§ [Third Day]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th November]
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Henry Usborne.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
This Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech provides the one occasion available to hon. Members in all parts of the House on which to review our national and international affairs without the limitation or compart-mentalism which usually defines our Debates. So I make no apology to the House for speaking this afternoon, first on the international situation, then upon certain problems of our domestic policy.
I begin my observations on foreign affairs by plunging at once into a subject which I am sure interests most hon. Members in all parts of the House at this time, namely, the question of Germany. The situation in the British zone in Germany rightly gives rise to the deepest disquiet in this country. A little while back the Government claimed that they had won a victory in the battle of last winter. I think that is so. But it is equally clear that the battle of this winter is going to be infinitely sterner. I submit to the House that it is difficult to exaggerate the importance to this country of a successful administration of our zone in Germany. It is not merely a matter of reducing the present heavy burden upon our own strained resources, though everybody admits that is important enough. It is, as I conceive it, a matter of maintaining in Europe, and particularly in Germany, the British reputation for fairness, for honesty and for mercy. We won that reputation with victory, and 239 it was enhanced by the bearing and behaviour of our soldiers.
The first question to which I would ask this House to address itself in connection with Germany is: What is it that we seek to do? I would recall to the House, it I might, a statement which I made, with the full authority of the War Cabinet at the time, in 1941, when our fortunes were very low in the war and when we thought, for that very reason, that it was desirable to define then, when hatreds were strong, what our policy was towards Germany. This is what, if I may quote it, I then said:In the military sphere it is our bounden duty to ensure that Germany is not again in another 20 years in a position to plunge the world into the misery and horror of total war. It would be criminal to neglect any precautions to ensure this.…Our conditions of peace for Germany will, therefore, be designed to prevent a repetition of Germany's misdeeds.That was one half of the problem. I then said:But while these military measures must be taken, it is not part of our purpose to cause Germany, or any other country, to collapse economically. I say that not out of any love of Germany, but because a starving and a bankrupt Germany in the midst of Europe would poison all of us who are her neighbours. That is not sentiment, it is common sense.
§ Mr. Eden
It was 29th July, 1941. Those are the words I then used with the authority of my colleagues, and I think they should still be the foundation of our policy. Of course, I admit at once that while we as a country can express the opinion of what we want to achieve in international affairs, we cannot always secure the results which we ourselves want to see. Of course, that is true. But before discussing how to proceed, it is as well to decide where we want to go. I suggest those words at least express where we want to go.
What about the method of going there? I would like to put one or two questions to the Government, under separate heads, about Germany, about our policy and about our administration. In the first place, are we pursuing a policy which is adapted to the present facts? The Government have struggled to fulfil our engagements. But I suggest that the 240 time has now been reached—if it has not come long before—when the Government must surely face the fact that we cannot fulfil our obligations under international instruments if others are not prepared to do the same. This applies, I suggest, particularly to the treatment of Germany as an economic whole.
I have seen a report today, which I trust is true, that some shipments of wheat from Russia are being made to the British zone. I hope the Government can give us some information about that. However, it is essential that this supply should be continued on a really substantial scale, for—and this is what I want to draw to the attention of the House and of the Government—so far this vital balancing element of the Potsdam Agreement has never been present at all—never. What we have been doing—and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—is to take, or to destroy, plant from our zone to meet reparations claims, while that plant is needed for current production to meet the heavy deficit on our current balance of payments, which we in this country have to make good. As far as I understand it, that is what is going on now. It seems that we are still continuing these reparations deliveries, or at any rate still continuing to dismantle industrial establishments for reparations deliveries.
This is quite apart from the fact that, until very recently, no contribution of any sort or kind, as far as I know, had been made by our Russian Ally to treat Germany as an economic whole. If I am right in my description of those conditions, it is not very surprising that they have given rise to deep despondency in the British zone, so we are told, among all thinking Germans and, in particular, among those Germans to whom we have to look to establish a true democratic system in Western Germany. I hope that the Government in the course of this Debate will give us a clear restatement of how we stand in respect of this question of the continued removal from our zone in Germany of industrial plants which are essential to the economic life of that zone.
The right hon. Gentleman may say to me, "That is all very well. The analysis may be right. But what would you do about it?" I think we have the responsibility of making some constructive suggestions, and I propose to try to do so. 241 I would say, first of all, that, in my view, this question of the removal of plant from our zone must be considered, first, in the light of the contribution made by our Allies. Unless that contribution is full and adequate and continuing, there should not, in my judgment, be any further deliveries of plant at all. On the other hand, if others do make their contribution in accordance with the terms of the Potsdam Agreement—which has not yet been done, and there is much leeway for them to make up if they are to fulfil the Potsdam Agreement—we should consider together how we can make an ordered plan—the Allies together—which would ensure the continuation of Germany's economic life. The Potsdam Agreement, whatever its merits or its demerits, must stand or fall as a whole. It has no merits if it is applied only in half. That is precisely what is happening at the present time, as far as we have been able to judge.
There is another aspect of the German situation to which I want to refer. A great deal has been said about the Potsdam Agreement, but I believe it is true—the Minister can correct me if I am wrong—that, at the present time, the production in our zone in Germany is at nothing like the level which the Potsdam Agreement and subsequent agreements allow. Take, for example, the steel industry, in which, I think I am right in saying, the production is only today something between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. of what is allowed by the Potsdam Agreement; and I believe that similar figures can be quoted about coal. In other words, I am beginning to think that the Potsdam Agreement has been made the pretext for failures attributable to entirely different causes; and that, indeed, appears to be, in part, the conclusion of an article in the "New Statesman" to which I am going to refer in a moment or two.
The third point I want to examine— and I think it is for us in this House, perhaps, the most important of all—is the question of our administration in the British zone in Germany. I admit at once to the Government that it is extremely difficult for those of us who have no access to official sources of information to get proof of the true competence or otherwise of any administration when that administration itself alone knows all the facts. That sometimes applies to domestic affairs as well as to other 242 branches of activity. We do not know those facts, but I think it is not unfair to say that there has been an overwhelming volume of evidence, from reliable observers of all shades of political feeling, to the effect that our administration of the British zone in Germany is falling down on its job.
I fear so. In the first place, I do not think we have got everywhere the best men doing the job. The quality of the Control Commission's staff is by no means uniformly good, to put it mildly. Secondly—and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this, for, I think, it is fundamental to the difficulties into which we are now getting—in the manner of our administration we seem to be falling between two stools. We have not the resources in manpower to administer the zone in detail ourselves. On the other hand, we have not taken the necessary steps to hand over the administration to the Germans, subject only to supervision, at a high level, by a small but efficient British staff.
What has happened, as far as I can learn, is that the administration shows signs of over-government in detail, while in some instances too heavy a burden is being placed upon the limited staffs. It is difficult to produce concrete evidence, and the statements of even responsible German leaders, I fully admit, must be treated with the greatest caution. But I think there cannot be much doubt in the mind of the House that the majority, the greater part, of the evidence we have had to date has been to the effect that we are not running our zone well.
A number of articles have been written in the Press of all shades of opinion, which I have been studying in the last few weeks, and which, I admit, have greatly disturbed me. I should like to mention one in the "New Statesman"— not a newspaper which I often quote— about the situation, which has obviously been very carefully documented. There are just two passages, very short ones, I would quote to the House. One says:The fact remains that, instead of improving, conditions in the British zone have rapidly deteriorated; and that one reason why German industry does not revive, in spite of Ministerial promises, is that the inefficiency of an administrative machine, with no Ministerial authority resident in Germany, working with vertical branches which run parallel and seldom meet, is aggravated by the prevalence of corrupt practices.243 That is a very serious charge to be made by any newspaper about any British administration anywhere at any time. The next passage I would read says this:In part, the trouble is bureaucratic. While in some branches, particularly the educational and other cultural divisions, British administration is seriously understaffed, in others, above all in the trade and industry division, we maintain an absurdly large army of officials. Responsible observers say that 5,000 trained officers could do the whole job of German administration properly with the help of a competent German staff, whereas, in fact, we have some 26,000 officers, a large number of whom have no serious public duties to perform. In order to justify their position"—and this has a ring of something nearer home—they multiply the rigmarole of permits, write countless letters, and perpetuate the myth that recovery is retarded by fear of a revival of German nationalism, or by agreements made under Potsdam. In fact, Military Government is itself retarding the revival of peaceful German industry, which is necessary if Germany is not to be a permanent burden to the British taxpayer. Factories are closed down in many cases not because of Potsdam, but for other reasons, which are sometimes obscure and sometimes disreputable.I do not know whether those charges are justified or not. I have not the information to allow me to judge, and I do not believe that hon. Members of this House have the information. I admit that to the Minister, but I do say to him that it is up to the Government to give us information on those points.
I would also make some other constructive suggestions which should enable them to meet charges of this kind, because they cannot be ignored. It is not only one paper. I have here the "Manchester Guardian"—and their correspondents are always very well informed—which reports the closing down of what appears to be the last remaining soap factory in our zone in Germany. It is dated 8th November, and gives a long account stating the consternation which that is causing. Again, in "The Times," certainly not a newspaper which can be regarded as unfriendly to His Majesty's Ministers, I find this quotation on the fuel position:It is, however, impossible to establish from British sources whether or not there will be fuel in the homes of the region this winter. The provision of coal is a zonal responsibility, the provision of wood is a regional affair, and at present there is no British official in the region coordinating the two ends of the scheme.244 That is a pretty serious indictment from "The Times" correspondent in Germany. Finally, because I must go to the source which has the most effect on Ministers, in the "Daily Herald" I read this comment about the general situation, which, I think, as a comment on that situation, is pretty grim. In the issue of 12th November, they say this, and I think the House should consider it:British civilians now serving in Germany will man armoured cars under the new emergency instructions circulated to Control Commission and Rhine Army officers. A second set of instructions issued within the past few weeks—These are civilians, mark you—are designed to meet any German disorders arising in the British zone from famine, and envisage the use of Bren guns, Sten guns, rifles and revolvers by British personnel in the event of mutiny.I only say that if steps like that have to be taken there is something seriously wrong. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "It is all very well for you to quote all these things, but what do you propose to do about it?" Again, I would like to make some concrete suggestions.
First of all, I would say to the Government that they should without further delay send out to our zone in Germany a Minister, who should be of Cabinet rank, who has had experience of administration, and who has good political judgment, to assist the Commander-in-Chief in his most onerous task. To do this, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, would create no precedent. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) served in that capacity with the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and so did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) with the Commander-in-Chief in North Africa and in Italy. I am sure Members of the last Government would agree that there is no doubt that those were both very valuable appointments. It was, as a matter of fact, when I was in Egypt in the spring of 1941 that the then Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wavell, himself asked me whether it would not be possible to send out a political Minister to assist him in his wide Middle Eastern sphere and in his many political and supply problems. I know that the military authorities have often welcomed such appointments in the past, and I feel sure that if the Government would choose the right man they would get good value from his services now.
245 This is not offered in any spirit of criticism; it is intended to be a constructive suggestion, and I do beg of the Government to consider it. At least I would say that it is indispensable that they should make such an appointment in the situation in which we now find ourselves. Of course, the Minister would reside in Germany, and his responsibility would be a continuing one until the present era of anxiety is past. His first job would be to examine the situation as he found it on the spot, and, if necessary—and I think he would probably find it necessary—to call for further help in the discharge of his responsibilities. It might be that he would want to make an inquiry into the administration. I have not proposed an inquiry to the Government today because I think that they would do better to send the Minister to the place to do the job for them, and to decide whether he wanted an inquiry, and, if so, what form it should take. Some action of that kind seems to me absolutely indispensable if the information which reaches us in all the Press of the country is really founded and justified.
Finally, before I leave the subject of Germany, I would like to ask the Government one question about the food position, if they can reply. Last May, on the 23rd, the Lord President may remember that he spoke in this House about his visit to America and he said:So far as Germany is concerned they"—That is to say, the United States Government—have accepted a proposition that there should not be a starving or more underfed British zone in Germany side by side with art American zone which is getting assured food supplies, but that both zones shall work to the same standard of rationing and shall have the same degree of assurance that their supplies will not suddenly come to an end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1946, Vol. 423, c. 542.]I ask whatever Minister is to reply, what has happened to that undertaking? As the House knows, or as we are told in the Press anyway, there is at the moment a grave food crisis in our zone in Germany, quite how grave it is difficult to tell. I hope we shall have an official statement from the Government today. I notice that the "Daily Herald," again my final authority in these matters, has described the situation in our zone as "desperate." I ask, if it is desperate, how does that square with the assurance which the right 246 hon. Gentleman got from the American Government last May?
Further, why is it possible that so soon after the harvest the position should have become desperate in our zone? If we have an arrangement with our American neighbours, and if, as I understand, the harvest was, in fact, locally a good one, one could understand the food position becoming desperate, say, next spring, but it is almost impossible to conceive how it can become desperate now unless there is maldistribution, which in itself means bad administration. All these are matters upon which we should like further information.
Now, I turn to another aspect of international affairs, and I make no apology at all for reverting to the question, several times discussed in this House, of free elections in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and Rumania, because I would like to say, even though it may embarrass them, that we on these benches support the Government in the protest they have felt called upon to make against attempts by the Governments of those countries to prevent a really free expression of opinion. I have to say that I was not here when the last foreign affairs Debate took place, but I read the Debate with very great care, and I think it was the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) who described free elections as a strong medicine which, if applied to peoples who had never grown up in democracy, was like giving whisky to a child.
I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman, does he really contend that the essence of democracy, which is free speech, free opinion and the right to criticise, will go to a nation's head, and what then is his attitude and that of his hon. Friends towards the political progress of the peoples of India, Burma and the Sudan? Does he suggest that because they have not reached the stage of democratic development that Western Europe has, they should be denied the chance of advancement and the opportunity to learn? The truth is that we have all to begin somewhere, even with whisky—when we can get it.
In all this—in the suppression of the voice of the common man, wherever it may be and however it may take place, in concentrating power in the hands of one party, and for practical purposes in the hands of a few of the more forceful 247 members of one party in a State—is a serious threat to true international cooperation. Let us, for the moment, take the example of what was happening in Germany and Italy just before the war. If it had been possible for the peoples of Germany and Italy to know where their leaders were leading them, and to understand to the full the opinions of other countries, and the attitude of mind in other countries, if the barriers of censorship could have been broken down, would not this have had some influence on the minds of some of those peoples? I do not say it would have, but it might have altered history. It seems to me to be fundamental to our faith that countries should be allowed to receive information from other countries and should be allowed free expression of opinion, and I do not think we ought to find excuses and reasons when such freedom is not given. Therefore, I hope that the Government will persist in the line they have taken in that respect.
Only the other day, an opposition member of the Rumanian Government said that the Rumanian elections may be considered already completely falsified. Let me say that I am not in the least impressed when representatives of the Bulgarian Government say that, generally speaking, the voting in Bulgaria passed over quietly. Orderliness at the polling booths is not necessarily proof of a free election.
§ Mr. Eden
I was under the impression that the hon. Member thought that he had been freely elected—I am sorry. I would say this to the hon. Member for Gateshead. It is possible to hold free elections in these countries. Let me draw the attention of the House for one moment to what is happening in Hungary, because it is an example of what could and should happen elsewhere. I quote two sentences from an article in "The Times", written by their special correspondent in South-Eastern Europe. It seems to me to be the essence of the problem.If a British visitor comes straight from London to Budapest he will be depressed by the war damage, the economic hardships, and 248 the general uncertainty. But it, like your correspondent, he comes from Rumania he will have just the contrary impression. He will note the energy with which the people of Buda pest are rebuilding their city.—perhaps there are not so many controls—He can buy newspapers and periodicals expressing widely different opinions on controversial subjects. Above all he will be surprised by the vigorous intellectual activity displayed both in print and conversation. In comparison with the mental sterility and haunting fear prevalent in the Balkans, Hungary seems an oasis of culture and liberty.Therefore, I hope that the Government will persist in the views they have expressed in regard to the two Governments I have mentioned. So far as Poland is concerned, the Foreign Secretary has stated in very precise terms that we see no reason why we should finally ratify the cession of German territory to Poland unless we are satisfied that assurances as to free elections, have been fully carried out. I fully agree with him in that statement, especially as my right hon. Friend and I were responsible for the preliminaries at the Yalta Agreement. I say that I agree with that interpretation of the agreement reached at Yalta. We want to see freely elected governments in these countries, but that does not mean that we want to see them on unfriendly terms with their Soviet neighbours. It would be an advantage to the peace of Europe if permanent friendly relations were established between the Soviet Union and her neighbours, and surely Russia herself will be in an infinitely stronger position if these friendly relations are interpreted by Governments which truly represent their peoples' will.
There is another matter relating to foreign affairs which I should like to raise. It concerns Western Europe. I read the other day the massive speech of the Foreign Secretary, which took up 34 columns of HANSARD. I was sorry to find less than one column devoted to our relations with our immediate Western neighbour, France, and no reference to our relations with Holland, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. I am glad that a start has been made with the establishment of Anglo-French trade, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) pointed out, this is, so far, on a very small scale indeed. I should like to hear from the Government of closer economic and cultural relations not only between ourselves and our French 249 neighbours, but with all our neighbouring countries in Western Europe, such as Belgium, Holland and the Scandinavian countries. In my recent visit to Belgium I found interest in the question of relations with this country, and I hope that the Government will make greater efforts for progress in this direction.
One other subject I should like to mention. It is the question of the Sudan in relation to the negotiations which are now proceeding with Egypt. In my view, it is most important that we should agree to no change in sovereignty, even in the form of sovereignty, in connection with the Sudan which can possibly lead the Sudanese people to think that their status is going to be changed. I think that that is very important. Our obligations to the Sudanese can be simply stated. These are to ensure that they shall have a free opportunity to express their own unfettered view as to their future destiny. That is our responsibility as I see it. Until that time comes nothing should be agreed with any other Power, which can in any way hamper that free expression of opinion or influence it, nor should there be any modification of the present system of administration. I am not asking the Government to make a reply now if they cannot do so—I am only expressing my own view. I believe that our record in the Sudan is second to none. If ever there was an example of trusteeship administered in the true sense of the term, I believe that it will be found in the Sudan. I say that on no account must we fail these people now. They must, as I say, be given, when the time comes, a free and unfettered chance to state their own views.
I should now like to make some comments on domestic affairs. I hope that I am not detaining the House too long, but as I have said, this is the one chance we get to deal with these matters in a general way. The Gracious Speech refers to an attempt by the Government to encourage and increase the productivity of industry. There will not be any dispute on these benches about the importance of that subject, but there is among my hon. Friends, and I have no doubt elsewhere, some concern about certain aspects of our industrial situation. I must first mention and express my astonishment at a speech made by the Secretary for Overseas Trade in the closing days of the last Session. He warned us that we might 250 have to expect, in the near future, something like the slump we experienced in 1921. A statement phrased like that is bound to give the country an entirely false impression of the present position. Whether or not there is to be a slump in the future is a matter on which I prefer not to pronounce. There may be many opinions on it, and the Chancellor, probably as well as anybody, will "be able to judge about that. What is quite certain is that there cannot possibly be a slump which will be in any way comparable to what happened in 1921. On the contrary, the main elements of the present situation are exactly the opposite to those which existed in 1921.
§ Mr. Eden
It is nothing to do with the Tories at all. It is a question of what is the fundamental position. I ask the hon. Gentleman to follow my argument. What was the position in 1921? The consumption of iron and steel, coal and cotton fell. In other words, what was available to the consuming industries and to the public was not required by them. Now, the exact opposite is the position. I am not giving credit or discredit; I only want to point out the position. Today, the whole emphasis is on the shortage of materials. If there is a slump in future it will be because there is not enough production of these essential commodities, and not because there is too much production of these essential commodities. So, the parallel of 1921 is a bad parallel and should not have been made by any responsible Minister, because it can only mislead the people at a time when the Government are trying to make every effort to increase output.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
Was not my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade referring not to a British slump, but to a world slump? If the right hon. Gentleman will read what my hon. Friend said on this matter, he will see that that is so.
§ Mr. Eden
I have read the whole passage, and I do not think I misinterpreted it. If I have I shall be only too glad to hear it. I am sure however, that the way I read the speech was the way in which a great many people in the country read it. If the object is to increase output, it is dangerous to draw parallels with 1921 when the situation, as far as this country is concerned, is wholly and entirely 251 different. There was unemployment in 1921 because coal, cotton, and iron and steel were not being fully used. If there is to be unemployment now it can only be because there is not enough of these commodities.
Now, I want to turn to certain aspects of the industrial situation. Of all the shortages there are of essential commodities, the most disturbing is that of steel, especially steel sheeting. This shortage is bound to cause grave dislocation in many of our manufacturing industries, especially in the motor car industry, and is bound to have a reflection on our export trade'. What alarms me about the steel position is that the Government appear to have been taken entirely unawares. I do not know whether this is a fact or not, but that is the impression they give. They must have known that steel would be needed in large quantities for motor cars and houses, but apparently it was not until late in the day that somebody added up the figures and found that the demand for steel greatly exceeded the supply. There are other shortages throughout the whole range of commodities, and we feel that inexpert handling by the Government has increased our national difficulties in some of these respects.
For instance, we feel that the Government's policy of bulk buying has not proved itself a success. It is quite easy to buy intelligently on a rising market, to wake up next morning and think that you have not done so badly, but it is not so easy on a fluctuating market. In rubber and cotton, the Government have completely misjudged the market. We had the extraordinary example of linseed, where there was a crippling shortage combined with an overnight price increase such as has never taken place even in the most so-called chaotic conditions of the free market. The price more than doubled from £55 to £135 overnight. In the light of all this, I do not think that any Minister would claim a good record for bulk buying. We welcome the Government's decision to re-establish a free market in rubber in London. I am sure that they will not regret their, decision but, since they have taken it, it seems all the more surprising that they should persist with their plans for the bulk purchase of cotton and place-them on a permanent basis. The Government will be wise to extend to cotton and a whole range of commodities the policy 252 on which they have so judiciously decided in respect of rubber.
I intended to go fully into other matters which must be troubling the Government in the same sphere—problems of the over-all labour shortage and maldistribution of our labour forces—but I have not time. Everybody knows of the shortages in certain vital industries and the unemployment which exists and which, I fear, will in some cases increase unless the necessary raw materials can be made available. I hoped that there would be something in the Gracious Speech about the Government's intentions in this respect, but there is nothing. There is, however, an aspect of the labour forces position to which I must refer. Already the Government have to find a heavy increase in manpower, compared to what they themselves contemplated at the end of this year, for the Services. We make no complaint about that. We know that commitments have to be fulfilled, and we think the Government are right to fulfil them and find the men. But there is another aspect of the matter. At the same time the Government are using a greatly increased labour force on goods for export. It is already 50 per cent. above the 1938 figure, yet the increase in our exports is only 17 per cent. above the 1938 figure. I know that there is bound to be a time lag between the availability of labour and production for export, but there seems to be something disturbing in those figures. All the more so when the use of that 50 per cent. increase in manpower for export can only be at the expense of goods for our own people, which are only too woefully short. I therefore hope that the Government will be able to tell us something about that.
I must say a word or two—and I see the Chancellor is here—abont the Civil Service in relation to this matter. I really think that the Government must look at this problem again. If the figures I have are right, the position appears to be that the non-industrial civil staffs of Government Departments numbered over 700,000 op 1st July. That was 13,000 more than last April, despite a decrease, in the Service and Supply Departments, of 13,000. We simply cannot afford a continuation of that. It means that the Service and Supply Departments' reductions are being more than made up by 253 increases in other Departments. Then there is the question of controls. Nobody complains about controls where shortages exist [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] No, if Members opposite will read what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said at the Election they will see that that is so. The trouble was that they did not read it. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about bread?"] We can argue whether there is a shortage there or not. Can the Government say that controls exist only where there are scarcities? Every industrialist to whom I have spoken tells me the same story, which I can sum up in one sentence, "Never has so much had to be asked of so many, to do so little." That is the experience of industry today. I will quote the "Economist," a paper which is not unfriendly to the Government, and which went so far as to say that they had done very well in their first year. It says:If the Government are in earnest in their appeal to industry to increase its productivity, let them first look to the efficiency of the vast industry over which they themselves preside.I will sum up what I have said: The Government's first duty is to concentrate upon increasing the quantity and improving the quality of British industry and British agriculture. Here I would appeal to the Prime Minister through the barrage of contending voices. The most difficult problem which he has to solve is the psychological one. For all too many years, Socialist propagandists of various degrees of eminence have been repeating to the workers engaged in industry the idea that extra effort brings no extra reward. That has been the plea—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Hon. Members are going to get a quotation in a minute. The workers have been told that added diligence or skill benefits only the boss. The Government are now trying desperately to get the people to unlearn the lesson which they themselves taught for so many years. But the damage has been done. Ministers must not underrate the effects of their past eloquence.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
What is the right hon. Gentleman trying to do now? Is he trying to be helpful or not?
§ Mr. Eden
I am. As the right hon. Gentleman will see, he cannot rebuke me because he and I made speeches at the 254 weekend—one at Plymouth, and the other at Birmingham—and I was rather shy the next morning to find that our speeches had a certain similarity. The right hon. Gentleman cannot escape his past, and what he is saying now is diametrically opposed to what his party has been saying for years past. Ministers are appealing all the time to those engaged in industry to give of their best. The right hon. Gentleman asks me, "What do I say about that?" I tell him that we endorse that appeal, and agree with him. He is not the only Member of the Government, and I must remind him that to many people in this country, the conversion of the Government seems not entirely convincing. I will give the right hon. Gentleman some reasons, if he likes. I have a book here entitled"Why you should be a Socialist. "It was written by the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Food, and revised two years ago. This is what he says:Our conclusion is that however hard the workers work, they will remain workers, and poor workers at that. Hard work will not make the workers any richer.
