer to another question, we find that in the case of linseed oil, the Ministry of Food is unable to obtain the linseed oil which is required not only for ourselves but also for the other countries within the Empire for which we provide food and necessities. 1868 because Russia is buying in competition and is paying higher prices to the Argentine for linseed oil. Russia is able to do so because Russia has not come into the general United Nations Agreement. What are we to say about a state of affairs of this kind?
This country is responsible for the most highly industrialised part of Germany. The recovery of Europe is dependent on a great increase in output of coal from the Ruhr. Instead of the output of coal increasing, it is at the present time de creasing, and largely because of the short age of food. This shortage of food is partly due to the world-wide shortage of supplies. It is accentuated by the arbitrary breaking up of the industrial system of Germany. I believe that the policy which Russia is following at the present time is one of complete indifference to what happens in Western Europe. The increasing distress—
§ Mr. Molson
—would be to the advantage of Russia. First, because Russia has always regarded Europe as being the base from which a number of invasions have been mounted, and, second, because they realise that it is upon the break up of civilisation, and the acute hardship of unemployment and shortage of food that there rests the best chances for the extension of Communism.
§ Mr. Molson
I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary say that he has in mind the urgency of settling the Western frontiers of Germany, To that end, I gather, he is already in negotiation with the French Government. The best hope for the future of Western Europe depends upon a close political and economic understanding between ourselves and France. There have been differences between us— there remain differences of method— but in the great broad issues there must be agreement between us. We have both suffered twice within one generation from the militarism of Germany, and no settlement of Europe can be satisfactory which holds out any danger of a revival of that menace. But in order to remove the political menace of a militaristic Germany, it is not necessary to wreck a great economic system or to 1869 destroy a people. If European civilisation is to survive, it can only be by bringing together Western Europe, and by treating at any rate the American, French and British zones of Germany as a single unit. I hope that the Foreign Secretary when he goes back to the Conference which is to be resumed on 15th June, will, first of all, do all that is possible to obtain agreement with his Russian colleague, but if agreement is not to be obtained, I hope he will remember that the safety and prosperity and good name of this country depend upon doing something to save our zone in Germany from collapse, and to rebuild the economic and political stability of Western Europe as a whole.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
I begin by offering my hearty congratulations to the Foreign Secretary on the powerful and impressive speech he made this afternoon in his survey of the whole field of our international relations. I say that for a particular reason, because, before I have finished what I am going to say, I shall probably be criticising him very heavily in one particular respect. The Foreign Secretary, with that commonsense which illuminates his speeches, says so many things with which I am in hearty agreement, that I find it particularly difficult to voice the points on which I am in disagreement with him, but tonight I shall do so. I cannot hope, in the time that any back bencher may claim in a Debate like this, to traverse the whole field that he covered. I want to make only one general observation, therefore, and then I shall pass to a specific subject in which I am specially interested.
The general observation is on the lines of that which was made by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). I would say to him that I am in hearty agreement with his main conclusion regarding the Potsdam declarations. I regard the Potsdam declarations as being sheer economic lunacy, and I was gratified, when listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), to detect what I think was his agreement with that proposition. He did not say in so many words that the Potsdam declarations had completely broken down and must now be swept aside, but he proceeded in his' argument to assume that that was in fact the position, because he began to erect a con- 1870 siderable structure of arguments as possible alternatives to Potsdam. I think the reason why Potsdam broke down was because of an extremely important fact, that the verbal agreements of Potsdam merely served to conceal fundamental differences in the points of view of the different Powers who were signatories to that agreement as to the ultimate objectives of the policies to which they were giving their assent.
I agree to some extent with the point of view of the hon. Member for The High Peak that there is a very great cleavage in ultimate conception as to the future of Central Europe, and particularly the future of its economic structure as between Russia and ourselves. I do not think that Russia as a great Socialist federation, largely self-supporting, with almost illimitable resources within her own country, completely independent of the limitations of a capitalist economy, need necessarily, or does in fact, view the German reconstruction in the same sense and from the same angle and as the same vital necessity as we do in Great Britain. That is a natural and inevitable consequence of the difference of the economic structures between our two countries. Therefore, I believe that Potsdam hid this fundamental disagreement in ultimate objective with regard to the fate of Central Europe and the kind of Central Europe that was desired, so that the thing was fated from its first moment to break down. It never had real meaning; the sooner, therefore, we make a new beginning on the basis of reality, recognising those fundamental differences, the sooner we may arrive at better conclusions.
I turn to the main thing that urged me to make a contribution to this Debate. With several other hon. Members of this House I have been privileged for the greater part of the last fortnight to view the scene in Vienna, and to travel through the British zones in Styria and Carinthia. In that area of Central Europe we have seen exactly the same problems as we are viewing on the larger scale in Germany because, in essence, the problems that are haunting Austria, with one or two important differences, are the same as those that are haunting and tormenting Germany. Therefore in the last fortnight, in which we have made a rather superficial examination of the results of war, we have seen, in effect, the same kind of problem as that which exists all over Central 1871 Europe. As every one knows, in Austria we have repeated the follies that we have seen instituted in Germany, the division of the country into four zones, the institution in the city of Vienna of four zones, and with even a fifth zone covering the heart of the city and called the international zone; the creation in this relatively small country of Austria of a number of artificial barriers, not only to free intercourse between the Austrian people but between the flow of the resources from one part of Austria to the other, complicating and aggravating every single economic problem which that country is now facing.
It is also in military occupation and I want to say, in case I may be misunderstood in my further comments, that from what I saw of the British Military Government and the British Army in the British zones in Austria, it is probably the least. oppressive military occupation that has ever been known in history. I think it is true to say from my own observation that it is also, in many ways, the most constructive military occupation that has ever been known in history. Nevertheless, it is a military occupation; it is compelled by that fact to act only within the prescribed ambit laid down for it and so it is bound, with the best intentions and the utmost good will—as I believe there is on our side towards the Austrians—to be a very gravely restrictive influence upon the developing life in Austria in the situation in which it is at present.
I was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary speak in the warm terms he did about Austria because I, too, knew Austria before the war. I had my own contacts among the Austrian Social Democrats over many years of comradeship, and when I went to Austria this time, and particularly to Vienna, I had a sick heart when I looked at the destruction in that once beautiful city which I liked so well, and with which I had so many contacts. What we have to realise is that in the problem which exists there, we have this complication of a ruined country, facing perfectly enormous economic problems in the rebuilding of its national prosperity, being hampered and shackled at every point by the insane form of organisation which has been established as the contribution of the four great Powers to the rehabilitation of Europe. What the Foreign Secretary said was true, that for the good of Austria, for the good of all 1872 these countries, we have at the very earliest moment to get some kind of constructive peace settlement that will free these countries, and allow them to begin their difficult march upwards toward prosperity and rehabilitation.
So much for the general situation. I turn now to a particular problem. Here we have that country with its material ruin, with its population suffering from slow starvation, as every member of the delegation knew; a population in which the fruits of malnutrition are observable in the rate of tuberculosis which is twice the normal, in the general mortality rate which is twice the normal; a population enfeebled now by 12 months of low feeding and now getting very near the starvation point.
It is a population suffering not only from these physical disabilities, but also from grave psychological sickness. It is a nation that has seen itself twice within a generation brought to utter ruin; a nation which has been sunk in despair and many sections of it—not of course the extreme Nazis, but sections with which I am particularly familiar—looked to the advance of a conquering army as being the removal of a tyranny, and as the first ray of hope many of them had known since 1933. There was that population with the sick mind full of despair, in the midst of this ruin, and on that sick mind came the impact that the only agreement on a major frontier question come to, by the four Allied Powers was the agreement to consummate what Mussolini and Hitler built up by severing the South Tyrol once more from its own homeland. I think that was a perfectly" deplorable decision.
One of the things the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon was that it is no use wrapping up one's thoughts in diplomatic language, and when I looked at this monstrous act—because I can call it nothing less—which has been agreed to by the four Foreign Secretaries as a preliminary to the final settlement by the Peace Conference, I say, quite definitely, that it is a most deplorable thing for a Socialist Foreign Secretary, in a great Labour Government like this in Great Britain, to have put his hand to a treaty of that kind. I know the Foreign Secretary understands blunt talk. I am talking bluntly to him on this matter because I have the greatest admiration for his general grip on foreign policy and for 1873 the rightness of his general point of view on current objectives. But, in this matter of the South Tyrol I believe he has been misled into courses and into paths that can never be justified on any standard of Socialist conduct.
He has been trafficking with forbidden things. How has he tried to justify it? In his speech this afternoon, I heard no attempted justification at all. We got some phrases, some general statement, about the development of hydro-electric power as a result of the Italian annexation. Let us go rather to what he said a few weeks ago as to his reasons for assenting to this, as I have called it, monstrous decision. First of all he said in response to one of the questions that was put to him that thisIs not purely a political question. In all these considerations if there is to be peace in Europe economics have to be taken into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1946; Vol. 723, c. 308.]So that apparently the first reason for this assent to a blunder that was made at the end of the last war, the detachment of South Tyrol from Austria, the first major reason, apparently, is an economic reason. Does anyone who has ever paid even casual attention to the economics of the South Tyrol, and particularly to the economics of the South Tyrol in relation to the general economic system of Austria, even begin to pretend that South Tyrol is not an integral and complementary part of the general Austrian economic system? I invite the Foreign Secretary to examine the statistical evidence provided by the Italian Government itself. If that evidence is examined, nothing is more clearly demonstrated than that the whole flow, the economic flow, from the South Tyrol is not south into Italy, but east into Austria, West into Switzerland, and North into the German territories. The flow into Italy is of quite minor importance and is in fact completely negligible in the Italian economy itself.
§ Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Paton
The hon. Member dissents. It would be quite within the power of the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) if he were fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to get up and give his evidence for those who dissent from that proposition. I am merely appealing to the Italian official statistics on trade. I 1874 am appealing to the facts of geography, the facts of economic development which has run railway lines from Austria through the Southern Tyrol. It is true, of course, that in one important aspect which was mentioned by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon there was very considerable development of hydro-electric power during the period of the Italian annexation.
§ Mr. Paton
But why? Before the hon. Member says " Hear, hear," let us ask why. The reason why there was this development of hydro-electric power was the fact that Italy was trying to establish in this South Tyrolean region Italian native industries with Italian populations, in order to try to complete what she had never been able to do in 20 years of persecution, the Italianisation of the Tyrol. Therefore, there was this big development of hydro-electric power. Some 67 per cent. of that hydro-electric power is used in the South Tyrol. Only a small proportion of it flows south down into Italy proper. The actual extent of the hydroelectric power the Italian industries use, drawn from the South Tyrol, is only 9 per cent. of Italy's total power.
§ Mr. Paton
As I say, I invite the hon. Member to study the official statistics. It is no use his shaking his head or dissenting. The facts are there for anyone to examine. I am giving the facts because the matter happened to be mentioned by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. It seems to me that there is no doubt whatever to any reasonable observer, and any reasonable student, that the economic link-up of the South Tyrol is an economic link-up with its parent State of Austria, and not with Italy at all.
The second reason that was given by the Foreign Secretary on 22nd May was thatThe peoples of Europe are so inter-mixed that this principle of self-determination on strict frontiers is a very difficult thing to apply.I should have thought that there are few frontier regions in Europe where the principle of self-determination was more easy of application than in this territory of the South Tyrol. Even today, after 20 years of Italian persecution in which every effort was made to destroy the 1875 language and culture of the German speaking Tyroleans, the great majority of the population, except in the neighbourhood immediately around Bolzano, are still German-speaking Tyrolese. Therefore there is no reason why the principle of self-determination should not apply. The Foreign Secretary made a further point, I am quoting again from HANSARD of 22nd May:Italy has worked her passage and I have to take that into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 308–9.]Is it sensible, as a reward, to ask those workmen in the industrial areas of Northern Italy, who rose in the resistance movements at the end of the war, and helped us to clear Northern Italy, to become the heirs of the tyranny established by Mussolini and Hitler, and in their turn be the agents through whom this completely non-Italian people are to be kept for a further period of time in serfdom and slavery? Let us try to bring these arguments into relation with some other facts. Something has been said in this House this afternoon about Trieste, and about the problems of the Julian March. There, as everyone knows, we face a particularly difficult frontier problem in regard to which the British, American and French wish to determine it on ethnical principles, which is being met by a Yugoslavian and Russian, point of view that ethical principles are of less importance than economic and strategic security.
Does the Foreign Secretary really believe that the complete abandonment of ethnical principle, of economic considerations, in the determination of the fate of the South Tyrol, has been lost on Marshal Tito and M. Molotov? How is it possible for any statesman of any country to argue that in one part of Europe these matters are of lesser importance, and then to try to found a case upon them in another part of Europe, where they are raised in a particularly sharp form? It ii for these reasons that I would ask the Foreign Secretary, whom I am glad to see has come back, to be willing even now to look at this problem afresh. Nothing has yet been done which is beyond repair. So far it is only an agreement by the four Foreign Secretaries, which has ultimately to be discussed and determined finally at the Peace Conference. It is still possible to reopen this issue.
1876 I would beg the Foreign Secretary to look at this matter again, to remember that he, in common with most of the other speakers in our Labour movement, protested with all the strength he had against the original decision, in the Treaty of St. Germain, to detach the South Tyrol from Austria, that we campaigned in this country year after year against the tyranny and persecutions by which Mussolini was trying to destroy the culture of that people. In fact, that was one of the things that sharpened our antagonism and hatred for everything Mussolini stood for. I ask the Foreign Secretary to remember these things, the history of our movement in relation to this problem, to look at it again, and try to apply, in this particular part of the world, those principles of equity and justice, which alone will give an effective foundation for a stable European peace.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Major Digby (Dorset, Western)
I am sorry that in my remarks I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton) because I am in the greatest agreement with nearly all he said about the question of the South Tyrol. The fact that this has been one of the few decisions yet arrived at by the Powers must be one of the causes for the anxiety which all hon. Members here today must feel at the present trend in international events. It is not as though in history we have not had previous experience of great Powers, who have got together successfully to prosecute a war, subsequently falling out and finding difficulty in coming to agreement. Often that has happened at a later stage, after peace treaties have been concluded. On this occasion our anxiety must be the greater because the great Powers themselves are much greater Powers than has been the case in the world before, and if the last war proved anything, it proved that the small Powers suffer much greater military disadvantages than was the case formerly.
I wish this evening to turn to another part of the globe than Austria, a part of the globe where all the three great Powers have considerable interests—indeed where the five great Powers all have interests—namely, the Far East. I was sorry that the Foreign Secretary, whom I am glad to see in his place, could not find time, and I quite understand that, to deal with Far Eastern questions this afternoon. He had a great many other 1877 matters to deal with, but I hope that the Under-Secretary, or whoever winds up the Debate, will have something more to tell us about the Far East and its various questions. We are apt to be diverted from the importance of Far Eastern questions because of the difficulties which are occurring nearer home, but we should not forget that the war in the Far East, so far as China is concerned, went on for much longer than the war went on in Europe, though that seemed quite long enough, and that there are, therefore, many reasons why Far Eastern problems are pressing ones.
In time of war we were all too apt to think, when we spoke of the Far feast, of the wide spaces of the Pacific Ocean, and of the few sparsely inhabited islands which are to be found in the middle of that ocean. Now that we are coming to think of the problems of peace we should direct our attention much more to the land masses in that area where, according to the latest figures I have been able to find, something over 670 million human beings live, often in great density, upon the land which they occupy. The problems of that area are of great moment. If prosperity can come to that area, there is no doubt that the whole world will benefit. If that area is not able to recover quickly, the world will be that much poorer. In China alone there is a population estimated at some 450 million human beings, who are undoubtedly both able and industrious. When full development can be brought to that country we shall see some remarkable changes in the trade position of the world.
First, let me say a word about our relations with China, a country with whom we are bound by many ties of sympathy. There is no doubt that we find the Chinese a compatible people, that we appreciate their sense of humour and their undoubted ability. It seems to me most important that we should try to strengthen our ties with them, I think there is a feeling—I hope it is incorrect— that we have not done so much about reestablishing our relations with China as have the United States of America. The United States to some extent have stolen the limelight by sending there that great war figure, General Marshall, who I am sure is playing a very important part in China. Nevertheless, it would be a very-great pity if this country was to fall into 1878 the position of playing a kind of second string in China.
Apart from the traditional sympathy between that country and ourselves, there arc other reasons for not allowing that to happen, reasons which would not be lost on the President of the Board of Trade if he was here. No doubt he would recall that before the war China imported more goods from the British Empire, excluding the Dominions, than from any other country, including the United States. The building up of our trade with China is a matter of importance to us. We have read in the newspapers that the United States are already engaged in concluding a new commercial treaty with China. We have heard nothing about such a treaty between China and this country. I hope we do not let matters go by default and that we see to it that our relations with China are not allowed to slip into the background merely on account of difficulties in other parts of the world.
I now wish to say a word or two about Manchuria and Korea. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that it is of the utmost importance that the Chinese Central Government should regain control over Manchuria. The vast majority of the population of Manchuria are Chinese. The minorities, the Manchus and Koreans, are relatively few in number. It would be unfortunate if after this war China could not count on those Northern Provinces which are less densely populated than the South but none the less extremely valuable. With regard to the future of Korea, hon. Members will remember that often in the past it has been a bone of contention between China, on the one hand, and Japan, on the other. That was a position which was altered finally, as a result of the war between China and Japan in 1894–5. We have had one or two very brief statements on the matter and now we are told that Korea is to have her independence. I put a question to the Foreign Secretary with regard to this not many months ago and I was very disappointed that I did not get more information about the future of that country. Shortly afterwards I read in the newspapers an announcement that the Russian forces occupying Northern Korea had been doubled.
I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us a little more about that. For how long is Korea to be occupied? Is it intended to set up an independent government and, if 1879 so, when? After all, the Koreans are a different people from the Chinese and Japanese. It seems only right that, with the cooperation of the Powers, they should be given a proper independent status, although maybe it will take some years to bring about. I feel we are entitled to hear a little more about this country. It has a population of something like 12,000,000 and is a very important country owing to its geographical position.
