HC Deb 17 October 1946 vol 427 cc1154-92

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

While not wishing to continue the Debate on agricultural implements and their spare parts, I cannot help but remark that I fully understand the irritation of farmers who find themselves without spares; but as a manufacturer, I am bound to say that it takes time to make these arrangements, and if I were asked whether I could normally expect a plentiful supply of spare parts for American machinery at this moment, I should say that of the responsibility for their production rested at the door of the Minister of Agriculture, I should ask who was the Minister of Agriculture two years ago. The right hon. Gentleman has himself to thank for some of the shortages. It is an astonishing thing that we have had two complaints of this sort today. Earlier, there was a complaint that the Secretary of State for Scotland was not present at a vitally important Debate, on which so many Tory Members wished to speak. Then it transpired that practically no one wanted to speak, and the whole thing collapsed about six o'clock.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

We wanted to give the hon. Member a chance.

Mr. Stokes

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will continue to be as tolerant.

I wish to raise an entirely different subject, and to apologise to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the short notice; but ability to take advantage of these quick opportunities is the salvation of the back bencher. Under the ballot system, one might go a long time without an opportunity of raising a subject of importance. The subject which I wish to raise arises out of a Question on Monday addressed to the Minister by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. MacKay) with regard to the proposal to concentrate the headquarters of both the British Army of the Rhine and the Military Government in Hamburg, known generally as the Hamburg project. I realise that as this is an Adjournment Debate, very wide issues on the Control Commission in Germany can be discussed. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will wish to widen the Debate, and to that nobody can object, but I wish to focus my remarks on this point, because it is one that is causing great concern in Germany and great discontent among, I will not say the big white chiefs, but among the British people who have to deal with the day-to-day affairs of the zone. It is, moreover, symptomatic of what has been going on as a result of inadequate political control at the head. I do not blame my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy for that; I merely think he ought to be in Germany.

What is the Hamburg project? It is a proposition that a large building shall be put up in the middle of what is an almost completely devastated city, that it shall be put up at the expense of the German people—with which I do not argue—and that a total of 48 million marks shall be expended on the project. That big building is to be put up right in the centre of Hamburg, and in it, when it is completed, there are to be housed the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine and the Military Government. I will state the case for and against having it there a little later, but the fact remains that this building, which is ultimately, when we clear out—Heaven knows when that will be—to become the property of the German people, will house some 2,300 people, whereas it has caused a great deal of distress to a very much greater number already.

I was puzzled by the answer which the Chancellor of the Duchy gave the other day, because he said that the zonal executive offices of the Control Commission for Germany are at the moment dispersed in a number of separate small towns, and the implication in the answer to the Question is that those are now all to be concentrated in Hamburg; but the information which I have is quite the contrary—the zonal headquarters are now all to be concentrated in Berlin, which is another reason why this project should not be proceeded with. I was surprised when I came back the other day, because I had heard about the Hamburg Poona, to read, a few days afterwards, in the "Daily Herald," that the project had been suspended; but that now appears not to be the case. Those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have been to Hamburg will know the appalling devastation there and the terrible state of distress of some 1,400,000 human beings. The preparations which have been made for the building of this enormous place have already caused the destruction of housing accommodation—I am not talking of dugouts—which was, I will not say unshaken, but at least above the surface of the ground, for 1,400 people. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, in the process of his rehousing project, had dispossessed and destroyed the housing accommodation of 1,400 people, his political career would have been ended for all time.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

What a pity.

Mr. Stokes

The hon. Member will live to regret that remark. He will find that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has made a tremendous success of the project on which he is engaged. I will not, however, discuss that now, but will leave it to the test of time. What is the second result of the Hamburg project? It has resulted in the concentration in the Hamburg area of all the available building operatives for the purpose of this construction, and also all the available materials in the British zone. While houses are badly needed, while people are crying out for houses in the Ruhr where coal cannot be got because there are not enough people to get it, and the housing accommodation is simply frightful, the whole of the building operatives and the building material? have been sent to Hamburg for the purpose of completing this structure. Beyond that, 30,000 people are to be turned out of already overcrowded houses for the purpose of making accommodation for what I call the British Raj.