§ Mr. Eden
That is too simple. Do hon. Members opposite really maintain that a capitalist system under a Socialist Government will enable the workers to enrich themselves, but a capitalist system under a Tory Government will not do so. [Interruption.]I will give way when I have made my quotation. The right hon. Gentleman in this book says:They will remain workers, and poor workers at that. Hard work will not make the workers any richer"—
§ Mr. Eden
I am afraid that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will have to hold another meeting upstairs.—"but it will make their employers much richer. It does not take any higher wages to keep a sober industrious worker, than a 'gay' and feckless one.I commend this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer:Hence the propaganda in favour of the workers becoming patterns of sobriety, parsimony and thrift. For the exercise of these virtues by the workers would first of all benefit, not them, but their employers.That is exactly the opposite of what we are now being told every weekend. One more quotation, and then the agony will come to an end: 255Allied with this propaganda for lndus-triousness"—I commend this particularly to the Lord President; he will like it.—"you remember the old 'produce more cry. I suppose we shall get it again.Well, we have got it again. May I draw attention to the fly leaf of this remarkable production, which says that this is a "completely revised and up to date" version?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think, in all seriousness, that there is all the difference in the world between asking the workers to produce under a planned economy, with an expansionist policy of full employment, and the abolition of the means test—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech"]—as against a system under which production soon came to be called over-production, resulting in unemployment, and thrift was penalised?
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman is fully entitled to give any explanation which he can find of this state of affairs: I would say to him that I think that the average person among the British public would take a rather different view. They would feel that there is a complete contradiction between the book, from which I have just quoted, and the speeches which right hon. Gentlemen now make. I will admit that if the whole of industry were nationalised there would be a case for the point which the hon. Gentleman has made, from his point of view, but the hon. Gentleman and the Government themselves admit that we are still to have 80 per cent. free enterprise. We will support the Government on what they have said and are doing with regard to the increased production drive, because we know it to be absolutely essential in our national interest. But, in view of their own past and what they have themselves said, they must not be surprised if we do not regard them as the persons best qualified to preside over our national destiny at this time.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
I should like to bring the House back for a few moments to consideration of the question of the future of Germany and with what the former Foreign Secretary has said on that subject I very largely agree. There is extreme difficulty in dealing with all questions relating to foreign affairs because of the rapidly 256 changing situation in the world of today, and one can only deal with general principles. After all, that is probably the most important thing to do. I think it is already clear that nothing but a real give-and-take policy in the discussions which are at present going on in America between the major Allies will bring any results about the most vital subject under review there. I refer to the future of Germany. The future of Europe is here at stake, and no problem is more pressing for solution. It was, therefore, to me a relief when the Foreign Secretary in the last foreign affairs Debate at last began to outline what should be done. The move he made I regarded as far too long delayed. In point of fact, the position in Germany now has almost reached crisis point, and this winter will be cruel in every sense.
In criticism of the Foreign Secretary's remarks about Germany I am rather anxious to stress that I deprecated his appeal to the country not to indulge in sloppy sentiment. That I feel was calculated to appeal to those who are out to "squeeze Germany until the pips squeak," and is also calculated, as I see it, to foster a spirit of revenge in so far as, unfortunately, it still exists in this country. It was likely to appeal to those, for example, who see nothing morally wrong in hanging on to our German prisoners of war for as long as it suits us, and to those who would fail to deny themselves still further, if necessary, so that Germany might live. Germany must be put back on her feet again and there must be proper safeguards against any recrudescence there of the spirit of militarism. At present the Germans have no self respect, and they have less and less respect for us, which is perhaps an even more serious factor. There is a spiritual destitution amongst them which is only matched by their material surroundings. Do we want Germany to turn East for her inspiration or do we want her to turn West? To that question I reply that we want Germany to be herself, and in being herself she must, I believe, inevitably find more common ground as things exist at the moment with her Western Powers. I do not welcome this because I want Germany to become a pawn in any anti-Russian policy, but rather because I think it is historically natural and that it will do much to restore and foster the all too fast decaying culture of the West, founded, as it is, on the broad concepts of Christianity and democracy.
257 My two visits to Germany have indeed been depressing experiences. Irreparable disaster is at hand, unless drastic steps are taken to halt the present state of affairs. I agree with what the former Foreign Secretary says in regard to the dismantling and removal of factories from our zone. It is simply crazy in the present circumstances. I also dislike the de-Nazi-fication procedure, and I think as a result of it we are getting into a frightful muddle in our zone. When all is said and done, where there was no alternative for the ordinary common or garden German when Hitler was in power he usually followed what most ordinary individuals would follow, namely, the line of least resistance. To penalise people because they followed the line of least resistance in those difficult days is, I think, all wrong, and to try and differentiate between one admirer of Hitler and another is again a great mistake. What is wanted is a remote control that will leave Germans to look after German affairs. In that respect I believe our Russian Allies have shown a great deal more commonsense than we have. They have employed Nazis in key positions under proper control. Why should we not do the same?
There has also been criticism in this country—and I am inclined to endorse it —about the point made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the cost of £80 million in respect of the British zone which is said to be completely unbearable. This criticism, I think, overlooks the fact that a policy of unconditional surrender cost us thousands of millions before it could be brought about, and a cost of £80 millions a year in putting right some of the madness resulting from that policy is not, after all, such an onerous responsibility for us to bear for the time being.
What of the future? It is no longer— and I am very glad to say this—a case of the actions and intentions of the Allies being all that counts, for undoubtedly the efforts and opinions of the Germans themselves are beginning to form and we must reckon with them. Germany's extinction has given us a margin of safety for quarrelling and we are making poor use of it. Germany will one day stand on her feet as we want her to, and the question I pose is, what shape will she have assumed by then? Very much depends on British policy in answering that question. To me it is encouraging that the Foreign 258 Secretary hinted at the Socialisation of German industry in the British zone. This, of course, may not appeal to America, but I venture to think that even they could surely never countenance handing great industrial undertakings back again to the likes of Krupp and Thyssen. Three of the four major Allies want a united Germany, and Russia herself subscribed to Potsdam, which said that Germany should be treated as an economic unit. I am not a pessimist about the development of this unity, despite what may prove— and I greatly fear this—to be unresolved differences between the major Allies, for the chief factor to reckon with is the German will to unity, and that undoubtedly exists as much in the Eastern zone as it docs in the Western zone. It is greatly to be hoped in America the Allies will allow Germany's future to be Germany's affair, and if they concentrate on the limits within which Germany will be free to act they should be able to find common ground.
The vital considerations for the settlement of Germany as I see it are these. First of all, Germany must be, and must remain, demilitarised and the Allies must exchange guarantees against her rearmament. This was approximately the same first point that was made by the Foreign Secretary in the last foreign affairs Debate. Secondly, economic stability must be ensured for Germany. With a larger population in a smaller area she must certainly not have less industry than she had before the war. She cannot be allowed, as things are developing at the present time, to become merely a slum. So far, the Allied reparations policy has been absolutely wrong, bound up as it is with the removal and dismantling of factories. Thirdly, constitutional machinery must be set up which is acceptable to the Germany people. I am glad to say this was a point that was made by the Foreign Secretary, but in a rather sketchy way. I believe that a central government should eventually be set up, with the function of coalescing the powers exercised by regional units in Germany.
Lastly, I would like, for a moment or two, to elaborate on a note struck by Field Marshal Smuts in a recent speech in Paris when, speaking of Germany, he said:A light must be left in the window for the prodigal to return.259 I ask: What is the light to be, and through whose window will it shine? Please God it will be through our window. We can, though, do a very great deal to ensure that that happens by developing, and being proud of, our British way and purpose. If power has—indeed it has, in the old fashioned meaning of the word— passed, on the one hand, to America and, on the other hand, to Russia, we are left at any rate with the possibility of developing our quality—the quality of the forbearance we show towards others, the quality of the goods we produce, the quality of our citizens, the quality of our closely integrated communal life, and the quality of the democratic processes by which we live, and move and have our being. There are some who invite us to take the plunge into an Arctic stream in the hope that we may scramble ashore on some tropical island of everlasting bliss and happiness. Others suggest that we should chain ourselves to the golden chariot wheels of American big business. Let us avoid both these temptations; and in doing so let us develop our own priceless heritage, making it an enviable example, not only to our German brothers and sisters, but for the rest of the world to follow.
§ 3.54 p m.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I am grateful to be allowed to take part in this Debate today. I propose to confine my remarks mostly to Germany. Before doing so I would like to make a few remarks with regard to the Gracious Speech itself. It is full of very controversial issues, which I feel will divide opinion throughout the country and cause that friction which is the last thing we want during this period of time, when the country is ill and seedy and requires nourishment to get back into full production. As far as I can see, there is nothing at all in the Gracious Speech that encourages production, or makes any provision to prevent the spiral that is developing towards inflation. In fact, the main part of the Speech is devoted to a process of development of the Socialist ideology towards nationalisation.
As I said, I wish to confine my remarks today mainly to Germany, about which I am gravely concerned. I went to Germany as a member of a Parliamentary delegation in October, 1945, 12 months 260 ago, and I visited it again this August. To my mind there was a great deterioration throughout the whole of our control, between those two dates. Not only is it necessary for us to remove the financial burden, which the Chancellor has mentioned from time to time, from our backs in governing Germany, but it is also vital to the whole health of Europe, and to the health of this island, that some form of economic life comes back to Germany. Let us for a moment clear our minds on what has in fact happened. If a line is taken from the Baltic down to Trieste, I think most hon. Members of this House —with the exception perhaps of the Communist Party, and some who feel themselves inclined towards it and are disloyal to the flag under which they serve—will admit that the land lying to the East of that line is in twilight. I think no one would doubt that from time to time some of us hear the sound that emanates from the back of that line, while some do not; it all depends upon how one is built. But that land is twilighted, and there, in South-East Europe, are the granaries of Europe; there is a vast production of food lying to the East of Berlin. I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster— because I do not know the answer to this —can the land to the West of that line produce sufficient food to feed Western Europe? I am rather doubtful whether it ever can, but I would like him to give me an answer to that.
§ Mr. Marshall
I quite agree with the hon. Member. It is necessary to say that it cannot, and I ask whether it ever can. If it be the case that it never can produce sufficient, then one is in a position where, unless Germany is controlled as a whole, it will mean that for all future time food will have to be brought to the West to support those people. In the Gracious Speech there are such words asto establish in Germany conditions which will foster true democracy …and will remove the financial burden which the occupationlays upon us. I have no quarrel with those words, and I agree with the target. What I am anxious about, and what concerns my mind, is how to get that target. I can see nothing in the Gracious Speech which suggests what action His Majesty's Government are thinking of taking, if no agreement can be reached with the 261 U.S.S.R. upon the total government of Germany as a whole, then I say the time has now come—and the sands of time are running out—to recognise that fact, and to agree that in those circumstances the Potsdam Agreement cannot be worked.
It is useless to have a "wait and hope" policy because we cannot wait when thousands of men and women are dying as the result of that policy. We just cannot do that. I think it is right and proper from time to time to remember the reasons why we fought the war. We fought it against all the violence of the Nazi regime, but we did not fight it in order to replace in Europe a system exactly the same, as that of the Nazi regime. I personally have no liking for the German race whatsoever. There is no doubt that within 25 years they have brought the most terrible misery upon the Western democracies. But if we take the word "mercy" out of our minds, then we divorce ourselves from every Christian philosophy that we have ever held. We cannot reconcile those two points.
I suggest that His Majesty's Government must take very serious thought upon a few matters which I am about to place before them now. If it is decided that a different policy has to be perpetrated in Germany with the resuscitation of the industries which will be required, we must remember that in those circumstances we are in fact building up a war potential. We must not forget that. Although we are building up a war potential the reason it has to be built up is that Germany is not governed as a whole, and the blame for that must fall on the one nation that will not come in and agree to the government of Germany on a tripartite and quadripartite basis.
§ Mr. Stokes
Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that any industrial organisation must inevitably build up a war economy.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am delighted that the hon. Member has made that interruption. I am suggesting so. Every industrial nation must, naturally, have industries, but I maintain that there is no industry that can be divorced from war potential if it wishes to change and to build for war requirements. I suggest that the time has now come when we can wait no longer upon this decision, and I sincerely trust that His Majesty's Government will come 262 to a conclusion within a very short while and announce to this House what they propose to do.
With regard to the vast plains in Germany—I should like to have the attention of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on this matter—I hope that His Majesty's Government will give consideration to utilising them for military requirements, and so obviate depriving us of some of the great beauty spots that we possess in our land by using them for the training of Army personnel. If the Government consider that Potsdam must be reviewed I hope that they will give thought to allowing full responsibility to fall on German shoulders and let the Germans carry on with their own industries, but with the provision that we shall keep military occupying forces in Germany for many years to come. These forces, however, should be divorced from the Control Commission, and the Germans should be made to carry out the administration that is necessary.
I was intending to speak for rather longer than I now propose, but I am not going to do so in view of the great speech which has been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He has put the case of Germany so clearly that I wish only to support him for a few brief moments. I trust that this Government will very shortly establish, to the best of their ability, some form of peace in Europe which it is now so lacking, and stop the witch hunting which is going on at the present moment. You will no doubt have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of shipping or of the fishing industry, and only a brief reference to civil aviation. I do not propose to expand upon those three points, but I hope that at some later date in this Session I shall be able to speak about them.
In conclusion, I would say that the Gracious Speech is full of Socialist ideology at a time when it was never more necessary to have unity in this country and to have production brought into full operation. I feel—and I say this because I sincerely believe it—that the present Government are a poor government, poor in thought and poor in administration. The result of their work will only be to bring our people to the poorest conditions they have ever known.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
I am very glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, in a Debate of this importance. As I listened this afternoon to the former Foreign Secretary I felt that he was in danger of securing the support of a good many hon. Members on this side of the House on some of the things which he put forward. In particular, I agree entirely with his demand for a responsible Minister to deal with the huge problem of Germany—a Minister who would be resident there. But I do not propose to speak on the subject of Germany; I am concerned with the content of the Speech from the Throne as it applies to our own country. I rejoice to note that the subtle campaign which has been conducted by hon. Members opposite to persuade hon. Members on this side of the House how much they are being overworked has failed completely, and that in the Gracious Speech we have every evidence that the Government are going forward with their effort to nationalise the basic industries of this country.
I believe that we shall not be a full democracy until we have, hand in hand with our political democracy, economic freedom for our people. I live in South Wales and I have the honour to represent a Welsh constituency. The people of South Wales have long since learned that political democracy means little unless there is security, unless there is work, and unless there are the general amenities which make life worth while. I believe that in the first year of this Government's term of office we have had made plain their determination to change the old order in Britain and to bring in that social and economic democracy which will give to the world once again a lead such as his island has given on many occasions.
There is a reference in the Gracious Speech to a Bill dealing with compensation and betterment. I realise that that is not a very exciting topic, after the discussion which we have had here today, but I shall welcome that Bill in particular. There is room for His Majesty's Government to go a great deal further than they have already done. I could have hoped that the Government would promise to introduce legislation to deal with the leasehold system of this country. Under the protection of the law, people 264 in all parts of the country are being blackmailed and robbed at the present time. Electors in my own constituency, whose parents bought their homes, are having their homes filched from them by great corporations who enjoy the protection of legislation laid down by this House in earlier days. The legislation is a relic of the days when the House of Commons was filled with people who represented only the great landowning section of our community. That hangover is still being felt at the present time.
I would like to give the House some examples of how the leasehold system is affecting our people. It is to remain unaltered for the present, to judge by the Gracious Speech. In May, 1938, the Marquess of Bute, who is the "rich man in his castle" in the City of Cardiff, sold half of our great city to some London concern which calls itself Western Ground Rents, Limited. The transaction included the ground rents of no fewer than 20,000 houses in Cardiff, 1,000 shops, 250 public houses—you see we are well catered for.— some theatres, cinemas, and even a large part of Cardiff Docks. The "Daily Express was forced to make this announcement, when the news of the transaction was published:What did the Marquess put into the City of Cardiff to get such treasure out? Did he provide the foresight that planned the giant docks of Cardiff? The keen courageous enterprise in commerce that created the mighty Ievenues of that great port? The hard skilled labour that built the quays and wharfs, that loads the ships and steers their cargoes across the world? The Marquess was the landlord. Cardiff's citizens were the workers. Of their labours he reaps the gain. The State should take its cut from that harvest.What the "Daily Express" did not say was that Lord Beaverbrook's nephew was a member of the concern that bought half the City of Cardiff. That was a fact which we had to find out in other ways. There was also a former Conservative Minister of Health, now Lord kennet—
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the term "racket" to be applied in relation to a noble Lord in another place? The hon. Member has just said that Lord Kennet 265 was engaged in a racket. I am very anxious to obtain a Ruling whether that can be said, and as to what can be said here in relation to another place. Would you say, Sir, whether the term "racket" is or is not in Order?
§ Mr. Thomas
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I would call your attention to the fact that I did not say that Lord Kennet was linked up with a racket. I said that my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) knew of the racket as well as I did.
§ Mr. Speaker
My attention was diverted for a moment, and I did not hear the actual words that were spoken by the hon. Member. Of course, one has to be very careful what one says here about noble Lords. One does not want to cause strife between the two Houses of Parliament.
§ Earl Winterton
I take it, Sir, that your Ruling is that it will be quite in Order on a future occasion for me to refer to any activities engaged in by a Socialist Member in another place as a racket?
§ Mr. Speaker
"Racket" is a rather undignified term. Moreover, it is not customary to refer to noble Lords by name, unless they are Ministers responsible for the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Thomas
I quite appreciate the sensitiveness of the noble Lord at the remarks which I made about his friends. Far be it from me to commit a breach of the Rules of the House, but this is a question upon which I feel deeply. The wretched ground landlord system is robbing the people not only in Wales but all over the country. Within the next 10 years the majority of the leases in Cardiff will be falling due. It will only be possible for householders to keep their homes, or business people to keep then-shops, if those people are prepared to pay the prices which will be demanded of them by Western Ground Rents or the Mountjoy Estate, which is the estate of the family of the Earl of Bute.
In the city of Cardiff there is a small car park less than one acre in size. Despite the many advantages of the city it has no public hall. The City Corporation wanted to build a public hall in Cardiff. For that little plot of land, less than an 266 acre in size, there was demanded the price of £30,000, which made the question of a public hall in that place quite impossible. The people who are demanding that price have done nothing at all to increase the value of the land.
§ Mr. Thomas
The people of Cardiff built the docks and they have made Cardiff what it is today. We are trying to build new schools and to put up factories, as well as to initiate new housing development. All the time we are handicapped by this leasehold system. The Queen's Hotel, in one of the main streets, was leased for £30 a year. The lease fell in. Immediately the price demanded was £600 a year. A great business man—or rather the person owning a great business firm—complained to me that his lease was falling due and that these people—I do not know whether it is in Order to call them racketeers—were demanding £10,000 from him before he could keep his own shop and the business which he himself has built up. If this House is to protect the citizens of this country from the rapacious greed of the landlords, new legislation will be required. I could give examples from many parts of the country of the same thing. Schools cannot be built and playgrounds cannot be provided for the children because of the blackmail demand upon local authorities who want to develop their areas. I hope that His Majesty's Government will appreciate that this question is one which, if it cannot be brought in this Session, does need their serious attention for some time before the end of this present Parliament—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
Surely there are ample powers now for local authorities to acquire land for development?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am talking about price. Although they have the powers to appeal for arbitration, it is still possible for the main price to be fixed so high that when the arbitration comes—I can quote examples if the hon. and gallant Member wants them—the local authority is still forced to pay a fictitious value or a value which has been given to the land, not because of the work of the community, but by the man who happens to own the land. If hon. Members opposite—they do not seem to like what I am saying—really 267 want to see justice for the small man of Great Britain, here is their chance. We have had leaders of administration like my great compatriot David Lloyd George, who in his youth campaigned for the Principality of Wales and then came to England and gave it the advantage of his eloquence on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in his youth did the same thing. Both of them had opportunities later for putting this matter right, but they found other things to occupy their attention. However, I hope that the Government will at last give the people of Wales the right to sing "Land of My Fathers" and to know that it is their land and not the land of some corporation here in London, which is only interested in us in order that it can exploit us to the maximum of its opportunity.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not deal this afternoon with the question of compensation and betterment. It is a matter in which some of us on this side are interested, and if it had not been inserted in the King's Speech we should have drawn attention to its omission and criticised the Government.
I would like to turn back to the question of Germany. This is a matter about which hon. Members of both sides of the House are becoming increasingly concerned. So far, there has been, on the part of the Government, no firm or resolute action, and as week follows week We appear to be drifting towards disaster. This House realises its moral and political responsibility for what is now happening in the British zone. I would direct my questions to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with a special bearing on the speech made by the Foreign Secretary on 22nd October. In the last few months two important statements have been made upon the condition of the British zone. The first was the Report presented to this House by the Select Committee on the Estimates, and I ask the Government in their reply tonight to say what action has been taken upon that report, to which the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for Air—he was then 268 Minister of State—paid tribute in the last Debate on this subject. The second was the Foreign Secretary's speech.
As regards administration, the Select Committee pointed out that there was a very large staff engaged in the administration of that zone and it thought that the quality of many of that staff was inadequate. They made concrete suggestions that civil servants from Government Departments in this country should be seconded for service in the British zone. That was already being done to a great extent by the Post Office, and to a lesser extent by the Ministry of Labour, and what was pointed out by the Committee —and it was noticed by some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who went with me to Germany—was that insecurity of tenure results in a great many keen and enthusiastic officers who have been serving in that administration while in the Army not feeling justified in taking on a civil job. They have no security of tenure at all, and therefore the tendency is that only those who are not confident of getting a job in this country are willing to stay on in a civilian capacity. I hope the Government will tell us what they are prepared to do in that respect. Hon. Gentleman opposite were associated with me in writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer after we came back from Germany asking that something should be done about this matter, but, so far, we believe that the matter has been held up by the Establishments Branch of the Treasury.
I come to the more important matters of policy. Coal is the foundation of the whole industrial life of the British zone. In the evidence which General Robertson put before the Select Committee, he emphasised that as the cause of the vicious circle. It is the shortage of coal which restricts the production of consumption goods, and it is the restriction of the production of consumption goods which deprives the Ruhr miners of inducement to increase output. In the earlier Debate, the present Secretary of State for Air said that from the point of view of the Foreign Office they would be very reluctant to restrict the exports of coal to France and other members of the United Nations, who were deriving large quantities of coal from Germany. But as the Select Committee pointed out, and as was urged on all sides of the House in the last Debate, unless there is a larger proportion of coal retained 269 in the British zone, this vicious circle cannot be broken. When the Select Committee reported, less than 49 per cent. of the coal that was produced in the Ruhr was being retained in the British zone. In the speech which the Foreign Secretary made on 22nd October, he announced that the Government had now decided that it was impossible for this large exportation of coal to continue. I therefore ask the Chancellor of the Duchy in his reply tonight to tell us what is now the intention in regard to the retention of coal in the British zone.
Coal is hardly more fundamental to the prosperity of the zone than steel. Indeed, it is the lack of coal that restricts the production of steel, but it is equally true that the lack of steel makes it impossible to renew the equipment in the coalmines and is having a direct effect upon reducing the output of coal. In a most distressing report from the special correspondent in DÜsseldorf of "The Times," published on 9th November, there was a most alarming paragraph:The final factor in the misery and unrest here is the uncertainty about the industrial future of the Ruhr. At a conference with the German Press here 00 30th October, the Regional Commissioner announced that because of the scarcity of coal and power overall industrial production in North Rhine— Westphalia had been reduced in the past two months, and that eight undertakings, including a steelworks, had been forced to close.I do not believe there is anything Which could be more alarming for the future of the Ruhr than that another steel works should be closing down at the present time. It may be the result of the lack of coal, but it is likely to have the result of still further reducing the output of coal and, coming on top of what has already taken place, the dismantling of the Huttenwerke works, the up-to-date steel works which is being sent to Russia for reparations, is likely still further to increase the depression in the Ruhr. Therefore I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is now the position with regard to steel in the Ruhr.
Those are, perhaps, the two most vital of all the industries, but I now want to ask him what is the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to reparations as a whole. When the Foreign Secretary made his speech on 22nd October he said:…there must not be reparation deliveries from current production,"—270 That is, presumably, to the Russian zone—so long as there is a deficit in the balance of payment account in any one zone.…This is a situation which cannot go on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October, 1946; vol. 427, c. 1519.]Is that situation still going on? What is the attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to the dismantling of plant? The same despatch published in "The Times" goes on as follows:Mr. Asbury, the commissioner, was unable to say whether these firms would be restarted, because this question was linked with the economic concentration of industry. He also announced that four factories—all of them going to Russia as reparations—were being dismantled and that another ten were scheduled for dismantling.As I understand it, there are three stages in this matter. There are some factories which are in process of being dismantled, others which are scheduled for dismantling, and others which have been allocated for reparations. What I am concerned about is this. The Foreign Secretary, in his speech on 22nd October, made it quite plain that, so far as the Russian zone is concerned, we are not prepared to go on trying to put the Potsdam Agreement into operation unilaterally. We are not prepared to go on making our contribution if no contribution is made from the Russian side. After all, the whole conception of Potsdam was that Germany should be treated as a single economic unit. What I am asking the Government today is, what action has been taken on the Foreign Secretary's speech? What is being done about the dismantling of those plants? Presumably the dismantling of the Huttenwerke works, which was begun in June, is going on. What about the others which have been scheduled or allocated? This is vital, not only from the point of view of the production of steel in the British zone, but in order that the people there may at least have some hope for the future. As long as, in all this misery and unemployment, they go out and see factory after factory being earmarked for demolition and removal to foreign countries, what possible inducement can they have to make any effort to help themselves?
Now I come to the question of food. There, apparently, we are once more in the position of facing an immediate crisis We were apparently facing such a crisis in the spring also, on the occasion when the Lord President of the Council 271 went to Washington. When he was there, he made a certain sacrifice of grain; in this country he represented it as a very small sacrifice, in Washington he represented it as a very great sacrifice. I am very glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman has come in; I was just referring to his memorable mission to Washington when he made certain concessions with regard to foodstuffs. In his statement in the House on 23rd May he said:So far as Germany is concerned they"—That is the Americans—have accepted the proposition that there should not be a starving or more under-fed British zone in Germany side by side with an American zone which is getting assured food supplies, but that both zones shall work to the same standard of rationing and shall have the same degree of assurance that their supplies will not suddenly come to at end.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May. 1946; Vol. 423. c. 542.]That was the agreement which the right hon. Gentleman brought back in May. When I was in Germany in June there had still been no change in the rations in the two zones. The British zone was still much worse fed than the American zone. I put down a Question to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which he answered on 9th July, and again the position was just the same; the disparity between the treatment of the two zones had not in any way been reduced. When I pressed him on the point in the last Debate, he said that if it had not been for the efforts of the Lord President of the Council, the rations might not have been maintained even at 1,052 calories. I am very glad to think that the right hon. Gentleman's mission had that very important effect.