I now turn to the subject of Japan. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) say that he hoped we should get a little more information about Japan. Relying almost entirely on the newspapers, I can find very little information indeed. I am not sure how far we are committed to everything which is done by G.H.Q. Not long ago we read in the newspapers that shortly after a general election in Japan a man who had been elected leader of the largest political party was found to be undesirable. That had "the effect of holding up the formation of the Government for a considerable time. Those of us who have been to Japan know that always there were forces in Japan who believed in democracy. We should do everything we can to make matters easier for them and not more difficult. I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary just how tar we accept responsibility for what is being decided in Japan. What say have we in this matter?
Earlier today the Foreign Secretary mentioned the question about the curtain in Europe. In Japan they used to have a " curtain " Government. Today there is a curtain hanging over Japan, and that curtain is one of fog. We simply do not know what is going on there or what plans are being worked out for the future. The Japanese Islands are small. Only a very small proportion of them— I have heard the number quoted as 17 per cent.—can be cultivated, and the population of some 66,000,000 is increasing extremely rapidly.
What is to be the economic future of Japan? What do the Allies envisage? I hope that we shall press on and arrive fairly soon at some conclusion about the future of Japan. There are many of us who feel that unless we take full account of these forces we shall be in for difficulties 1880 there again. It may well be that had it not been for the Tokugawa exclusion edict many hundreds of years ago, the Japanese would have had an expansion long before now. The fact remains that they did adapt themselves extremely quickly to Western ways. They still have this pressure of population and they must find a living for the people.
How are they to do that? The sooner we produce a peace treaty for Japan, the better it will be for the world in general, and for the Far East in particular. Finally, I appeal to the Foreign Secretary to make sure that in the months that lie ahead, with the difficult problems confronting us in Europe, he does not hesitate to have a real Far Eastern policy. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Far East is a point where the interests of all the great Powers meet. It would be a pity if policy in the Far East was allowed to slide. It is essential that we should have a definite, clear-cut, Far Eastern policy in cooperation with the United States of America, and with Russia as far as we possibly can, a policy in full accord with the members of the United Nations.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Captain Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
I want very briefly to draw the attention of the House to one specific subject, to which the Foreign Secretary did not refer in his speech, but to which I would like him, or the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, to make some reference before concluding this Debate. It is, I think, one of those questions which, at the moment, is poisoning the relations between the Allies. Ten months ago, when my right hon. Friend first took in his hands the conduct of the foreign policy of this country, I think that nowhere in the world was that fact, and the fact that a Labour Government was in power in this country, greeted with greater enthusiasm, confidence and relief, than by the Spanish people.
They remembered the stand which he and his colleagues had taken during and after the Spanish Civil War, and his stout defence of the cause of the Spanish Republic when it was fighting for its life against the invasion by the armies of Moorish levies, Italian Blackshirts and German Nazis, and against the most terrible enemy of all—the treacherous betrayal which hon. Gentlemen opposite 1881 at the time called the policy of nonintervention. Nowhere in the world, at that time, were there more ardent spokesmen in the cause of the Spanish Republic than the right hon. Gentlemen who now sit on the Front Bench on this side of the House, and the pledges which they gave were renewed by my hon. Friends on this side on countless election platforms and in countless election declarations before this Government came to power.
At that time, the people of Great Britain, and of Spain, and, indeed, our friends and enemies all over the world, were left in no doubt that the coming into power of a Labour Government was going to mean the end of the last bastion of Fascism in Europe and the collapse of the brutal tyranny of General Franco in Spain. Since that time, the right hon. Gentleman has said many hard things about General Franco, and he has told us that he detests the Spanish regime, and everything that he has said has been well in keeping with his own traditions and those of hon. Members on this side of the House. But there has been no sign of action; nothing but statements about the economic complications and political difficulties involved in getting rid of General Franco. Of course, there are complications and difficulties in removing a Fascist dictatorship and restoring their liberties to people deprived of them by that dictatorship. It is no simple operation. But that is precisely what this country has been doing for the last six years all over Europe, and is one of the reasons why we fought the war. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that, because there are practical difficulties and economic complications, the Spanish Republic must remain in exile and General Franco remain in power in Spain for ever? I do not believe that that is what my right hon. Friend wants.
No doubt, he has been considering practical ways and means of effecting the change, and no doubt he, like the Spanish exiles with whom I have talked in the South of France, and the great mass of the people inside Spain, wants to see a change that is going to avoid another civil war but which will ensure that General Franco's regime is not replaced by another dictatorship of a different kind. In New York, last Friday, the Security Council Sub-Committee completed its Report on Spain. For some weeks, it has been sifting evidence furnished by the Govern- 1882 ments of the United Nations and the Republican Government of Spain in exile against the Franco regime. Now, it urges that the Security Council should recommend to the United Nations that they should endorse the Tripartite Declaration of last March condemning the Franco regime and break off diplomatic relations with Franco. It adds the conditions which, in the Sub-Committee's view, must be fulfilled before Spain herself can become a member of the United Nations: the withdrawal of the present dictatorship, a political amnesty and the return of the exiles, and the holding of elections in conditions of democratic freedom. Hon. Members on this side of the House are not likely to quarrel with any of these findings, but the problem which faces the British Government today is not to discover the nature of the Spanish dictatorship—the Foreign Secretary has often expressed himself pungently upon that in the House—nor yet to decide what kind of Government we should like to see take Franco's place—we, on this side, have very definite views on that. It is in the method, not the aim, that our chief difficulty lies. On that plane, the report of the Security Council Sub-Committee contributes nothing but a recommendation that Allied diplomats should leave: Madrid.
The Spanish exiles with whom I talked last week in the South of France, and., in particular, the delegates who came from Madrid to attend the Conference and who were going back there, described to me in detail their problem of maintaining underground resistance to Franco 10 years after the Spanish Civil War had ended. They have to contend, not only against a security network which has at its disposal all the resources of the Spanish State, and, incidentally, now, the technical assistance and experience of many Germans in that country, but also against the growing conviction, both among their friends and enemies alike, that lip service to Spanish democracy is about all the help that they can expect from the Allies. Lip service and diplomatic gestures are not enough, and the liberation of Spain cannot come from within alone. Despite all the difficulties, there are still some secret underground groups in the cities and guerrillas in the mountains, and their ineffectiveness is one of the arguments used by those who oppose international action against 1883 Franco. But, to take a fair example, what would the strength of the French Maqais have been if the occupation had lasted for 10 years and the Allies had refused contact and support and if there had been no prospect of an invasion from abroad to help them?
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
What does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean by international action against Spain?
§ Captain Noel-Baker
If the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment, I will try to explain what practical steps the Government should take. The Spanish Republicans, by themselves, cannot overthrow the Fascist dictatorship by force of arms, and it is equally true that they do not want another civil war, even if they were in a position to fight one. But the fact that the Spanish Republic cannot, unaided, achieve its own restoration surely cannot justfy a further period of what is called " non-intervention."
A great deal has been said on the disunity of the Spanish Republicans in exile. One might fairly comment that, if unity in exile had been the sole criterion for liberation, many of our European Allies would be occupied today. Though there are different political groups and there are differences among them, there is not one which docs not recognise the Republican Government, and most of them are represented by Ministers in that Government and I would say that, after 10 years of occupation and exile, that in itself is no mean achievement.
Today, the major problem facing the British Government and the Governments of the United Nations is how to end Spanish Fascism without bloodshed and without substituting another dictatorship of a different kind. The Franco regime continues to exist because all the power of a modern police state is in the hands of a minority completely identified with the dictator. If there is any other element which supports him, it is those citizens whom he has led to believe that the only alternative to Franco's regime is red revolution and a second civil war. The transition from dictatorship to democracy in Spain is likely to be a very complex problem, and the Republicans to whom I spoke do not try to minimise it in any way, but it is a problem to which the 1884 British Government and the other Allied Governments should now turn their attention. As a means of getting rid of General Franco, the Security Council Sub-Committee has recommended the withdrawal of diplomats from Madrid. The French Government tried diplomatic action of a different kind by closing the frontier, and I am bound to admit, as my friends from Madrid admitted, that that act, by itself, has been more than a failure. There has also been discussion of what economic action could be taken to bring to an end the Fascist dictatorship in Spain, and my friends from Madrid assured me that, if it could be complete and coordinated, it would succeed. They also assured me that though it might entail sacrifices for the Spanish working people, they would be prepared to accept those sacrifices if the effect was conclusive, and they added that if not only imports into Spain, but exports as well, ceased, the effect on their food consumption would be such that the Spanish workers would be prepared gladly to accept it if they knew that there was going to be a definite result from that action.
The removal of the Spanish dictator is only half the problem; the second half is who is going to take his place and how it is going to be done. Obviously, there must be a transitional period. I was assured in my conversations with Spanish Republicans in France that a monarchical solution would be accepted only by a few potential traitors to the regime who might be prepared to betray Franco in support of the monarchy, and, possibly—and this caused me some surprise—by the Spanish Communist Party. But I feel convinced that a monarchy in Spain is not the kind of solution which could be accepted by my hon. Friends on these benches, by the Labour Party in this country or by progressive opinion in the world as a whole.
It is on this point that some observers of the Spanish situation have tended to put the cart before the horse. Because there is no ready made, obvious, immediate successor to Franco, they conclude that the situation must be allowed to drift. The longer it does so, the more likely, in the end, will become the bloodshed and the extremist reaction which both the Spanish people and my right hon. Friend are anxious to avoid. If Great Britain, for example, were now to pass from a period of promises to that of action, and 1885 it contact, not necessarily official diplomatic contact, were to be established with the Republican Spaniards in exile and inside Spain, and if technical assistance —of the kind in which we have become very experienced during the war—could be provided to the various underground groups, and a propaganda offensive started—if, in short, this Government made it clear beyond all possible doubt that Great Britain not only detested General Franco, but was actively preparing for his downfall, the problem of transition would be enormously simplified.
Once concrete and practical proof has been given of the intentions of this country, the unity among the Republicans would be enormously reinforced and the confidence of those who cling to General Franco simply because he is strong would be shaken, and, in the resulting new atmosphere of practical determination, real negotiations for an interim arrangement could begin in earnest. But, from the outset, it must be made clear that this country and our Allies will require any interim arrangement in Spain to include the amnesty, the return of the exiles, the provisions of free assembly and free speech and, finally, the free elections which the Security Council Sub-committee recommends. I ask, therefore, that, before this Debate concludes, some word should be said by my hon. Friend who is going to wind up about the Spanish situation and that, more than words, he should give some kind of pledge that we are now going to pass from the period of promises to the period of practical action. I ask this while fully appreciating the enormous complications that exist, but I do so because I believe that the liberation of Spain is not only an essential part of the peace we are now trying to build, because I believe it is not only an act of justice long over due, to one of our gallant Allies in the fight against Fascism, but because, also, it was one of the most solemn pledges which my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends on this side of the House gave to the people of this country last July.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
It the House will bear with me for a few minutes, I will endeavour to switch the attention of hon. Members to the other end of the Mediterranean from that of which the hon. and gallant Member for 1886 Brentford and Chiswick (Captain F. Noel-Baker) has just spoken, and which I have visited during the last few weeks. Yesterday, the Italians were in the throes of their first proper elections for 25 years. Whatever Government results from the polls, I beg His Majesty's Government to lose no opportunity of telling the Italian Government whether or not, in their view, Italy has worked her passage. If she has not worked her passage, then we must say quite clearly what further conditions she is required to fulfil. If it is considered that she has worked her passage, then we should do well to dwell less upon the grave injuries which she has done to us in recent years than upon the part which she can and should fulfil in postwar Europe and in the Mediterranean.
In his speech today, the Foreign Secretary referred to the revised armistice terms which have been presented to Italy. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), in regretting that he was obliged to present these revised armistice terms in place of a peace treaty. The revised armistice terms presumably include the winding up of the Allied Commission. I hope I shall not disagree with any hon. Member on either side when I suggest that Italy owes much to the administrative efficiency of the Allied Commission ' and to the integrity of its British and American personnel. I believe that their administration, being single-minded, stood out in contrast to the sort of administration which Italy has had to bear throughout the period of Fascist rule.
One of the most moving documents I have ever read was a petition signed by about 120 villagers from an area in the Pontine Marshes in the summer of 1944, which requested that a certain British sergeant who had been sent to that area, in charge, I think, of an anti-malarial squad, should be allowed to stay in the district as the then Allied Military Government representative. This petition paid a tribute to the firmness, fairness, tact and sympathy with which this British n.c.o. invariably treated all who came in contact with him. That is a fine testimonial to the qualities of the British soldier engaged both in operational and non operational duties in Italy. The Italians wish, and quite understandably, to be masters in their own house, but 1887 the Allied Commission has certainly set them a good example in administration.
In the industrial North, the Italian factories are almost the only industrial plant in Europe which has been practically untouched either by the operations of war or by subsequent removal for reparations purposes. Italy's potential industrial output is therefore unimpaired, but raw materials are lacking. I was very glad to hear from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a recent Debate on the Adjournment, that we were making some use of Italian industry for the manufacture of raw materials, notably wool and cotton, sent from this country. I was even more glad to hear that it was the intention of the Government to review this position from time to time to see whether further use could be made of this vast potential manufacturing output of Italian industry, to the mutual advantage of ourselves and Italy.
This afternoon the Foreign Secretary referred to the proposal—I know it was only a tentative proposal—that the trusteeship of Tripolitania should be entrusted to the Italians. Though it is true that the worst features of Italian Colonial administration occurred not in Tripolitania but in Cyrenaica, and though it is true that we are adhering to the promises we made in respect of the Senussi, I wonder whether the Under-Secretary, who is to reply for the Government, could give us any indication of the reaction of the Arabs in Tripolitania to this proposal. I. wonder not merely what their reactions are, but what their actions might be if and when the Italians returned to Tripolitania. Presumably, if the trusteeship for Tripolitania were entrusted to Italy, she would be charged with the responsibility of keeping law and order, which would necessitate an adequate number of troops and police. I am not trying to make more difficult a problem the solution of which is already extremely difficult, but I do think that a warning note in respect of the Arab reactions to Italian trusteeship of Tripolitania should be struck.
The Foreign Secretary also referred to the need for a common approach by ourselves and the Soviet Union to our common problems, and no one on either side of the House would disagree with him on that. Most of us are aware that 1888 a considerable difference exists between this country and America on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other, in the interpretation of the phrase " democratic government." But it is also evident that a further difference of interpretation exists in the expression " concessions."The Foreign Secretary explained to the House that originally M. Molotov made a claim on behalf of the Soviet Union for the trusteeship of Tripolitania. He further explained that that claim was subsequently dropped, and that M. Molotov argued that by dropping that claim he was making a concession and expected a similar concession from us. It seems that if one makes a demand for which there appears to be little justification, and then that demand is subsequently withdrawn, there is little ground for argument that one is making a concession and, therefore, a similar concession is due from the other side upon whom that demand has been made. I suggest that until we and the Soviet Union agree upon a common basis for interpreting common phrases, the correct interpretation of which is vital in any diplomatic or international document, U.N.O. can only fire on three cylinders. I would also suggest that there is not much more room for concessions on our side in the interpretation of key phrases.
May I, in conclusion, say a few words on Trieste? Trieste and Venezia Giulia are full of highly inflammable material and a tribute should certainly be paid to the restraint and tact shown by British and American troops in the disputed area. I would like also to pay my tribute to the officers who were responsible for organising the Venezia Giulia police. It is no mean feat to have welded something like a police force out of the Italian and Slovene material in that area. I believe Yugoslavia has done no good to her case by over-stating it and by the number of frontier incidents which are continually arising. I do not wish to become involved in an argument as to what is the best ethnic line of that disputed area. There are so many lines, and so many different proposals have been made between 1918 and now, that if one looks at a map on which all the different lines are marked it seems more like a map of Clapham Junction than a map of Venezia Giulia. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that Trieste is predominantly an Italian town. 1889 and I also agree that as a port it is of unquestionable international value to the whole of Central Europe. I know that international zones have been the causes in the past of far more disputes than anything else, but my own view is that both for the port and the town of Trieste, and for the disputed area, the best solution would be to create an international zone for a fixed number of years in the hope that at the end of that fixed term the temperature of that part of the world might have dropped. I believe it would be to ask for trouble if there were any suggestion that in the near future the Allied Forces should be withdrawn, much as I understand and appreciate the desire of the Government to withdraw them. If Allied troops were withdrawn from that disputed area we would be faced with an extremely serious position. Conditions there are perfect for carrying out what I would call Sudeten tactics. There is a large and well organised Yugoslav minority in Trieste. It is easy to infiltrate across the Morgan line. It is easier still to organise spontaneous disturbances and demonstrations with the technique with which we are all so familiar, and if these were to continue for any length of time we should be faced with a constant running sore in an area where, under settled conditions, industry could make a considerable contribution to Europe's all too urgent needs.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Solley (Thurrock)
No one who heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon could help feeling that he showed great ability in presenting his argument with cogency and force. But it does not follow that every hon. Member of this House, or even every hon Member on these benches, necessarily accepted everything he said, or all the implications contained in his speech. I was particularly interested in some of the generalisations in the first part of his speech and I would like to give concrete shape to them. It seems to me there are two fundamental propositions which one would expect any Socialist Foreign Secretary to follow in his foreign policy. The first is this. What is of importance in foreign policy is not the subjective intentions of the Minister, but the objective consequences of his policy. In other words, it is not magnificent perorations which count, but the 1890 political action or inaction which is consequent upon the policy. The second fundamental proposition, in my submission, is that the policy must tend not merely towards a consolidation of peace, but towards peace of a Socialist character; that is to say, it must be a policy which aids and gives succour to the progressive movement in every part of the world to which the foreign policy applies. Putting it in the language of the Yalta agreement, the policy must tend to wipe out all vestiges of Nazism and Fascism.
There are some very simple and practical tests which we can apply to any such policy in order to see whether it is indeed a Socialist policy. For instance, one can ask oneself: Is this policy giving greater power to the working class in any particular area? Is it, on the other hand, threatening the trade union movement in any particular area? Is it a fact that the policy is consolidating the power of Fascists, collaborators and so on? In the light of those tests, I propose to refer to one part of Europe to which, unfortunately, the Foreign Secretary—I have no doubt because of the exigencies of time—did not address his mind this afternoon, namely, Greece. I am sorry to say that if those tests be applied to the foreign policy of Great Britain in relation to Greece, it does not appear that we have followed a Socialist policy at all. On the contrary, we have followed a policy which has led to a deterioration in the standards of living of the workers in Greece, and, indeed, has led to what I submit is the setting up of a neo-Fascist state in that unhappy country.