It is no use saying that it is not so; I have been there myself and have seen it I have walked at random into the houses and seen the conditions in which the people are living. I agree that there is a section of Hamburg, the residential quarter, where the well built houses still stand, but they are not occupied by industrial potentates any longer. It is rarely—and again I pick houses at random—that one does not find six or seven families, probably two in the basement and two on each floor, and, in order that the personnel manning the British headquarters of the Military Government shall have what is considered appropriate accommodation, 30,000 of these folk are to be turned out into accommodation which is already simply hopelessly overcrowded and inadequate.

Of course, there have been promises that furniture is not to be confiscated and that the people are not to be turned out of their houses until at least equal alternative accommodation is available. But the evidence of everyone who has been there is that there is no equal alternative accommodation, and the evidence I have myself shows that furniture is in fact being confiscated. It is no use saying it is not. We had an example when I was there of one leading trade union leader having his furniture confiscated. It was only because of the intervention of one of the Military Government officers, who happened also to be a trade unionist in this country, that the furniture was restored to him. What do these people find who have been bombed to blazes—whether or not they deserved to be is quite outside this argument? They now find themselves dispossessed of the houses and limited accommodation they have and learn that the few things they have scraped together have to be left behind for the use of British people.

It will, of course, be asked what alternatives we are prepared to offer. First of all, I doubt very much whether there is really the need for this ugly hurry to concentrate in Hamburg. I fully appreciate that it is possible to criticise and to say, as the Minister will no doubt say when he replies, that it is highly inefficient to have the staff dispersed as they are over the zone. But they have got along quite well for 18 months and it really would not hurt them to carry on for another year. I agree that it is inefficient, but in the state of things and the background which I will proceed to describe it is really unnecessary, I submit, to make this concentration in Hamburg at the present moment. If the Minister says it is absolutely necessary, why Hamburg? Why not Luneberg, which is not very far away and has, I am told by competent people, fairly adequate accommodation? One of the answers I was given when I raised that particular point was, "Oh, but if we go there so many people will have to live in barracks." Why should they not have to live in barracks? I can see no harm in that in the existing circumstances.

I do not want to mention names in this matter, but the very capable gentleman to whom this refers will recognise himself from my quotation. When I said, "If you must commit this atrocity"— and I think it is an atrocity for reasons which I will state—"why choose this area where you have had to knock down houses belonging to 1,400 people? Why don't you go down the road? It is only half a mile away and there is nothing there at all." The answer I was given was, "We could not possibly go there because that is down in the slums." But we do not propose to allow the building of slums any more in Germany; that is one of the things the war was about. It just shows the hopeless mentality of some of the people on the spot who are responsible for taking decisions. I ask the House just to consider the background of all this. Here we have, projected into the minds of 1,400 people in Hamburg, and many millions more who live in the zone and who are aching to have something done about their housing accommodation and conditions of livelihood, the fact that in the middle of a ruined city which is 68 per cent. destroyed, this apparent British palace is to be built. The industry of the town is completely destroyed; they have been subjected to what I call a series of big bangs. I would only mention the Blohm and Voss idiocy as one example, but there have been others. Last year they had no coal at all, and they kept themselves warm and the pipes unfrozen only by collecting timber from the rubble. A few days ago the theory was that they were not going to have any coal this winter, but things are better now, and I give my hon. Friend credit for making arrangements which will allow them to have a limited amount.

The food situation is bad, even at its best. I know that we have improved the rations, but if we examine the figures we find that the ordinary general labourer, with a wife and two children, has not sufficient money left, when he has paid his taxes, even to buy the limited rations which are allocated to him. That is true, as anybody can find out who takes the trouble. It is admitted by our people in Germany, and they have made reports on the matter to responsible quarters. While it may be some satisfaction to know that what was hitherto 1,100 calories, about the Belsen level, is being increased to 1,500 calories, which is what we call the slow starvation level, it is still true that the general worker with a wife and two children will not be able to pay for those additional rations, because of a system of taxation which is antiquated and useless. The ordinary worker cannot afford, with the balance of income which is left to him, to pay for his necessary weekly budget.

When I come to industrial matters, let me say that I have not met one responsible person in industry understanding ordinary industrial economy who thinks that the industrial conditions of the Potsdam Declaration are any use. I have not found anybody who thinks that the decision of 28th March last year is anything but completely phoney, including the author, and when I went to Germany the first time he shook me warmly by the hand and congratulated me upon my letter to "The Times." "But," I said, "this is a criticism of you." He replied, "I know, but I entirely agree with what you said." Yet, for some extraordinary reason we are still imposing upon these people an industrial level which we know ourselves, and which is admitted by responsible people, to be completely disastrous, holding out no hope of any kind.