That does not alter the fact that he did get an agreement from at least one of the American departments that the two zones should be treated in the same way. What is the position now? Are the American Government carrying out that undertaking? If they are honouring that undertaking announced on 23rd May, I do not understand why the British zone is today facing starvation, while the American zone is in a very much better position. I should have thought that all we had to do was to ask our American friends to carry out, in the spirit and the letter, the undertaking they gave to the right hon. Gentleman. If that is not so, then at any rate I should have 272 thought that after the Foreign Secretary had accepted the offer which Mr. Byrnes made to him, that there should be unification of the British and American zones, for the future we could look to the Americans for help in feeding the British zone. Is there some question about payment? Is that what the trouble is? I think it is vital that the House, the country, and the German people should be told by the Government tonight why the British zone is once more apparently facing the danger of immediate starvation, when the right hon. Gentleman succeeding in concluding an agreement with the Americans in May by which they undertook that that should not happen.
Germany is the centre of all the problems of foreign affairs. The British zone is the centre of German economy. Economic collapse in the British zone would make impossible the economic recovery of Germany. It would also bring about the final failure, as I believe, of those efforts at reconstruction to which the Foreign Secretary has set his hand. We on this side of the House support the general lines of the Foreign Secretary's policy. I believe that a somewhat precarious majority of his own supporters also support it. I hope, in view of the immense importance to the whole of our foreign affairs of a settlement of this German question, we may have a frank and full statement from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Miss Bacon (Leeds, North-East)
In His Majesty's Speech we have heard the Government's plans for the new Session, plans which we believe will bring us nearer the kind of Britain we desire. I welcome this Speech and particularly the ideas embodied in it, but if we are quite honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is a fear underlying all our hopes for the future, and the knowledge that unless the nations of the world cooperate for peace, all our home policy will be of no avail.
I wish to speak on a subject which hovers over all our discussions, namely, our relations with the U.S.S.R. During the war, when the bombs were falling and the battles were raging, there was between our two countries the greatest friendship and mutual admiration, and it is a source of the greatest disappointment to us that this friendship and collaboration has not 273 been carried forward into the peace. There is no need for me to elaborate here this afternoon everything that has happened nor on the uncooperativeness of the Russians in international conferences. But are we going to accept this as inevitable, and as permanent? Ought we not, instead of asking mysterious questions about the number of Russian divisions in various parts of Europe, to be paying some attention to discovering the reasons for this changed attitude and this misunderstanding? In recent weeks I have visited the U.S.S.R. as a member of the Labour Party's goodwill mission and this included three visits to the Kremlin, where we had conversations with all the leaders in the Soviet Union, including a two and a quarter hours' talk with Stalin himself. I am not going to deal with any great international questions in regard to our relations with Russia. In the short time we had in Russia we could only form certain impressions, but those impressions, though necessarily fleeting, were very valuable. The trouble in the past has been that so many people have gone to Russia with preconceived notions, determined at all costs to prove their ideas right. They have either gone to condemn Russia, or to look at Russia through the rose tinted spectacles of the Communist Party of Great Britain. I did not fall into either of those categories. I went to Russia absolutely unbiased and with an open mind. I make no apology for dealing for a few moments with the internal situation in Russia, because we are aware of the fact that internal situations in countries have a great influence on foreign affairs.
It is time, for the sake of Russia herself, that we exploded the myth, built up by so-called friends of Russia, that Russia is a land of plenty, with few internal problems. There have been great advances in the Soviet Union in education, and in cultural activities. There have been vast improvements in all spheres since Czarist days, but, even so, life in Russia today is very grim. Housing conditions are absolutely appalling, and something which we here cannot visualise. This has not been caused entirely by the war, it is a prewar problem which has been accentuated by it. Moscow is literally bulging with its population. Last year there were in the Soviet Union 25 million people homeless, and two 274 million people spent last winter in dugouts. Many of them, we are told, will face the rigours of the coming winter under similar conditions. There is a tremendous shortage in Russia of consumer goods, particularly of clothing. The Russians have never overcome their housing and their consumer goods situation resulting from two wars and a revolution. Before this war, they were about to embark on improvements for their people, but, unfortunately, the war came and they are in the same position again of having to concentrate on heavy industry, schools, and hospitals. I believe the world ought to know these things for the sake of Russia herself, because it is against this background that the utterances of her leaders must be judged.
The question I have most frequently been asked since my return from Russia was, "What is the Russian attitude towards us in this country?" That is rather a difficult question to answer. It is rather difficult to sum up. But as far as we could see there was a feeling of the utmost friendliness for, and keen interest in, our country, but an appalling ignorance of the achievements of Great Britain. Everywhere we went there were expressions of good will and what we believe was a genuine desire for friendship with Britain. Stalin himself said that he was glad to receive our assurances of the desire of the British people for the maintenance of friendship with his people. But he said he felt it would be amazing if there were not friendship between the two peoples. Speaking of production in Russia, he said that things could, of course, be speeded up if the Armed Forces of the State could be reduced, but that care must be taken to ensure that there was no further aggression. He said that mutual treaties of defence would help to reduce the Forces and thus allow the allocation of more manpower to production, thereby increasing the amount of goods available for improving the welfare of the Russian people. Today, when we are faced in this country with the necessity for conscription, and with the shortage of manpower, how we can re-echo those sentiments as applied to Britain,
Hon. Members might ask how the utterances of Stalin tie up with the attitude of the Russians at international conferences. This is one of the enigmas of Russia. They seem to speak with two voices. Is it insincerity and sheer deception, or is it fear? 275 The Russians are certainly awkward, unjustifiably so, not only on the great international questions which come before the public eye, but on small matters, such as their refusal to allow Russian wives of British men to come to this country to join their husbands. The reasons given for this are really fantastic, and in some cases incredible. There is not the slightest doubt that the Russian leaders do preach to their people the idea of encirclement, and that around Russia are capitalist countries ready to destroy the Soviet Union. But I was appalled at the lack of knowledge about this country. In some instances there was a great ignorance of our great social institutions, and at the same time an amazing knowledge of some obscure point where we justly deserved criticism. If I may give an example, it is in the matter of education. The Russians did not know that we had fulltime compulsory education from five to 14. They did not know that all our State schools were absolutely free. But, on two occasions, in towns 500 miles apart, women came to me and asked, "Is it true that when a woman teacher marries, she is dismissed from her job?"
I explained to them what the situation was and that that had now been altered. "But," they said, "of course, it used to be true, because somebody from England came and told us so." The trouble has been that in the past we have left our social relations with Russia to those who have gone there to minimise our achievements and to exaggerate our failings. Many of these people are absolutely unrepresentative of the British people. They count for very little here, but they are regarded by the Russians as people of importance, whose words carry great weight. We have to alter this. It will be a very difficult process, but we have to try to give a true picture to the Russians of what life is like in this country.
We have heard a great deal about the "iron curtain." It is a phrase which the Russians detest, but if there is an iron curtain it is not so much an iron curtain preventing the visitor from seeing what is happening in Russia as an iron curtain preventing the Russians from seeing what is going on in the rest of the world. But in spite of this, there is a thirst for knowledge about our country. 276 "British Ally," our official publication, because of the shortage of paper, has a circulation of only 50,000 copies, but we were told that it circulates to a much greater number of people than 50,000. The actual price per copy is two roubles, but again we were told that there is a kind of black market second hand price at something like 30 roubles, and when our Foreign Secretary makes a speech which is not reported in the ordinary Russian papers, that black market price goes up to 50 roubles. I should here like, in passing, to pay a tribute to the staff of the "British Ally," who are doing a real job of work under difficult conditions, and not only to the staff of the "British Ally," but also to the whole staff of the British Embassy in in Moscow. I should like to say that, particularly, in these days when our Embassies come in for so much criticism.
Many Members on this side of the House have asked me, since I returned, why it is that, with a Labour Government in this country, the Government of a party which has always been friendly to the Soviet Union, if I may say so, much more friendly than the party which sits on the opposite side of this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—I believe that the Russians know that they have nothing to fear from us, but they have a fear of the future. The Russians are not so convinced as we are that this Government have come to stay.
§ Miss Bacon
Stalin himself asked what were the dangers of reaction from our political enemies, and we received a definite impression that there is still a fear in the Russian mind about the possible strength of reaction in Britain. After all, they have a right to be afraid. I believe that we have, in this country, two great enemies to a proper understanding with Russia.' On the one hand, we have the reactionaries who have always hated Russia, who never liked Russia being our Ally during the war. On the other hand, as an enemy, really, of relations -with Russia, we have the Communist Party, whose fault has been that they have loved Russia too much. But between these extremes the majority of the people in this country really desire friendship with the Soviet Union.
277 In spite of all these difficulties, I came away convinced that the Russian people did not want war, and that if they did want war, their internal conditions would not stand it. I do not believe that there is between our two countries any problem which is incapable of solution. Not only did I come away with that impression, but I came away convinced that there must not be anything which is incapable of solution between us. Because if there is, we might as well scrap the King's Speech and everything embodied in it; the Russians might as well scrap their Five Year Plan for improving the lives of the Russian people—we might as well scrap all these things, and get on with the preparations for war. But I do not believe that there, is any necessity for misunderstanding, and I am convinced that if we could have more deputations to Russia, and deputations from Russia to this country, who could give a true picture of the lives of the people in the two countries, we should be a great step forward towards that understanding which we all desire.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Donovan (Leicester, East)
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Miss Bacon) for not following her in her most interesting and instructive speech about Russia. I wish for a few moments to come back to this country. In the Gracious Speech I notice a reference to the possible introduction of other Measures besides those specified in the Speech, if time should permit. I desire, with due diffidence, to make one or two suggestions about what might be done "if time permits." Some two years ago, a woman fell into a trench in the North of England. It was very early in the morning, and she was going to her work in a war factory. The trench was in the factory, between the gate where she clocked in and the shed where she had to work. She fell into this unlighted trench and sustained injuries. Quite naturally she looked around for someone to sue. The normal person for her to sue would have been the occupier of the factory. But the occupier happened to be the Minister of Supply in the late Coalition Government. The Minister of Supply in that capacity represents the Crown, and he cannot be sued because, according to the law of this country, the Crown can do no wrong, the Crown could not possibly leave unlighted trenches about for people to fall into.
278 The Treasury Solicitor, always very helpful on these occasions, looked round for someone else in the factory who might be nominated as a nominal defendant. He chose someone as the defendant. That is what is called nominating a dummy defendant. The lady took the dummy defendant into the county court, where she happened to lose, because she could not prove that that particular defendant owed her any duty to keep the trench lighted and to save her from falling into it. She appealed from the county court to the Court of Appeal, which, on Monday last, dismissed her claim because, they said, owing to something said recently in another place, this practice of nominating dummy defendants is wrong, and she must sue the proper person. The proper person being the Crown, and the Crown not being able to do any wrong, she cannot sue anybody. So this unfortunate woman, who suffered these injuries two years ago, cannot even bring a case into court to try to make someone responsible. Could we have that altered, "if time permits"? It is an instance which might be matched a hundred times; it is not an isolated case. In point of fact, a Bill to put this thing right is ready, and requires little amendment. It is called the Crown Proceedings Bill of 1927, and it has been waiting now for 20 years for time to permit.
I come now to the question of litigation in the case of poor people and the provision of legal aid. It was said by somebody some time ago that justice in this country is open to everybody just like the Ritz Hotel. That aphorism needs to be brought up to date because today justice is open to the destitute, to the very poor and the very rich, but it is not open to those with limited incomes. If we take the case of a man earning £5 a week, we find he cannot get legal aid anywhere. No one can get free legal aid in the county court or the coroner's court, where it is often wanted; but the man with a maximum of £4 a week can get legal aid in the High Court. What value is that to him? Suppose a man earning £5 a week, which is not very much today, finds that his wife has run off with somebody else, leaving him with two children. Perhaps after a time he finds someone else who is willing to make a new home with him. He goes to a solicitor and says he wants a divorce and finds that the cost of an undefended divorce will be anything between £60 and £70. He cannot afford 279 that. Even if the proposals of the Denning Committee—which, perhaps I may be permitted to say in parentheses, I hope will commend themselves to all hon. Members —even if they were implemented in full, the cost still would be some £30 or £40, and that is if he knows where his wife has gone. If he does not know where his wife is, and has to serve the petition upon her by means of substituted service through the medium of a newspaper advertisement, he finds the cost of that advertisement is something like £25. Justice simply does not exist for a person like that. He has got a right, but he certainly has not got a remedy. If time permits—because this injustice is reflected in every other field of litigation—could we have the Rushcliffe Report implemented by legislation?
Another topic I wish to discuss is the death penalty. There is a considerable body of opinion in this House in favour of the abolition of the death penalty. That links up quite naturally with the Criminal Justice Bill, the absence of any reference to which in the King's Speech has caused great disappointment in many quarters. Its absence may have been inevitable, but the disappointment is inevitable also. There are powerful arguments in favour of the abolition of the death penalty; there are some arguments in favour of its retention. I do not propose to go into that tonight. It may be that there are other hon. Members who, like myself, have visited a condemned cell. The condemned cell is shut off from the rest of the prison and much roomier than any other cell. A few paces outside to the left there is a grill let into the wall through which final interviews take place, and a few steps to the right is the locked door of the execution shed. Over everything there is in the very air a sense of planned deliberate death. When standing outside that cell one could well believe the prison governor when he said that on the morning of an execution the greater part of the other prisoners in the prison seem temporarily to lose their mental balance. They are all locked in, they know what is going on, and some kind of emotion seems to impel them to kick and hammer at their cell doors and to scream at the top of their voices until the whole grisly business is over. All that sort of thing may be necessary for the preservation of our society, but there are many people who believe that it is not, and that, at 280 least, we should have some opportunity to debate the matter and to have the result of the Debate translated into legislative action if the result goes in a particular way.
Passing from death to birth, I wish to refer to the birth certificates of illegitimate and foundling children and to ask that, if time permits, we should have legislation on this subject. Can we not remove that stigma from perfectly innocent people? It may well be that we shall have to retain the register in its existing state, for reasons connected with devolution of property and so on, but we could provide that there should be an abridged form of the certified copy of the entry which would contain only the name of the person in question and the date of birth. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred that information would be sufficient for the purposes of everybody who wanted to see a birth certificate. But it would require a short new Act of Parliament. I believe that a Measure of that sort would be totally non-controversial. It could pass through its various stages very quickly, and therefore, if time permits, may we have it?
The last thing I wish to say is that the three months' security of tenure which is given to tenants under Section 5 of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, is too short. There is reason to believe that tenants are not going to tribunals because they fear that if they do they will get three months' notice to quit. I suggest that that period of notice should be extended to six or 12 months. The tribunal could have the same power as at present to reduce that period if it thought fit. That is all I want for the moment. If these Measures could be introduced and passed they would bring great relief to many of our fellow countrymen, great credit to the Government, and increased respect for our Parliamentary institutions.
§ 5.7 p.m
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
In the Gracious Speech at the beginning it says:…the nation by its example and leadership, to play a worthy part in the advance of all nations of the world towards greater freedom and prosperity.I should like to speak on the subject of our foreign relationship with Russia and Spain. As a very great friend of Russia —I have written books and pamphlets about Russia explaining the great de- 281 vclopments and achievements made between 1925 and 1935—I think I have the right also to be critical. When one is praising a country for certain things, one must also criticise other things attached to that country. Therefore I propose to go back into recent history and perhaps my comments will explain some of the things happening today which we are at a loss to understand.
When discussing recent history we should not forget that the events of today very often are the consequences of the past, and the past is history. I propose to review the history of Russia in 1939. We sent over a Military Mission when the clouds of war were gathering over Europe. While our Military Mission was in Russia the Russians were also negotiating with a German Military Mission. Russia chose the terms which suited her best and she made an agreement with Hitler Germany because the terms of that agreement suited her better than those which we were prepared to offer. Russia made that agreement knowing full well that in signing it she was blowing the whistle for the kick-off. The kick-off came immediately. It is all very well for us to have apologists for Russia in this House, but Russia does not require apologists. Russia looks after her own interests, and I have never known a case of a meeting of the Soviet where a Russian got up to defend our interests as against Russian interests, and I do not see why, in this Chamber, we cannot be critical where Russia seems to cut across our interests. The first thing Russia did after the outbreak of war in 1939, as Germany moved into Poland—
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
Will my hon. Friend allow me? Will he tell us about the Military Missions in 1939, and would he remind the House that the British and French Military Missions went there without any power at all to reach agreement with Marshal Voroshiloff?
§ Mr. Follick
I am going to explain the procedure. As the Germans moved into Poland from the West, the Russians moved in from the East. We may say that there was some reason for that, because, after all, according to European agreements, Russia was supposed to occupy territory up to the Curzon Line, or I should rather say that Russia was supposed to start East of the Curzon Line. Immediately after that, Russia occupied 282 the three Baltic States, to whom she had given her solemn pledge to respect their independence. Then came the war against Finland, and many hon. Members of this House on both sides wanted to help Finland. Then there was the reoccupation of Bessarabia. We may say that Russia was only recovering the territory she lost after the revolution, but, after that, Russia seized the Bukovina. There is no excuse except military strategy for Russia seizing the Bukovina. It never belonged to the Russians, it is a purely Rumanian province, with Rumanian-speaking people, a beautiful Rumanian capital and a Rumanian university.
I have written as a great friend of Russia, and I am also submitting myself today as a great critic of Russia, in this sense, that Russia is only carrying out the policy that Russia has always carried out. Exerting powerful influence over the Slavonic countries has been the Russian system of political development. It has gone on right through history. In fact, there is very little difference between the Russia of Stalin and the Russia of Catherine the Great, or in the behaviour of Molotov and the behaviour of Potem-kin. Exactly as Potemkin showed Catherine the pictures of the villages he proposed to occupy, so, exactly is Molotov expanding through the Balkans to Asia Minor and moving for the oil.
That is the true policy of Russia. We must accept it, but let not our own partisans on this side find that everything in Russia is beautiful while our Foreign Secretary stands up for British interests and they criticise him for doing so. I see no harm at all in standing up for British interests. Russia stands up for her interests and why should we not stand up for ours? You can change the economic policy of a country by revolution, but you do not change the foreign and military policy of a country by revolution. That is generally dictated by geography, in the same way as Russia has fought every war, whether against Hitler or Napoleon or Charles XII, by the same methods—space and winter. The scorched earth policy in this war was no different from the scorched earth in the time of Napoleon. The burning of Moscow was the scorched earth policy just the same as the burning of the Poltava villages in the time of Charles XII. We must remember that we are dealing with a State that is 283 looking after itself, and, whilst we are dealing with it, let us support our Foreign Secretary when standing up for British interests to the fullest capacity.
I will now turn to Spain. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) recently got into hot water for objecting to intervention in Spain. I know something of Spain. I have lived in Spain, and I have occupied high positions in Spain, and I say that my hon. Friend was much nearer the truth than the people who were denying What he was saying. Intervention in Spain has never produced dividends. In the last 200 years, there have been at least a dozen interventions, or attempted interventions, in Spain, and not one of them has been successful. Napoleon said that his campaign in Spain had cost him a defeat in Russia. [Interruption.]I will come to Franco. He called it "ulcere purulent,"which means the festering sore, and he always maintained that his intervention in Spain cost him the Russian Campaign and the consequent loss of the French Empire. His nephew, Napoleon III, also intervened in Spain, and he lost Alsace-Lorraine for France. The defeat of France brought the German Empire into being.
Most of the trouble that has been caused in this world since that, including the two greatest wars, goes back to that intervention in Spain. Hitler went all the way to the Spanish border to meet Franco, and what did he get out of Spain? For every pennyworth he bought in Spain, he had to pay in English or American currency, and the first thing that he did, in seizing another country, was to take over the banks, so as to seize the British and American currency with which to pay for his purchases in Spain. I know of no case in history where intervention in Spain has been profitable, and, at this moment, when Franco controls the Press and the radio and can broadcast among his own people, he will bind them together and tell them, "See what the Britishers are doing for you—dictating our policy and depriving us of our food and trade and our very livelihood." I have no love for Franco. I hate the crimes he has carried out, and, during the Civil War, I saw myself the hulks where, under the torrid African sun, people were dying from heat and starvation.
284 I am speaking from the historical point of view, and I say that we shall not gain anything by intervention, but that we shall probably lose everything and suffer the humiliation of seeing the whole of the Spanish nation bound together against us. The Spaniards know very well how to look after their business, and we do not forget what happened to people they do not like. Canovas was assassinated. In my memory, on the wedding day of Alphonso XIII a bomb was thrown and killed the six horses that were drawing his carriage. They shot Ferrer and Canalejas, and later another Prime Minister was assassinated. Then, shortly after these incidents, another Prime Minister, Dato, got three bullets in the back. Let me assure the House that if the Spaniards want to get rid of Franco, they will get rid of him in their own way. They are the people who should get rid of him in their own way; they do not call upon us to intervene in their country and so bring down hatred on ourselves for having done so. These are true facts which I am putting before the House.
The Spanish nation and our nation have a very similar history. In the same way as we have given birth to great nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, so the Spaniards have given birth to 19 nations, all of which are independent today. On the same day that Shakespeare died, Cervantes died— as great a man in Spanish-speaking countries as Shakespeare is in English-speaking countries. In the same half century that this House of Commons was established, so was the Cortes of Aragon established for the common people. I would say to Franco from these Benches, "Allow a free Press and free elections in your country, and if, after that, the Spanish people decide that you shall go, then go with good grace, like Primo went." I would appeal also to Russia. I would say to the Russians, "Have a free Press in your country, because your Press today is not so free as it was under the Tsar, and that is not saying very much." If we can have a democratic Government in Russia and a democratic Government in Spain, we shall be able to have a solid Europe based on a democratic system. In such conditions the United Nations organisation could develop into a world Parliament of free democratic nations, but without that, and with either a re- 285 actionary system of the Left or a reactionary system of the Right, Europe can never be settled in any form of established Government.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hicks (Woolwich, East)
I do not propose to detain the House for long or to recite much history, because I believe that most hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are too familiar with it. I propose to say a few words about a visit which I was privileged to pay recently to some parts of Germany, particularly in the Hamburg, Kiel, Hanover and Berlin areas. Before the 1939–1945 war, I had visited Germany many times and had effected many contacts and made many acquaintances, of whom some were still alive when I want back on this occasion. Some of them were connected with the trade union movement of Germany; others belonged to the old Social Democrats.
On 30th August, I and other hon. Members of this House, together with representatives from another place, formed a small party of eight to investigate conditions in Germany and to come back and report the result of our visit. When I got to Hamburg I felt very proud of our Armed Forces for what they had done there. I thought it was necessary for us to have done that in order to bring Germany to a frame of mind in which she would be willing to negotiate with the Allies on the question of peace. But I was horrified by the scene of devastation which I witnessed there, a spectacle which is repeated in all the towns I visited. In fact, every time I moved from one town to another, I thought that the only things I was considering were grief and misery. The streets were laid low, the houses were razed to the ground. People were living in shelters and in cellars which had been propped up in an endeavour to prevent the houses from collapsing. I saw some temporary forms of housing accommodation, the facilities provided for ablutions, and the ersatz soap with which people had to wash When I heard the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) say that we had closed down a soap works, I thought what a tragedy that was. The pieces of soap were no longer than my forefinger, two inches wide and one inch thick. They were useless for lathering and had to last a month. The bunk accommodation in some of the shelters was inadequate and the ventilation poor.
286 All these things had a very depressing effect upon one. I made representations to the responsible authorities to try to introduce some form of relief, and I am certain they did so as soon as it was possible. One thing I noticed about the Germans was that, wherever I went, I was never asked for assistance. They are a very proud people. They showed signs of starvation—that pale, grey, anxious expression which is unmistakable—and yet when they passed by they only gave one a wan smile, but never asked for help. As I have said, I met some of my old trade union comrades in Hamburg, and I invited them to tell me of their experiences. Some of them were the men who, on the rise of Hitler in 1933, pulled down the swastika flag. They had suffered much punishment and degradation during that period. They had been imprisoned, manacled and very roughly mishandled. They were working again, and I was very proud that they still believed that Great Britain would come to their assistance before much longer and would help them out of their particular difficulty.
I went up the Elbe and looked at the U-boat pen and saw how that had been destroyed We discussed what could be termed "war potentials." I said that I was unable to define that. A main road, of course, would be a war potential, but it is a very difficult subject for anyone to be definite about. I saw the efforts that were being made to reduce the military ideology and the military capacity of Germany, which I welcomed. I was particularly glad that our Government had taken such a stand because it meant a great deal. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he stabilised wages and controlled all food prices, but control of food prices did not mean that they remained synchronised with the wages of 1933. The merchants and manufacturers were able to prove that they could not manufacture at the old prices. They went before the various commercial boards and were able to prove that they would have to increase their prices, although the wages remained the same. I mention that in order to show the growing handicap on the German working people, in relation to the opportunity they receive, on their present wages, to purchase necessary foodstuffs and clothing. The ration at that time amounted to 1,500 calories a day, and I was very pleased that our Government were able to raise that standard by another 250 calories 287 while I was there. That was particularly welcome, but even that was substantially below the necessary minimum to keep human body and soul together.
Trade union workers were trying to get a 44-hour week. In Germany and on the Continent generally, there is a 48-hour week. They work eight hours on a Saturday. Some of us are familiar with the agitation which has existed for many years on the Continent, to get the British Saturday established. That was a very real demand. I was told by many of the German workers that they were unable to work the eight-hour day for the 48-hour week, because the food they were receiving was insufficient to meet the physical demand made upon them, so they cut down their working week to 40 hours, as against a 48-hour week. Then the wages were reduced correspondingly; eight hours wages were knocked off. One can readily understand that, with the 48-hour week, they were unable to purchase the foodstuffs necessary to maintain their physical capacity to do 40 hours work in a week. That was a great problem. Wherever I went, every one of our officers in the military government were particularly concerned about this, and were anxious that some steps should be taken as soon as possible to afford relief.