Two of my colleagues—the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) and the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany)—and I made a short but intensive investigation of conditions in Greece, leaving that country on 9th May. We did not go to Greece as an official delegation sent by this Government. Indeed, we had no time for governmental displays in our honour. We were the guests of the Greek people; we met persons of our own class. Wherever we went we were received by deputations of trade unionists, deputations from cooperatives, deputations of agrarians, deputations of professional men, and we were able to come to grips with the Greek scene, not from the Ritz bar in the best hotel in Athens, nor from the splendid reception rooms of the British Embassy, but from the 1891 humble cottages of the workers and from the trade unionist centres in the towns we visited. Our conclusion was that the Government in Greece today is go per cent. Fascist, and will be 100 per cent. Fascist tomorrow. We found examples of murder, assault, intimidation and illegal arrest, all perpetrated against the Left by the Right. Wherever we went, we found that the working-class people were being battered, that their trade union premises were being set on fire; we found that their meetings could not take place properly; that there was every symptom of Fascism. The gendarmerie were Fascist and rotten to the core, and the same thing applied even to the judiciary.
§ Mr. Solley
We stayed there in order to be able to come back to this House and, as far as our own colleagues on this side of the House are concerned, to report the truth about what is happening in Greece and to pray that our Government should do something on behalf of the Greek workers and in the interests of world peace. I cannot here go into details with regard to the many atrocities which we personally investigated, and some of which we personally witnessed. I would like to give two illustrations of matters to which I have already referred. The first is in relation to the judiciary, because that illustrates the depths to which justice and democracy have sunk in Greece. The hon. Member for Peterborough and I attended a trial at Patras. The court was set up specifically to deal with collaborators. Three of the professional judges of that court had received pay from the quisling Government during the occupation, and had faithfully fulfilled their so-called judicial duties under the Germans. Those facts were admitted to us by the president of the court in a personal interview. That, of course, is typical of what is happening in Greece. The collaborators and quislings are in power, and the workers and democrats are being beaten up and illegally imprisoned by those gentlemen.
Another incident which illustrates the sort of conditions we met in Greece occurred in the port of Volos. The hon. Member for Peterborough and I visited that port at only a few hours' notice. We 1892 were greeted by a very large crowd of people in the market centre and at the trade union centre. As it was 11.30 in the morning there were more women than men. Our car was surrounded by many women, some of whom were crying, almost all of them manifestly distressed. They told us about the Fascist terror and appealed to us, as British Members of Parliament, to save them from the Fascists. That is a scene which I and, I think, the hon. Member for Peterborough will never forget—working class wives and working class mothers of Volos, a town not very different in its trade from Tilbury, which I have the honour to represent, actually crying in front of us and asking us to save them from the Fascists. That was not an exhibition which could have been put on for our benefit by any Communists. It was a condition of suffering which existed in reality, and which I feel it my duty to report to this House. Those are merely two illustrations out of many which I could bring before the House to indicate the state of affairs which exists today in Greece.
I turn to the election which took place on 31st March. We were not in Greece when that election took place, therefore, I cannot speak with first hand knowledge of what occurred during the election. However, it would seem an amazing thing if this Fascist terror could have evolved in a matter of the few weeks which elapsed between 31st March and our visit. It must obviously have existed, if not in so intense a condition, at least in a substantial condition on 31st March. On that date the election took place, in which there was not a single representative of any working class party; not a single representative of any Labour Party, Socialist Party, Communist Party, Agrarian Party, or any Left-centre Party. It is in the light of that fact that we must regard the report of the Allied observers which has the impertinence to say that the verdict was a true and valid verdict of the Greek people. I have no time to go into the question of the observers' report, but I venture to think there is one aspect of it to which it is worth while drawing attention. It illustrates the depths to which the authors of this report have sunk in order to make their pitiful point. They speak of the courts of Greece in this language:
1893Generally speaking, the courts of Greece retained public confidence, even during the years of turmoil.They are afraid to use the phrase "The years of occupation," because that sounds a little too bad; it is "The years of turmoil."They inform us that the Greek courts of justice retained public confidence during the German occupation. That is a lie, nothing but a lie. It is impossible for any person who has been to Greece, who has any respect for the Greek Resistance Movement, to say that the courts of justice which were peopled by collaborators and quislings, by judges who received their pay from their German masters and who treated members of the Resistance Movement, even at that time, and not the Germans as the enemy—that those courts of justice could have retained or did ever retain the public confidence of the Greek people. I venture to suggest that that is a sufficient commentary upon the nature of the Allied report.
We took the opportunity of an interview with M. Sophoulis, who was Prime Minister at the time of the election. Naturally, we were interested to know what his views were on the election. He told us that he had made representations to my right hon. Friend in no uncertain language that if the elections took place on 31st March the only outcome, the only possible outcome, would be the return of an extreme Right Wing Government. He made that perfectly clear. He went on to tell us that he also made it equally clear to my right hon. Friend that if the elections were postponed for two months there would be a chance for the Left to participate in the elections, with the result that there would probably be a victory for a coalition Government based substantially upon the Centre and the Left. But my right hon. Friend did not heed that advice, knowing full well what the consequences would be. Knowing full well that only an extreme Right Wing Government could be returned to power, he insisted upon the elections being held. But, of course, he did not need this advice. It was well known in England what the position was and, indeed, there were a number of back benchers on this side of the House who were as well seized of the facts as the Foreign Secretary. But in justice to the Foreign Secretary I may say that from what I have seen in Greece, I should say that 90 per cent. 1894 of the information which the Foreign Office receive from Greece is not worth the paper it is written on. Nevertheless; some facts were public, and it was quite obvious to the Foreign Secretary, in my submission, what the result of the election would prove to be.
§ Mr. Nutting
Is it in Order for an hon. Member to criticise information coining from institutions of His Majesty's Government abroad to that Government? Is it in Order to imply criticisms of the people who give that information?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not know where the hon. Gentleman obtained his information, but he is entitled to make any comment he likes upon it.
§ Mr. Nutting
The hon. Member said it was information which the Government were receiving from the British Embassy in Greece. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Well, from Greece, from their channel; of information. He said this information was bogus, thoroughly bad, " not worth the paper it was written on "—those were his actual words. Is it in Order for an hon. Member to use such language?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member may use his own judgment of any communication of which he has-knowledge.
§ Mr. Solley
I have not time to develop the point but I hope that my hon. Friends who have also been in Greece will have the fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and so be able to deal with the matter. It is my view, and that of my colleagues, that almost all the information that His Majesty's Government get from Greece originates from the Greek gendarmerie; and the value to be attached to that evidence is equal to the value of reports received from Germany before the war sent by the Nazis themselves. I venture to suggest that in the light of what I have said about the step taken by my right hon. Friend, who had a knowledge of all the circumstances, that we are entitled to an explanation and to say that on the face of it the step is the antithesis of the one we would expect from a Socialist Foreign Secretary, I say that on the face of it, it is contradictory to Socialist foreign policy and contrary to the intentions of the resolutions we have passed year after year at Labour Party conferences.
I have spoken of what took place on 31st March. We are now faced, as I 1895 said before, with a Government in Greece which is the 1946 model of Fascism. There are, of course, vestiges of democracy. The May Day celebrations are held, subject, in the small towns, to certain very stringent conditions; in the still smaller towns they are not allowed at all. Newspapers are published in the large towns, but the Left Wing papers are prohibited in the villages; and from time to time newspaper offices are smashed up. It is not the prewar model of Fascism; but it is the 1946 version. It is developing, and will probably get worse. What we have to consider now is the policy of the Greek Government in so far as it affects our foreign policy, and the question of international peace. While; we were in Greece the Royalist newspaper " Embros " stated frankly what the policy of the Greek Government was.
It followed the well-known Fascist technique by saying that Greece was terrorised by the Communists. It called on the Government to launch a ruthless offensive by 120,000 soldiers, gendarmerie and police, to start exhaustive investigations, to fill the workers' districts with mechanised patrols, to call in British forces to help in the task, and to arrest the Communist leader as soon as he spoke of self-defence The use of the word " Communist " by the Royalist paper followed the Fascist use of the word. The Royalists dub anybody " a Communist " who is anti-monarchist. The venerable Liberal leader told us, "They even dub me, a Liberal, a Communist. They characterise my party as Communist."The monarchists want British forces in Greece to help them to fill the workers' districts with mechanised. patrols. Thus it was not to be surprised at that we were told by every Right Wing politician whom we met that they wanted the British forces to remain in Greece, but on the other hand we were told by every politician from the Left Centre to the Left that the British forces in Greece were giving moral support to the extreme Right. What I say to the Government is this—and I am merely repeating what was said by M. Sofianopoulos, by the leader of the Agrarian Party, by Professor Svolos, the leader of the party nearest to our own Labour Party, by the leader of the Left Liberal Party and by the leaders of the different Socialist parties and the Communist Party—the British forces must leave Greece. The Right told 1896 us that British troops must remain in Greece. I say to the Government if they are to take advice at all they should take advice, not from the equivalent of the Tories and of worse than the Tories of Greece, but from the Left, the Left Liberals and the working-class people of Greece, because they are the people whose interests are nearest to ours.
§ Mr. Solley
I had referred to M. Sofianopoulos. I have the names of half a dozen here, if I may be permitted to look at my notes because I cannot remember Greek names off-hand. What I am saying is that every responsible politician of the Left Centre and of the Left to whom we spoke, wanted the British Forces to leave Greece. I have exceeded the time that I set myself, and I close on this note. In view of our enormous responsibility in Greece; in view of the fact that we have had amazing opportunities of shaping the course of politics in Greece; in view of the fact that, as I understand it, we gave a specific undertaking that the plebiscite should not be held for another two years in order to give the country time to settle down, I do ask the Government to review their policy in relation to Greek affairs, and to pursue a policy which is wholeheartedly Socialist and which, by its consequences, will result not in the consolidation of the Right in Greece, but, in the furtherance of the interests of the Labour movement in that country.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Wadsworth (Buckrose)
I am very glad to have been called in this Debate, because I have recently had the opportunity, as one of a party of eight, to represent this Parliament in Hungary, and I am naturally very anxious to tell the House some of my experiences. My experience in Hungary is in contrast to that of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Solley), who apparently does not claim that British prestige is very high in Greece. So far as Hungary is concerned, British prestige is very high indeed, and this is partly due to the fact that we won the war—as a speaker for the Hungarian House of Commons stated, we have not lost a war for 400 years—and partly due to the reputation which our Foreign Secretary holds in that country. I only hope that we can justify the faith of the people of 1897 Hungary in the British people, and that we do not let them down in the peace treaty which is sure to follow.
There appear to me to be three problems which are outstanding in this difficult question of Hungary and the Danubian States, and, in my view, unless we solve these problems, we shall experience again a similar war to the two we have had in our generation. The first problem which faces the Hungarian people and the other States in Central Europe, is retention of their independence. The second problem is the old vexed question of minorities, and the third concerns economic security. We have been given a very good picture of the situation in Europe by the Foreign Secretary, and the frustration by the Russians at several turns which has been experienced in U.N.O. was made quite clear. It is obvious that if we are to have peace in our time, we must make the Russians our friends, but at the same time there is a step beyond which we must, not go. Speaking personally, I found an absolute terror overshadowing the whole of Hungary, not only in Budapest, but in the country. The Russians can only blame themselves for this attitude of the people of Hungary. Good discipline is practised by the Russians, but, nevertheless, their influence is felt through the Communist Party. I do not want to develop this too far, because I know that the Foreign Secretary is fully aware of the situation. If we are to enjoy peace by collaboration of the three Great Powers then the Russians must show a different attitude to these small states in Central Europe.
The minority problem has been a problem in Central Europe for a long time. With river boundaries and imaginary lines drawn across territory in Europe, we cannot expect people to confine themselves to their own countries. It is obvious that the peoples are intermingled over the whole of Europe. This question of boundaries must be a very difficult task for the Foreign Secretary at the Peace Conference, because wherever boundaries are drawn it is clear that some minority will be left out of their own country. I hope towards the end of my remarks to put forward what I think will be a solution to this problem. On the economic side, we have certain countries in Central Europe with land rich in agricultural produce, others with rich mines and oilfields, 1898 and others with industrial machinery and factories capable of producing industrial wealth. It is obvious that if we try to divide a country like England into various self-contained sections, with tariff barriers between them, we should have a good deal of economic chaos, and that is exactly what is happening in Central Europe at the present time. Imagine trying to separate the industrial areas of the West Riding and the Metropolitan Area of London from the agricultural districts. We should be faced with the same kind of difficulty which is facing Central Europe at the present time. I believe that the solution which will solve all these problems is that of federation of the Danubian States. This is not a new solution. It has been advocated for a number of years, and I believe it was first mooted 50 years ago. I would suggest a different method of applying federation. Federation will not come from the countries themselves because there is too much internal hatred and jealousy of each other. It must be imposed upon the States of Central Europe, and, if possible, it should be imposed by the three great Powers at some peace conference. I suggest certain conditions upon which will depend the saccess of such a federation. I believe that it will be necessary for the three great Powers to be represented on the federal council. At the same time each of the States of Central Europe should be equally represented, whether they have fought against, or for, the three great Powers. We must have equal representation to secure a firm foundation for the federation. It is very wise that the three great Powers should be represented, because they will be able to smooth over many of the teething troubles which will beset the federation. Obviously, there would be a good deal of friction in the first stages. If the three Powers had enough strength on the federation council, they could ease over these difficulties, and ultimately, within a generation, they would be able to relinquish their representation and leave the federated Central European States to themselves.
Whatever is settled at the Peace Conference, we cannot settle the future of Europe without creating new difficulties. If we could influence the other two great Powers —I think we should have no difficulty in influencing America, but if we could influence Russia—then this would become a practical proposition. If only we could 1899 impose this federation at the present time, we could build up a great State in Central Europe that would be self-supporting, with its own monetary standards, free trade and a higher standard of living. The mantle of leadership has fallen upon this country. Let us not betray that position and again sacrifice our principles for expediency, as we have done in the past. Of all the problems which face the world at the present time, the greatest is that of Central Europe, and I believe that if we can solve that problem, we can have peace in our time.
§ 7.53 P.m.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Haire (Wycombe)
I think that it was appropriate that the Foreign Secretary spoke at such length about the Danubian basin in his wide survey of the situation this afternoon, because for too long, I think, this country has neglected that area. I seem to remember that, only a few years before the war, the Prime Minister of that day metaphorically pointing an umbrella at Central Europe, and referring to Czechoslovakia as a country about which we knew little or nothing. I fear that applies equally to the Danubian basin, and I am glad to know that my right hon. Friend is anxious that we should play our part in the redevelopment and reconstruction of that area. The Foreign Secretary went on to say that the Soviet Foreign Minister, M. Molotov, believed that because the right hon. Gentleman took a very great interest in the problem of the Danube and its internationalisation he was therefore dictating to Russia. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary holds that view about the internationalisation of the Danube. I think that that great European artery should be opened up to international trade, but I can well see why M. Molotov may have taken the view that we were dictating, for it is true, with regard to the countries of South-East Europe— Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria—that we recognised Hungary only last November, we recognised Rumania only a few months ago, and we have still not recognised Bulgaria because we do not accept the regime in that country as democratic. For that reason M. Molotov takes the view that we are interfering unnecessarily in the regimes of those countries.
1900 I, like the hon. Member for Buckrose (Mr. Wadsworth), only recently returned from Hungary. He and I were on the all-party Parliamentary delegation which went to that country. He has already told the House something of his experiences there. I shared many of them, although I disagree with him on certain points, which I shall refer to later. The House, I think, would be glad to know the answer to certain questions which have troubled them and this country for a long time. A great many questions have been asked about what is happening beyond the so called "Iron curtain," and there have been many rumours, even in this House, and many misrepresentations. I would like to answer certain questions that have been asked, such as: Is Hungary politically controlled by Russia? Is the present regime democratic? Is there political freedom? Is Hungary economically dependent on Russia? What part does the Red Army play? Is Hungary a satellite of Russia? These are the burning questions asked about these Russian occupied countries. Before dealing with them. I should like to give the House a brief picture of the background in Hungary.
Hungary today is lying derelict as a result of the war which razed it from end to end. Budapest, its capital, was fought over for 51 days, and is as wrecked as Berlin. The whole of Hungary was fought over acre by acre. The agricultural industry of the country is ruined. As well as the destruction caused by shell and bomb, the Germans, during their occupation and during their retreat, looted the country to the extent that they took somehing like 86 per cent. of the horses, 75 per cent. of the sheep and pigs, 80 per cent. of the cattle and 70 per cent. of the industrial machinery. The locomotives of Hungary, the rolling stock, are largely to be found in Austria today. Some 4,800 locomotives were in Hungary before the war; now, barely 500 remain. We saw, as we passed through Vienna, some of those trucks and wagons marked with Hungarian names. That is some of the spoliation and looting that went on in Hungary during the occupation, and it has left Hungary today economically broken down. Hungary was dragged into the war as an economic satellite of Germany in 1942, very much, I gather, against the better judgment of the people. Count Teleki, the Premier of that time, 1901 committed suicide because of the pressure brought to bear upon him by the Nazis.
As a result of the war and the economic breakdown, there exist in Hungary today two great problems which must be solved by the Government. The first is the problem of inflation. We, in this country, who seek to avoid inflation, would do well to have in front of us a picture of what is happening in Hungary today. I shall show to the House a note which was once regarded as the Hungarian £1 note—20 pengoes That note today is mere " dust,"The Hungarians say. Here is a note, which I acquired some three weeks ago, representing 100 million pengoes. When I acquired it it was worth is. 8d. Today, I believe that it is not worth 6d. That is how the inflationary spiral in Hungary is going up day by day; so much so that the workman, when he has done a month's work, cannot earn enough to buy his wife even a pair of stockings. He must work for a year before he can afford to buy her a pair of shoes. The result is that they are not even paid in pengoes any more, and the pengo is no longer a measure of exchange. We found that dollars and gold were the medium of exchange in the shops for the commodities that were on sale. This inflation is something which is crippling the country and must be cured.