Another thing which I would mention is that this requisitioning causes much distress. It is no use the Minister saying, when he replies, that these houses are being requisitioned only in exchange for alternative, equal accommodation, because there is no alternative and equal accommodation to be found. It is no use telling me that when the people come back from the zone and are safely planted in Hamburg, there will be a corresponding let up in the zone. The people in Hamburg cannot go and live in the zone. It might be all very well on paper, but in practice it does not work out. I hope the Minister will issue instructions that requisitioning of furniture and houses must stop. Are we to see, in the midst of this devastation and in a state of things where men and women have not enough money to buy food for their families, have nowhere to live but holes in the ground, and nothing in the shape of a prospect of industrial development, what? A great big gin palace in the middle of Hamburg? For what? For what I call the Hamburg Poona, for the British Raj? Is this to be done when everybody is suffering from cold and hunger, and is it to be surrounded with soldiers carrying fixed bayonets and marching up and down outside? Is that the way to treat a population who should regard us as liberators and not as conquerors? We went there to liberate them from a beastly disease and now that we have done it we are behaving in exactly the same way as the beast did. This is precisely the sort of thing that the Nazis did. That is what the Germans are saying to themselves now. They say, "What is the difference? Here we are down and out and trodden on, beaten and hopeless, and there is this insult to man's intelligence being heaped upon us at this evil moment when we have no hope at all in front of us."

I will conclude by saying I hope that the Minister will take thought. I hope that the other hon. Members in the House tonight will at least support in some degree what I have said. I do not see how we can get the collaboration of these people if we behave in this kind of manner. I do not believe there is a real necessity for it. The grandest gesture would be to say, "This scheme shall go up, but the moment it is finished you shall have it. There is decent habitation there for at least a few hundred of you." Such a policy would give some hope.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)

I welcome this opportunity to say a few words on a subject which is very close to the heart of many people in this country at the present time. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), with all of whose remarks we must agree in point of detail, has done the House a service in using this opportunity for the consideration of a matter which is constantly cropping up in the newspapers, and particularly in the correspondence columns, not only of "The Times" but of other newspapers—reliable papers like the "Manchester Guardian" and the "Daily Herald." Ordinary men and women in the country are coming to wonder what is the actual position in Germany. It was my privilege a few weeks ago to accompany some of my colleagues on a Parliamentary delegation. I do not claim that from that short visit it was possible to extract a great deal of all the reliable facts which are at the disposal of the Minister and the officials. I do not want, in bringing this subject to the notice of my colleagues tonight, to view it from any ultra-sentimental angle, but to look at it as a matter of public interest on humanitarian grounds purely and simply, because I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what is meant by the "Hamburg Project," for example, to which my hon. Friend has already referred.

I hope the Minister in his statement tonight will make clear to this House and the country what is involved in this scheme. Is it a scheme which merely concerns the military personnel—the centralisation of military government—or does it involve the civil government? Will he tell us what is going to be the effect upon this project when the fusion about which we have heard so much recently materialises in a more practical form? It seems to some of us rather premature that these principles- should have been worked out in such detail. My hon. Friend says that it is proposed to put in some 30,000 people—

Mr. Stokes

I did not say put in 30,000 people. If that were so, I should be quite happy. It is taking out 30,000 and putting in about 3,000.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful for the correction. It is to displace 30,000 people and to put in a much smaller number. Five thousand has been mentioned—

Mr. Stokes


Mr. Davies

—as the incoming population for the purpose of administration. We saw from a remarkable letter in ''The Times" the other day from people who do not belong to the Labour Party that as many as 20 people are being asked to leave their rooms to make accommodation for an officer and his wife. We know that if men and women who are already overcrowded in what was a great city are going to be asked to move their goods and chattels to make possible such a setup, it is going to create a very bad taste in the mouths of the people on the spot.

I had the opportunity of seeing some of the conditions to which I propose to make reference when I was in Hamburg a few weeks ago. We saw people living in all sorts of unsatisfactory conditions. Some were living in cellars. Much good work had been done to adapt the upper storeys, the attics, and many people were living in a small space there.

I know that this job is most difficult and that it is easy to criticise. My endeavour tonight is not to criticise anybody in any personal way. I recognise that however well the job may be done, there are inherent in this situation great difficulties deriving, in my view, from some mistakes in the Potsdam Agreement—what has been done with some of the shipyards, the way in which the coal situation has worked out, the shortage of steel, the world shortage of food. All these things are having repercussions upon the sorry state of things in Hamburg. My information is that there is a high rate of infantile mortality there, that tuberculosis is at a very high level.