Then I went from Hamburg to Kiel, where I looked around that wonderful old town which I used to know before the war. There, again, the same story can be told. Streets are laid bare for areas extending as far as from here to Charing Cross, with nothing but waste on either side of the roads where our bombers and other Armed Forces had done their work—work which was magnificent but which brought such havoc and devastation in its trail I am certain that the food they are receiving is not enough to enable them to carry on with their work, and I am grateful for any action that has been taken to increase the amount of food for these people. I went to Berlin, where I learned to pronounce "Friedrichstrasse." I knew the Friedrichstrasse and the Unter den Linden in the old days, and I went there again on my recent visit. I went to Char-lottenburg first of all; I also saw the Tiergarten, the Brandenburg Gate and tried to discover where the Friedrichstrasse Station was. I found it, but it was no longer in use. There was devastation in great areas, and the grief and misery which I saw made me very sad.
288 I do not intend to speak much longer, but I would like to tell the House about a few things I saw while I was there. I met some of the representatives of the German Social Democratic Party. In case anyone has any doubt about this, I assure hon. Members that I made my visit in a private capacity and not as a representative of the Government. In that capacity I met those people and fraternised with them, and saw them holding their first conference. The reception I received from them when they saw that a Briton had come to see them in their hour of trial and difficulty, filled me with an emotion which I shall not be able to forget for a long time. Is it not possible for the four great Powers to get together, and give Germany some hope for the future? The Germans today are relatively hopeless and helpless. Their physical capacity is not very great. I am confident that I could push three or four of them over because they would not be able to offer the necessary physical resistance. That made me feel very unhappy I would like to know if there is not a chance of giving them some hope.
I, like everyone else, want to remove from the Germans the temptation to make war and all that it means, as I would like to remove it from everyone else. I do not wish merely to take the weapons out of their hands; I would like to take the idea out of their minds. I wonder whether we could tell them that there is some hope for them in the future, some programme for their political parties. It might be possible for them to go back to their old economic position to the extent of, perhaps, 90 per cent. or even 95 per cent. Supposing we had control over their military inclinations, we could say to them, "There is a plan for you; there is a target. There is something for you to work to, something into which the parties can get their teeth." At present it is relatively hopeless. I promised that I would say that to the Government and, having said it, I hope the Government will be able to do something about it.
On the human side, I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he could tell us the death rate of children of under one year. The mothers whom I saw appeared to be too weak. I hope that some special consideration may be given to them so that they may be able to nurse their children. Wherever I went, and wherever I spoke to, there was 289 this hope that they might be able, once more, to play their part in the mosaic of human families in the world, and have faith in the nations. I am as certain as I stand here that they are not all Nazis. Anyone who has any doubt about it should bear in mind that we have seen quite recently—without mentioning any names—that when certain persons were reprieved from the gallows, they dare not leave their prison because there were plenty of people who did not want to see them back again. Wherever I went I was welcomed. There was not one military government official who was not willing to do any work that we asked of him. It was not for me to see that everything that was necessary was being done—I had not the time—but they were willing to help and do everything possible. The Germans themselves have great faith that this Government and Great Britain will come to their assistance.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hynd)
I would like to begin by saying how much I welcomed the intervention of the right hon Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He raised the subject of Germany, which I and every Member of the Government agree is one of the most vital questions and, as has been said by other hon. Members, is the keystone of the world situation at present. It is, therefore, proper that concern should be shown in the country and in the House at the situation which exists in Germany. But, if I may say so it is a situation which has not developed recently but which has been in existence in an equal and even more intense form for a very long period. When facing that situation and, as we and the Press are entitled, trying to find in which way the situation can be improved, and, therefore, looking for points of criticism, we should bear in mind clearly the background of the situation and the causes of the difficulties which the administration must necessarily face. I have already referred at some length in previous Debates to the conditions which met our occupation forces when they entered Germany. I do not propose to go over that ground again, but I think it desirable that the House should be reminded of the colossal and fantastic destruction and dislocation in all branches of life and economic activity which existed in Germany when our Forces first entered the country 290 and which continued to exist for a long time afterwards.
All who have witnessed the scene of desolation that is today Germany, have agreed, and have borne witness to the fact, that the conditions are without precedent in any modern industrial country. Industry was non-existent; transport was completely demolished, and a housing situation existed which was not comparable with anything we have known in this country. There was the desperate food situation with which we were met, the collapse of the coal industry, the destruction of the land, the destruction of communications, the terrible shortage of valid manpower, the terrific complications of the financial situation—which, incidentally, have not yet received, possibly, the attention they might have had in the various Debates on this question—and the breakdown of law and order. In addition to facing that situation our occupation forces, the Control Commission and the occupation troops, had also to deal with such complicated problems as the de-Nazification of this very widespread area, the problems of demobilising millions of Wehrmacht troops, the terrible distribution problem, the question of maintaining and saving the health of the area, the question of dealing with youth, education, juvenile delinquency, crime in general and the vast question of security. I think all of us will agree that, to develop a planned economy or an expanding economy in the postwar world in any country, even without any of the restrictions or any of the complications existing in Germany, which I have mentioned briefly, is not an easy task.
I think it is true, and I think most hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House, agree, that today it is in precisely those countries where unrestricted economy exists, that it is found sometimes most difficult to organise and plan production and distribution. How much more so must that have been the case in the scene which I have so briefly described? Added to that there were the world shortages with which our people had to deal. It has been a commonly accepted theory that in these world shortages Germany and other ex-enemy countries must be at the end of the queue. There were shortages of food, shortages of fertilisers, shortages of seeds, and shortages of raw materials of all kinds. In addition to that we had to consider, in the 291 economic development of that country— which meant to begin with, the development of the coal industry—the desperate needs of our Western Allies. For instance, at that time France was not in the position it is in today; and the other Western Allies were equally dependent upon urgent supplies of German coal. Our coal policy—the exporting of the vast quantities of coal from the restricted production that it was possible to achieve —was a deliberate policy, deliberately designed to assist in the urgent reconstruction of our Western Allies; and I think that in that policy we have been eminently successful. We have made our contribution at considerable cost to this country, and at considerable cost to the immediate rehabilitation of Germany, but we have no regrets for having pursued that policy to date.
On top of that, we had the sudden emergence of a new problem, the mass deportation of the Volksdeutsche from the Eastern territories, representing some million and a half people pouring into the overcrowded British zone, where there was such a desperate shortage of accommodation and production, and such destruction of the necessities of life. I admit freely that we had delays and difficulties, inseparable from the quadripartite administration. There were delays, there were difficulties, and there continue to be delays and difficulties. But surely that situation was inevitable? I do not think any hon. Member would suggest that we should have gone into Germany, in the spirit of each of the four occupying Powers endeavouring to establish a new state, and a new economic entity in its own particular zone. We went in in the best of good faith, for the purpose of escaDlishing a central economic unity, and, as soon as possible, a central German administration with whom we could deal It was an inevitable situation, and we have tried to keep faith We have religiously followed our obligations under the policy laid down at the Potsdam Conference for the purpose of achieving these ends.
§ Mr. Stokes
My hon. Friend says we went in for the purpose of fulfilling the quadripartite arrangement. I have asked him Questions before—about why the other members of the quadripartite arrangement should not fulfil their obligations. How long do the British 292 Government propose to continue to try to do so, when others are not doing so?
§ Mr. Hynd
Obviously I will deal with that. I was dealing with the purpose for which we went into this quadripartite set-up, and I was proposing to develop the theme in due course. As I said at the beginning, the present situation is not a new one. The present problems which have arisen in regard to food and in regard to the development of German economy are not new. I think I have said enough to indicate that in the 12 months which have elapsed—indeed, somewhat more, but I am talking in terms of the establishment of the civilian Control Commission under my jurisdiction—we have been engaged in a very difficult and very bitter struggle to try to drag Germany out of this tremendous difficulty which she had to face. I go so far as to say that in these conditions the maintenance of the present health standards of the German people, low as they are, and the maintenance of regular distribution of rations, low as they had to be at certain periods, have been something of a miracle in the context that I have described.
Before today we have been faced with a situation where there have been practically no stocks of wheat. On numerous occasions we have had to face a situation where we had 10 days' supply, and even three or four days' supply. Any Food Minister, in any country with transport and communications intact, and with a complete food ministerial organisation, spread all over the country, would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain regular distribution in such conditions. Whereas, the maximum number of staff at any time in the Food and Agricultural Division—which represents in Germany our Ministry of Food —has not exceeded 500 or 600 at the most, and the establishment is now no more than 386. With the transport difficulties and other difficulties which I have described, the fact that we have maintained distribution, that we have prevented a complete breakdown, and that we have prevented epidemics, is, I think, to the credit of our representatives who have had to deal with that very difficult situation.
At times we have had to have recourse to certain alternative foods. When wheat broke down, we have had to make pur- 293 chases of dearer foods, and less substantial foods. But we have had no alternative, and that has not assisted the reduction of the notorious £80 million deficit, of which we have heard so much lately. We have had no alternative but to purchase the dearer foods and distribute them in order to maintain life in the population. At certain stages last year, when there was a threat of a complete breakdown, we have been in a position where it has been possible to divert to Germany a ship that was on its way to this country, and to pick up a ship that was on its way to Germany a week or so later. However, that situation has now changed, and it is not possible to do that, because British shipments and British food reserves have reached a low ebb at which, even if shipments were current, it would be extremely dangerous for this country to engage in those operations. We have had to turn to many other methods of meeting this situation from time to time.
We have heard a lot about fish. The House is probably not aware of the remarkable fish operation that took place only a few months ago, when it was known that there was a glut of fish in the North Sea, and when there were no refrigerator vans in Germany, and no facilities for smoking or curing the fish. There were very inadequate transport facilities, but by Herculean efforts we were able to mobilise all available transport, road, rail and so on, and concentrate it at the docks to collect the wet fish and distribute the fish evenly throughout the zone over a period of weeks.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt him? Is he aware that for the last week, herrings have been rotting on the quay at Lowestoft; and, furthermore, that the herring fleet has been tied up in port for the whole of last week?
§ Mr. Hynd
I am not aware of all of that. I am aware there has been a glut of herring at the East Anglian ports, and I am also aware of the fact that steps were immediately taken to deal with that situation, in so far as transport was available. What we had to do was to try to divert trawlers from German fishing ports, themselves catching fish, and to rush them over here; and, when the ships were ready the 294 surplus had disappeared, and there was no longer a glut.
This machine is ready to deal with any such situation. We have faced it before, and can do it again. It has been only by such methods that we have been able to carry the situation until the present day. I, therefore, have no-apologies to make for the statement which has been thrown back at me so often, and which I made at a Press conference a few months ago, that we had won the battle of the Winter last year. We had more difficulty, in some respects, with the battle of the Summer, when the ration of 1,550 calories was reduced to 1,050, which was a very serious blow. But we had no alternative. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington that we are now facing another grim Winter, but I do not share his apprehension that that battle is going to be so difficult as the last one because we have cleared a lot of ground; we have restored German transport, rail transport in particular, which did not exist last Winter; we have reached agreements with certain of our Allies which should, if carried out faithfully, enable us to make much quicker progress with the rehabilitation of German industry and with the production of food. What I have said, I think, represents no small achievement. It is an achievement that, I submit, could not have been made by any corrupt or inefficient staff.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington went so far, as to say that there was overwhelming evidence that our administration was breaking down. I do not think that the records, if what I have said is accepted— or if it is not accepted, any records one may care to examine with regard to what has been done in Germany with a rapidly diminishing staff—bear out the suggestion that there is such overwhelming evidence that the administration is breaking down. It is true, however, as he said, that we have not in every post the best possible man for the job. I think that would apply to this country or any other country, but most of all, probably, it applies to Germany, because it has not been possible, in the situation which this country faces, for us to say that we must have the best man for this or that job. But what we have been able to do in pursuance or, at least, in line with the report of the Select Committee we have done. We 295 have completely overhauled the recruitment system. We have tightened up very considerably the methods of the recruitment and selection of staff, and we have cut down very considerably the numbers of the staff; which makes it much easier for us to carry out the best possible selection.
It is suggested in this connection that we are not devolving sufficient on to the Germans or doing it with sufficient expedition. But, in fact, the progress that has been made is, I think, fairly satisfactory in the circumstances we have had to face. I could not, of course, go over everything that has been done, but there have been the establishment of local authorities; the establishment of the bi-zonal boards with the American zone, which are dealing with trade, finance, industry, economics, transport and communications, and so on; the establishment of the new Kreis authorities; the establishment of the Westphalian Land Government, to be followed on ist January by the establishment of self-government for Hanover and Schleswig-Holstein. We are handing over to these Governments the executive authority for carrying out the administration.
I think the best index I can give, however, would be the quotation of one or two figures of the cuts that have been made possible by this policy of devolution in various branches of the staff of the Control Commission. I take, first, the Finance Division, the original establishment of which numbered 1,250. The establishment is now down to 800, and we are proposing to reduce it to 620 by April of next year. The Legal Division, which has an immense task to perform, which is responsible for dealing with the colossal job of de-Nazification and the cleansing of German law, and the establishment of German local courts which can be cleared of all Nazi influences—that Division, originally with an establishment of 1,250, is down to an establishment of 597. The Transport Division, which has been responsible for the progress towards the rehabilitation of the German railway system, originally with an establishment of 2,000, is now down to one of 945, and it is proposed to reduce it to 700 by April of next year. And so on. There is in particular the Trade and Industry Division to which reference has been made. That Division, which was neces- 296 sarily very heavily staffed at the beginning—because there was the tremendous job of the reorganisation of German industry, which could not be left with the Germans in control—had an original establishment of 6,800, and that is now cut to 3,555, and is being reduced by the complete reorganisation of that particular Division, by April of next year, to 1,800. I think that is the best index that can be given of the progress in the devolution of responsibility on the Germans.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Before the hon. Gentleman passes from the question of the British staff, can he say anything about the point of giving any kind of security of tenure, as insecurity of tenure militates against the appointment of the best men?
§ Mr. Hynd
I certainly can. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House with details on some of these points, but I will allow myself to answer that point, because it is in line with an inquiry made by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) in connection with the Estimates Committee. The question of providing some form of security of tenure for certain grades and sections of the Control Commission's staff is a question that is being very closely examined at the present time in conjunction with other Departments, but I think that it is quite clear that, with some 20,000 people, of whom the bulk are actually very lowly people in the picture—
§ Mr. Hynd
—motor drivers, security officers of various degrees, domestic supervisors, and that kind of person, clerks and typists, it is not possible to make a general scheme providing for all to be given security of tenure. But I can assure the House that that is being given very close attention.
If I may turn to the brief which was so largely quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, the "New Statesman," I am afraid he has picked up the wrong copies. The "New Statesman" generally 297 maintains a much higher standard than that of these articles to which he referred. I could cite quite a lot of points made in those articles, but I do not want to weary the House with them. I will mention one or two. They referred to "26,000 officers" doing unimportant work for the Control Commission. There are not 26,000. There are not anything like 26,000 officers. As I have already mentioned, the majority of the staff in Germany at the present time consists, not of administrative officers, but of clerks, typists, chauffeurs, domestic supervisors—who are necessary so long as food difficulties exist, for it would not be possible to leave the distribution of food in messes, and so on, entirely to Germans—and people of that type. The maximum number of people who could be called officers certainly does not exceed 10,000, and those are being reduced considerably in the new establishments which we anticipate will be applied by next April. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that 5,000 should be sufficient. Maybe, but I do not know at what stage he intended that 5,000 would be sufficient. Obviously this must be a developing situation; at the beginning we required a very considerable staff, but as the situation develops it will be greatly reduced, and I do not know at what stage he meant that 5,000 should be enough or on what he based his assessment. There is no one more concerned than myself, if it is not the Commander-in-Chief, with the necessity for cutting down the unnecessary elements in the staff to the very lowest figure as speedily as possible. The assessments we have made have been arrived at on very close experience of the situation and of its requirements.
The number in the Trade and Industries Division, to which I have referred and which I think is generally the target of the criticisms made, is already being cut from its present level by 1,700 by April next. That is a pretty substantial reduction. Here again it must be borne in mind that the really big reductions which can be made are not reductions in the administrative officers, but are the reductions made by the withdrawal of complete staffs of clerks, typists and others who may be working in British administrative offices where it is necessary to have British personnel who speak the same language, when those branches of activity are handed over to the Germans and when the entire staff can be replaced by a 298 German administration. That will happen from time to time.
The right hon. Gentleman again referred to the question of the civilian defence force in Germany and the circular that has been issued, and he says that something must be seriously wrong when it has been necessary to issue such a circular. Why should there be something seriously wrong? Is it not a normal thing that, in a country so disorganised, occupied by our Forces which are diminishing as demobilisation proceeds, a country where from the beginning it was not certain that there would not be at some time or another an attempt to revive Nazism—is it not a perfectly normal thing that we should endeavour to organise the civilian officers in some kind of emergency defence force, most of them being in any case ex-military men who have some practice in arms? That was done, but it has not been done, as was suggested by the "Daily Mail" for example, in connection with the present food position. It was done at least six months ago, and the circular quoted in the "Daily Mail" leading article the other day was issued on 15th July.
§ Mr. Hynd
I cited the "Daily Mail" because the leading article in question went out of its way to criticise the Government publicity services for endeavouring to suppress information, whereas what had been done was that they printed this story, and suggested that the force had been organised suddenly because British wives were in danger arising from food disturbances, mass riots and so on. When this was reported in the "Daily Mail" our office endeavoured to put them right, and pointed out that this circular had nothing to do with this particular situation, but had been issued on 15th July. That is why I mention the "Daily Mail." I know it was reported in other quarters as well.
On the question of corrupt practices, which is again a question of staffing, I say to all those who repeat this charge of widespread corruption, "Where is your evidence?" On every occasion when this has been raised in this House in previous Debates, I have taken it up with the Member concerned, and I have said to him, "Please can you give me some evidence we can follow up?" So far, I have been unable to get a single case, 299 except that in one instance, after several months of pressure upon the hon. Member's informant in Germany, he was able to tell us that he had found one case that had come to his notice; it is now being followed up. These charges are made a little too widely, without sufficient evidence, and I hope the House will remember that they find their way to Germany, and do not encourage our people who are doing their best over there. Neither do they encourage the recruitment of the best type of person in this country, because it is not an attraction to the best type of person whom we are trying to recruit, if they get the impression that everybody here thinks that they will going into a den of iniquity.
How the "New Statesman" got its information may interest the House. According to the editor, the information was obtained as a result of a request by the control authorities to one of the reporters over there, who had been repeating such allegations, to find out what evidence he could, and to supply it to the Control Commission. He did that, but at the same time he brought copies of the evidence to the "New Statesman" before it had been sifted and before any check-up could be made. What is that evidence? I have had copies of it; it is that certain British officers, of the rank of colonel apparently in most cases, have gone to certain German firms, and have said that they are inquiring after certain German processes in connection with the particular industry or activity and have told the Germans that they must deliver up those processes for the purposes of British industry. Presumably the Germans have talked about it, and have complained to their fellow Germans; it has reached the ears of newspaper reporters and others, and eventually has found its way to this country. We have made very careful investigation of these charges, and we have found no single case yet where that has been done without proper authority. What has happened, and I have no doubt that this may be found to be the explanation, is that under the Board of Trade scheme for securing intelligence in regard to German processes for the purposes of manufacturers in this country, and in America and other Allied countries, official teams have been going round for the purpose of ascertaining those processes. It may be a coincidence that the officers on those 300 teams are of the rank of colonel, but that is the fact, and it is, therefore, presumably in this direction that we shall find the answer to those charges.
§ Mr. Hynd
I will give way in a minute. In any case, I am naturally concerned that the charges should be made, and any such cases as may be brought to our attention are, of course, carefully and closely followed up May I say, before I allow the hon. and gallant Member to intervene, that if such incidents are going on unofficially, if certain of our officers are taking advantage of their position in order to acquire information for the benefit of their particular firms, there is nothing whatever to prevent the Germans from reporting it through their representatives on the Zonal Advisory Council, for instance, where they are entitled to represent these things, or through many of the other German administrations. From Ist January next, when the bi-zonal economic administration begins to operate at Minden, there will be a further field through which the Germans can make any such representations.
§ Major Bramall
The hon. Gentleman has left the House with the impression that there is no substance at all in the charges made in the "New Statesman." With regard to these particular cases he said that no case has been discovered where the officers concerned had not the proper authority. The "New Statesman," I think I am right in saying, makes the statement that the officials of one firm stood up to the officers concerned, and refused to hand over the documents, because the officers could not produce authority. Surely, if the officers had had authority, those Germans would have been in great peril if they had not handed over the facts? Is the statement that they did not hand the documents over therefore untrue, and did this firm in fact hand them over?
§ Mr. Hynd
The answer is that I do not yet know, because we are making inquiries in this particular case to see whether the facts are correct. I would ask the House to bear in mind that complaints made by German firms are not necessarily 100 per cent, correct or without some distortion, which may be deliberate or may be due to their lack of information about the actual circum- 301 stances. Before leaving this point, I would point out that the "New Statesman" has been guilty of quite a number of other inaccuracies in these articles in connection with administration, which do not add to the reliance which can be placed on the charges now being made. I was charged in an article the previous week with deliberately discouraging the development of trade unions in Germany, on the evidence that only three trade unions are operating in the British zone today. The fact is that there are over 200 trade unions, which is far too many. That is the kind of information which is certainly misleading the British public. Further reference has been made in the course of the Debate to a similar statement, that the last soap factory in the British zone is now closing down, which is just not accurate. I presume it refers to the suggestion made in certain newspapers that the famous Fischer-Tropsch factory is being closed. The fact is that the factory is now nearly reaching full production, and we hope that it will be in full production in the course of the next few weeks. The only reason why it is not in full production is that one of the essential elements of soap is fat, and fats are unfortunately very short in Germany today.
I will wind up these references to staff and administration with a quotation from an interesting article which appeared in the French newspaper, "Le Monde," on 13th July, 1946. It was one of a series of four articles published by a reporter who had visited all four zones, and was headed "The Gentlemen Occupier":One has heard of the gentleman farmer who has learned to maintain the social standing of a gentleman. The gentleman occupier is a more recent product due to the contact of the British character with the realities and temptations of an occupying Power. The English soldier on occupation duties does not requisition—all requisitioning of food is rigorously forbidden by the military government—does not indulge in trade, avoids condecension and arrogance, vulgarity and familiarity towards the local inhabitants. He knows how to keep to himself, make himself obeyed, respected, and to do all this without hurting the susceptibilities of the inhabitants.I have no doubt that I shall be told that that is too wide a generalisation, and I agree, but are not these too wide generalisations rather over done, and is it not possible to pay tribute where it is due? On the question of the destruction of plant, the right hon. Gentleman has asked us 302 whether we are destroying plant which can be usefully used to produce goods for export or for use in Germany, which would reduce the liability of this country. The answer is "No, Sir," and that we are a long way from achieving even the level of industry which was agreed upon last March. The right hon. Gentleman and other Members have suggested that if this is so we should stop dismantling plant. After all, Germany was heavily over-industrialised for one particular purpose. In 1938, it was over industrialised for the production of steel, cement for the building of fortifications and for other branches for war purposes. It was a country which was built over with gun emplacements, pill boxes and all kinds of war structures, such as submarine pens, torpedo practising equipment and so on. These things have got to be destroyed, and they are being destroyed. It is not to be surprised at that the Germans directly employed in these concerns are expressing their indignation that these things are being destroyed. If the suggestion is that we should stop disarming Germany, then the answer to that is that that is certainly not our intention. This may lead hon. Members to ask what is our policy. Our policy is not directed towards reducing German productive capacity for peace-time purposes. Our policy is based upon disarmament.
§ Mr. Hynd
The particular installation in the Blohm and Voss yard, which is associated with submarine pens and heavy shipbuilding yards, is considered to be surplus to German peacetime economy. The policy of dismantling industry is based on the necessity for the disarmament of Germany, and the policy we are following is either to destroy that which has a war potential and is therefore considered surplus to German peacetime economy, or, where possible, to use it for the German economy or for countries which suffered severely from German military activity. Perhaps I may take an example. The hon. Member for The High Peak referred to the Huttenwerke plant, which was one of the first to be dismantled. The dismantling has taken some considerable time. It is not proposed to stop dismantling it because we are committed to dismantle and deliver it to our Eastern Allies. Dismantling of the Huttenwerke plant does not reduce the current produc- 303 tion of German steel in any way. We have more than enough factories standing in Germany today to provide for the low level of steel production agreed upon last March. There is nearly more than twice as much plant to produce the steel, if it was being produced, but the point is that we have not got the coal.
The reason why we have had to close down plant in production is due to the policy of concentration, to get the most out of a particular plant—to economise in fuel and so on—rather than to spread production over a number of plants. The level of industry is therefore a long way from achievement at the present time. It depends almost entirely on the production of coal, which in its turn depends on the speed with which we can deal with the food situation. I am not suggesting that when we have reached that level we shall have found the answer to Germany's economic problem. This Government was not enthusiastic about the level of industry agreed upon in March, but it was the only level which could be agreed upon after considerable discussion by the four Powers. It was recognised then that it would be a considerable time before we reached anything like that level, and I am certain that as a result of the review of the German situation, which will be undertaken by the four Powers, that that level of industry will be reviewed from an entirely new angle. Already we have proceeded as far as we could unilaterally in certain directions. We have been able to increase the production of coal. It has been our deliberate policy in the past to export as much coal as we could, but it is obvious that that policy must be reviewed. There was a cut last month in the export of coal from the British zone, and it is our intention, for December, to reduce the export by 350,000 tons. That amount will be retained for the succeeding three months, until March next, and whether or not modifications will then be necessary in the export policy will depend on the developments of the situation.
§ Mr. Molson
This is an extremely important matter. As I understand it, less than 50 per cent. was being retained in the British zone when the Select Committee reported. What is the percentage?
§ Mr. Hynd
It is about 35 per cent. of exports. The present exports have been 304 900,000 tons a month, and we are now proposing to reduce that figure by 350,000 tons.