A very great problem which Hungary has to face at the present time is one which is often referred to in this House— the problem of food supplies. The food situation there has to be seen to be believed. We saw thousands of individuals in one district in Budapest, 10,000 people in a working class area, who existed on a plate of maize-meal and water with four slices of bread a day. In another large District, we saw poor Hungarian people, many of whom looked like the " lifeless bones "In the concentration camps which we deplored so much in this country only a few months ago. These people live on a plate of soup and four slices of bread a day. These conditions are not general, but they represent the condition of a great many of the people in Hungary today. That is the background, those are the conditions which exist in Hungary at the present time which the Government has to face. It is a very big problem.
Is this Government in Hungary a democratic Government? It was elected 1902 in November last in elections which have been declared by all observers to be fair and democratic, and as a result of those elections our Foreign Secretary recognised the Hungarian Government. As a result of the elections the four main contesting parties formed a coalition. These four parties are the Smallholders, an agrarian party like any other agrarian party in South-East Europe, who have eight seats in the Cabinet; the Communist Party with four seats, the Social Democrats with four seats, and the National Peasant Party with one The Prime Minister is a member of the Smallholders Party and I do not envy him his job in holding together the many diversified elements 'of his Cabinet. It has been said, and was even hinted by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckrose that the Communist Party is exerting an undue pressure, that it is in fact translating Russian theory into practice in Hungary. I do not agree that the Communist Party is exerting as much pressure as has been suggested, nor indeed that it is about to take over Hungary in a Communist " putsch."There is no suggestion of that; the four Communist members in the Cabinet, work in close cooperation with the other members, and their leader gives an agreeable impression, and has a most dynamic personality.
There is in Hungary a considerable degree of political freedom. We have heard it said in this House that behind the "Iron curtain,"There is Press censor ship. I want to deny at once that there is Press censorship in Hungary. It is true that the Press is subject to post-publication scrutiny, but that is precisely what we did in this country during the war. We accepted editorial responsibility and we still do that. In Hungary it is true that a number of papers are suspended from time to time, but explanations are generally given, and when we asked editors, as we frequently did, why their papers were suspended, they frequently accepted the reason as being fair. I would like to tell hon. Members opposite the two main reasons why a newspaper might be suspended. The first is for an offence against the Big Three. This might upset international agreement at a delicate time when the peace treaty with Hungary is being prepared, and consequently the Press are asked not to offend against international relationships. On one occasion recently a Communist paper—
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Virtually, then, it comes to what the Foreign Secretary said today—unless the newspapers all take the Communist view, they are suppressed.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Haire
I was just about to inform the House that, recently, a Communist paper was suspended for several days because it spoke rather too violently about the expenditure incurred by the British Mission on its entertainment and by the American Mission on the flowers it provided for its lady friends. Equally, the radio is not subject to any more censorship than is found in our own B.B.C. The members of the delegation went to the microphone and had complete freedom. We were without script, and I would like to ask any of the members of that delegation who are present to confirm that to the House. When I was in Hungary in October last, I went to the microphone on three occasions, each time without a script, free to say what I liked, and I like to feel that on one occasion I was somewhat outspoken and that I had even offended. The radio gave us an opportunity of expressing our impressions on the spot, so we did not wait until we came out of Hungary to say what we thought. I conclude this section of my remarks by saying that I consider that at the present moment Hungary is not politically controlled by Russia. She has freedom in her day-to-day political affairs, and in fact, on the long-term view, would not be controlled by the occupying force so long as she adopts a friendly attitude towards the Soviet.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
; Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman forgive me if I come back to a point he made just now about freedom to talk on the radio? Would he tell the House whether he talked in Hungarian or English? If he talked in English, most people would not understand his criticisms.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Haire
That is a relevant point; we spoke in English, all five of us who went to the microphone, and our remarks were later translated into Hungarian. We had faithful interpreters who informed us that they were fair translations.
The Red Army has been subjected to some criticisms, and my hon. Friend the 1904 Member for Buckrose said he felt that there was a terror. of the Red Army in Hungary. I challenge him on that point and ask whether he can give any particular instance. He will well remember that we were together for most of the trip, and in fact we went out into the country together. I would like to give two illustrations of the impression given by the Red Army. The House will be interested to know that its size—it is very difficult to determine this figure, but we were informed on fairly reliable authority —is less than half a million. When I was in Hungary last autumn the Red Army was very much more obvious than it is now, and I should say it was then probably nearer a million. Now it is not so obvious; one hardly sees anything of it in Budapest.
We went out into the country and found that the distribution of the Red Army is very irregular. In some places it is very noticeable; in others scarcely at all. We went to the town of Keeskemet, with a population of 35,000, and we were told that there were 38,000 Russians, and there was hardly a house in the town where there were not five billettees. That, no doubt weighed very heavily on the local housewives, and undoubtedly such concentration leads from time to time to difficulties. We inquired if there were any actual incidents there and were told that there were comparatively few. We were told about one which had occurred on Good Friday, about 10 days before, when, unfortunately, several people were shot on a lonely farm. Here I would like to point out that the difficulty is that the Red Army do not speak Magyar, nor do the Hungarians speak Russian. Even in the occupying army eight different languages are spoken, and it is extremely difficult for any close intimate feeling to grow up, so that incidents do from time to time occur. They are not however of such a frequency as to justify the description of terror.
We went to another large town, the second largest town in Hungary, called Szeged—it is a very famous university town—and there we were given an extremely warm welcome. We were met by about 5,000 people in the square, given a gala performance at the opera at which the Russian commander and two members of his staff were present, and I must say I was greatly thrilled at the reception 1905 which we, as British representatives, were given. Subsequently, a reception was given in our honour at which, again, the Russian commander and his staff officers were present. A number of cordial speeches were made. It is my opinion that he probably made the warmest and most cordial speech of the evening when he quoted President Roosevelt and Generalissimo Stalin and said that the future of small countries like Hungary depended on the friendship which would exist among the great Powers.
I wish the House to appreciate that incidents occurred soon after the occupation but such incidents are largely of the past and are not now occurring as a regular feature of the situation there. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member who interrupted thinks that that is not so, I should like him to go to that country and see for himself. This was an all-party delegation which will shortly be issuing what, I hope, will be a unanimous report. As leader of the delegation, I can say that we all generally agreed upon the view which I have just given to the House of the occupation of Hungary by the Red Army.
§ Mr. Wadsworth
I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member's opinion, but I hope in due course to have the report in the hands of all Members of the House, putting forward the unanimous feeling of the delegation.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Haire
I am not saying that everything I am stating is in the report. That would be a breach of the confidence of the delegation. I am speaking now for myself. If there is any challenge, it is upon what I consider was an exaggerated view of the effect' that the Russian Army is having on Hungary at the present time. I have paid two visits to that country, and after the intervening period of six months I have noted very considerable improvement. I believe that it will go on. We had an opportunity of speaking to the General commanding in Hungary and his staff and we put to him a number of pertinent questions on such things as the problem of billeting and the reduction of the Army. He told us that the Red Army in Hungary was being gradually reduced. He said, " Only yesterday we had a request to send back a further group."I think this will show that it is true that the Red Army has been 1906 very considerably reduced, and that it is the intention of the Russians to reduce it to the lowest level necessary.
The Foreign Secretary referred today to the great difficulties we have had in establishing trade with these Danubian countries. He said that Russian economic penetration there seemed to be somewhat exclusive. The House will be interested to know that there are, approximately, four economic agreements between Russia and Hungary, the general effect of which appears to tie Hungarian economy to Russia; but Hungarians recognise that close economic ties with Russia are inevitable, not only because of geographical affinity but because of the loss of the very large markets that Hungary had in Germany before the war. Those economic agreements are not exclusive. One has only to recall economic agreements which have been made with other countries and which are now in operation.
There is a trade agreement with Switzerland, as a result of which Switzerland sends food to Hungary by road convoy, and receives in return radio parts, such as valves. Hungary has a big radio industry. There is a trading agreement with Czechoslovakia. It is working. Czechoslovakia sends coal, coke and wood and, in return, gets from Hungary oil and bauxite. I would like the House to know that when we were in Hungary we hoped that this country would have trade relations with Hungary, but we were told that there was very great difficulty in establishing them. Does the House know that we still insist upon operating the trading with the enemy restrictions? When I was in Hungary last October I asked a member of the British Mission why we could not get trade going again, because Hungarians were most anxious to trade with us. He replied: " What these people fail to realise is that they are still technically our enemies."That is not an attitude that will lead to a renewal of trade for which the Foreign Secretary asked this afternoon. I believe that a payments agreement is about to be negotiated, and that trade will shortly be established. I feel, however, that the fault is to a large extent on our side.
My right hon. Friend referred to the difficulties of reaching agreement in Paris. One territory upon which agreement appears to have been reached rapidly is Transylvania. Apparently agreement was 1907 reached on that vital problem among the Big Three in a matter of five minutes. What was the argument and the reason why that large area in which there are 1,500,000 Hungarians, was handed back to Rumania? Why was this done, in view of the Treaty of Trianon, which is now very much despised in this country and has been greatly abused in this House? Transsylvania is a very large territory with a very large Hungarian minority. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give us information on this point, because what has happened is contrary to what we should have expected, from the statements made in this House. I would refer to the statement made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) on 5th September, 1940, about the Treaty of Trianon. He said:I have never been happy about the way in which Hungary was treated after the last war.He might well not be happy. She lost two-thirds of her territory and 3,000,000 of her population. He went on to say:We do not propose to recognise any territorial changes "—he was referring to the Vienna Award of 1940, by which Hitler gave Transylvania to Hungary—which take place during the war, unless they take place with the free consent and good will of the parties concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th September, 1940; Vol. 365, c. 40.]Is the present change that was decided at Paris taking place with the good will and the free consent of the parties concerned? Viscount Halifax also referred to the Transylvanian Settlement and said the Allies wereunable, however, to accept the settlement now announced between Rumania and Hungary since that was the result of dictation by the Axis Powers and has been imposed on Rumania under duress.We did not propose, he went on, to recognise territorial changes unless they had been freely agreed to between the parties concerned. He added:We certainly hope at the end of the war there might be a general settlement on lines so just and equitable as to achieve durability. To that end the British Government will exercise all its influence.I hope that the British Government and the Foreign Secretary will use all their influence to see that the decision to hand back such an important area, a decision 1908 so full of potential difficulty to one country, will be reconsidered. I feel sure that this is not a solution which will make for long-term peace.
What solution might there be? The hon. Member for Buckrose has referred to a federal solution. That may present immediate difficulties. There may be a more short-term solution to be found in a partition of Translyvania which will enable us to equate minorities and to give to Hungary as many Rumanians on her side as Hungarians are left on the Rumanian side. That equation of minorities might guarantee the continuance of full citizen rights. We received an answer in the House yesterday from which it would appear that the minorities agreement is not to be continued. What protection will these people have if our Government should not be behind them? That failure of the Government to recognise minority rights is very clearly seen in another part of Hungary. On the Slovak frontier there is a minority problem which is most vexatious. On the Slovakian side of the Danube there are some 720,000 Hungarians, and on the Hungarian side of the Danube some 60,000 Slovaks. Under the present regime in Czechoslovakia, there is an expulsion going on, and the result will be that even after there is a "man-for-man" exchange there will be left some 600,000 Hungarians in Slovakia. Can my right hon. Friend guarantee for them citizen rights? Surely, it is not right to leave to the countries concerned the solution of these minority problems. They are problems which must be settled by the United Nations if we are ever to obtain peace and prosperity in that tormented area.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Flight-Lieutenant Haire) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument, although I agree with him to a considerable extent, especially in regard to the decision of the Four Powers to settle the frontiers of Hungary without any consultation of the people. I have come to that conclusion despite there being no gala performances for me at the opera or a series of extravagant meals. I shall not follow the hon. and gallant Member's argument because I want to talk about the wider issues. One has only to go through the Lobbies today to realise that my right hon. Friend's speech has caused 1909 considerable despondency owing to the long and detailed account that he had to give of Soviet non-cooperation. It has been suggested to me by one of my hon. Friends that if Mr. Molotov were an Englishman he would undoubtedly be a high official at the Treasury because of his persistence in saying "No"To every request.
The right hon. Gentleman s speech left me despondent rather for another reason. I had the opportunity of following the Conference at Paris, from the outside, from day to day, and, therefore, I was fully prepared for the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but I had rather hoped he would be able to talk a little less of the past and a little more of the future, and of the British contribution that can be made to brighten it. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be a very good thing if the Americans would not be discouraged because their proposal for a treaty for the control of Germany for 25 years did not receive a warmer welcome. I could not agree with him more. I think that American offer was one of the most important gestures that has been made for years, because surely anybody who has been inside Germany since the collapse realises that it will take fully a generation before the young Germans of today will be replaced in power by Germans who were too young to be entirely corrupted by Nazi doctrines. But surely that depends on the Americans, and does not depend so much upon us. In the same way it would certainly be a very good thing if the Soviet Government could be more cooperative, because unless the Soviet Government can make up their mind to accept majority decisions, one sees for the world nothing but absolute disaster. But that, again, depends not upon us, but upon the Russians.
What I think many of us hoped for was that my right hon. Friend would be able to say a little more about what is to happen if the conference breaks down, because it is the imminent danger of that which should be occupying the attention of hon. Members to a great extent. I know that my right hon. Friend did not talk about that because of his perennial optimism, his determination, that we shall not be defeated in this attempt to make peace; but it seems to me that we have to face up to much wider issues than were discussed at Paris. After all, the whole 1910 atmosphere seems to be poisoned by this attempt, that was foisted upon us during the war, to impose a Four-Power control, not only upon Europe, but upon the world. It was imposed upon us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) at the conferences at Teheran, Yalta and elsewhere. One could understand it perfectly well. It was vital at that time that the British Government should be assured of maximum cooperation by the Soviet armies. But one realises now what a tremendous burden of responsibility has been placed upon the present Government, what a terrible job it is to try to convince the Soviet Government that that policy of Four-Power domination cannot go on, that it is bound to break clown, and that particularly the British Government cannot stand for it; because of those four Powers, surely, it is the British Government which suffers most, the British Government which is so small, so unimpressive, if it is looked upon only as one-fourth, but so immensely big if looked upon as a colleague with the Dominions in a wider conference.
Therefore, it seems to me that we have to face the fact that this attempt at Four-Power domination is breaking down, and that it will probably involve a complete breakdown of the whole system of control in Germany. I do not think it is our fault. Even last October, when I was in Berlin, it seemed obvious to an outsider that there were going to be at least two Germanys, because already the Russian refusal to allow people from our side of the line to go into the Soviet zone of Germany meant that those two completely different Germanys were growing up. Yet, it is certainly true that our experts on the Central Control Commission were doing everything they could to make the impossible work. This, surety, will mean that, unless my right hon. Friend can succeed in the efforts he is to make at the end of next week, we shall have to face the fact that Europe is divided into two zones by a line running roughly from Stettin to Trieste, and in face of that fact it seems to me that most of the subjects mentioned by my right hon. Friend in his speech are relatively unimportant.
May I digress for a moment to say something about the conditions in which my right hon. Friend was working in Paris? The object of a conference is to 1911 enable people to confer, but the interchange of views seemed to me to be extremely incomplete in Paris. In Geneva, or at the United Nations Assembly in London, there was a lobby where not only the Ministers, but their experts, secretaries, journalists and the rest all mixed up and conferred and talked things over together, and one found in circumstances of that sort the development of a certain international spirit People came to look upon things not purely from the national points of view. There was my right hon. Friend struggling with an acute toothache, having two teeth out in the morning, and taking the chair for 7½ hours during the day. It would have been a great strain on anybody's patience. I do not know whether hon. Members realise the conditions of secrecy in which this conference and others of its kind take place. The Conference in London last September was absolutely secret, and it broke down absolutely. The Conference in Paris was very much better. The Press was entirely excluded from the building where the delegates met, or from anywhere near it, but the journalists were so admirably informed by the Foreign Office spokesmen that hon. Members who read "The Times " will have learned very little from the Foreign Secretary's speech today. They read it in the newspapers, because the service of information from the plenary sessions, although they were secret, was so complete.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I thank my right hon. Friend for this contribution to the paper on which I work and I am sure I welcome it, for if a time ever came when he wanted to give up the job of Foreign Secretary I would gladly concede my place to him. There was one disadvantage about all these arrangements in Paris. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon time after time talked about the vital importance of the common man, of the common people. Let him remember that the people, of any country, except when they have the advantage of a speech by the right hon. Gentleman, have to be informed by the Press, and I would urge upon him—it may appear to be a small point—the importance of not having the delegation each in its own fortress of an hotel with no common meeting place at all and only 1912 giving the news through its own Press officer. That must inevitably mean that we who are writing will write much too much from the national point of view. Apart from that, there was an additional handicap. As a newspaper man I want all the news, but I regretted that even when a meeting of an informal nature was called the right hon. Gentleman and the other Ministers still had no opportunity of talking things over in an informal manner without any fear of what they said being passed on.
I think therefore there is room for improvement in the procedure, but this is going to be no use unless concessions can be made and I do want briefly to suggest two or three possible ones. First of all, my right hon. Friend on one occasion said he was not going to bargain with the lives of the people over Trieste. I think it is quite true on ethnical grounds that Trieste should go to Italy. But I have been in Trieste between the two wars and. have seen the grass growing in the docks because no one was interested in the development of the Port of Trieste. For once there was the possibility of Mr.. Molotov agreeing to a compromise. The right hon. Gentleman says that we cannot bargain with the lives of men or rather we cannot do too much of it, but only a day or two before there was a bargain with the lives of men, for the South Tyrol was left under Italian rule. That seems to me a far graver thing than any decision which might be made to hand Trieste over to Yugoslavia, especially if in return we could make a bargain with Mr. Molotov which would help other people in other parts of the world. After all, if we are going to have this appalling division of Europe into two different fields with a line running from Stettin to Trieste, the Foreign Secretary must concentrate on making as many contacts across that line as possible. I am not at all sure that some bargain could not have been made over Trieste which could have opened up the Danube Basin, about which my right hon. Friend spoke.