I am sure that as good Socialists and as good Britishers we would not wish to pile on the agony, having defeated the enemy on the field of battle. It goes very badly against the grain of British people to be in any sense vindictive. While we believe that they have asked for many of those things which have come to them—and, my goodness, they did come to them, as we can see from some of these erstwhile great German cities—my view is that now we should do everything we can to set the nation upon its feet once again, so that it can take its fair place in the comity of nations in a sane and proper manner. I want us to have such a basis of economy, so to plan the housing, so to share the potential foodstuffs of the world, that we shall create an atmosphere in which we may expect a different state of affairs to eventuate in the years ahead.

So I hope the Minister tonight will tell us exactly what is involved in the Hamburg project. He said on Monday in reply to a Question of mine, that my suggestion that some 30,000 people were not to be asked to change their homes, or to evacuate in some way to make room for some 5,000 people, was inaccurate. Will he tell us what actually is the position? He went on to say further that it was not expected that this scheme in any case would materialise until late 1947 and possibly the spring of 1948, or maybe the summer of that year. We ask the reasonable question, How can we project our minds to such a date as 1948 in view of the impending and the constantly changing position in Germany? We hope that Germany will be a united nation where the Russian, French, British and American zones may work together, and I should have thought that that would have had the ultimate result at not too distant a date of rendering possible a very material reduction in the number of people we have there. So we may not have to think in terms of 30,000 people or of 5,000 people or of moving 30,000 people to provide accommodation for 5,000. I should have thought that in such matters as transport, in such matters as local government, in such matters as running the economic life of the nation, in most of these jobs of administration the Germans could have very well done these things for themselves.

A point which is made today is that there is too much duality of Government. That is what I think the Germans themselves are saying and some observers are also saying it: that we are getting down to too much detailed work ourselves. If that is a fact, it is a totally erroneous approach. We might well act on the advice given by the Estimates Committee earlier in the year, when they said that in their view there was too great a number of people already in the Commission in Germany, and that at the earliest opportunity there should be a reduction. I understood the Government were sympathetic to that view, and I want the Minister to give an indication of what that may mean in terms of numbers and accommodation. I am satisfied from my own observations that this thing needs to be very carefully examined before we commit ourselves.

I do not raise this matter on any sentimental grounds, or because I have any special love for the Germans, but because I saw for myself conditions on the spot which filled me with grave anxiety. I was told that some 28,000 to 40,000 people were living in totally unsatisfactory conditions and that some 2,000 people had no homes at all. They were roaming about the place while others were living in air raid shelters and bunkers. Hamburg used to be a great commercial city, and some of those affected are folk who were not our worst enemies. But we are alienating some of our well wishers who would work with us. If that is the case, it is most regrettable.

9.8 p.m.

Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)

I am sure the House owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) for raising this important subject. He dealt very fully with the Hamburg project and has also touched on other features of our occupation in Germany. I feel there is no problem, except possibly that of foreign intervention in China, which is of greater importance today than this question of Germany. It is important for three reasons. The first is because Germany is the keystone of the economic and political life of Europe, and without that keystone our ancient European civilisation can never be built up. Secondly, it is important because of the enormous cost to the British taxpayer, which he can very little afford to bear. He will find after a while that he is put into the position of a man mentioned by Jefferson who was holding the ears of a wolf which he was neither able to hang on to nor willing to let go. In other words, we are in a very awkward and dangerous position.

Thirdly, it is important because it is one of the few places in which the four Great Powers are meeting and trying to govern, so that it is, as it were, an experiment in a mutual undertaking between the four Powers. If they are not successful in Germany, how can we hope for them to be successful anywhere else? The world is naturally looking to this experiment with very great interest and concern. At the moment it is no use deceiving ourselves by thinking that the public are otherwise than disturbed at the tales which are coming from Germany. We, as Members of Parliament, get letters from officials in Germany, from Germans and from other persons, who all tell us tales which fill us with concern. I have no doubt that to some extent they are exaggerated, but there is a basis and foundation of truth which we must investigate.