I think it is quite clear from everything I have said that our main problem—we are dealing expeditiously with most other problems, such as de-Nazification and displaced persons—is that of the production of coal which, again, depends upon the availability of food. Food must come first. There is no one who excels myself, the Government, or the administration authorities in Germany in enthusiasm for getting more production in Germany. It is vital, but it all comes back to the question of food. We must, however, face the fact that the United Kingdom is not capable of maintaining the food situation in Germany alone. I think there will be no difference of opinion about that. The capacity of the indigenous production in the British zone is some 900 calories, which is a little over half the amount necessary if we are to get industry going at all. The United Kingdom is physically unable to produce and provide Germany with the balance necessary.
In view of the fact that we have been in this situation for over 12 months, why do we now find this sudden excitement and publicity about the food situation in Germany? I think the answer is to be found in two directions. First, there is the physical fact that the United Kingdom's resources have been run down, and that shipments are in arrears. There is no question of switching British ships to German ports, as we have done in the past. Secondly, for the last 12 months we have been busy building up German democracy, encouraging the development of German political parties, trade unions, and so on. We have recently had elections and established local councils representing various political parties. They have been handed responsibility for the collection and distribution of food, and they have also been given the statistics. Having seen those statistics, they are very properly shocked at the difficult situation they have to face. Being responsible to their constituents, they are now competing in publicity and demands on the British authorities for maximum support and sympathy. We make no complaint about that; it is the price of democratising Germany, and the Germans are doing their best.
There are other factors, one being that we deliberately increased the ration of 305 calories from 1,050 to 1,550 a few weeks ago, not because we had more stocks, or more food, but because the situation in Germany made it inevitable that we must do it. The deterioration of the people arising from the cut in their rations last March made it inevitable that we should increase the ration at all costs because we were facing another winter, and it would have been inhuman to expect the Germans to live, produce, or do anything, on 1,050 calories.
§ Mr. Hynd
We have increased the rations. They were previously 1,050 calories, and they have been increased to 1,550. Of course, there have been local breakdowns throughout the whole of the 12 months, because it is not possible to maintain regular distribution of any ration standard with only three days' supplies. There will still be local breakdowns until we have six or seven weeks' supplies in Germany.
§ Mr. Hynd
I think it was on 15th October. In spite of the difficulties we are facing now, I can assure the House that we have every reason to expect that we shall maintain at least 80 per cent. overall of the 1,550 calories until the end of this month, by which time the conversations going on with our American Allies will have produced an answer.
§ Mr. Hynd
The German harvest was quite a good one in the circumstances, although we were not able to sow all the acres that were ploughed. The harvest will produce 1.5 million tons of grain this year. That grain is being collected and threshed as expeditiously as conditions permit, and consumed concurrently because of the little coming in from outside. There are certain amounts being brought in from the farms, but all cannot be brought in because it would mean suspending operations on sugar beet and other crops. Through shortage of man- 306 power and machinery it is not physically possible to bring all the harvest in during two or three weeks. It is not an unsatisfactory situation that we should have the assurance of something descending from 180,000 tons this month to nothing by March of next year. We made the increase to 1,550 calories deliberately, and, to help coal production, we increased the miners' rations even further. The results are beginning to show signs of justifying that policy. Production of coal last week was 1,149,000 tons, as against the previous highest figure of 1,090,000 tons before the ration cut of last March. My hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) asked about nursing mothers. The rations issued for them and for other special categories are special rations. They get,2,700 calories.
§ Mr. Hynd
The main question which has been asked throughout the Debate is when and where will a common ration standard and pooling of resources, as between the two zones, operate? The agreement reached by the Lord President of the Council last May will be operated, but I hope the House will not press this matter too hard at the present stage, because we are now discussing the implementation of that policy in full. The assurance given by the Lord President last May, and the agreement made, we stand by.
I need hardly add that unless that policy is carried out in full, it will be entirely impossible to achieve any kind of progress in the development of the British zone or the British and United States zones. We are proceeding on the assumption that that will be possible. We have not abandoned Potsdam, or the hope that we shall persuade the Russians and French to come in and establish a central German administration. We have not abandoned the hope that we shall see a central administration operating, and that we shall achieve a common economic policy, which is the basis of the Potsdam Agreement. It is true that until now that agreement has not been operated by all four Allies. It has not been operated by any, because we have been exploring the possibilities and trying to reach agreement. Because that agreement has not so far been achieved we have decided to take the step of linking up with the American zone. 307 and proceeding to maximum production in the two zones in pursuance of our common policy of rehabilitation of German life and industry. As I have said, our Russian and French Allies will be welcome to join in the scheme, and I hope that the statements made by leading statesmen of those countries will eventually become practical politics, and that we shall find them joining in this very necessary work.
A question directed to me by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington was, "What is the purpose of our occupation of Germany, and what is our policy?" I do not think that I can express it better than in the words he used: To prevent a repetition of German misdeeds. At the same time, it is not our policy to allow Germany, or any other country, to collapse economically, because a starving Germany in the midst of Europe would tend to poison her neighbours. We endorse that entirely. Hence the reorganisation of the basic industries of the Western zones on a basis of socialisation; hence the conferences proceeding now in New York between the Allies for the purpose of securing a settlement of the German position; hence the policy laid down in the Gracious Speech, which says:My Ministers will shortly meet representatives of the United States. Russia and France to discuss the, future of Germany. It will be their aim to establish in Germany conditions which will foster true democracy, will guarantee the world against further attempts at world domination, and will remove the financial burden which the occupation has laid on My people.The key note of that paragraph is:To establish in Germany conditions which will foster true democracy,because we realise that true democracy cannot exist unless the living conditions of the people are made tolerable and more than tolerable. I might add a reference to the words used by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) when he said, "When we encourage industrial development in Germany, we build up a war potential." He admitted that the industrial development of Germany represents the building up of a war potential. It is even more true that if we do not enable and encourage Germany to build up a new standard of life, and to develop her industries and economy, we shall be building up an even more potent menace to the peace of the world.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I suppose that I may claim, as has been claimed by all hon. Members in the past, toleration in the making of my first contribution to the Parliamentary discussions in this House. May I claim even a little more toleration than is customary? The hon. Member who represented my Division—the Bridgeton Division—for 25 years was held in very high respect as a great Parliamentarian and a man of nobility of character. May I plead with hon. Members graciously to remember him without being unkind to me in their comparison? Many Members have advised me, since I arrived here, how able he was and what a fine character he gave expression to in his every association. I was an intimate of the late hon. Member for 30 years. I need no reminder of the nature and character of the map. He was the noblest man in my life. Let me now try to connect the personal with the political point of view which I want to submit.
The last speech which James Maxton made in this House, almost 12 months ago, was one of encouragement to the Labour Government. I associate myself with all that James Maxton said in words of encouragement to the Labour Government. I express the hope, with no ill feelings to any quarter of the House, that the Labour Government will go from success to success; that it will long occupy those benches by virtue of successful legislation, and that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will long occupy these benches, even, if necessary, in diminishing numbers. I feel, as the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) indicated in his speech, that the King's Speech gives all Members an opportunity of roaming over a wide field. I think, if I may be permitted to say so, that it gives a new Member an ideal opportunity of making his initial contribution.
I welcome very much the reference in the Gracious Speech to the continued policy of nationalisation. The Government indicated in their first Session their sincere intention of carrying out the policy which was laid down by the Labour Party at its annual conference. I accept nationalisation and the national service schemes that are being developed; but, if I may, I would enter this word of 309 caution. I have a fear that wise legislation is liable to be seriously injured by unwise administration. I take the case of nationalisation. In my view, at this moment, when there is a great call to all the workers to increase production, we are not leaving truly in their minds the impression that they are part of this great nationalisation scheme. Take the Coal Board for instance. It is quite true that men who made their name in the trade union and Labour movement are on the Coal Board, but as soon as they are elected to the Board they must divorce themselves entirely from their previous trade union connections. I feel that in the mining industry, as in all the other industries, opportunity must be taken in the trade union world to recognise the new responsibility. The trade union movement has always been a movement watching and protecting the interests of the workers in wages and conditions, and, where possible, advancing them.
I believe that the trade union movement in many national industries must now be called into service in a creative manner, that it must be part of the industry and must have some say by way of workers' control. Many pamphlets and booklets have been issued indicating the futility of any national scheme unless the workers have some direct control in the industry, and I hope that any further scheme to nationalise will make possible, not the appointment of a trade union leader divorced from his union to a place of responsibility, but a scheme whereby the workers engaged daily in the industries—just as they are trained to do in their industries to take part in the executive of their organisations—will be taken from their industries and placed on the boards in the localities, so that they may feel that they are again partners in nationalisation. I feel that that is essential before we can get the spirit of loyalty which will lead to increased production. It is a very easy task for Members here like myself to plead with the other person who is going into industry to work harder, but such people have had so much of that with subsequent unemployment and redundancy that they are afraid of throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the task. Therefore, I plead with the Government to consider the idea of direct workers' control in industry.
I make the same point in regard to local government. Many national schemes 310 are being introduced. We need not theorise on the great danger of encroaching on local government. I can go back through long experience and I can say from my own personal knowledge that the encroachment of the Assistance Board on local government was a retrograde step in dealing with the community. I speak from personal experience of Glasgow, and I say it is the negation of democracy to take machinery out of the hands of local government and appoint officials up and down the country not directly answerable to the elected representatives. I remember some of the things that happened in the past, and it does not give me confidence to look forward to that in the future. I know the arguments about the health services and the establishment of social insurance. The spirit behind the appointing of the administrative bodies is fine; the operation through those bodies is in my opinion extremely bad.
I pass from that point, because I know that Members are anxious to make their contributions, and if I get toleration I have no right to be unreasonable. I want to make a reference to housing. There have been many Debates on housing and I have not the slightest doubt that every Member, no matter on what side of the House he sits, is extremely anxious to see a big drive in the housing programme from one end of the land to the other. I give due credit to the permanent officials and to the Ministers handling this problem, for they are doing all that is humanly possible with the machinery they have got at the moment. However, I want to say what has been said in another place; I want the Government to regard housing as they did the war and tight it as they fought the war. I do not want Members to misunderstand me. Many Members know my attitude to war, and they must not think that I am advocating that the fight for housing should be based on the attitude I adopted during the war.
In regard to housing, let me take the case of my own city. In Glasgow we require 100,000 houses. With all the efforts being put forward today by the Minister and by local government, we can say that our grandchildren will get the opportunity of housing, but not the people who are living today. I say that in no attempt to score points, because it is a very serious problem. I could produce hundreds of letters from the 311 manager of our City Improvement Department, and they are all on the same lines:You are on an exceedingly overcrowded list and your case will be dealt with when and where possible.The city manager cannot say anything different in the circumstances of today. It would never do to make a suggestion of that kind to a man lying wounded on the battlefield: "We are very sorry but you have not been injured as long as some of your colleagues who are lying here; you will have to lie here a little longer and wait for the machinery to take you to hospital." We do not say these things, because it would be very wrong to say them. I have just come from a municipal election in the city. The people are not voting, and in my view they are not voting because they are getting into that fatalistic frame of mind that they cannot believe what we say to them. That applies to me equally as it does to everyone else. The City of Glasgow had a record at the last election of well under 40 per cent. I have told the House what I feel should be done. I feel there should be a War Cabinet on housing coordinating all the forces, because land is still a major problem and in building rings still operate.
Let me deal with the land in just one sentence. We know that it can be put on the valuation roll for a paltry sum, paying something like £2, but as soon as the community go to purchase that land thousands of pounds have to be paid. I do say—and I think I am not unreasonable, because it is the view of the Members on the Government side of the House —that it is no use protesting against that when we have now the machinery, given to us by the working people of the country, to discontinue high demands being made for land. Again, in one sentence let me deal with the rings. A pamphlet was issued by the convenor of the Labour Party, the governing body of Glasgow Town Council, and it was published for the recent election. It states that four firms quoted for whin setts, and all quoted £2,691. Sixteen firms quoted for fireclay pipes and they all quoted £3,422. For tarred metal, 18 firms quoted and the price by each was £15,375. That is the finest example of the closed shop that I know, but the Government have power to 312 stop it and I beg of them to give it their serious consideration.
There is always a tendency for one like myself to continue once one has got over the nervous strain. I admit I was nervous, but not at any time as nervous as I was on the day I was waiting for the counting of the votes, with the overwhelming power of the Government side of the House against me and the overwhelming power of the Opposition side of the House against me. As I say, I was more nervous then than I am now. However, the temptation is to go on and I am going to avoid it, but I wish to finish on the note on which I began. I want to say to the Government that I hope they will be successful in all their work. I want to see Socialism established as rapidly as possible. I think there is a tendency to over-emphasise that we are fighting a quiet and peaceful revolution. Please do not make any mistake along those lines. If we take off our boots we walk much quieter, but we may find ourselves pained in such a way as to compel us to discontinue our walking, and that is dangerous. I have helped with Members on the Government side of the House to make my contribution to the building up of the Labour movement in this country. I wish it all the success in the world, and if at any time I have to lodge any criticism it will not be for any pettifogging desire to make political points, but because I sincerely hold certain views on which I may differ from the Government. Apart from that, I wish the Government well and I hope all my right hon. and hon. Friends in this House will long continue to occupy the benches that they occupy at the present time.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
It is my privilege to welcome to our deliberations and to congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken. We listened to his remarks with special sympathy and interest, partly because he is so large a fraction of his party, partly because, as he has reminded us, he has been so long and so closely associated with a former hon. Member who still fives in the affectionate memory of this House, and partly because he has himself made a very forceful and interesting maiden speech. We shall expect him in later Debates to develop the ideas which he has expressed this evening.
313 I want tonight to address myself particularly to one passage in the Gracious Speech—that which refers to Germany and which occupied a good deal of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the former Foreign Minister. I think that this Debate has already shown two things: first that this subject urgently needs an important and serious Debate, and, secondly, that the kind of Debate which is possible on the Address, is not adequate for that purpose. Hon. Members turn from one subject to another so that nothing like a really consecutive Debate on any one subject is possible on this occasion. I hope, therefore, that when the Foreign Secretary returns from his deliberations, it will be possible to arrange at an early date adequate time for the really serious Debate on Germany, which is obviously not now possible.
We all realise the important differences between the situation at the end of the first world war, and that at the end of the war which concluded last year—in particular, with regard to Germany, the absence of a central government and the physical destruction through bombing. But when every allowance has been made for those differences, I still think it is both a salutary and painful thing to recall the difference between the present position and that at the corresponding time after the first world war. After eight months from the conclusion of hostilities—not 18 —the victorious Allies had agreed among themselves, and had signed a Treaty of Peace with the principal enemy. With the advantage of having achieved that first task, they were then able, at a comparatively good speed and with comparative ease, to finish the treaties with the subordinate countries. We, of course, have reversed that procedure, and whatever may have been the reasons for the chronological difference, I think we have begun to realise the great disadvantage of pussy-footing round the periphery instead of striking at the centre. Certainly our present position is very much worse, and worse even than the circumstances of the case necessitate, than at the corresponding period after the first war.
We shall be very lucky too if we get as good a treaty. Between the two wars the extraordinary myth and legend was allowed to grow up that Versailles was a Carthagenian and a vindictive Treaty. It was nothing of the kind. The evil consequences that followed upon that 314 treaty were much more due to the folly and weakness of subsequent years and subsequent statesmen than to the provisions of the treaty or the statesmen who framed that treaty. It is about time—and it is easier now that we have a new and rather disastrous standard by which to test that achievement—that historic justice should be done to the framers of the Treaty of Versailles. We all remember what a fuss was made about those two microscopic places Eupen and Malmedy, referred to, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) the other day, or that strip of Silesia being transferred to Poland with a very large proportion, if not a majority, of Poles in that strip. Compare with those doubtful cases of small injustice, the present Eastern frontiers of Germany. What a difference. Or, again, turn to reparations. I was the first General Secretary of the Reparations Commission and I have often looked back, not with pride, to a reparation history of which the net result was that at a considerable cost we got—if one puts on the debit side the loans made to Germany and never repaid—approximately zero. By the present standard however I am beginning to think that that was, perhaps, a rather good achievement. How much better it is to get zero at considerable cost, than to get, at a greater cost to the economy of Germany, minus£80 million in the first year for ourselves with minus£50 million or £60 million for the United States of America. I think that these reflections should make us look very critically upon the present achievements of the Government, and the other governments with which they are associated. I hope we shall escape the later consequences of the conclusion of the first world war. But if we do it will be because our failure in the earlier years is off-set by greater wisdom in the later years, instead of, as was the case then, a success in the first years being later offset by subsequent mistakes.
I am going to say very little indeed about the major policy with regard to Germany. I want to say more with regard to administration. At this moment, when the Foreign Secretary is engaged, as we know he is engaged, it is difficult, and possibly dangerous, to go very far in discussing the questions which he is now or will shortly be discussing. I believe that the great majority in this House is in broad agreement with the general statement of policy he made with regard 315 to Germany a short time ago, and I think that all of us hope that he will be able to further that policy in his present negotiations. I think, for example, that we believe it will be a good thing if it is possible to encourage development in Germany along lines of the establishment of federal units for an ultimately federal Germany. I will only comment in that connection, that I hope we shall not too quickly assume that the ultimate capital of that federated Germany must be Berlin. Berlin will no longer be in the centre of Germany, and it is uncomfortably near her eastern borders. And so far as the mere trouble of establishing a capital is concerned, having seen Berlin this year— as the hon. Member for, East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) told the House he had seen it—I should imagine that it would be an easier task to build a new city in the wilderness, than to rebuild Berlin.
I do not think that this question need be prejudged for the moment. Obviously it must depend to a large extent on the development of quadripartite policy. In the meantime, while we are proceeding in the process of encouraging the development of units of the Federation I think we might, so far as centralised work is concerned, have one bit of centralisation in one part of Western Germany and another bit elsewhere, without assuming or necessarily prejudging where the ultimate capital should be. My main point this evening is not to make suggestions with regard to quadripartite policy, but to point out that within the framework of existing policy, a great deal can be done that has not yet been done.
The Foreign Secretary told us the other day—and I think the Chancellor of the Duchy agreed—that the British Government consider the limit of steel production, or the productive capacity in Germany, should be 11 million tons instead of seven million tons. That may be a very good thing to get changed if we can, but in the meantime I understand we have the arrangement for seven million tons. Are we getting even two-thirds of that amount at present? If we are not, then there is no earthly reason for reducing our efforts to get up to the maximum at present permitted while we are simultaneously trying to get that maximum increased. Then we come back to the coal question. I think the history— particularly the history of this year—of 316 the development of the coal situation in the Ruhr mines is not satisfactory. It is quite true, as the Chancellor of the Duchy told us, that since the worst moment this year there has been a certain pick-up. But what is it a pick-up from? It is a pick-up only from the drop that followed the reduction of the ration to 1,000 calories.
Taking a long view of the production curve this year, I think there is still a tendency for production to sag rather than to increase. The mines are still producing well under half of their prewar productive amount. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs, and it is impossible to achieve any of the major objects which the Government have in mini unless they are able to improve on that record very considerably. It may well be that in the British zone of Germany, as well as in this country, coal will prove to be both the best barometer and the chief basis of the Government's failure, though perhaps in both cases there may be some rather close competition for that post of dishonour. Although then changes may be required in the quadripartite policy, we can do a great deal at once without waiting for those changes. That applies also with regard to federation. If we do not know yet whether there will be a completely unified Germany, or where the capital will be, we can at least go further and faster in encouraging and helping the Germans to proceed, in conjunction with the Americans, in developing more suitable units for ultimate federation.
I now turn to the question of food. I confess, I am still unable to see a sufficient answer in what the Chancellor of the Duchy stated in reply to the question put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He told us just now that the food production in the British zone in Germany amounts to more than half what is required to maintain the 1,550 calory ration —I believe he said 900 calories. If that is so, it is extraordinarily difficult to see why in the middle of November, so soon after the harvest, we should have got to within three days of a complete breakdown.
§ Mr. J, Hynd
May I point out that I made it quite plain, or tried to, that the indigenous collections of wheat were being consumed as they were collected, and had enabled us to maintain the ration until 317 now. It is not a question of being soon after the harvest, because the harvest is still going on.
§ Sir A. Salter
But the hon. Gentleman also said, I think—although he was putting as favourable a colour upon the situation as he could—that what he hoped was that it would be possible to maintain up to 80 per cent. of the 1,550 calory position, at least up till December. Surely the harvest that has just been reaped, and is being reaped, should be more than sufficient to maintain 80 per cent. of the low calory ration of 1,550 till the end of December? I still find it extraordinarily difficult to understand that answer. I would ask for further information than we have had, either from the Chancellor of the Duchy or from the Government generally, as to the German food situation and the general food situation. I am glad to see the Minister of Food sitting on the Government Front Bench at this moment. He knows the difficulty we, in many quarters of this House had, in finally getting the Government to publish a quarterly review of the general food situation. The last of those reviews was published in July, and more than a quarter has now elapsed, but we still have not had the third general review.
Although I will bear in mind what the Chancellor of the Duchy said, I would like now to turn to the declaration made by the Lord President of the Council last May. I do not propose to quote again the declaration which he then made. It has been quoted, both by the late Foreign Secretary and by the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). When the Lord President made that declaration I asked whether we could take it that immediately from then onwards, there would be an equal ration, equally assured in the two zones. The Lord President replied that he would not commit himself to" immediately from now onwards,"but—and this is the important part of his statement —he said that the commanders in chief of the two zones had been instructed to make the necessary arrangements. Now that was in May, and six months have passed. It does seem to me extraordinarily difficult to understand why the situation still remains—as it clearly does remain—one in which neither our rations are equal, nor is there any equal assurance for them.
I could not help feeling, as I have felt several times when I have heard or read 318 statements of the Chancellor of the Duchy, that he was really feeling that the situation was drifting beyond him, and that he was retiring into complacent escapism. He expatiated upon the very real difficulties when we occupied Germany—but difficulties which surely ought not to remain the same obstacle to progress after 18 months as they were at the beginning— and he gave a rather over-favourable description of the actual situation in Germany at this moment. For example, he said that we had raised the calorific value of the ration in a few weeks from 1,000 to 1,550, as if 1,000 was a more or less normal level, and as if there had been a real and, so to speak, satisfactory increase in the ration. It was an absolute tragedy that the ration ever had to fall below the 1,550 level.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the calorific value taken by the Combined Chiefs of Staff as representing the minimum to avoid civil disturbance and unrest was 2,000. I do not think any responsible person has ever disputed that 1,000—or even 1,200, which is approximately 80 per cent. of 1,550—represents slow starvation—or would regard even the 1,550 which he holds out no hope at present of being fully maintained, as really satisfactory. One could not help feeling that he presented the general picture he had of the situation as comparatively satisfactory. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I ask the House to read what the Chancellor of the Duchy said, to read also the reports of recent speeches he has made and then, in conjunction with them, to read the reports which have come both from Austria and Germany. Then let hon. Members ask themselves whether what I have said is not fair comment on the action which the Chancellor of the Duchy has taken and of the speeches which he has made.
Now I want to return to questions of administration. It is very invidious to criticise British administration abroad. I know what the difficulties are, and the merits of those who are engaged in the high administration in Germany. I have visited the British zone in Berlin and I had genuine admiration for the personal quality and the courage of most of the high military officers and for many of the high civilian officers whom I saw. I am not able, nor do I wish, to give any instance of corruption or of abuse by that 319 administration. But I think all hon. Members will agree that too many reports have reached us of unsatisfactory features of the administration for us to be able to ignore them. I would rather base myself on the general character of the system. We all know the special dangers of administering in a defeated country. We know the temptations and, to some extent, the attractions, which exist not only for some of the best people for that job but also for some people of very different quality.
It is undoubtedly true that as the administration has tended to become more civilianised, and to be less military in character, its standards have degenerated. I do not say that because I think that a civilian organisation cannot maintain the same traditions as can a military one. But the Army is a disciplined service, with honourable traditions. We have Civil Services that compare well with it in that respect—the Indian Civil Service, the Colonial Service and the British Civil Service here. If any one of those had been effectively in charge of this job, I do not think we should have had the same dangers of incompetence and maladministration; but of course they were not. I agree with my hon. Friend who represents Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) that people in key posts ought to be given security of tenure, either by seconding from a permanent service or by alternative methods.
Apart from the choice of personnel, which I think has been rather hastily made—they have not been very skilfully chosen in all cases—I wonder whether the administration is not on too big a scale. The Minister says that there are something like 10,000 of the officers class, apart from all the minor personnel. That is a very big figure, if we conceive our job in the British zone as that of exercising supervisory control, and not actually administering the country. I have no sufficient knowledge of the actual details of the control to make a responsible criticism by which I can stand and be certain I am right, but I have the right to call attention to the fact that the personnel of the British administration is very much greater in numbers than is the personnel of the American administration. This suggests that our civilian administration could be very greatly reduced, possibly greatly to the advantage of Ger- 320 man economic recovery. The administration, moreover, has not been subjected to adequate central control. The ex-Foreign Secretary made clear the need to have a Minister of suitable personal quality and status, and one who maintains constant contact with Germany, and is able to tackle the whole of the German problem.
In the few moments that remain to me I want to refer to the still important questions of displaced persons and German prisoners of war. It is clear that there is no tolerable solution of the problem of displaced persons, unless it is possible to find in the Dominions or Colonies, or in foreign countries, some facilities for immigration. I am not thinking of the problem of the Jews, which is receiving adequate attention. There are many others, the Baits for example. I recently visited one of their camps. It was impossible not to admire people who had nothing but tragedy in their past, and had nothing but uncertainty in their future, and who were, nevertheless, maintaining their morale. They were building their places of worship, teaching their children and seizing every possible opportunity of exercising either their professional or industrial skill. They would make ideal immigrants. I hope that we shall have a statement from the Government showing what progress has been made in their consideration of those people. On the second, point, is it really defensible that so small a proportion of the Germar prisoners, not only from this country but from elsewhere, for example the Middle East, have yet been returned? Have the Government any prospect of increasing that figure?