I think, too, that there is a great deal to be said about not nagging too much these small Governments East of that line. I believe that on the whole there is, as for example in Hungary, rather more freedom of expression of opinion than some of us in this House generally believe. I think it is a great tragedy that the Polish Government have not yet kept their. 1913 promise to hold elections. We have a right on every possible occasion to insist that they should do so, because there was a definite pledge that they would hold the elections and it was on the basis of that pledge that we recognised the Government. But I think we are in certain danger of worrying too much about these small geographical victories like Trieste. I do not believe that Trieste can be as important as the avoidance of an absolute breakdown with the Soviet Union and the division of Europe into two hostile zones.
I would humbly urge my right hon. Friend, whose wide vision every Member of this House admires, to do everything to ensure that we can keep as many contacts open across that line as possible. But everything in the relations with the Soviet Union is overshadowed by the future of Germany. We, in our desire not to break down that central control of Germany, have delayed, as those who have been to Germany know, to the last moment of danger, any decision as to what our policy in that zone will be. In the hopes that there will be a central policy we have allowed things to slide in our own zone. The young men there, who have done admirable work in administration and control of large cities and so on, have done it without any guiding policy, for none has yet been decided. From what the Minister said today it looks as though we are moving towards the idea of the socialised industry of the Ruhr, a nationalised industry on a small scale inside a federal Germany. I hope that as soon as we have decided our policy we shall announce it to the whole world, because it will not only give immense encouragement to promising elements in Germany but will disarm a great deal of the Soviet suspicion. The world must feel that a Labour Government is carrying out a Labour policy in that great and important area.
Sometimes I cannot help thinking that my right hon. Friend—and I hope he will forgive me for lecturing him in this way— underestimates the sensibilities of the French, the extent to which they suffered a terrible moral blow during the war, and the extent to which they have developed an inferiority complex. They need all possible encouragement, because they are sensitive to the least suggestion of affront. I believe we ought to do more in that direction. Lastly, I do not think my right 1914 hon. Friend mentioned, in the whole of his very able speech, one word about atomic energy. Immense responsibilities for the future peace of the world rest more on my right hon. Friend and three other men than on any other living human beings. They have not time to spend the whole morning, or a considerable part of it, discussing whether a lighthouse in the middle of the Adriatic is to be Italian or Yugoslavian. I hope that when my right hon. Friend goes back on his mission, with the good wishes and prayers of every Member of this House, he will bear in mind the whole time, that these problems, which take so much time, and which caused so much ill-feeling and discussion last month in Paris, are of little importance compared with the immense development, potentialities and possibilities of atomic energy.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
Many problems have been discussed in this House today, some of them very difficult, but the most serious and dangerous of them is the problem of Germany. I visited Germany a few weeks ago and was there for some days. From almost the moment of my arrival I had the same story told to me—depression, industry running down, factories closing, the symptoms and most of the reality of a complete economic breakdown. When I spoke to the high Government officials there I received various explanations. Some said food was the crux of the situation, others shortage of coal, while others again said that it was the shortage of consumption goods which did not provide the incentive for workers to work or for the farmers to bring their produce out of the black market into the city.
There were many explanations, but the fact remains that there was this attitude of complete industrial pessimism without hope and without visible sign of hope for the future. Most remarkable of all, I heard from many high officials one explanation which has been reechoed in this House today. It was that the secret of this breakdown was really the Potsdam Agreement. That seemed very remarkable because when one examines the figures of production in our zone of Germany as a whole I think the general level of production when I was there was somewhere in the region of 22 per cent. of the 1915 prewar figure, and that for iron and steel production was something like 25 per cent. of the capacity provided in the industrial agreement under Potsdam. Generally speaking, the Potsdam targets were miles and miles away, yet at the same time we have this talk which we have heard this afternoon about Potsdam and economic insanity with the suggestion that that is what is preventing the British zone in Germany from getting on to its feet at present.
A plain examination of the economic facts reveals that whatever is at the bottom of the trouble it certainly is not the Potsdam Agreement. The Potsdam Agreement, or rather the industrial agreement under it, sets no limit to the production of coal, to the production of building material, or the building of houses, which is a job which is going to occupy many millions of workers all over Germany for a very long time indeed. Therefore, when all this blame is put on the Potsdam Agreement and when there is this agitation, sometimes whispered and sometimes expressed, for a revision and a breach of that agreement, we should endeavour to find out just where we are going. We are told that it is costing us £80 million to pay what amount to reparations to Germany. The strange thing is happening that in the Soviet zone they are not paying reparations to Germany, but from the produce which is being obtained there, are actually taking reparations out of Germany at the present moment. We are putting reparations in; they are taking reparations out.
Quite naturally in the circumstances we say to the Russians in the quadripartite committee—and the right hon. Gentleman has suggested it—" Let us divide all this."It is a very nice suggestion—" You share our expenditure of £80 million and we will share your reparations." No doubt if the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary could have brought home the bacon, nobody would have been more pleased than the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the British taxpayer, but obviously, while it might be a very attractive suggestion so far as we are concerned, it is a very unattractive suggestion so far as the Russians are concerned, and I do not think we need look for any enigmatic Slavonic mind to understand the Russian attitude on this particular subject. What 1916 they say is: " We made our zone a going concern. You do the same, and then we can talk in terms of economic unity and division of the spoils or the payment of what we have all got to put into the concern."That is nothing to do with the question of Potsdam; it is primarily a question of making our own zone work. I think it can work, but it is not working now. When I went there one of the things which appalled me was that we had 26,000 Government officials running German industry, an industry which the Germans ought to be running themselves and which they are running on the other side of the Elbe. It should be running under our supervision, and we are paying for men to run it.
What is the mentality of our people who are running it? They are men, in many cases, with high intelligence and a good deal of enthusiasm and interest, but the way they are trying to solve the problem is to apply methods of British municipal government to Germany. There exists the conception that, because we have a workable democratic system in this country, these ideas can be applied to Germany automatically. In substance, that is the method which is being applied. We have the same idea with regard to non-political civil servants. That is one of the traditions of municipal government in this country. In Germany it is fatal, because the non-political civil servant is a reactionary and a Nazi, and that is why both the democratic parties of the Left insist that there should cease to be this idea of non-political civil servants. There arc other problems, including those of de-Nazification, the dismissal of Nazis, a very serious problem. Here is the sort of view that high officials take of the problem. It was put to me by a brigadier in this way, " We want the machine to tick over. No dislocation—the machine must tick over." What is the consequence? Instead of adopting the drastic measure of getting rid of the Nazis at the beginning, there is hesitation and procrastination, and the consequence is that there is confusion in the minds of the German people as to what it is we want, as to whose side we are on and where we are going. That is the cause, in my view, of the apathy and demoralisation which give the German people no objective and no purpose and has led to economic stagnation.
1917 From what I have seen and read, we have to face the issue that before we emerge into the light in Germany we must pass through the shadows. Our representatives there are afraid to pass through the shadows. Before we come on to the clear road which leads to a progressive and economically prosperous Germany, it will be necessary to take steps which will result in temporary dislocation for a short time. I believe that this job can be done. I think it was the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who said that, in the event of the failure of Potsdam, we must consider making our zone a viable economic unit. Why not make it a viable working economic unit right away? Before we abandon Potsdam we ought to see where we are going. There is no doubt of one thing; if Potsdam goes, it means a Chinese wall dividing the whole of Europe, it may be for generations to come, and the prospect of any stable peace in those circumstances will have gone for the whole of our generation— for the whole of our generation we shall live in fear and dissipate our substance on preparations for war.
Therefore, I ask those gentlemen who are condemning this agreement to realise, before it is abandoned, what will take its place before the impasse between the West and the East is entire and complete. I believe it is still possible to arrive at an agreement with the East; it will not be easy, but I think it is still possible within a short time to make Germany a single workable economic whole by approximating the political system of the world on both sides, and by a spirit of cooperation and compromise on both sides. I think that is still a possibility, difficult as I have said, but a real possibility. The alternative is political catastrophe for the next generation.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Vernon Bartlett) when he said that everything is overshadowed by the situation in Germany, and that we are heading for catastrophe through lack of policy in our zone. I have great respect for the Foreign Secretary, as I think he knows, and like hon. Members on all sides of the House I have an admiration for a great deal that he has done; so if I appear unduly critical in 1918 regard to his policy in Germany, I hope he will realise that I appreciate the great difficulties of the situation and that this German part of the picture, though very important, is only a part and, in some cases, it may well be that he has to decide between a choke of evils.
It seems to me that in Germany in our zone there are only two alternatives. One is to remain almost indefinitely as a conqueror, with all the expenditure upon the taxpayer that would inevitably entail, and the ruthless manner of dealing with a defeated enemy which is perhaps much more compatible with their own traditions than with ours. The other is to build up a democracy which, subject to supervision for security reasons, would be capable of governing itself and giving its citizens enough hope of a decent standard of living to make it worth while for them to make voluntary efforts. That, I am quite sure, is the policy of the British Administration in our zone but I believe that, whereas now we have the choice of which of those policies we adopt, very soon we shall lose that choice and be forced to adopt the first, which would in my opinion be a disastrous course.
On this side of the House we sometimes think that right hon. Gentlemen opposits believe in a planned economy to a greater extent than is practical. But surely in foreign policy there must be a plan. There seems to me at the present time to be no clear plan. It seems to be improvising to deal with each emergency as it arises. I should like to quote briefly from a letter which I received yesterday from an hon. Member of this House. He says:I was horrified at a report in one of the Sunday newspapers regarding the conditions in Bremen and Hamburg. It implied that we were marking time and doing nothing to get a reasonable working economy going again. I suppose our excuse is lack of agreement between the Powers. To mark time any longer would seem to make disaster inevitable.The hon. Member in question, who is away seriously ill, was badly wounded at Arnhem, and was in the hands of the Germans for six months. So he is not biased in their favour. In view of his experiences, his views are entitled to some consideration. I would like to say with all the small force I have how very much I feel we are drifting into a situation of disaster, and we have not too long in which to get it righted.
1919 I suggest that among the conditions necessary in order to make possible the building up of a democracy on the lines I have suggested, the obvious one is food, but in view of the long Debate we had on that last week, I will not say much about it now. I think it must be clear that with an ordinary ration which consists of bread and margarine in the morning, soup in the afternoon and two more thin slices of bread in the evening with so-called coffee made from wheat, a man is not much concerned about getting on with his work. He is thinking about his stomach. I do not think it is possible for them to work on these rations. Moreover, there is little incentive for them to work. I believe the average wage is 35s. a week and the man can only spend about 6s. on rations. That leaves a little under £1.. There is nothing in the shops and it is far better worth his while to stay in bed or spend his time scouring the country in the hope of getting food.
Secondly, we should drastically alter the level of industry. The Foreign Secretary told us that the maximum steel production permitted is 7,000,000 tons. It is necessary to put 1,000,000 tons a year into the coalmines in the Ruhr alone. Before the war they used 800,000 tons and now they have about 200,000 tons. Unless there is an increase there is a certainty of a drop in output of coal, and a great danger of mining disasters. Coal output has been falling with the falling rations. When rations fell a few weeks ago, there was an almost immediate fall of about 30 per cent. in output. Coal and steel are vital. If we could get more steel, we could get more coal, and if we could get more coal and keep more in the zone, we could get more consumer goods, to help the country to get going again and provide the goods which could encourage " dis-hoarding" of food all over the world, and also relieve the burden on the British taxpayer.
At present we are sending coal out of the country in. an enormous proportion. The amount going to liberated countries in April was about 700,000 tons, which was stepped up to 1,000,000 tons last month. To allow coal to go out of the country leads to the inevitable consequence that industry cannot work in Germany and that means that there is nothing to pay for the imports. It seems to me that to use up coal in that way is 1920 rather like a farmer eating his own seed potatoes. We should use the coal to produce the goods that would produce the money to relieve our taxpayers. Would it not be possible to send coal to the other zones and liberated areas only in return for supplies of food from them?
What happened after 1918 made it very clear that insufficient measures were taken then, but I do not believe that what would have been right in 1918 is necessarily right in 1946. There is such complete devastation in that country now that I should have thought—and this is the opinion I have found expressed on every side in Germany—there is no immediate fear of military aggression by that country. The devastation is almost indescribable. The English manager of Krupps had lunch with me in this building today, and he told me that of the 450,000 people living in Essen, 75 per cent. are living in cellars, that there is hardly a drain working properly in the whole town. That is the sort of devastation which one sees throughout the Ruhr. I suggest that military aggression by Germany is not to be feared at the moment. Governments are so often apt to believe that a remedy which was right 30 years earlier, is applicable at a much later date.
Hon. Members opposite talk much about facing the future. Some of their economics are unduly concerned with the past, and I suggest that at the moment it is the present that matters. The menace of poverty, wherever it exists, menaces and undermines the wellbeing of all. I think that is what General Smuts was thinking of in what I thought was his most admirable broadcast last week. I would like to quote one sentence. About Germany he said:As a vast depressed area—human and economic—she may become a centre of infection which may poison much of the Continentand he called for a revision and reversal of policies. I feel that that great and wise man was voicing, as he has so often done before, not only the conscience but the common sense of the Empire. I believe that at every turn we are being paralysed by the quadripartite policy. Our efforts to provide food and coal and even to destroy the war potential are continually being frustrated by the fact that supplies of the essential articles are outside the zone. Germany was a complete 1921 economic entity, and I believe that even now it could be more or less self supplying with regard to food. We have not too long in which to put this matter right. With any force I have, I urge upon the Foreign Secretary the need very quickly to see whether we cannot reach some policy compatible with getting German democracy going again. Otherwise, I believe we face a disaster which may not only impoverish us in this country, but may even eventually endanger our existence.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)
One thing running as a sombre undertone through the careful and objective survey which the right hon Gentleman gave us this afternoon was the fact that on so many matters it was completely impossible for this country to reach agreement with our Russian Allies. What a sad and lamentable change from 12 months ago, when on every lip there was praise for the gallantry of the Russians. Frankly, it is the Russians themselves who have done much to forfeit the confidence and trust which the people of this country extended to them in large measure. This is a fact which we must face in connection with the forthcoming conference of Foreign Ministers. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) said, we must go to that conference with our eyes open prepared to recognise that there is some possibility of breakdown between the West, on the one hand, and the East, on the other. In no matter is it more important than that we should be clear what we are trying to do than in the matter of Germany. That is the key state lying in the centre of Europe. Unless that problem can be solved, then no problem whatever in the range of international affairs can be solved. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Erdington Division of Birmingham (Mr. J. Silverman) said he thought that we should not attack the Potsdam Agreement. I would be happy if I could feel there was any chance of the Potsdam Agreement working. I see no sign of that at all. What actually is happening? The basis of the Potsdam Agreement, surely. was that Germany should be treated as an economic whole, and another equally important provision was that the standard of living of the German people should not be lower than the average for the 1922 rest of Europe, excluding the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R—
§ Mr. Butcher
I do not doubt my hon. Friend, but I am sure he will permit me to refresh my memory. The provision was that the average standard of living should not exceed the average standard in Europe. What is happening? In our zone in Germany there is one great natural product—the coal of the Ruhr. That, however, is not at our disposal. It is apportioned by the Quadripartite Committee sitting in Berlin. That would be all right if there was reciprocity. If the Ruhr is the coal producing area, then inside the Russian zone are the great agricultural and grain producing parts of Germany. We are entitled to say that the produce from those acres should be apportioned in Berlin and that we should have our share in the British zone.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
I did not want to interrupt again. As far as the Russian zone is concerned, the facts we were given are that we are sending 250,000 tons of coal into the Russian zone for which an equivalent amount of lignite is being transported into the British zone. Therefore, it is a very small matter and it is not a question of coal going to the British zone without reciprocity.
§ Mr. Butcher
That may very well be but we cannot feed many bellies with 250,000 tons of lignite. Unless the Russians are prepared to honour the quadripartite agreement to a degree that they have not done in the past, we as a House of Commons must be prepared to accept the possibility that it will be our duty to make the best possible arrangements for the future running of our zone. I believe it is possible to do it without any quarrel. It will be a matter for hard bargaining in which we offer to exchange the produce of our zone in terms of coal for the produce of other zones in terms of grain or other necessities of life.
How far can we go, I do not know. Everybody is at fault. There has been difficulty in organising trade arrangements between the American and the French zones and our own, but these difficulties are being overcome. The position at the present time is ludicrous. It is ridiculous that electrical machinery is 1923 being sent from this country for the equipment of the Ruhr mines though no Member of the Government will deny it. Here is this great mining and steel producing area, with so little coal left for its essential manufactures that the actual steel wires for the winding of the coal cannot be produced locally and have to be imported, and such a situation in so enormous an industry is impossible.
I would say to the Under-Secretary that the time is running out. There is not very much time left if we are to avoid a disaster of the most appalling magnitude in Germany. Either the Potsdam Agreement has got to work and Germany be treated as an economic whole, which will mean that the Russians will have to recognise it and play up to it in a way they have not done in the past, or, alternatively, we must be prepared to take over the task of running our zone to make the best use we can of the resources of that zone, not for ourselves, but, primarily, for the German people, so that they may live and not starve, and, secondly, for the benefit of Europe, and, finally, for the whole of mankind. Therefore, I hope that, before he goes to the Paris Conference of Ministers, the Foreign Secretary will have prepared plans which, if necessary, if the Potsdam Agreement be denounced, can be immediately put into effect by running our own zone and maintaining the livelihood of those committed to our charge there.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
I wish to support what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Captain F. Noel-Baker) said about Spain. It may be a rather small element in this great world scene we are considering, but I think that, on the way we handle it, much will depend. There will be repercussions in many countries of the world.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made his attitude towards Franco very clear, and so has the Prime Minister, who indicated how glad he would be to see a change in the regime there. I think there has been an implication that this was not really our concern, but was a matter for the Spaniards themselves. Further, in many places, we hear the argument that the Spaniards, being a proud race, would be consolidated behind Franco 1924 by any outside interference, for instance, by us. If Franco had been put into power by the united efforts of the Spaniards themselves, there might be something in that argument, but we all know that, in actual fact, he got enormous assistance from Hitler and Mussolini, to say nothing of his own extensive use of Moorish troops. Even so, he had a very long and bitter struggle before he was able to impose his tyranny on the Spanish people. If he had not had all that outside assistance, it is clear he never could have done it, and, in those circumstances, is it likely that the Spanish people, the ordinary masses, would really resent outside help in removing that tyranny? It just does not make sense, and I think there is every reason to believe what my hon. and gallant Friend said just now.