Lastly, I propose to say a word about the general character of our policy. There are two ways only by which we can prevent a recurrence of the menace of another aggressive Germany. The first is to stop the creation of an army, as well as of arms and of war plant. The second is to create conditions which will encourage the development of such a Germany as will not attempt aggression again. The third method, that of trying to destroy not only the war plant and munitions, but all war potential is not open to us. In an era of total war the only logical conclusion of that policy is the total annihilation of the country with which we are dealing. I do not say that that is a policy that never could or never has succeeded. I see the Prime Minister 321 on the Front Bench. There was a third Punic War, which he seems to have forgotten a few days ago, and Carthage was then razed to the ground.
Hitler too looked very much as if he was going to achieve a similar success by similar methods not so long ago. But for us, the inheritors of a Western Christian civilisation, that method is excluded. We cannot attempt it, and if we tried it, we could not succeed. We must seek other methods, and that means that we must not attempt to destroy all these industries which, though they are not war industries and are not making war weapons, might, conceivably, be changed into such industries in future. It is politically more feasible, financially more economical, militarily more practical and humanly more tolerable, to suppress an attempt when it is made, than to forestall that attempt by creating devastation and desolation.
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has recently revived the idea of the United States of Europe. That is a policy not for tomorrow, but for the day afterwards. Whether or not it can succeed, will depend on there being suitable units for the United States of Europe. That will depend mainly upon Germany and France. The position of France will depend largely on that of Germany. And the situation in Germany will depend largely upon what happens in the Western part of Germany, and that in turn very largely on what happens in the British zone, which includes the centre of German industry, and that is our own direct administrative responsibility.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Durbin (Edmonton)
I should like slightly to broaden the terms of this Debate, and ask the Government one or two questions about the discussions now going forward concerning the future work and constitution of the Security Council of the United Nations organisation, if for no better reason than to give the Minister of State something to reply to at the end of the Debate today. It will be remembered that the constitution of the United Nations was gravely weakened by the Russian insistence that the veto should be afforded to the great Powers in the work and decisions of the Security Council. The Prime Minister, in his speech to the House on 23rd October, explained the kind of balance and com- 322 promise that it was the profound conviction of the British and American delegations had been secured in the terms of the present Charter; namely, that while the veto should be allowed to apply to coercive military action against a permanent member of U.N.O., it should not be applied to matters of procedure that were understood, at any rate by the British and American delegations, to embrace questions of discussion, specific disputes and the passing of verdicts on matters that were in dispute between great Powers.
Unfortunately, the United Nations organisation has suffered from an immense extension of the operation and power of the veto. The vital question is raised in a communication to the Security Council from the Russian Government in a memorandum published or referred to in "The Times" of 7th May, in which this passage appeared:A decision whether a question under consideration by the Security Council is of a procedural nature"—and therefore exempt from the veto—and also whether a question is a dispute or a situation"—That is, whether a great Power can use the veto and can be judge in its own case—and whether this dispute is of the nature referred to in Article 33 of the Charter shall be regarded as accepted if it is voted for by seven members of the Security Council, including concurring votes of the permanent members of the Security Council.That is the memorandum in which the Russian Government claimed the right to extend the veto from the matter of coercive action, to decisions as to whether matters before the Council are or are not matters of procedure, and it is from that essential point, that the crippling, paralysing extension of the right of veto has sprung.
I, therefore, want to know from the Minister of State and the Government the attitude of the British Government to this contention of the Russian Government in its submission to the Security Council. One thing which I confess worried me was a speech by Sir Alexander Cadogan reported in "The Times." No doubt, Sir Alexander was speaking in his private rather than his official capacity. He committed himself to the view that it was not the presence of the veto, but the absence of agreement between the great Powers that made for the weakness of the United 323 Nations organisation as machinery for preserving peace. That is a proposition which takes us very far along a dangerous road, because if there was substantial agreement between the great Powers, what would be the necessity for a machinery of coercion, or the setting up of an elaborate set of arrangements for' fulfilling the principles of collective security? If there was substantial agreement between the permanent members of the Council, what would be required would be machinery for diplomatic negotiation—for easy discussion, formal and informal, of diplomatic and international problems. My question really is: Do His Majesty's Government now regard the United Nations organisation as no more than an apparatus of international conciliation or not? It is a grave thing if, within 15 months of its being set up, we have come to the conclusion that it is no more than a convenient set of bodies and offices for the discussion of diplomatic problems.
That leads me to my next question: What has been happening to the development of the constitutional work of the Military Staffs Committee? It has always been my hope that in the Military Staffs Committee the germ of power in the United Nations organisation might grow. In the first speech which I addressed to this House, I said that there was the more substantial hope that military agreements, if come to, would bring into existence so powerful a force under the Security Council that whatever the words might be—I was thinking then of the crippling nature of the veto—and whatever the formal obligations of the Charter, no potential aggressor would raise his hands or launch his aeroplanes in the face of it. I would like to know what prospect there is of any apparatus of military coercion being built up, as was promised to us in the Charter, by the United Nations through the operation of the Military Staffs Committee.
My third question is: What is happening in the work of the Atomic Energy Commission? It has always seemed to me that the nature of the offer made by the United States Administration to that Commission has not been properly or widely enough understood in this country. I suggest that that offer was without precedent in my knowledge of the history of international affairs. Here was a country that possessed, at any rate, a productive 324 monopoly of a weapon—some military experts think of the supreme weapon, but whether or not the military experts are in agreement on this point, of a weapon of primary importance, of outstanding military significance. Yet the United States were prepared to offer this immense military advantage without restraint, without reservations, to an international authority upon two elementary and essential conditions; first, that there should be a right of international inspection covering all the countries which thus became aware of the technical secrets and the productive technique, and second, that all question of the veto should be removed from the operations of the Commission that administered the inspection.
That appears to me to be an act of unprecedented faith in the idea of collective security and international action. What other Power has been willing to offer a single source of military superiority to an authority that would have been international in all its operations and consequences? Our friends in Russia have refused this offer and have stopped, as far as one can judge, the proceedings of this Commission and have threatened—or at one time appeared to threaten—to jettison this most hopeful development for the preservation of peace in the world. I have read inadequate and rather unintelligible accounts of a speech in the United States by Mr. Molotov in which some new gleam of hope in this matter seems to be breaking through. In the absence of a full account of what was contained in that speech, I am in no position to judge whether the deadlock has in fact been broken, but I hope it will not be broken at the cost of sacrificing either the principle of international inspection or the establishment of the veto in the operations of the Atomic Energy Commission. I ask for information on this vital matter from the Government.
One is bound to ask where all this leads one. It may be that the time will come —it is not my belief that it has come yet; indeed it is my profound conviction that it has not—when it will be necessary for us to say that we must go ahead together with those who really believe in instruments of international government, in the principles of collective security, in the backing of third party judgments with collective force, leaving behind those who will not.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Durbin) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting speech on the subject of the United Nations organisation. It does not mean that I did not listen to him with interest, still less does it mean that I do not agree with practically all he has said, because I do. The difficulty is that in this Debate on the King's Speech one is apt to swing around from subject to subject, and I am anxious not to let go this absolutely vital question, as it seems to me, of the position in Germany because, in many respects, it is the most important issue that confronts this country today.
There is only one point that I want to put, and therefore I shall not follow the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in any detail. I think it was a lamentable speech, a confession of complete failure. I believe that the administration of the British zone in Germany for the last year has proved one of the greatest administrative failures and, indeed, collapses in the whole history of this country, which has a fine record of administration in many parts of the world. Why it should have been so I do not know; but I cannot but accept the evidence of many people who have been there I confess I have not been there myself; but I think that most hon. Members know it is true. I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster takes so melancholy a view of the "New Statesman and Nation"; it must upset hon. Members opposite. I shiver to think what he must think about Mr. Victor Gollancz, who has produced recently from Dusseldorf letters in "The Times" which refute entirely the remarks made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster this afternoon with regard to the food situation.
But when the Chancellor of the Duchy stated that he could not understand why people had suddenly got so excited about this question of food in Germany, I really am tempted to point out to him that British people are very apt to get excited when people for whom they have a direct responsibility are starving. I think that this probably is the short answer to the Chancellor—so long as the German people continue to starve, and whatever he says, they are starving at the present time—the 326 people of this country will continue to be excited about the matter.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Manchester, Hulme)
Why is it that the hon. Gentleman and his party are much more concerned about the so-called starvation in Germany than they were about Jarrow?
§ Mr. Boothby
I was in the House at that time, and many of us put up a very hard fight for what were then called the Distressed Areas in this country. That raises another issue, but it is ludicrous to compare the position in the Ruhr today with what it was at any time in Jarrow. It simply does not stand comparison at all.
There is a point I want to put, and to emphasise rather strongly, about the actual calories being issued. I asked a question of the Chancellor about that, but he did not answer it. When we say that we are raising it to 1,500 calories from 1,ooo, I say that in fact we are not doing it. I simply do not believe that over the vast bulk of the industrial areas of Western Germany the majority of the people are now getting 1,500 calories. As a matter of fact, we would like, and ought to give them, 2,000 calories; but we are not now giving them 1,500, and it is no use implying that we are simply because we would like to do so.
I continue to think that the wholesale destruction of German industry in the British zone is an act of absolute insanity; and when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster tries to defend in this House an act of wanton sabotage like the blowing up of the Blohm Voss shipbuilding yard in Hamburg, I say it is not to be tolerated. Since when has cement become an instrument of war, to be blown up? What other prospect than the building of ships, for which the whole world is crying out at the present time, has the Port of Hamburg in future? Yet we deliberately blew up that shipyard. I cannot see the sense or the reason for it.
I put a Question the other day, which I threatened to raise on the Adjournment, with regard to the administration of Germany. I have nothing much to add today to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, except this: I believe that this is one of the greatest, and remains one of the greatest and most important administrative tasks which has ever confronted this country. I believe 327 that we should have a resident Minister in Germany, responsible to a Minister of Cabinet rank in this country; directly responsible, in exactly the same way as in the old days the Viceroy of India was responsible to the Secretary of State for India. He should be a high civilian official of the status of Viceroy or Governor-General, capable of taking direct action on the spot, and reporting directly to a Minister of Cabinet rank. That is the kind of set-up we should envisage for Germany; and I would beg His Majesty's Government very seriously to consider this matter. A junior Minister such as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—because he is not a senior Minister—sitting in Norfolk Square, cannot hope to grapple successfully with overwhelming problems which ought to be handled at the highest level from hour to hour. This is a terrific responsibility which we have so far failed to discharge.
My last and main point is one which I must make, because it is my duty to know about a particular industry in which there is a scandalous state of affairs at the present time. The Minister of State knows what I am going to say. Twelve months ago I warned His Majesty's Government in public, and in many letters to Ministers, of the impending shortage of food in Western Europe, if not in this country. I said to them, in letter after letter, and in speeches in this House and in the country, that there was one way in which they could definitely deal with the problem of food for the British zone in Germany. I badgered them; but they were then in a state of almost lunatic optimism about the food situation. They said they were actually going to raise the rations in this country. This was the period when the former Minister of Food was at his dizziest. Very little attention was paid to the matter, despite the fact that for four or five years the fishing grounds had been rested, and the fleet was adequate for the task. It was nothing for us before the war to export a million barrels of cured herring, highly nutritious food, to Europe every year. Before the 1914–18 war anything up to 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 barrels were sent.
§ Mr. Boothby
That may be; but we used to send before the 1914–18 war over a million barrels to Russia, and another 500,000 to Germany, and possibly 200,000 to the Baltic States, making a round total of about two million barrels a year. That was about the order before 1914; and it was built up to well over a million barrels a year between the two world wars up to 1938, of which about 500,000 went to Germany,
If proper plans had been made, and the necessary steps taken to get the salt, the labour, and the wood to make the barrels, we could have exported one million barrels this year to Germany without the slightest difficulty, because the herring were there. Those steps were not taken. I know I am always accused of dragging this red herring across the path; but I feel strongly about this industry because I do know something about it. Had we been able to send one million barrels of cured herring to Germany, fortified with potatoes, there was a diet which would at least have prevented mass starvation amongst the workers. It could have been done; and if we had allowed them to brew a little more of their excellent beer, there was a diet upon which they could have lived on in comparative comfort during these critical winter months. Any doctor would agree with this. But the fishing was restricted this summer; and last week at Lowestoft and Yarmouth we had absolute Bedlam. Stinking herring were lying all over the quays, and the entire fleet was tied up in port, and day-old herring were being packed into barrels, which inevitably would not keep.
This is really not a complicated problem. May I, for the last time, explain to His Majesty's Government the situation of this herring industry? For six weeks, twice in the year, there are dense shoals of herring off our coasts, in the summer off the North of Scotland, and in the autumn, about this time, off Yarmouth and Lowestoft. These are the only periods when there are dense shoals. It has been so since the days of Queen Elizabeth, so even the present Administration might have learned of it by this time. These shoals have seldom failed to appear during these periods. It is therefore only a question of getting the barrels, the labour, and the salt, to the North of Scotland in the summer, and to the East of England in the autumn; and the problem is solved. Will the Government do it 329 next year? They nave not done it this year, and they did not do it last year. While I do not accuse the Government of wilful murder, or starvation, in Germany, because they do not wish it, nevertheless, in view of the warnings they have received, and their failure to make use of this God-given harvest placed off our coasts twice a year, I do accuse them of culpable homicide, arising out of gross negligence and administrative incapacity almost without parallel.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has made a speech which will, no doubt, be deeply appreciated in his constituency. I should like to deal with some of the more serious aspects of the problem to which he drew attention, namely, that we British are responsible for feeding 22 million people in Germany. We have the administrative responsibility but, unfortunately, our responsibility is to a great extent divorced from power. I want to refer to this, because it is my intention to take up a challenge thrown out from the benches opposite this afternoon by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) who, by implication, challenged the Back Benchers on this side of the House to defend the foreign policy of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is now in America. I have very great pleasure in accepting that challenge. I welcome the foreign policy of my right hon. Friend, and I welcome it for two reasons, because it is both British and Socialist. When I refer to a British policy, I am not indulging in any mere cheapjack rhetorical stuff. To me, British policy represents the culture of this country, the culture of one of the three great Allied nations which did, in fact, survive the war.
Our British way of life is something worth preserving and extending. It is not going to be preserved, still less extended, unless this country is strong. Our British way of life is one which manages to combine a very healthy instinct for political and individual freedom with kindly toleration of opponents. Yes, I even tolerate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We combine that spirit of kindliness and toleration with a determination to bring about in this country a controlled economy which shall 330 be directed to the end of seeking the greatest good of the greatest number. But we British are not the only Power in the world—from some points of view, perhaps, unfortunately—and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had perforce to pursue his policy in the light of the knowledge that both of our major Allies in the late war, the U.S.A. and the U.S S.R., not only have different cultures and civilisations from ourselves, but even have deliberately set themselves out, so far as I can see, to make things difficult for us in this postwar epoch. Our American friends, who share with us the ideal of political freedom and the liberty of the individual, are not grown up in their social economics. Moreover, they are obsessed by what I personally, with great respect to them, regard as an insane devotion to private enterprise and overseas investment, a devotion that constitutes the greatest menace to the peace of the world in this era.
If one reads any serious publication in this country which pretends to deal in a responsible way with economic matters, one will find, no matter what may be the party colour of that publication, that it indulges in speculation, not whether there is to be an American depression or not— because depression is inherent in a system of uncontrolled private enterprise such as that to which America is unfortunately addicted—but as to how soon that depression may come, and whether or not we, as in 1931, are to be dragged down by it. That is the current outlook in responsible British journalistic circles towards one of our major Allies. The other major Ally, while on its economic side Socialist, and having accomplished much in the economic sphere which we on this side of the House admire, unfortunately has to endure a 'political system which the average Englishman could not stomach for six weeks. It is a system based on the one-party State, and a political police which uses, in the ordinary day to day and week to week life of the nation, the weapons of delation and deportation and all that kind of thing. The average Englishman would never stand for it. It is quite impossible that the ways of life of England and Russia can be fused, any more than the ways of life of England and America can be fused. It cannot be done. The problem confronting British statesmanship in this postwar epoch is to maintain our 331 British way of life, even although our major Allies, on one side or the other, may have gone out of their way to make things difficult for us at this particular time.
I will give an example of how things have been made difficult for us. I was recently in Austria as a Member of the Estimates Committee. The Report of the Committee has not yet been presented, and therefore I cannot properly comment on what I saw there except in so far as we did visit, quite unofficially, a displaced persons' camp containing some 3,000 Jews. As it was a purely unofficial visit, I feel free to tell the House about it. This camp was a few miles East of Graz, and in it were, as I have said, about 3,000 Jews. There was no barbed wire round it, no military guard. A frail, fragile little Englishwoman, Miss Phyllis Constance Warner, was in charge on behalf of U.N.R.R.A. What did we find on making inquiries among these Jews? They were an overflow from the American zone of Austria. One found that these 3,000 Jews were part of a tremendous migratory system which had its origin within Soviet controlled territory. They were mostly, I believe exclusively, Polish Jews. They were a very fine type of man, so far as I could tell, using common observation. I talked with a few of them who knew English.
Looking at them, so far as one could tell merely by cursory observation, I should say that they would make excellent and worthy citizens in any British Dominion or in any country with our ideas and culture. I ascertained that all the people had begun their wanderings in Soviet controlled territory. Many came from Siberia, the rest from Poland. When one asked why they had left those countries, those who came from Poland said they had been persecuted as Jews. I took their word for it; but it is an interesting commentary on the claims of Communist controlled countries that in Poland anyone should be persecuted for being a Jew. But suppose they were not telling the truth. Suppose they had begun then-migration without having been persecuted. Then one is driven to the conclusion that the authorities in that Soviet controlled country had deliberately set them on the march. What is certain is that those Jews, many of them, arrived in the American zone of Austria, as great 332 numbers have done, with plenty of money in their pockets, and they were admitted because they claimed to be refugees from political persecution.
There, one has this immense movement, which has been making things most difficult for us in Palestine, a movement sponsored, so far as I can see, by the Soviet, and connived at by the Americans. While referring to Palestine, I would say that I hope we shall be able to carry out the policy of the Labour Party in administering the British Mandate for Palestine by establishing there a Jewish national home. But a national home is one thing and a national State is quite another; and I do not see how the idea of a Jewish national State can be reconciled with our responsibility towards the Arabs in Palestine under the Mandate. I hope it will be possible, now that the American elections are over, to consider ways and means of absorbing these unfortunate men, because not all these emigrants can ever be accommodated in Palestine. When I questioned those Poles and asked, "Do you want to go to Palestine?" I found that their one idea was to get out of a Europe which had treated them so badly, a sentiment with which of course all decent people must sympathise; and then when I asked, "Would you like to go to the United States?" the reply was "Yes, sooner than anywhere else." If I asked whether they would like to go to Australia, the reply was "Yes." I do not take at its face value the Zionist claim that these people want to go to Palestine and nowhere else.
There is another matter in which our great Allies have not seen fit to help us, and in respect of which they have made things difficult for the Foreign Secretary. I refer to the time, just after VJ-Day, when our American Allies ended Lend-Lease. They restored the dollar sign, they put back into international relations what the late President Roosevelt called "the financial nonsense." I do not call that a friendly act. We have had to contend against that ever since. Nevertheless my right hon. Friend has contended most manfully, his policy has been British, he wants to maintain the strength of this country. The Prime Minister has said that we are to have conscription, so that we may be strong. I can assure him that the working people of this country will 333 stand for conscription. They do not expect anything else, and they do not want to throw away what we fought for. Our people have no intention of allowing this country to be weak in a dangerous world. They know that, if we are weak, we shall get no respect from our former Allies or from anyone else.
In the light of a recent political development, to which the newspapers have given prominence, I think it right to point out that the foreign policy of my right hon. Friend is Socialist, and is getting more Socialist. He cannot behave in a manner wholly Socialist when he is dealing, on the one hand, with a Communist nation, and on the other, with a nation like America addicted to unmitigated capitalism. On 22nd October the Foreign Secretary told this House of a most important development in our zone in Germany by way of the Government's intention to promote the socialisation of key industries in Germany—not only steel and coal, but also heavy chemicals and mechanical engineering. What is that but a Socialist policy? I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will implement that. He said that the scheme of public ownership was being worked out. Some of my hon. Friends on this side are worrying about nothing. There was also the recent deal concluded by His Majesty's Government with Canada, whereby we bought in advance four years' supply of wheat, at less than the market price, much to the annoyance, I am told, of American business men. Our foreign policy is one of which I have no reason to be ashamed, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will go ahead with it.
I wish to make one constructive suggestion. We want to be strong, but why should this little island of Great Britain have to carry all the burden, whether it be the military burden of conscription or the financial burden? We are now to embark upon conscription for our Armed Forces. Why should we not get in touch with those of our friends who are like-minded? There is, across the North Sea, Belgium, a country which I know well. I lived and worked there. There is France and there is Holland. Of what use is the Belgian Army for the defence of Belgium, the Dutch Army for the defence of Holland, or—come to that—the French Army for the defence of France, alone? I am not sure of the usefulness of our own Forces unaided. Are those countries not 334 like-minded with us? Is it not time we got into contact with them and said, "Look here, you fellows. The obstacle which in the past has impeded full military collaboration among us has now been removed by our acceptance of military conscription." Why should we not work out with them a common military policy of call-up, training, equipment, uniform, tactics and strategy?
I should like that to be done among ourselves and like-minded nations in Western Europe as well as the Dominions. Why not? Why should little England always bear the burden? I want to maintain our way of life vis-à-vis Russia and America. I should like to think that this military collaboration might be carried further, to the point when we shall reach a stage in Western Europe when one can travel, as was the case when I was a boy, from one country to another without passport or visa, and when a Customs union might be achieved as the preliminary to full economic collaboration in which Western Germany, or better still the whole of Germany, should participate. I believe this is possible in the light of this country's intention to adopt an economic policy based on Socialist planning and limited nationalisation.
I know that there are people in America and Russia who are obsessed with the fantastic Marxian opinion that sooner or later there must be, and will be, a head-on collision between those civilisations. I do not accept for one moment that fantastic, crazy view. Marxism is a completely out-of-date economic doctrine of which nonsense has been made by the technological developments of the last 20 or 30 years. Notwithstanding the present passing shortages and scarcities, we live now in an era of potential abundance; Marxism is a creed which depends upon scarcity. We want to make it clear to those fanatics in America, on the Right, and in Russia, on the Left, that we do not believe in this "head-on collision" theory. Let us and our Dominions therefore combine with the nations of Western Europe which believe in political freedom and say we are going to keep out of that nonsense. But to do that, we must not only be strong, we must be strong all together. I have con- 335 fidence in my right hon. Friend and in his policy.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I want to say that I am in general agreement with the theory that it is desirable to have Germany as an economic unit with a German administration. The sooner we attain that position the better it will be, but before we can do that it is quite obvious that there must be an understanding on the question of the economic basis upon which that unity is to be founded. If it is to be a restoration of capitalism, I say that would be merely repeating the mistakes made after the last war. The difficulty with which we are faced is that of the character of the foundation upon which the economic unity of Germany is to be placed. I intend to say a few words upon foreign policy, may be something about production, and a few words about Scotland.
On Friday I read in the Press that the Foreign Secretary, about whom the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith) was bragging so much, had been speaking at the City Hall in New York. He said it was necessary to strengthen the friendship between this country and America, because we speak the same language and we have the same ideals. Never was anything so removed from the actual facts. Do we speak the language of Colonel McCormack or Randolf Hearst? Is there anyone in the House who speaks the language of Senator Bilbo or of Governor Talmadge of Georgia, whose whole administration, every member of it, is a member of that fantastic and sinister Fascist organisation the Ku Klux Klan? A lot of talking goes on here, not only from this side of the House but from hon. Members opposite, about Bulgaria, Rumania and Yugoslavia. On Tuesday night we had a representative of the Foreign Office, a filleted Fabian, talking of reports about Bulgaria, which he himself admitted were not substantiated. He was told that people are beaten up and killed but the reports were not substantiated. Why does he wish to come and talk about that? Why does he not talk about the incitement by Senator Bilbo to the hoodlums around him to beat up, and kill if necessary, the coloured citizens of America? Why do we not hear anything about that? Why do we have all this twaddle about the same ideals?
336 Before I left America, I was asked by some of the Pressmen to give my impressions of that country. I said that my outstanding impression was of the idea which one can see, feel, and hear everywhere, and which is being pumped assiduously into the youth of America—I met them in universities and elsewhere—that the British Empire is played out and finished. That idea is being driven into the people, and it determines America's foreign policy. The idea is that the old countries of Europe are played out and finished, and that it is now the business of America to take over, direct and determine the affairs of the world. That is the situation in America. In the discussions with President Roosevelt the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was always anxious to retain the British Empire. He was very anxious to retain the British Empire, but, not because it is a model of democracy and all that sort of thing. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the Tories want to retain the British Empire, because it represents class domination.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Not at all. The Tories turn up their noses at the workers in this country. Some hon. Members on this side of the House do the same thing. They look with lofty superiority upon the ordinary workers. What chance have the people in the Colonies? The Empire represents domination, and that is why they are so anxious to retain it. While the Leader of the Opposition was anxious to retain the Empire in its present form, expressing domination over the workers and Colonial peoples, he had no hesitation in handing it over to the American pawnbroker. When he met Mr. Roosevelt, he had no faith whatever in the Soviet Union or the Red Army. He had the same attitude towards the Soviet Union as the hon. Member for South Nottingham. He had no faith in the Soviet Union or the Red Army, and no faith in the liberation movements which were springing up all over the continent. On the contrary, he did not like the look of them. They were inimical to his own class. What happened? President Roosevelt made it clear that he had no time for the British Empire and British exploitation of Colonial peoples. I have here Elliot Roosevelt's book. He quotes the Leader of the Opposition, the fellow 337 who talks in such mighty tones to us in this House. See him bow before the President. He is quoted in this book as saying:Mr. President, I believe you are trying to do away with the British Empire. Every idea you entertain about the structure of the post war world demonstrates it, but in spite of that, we know that you constitute our only hope, and you know that we know that, without America, the Empire cannot stand.The British Empire handed over to the American pawnbrokers—our only hope.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Empire was handed over to the American President on the understanding that, in the postwar world, the American President and those associated with him intended to put the Empire out of business.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Just a moment. I quote:Every idea you entertain about the structure of the post war world …That is what he was talking about. Later, when they were at Casablanca, Mr. Roosevelt had a talk with the Sultan of Morocco in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition. In the course of that talk he told the Sultan that there were very' valuable economic resources in Morocco, and the Sultan said that the difficulty was that they had no experienced technicians and no capital with which to develop the resources. The President told the Sultan that America was prepared to supply the technicians, and would supply the capital on better terms than ever they would get from the British or French Imperialists. The Leader of the Opposition sat there and was not prepared to defend the British Empire.
Now, we must ask ourselves the question what all this means for us. We have a situation in America where there is an accumulation of investment capital greater than anything that has ever existed in the world before. There is the national debt which the American people owe the big financiers. It is somewhere about 300 billion dollars; there is the interest to be paid on that every year, as well as ordinary accumulations of capital. 338 Where are they going to invest all this money? They want to invest it in European countries, and that is what Mr. Byrnes was fighting for in Paris—to open the doors into every European country and to break down the barriers—not the walls of ignorance—that the new countries have raised against exploitation by outside financiers. In Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Rumania there is a planned economy, with State control of trade, and American financiers cannot go into those countries and in association with local financiers set up businesses for the purpose of robbing and looting the people of those countries. That is why Mr. Byrnes is demanding freedom, not freedom for the people of South Carolina, which he represents and where only six per cent. are allowed to vote, but freedom for American financiers to get into the various countries of Europe. They cannot get this colossal accumulation of investment capital invested, and, sooner or later, there is going to be a terrific economic crash in America, and, if we are tied up with American economy, we shall get the full backwash of it.
Why cannot we have a trade agreement with Russia, with whom we have a 20 years pact of friendship, or with France and other countries in Europe with a Socialist planned economy? We should be building up trade arrangements with them, and that is the line which our foreign policy should be taking, instead of tying ourselves up with the roughest and most brutal capitalists of America. In doing that, we should be laying a real foundation for peace. Here now is a situation which is a direct consequence of the foreign policy we have been pursuing—the proposal for an Army of 1,500,000 men. It is monstrous to ask for a peacetime Army of that size, and it is only because of the foreign policy of the Government that this proposition is made. The lads of the Army want to be back home. Well, bring them home from Greece. Why should our lads keep a Glucksburg or the throne of Greece? Bring them home from India, and the leaders of the Moslems and the Hindus will have to work together to end the present deplorable situation. Bring the lads out of Palestine, and then the Jews and Arabs will learn to work together. Of course, they will. So far as the mass of the people of this country are concerned, there is no purpose being 339 served in bringing our Army up to 1,500,000.
A drive for production has been going on, and it is essential but, when we talk of production, we generally think of iron and steel and coal, and there are also housing and agriculture. These must come into it. If we are going to get more agricultural production, more houses, more coal, steel and all the rest, one of the first steps we should be taking is to take over the land of this country, so as to allocate the best of it for agriculture and the rest for houses and amenities and all that goes with it. To talk of a production drive while we have 1,500,000 soldiers—[An HON. MEMBER: "How many are there in Russia?"]—The hon. Member should not make me responsible for Russia; that is childish. I was here during the war, when there was continually coming from the Tory side of the House questions like "What about Russia?" or "What about Stalin?" I said I was looked upon in this House as being responsible for running the Soviet Union, although I could assure Members I was not, but I will defend the Soviet Union at any time, because it is a working class country. I will defend it against any capitalist country anywhere, because I am always for the working class. An hon. Lady who spoke earlier said that she went to Russia with an unbiased and open mind. I do not believe it. An unbiased and open mind is an empty mind and the hon. lady has not an empty mind, quite otherwise. We are having a drive for production. What a drain on manpower and production an Army of r,500,000 will be. Why is conscription brought in at this moment?
§ Mr. Gallacher
There we go again; the hon. Member is really childish. I readily agree that it is the most democratic method of supplying the Forces. But at this particular moment, in the circumstances in which it is being brought forward and behind a foreign policy of the kind that we have had, when the demand is made for 1,500,000 soldiers, I want to say that I cannot associate myself with a proposition of that kind. No excuse can be made for it in such circumstances, and, while I am not proposing to oppose the Government 340 on it, I cannot support this particular proposition. I want to see these lads brought home from the Army and to see that we get rid of a whole lot of these undesirable commitments. This can only be done by a change of foreign policy.
Now I want to suggest that we ought to have some special attention paid in this Session to Scotland, because the fact re mains that we have in Scotland a higher average of unemployment than in any part of the country, and it is very serious. Between the wars we have had industries taken away from us and sent to the South of England. The whole of the steel plants were taken away from Lanarkshire, and the industries closed down.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We got the figures the other day showing that Scotland had a higher percentage than England or Wales; certainly much higher than England, and, I am pretty certain, a higher percentage than Wales. My hon. Friend says that the Wales percentage is higher. Well, I saw in the Press that the Scottish percentage was higher than that of Wales. I saw also figures showing that Glasgow has the highest percentage of unemployment of any city in the Kingdom. That is a very bad state of affairs. In Scotland, we have not got a motor industry nor an aircraft industry at all. Scotland, which contributed such a mighty part to the building up of our great sea transport, is prevented from playing her part in building up the new air transport. I want to see this neglect avoided in the coming Session and in those that me ahead, and I want to see Scotland getting the same opportunities as every other part of the country. I also want to see the Government pursuing a foreign policy which is not tied to American economy.
I want to see our foreign policy associated with the 20-years agreement with the Soviet Union. We should build on that, and on cooperation with the new democratic and Socialist countries that are arising in Europe. Having done that, we should then appeal to the great working classes and progressive forces in America and, with them begin to lay the foundation for a real and lasting peace for the people of the world.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
I am sure that we all listened with great attention to what the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) had to say. It would not become a Conservative Member of this House to stand between two Socialists when they are arguing as to whether Scotland or Wales has the greater population of unemployed in this era of Socialist planning. I am content to let such hon. Members argue that point. It is not a very good advertisement for Socialist planning. We in this House know that the hon. Member for West Fife is very sincere. We believe that his heart is sound, but we have not a very high opinion of his head. It would be a tragedy if it went out from this House that he had attacked Anglo-American relations and our good friendship with the Americans without someone saying a word in reply.
Just as he is convinced that our future lies in Anglo-Russian relations, so I am convinced that it lies with the English-speaking world, and I stand here in contradiction of everything he has uttered. Unless the English-speaking family of nations hold together, there is no hope for us at all. Twice this nation has been in danger, and twice our hope has come from the West and not from the East. The hon. Member for West Fife has jeered at the fact that we have negotiated a loan from America. Does he not realise that the Russians are on their bended knees at the present time trying to get a loan from the Americans?
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Member said that our country had been pawned; that we had gone to the pawnbroker.
§ Mr. Osborne
It was a very good bargain for our security while many hon. Members opposite were conscientious objectors.
§ Mr. Osborne
I will not withdraw it. I feel that it must be said from this side that some people in this House realise that our future depends, not so much upon being pro-Russian or pro-American, as being overwhelmingly pro-British. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak for yourself."] 342 I was speaking for myself. The hon. Member for West Fife would do this country and Scotland a greater service if he spoke as a Briton and a Scotsman rather than as a half-baked Russian. Whilst the hon. Member for West Fife was criticising what my leader—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"]—the finest man that England has produced for 200 years—was doing, Molotov was clinking glasses with Ribbentrop, and we stood alone.
§ Mr. Osborne
Our help came from America and not from Russia.
I will now turn the attention of hon. Members opposite to something much closer at home, to something which ought to touch their hearts, and their constituents' pockets too. They claim to represent the working men of this country. I appeal to them to think of the working men whose votes they have obtained. I believe that the savings of the working men of this country are in very grave danger. [Laughter.] If hon. Members opposite can still laugh after I have finished, then, I think, they are fit for the lunatic asylum. The working men whom they ought to represent have had to work very hard for their savings.
§ Mr. Osborne
They saved shilling by shilling, week by week, over a period of years. I am concerned that the thrifty, hardworking man of this country shall not see his savings go down under a Socialist administration. [Laughter] All that the Government back benchers are doing is to laugh at the fact that the working man is losing his savings. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite would listen, they would learn something, which would be a change for them. The upper class, who are well represented on the Government Front Bench, have got their risks widely spread. Most of them have land, property and equities, but the working man has only his small savings which he has been induced by hon. Members on all sides of this House to put into the National Savings Movement. We all have a responsibility here.
Many hon. Members opposite will not know—I wish the Chancellor of the 343 Exchequer were here—that after the 1914–18 war, which France won, the French franc dropped from 25.25 to about 175 to the £; that is, it dropped from a value of 10½d. to about1¼d. We won this war, but already the currency in this country has gone down by 50 per cent. [Laughter.] I do not think that that is anything to laugh at. It is the hard-working man, the thrifty man, who is being robbed at the present time and whose loss is being increased by the bad administration of a Socialist Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members opposite will permit me, I will try to demonstrate that fact. I feel that there is a similar danger in this country today and, therefore, I want to appeal to the Government and to warn the country of what is happening and of the danger of the internal flight from the £ which will rob the working man of his hard earned savings. We already have partial inflation, and it is quite clear that the high wartime prices which we have endured are not coming down. After the last war, prices tended to come down. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] There was a considerable revision of prices during the years 1921–24.
§ Major Bramall
The hon. Member has talked about prices coming down. Would he care to say what the comparison of those prices was with the 1914 prices, which is surely the only fair comparison?
§ Mr. Osborne
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be good enough to listen, I will explain. The prices have not come down. Their tendency is to go up. On the London buses the penny fare has become three halfpence. It may be said that the Chancellor's excuse is that we have got such a colossal National Debt that the prices must tend to increase and that, therefore, the saver must be robbed of his real savings. I would like to remind the House that the National Debt in 1914 was only about £700 million. In 1939, before the war, it had risen to £8,700 million. Today it is £24,000 million.
§ Mr. Osborne
If the hon. Gentleman also will be good enough to listen, perhaps he will understand what I am say- 344 ing. That means that the men who invested their money in war savings certificates in 1917—and I am appealing for working men, whom hon. Members opposite ought to take more seriously— today can get only one-third of the value which they put into them at that time, and I consider that it is a most serious position. If hon. Members will look at the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," they will find that between 1938 and today the average wage level has increased by no less than 89 per cent. In October, 1938, the average industrial wage in this country was 55s. 3d. Today it is just over £5 os. 5d., which is an increase of 89 per cent. But it is not a real increase in wages at all. It is merely paper money. One cannot eat paper money, or wear it. [An HON. MEMBER: "One can spend it."] One cannot spend it if there is nothing in the shops on which to spend it.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to mislead the House. He made a statement a little while ago to the effect that currency had depreciated 50 per cent., and now he is talking about the paper money which one cannot eat. Is he aware that the retail index of food prices in 1914 was 100, in 1921 was 212, in 1946 was 169, and is he further aware that the clothing index in 1914 was 100, in 1921 was 420, and in 1946 was 347? How does he substantiate the statements he has made?
§ Mr. Osborne
It is very good of the hon. Gentleman to try to make my speech for me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] One thing that hon. Members opposite have to learn is to have a little patience. Let me deal with the wage increases. The average of 89 per cent. has been very materially exceeded in certain trades. In cotton it is 125 per cent., in tailoring 113 per cent. and in rubber it is 119 per cent. What may please hon. Members opposite is that in Government industrial services it is only about 52 per cent., which is a remarkable thing. But this is the point: If the man who put his money into national savings certificates in 1939, at the request of hon. Members on both sides of the House, do not forget—and we do carry a personal responsibility—wishes to cash them today, that man who sacrificed a whole week's wages to buy savings certificates and who cashes them today would only get three days' wages in re- 345 turn instead of five and a half days' wages. In wholesale prices he would just get about half. This is of the utmost importance to the working man and woman of this country, because we are saying to the thrifty and hard working section of our population, "Do not save, do not be thrifty, do not buy land or houses; buy this paper which one day will fall by 50 per cent, in value." And we wonder why the figures for the national savings campaign are falling. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware of the figures, but the weekly average of national savings in 1943 was £5,168,000 per week. When the Socialist Government came into power, they fell to £1,087,000 per week, but today the figure is down to £105,000 per week. The Chancellor hopes to balance his Budget by getting a certain amount of Net savings under the National Savings Campaign, which he will not get. I think that when hon. Members opposite have considered the position again, they will not think, it is a matter for laughter. There is a great falling off in savings, and I do not wonder at it, in view of the fall in values.
May I say finally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members opposite say that to me, I will speak longer. With your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will tell hon. Members opposite what their Government ought to do. [Interruption.] Hon. Members could not do better than bring back the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). This is not a laughing matter. One day this country will be short of food, as it is short of coal, and hon. Members opposite will be held responsible for it. Let them make no mistake about that. If we are ever to get back to a reasonable economy and to get our currency up to its proper value, we must do many things that will be unpalatable to hon. Members opposite. Since I have been challenged, I will suggest to right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench what those things are. First, the Government could reduce to one-half the number of 1,800,000 civil servants, Government and local, who are being employed today in a non-productive capacity, and put the other half back into productive industry, and so do away with the labour shortage. Secondly, if we are to stop the rot in our currency value, and get back to the plenty that we all want, we should stop 346 talking about a 40 hours week and go back to a 48 hours week. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not 60?"] I worked nearly 60 hours a week when I started, which is more than hon. Members opposite did. Thirdly, I suggest—and hon. Members may have to come to this—that we postpone the raising of the school-leaving age to 15. The Prime Minister, whom some hon. Members opposite, at least, take note of, said the other day to the trade union leaders that the loss of 400,000 juveniles would be a serious matter.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)
Will the hon. Member make it clear whether he is speaking for himself or for the party opposite?
§ Mr. Osborne
I speak for myself. Fourthly, I suggest that the Chancellor should abolish all direct taxation on working men earning under £500 a year and encourage them to work. Fifthly, I would stop the temporary export drive in consumer goods and put things in the shops for the working man and his wife to buy The Chancellor is reported in "The Times" to have said yesterday:This year more than £500 million was being spent on education, housing, health, national insurance, family allowances, and war pensions"—and this is the important thing for hon Members opposite—'It will raise further,' Mr. Dalton said, 'but all this money must be raised either by taxation or by borrowing, and we intend to meet it, in an ever increasing degree, from taxation.'Hon. Members should remember that in so far as the Chancellor is unable to meet that very heavy bill by taxation, he will, to the extent that he meets it by borrowing, cause more and more inflation. He is going to deprive the working man of the true value of his savings. If it pleases hon. Members to rob the working man in order to spite the capitalists, they may do it. Finally, I say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who as professor of economics in the London School of Economics, knows full well the dangers of inflation, and I charge him with lack of moral courage for not going to the country, first of all teaching his own party the dangers in front of us, and then saying to the country that, unless we succeed in producing more, our currency will go to pot, just as the French did 25 years ago.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
I hope the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his excursion in Lewis Carroll economics. I should like to direct the attention of hon. Members for a few moments to a few matters that some of us on this side of the House regard as being much more serious.
§ Mr. Warbey
No, I do not think so, quite so early as this; later on, if the hon. Member likes. I do not think there is much point in my pretending to this House that I have been altogether happy about the general course of the foreign policy of the Government during the past 12 months, but if I have, hitherto, moderated my criticism, as have many of my colleagues, it has been because we had hoped that, in course of time, the development of our Socialist policy at home would find its inevitable reflection, and its natural reflection, in the development of a more Socialist policy in the international field. What, I think, disturbs us at this moment is, that we are beginning to have the feeling that something very like the opposite is beginning to happen; in other words, that the failure to find a way towards effective Socialist international policy is beginning to reflect upon, and to hamper and to restrict, the carrying out of our domestic Socialist aims.
§ Mr. Warbey
Let us take, first of all, the field of international military and diplomatic policy. In this field, I do not think there is any doubt that during the past 12 months we have developed a policy of close and special association between this country and the United States of America. There has been built up, in effect, if not in written terms, what is the equivalent of a diplomatic and military alliance. There have been repudiations from the Front Bench from time to time of any suggestion that this country is ganging up with the United States. Well, I do not care what terms are used, but I doubt whether anyone could now dispute the fact that there is an intimate association, which is of a special character, and far different from the association which we have with the other partner in 348 the Big Three. There are joint diplomatic Notes fired off from time to time to the countries of Eastern Europe; there is a united front presented at international conferences; at the Paris Peace Conference Britain and the United States coordinated their policy and presented a united front to the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. And I noticed today, when I went out to get a cup of tea, as some of us do, that on the tape there was a very characteristic message from New York. I read this:Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Bevin, faced with Russia's 14 essential minimum amendments of the Trieste proposals, conferred secretly today before what may be a showdown session of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Both Ministers met at Mr. Byrnes' suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.I ask the Under-Secretary to take note of this: This is the third time they have conferred privately, with only courtesy calls being paid upon Mr. Molotov. That is the kind of thing that has been happening time and time again. It happened in Paris, and it is now happening in New York. There is a coordination of Anglo-American diplomatic policy which leaves the Soviet Union confronted with what is, in effect, an Anglo-American diplomatic bloc.
There is coordination too in the military field. The Combined Chiefs of Staff, over a year after the end of the war, are still in existence, and are apparently intended to continue in existence for an indefinite future. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff recently paid a visit to Canada and to the United States, and was widely reported in the American Press as having said that one of the purposes of his visit was to bring about the integration of the military equipment of British and American Forces. What is all this but the building up of the equivalent of a special, sectional, Anglo-American military association? And is it surprising that the suspicions of the Soviet Union, and the difficulties which we experience from the Soviet Union in international policy, are only increased as a result of this special, one-sided relationship which has developed? Is it surprising that reactions come from the Soviet side which are displeasing to all of us? Is it surprising that, as a result of these reactions, our Service chiefs, who seem to have a very big say today in the affairs of this country, are able to come forward with ever-increasing demands on the 349 limited manpower of this country in order to maintain commitments and build up forces to safeguard this country against dangers which have, in fact, been provoked by the very policy we have pursued?
All this begins to react very severely indeed upon our domestic policy. We now see, as a first consequence, that the demobilisation programme has been still further slowed down. I, and I am sure many other hon. Members, are again getting the same flood of letters that we got 12 months ago from men in the Forces, who have a record of hard fighting service of three or four years during the war and who now find that their demobilisation is being postponed until next June. Is it fair to these men that they should be called upon to do two years of peace-time service after having done three or four years of service during the war, all this in order to build up the Armed Forces to some figure which has not yet been given to this House but which I hope will be given very soon? Why has the target of 1,100,000 men in the Forces been abandoned? Why has the figure been raised by two, three or four hundred thousand, or whatever it may be? Why is it?
What new commitments have arisen, what new fears have been aroused in the minds of the Service chiefs and imparted to our political chiefs in order to support the demand for such an increase in the size of our Forces, which is totally incommensurate with what the resources of this country can afford to bear? This country, as we know, is desperately short of manpower, a shortage increased by the fact that we are now suffering from the effects of the fall in the birth rate during the 1930's. Just at this period, when our industrial development, our industrial recovery and our standards of living are threatened by this acute shortage, we are placing an increased share of that limited manpower into that section of our effort which is devoted to preparation for war.
What repercussion will this have upon our national Budget? I notice, with very great regret, that there is no reference in the King's Speech to the proposed Bill for national assistance, the Bill which the Minister of National Insurance, who I see is here on the Front Bench, has time and again assured us is necessary to round off our system of social security, to fill in the 350 gaps and to remedy the anomalies which still unfortunately exist after the passing of the National Insurance and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts. What has happened to that Bill? Is it to be jettisoned? Is it because there are other claims on the national Budget—because we are to spend increased sums on defence—and therefore have to postpone a Measure necessary for the wellbeing of our people? One of the great aims of our party is to be able to say, in as short a space of time as possible, that we have abolished poverty in this country, as the Prime Minister of New Zealand was so recently able proudly to announce.
That is an aim which we can achieve, as Lord Beveridge clearly pointed out. By an effective distribution of our resources, we can abolish gross poverty and establish a national minimum standard below which no one should fall. While we must put all our efforts into increasing the size of the cake which is available in this country, let us also remember that the task of a Labour Government is to see that the cake, whatever size it may be at any particular time, is fairly divided among all members of the community. That prospect is apparently to be abandoned because of the failure of our foreign policy to develop an effective pacification in the international field.
I turn now to the held of international economic policy. Here too we shall find, if we are not very careful, very serious repercussions on the standard of living of our people. I was one of those who voted against the American Loan Agreement last December, and I voted against it because I regarded our commitments to the American conceptions of obsolete 19th century international free enterprise as totally unjustifiable in the modern world, and as dangerous for the future wellbeing of this country. I still hold to that point of view, and everything which has happened since then has only confirmed it. From the American side since that time there has been struck blow after blow at international cooperation. It began with the sudden ending of Lend-Lease. It was followed up by the forcing upon this country, in order to get the Loan, the abandonment of the sterling bloc and of the commitments to international trade agreement. It was followed this year by the decision to give no further support to U.N.R.R.A., and to turn international re- 351 lief into political competition, in which favours will be distributed to favoured clients.
It was followed then by the refusal of the American delegates to adopt Sir John Orr's magnificent effort to establish an international food board. Then came me decision of the American representatives that they would have nothing to do with the La Gaurdia proposals to establish a new international agency to take the place of U.N.R.R.A. Then, finally, we had the decision that the free market is again to be allowed to operate in the distribution of international food supplies, whereby every claimant would have to take his place in the queue and ask for favours from the American farmers, who are anxious to profit to the greatest extent they can from the present difficulties of the world. This is what we have had from the dominant American forces, despite the valiant efforts of Henry Wallace and a few other survivors of the American New Deal.
What have we done? All this time we have played along with them. We have accepted the abandonment of U.N.N.R.A. and the scrapping of the World Food Board proposal. We have followed along with the American proposals for an open door into South-East Europe, to find a place for those American dollars that Mr. Jackson is so anxious to fill the world with in order to oppose the spread of Communism We have gone in with the Americans in Germany to build up a union with them which, I am sure, can only prejudice the possibility of the development of those Socialist ideas that the Foreign Secretary put before us a few weeks ago. We have abandoned the possibility of protecting the interests of this country and our future export trade by means of bilateral and regional trade agreements. We have abandoned the whole prospect of going along with other countries in the building up of a planned international trading and economic union which would safeguard us against the inevitable onset of an American slump. As has already been said, it is no longer a question of if an American slump comes, but when will it come. I think it is likely to come in about 18 months' time, and that within the next two years we shall be faced with an extremely difficult economic situation.
352 By means of our planning we can maintain full employment, but we cannot, in the face of an American slump, maintain a high standard of living, or the real freedom of our workers. It is all very well to say that there is an escape clause in Bretton Woods, and in the American Loan Agreement, and that there will be one in the International Trading Organisation Agreement. What is the use of all these escape clauses if all they do is to enable us, after the damage has been done, to make hasty, haphazard adjustments in a situation which we ought never to have allowed to arise? When the American slump comes we shall be faced with the need to cut down our imports and our standard of living, to substitute industries based on synthetic products, to make hasty transfers of industry, and to build up hasty new trade agreements with countries with which we ought to be building up those agreements now.
This is no way for us to go on, and let us stop pretending that it is. I believe that this country is now faced with some very vital decisions in the international field, and I want us to stop pretending that it is possible to make a synthesis between Socialist planning and uncontrolled private enterprise. It cannot be done. You can have an integration where you have overall planning and private enterprise working within the field of overall planning, but you cannot have a merger of two independent systems, one based on private enterprise and the other on Socialist planning. Let us drop that altogether because it is going to lead us, and is leading us, into a blind alley, as I am sure the Secretary for Overseas Trade knows in his heart. Let us, on the contrary, begin to build up an economic union of the planning countries—an economic union of Britain, Europe, the British Dominions and British overseas territory. Before the war, they were between them doing more than three-quarters of the world's trade, and most of them today are in favour of the planning of their internal economies and of international trade. Let us get together with them and form an economic union. Let us drop this one-sided sectional association with the United States.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The hon Gentleman has been putting forward two lines of argument which seem 353 to be very contradictory. It appeared to me that he was suggesting that we should only make economic agreements and combine in international activities with those countries which have adopted a Socialist policy; and, at the same time, he says that we must work with the Dominions in the closest possible relationship in the economic sphere. How can he possibly associate those two lines of argument, because it would not appear to me that the Dominions, as a whole, have adopted a Socialistic economy, although there may be Labour Governments in some of the Dominions? As to the argument that we cannot make, for instance, an economic agreement with Canada—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member is now entering upon an argument, which he is not entitled to do, not having been called upon to speak. He rose to ask a question.
§ Mr. Warbey
I think that that is a perfectly fair point, and one which, if I had more time, I would answer more fully than I can do now. I am not ruling out trade with non-Socialist countries by any means. What I am speaking of is long-term planning of international trade which, I believe, is in the interests of this country and of the world. That long-term planning of international trade can be done more effectively and successfully, in the first instance, with those countries which believe in planning, and which have effected control of their own internal economy. Australia is among those countries, and I should not be at all surprised if we were to see similar developments in other parts of the British Dominions and British Commonwealth. Let me say at once that no one wishes to exclude any country from international trade, but when we are talking of trying to organise and plan trade, let us try to do it with those countries which are able to plan and make effective international agreements because they have effective control over their own internal economy.
Finally, I ask that we should drop this one-sided sectional association with the United States and return to the policy, which was, after all, set out in "Let Us Face the Future," of building up equal collaboration. Let us try, at long last, a policy of equal friendliness and of equal frankness towards both the Soviet Union 354 and the United States. I believe that only on that basis of equal friendliness and equal frankness can we build any hope of effective international cooperation and any hope of real security and economic well being for the people of this country.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
The remarks of the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) were of great interest to hon. Members on this side of the House, because we have been wondering for some time who would get the blame in the event of the present Government failing. It becomes increasingly obvious that the United States is to become the whipping boy in the event of the failure of the present Government. After all, it is important, surely, to try to look at some of the American actions through American eyes. We are told—and I think it is true—that Lend-Lease supplies, for example, were terminated because the war had come to an end. If hon. Members do not believe that, then the only other explanation can be that America did not wish to give her supplies to a Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Warbey
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the sudden and sharp ending of Lend-Lease came as a surprise, even to his own leader?