My hon. and gallant Friend said he had been told by the Spaniards themselves that they would put up with considerable hardship if economic pressure were put on by us to make Franco's position more difficult, in much the same way as the Czechs accepted, for instance, the bombing of the Skoda works.which they knew would tend towards their liberation. Further, we must not forget our own responsibility in this matter. If Hitler and Mussolini helped actively to put Franco into power, we helped him passively. No doubt we would like to forget that, but it is true. When the Republican Government wanted to exercise the ordinary right of buying from us arms and equipment which they so badly needed, they were not allowed to do so on the pretence that a nonintervention agreement was being observed and, in order to establish that standpoint, we even went to the ridiculous length of pretending that we were quite unaware that help was 'really being given by Hitler and Mussolini. It is up to us to remember the part we played in that matter, a part of which we ought to be thoroughly ashamed. It has been said that the struggle between Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, on the one hand, and the Republican Government of Spain on the other, was the first phase of the great war we have just completed—a sort of prologue. There is something in that point of view and, if we accept-it, we cannot regard this struggle as thoroughly completed while the junior member of that trio is still in power.
1925 As regards the action we might take, my right hon. Friend has already said a good deal about economic sanctions and I, too, think that much pressure could be brought by that means. He mentioned other means also, such as breaking off diplomatic relations which, in any case, will probably be recommended by U.N.O.—it has already been recommended by the Sub-Committee—and there is the establishing of diplomatic contact with the alternative Government. It may seem a trivial matter, but I wish to draw attention to the broadcasts to Spain, although I do not think it is so very trivial when it affects such large numbers of people in that country. Hon. Members probably know that during the war our broadcasts to Spain were of a very invigorating anti-dictator type. The Spaniards used to look forward to them, and were careful not to miss them. But as soon as the war ended, there was a complete change in the tone of our broadcasts to Spain. The robust words of democracy gave way to feeble bleatings of appeasement, and the broadcasts now, even if they do not actually have a friendly tone towards the existing regime, are, at any rate, exceedingly tolerant towards it. I can quite believe what I am told that not only do Spaniards not look forward to them, but that if they are listening to other types of broadcast they turn the wireless off as soon as ours come on. They know what to expect.
I have not been primarily concerned to suggest that the Government should take this or that direct action, but to establish the principle that we have a responsibility in this matter and that we cannot shelter behind the notion that this is no concern of ours. Once that responsibility is fully accepted, I am sure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will find ways and means of putting pressure on Franco. I am convinced that he is not as secure as he sometimes appears to be, though considerable elements in Spain who, I understand, were preparing to desert him at the close of the war—because they fully expected that our Government and that of the United States would do something fairly drastic which, of course, did not happen—went back to him. I think if that pressure is applied his position can in time be made intolerable, and we shall see in Spain a Government which really 1926 represents the masses. We helped to put Franco in. We must help to put him out.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
When one considers the Government's broad attitude towards world problems today, one cannot help feeling that, apart from a possibly quite healthy tendency to quarrel with our Allies, the most noticeable and constant factor is a tendency to withdraw. While others hold their ground or advance, we pull out. We have withdrawn or are withdrawing in Europe, in Asia and in Africa. I cannot help feeling that if our policy were rather more positive, perhaps we would not have quite so many quarrels with our Allies. But I do not propose to discuss the advisability or inadvisability of this policy of withdrawal. At the risk of being thought a Cassandra, I propose to deal very briefly with its consequences.
In a recent Debate the Prime Minister said that the responsibility for the defence of Egypt lay primarily with the Egyptians. That is a very easy way out. Anyone who spent any time in the Western Desert between 1940 and 1942, knows perfectly well that if our forces had not been in Egypt at the outbreak of hostilities, the Egyptians would not have been able to hold their own for a minute, and I see no reason to suppose that they are any better able to do so today. The Indians, it is true, are a more warlike race, but, surely, if left to their own devices, they would be more likely to direct their warlike tendencies to cutting each other's throats than to setting their defences in order. In short, is there any reason to suppose that if either Egypt or India had to stand by themselves, they would be better able to defend their independence than, say, Persia has been in the rough-and-tumble of international relations today?
Presumably, the case for our withdrawal from Egypt, India and all these other countries is based on two main suppositions-—first, that our presence there does not bring sufficient benefits to the people of that country to justify our remaining, and secondly, that we are not strong enough to remain even if we wanted. A wish expressed shortly before the war by the President of the Board of Trade, who said that he wanted to see the end of the Empire, may also help to 1927 clear matters up a bit, especially as he is now taking such an active part in the process of demolition.
§ Brigadier Maclean
In 1938. The trouble is that others do not share our inferiority complex. To take only one example, our Soviet Allies show a very clear realisation of their strength and behave accordingly. People are always asking, " Why is it that you object so much to the Russians doing this and doing that, when you yourselves stay in Egypt or India?"I would answer, " Why is it that you are so ready to see us clear out of Egypt or India, but so glad to see the Russians stay in countries in which they have no better right to be than we have in Egypt or India?"
§ Mr. Platts-Mills
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that Soviet forces are still in Persia?
§ Brigadier Maclean
If the hon. Member looks at an atlas he will have no difficulty in finding a country in which there are Soviet forces, or which is under Soviet influences.
§ Brigadier Maclean
The Russians show a clear realisation of their strength, and they consider that the various Eastern races, which at one time or another, and by one method or another, have been brought under Russian domination—and I am not talking only of the countries that have come under Russian domination since the Revolution—derive very considerable benefits from Soviet rule. Having travelled extensively in Soviet Asia I consider there is a certain amount of justification for saying that. It has been said that the Russians are children of nature. One thing at any rate they have in common with their parent, and that is that they abhor a vacuum. They are showing that very clearly in the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East. By our policy of withdrawal we are deliberately creating further vacuums all over the world. We are casting aside all heavy responsibilities which this country 1928 and our Empire have so long and so courageously borne. Let us not be surprised or shocked if others step in to pick up the burden which we have so lightly cast aside. Surely, it is our responsibility, both nationally and internationally, before we withdraw our protection from countries which are not able to stand by themselves, to ensure that a system of security or trusteeship is set up which is adequate to protect, not only the interests of the peoples concerned and of the great Powers, but also world peace, which is otherwise bound to suffer from our policy of continual abdication.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
After the speech of the Foreign Secretary the Debate seems to have ranged over many subjects. It has taken the form of hon. Members giving reports of the parts of the world which they have visited in the past few weeks or months. In my remarks I propose to make some reference to a country which I have visited recently. Before doing so I would like to make some comments on the general Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) said that he listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary with a feeling of despondency. It certainly was not a very cheerful record the Foreign Secretary had to give us. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bridgwater was making a criticism of the Foreign Secretary or not, but it seemed to me that it was perfectly legitimate for the Foreign Secretary to make a list, and to give the House its contents, of the various proposals that have been discussed in Paris. He was able to show, and had to show, how many of those proposals had been blocked by the action of the Soviet Government. It was right that those facts should be revealed to this House, and it is necessary to reveal those facts to this House and to the country, for the reason that many persons are asking why some more positive action is not taken by the British Government.
But positive initiatives have been taken by the British Government. They have endeavoured to get peace treaties and settlements in Europe. They have been rejected by our Allies, and the fact that there is no settlement is not the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. That fact ought to be proclaimed. And it is 1929 most important that it should be proclaimed throughout Europe and the world, that if the British Government had had their way, the world would be on the way to a very much better peace than we see in prospect at the present time.
It is most important, for instance, that the people of Austria should know how eager the British Government are to see the withdrawal of troops from their country. This is one answer to the question of my hon. Friend who asked just now for an instance of a country from which the withdrawal of Russian troops is desirable. Russian troops are in Austria in defiance of the best interests of the Austrian people, and the Austrian people wish to see a withdrawal of the Russian troops. The British Government wish to see the withdrawal of troops from Austria. It would make a great contribution to the whole peace of Europe if that could be achieved. It ought to be known in Austria how eager the British Government and the British people are to see a full and final settlement of Austria's problems in accordance with the treaty made in Moscow in 1943.
Many hon. Members of this House in the Debates—and I think it is most remarkable how many have referred to this —have referred to the question of Potsdam and of the so-called "Iron curtain " which, they allege, exists in Europe at the present time. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Bridgwater that the prospect or possibility of a line being drawn from Stettin to Trieste, dividing Europe in half, is one of the most important questions with regard to Europe with which we are confronted, and that it is possible that if the forthcoming conferences break down we shall be confronted with this situation. We shall have to devise a policy for dealing with it. But immediately, as I understand the statement of the Foreign Secretary, the policy of His Majesty's Government is to make one great new effort to get a common agreement.
That new effort to get a common agreement will be based partly on the proposals which the Foreign Secretary referred to regarding Germany and the Ruhr; it is based partly on the hope that a new approach by all the Powers will be made towards the possibility of a 25 years' treaty forbidding future German aggression, as proposed by Mr. Byrnes; it is to 1930 be a policy, also, which, as the Foreign Secretary suggested, would possibly envisage a revision of the Potsdam Agreement. I certainly hope that great emphasis will be laid on the possibility of getting a total revision of the Potsdam Agreement, because it is impossible to pursue a policy of keeping a country down and, at the same time, a policy of trying to build it up. It is impossible to give instructions to a people of a country saying, "Try to build your country up a little, but see to it you do not build it too much."That is an impossible policy to carry out. The sooner we make a real effort—with our Allies, first of all, if they will; but without them if they will not—to carry out a policy of reconstruction in Germany, the sooner shall we have a better chance of sanity and humanity coming back to the world.
With regard to the more general situation, I hoped, and all of us during the war hoped, that at the end of the war there would be a continuation of the common agreement between the Great Powers in the making of the peace. That hope has gone unfulfilled, and it is the lack of fulfilment of that hope and the deterioration in the relations between the Soviet Union and ourselves that is chiefly responsible for all the troubles we have to confront at the present time. I believe that these troubles were partly due to the decisions which were made prior to the ending of the war. They were due to the decisions made at Teheran and Yalta, because it is those decisions which prepared the way to Potsdam. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) coming to this House, as he did on Friday, or, in his speech on the other side of the Atlantic, trying to abandon responsibility for this policy of Potsdam, because it was a policy prepared by him more than by any other single individual in this country. It is no good hon. Members on the other side of the House coming forward in this Debate and demanding a more positive policy from the Government, while three days ago they were denouncing the Government for trying to get a decent food policy for the whole of Europe. It is no good demanding a more positive policy regarding the British zone, and then kicking up a tremendous howl because we happened to have made suggestions for feeding the British zone in Germany. 1931 We will never carry out any policy in Germany on a ration of 1,000 calories per day.
What are we to do about this situation? If it comes about that, following the new effort which is being made to get agreement, there is still deadlock, what are we to do? First of all, there is the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in the United States, that we should enter into a solid alliance with the United States. However, we have not been invited to do so, and even if we are invited, it is clear that the United States is totally disunited on the question. Even if the invitation was issued, I believe that that policy is the most certain and the shortest way to create the gulf across which the next war will be fought. There is also the proposal made by a diminishing number of people in this country, that the way to get peace is to agree to all the proposals which are made by the Soviet Union. The Foreign Secretary made clear in his speech the kind of things to which we would have to agree. We should have to abandon our interests over a large part of Europe and the Middle East, and break many of the pledges we have given, particularly in regard to the Poles, that we would seek to ensure that they should have free elections. We should have to hand over Trieste to the Yugoslavs, and the results of that would be inevitably to kill the prospects of democracy in Italy.
§ Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)
Is the hon. Member aware that the majority of Italian workers in Trieste are in favour of working for Yugoslavia?
§ Mr. Foot
I also have a very good source of information. My information comes from Mr. Ignazio Silone, the greatest Italian Socialist living today. He knows more about Trieste than any hon. Member in this House, and is, in fact, an expert on this subject, and when an expert comes along and tells me plainly that the Italians prefer to rule themselves rather than be ruled by anyone else, I am in favour of believing it to be true. If Trieste is to be handed over to Yugoslavia, it will be a mortal blow to the prospects of Italian democracy, because no Italian statesman 1932 can put his name to a treaty which cedes Trieste to Yugoslavia, and which in addition would impose an enormous economic burden on the Italians if we were to agree to the Russian reparation proposals. Therefore, if we were to carry out this policy of ceding to the Russians on every count, we would have to break all these pledges, dishonour ourselves, and, even in the end, we would not have the certainty that we would get the conciliation which we want with our Allies. Only if the surrender is abject and complete can we be certain of getting conciliation with the Russians, and if the surrender is abject and complete we may as well abandon all principles of democratic Socialism for which we stand in this country.
There is a third alternative, apart from the alternative proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, and apart from the alternative supported, no doubt, by my hon. Friend who has been interrupting. It is the alternative that we should judge each issue on its Socialist merits; we should prove to the world by words and deeds that the British Government is not the reactionary Government which it is always alleged to be by the Russian megaphones; we should prove that this country is acting always in the interests of the common people throughout the world. I do not claim that the British Government has done that on every count. I believe that we have been far less bold in the matters of Spain and Greece than this Government has proved itself to be over Egypt and India. We want to judge each issue on its merits and only when we have shown the world that we have a great body of opinion of the world on our side, shall we have the prospects of convincing the masters of the Kremlin that we are far from being the weakest member of the Big Three, and that it will not pay to treat us as such.
I would like to refer to Persia, which I visited recently. I realise that Persia is a far away country of which we know little, but I believe that the Persian question is of great importance for the future of the United Nations organisation. I was reading recently a statement made in the New York "Herald Tribune," a very fine newspaper in the United States, which had come to an opinion on this Persian matter which I regard as deplorable, and which, I think, makes it evident that the Persian issue 1933 has been gravely misunderstood throughout the world. It said:This is a sorry position for the United Nations Board of Directors in charge of peace. The Persian case makes a sad first chapter of the Security Council's career, a career whose success is of vital interest to the whole world, if only the British and the Americans had the practical wisdom to avoid launching the Council in such muddy waters; if only now its statesmen had enough courage and decision to cut their losses and extricate themselves from an impossible situation that grows more frightening every day.That statement agrees almost exactly with the kind of statement about Persia which is made by the Russians, and it is alarming, in my belief, that such a view about Persia should have spread throughout the world. What has happened in Persia? There cannot be any denying what has actually happened. It is that a powerful State by the use of force, plain, open force, has been able to work its will on an independent State. If anyone denies that that is the truth, it can be proved. It can be proved very simply by the words and actions of the Persian Prime Minister, who is a very good authority on this matter, because he was described by the Soviet Ambassador in Teheran as the " greatest diplomat of the age."
What does this " greatest diplomat of the age "do? In fact, the Prime Minister of Persia went to Moscow in February to conduct negotiations with the Russian Government. The Russian Government made three demands. Remember, that over a large part of the Northern part of Persia and the most important part of Persia, the Province of Azerbaijan, the Russians had been in authority, and had a Government which had been carrying out their policy for the last two or three years. He went to Moscow, and the demands made by the Russians on the Prime Minister of Persia in February were these. First of all, an oil concession to be granted to the Russians; second, autonomy to be granted to the Province of Azerbaijan; and third, only when those two things were carried out would it be possible for Soviet troops to withdraw from Persian territory. That was in February. Those demands were rejected by the Persian Prime Minister, and, as I believe, quite rightly and properly rejected. The Persian Prime Minister made it clear at the same time that he was not opposed to giving an oil concession to the Russians—the Russians have a perfect right to have an oil concession in the 1934 North of Persia. It all depends on the methods by which it is gained. The Persian Prime Minister at that time made it clear that he was not opposed to giving an oil concession to the Russians, but he could not do it until the Soviet troops had been withdrawn.
Two months later a treaty is signed in Teheran between the Russians and the Persians, while the Soviet troops are still on Persian soil, and that treaty says that an oil concession is to be granted when a new Parliament has been formed in Persia and that a provincial council is to be established in Azerbaijan. It is not stated definitely whether that provincial council shall act under the central Government, but certainly the Prime Minister of Persia believed that it was quite certain that his central Government would be able to restore its authority all over the whole country once that treaty was carried out. It is quite certain that that is the fact, because when I was in Persia he told me so quite emphatically. We discussed the treaty which had been made, we cross-examined him about it, and he said that certainly the central Government in Persia would be able under this treaty to establish its authority in the Province of Azerbaijan, and, therefore, the whole problem was over. What has happened since? What has; happened is that the central Government of Persia has no more control over the Province of Azerbaijan to day than it had many months ago. It has not restored its control over Azerbaijan. The Government that has been in operation for the past year or more is still in control of Azerbaijan and, not merely that, but that same Government has signed a treaty, as if it was an independent Power,. with the Kurds, thus revealing that it was the intention of Azerbaijan to maintain an independent country—independent of the central Government in Persia.
I do not know whether the Minister, when he comes to reply, will have more evidence to give us about this matter, but it is quite clear that the Persian Prime Minister had to accept in May what he had categorically rejected in February as being incompatible with the sovereignty of his country, and therefore—and this is the crux of the matter and its most important aspect—at the same time, when he is accepting what he rejected two months before, he is appealing to the United Nations organisation to drop all 1935 interest in Persia. He even has to go to the length of repudiating his Ambassador, who was representing him at the United Nations Conferences. If that kind of procedure is to continue in these matters of aggression, it will make the whole United Nations organisation a farce. Here is a small country which made its appeal to the United Nations organisation, which said it would help them. Then, owing to the pressure brought to bear by the powerful State upon the smaller State, the latter's representative at U.N.O. is gagged. That is what has happened, and I hope and pray that we shall not look back on this Persian dispute as the Manchuria after this war, because it may be if we are to continue this kind of proceeding.
§ Mr. Solley
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the application of the small country of Persia to the United Nations organisation and gave Persia as an example of the Socialist approach. Would he be good enough to tell the House to what extent the workers and peasants of Persia had any say in that matter, and further to what extent the workers and peasants of Persia are benefiting or otherwise through the intervention of the Soviet Union, which I suggest is the only test of the problem?
§ Mr. Foot
I would be very glad to try to answer my hon. Friend. The reason I selected the Prime Minister of Persia as the man whose actions were to prove the fact that Persia had been compelled to act contrary to her interests, and in defiance of what was regarded as her sovereignty, is because the Prime Minister of Persia has the support of the Tudeh Party in Persia, and the Tudeh Party is the pro-Russian party which very rarely, in fact hardly ever, attacks Mr. Qavarn, the Persian Prime Minister. Therefore, I quoted the Prime Minister's actual words to prove it. I thought that some hon. Member would interrupt and ask, " What is the good of his evidence?"The Prime Minister of Persia is a man who is never attacked by the Tudeh Party. He is supported by them. In fact, it is on his actions I have attempted to prove that the sovereignty of Persia has been threatened.
Now I come to the second point of my hon. Friend. He asked, " What about 1936 the conditions of the workers in Persia? Is it not a fact that Russian interests and influence in Persia would assist the people of Persia?"It is perfectly true that if anyone compares economic conditions in Persia with those across the Russian border he will find that more has been done for people across the Russian border than for people in Persia. I admit that; but is that a justification for the invasion of Persian sovereignty? If so, is it not a further proof of the fact which I am trying to prove that Persian sovereignty has in fact been invaded? When the United Nations organisation say they are there to protect the sovereignty of those nations, it is no use saying that the fact that the Russian Government has established itself means that conditions will be better for the people.
§ Mr. Solley
Is my hon. Friend more concerned about the sovereignty of Persia, which really means the rule of a few landlords and moneylenders, than about the interests of the working class?
§ Mr. Foot
I am concerned about the sovereignty of small States and the welfare of their people. I am dealing with the subject of the sovereignty of small States. If we have a United Nations Charter which says, " We are going to protect these States," why come along with some different story after they have been-invaded? And what about the question of the common people of Persia? They have. been desperately and scandalously used for 20 years and more. It is a poor, wretched, miserable country.
§ Mr. Foot
I am ashamed and sorry to say that the British influence in Persia since we went there in 1941 has been used to back the wrong horse instead of getting together the best people ready for reform. We have been looking for the wrong people and we have backed the wrong horse. That is not a justification for an invasion of sovereignty. It is a justification for trying to persuade the Government to do something on this matter. I hope to persuade them to do it under the United Nations organisation, which has an Economic and Social Council which I believe can be of immense benefit to the people of Persia. In fact, the Prime Minister, with the support of 1937 the Tudeh party, would like, according to what he said to us two months ago— I do not know whether anything has happened to change his mind, but sometimes his mind does change—that he would very much like action to be taken by the Economic and Social Council in order to assist Persia to carry out drastic reforms which are needed in that country. But let us not imagine that the Economic and Social Council can carry out these reforms if we, with the other hand, pull down and wreck the whole United Nations organisation by agreeing and turning a blind eye to all the actions which have been taken in Persia.
In conclusion, I would say only one word. No one envies the Foreign Secretary the task which he has undertaken. In the Middle East he has undertaken to make tremendous changes. It is no use our thinking, like the hon. and gallant Member who spoke a short time ago, that we can stay put in all those parts of the world. The whole place is going up in smoke, and we have to make big changes.
§ Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to me, I did not suggest that we could stay put. I simply pointed out the consequences of not staying put.
§ Mr. Foot
I may have misunderstood the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in common with many other hon. Members, but if he says there is something very wrong in a policy of withdrawal, I can only imagine and suppose that he wants to stay. It is a question of either staying or going, and apparently he has not made up his mind. At any rate, it is impossible for us to maintain our situation in these parts of the world. The principle of, " What we have we hold,"Is no principle on which the foreign policy of this country can be based. Nor is it a principle on which the foreign policy of this country can be based to search out reactionaries in order to build up a bloc against the Communists, because that is the surest way of making Communists. It makes more Communists than the Comintern ever converted. Nor is it possible for us to agree to these demands which have been made by the Soviet Government; it would dishonour ourselves, it would be the end of Socialism and the democratic ideals of Socialism.
I believe the only chance is to take our stand on principle. We must act in 1938 the interests of the common people. We must show the world that we are acting in accordance with those principles. I do not believe there is going to be any easy settlement of these disputes. I do not believe these storms are going to evaporate quickly. I think they will go on shaking' this planet for quite a long while yet; but above the din, I believe it would be a very proud thing if the voice of deliverance came first of all, and most emphatically, from this land of freedom that we love.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye, as I feel it is not only logical in subject but also perhaps anatomically that I should follow the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). The hon. Gentleman has said many of the things that I had intended to say, but I would like to trouble the House further on this subject, because I believe it to be important, not only for the reasons the hon. Gentleman has already stated, but because it is necessary to inform world opinion on recent events in Persia.
I would like to divide my remarks into two parts: first, to describe what is going on now—trying to skip, as I go along, the bits which the hon. Member has already described—and secondly, to state what I believe are the steps which should be taken regarding this situation. As the situation has been caused by Russian action, it is only fair to begin by stating, very briefly, the Russian case—and it is my belief that they have a case. The Russians, first of all, wanted an oil agreement with Persia. We had one, and in the Russians' opinion, we were very remote from Persia; the Americans appeared likely to get one, and, alone, the Russians had nothing. Therefore, they said, " We want, and are justified in wanting, an oil agreement."The Persians then did a very slick political move. I do not say whether they were justified or not, but they voted themselves incapable of giving the Russians an oil agreement. To put it in parallel, it was rather as if you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, said, "That strong man from round the corner is coming to have a drink with us; let us lock up the drinks in the cupboard, throw the key to the bottom of the well, and tell him he cannot have a drink until the well is dry."That is in effect more or less what the Persians did. I am not saying 1939 whether they were justified, but it exasperated the Russians. Secondly, the Russians are neighbours of the Persians, and we, especially in their eyes, are a very long way off.
Thirdly, the Russians have never forgotten that after the 1914 war the Persians, of all people, said, " We want a bit of Russia."That has never been forgotten. So I think it was not surprising that the Russians "surfaced," as it were, and said, " We are going to do something about this." Where I think the world was against the Russians was not that they had no case, but the means whereby they went about this business. Without exaggeration they adopted a somewhat rough method. I believe that the Russians are rather realistic—perhaps that is putting it in a minor key— and they did not realise how much world opinion was going to be shaken by such a flagrant and blatant violation of a Treaty.
I would remind the House, even at the risk of boring hon. Members, of the situation at the time of the violation of the Treaty. Hon. Members will recall that it was referred to U.N.O. But before it actually came before U.N.O., an agreement, directly negotiated between the Russians and the Persians, was made. It was agreed firstly that "an oil agreement will be arranged."There was no valid reason why there should not have been an oil agreement. The second point was that the Russians were to be out of Persia by 6th May. It is a curious commentary on the times in which we live, that the Persians themselves are not yet certain whether the Russians are out of Persia or not. As far as a Persian delegation, looking through telescopes from a Russian plane flying over Azerbaijan, could see, they are out. So let us leave it at that. The third point was that the Azerbaijan dispute was between Azerbaijan and the Persian Government, and should be considered as a domestic matter. I do not wish to go back on past history, but when this announcement of the agreement came through the hon. Member for Devonport and myself, away from the pundits and experts of these matters, said, "This is the red light."In fact, we felt so strongly on it we sat into the night drafting a telegram home. I do not wish to say "I told you so," but we both said that 1940 the Azerbaijan question was the crux of the matter. I myself was a little concerned two days later to see that the world Press said that this was a great settlement, and that the Azerbaijan question was satisfactorily settled. My colleague, having some connection with the Press, was not so perturbed. Even in a very short time, it was evident that the Azerbaijan question was the crux of the Persian situation.
Again I would apologise for detaining the House, but I should like to explain why this was so. It is important that this matter of Azerbaijan should be fully understood and I do not think that the hon. Member for Devonport, in the short time he devoted to it, could make it clear. Azerbaijan is green, and Persia is sandy and arid. Azerbaijan is the food-growing area, the granary of Persia and not only that, but from Azerbaijan come the ablest leaders and the most energetic Persians. At the risk of unduly inflating certain hon. Members of this House, I would say that it is as important to Persia as Scotland is to England. Not only that, but the province of Azerbaijan is so situated that, if I may use a colloquialism, Russia can easily " give it the works."That is to say, it has a common frontier with Russia of some. 300 or 400 miles. The people who live on each side of the frontier look the same, and speak the same language. The Azerbaijanis have a perfectly legitimate grievance against the Teheran Government. There was a local Communist Party already installed. For these reasons it was the key to Persia. The Russians are never slow to see the point, and so the inevitable happened and Azerbaijan " got the works."
I do not want to overstress this—it is most important that one should not—but the fact remains that troops went in, and troops are a useful aid in grafting an alien political structure on to a country. The local Communist Party was strengthened; its name was changed; it was called the Democratic Party. There seems to be no copyright on that phrase at the moment. M. Pishevari, a Russian trained Communist was installed at the head, and against the day when troops went out—although I cannot prove this —a lot of people were brought into Azerbaijan and " strong-arm men " were planted. The Azerbaijan army, an independent army, was trained and equipped by the Russians. Propaganda went on at 1941 full blast. I am not saying whether that was right or wrong; I am merely stating the facts as they happened. There was undoubtedly, also, recourse to what one can only call food politics. Of course, as is customary, the iron curtain was rung down at the opening bars of the overture of what one might call the " Russian movement in Asia Minor." Since that time no Government troops have been allowed in Azerbaijan, and Russia has in effect made a de facto annexation of that important area. To put it vulgarly, by doing so she has, to a large extent, " got Persia by the short hairs."
Great pressure has been exerted on this unfortunate Prime Minister who, as the hon. Member said, is no beginner. If Members doubt that pressure was exerted I would only ask them to read the newspapers. The Home Secretary and the head of the gendarmerie—very important people when an election comes along —were not 100 per cent. sympathisers with the, Russian regime. M. Sayedzai, known to be somewhat anti-Russian, went into prison while the hon. Member and myself were there. M. Ala, who was their representative at U.N.O., and who spoke loudly and boldly, which is much easier to do in Washington than at Teheran, has been removed as their representative. The Prime Minister himself complained strongly about something, and then withdrew his complaint. He had his best friend in U.N.O., yet he asked that the whole question should be taken off the Conference agenda. It all. reminds one of some conversation one might have through a locked door. You say, " Are you all right? " and the person replies from behind the door saying, " Yes." But that answer comes back because someone is twisting. his arms, and whispering into his ear say " Yes."There is great pressure on the Persian Government today, and I do not believe that anyone who has done what the hon. Member and I have done would fail to notice that.
There is, undoubtedly, great difficulty in knowing what can be done about this situation. I listened with great interest for what the hon. Member would suggest, but I noticed that he did not make an actual suggestion. I want to be bolder and to make one; I hope Members who criticise me will think whether they could have made a better one themselves. Many say that we cannot do anything 1942 about the situation because the Russians are there, that it is a. fait accompli, and that it will be embarrassing for U.N.O. The same advice might be given after one has recovered from the toothache and is told, "There is no reason for that occurring again, and there is no reason why you should go to the dentist." But the trouble in this particular instance, I believe, is that if we let this go we are laying up for ourselves great trouble in the future in the international situation. This is the first case of an important international situation which has been brought before U.N.O. Furthermore, there are, in my opinion, great dangers latent in this area; at the risk of using an overworked adjective, one could truly say that, in Persia, there are vital British interests
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has called the Middle East the throat of the Empire and, in passing, I would say that he has neglected his throat a little lately. It would be equally true to say that in Persia oil, and it is the main source of supply, is really the life-blood of a i.iodern State or Empire. I do not exaggerate there and oil played a very big part in the defeat of Germany. What I am leading to is this. Supposing Russian influence spreads to the extent that it has almost a puppet government in Persia. I am not saying that this will be done, but that there is a possibility of it. Then, should the Russians wish to —and again I do not know whether they would—by stirring up trouble with the Kurds in Iraq and threatening the Kirkuk oil fields, by questioning our oil agreement in the South and by stirring up labour troubles, they could threaten all our oil supplies in Persia.
When an Empire like ours is threatened in its most vital spot there, in my opinion, is the red light of a serious international situation, because one is forced to take action when absolutely essential supplies are threatened in that way. I am not suggesting that the Russians will do it, but am merely saying that if this situation goes on they will find themselves, whether they have thought of it or not, in a position where they could do it if they wished, and that is extremely dangerous.
I feel that on all counts we should try to do something. It would appear to me that recently the difficulty in U.N.O. has been to get at the facts. M. Ala has 1943 behaved very courageously and has stated the facts that have almost inevitably been denied from Persia. It appears to me logical in a situation like that that U.N.O. should appoint a commission consisting of some four or five unbiased men, and send them to Persia to find out the facts. That is so logical that it is not legal. I have found out from a legalistic expert in the House that if we send a commission to Persia to find out the facts and report back, then the question at once becomes a dispute, and if the matter is a dispute then the right of veto obtains. If there is anything in form I cannot believe that M. Gromyko would abstain from giving a veto—and that settles it.
So we have the rather melancholy spectacle of U.N.O. in this question standing there shackled by its own rules, a somewhat impotent spectator. However, not despairing after having found this out, I thought to myself, " What else can be done? "It is my belief, rightly or wrongly, that one of the biggest factors in getting the Russian troops out of Persia, if they are out, was world opinion, and I believe it remains a great factor today. Furthermore, it is a factor that the Russians will be very loth to flout, because they want a lot from the world. They want loans, machinery, and technical help, and indeed if they would only come with us they have a lot to give the world. How can world opinion take an interest in and discover the truth about Persia? I believe the best way is to let in the light on the whole question at the moment. I believe people are very confused about Persia, and public opinion has not been well instructed. I tell the House that I think that some people—perhaps I might particularly mention some of the leader writers in "The Times " newspaper—are not guiltless in this respect. They have, if I may say so, been perched and squatting on the fence with the most astonishing virtuosity, like a lot of literary Blondins. It is better to come down and state the facts and not sit on the fence pending what is going to happen. The best chance is to let the light in.
How can that be done? We are an interested country, but there are many other countries less interested who have great men who are known for their integrity—men who have no great bias, who can express themselves and broadcast and 1944 write and tell the world about the situation. I cannot specify names, but there must be many people in other lands who have great reputations, like, say, the noble Lord who has just returned from America. Could not such men go to Persia, see the situation, write about it, broadcast about it and tell the world? Then, when the world knew about it, I believe the pressure on the Persians would not come just from one direction, but would come also from the Western freedom-loving countries, and the Persian dispute would not be left as a situation which may be extremely dangerous to the future peace of the world.
§ 10.17 P.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered what I think we should all agree was an extremely able and masterly survey of the foreign scene; and I do not think any of us on either side of the House would say that it was anything but a sombre and melancholy survey. I am not altogether surprised. At Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam, we were negotiating under the impact of war; and we negotiated these three Agreements upon three assumptions— [Interruption.] The Japanese war was still going on then. The first assumption was that unity of purpose and outlook existed between the Big Three Powers, and that no serious ideological differences would arise between them. The second assumption was that it was not only desirable but essential that the, new world order should be established by the Big Three, and only by the Big Three. The third assumption was that the unification of Germany was also desirable and necessary.
All these assumptions have proved to be false. Unity of purpose among the Big Three does not exist today. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made that perfectly clear. I doubt if it ever did, beyond the immediate purposes of winning the war. Over a year after the cessation of hostilities, agreement has been reached by the Big Three on two points, and two points only—the retention of the Tyrol by Italy and the cession of Translyvania to Rumania—and for neither of these two decisions can I personally think there is the slightest 1945 ethnical justification. Finally, Germany, far from being unified, is divided by an iron and almost impenetrable curtain. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and unlike quite a lot of other people, I do not feel that the situation is by any means irretrievable. I do not think we arc heading now for a shooting war. I have not the same sick feeling in my stomach that I had throughout the year 1938. Further, I am not convinced that any of the assumptions of Potsdam were in themselves either wise or good. I see the gravest objections to any attempt at a world dictatorship by the Big Three which seemed to be the idea at one time, even if it could be worked which clearly it cannot.
I think it a great pity that France was not invited to the Potsdam Conference. I think it an even greater pity that the so-called middle and smaller Powers, who played so great a part in winning the war, are apparently not to be invited to take any great part in winning the peace, unless it be that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion today that it might be necessary to convene a conference of the 21 Powers to talk about how peace is to be made, comes off. Everybody seems to think that this conference would be, somehow or other, a disaster; that unless the Big Three or Big Four can come to decisions upon all these matters it will really be a terrible thing, and that the other nations who fought in the war should not have any say in making the peace. I do not share that view; and I say that if the forthcoming Conference of Foreign Ministers in Paris breaks down—and I think, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech today, one can only conclude that it is more likely to break down than not—I personally would not regard the convening of a meeting of the 21 nations, all of whom played a very considerable part in winning the war, as a major disaster. I am not at all sure that it might not be the solution of the problem that confronts us.