§ Mr. Erroll
Undoubtedly it came as a shock to all of us, and that is why I think the legal interpretation is the fair one. As regards the termination of U.N.R.R.A. supplies, surely it is necessary for us to remember that in all these activities America is the giver, the donor, and it does not come very well from us to criticise a giver for getting tired of giving when the gifts are so badly received by certain countries. It is hardly necessary for me to remind the House of Yugoslavia's attitude towards America while receiving U.N.R.R.A. supplies.
§ Mr. Erroll
Yes, and I wish, too, we could have held up the Fortress while it was being shot down by the Yugoslavs. We can hardly blame the Americans for reacting vigorously in a matter of that sort. Like the hon. Member for Luton, I regret very much the Americans' turnabout over the World Food Board. But there again we must remember that a 355 great deal of the food is in America; and, after all, if it belongs to her surely she is entitled to say how she will sell it and distribute it? As regards the building up of our commerce with other countries, particularly with the British Dominions, I do hope the hon. Member for Luton will consider adding his name to the Motion which many hon. Members on this side of the House have down on the Order Paper regarding the maintenance of Imperial Preference, because it seemed to me that he was speaking very much on our side on a matter which we believe to be of fundamental importance.
I would like to continue with the question of America's attitude towards us. We complain of some of the apparently hostile things that America is doing to us, and to our ideas of planned economy. Let us think for a moment what the closing of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange means to America. That was not a very friendly thing to do, when cotton exchanges all over the world sent telegrams asking for the Liverpool Cotton Exchange to be reopened, since it was the one stabilising influence for raw cotton in the whole world. What did the Government do? The Government closed it down, and directly precipitated the most frantic fluctuations on the American Cotton Exchange. That is neither planning nor sense. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in view of the difficulties of the situation America should send a considerable portion of her raw cotton to Japan.
We have got to look at what is going on in Japan very much more closely than we have been doing in the past. It will do us no harm to compare that with what we are trying to do in Germany. We have two defeated industrial countries; one is Germany and the other Japan. In the one we find stagnation, depression and misery; whereas in Japan things are getting going again quickly. I have it on the authority of one of our fellow Members, who went out there on a Parliamentary delegation, that things are not only getting going well, but he thinks that before long Japanese trade will be back to normal, thanks to American energy, enthusiasm and initiative.
§ Mr. Erroll
Cheap labour, certainly; and, I am told, happy labour and willing labour. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that they might have a talk with some of their friends who went on the Parliamentary delegation to Japan. I understand, for example, that the textile workers surprisingly enough are enjoying their relatively short period of employment in textile mills because they can go back to the countryside with their savings in the form of a potential dowry and are thus able to marry well in a country district. Generally they are forging ahead in Japan.
§ Mr. Scollan
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that American capital is using this cheap labour in such a way that it will ultimately close down our mills in Lancashire?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am deeply aware of that and that is the point I am going into, but whether it is exploitation of Japan or the rebuilding of a defeated Japan makes no difference to the realities which we in Lancashire and all over England have to face in the next few years. So I think that it ill becomes us to tell America that we do not like many of the things she is doing. We should certainly try to collaborate and to cooperate in practical international trading matters. We have to realise that whether we like it or not America has more trump cards in her hand than we have in ours and it is no good us attempting to ignore the matter. America is going to make Japan a going concern, and she will become a formidable competitor. It would be better for us if we persuaded America to let us have some of the Japanese yarn of which there is such a great shortage in this country. The Japanese mills are increasing their output very rapidly. In September they produced 20 million pounds weight of yarn. Why not get some of that brought to this country where we are so short of yarn and where we cannot employ our weaving capacity to the full? We could pay for that yarn by returning a proportion of the finished woven goods. I think we have got somehow to work out a system of economic and trade collaboration with the United States of America, because she is going ahead increasingly and, if you like, selfishly. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, 357 hear."] I will admit it. I am no apologist for the United States of America, but we have to realise we are living in a world of realities with, if you like, a selfish, energetic, youthful, aggressive America and we must shape our policy accordingly.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
When the hon. Gentleman refers to our collaboration with America, is he using it in the sense that it was used on the Continent of Europe during the war, for instance, by the men of Vichy?
I appreciate that "collaboration" has a number of meanings, but I was thinking of it in a technical and professional sense and not in a political sense. I think, too, when dealing with Russia that we have not got the same close trading relations that we have with America. We also owe America a great deal for the amount of industry and trade which she has brought into this country. Many American firms set up plants and factories in Great Britain and brought trade and employment to us at a time when they were very much needed. America will not be so inclined to set up large plants in this country if there is the threat of nationalisation hanging over an important section of industry. One of the many examples I will mention is the great Singer sewing machine works in Clydeside, which has done a great deal to balance industry in that part of the world.
§ Mr. Scollan
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Singer sewing machine concern was originally established in Clydebank and later spread to America? It did not come from America to Clydebank.
§ Mr. Erroll
That is so, but the fact remains that when it went to America it grew and prospered exceedingly and brought back to this country a number of ideas which did not originate here, and certain types of sewing machine are almost entirely imported into this country from America through careful coordination with the British works.
358 In regard to international trade, we should not forget the importance of international transport, and it is significant that the Government are confining themselves to the nationalisation of inland. In regard to international trade, we international shipping is a highly competitive business, and we on this side of the House at any rate are thankful for small mercies in that British merchant shipping will remain in efficient private hands. We have already seen the effects and the folly of nationalising civil aviation, where foreign companies are operating routes to towns in this country while our own services are unable to get going. I am very glad to see that, so far at any rate, the Government do not intend to carry that folly from the air into the sea.
As regards Germany, I do wish that the Government would look at what America is doing to build up Japan and try to apply a more constructive and realistic policy. Germany, too, has a textile industry, and she has skilled spinners and weavers at present unemployed. I wish the Government would do all they can to get German textiles going again in such a way that they can be complementary to our own and non-competitive. In a world that is starved of textile goods we should do all we can to produce more of them, at the same time ensuring that we do not make the future bleak for Lancashire. I agree that it is no easy matter, and I would not care to propose a detailed solution, but that is the Government's task. It is mine to point out the difficulties, the Government's to find the solution. I hope that they will consider international affairs not only from the political and the collaborationist angles, but also from the point of view of the vital importance of international trade.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I should like to pursue the theme which has developed in the last few speeches—the main general theme of the Debate, to which it returned with the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith) and the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Referring to those two speeches in particular, I was extremely interested to notice that, although it was evident that the two hon. Members differed so widely in many of their political views, they were agreed on the one point that "the greatest menace to peace in the world today —I think I am quot 359 ing correctly the words of the hon. Member for South Nottingham—is aggressive American economic imperialism. I must say that, although I myself differ in many respects from both hon Members, I accept that analysis.
I want to try to sketch the background, as I personally see it, of the situation dealt with in an Amendment to the Address which stands on the Order Paper in the name of some 60 hon. Members of this House and of this party.
§ [And express the urgent hope that His Majesty's Government will so review and recast its conduct of International Affairs as to afford the utmost encouragement to, and collaboration with, all Nations and Groups striving to secure full Socialist planning and control of the world's resources and thus provide a democratic and constructive Socialist alternative to an otherwise inevitable conflict between American Capitalism and Soviet Communism in which all hope of World Government would be destroyed.]
§ I shall not, of course, be discussing the Amendment itself, since it would be improper to anticipate any statement that may be made by Mr. Speaker tomorrow morning. I simply want to sketch the background as I see it. I thought that the most significant passage in the Prime Minister's speech during the last foreign affairs Debate occurred in column 1684 of HANSARD of 23rd October. He was restating the obvious, but I think it needed to be restated, both at that time and now.
My right hon Friend said:
While His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States share a common devotion to the principles of freedom and democracy on which the Constitutions of both countries are founded, we have great differences in our economic outlook.
We believe, with the Government of Soviet Russia, in the principles of the control of the economic life of the community by the people for the people, but we are deeply divided from them in the value we place on the liberty of the individual, freedom of speech and our conception of democracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1683.]
My right hon. Friend went on to say that he believed that it was possible to work together with both great Powers, despite differing ideologies.
§ That was, approximately, a statement of a purely central position. As such, I 360 think it will be acceptable to most hon. Members on this side of the House. It would obviously not be acceptable to hon. Members opposite, in view of what the Prime Minister said about our agreement with the Russians on the economic organisation of society. I cannot help feeling, like my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey), that that theoretical central position has not yet been put into practice in our international relationships during the past year or 16 months. I am convinced that there has been, as my hon. Friend showed, a steady over-emphasising of our friendship and our relationship with the United States which has not been balanced by any positive attempt to establish a similar relationship in the other direction. There has undoubtedly been built up something tantamount to an Anglo-American bloc.
§ In the same Debate, the Foreign Secretary himself quite rightly praised the steadiness and the economic stability of this country. I could not help feeling that he was, by implication, not praising the United States. Was there ever a country so unsteady and unstable economically as the great American Republic at this rime? It is torn by internal dissension. I am not, of course, making any criticism of the Americans, personally or individually. All of us like and admire them. We like their resourcefulness, their vitality, their impulsive generosity when their imagination is touched. I could not help wishing that the Chancellor of the Duchy had said just one word in his speech this afternoon which would have appealed directly to the American people, on the question of food for Germany. There was no mention of America at all, yet everybody knows that the prime source from which cereals for Germany must come, if they are to come at all, is America. He did not say a word about them, and I wish he could have done so. I hope, incidentally, that he will also be able in a few weeks' time to come to the House and tell us fully the result of his investigation into the serious charges made in the "New Statesman, and quoted by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). Those were very serious charges indeed, but my hon. Friend could only say that some were not correct and that others were under investigation. I hope he will be able to tell the House something more about them.361
§ I said just now that we like and admire the Americans. They were our Allies in the war. But I see no reason, in history or ideology, or in the existing circumstances, why we should be irrevocably and automatically tied to American policy. The major respects in, which the two countries, Britain and America, differ at the present time seem to me to be four. The first is the economic chaos in the United States to which I have just referred—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] —and the relative stability of this country. Inept and paralytic leadership permitted price controls to be removed, so that the prices of food and ordinary commodities went soaring overnight.
§ Secondly, there is a political respect in which our two countries differ. It is that, broadly speaking, we in this country at any rate try to judge great international issues on their merits. We do not use them as mere bargaining counters between the parties. In my view, the only respect in which continuity of foreign policy has some merit is that, in this country, we do not have the deplorable and shoddy spectacle which we had in the United States a few weeks ago, before the elections, of, for instance, the miseries of the Jews in Europe being used by the rival parties as a bargaining point. The President was forced into re-issuing his demand for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. This was at once followed by the Republican, Mr. Dewey, saying that there must be many more than that—several hundred thousand—admitted into Palestine straightaway. Then there was a respectably sponsored organisation called the American League for a Free Palestine, demanding the immediate admission into Palestine, with or without British consent, of 173X00BD;Jews—a totally preposterous proposal, but all merely part of the electioneering. We can congratulate ourselves that we do not go in for "politics" (in quotation marks), in the American sense of the word.
§ The third great respect in which we differ is on the question of racial prejudice and discrimination. I agreed with one point made by the hon. Member for West Fife, when he said that we constantly hear condemnation by people in this country—from the Front Bench, too —of the methods by which elections are conducted in countries in Eastern Europe. We actually go to the length of intervening, and sending protests to 362 Rumania or wherever it may be, because they do not conduct their elections in what we regard as the freest and fairest way. But do we ever hear a word of official protest against the almost complete disfranchisement of the negro in the Southern States of the United States? I know a certain amount about this and feel 'deeply about it, because it is only six weeks since I was in the State of Georgia in a town which became notorious a few months ago because it was near the scene of the worst and most disgraceful of recent lynchings. Four defenceless negroes—two men and two women—were taken out of a car and shot by a mob of about 20 white men. That lynching was political in character. It followed one week after the elections for the governorship of the State of Georgia. The people of Georgia returned to office Governor Eugene Talmadge, who had campaigned specifically on this issue of white supremacy and who had said, among other remarks, in his election speeches, "If you hear of a nigger wanting to vote talk to him quietly the night before polling day." Governor Talmadge gave an election pledge that if he were returned, no negro would vote again in elections while he was Governor. Governor Talmadge was returned, and he is already putting his pledge into effect. Immediately after polling day there followed this appalling lynching near the town of Monroe in Georgia.
§ Thus, having recently seen something of that and having felt the atmosphere of racial discrimination that exists in the Southern States, I say that we cannot afford to be too censorious of countries in Eastern Europe and pretend that we, in what are called jointly the Western democracies, are everything that is perfect in the way of political democracy. In Eastern Europe perhaps there are political barriers to enfranchisement. It may be that a man cannot vote if his politics are of the wrong colour. That is disreputable, but is it less disreputable to debar a man from voting because his skin is of the wrong colour? I should say that that is much more disreputable. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington spoke this afternoon so movingly of the "haunting fear," of the "mental sterility" which is to be found in such countries behind the well-known "iron curtain," I could not help casting my mind back to those negroes whom I 363 saw and talked with in the State of Georgia, who live permanently under a colour bar and under a far worse haunting fear.
§ The fourth respect in which, I suggest, our two countries differ considerably is that America at the present time is being swept by a wave of war hysteria. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State saw something of America in the Recess, but I think his duties kept him mainly in and near New York and that he did not have very much time to get around and talk to ordinary Americans. I was fortunate enough to travel pretty widely through the West and South of the United States, and to move about in small towns as well as large, and to talk to hundreds of ordinary Americans. It is a serious thing to say, but I say quite solemnly that the United States is the only great nation in the world today of which it is not true to say that none of the ordinary people want war.
§ There is actually a war fever. You find it in people's conversations in corner drug-stores, in the bus, in the barber's shop—wherever ordinary people foregather. It is, of course, inflamed all the time by such disgraceful newspapers as those of Mr. William Randolph Hearst and Colonel McCormick—which, incidentally, played up to the maximum the hysteria aroused by the incident to which reference has already been made, the shooting down of an American plane in Yugoslavia. Naturally, they never indicated that there might be another side to the story, and that, in fact, the shooting-down of that plane was merely the culmination of a long series of reconnaissance flights in which American aircraft had been trying to photograph Yugoslav secret defences. [HON MEMBERS: "Oh."] I speak of war hysteria as I found it a few weeks ago in America but they are, of course, a volatile people, quick to change in mood. That was the period of a mood of indecision, before the Congressional elections, and now that they have taken the first decisive step on the Gadarene descent towards slump and war, they may possibly be experiencing the momentary lightening and exaltation of spirit which always follows the taking of any decisive step, however wrong it may be. There is no country in the world in which the Four Freedoms, as defined by President 364 Roosevelt, operate fully at the moment; certainly the United States is not such a country. They are not free from fear or free from want, nor indeed do they have, as I have indicated, complete freedom of expression—
§ Mr. Driberg
If I may sum up what I am trying to say in a fundamental philosophy, it seems to me that two marks of a society which we can really call civilised and democratic are these: first, that it is not a society dedicated to the worship of Mammon, to the pursuit of money and material ends alone; secondly, that it is a society which is completely free from any kind of racial or credal intolerance—
§ Mr. Driberg
I as trying to make it even more fundamental than that I should say that racial is much more fundamental than political. People often speak about nationalism as a great curse; we often say that we must learn to diminish our national sovereignties. However, nationalism in itself is very often —not always, but often—largely a question merely of frontiers. It seems to me that racial prejudice, and anything in the nature of a colour bar, is a far worse obstacle to any claim to be a true and free society, and a complete denial of democracy, of Socialism, and, I should say, of Christianity. We cannot, of course, only point with scorn to the Americans. It is true there is no racial discrimination, or practically none, in this country, but I suppose that the lynching near Monroe, Georgia, could have happened in the British Commonwealth. It could, perhaps, have happened in South Africa. In passing, may I say how shocked and distressed some of us were to see the defiance of the United Nations expressed yesterday by General Smuts, and how shocked and pained we also were to see that our own Under-Secretary for the Dominions was obliged to support General Smuts in his claim for the annexation of that territory in South West Africa? But it is, after all, in the United States that the worship of the dollar—
§ Mr. Bracken
These constant attacks on the United States of America seem 365 hardly relevant to the King's Speech. I hope the hon. Member will remember that several hundred thousands of gallant young Americans died for liberty in this war. He ought to speak civilly of their country.
§ Mr. Driberg
I really think the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) might be more usefully employed at North Paddington. He is no doubt greatly in demand there. That was a fatuous and irrelevant interruption. It is for the Chair to decide if a speech is relevant or not relevant to the loyal Address. I am entitled to make these criticisms. There have been many criticisms, from both sides of the House, of other countries, quite a few of whose inhabitants died and were wounded in the war. That is a completely irrelevant point.
However much we may have to admit that no part of the world is completely free from such prejudices, it is in the United States that the worship of the dollar and materialism, in its evil as distinct from its purely philosophic sense, and racial intolerance are most acute and most widespread. Whatever criticisms can be made of the Soviet Union —and many can be made and are made in this House—it is the only great Power in the world which, over one-sixth of the earth's surface, has rooted out the greed for money as such as the primary motive of human endeavour and in which, so far as I know, there is no racial discrimination at all.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I do not know whether the hon. Member happened to hear the speech of his hon. Friend the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith), who called attention to the racial discrimination in Russia in present days against the Jews.
§ Mr. Driberg
The noble Lord must have misheard the speech. I heard it, and I agree that it was somewhat ambiguous at one point. My hon. Friend said that a number of Jews had had to leave Poland—he was not speaking of Russia—because they were being perse- 366 cuted, or feared persecution. Everyone knows there is a great deal of anti-Semitism in Poland, and most of the people responsible for it belong to the relics of the Right-Wing semi-Fascist underground organisations which the Polish Government are trying their best to stamp out. That is the perfectly simple explanation of the point which the noble Lord quoted.
The other day I was standing in Whitehall near the Cenotaph and heard two men talking. It was just before Armistice Day, just before the unveiling by His Majesty of the newly carved dates of the last war. One of the two men was evidently a cynic. He said, "I hope they have left space for the dates of the third world war." The other was a realist. He said, "Don't worry, if there is a third world war, there won't be any Cenotaph to carve dates on."
I do not believe that there is an immediate danger of war, but I believe that some of the courses which have been pursued in the last 15 months tend dangerously towards dividing the world artificially into two. I must warn my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that, however much he may strive for peace, if he finds himself driven irrevocably and inexorably into a near-war situation, the people of this country simply will not follow him to war, now or in five years' time, against Soviet Russia, in partnership with the barbaric thugs of Detroit and the Mammon Imperialists of Washington and Wall Street.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
I think that one of the remarkable contributions made to this Debate tonight came from the hon. Member for Sale & Altrincham (Mr. Enroll). I am sorry to see he has now gone from the House. I do not wish in any way to be unfair to him, but I think it would not be wrong to say that the whole trend of his speech was that we had to fit the economy of this country into that of America, which was going to be founded on a cheap labour supply from Japan. I think he went a step further, and left us with the impression that he was quite prepared to see this country of ours fitting itself into the American economy, and becoming the Japan of the West, the Forty-ninth State, perhaps, of the American Union.
367 Seeing that my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has returned, I should like to have a little difference with him on a remark he made. He said he was prepared to support conscription as being a democratic basis for maintaining the Army. I was sorry to hear that remark coming from him, because I have known his record in the Socialist movement for so long. I wish to state my view, because I have always opposed conscription and shall always do so, on individual grounds and on industrial grounds. So far as the individual grounds are concerned, I think that conscription pays no respect to human personality, it thwarts the development of responsibility and it weakens the sense of avocation. Every one of these human values is absolutely essential to a democracy, and in my judgment conscription destroys such human values. It is diametrically opposed to everything for which democracy should stand. It is unproductive, it is non-creative, and because of that, whether in peace or not, it is a hindrance to social and economic development.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the Army about which the hon. Member is talking as unproductive and non-creative, and not the method of getting recruits?
§ Mr. Rankin
My point is that conscription is the method whereby we propose to recruit men to the Army and, therefore, it comes under the criticism which I make. During the last Session we repealed the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, and that was an action which was received with acclamation on this side of the House. In the Parliamentary Session which lies before us we propose to introduce a conscription Bill. I suggest that if we had had conscription in force in this country in 1927, there would have been no need for the Tories to introduce the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, because conscription will supply the Executive with all those powers recently taken away from them by the abolition of that Act. I can understand conscription in a totalitarian regime, I can understand it in a capitalist form of economy, but I simply cannot understand it in a democratic State.
I now wish to refer to what I think has been the main subject of Debate today, the question of Germany. I agree 368 with all that has been said about the deplorable conditions which exist in Germany. I am in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed and also with the argument that there is an urgent necessity to meet the human needs of the Germans as quickly as possible. But I want to make one thing perfectly clear, and I think I am not alone in expressing this sentiment, that I will be no party to the rebuilding of Germany as a spearhead against Soviet Russia. We must remember that it is not so long since some of those who are now seeking to help Germany were blindly creating the destruction they now lament.
I do not think however that the problem of Germany is the major question which faces us today. I think that problem resides in our relations with the United States of America and the Soviet Union. If we solve that problem, then the German question will present itself in more easy and soluble light. As I see it, the difficulty is that, so far, we have sought to create unity on the basis of a fundamental disunity. During the war the Allies were united only on one thing —the need to destroy Germany. Beyond that they could not see; perhaps beyond that they did not even want to see. Their motives in carrying out that policy were fundamentally different. Soviet Russia were determined that Germany no longer would be a potential springboard for any attack that might be made against them in the future. Great Britain was determined to end, once and for all, a dangerous imperialist competitor, and the United States, because she saw, emerging from the mighty effort that Britain was bound to put up, a nation almost mortally wounded, appeared on the scene Having made Germany a desert, the Allies cannot agree on the next step, because of a undamental disunity which they tried to cloak under the guise of a unity that really was non-existent. They had no common constructive policy, so they do not know where to go from here. Because of that, suspicion developed, and, from that, mutual fear has arisen. The problem that faces our country today s, to me, at least, and I know to many others on this side of the House, grim indeed. On the one hand, we have Russia, and here, perhaps, I am stating in somewhat different language the view which has been expressed on two or three occasions from this side of the House tonight. 369 but I feel it has to be expressed. On the one hand, we have Russia, not unlike us in economic expression, with her 200 divisions, or perhaps only 60, her satellite States, her ruined cities and her political veil, past which we cannot see.
On the other, there is America, with her bases in the Pacific, in Iceland and in Saudi Arabia; with her armed forces lodged in countries and in islands which knew them not before the war; with her Pacific fleet, alone mightier than that of any other nation in the world today; with the purse strings of the world tightly gripped in one hand and the atom bomb in the other; with her cities untouched by war and her economic power unrivalled by any other nation in the world. With that picture before us, she appears, potentially, as the greatest aggressive force in the world today, and, between these two giants, this nation stands. Do we incline one way or the other? The cynic used to observe that, before embarking on war, the first step was to come to terms with the Almighty, and the theologian has warned us that we cannot serve God and Mammon. On the political plane we would appear today to have resolved the theological dilemma, for, with Almighty God on the one side and the almighty dollar on the other, we now seem to be safe in the arms of Croesus, and, by coordination of defence and conscription, we are prepared, or are preparing, for whatever the future, one way or another, may hold.
I suggest that we must put to ourselves the question: Is there any other alternative? My hon. Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith) approached the solution of this problem from a different background to that from which I approach it. Are the only alternatives that present themselves to us the alternatives either of siding with Russia or with America? Is it too late to make an attempt to create in Western Europe a group of democracies akin to ourselves in political expression and economic organisation, impelled by animosity against neither Right nor Left, dedicating itself to the works of peace and prepared to subordinate its sovereignty to a world organisation? I quite admit that the results of the elections in France are, perhaps, not very helpful to that end, but I believe that if the gesture were made from our side there would still be a response from France. I know that some may see in such a group a potential 370 danger, but if, as one of its first acts, it were to extend, in reply to Molotov's offer of disarmament, an invitation to meet him and to discuss in association with the United States of America the practical steps for progressive disarmament in Europe and the world, a great and lasting contribution would be made to world peace, and a new hope would be born in the minds of men.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for calling me at this late hour of the night, because I, like other hon. Members, have on many occasions prepared speeches, but got no opportunity to deliver them. The subject to which I have given particular attention is that of the Control Commission in Germany. Reports that I have received from friends who have been out there, and the result of a personal visit to the Continent during the Recess, have led me to suppose that everything is far from satisfactory. Various points have been dealt with this afternoon connected with this matter. One was with regard to the coal supply. The coal position in the Ruhr at the present moment is somewhat analagous to that of Pay-as-you-earn in this country. The miners in Germany know that, after they have produced a certain amount of coal which is allowed to them for home consumption, the balance will be sent to France, and when we hear of the very unsatisfactory state of affairs in the French zone of occupation, we are not surprised that the German miners have decided that they will only produce coal for their own country. They see no reason why they should produce it for France. Therefore, when they have produced their quota for home consumption, they leave the pits. Absenteeism in the Ruhr is a very serious problem. The miners leave the pits and go out into the countryside to look for food or to gather fuel for the winter. The same sort of thing happens in this country. When the worker has earned as much money as he can reasonably spend, he decides that he will not go on working just for the pleasure of paying Pay-as-you-earn so that the Government may embark upon further schemes of nationalisation which will, ultimately, lower the standard of living in this country.
Another aspect of the Control Commission in Germany at the present time is that of personnel. It has been said this 371 afternoon that there are a number of officers employed in the Control Commission who feel that they would find it difficult to obtain civil employment if they were to come back to this country. We have been told that there will be a drastic cut in the personnel of the Control Commission, and we welcome this as a saving of money to the taxpayers of the country. I would suggest to the Government that when they carry out what I believe to be their intention to reduce the numbers of personnel, they should start at the bottom and finish at the top, because I am told that a lot of weeding out requires to be done there. What we want to know is that really first-class civil servants are doing their job at the top, and that a suitable number of adequately screened Germans will be allowed to carry on the work on the lower levels which many of us feel they are competent to perform. Another aspect which, of course, is affected by our desire to reduce our expenditure in this country is that of inflation—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.