As for the unification of Germany, far from that being the blessing that some would have us believe, it has proved to be the scourge of Europe ever since it was first achieved. Who can deny that Europe was more prosperous, more peaceful, and far happier, when Germany consisted of a series of small kingdoms and principalities, when the Hanseatic towns 1946 were linked by the bonds of an increasing and expanding seaborne trade to the West, than after the unification of Germany was achieved by Bismarck in 1870? I believe that for a loose federation of Germany there is much to be said; but for a centralised German Reich there is nothing to be said. Have we already forgotten the days when the cry: "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Filhrer" re-echoed through a terrified and almost paralysed Europe? We do not want to see that happen again.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) when he said that this problem of Germany is crucial. We have hitherto had no positive policy at all for Germany or, indeed, for Europe. It was clear to anybody who was present at the San Francisco Conference that the failure of the Western democracies to agree about a foreign policy of any kind must have disastrous results. I do not want to claim any credit for being a prophet; but I want to try to convince the House that the idea which I am now going to attempt to put to hon. Members is no sudden or new one on my part. On 8th April, 1945, I wrote from San Francisco:Many realistic Americans are bewildered because we have not already negotiated a regional pact in Western Europe with France, Holland and Belgium. They hold that such a pact is not only desirable from a strategic and economic point of view, but also necessary for the effective control of Germany.On 6th May I wrote:If the Western European democracies do not get together fairly soon, nothing is more certain than that the entire continent will be brought finally and decisively within the Russian orbit.…It is my firm conviction that the foundation of a new world order can best be laid on regional groups of nations which have strategic, political and economic interests in common. And, so far as Western Europe is concerned, the lead must be given by Great Britain.Finally, on 16th May:The great question-mark of the San Francisco Conference is whether the democracies of Western Europe are so tired that they have abandoned any attempt to formulate a foreign policy of their own, and are content to tag along as best they can in the wake of one, or both, of the formidable federations to the East of them and to the West. If this should happen it would, in the long run, be a tragedy for Europe and the world.We gave no lead at San Francisco to Europe, and we have given no lead since. That is the truth of it. Meanwhile the Americans at Mexico City negotiated and 1947 signed the Act of Chapultepee, which establised a full regional agreement covering defence policy and economic co-operation for the American continent. And the Russians have moved fast.
The answer to the question, "Security or expansion?" for which the world waited somewhat breathlessly last spring, has been given by the Soviet Government in no uncertain terms. While the Western democracies chattered at San Franciso and elsewhere about majority decisions and minority rights, the Soviet Government acted with a speed and singleness of purpose which must command our admiration, if not our wholehearted approval. The combination of Soviet power and Communist ideology has so far proved irresistible. It derives its force from the crusading spirit of the Communist religion; the patriotism and the immense vitality of the Russian people; and, last but not least, the historic sanction of pan-Slavism. In answer to the hon. Member who challenged the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), 11 countries — Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania—are now under Russian control in one form or another; and a twelfth, Austria, is dominated by the Red Army of Occupation. Add to this the Russian zone in Germany, and you get a population of something of the order of 150,000,000 added to the Soviet system as a result of the war. That is not bad going for 12 months.
Slav unity under Russian auspices has already been achieved. Germany has been penetrated. The Adriatic has been reached. What next? Events move with great rapidity these days. We must not be left too far behind again. At Yalta it was the Oder, at Potsdam the Elbe, and tomorrow it may be the Rhine. I am not prepared to be dogmatic, but it would be a pity if we were under any illusion regarding the ultimate purposes of Soviet policy.
I must quote a statement which Dimitrov, one of the ablest of Russian propagandists, and for a long time head of the Comintern, made within the last few weeks.It sometimes happens that Communist parties are obliged to make temporary pacts with other parties, and to abandon for the moment their programme and their revolutionary methods. It may even be that they 1948 are compelled to hide their true intentions under the mask of an ordinary democratic party. But that is only a technical manoeuvre and not the abandonment of the political aim of the Party. Pacts with other parties will only last until the day when the new Communist order can be established.…When the moment for action arrives, a single party will remain on the stage of history—the Communist Party of Lenin and Stalin.That is quite unequivocal. I am not now complaining of Russian policy; but it would be a pity if we misunderstood it. On the other hand, do not let us be too self-righteous in this business. The Russians have never left us in any doubt about their conception of economic security, or their intentions, which are to get all they can while the going is good. And the going, for them, has been very good lately. The method has often been rough; and it is always exasperating for a man who suffers from a paralysis of indecision to watch another man who knows exactly what he wants getting it. We have never really known what we wanted; but they have known exactly what they were doing and why. If we have not achieved anything comparable ourselves we have ourselves very largely to blame.
Meanwhile, we have to face the fact that the Russian zone in Germany has been incorporated into the Soviet system, politically and economically; while our zone in Germany is drifting into ruin and collapse, and we ourselves are doing our very best to facilitate this process by deliberately and insanely preventing the reconstruction of German industry and throttling the production of the Rhineland and the Ruhr at a moment when Europe is crying out for capital goods. If Russia chooses to exploit this situation in order to become master of a unified Communist Reich, then she is master of the European Continent, and that is the end of Western civilisation as we know it.
§ Mr. Stokes
I submit that the hon. Gentleman would agree that that policy was really established at Yalta by the Leader of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Boothby
I think that is really a cheap point, because the Yalta negotiations were conducted by the Coalition Government; and I think the Prime Minister, who is here, would be the first to agree that he associated himself with them. As I have said, the Yalta agreement was negotiated under the impact of war, and on assumptions which no longer 1949 hold good. I repeat, the agreement was negotiated by the Coalition Government as a whole and was their collective responsibility; and the right hon. Gentleman cannot pull this one off as being the sole responsibility of the Leader of the Opposition.
There is only one way out, a Western Federal Union; by which I mean the political, cultural and economic integration of Western Europe. I had hoped to examine this proposition in some detail, but I have not the time. I will content myself by saying that the ultimate aim should be to include the states of Western and Southern Germany in this Union. There is no need to ask Mr. Molotov for permission to go ahead. He did not ask our permission to go ahead with his Eastern Federal Union.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
What would the hon. Member do about the Communist parties within that proposed federal union? It seems to me that any combination of States which would include within themselves the Communists as their largest party simply could not work.
§ Mr. Boothby
I do not agree. I would admit any Communist Party that existed in the proposed union of States. Of course it is to be a free democracy. Any one of them could go completely Communist if it wished, and secede from the Union; but I do not see that happening at the moment. Look, for instance, at France, Belgium, Holland and Scandinavia. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman. Whether the forthcoming conference of Foreign Ministers succeeds or not, a Western Union is in my opinion, and in my submission, essential. Why? May I, in the few minutes at my disposal, make a few somewhat dogmatic assertions? The democracies of Western Europe are too small to survive as independent political or economic units in this modern world. That is the first assertion. Flanked as they are by the vast federations of the Soviet system and the United States, they cannot survive, they cannot hope to raise their standard of life in isolation. They are dependent to an exceptionally high degree upon trade with one another. They are all subject to mass unemployment; and all are agreed that a deliberately planned policy of economic expansion is the only way to prevent it. In the words of the " Economist ": 1950It would be difficult to imagine a more conclusive case for purposive economic integration.My second point is that the principle of regional groups of nations which have strategic, political and economic interests in common is accepted in the charter of UNO; and it is well that hon. Members should not forget that. Call them federations, unions, blocs—that is a word I do not like—call them what you will; they should be something less than a single sovereign State, something more than a league of nations. My third point is that no separate sovereign State is in fact going to allow itself to be voted into war by a bare majority in an assembly of other sovereign states; but if you have a federal union represented in the Security Council, and the countries of that union have played a full part in the framing of the policy that is put forward in the council, then I believe that in the long run they would submit to the decisions of the Security Council. This would give the middle and smaller nations, as I have termed them, a definite part to play in the preservation of their own security, and relate their responsibilities to direct and defined interests.
The British Commonwealth and Empire has already demonstrated how small communities can combine together on the basis of freedom and self-government for their mutual protection and benefit, without loss of status of any kind; and I believe that the regional expension of this group to include the democracies of Western Europe, and their Colonies, could only bring increased stability to the world. It is pointed out sometimes in the Press by opponents of this idea that such a union would be too weak. I believe it would be far stronger than many people think, if it was supported, as it would be, by the dependencies and Colonies not only of ourselves, but also of France, of Belgium and of Holland. Pursuing a middle course between the extremes of laissez faire capitalism on the one hand and rigid State Socialism on the other, I believe such a federation or union would have a contribution of immense value to make to the world and to the future of civilisation, and would also be able to maintain a most desirable balance between the potentially opposed forces of collectivism and individualism.
Much depends on France. I say at once that the productive industries of the 1951 Rhineland should be placed under the control of an international commission and coordinated with the productive industries of Luxemburg, the Saar, Lorraine, and Belgium into one great heavy industrial unit which could and should produce the necessary steel and coal for the reconstruction of Western Europe. It is nothing short of a tragedy that we should be shutting down these industries at the present time.
§ Mr. Boothby
It would be part of a federated Germany. That is the proposal I made just now. With regard to France, I say that the record of France between the two wars was in some respects better than our own. I do not give up hope of France at all. There was the Geneva Protocol of 1924, which would have given some semblance of reality to the League of Nations. There was M. Briand's scheme for the economic integration and organisation of Europe in 1930—again rejected, this time by the " universalists "In tins country, who thought it would somehow diminish the authority of the League of Nations, but which, if it had been put into operation, might have saved the sum of things. Those of ns who are inclined to blame France for her record between the two wars should not forget these two proposals, both sponsored by M. Briand—one of the greatest of Europeans—the protocol in 1924, and the economic integration of Western Europe in 1930.
I have left the cultural aspect until the end. On that I am content to quote to the House a brief paragraph from a book written recently by Mr. Cyril Connolly called "The Condemned Playground ":Britain is by far the weakest of the three great Powers. If it fails to unite Western Europe it ceases to be a world Power. If it succeeds, it may become one of the greatest middlemen in history, by incorporating the best elements of communist idealism with the best elements of humanist individualism. Europe still remains the chief breeding ground of ideas as well as the laboratory, the studio, and the reference library of modern civilisation. To save this civilisation we must assume the cultural as well as the political protection of Western Europe; we must restore not only economic security, but also freedom of expression and mental audacity.I think there is a great deal to be said for that.
1952 The Russians, of course, will object. They are at the present in the mood to object to everything. In so far as their objection is based on fear of attack, it is not valid. This union would not be strategic; it would be political and economic—more economic than anything else. So far as a shooting war is concerned, the only ultimate security and hope lies in the Security Council of the United Nations. We shall not be able to sleep quietly in our beds until we have armed that Security Council with the riecessary powers,-which must include control over destructive atomic energy, and control of an international police force. In the meanwhile, the danger is not a shooting war. What is going on at the present time is a " cold " war between Social Democracy and Communism.
On the other hand, the American objection is based on dislike of discriminatory trade agreements of any kind This is a subject on which I could dilate for some time, but I will say only that there are more important things in the world today than non-discrimination in trade. Twice during the last 25 years the Americans have had to send their boys over to be killed in Europe because of the failure of the Western democracies to do two things: first, to keep together and stick together in resistance to successive violations of treaties that had been solemnly signed; and, second, to achieve any kind of economic integration on the Continent of Europe, with the result that an attempt was inevitably made to impose economic integration by force. The Americans have much more to gain from the prosperity of 120 million people than from the poverty of these people which is inevitable if they fail to keep together.
In conclusion, I would only say that this is a moral rather than a political crisis. In the final analysis it is a struggle between totalitarianism and individualism, or social democracy. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that these religious and ideological wars, because that is what they are, are destroying the human race; and my plea, like his, is for a scale of human values which protects and defends toleration, and seeks to put an end to the fighting. The problems of today are problems of construction; and a war psychology, whether it be class war or international war, is not compatible with a constructive spirit. If you inhibit freedom of expression you in- 1953 hibit thought. What good can come in any part of the world from encouraging people to hate, and prohibiting them from thinking? That is now going on in many parts of the world.
Totalitarianism is the elimination of all alternatives — alternative Governments, alternative ideas, alternative parties— alternative economic systems. It is an instrument of absolute domination; and in the countries now under Russian control this domination is complete. I know that Mr. Voigt does not command widespread approval today. He wrote the other day:All these countries are severally and collectively a means to her ends—not one of them can live for itself, no one person in them can live for himself, or for his country, or for Europe for mankind, for science, art, or religion, but only for Russia. And yet, save for a few zealots, there are none who wish to live for Russia—ninety-nine out of one hundred at least have the wish that the Russians may leave, never to return.I think that is true of many of the countries which are dominated by Russia at the present time. In my view, the two greatest contemporary fallacies are: first, that any single person or party has an ethical right to impose their will on others; and, second, that ends justify means. Dogma breeds intolerance, and intolerance breeds authoritarianism, and authoritarianism breeds persecution—mental and physical. Moreover, no creed or dogma that ever was invented can possibly justify the infliction of one iota of additional or avoidable suffering upon humanity.
We offer a quite simple alternative to totalitarianism, which was well defined some years ago by a great Empire statesman, General Smuts:The common principles, I had almost said the commonplaces of decency, fair play, fair dealing, tolerance, and justice, the right of each to live his own life freely so long as he does not interfere with the rights of others to live their lives equally freely—this simple ordinary commonsense human code of behaviour, put into practice and guaranteed by law, with the power of society behind it to enforce it, seems to me to be the essence of the British constitution.I certainly cannot hope to put it better than that. For thirteen years before the outbreak of this war I advocated an Anglo-Soviet treaty; and I advocate an Anglo-Soviet pact today, but on terms which will make it a reality and not a sham. There can be no genuine pact between this country and Russia until the cold war stops; and the cold war will not stop until Western Europe is securely 1954 established, and has no longer any need to struggle for survival, or to be frightened of its own immediate future. Fear—that is the trouble in Europe; the desperate fear that clutches at the heart. Until that fear is exorcised, you can argue as you like about Anglo-Soviet pacts, but you will never get one that is genuine, or will last.
The choice which confronts us today is between the renaissance of European civilisation and a longer night than we now dream of.
§ 10.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
We have had a very interesting, thoughtful and varied Debate on this all-important subject. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) must forgive me if I do not follow him in all his remarks. I do, however, very largely agree with the last part of his contribution. The Foreign Secretary's grim and gloomy speech today clearly showed where and with whom lie the difficulties which are facing this country at the present critical juncture in world affairs.
I would like to offer to the House, at this late hour, just one or two suggestions about those aspects of the problem which must be tackled and solved if we are to avoid an unparalleled calamity for the human race. I want particularly to underline and endorse all the remarks that have been made in a notable speech by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). He tackled the problem of Germany, and I also want to draw the attention of the House to that core and kernel of the whole problem of international relations. Germany is the very touch stone, I think, of success or failure, not only in respect of our relations with Russia, but also with regard to the spread of social democracy in Europe and the world. At present, Germany lies stricken and bleeding—a festering sore at the geographical centre of the Continent of Europe. The German people's spirit, in all urban centres at any rate, is matched by the wretchedness of their surroundings. There is scarcely a flicker of interest in the day to day developments of the outside world in at least three of the zones in the Germany today, and there is little hope, except among that small but growing section which is looking to a final split between ourselves and Russia—a section which is chiefly located in the Russian zone of influence.
1955 What of this Russian zone of influence? Their " remote control "Is much more sensible psychologically, I think, than the rather detailed and very often fussy authority in the other areas of Germany, and it has done a great deal to restore self-respect to the average German in that zone. Russia is spreading a conviction in her zone that the cause of democracy must look for inspiration to the East. The political leadership which she is giving unfortunately appeals to the regimented German mind. Compare, for example, her slogan: " Hitlers may come and Hitlers may go, but the German people go on for ever," with our own inept non-fraternisation orders. Within her zone, Russia knows her German friends and treats them as friends. All this, in its Outward appearance, has obviously an attraction for the ordinary unthinking German. All I would say about it is, let it serve as an object lesson for us. The shadow of a Russian tomorrow amid the press of events and the daily difficulties and problems of the German people does not at present enter into their calculations. A supreme effort must be made to get Russia to change her international policy. The provisions of the Potsdam Agreement must be revised, and revised so that they provide no rival policy to which the Russians cannot subscribe and come in as full partners.
I believe that the objectives for Germany to which we should try to get agreement are these: first, the ending of all zonal barriers; second, a Big Four agreement on social reform; third, an agreed settlement about the future ownership of German industry; fourth, the setting up of an all-German administration; and if the Eastern frontier problem could be grappled with also, that, I think, would be a factor in enabling that part of Europe to settle down. Such objectives as I am outlining, if they were sponsored by this country, might do a very great deal to remedy and save the present drift to disaster. As things are tending, I feel it is well within the bounds of possibility that Russian policy may eventually unite all Germany under a Moscow controlled Government. Such a development, surely, poses the question, How would such Russian power be used? If Russia fails in whatever plan she has in mind, surely her policy of stripping German industry, which clearly conflicts with re-establishing 1956 German life, will at the very best leave Central Europe in a state of anarchy and misery, with all the resulting and unforeseeable consequences involved.
So it comes to this, that until a modus vivendi is reached, there should be a truce on all sides and an end to the slogan-baiting tactics of the world's mischief makers. Tossing rejoinders and rude epithets across the globe is both unhelpful and dangerous, and the blaring of ideological catch phrases from all the loudspeakers within earshot is only calculated, as I see it, to keep mankind in a state of jitters. I ask our Soviet allies to desist from their abuse and from their criticism of this country. On our side—and we have our part to play—we would then, I think, be the better able to make full allowance for that oriental bargaining technique in which the Russians are undoubtedly indulging. We should be the better able to understand it. I believe that Russia's policy—and we should have this always in mind—can often be explained by her need to follow what I might call diversionary tactics, if her own people are to be braced for that united effort which they will have to make if Russia's stricken areas are to be adequately rehabilitated. The Soviet Union is suffering from a sense of strain and from a sense of quite unjustifiable vulnerability.
A hopeful feature of the position is this. There is, I believe, in the Russian people a profound anti-military mood. If only the co-operative effort needed for the alleviation of the world's hunger could be used as a means of ironing out our differences and sinking them in the service of humanity, then the whole scene might be changed over night. Ineptitude there has been among Russian Allies, and a failure to realise the psychological difficulties of the present situation. Let us realise that, and let us admit it. I have in mind the stupid handling of the atom bomb discovery. This cannot, however, excuse the barrage of criticism and abuse to which this country has recently been subjected. We have got a priceless contribution to make to the future of the world. Our British way and purpose is of inestimable value, and will, please God, eventually command the assent of the rest of the world. Let us practise and let us preach this way of life on every occasion open to us. A well balanced 1957 and well developed social order, in which justice is done both to the individual and to the community, may well become the envy of the rest of the world. That is a way in which, I think, our internal policy links up with our foreign policy. The leadership of Britain, which is not only progressive in reality, but is seen to be progressive by our friends and by our rivals wherever they may be, can, I believe, save the world and set its feet in the path of permanent peace.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.