So far as I can see, there are two grounds of complaint. The first is that there is a lack of a general clear cut policy for Germany, and the second is that there are certain administrative weaknesses. I believe that the British Government are not to blame for the lack of a general clear cut policy. I believe that they have done their best, both before the Potsdam Agreement was arrived at, and afterwards, to persuade the Powers to come to a sensible agreement with regard to Germany. In the planning stages which took place in 1944, it was always assumed that Ministries would be set up in Germany, through which and by means of which orders could go down to the four zones. It was never contemplated, for instance, that the four Allied Powers would try to govern without central Ministries located in Berlin. I believe that it has been our policy all through that those Ministries should be set up, so that we cannot blame the Government for that. We must look further afield for blame. I feel that Russia must accept the blame for much that is happening in Germany today in the chaos, political and economic, there.

For the administrative weaknesses, however, I believe that we can levy a good deal of criticism at the Government. I am not saying that any of us could have done any better, but they have the duty and we are onlookers. Therefore, it is our responsibility and duty to our constituents to see that such help as we can give them is freely and fully given. I hope that we shall have from the Chancellor of the Duchy tonight some statement as to the effect of the proposed fusion between the British zone and the United States zone, first of all, whether it is to mean any reduction in the expense of the zone to the British taxpayer, and secondly, what effect the fusion is to have on our political and economic policy in Germany.

As I understand it, we had hoped and intended to support the Social Democrats in our zone, and also to nationalise and socialise as many industries as we possibly could. In fact, I fail to see how anyone can put the industries of the Ruhr on their feet without a large measure of nationalisation. We found it most desirable, and in fact essential, to do it in this country. It is far more essential to do it in that desolated country in which the Ruhr is a great industrial centre. But I do not see how we can nationalise half a railway or half a colliery company. Therefore, if the Americans, are prepared, in their zone, to encourage monopoly capitalism, as we presume they must be, what is to be the effect on our plans for Socialism and nationalisation in our zone? The two cannot marry. We have seen all sorts of curious marriages in our time, both political and natural ones. This I suggest, is an absolute impossibility. The two things cannot possibly be rationalised.

Therefore, it is most important for the future of Germany that we should have an understanding from the Chancellor tonight as to how he proposes that those two factors can be accomplished. When the Foreign Secretary is in New York, I hope he will make a determined effort to effect an agreement amongst the "Big Four" for a united Germany on a federal basis. I believe a federal basis should be one in which the States have the reserve of power and the central Government have those powers which are assigned to them by the States; but I am not going to quibble about the exact details so long as there is a federal form of government in Germany with State representatives of the central Government controlling those organisations such as economics and transport which affect the life of the people. If it is found to be impracticable at this time to get the other nations concerned to agree to this political and economic federation of Germany, I hope at least the Foreign Secretary will be able to persuade the representatives of the other nations to set up German ministries in Berlin which can control German life from an administrative point of view. I hope that we shall have that satisfaction when the Foreign Secretary returns from America.

With regard to administrative weaknesses, I think one cause of these weaknesses is the fact that the Chancellor has not seen fit to go in for quality rather than quantity in the servants that he has in Germany. For the last eight months we have pressed him on numerous occasions in this House to appoint a long term Civil Service in place of the short time, spasmodic, and uncertain service which he has today. He really cannot expect men of eminence in any profession to go to Germany when they may have notice at any time and be turned out of their employment. Until that is remedied, we are just playing with this question of administering Germany. Then, there is a definite lack of grip in the political sense. I think hon. Members opposite suggested a Minister of State resident in Berlin. I am not inclined to favour that. I suggest that the Chancellor should have assistance and that the Government should appoint either a Parliamentary Secretary or a Vice-Chancellor, or whatever they like to call him, to assist him. The spectacle of the unfortunate Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster controlling 23 million people who are mostly in most unfortunate, unhappy circumstances, without any help whatsoever in the Parliamentary sense, is ludicrous and is again merely trifling with the problem. It is quite time the Government made up their minds to appoint a Parliamentary Secretary so that one of them can pay frequent visits to Germany whilst the other remains here to deal with Parliamentary matters.

I think that one of my hon. Friends, who is much better able to do so, will deal with the economic situation. However, I would like to say a few words on the question of coal in the Ruhr. It is obvious that in order to get the economic life of Germany on to a proper footing we must have more coal from the mines in the Ruhr. If we get more coal from the Ruhr we will run into a lot of trouble with the French. The French do not understand why even now they are not getting far more coal from the Ruhr. I was in Paris recently and I discussed this subject with a number of prominent politicians and trade union leaders. None of them had ever heard the reasons why coal could not go to France in large quantities There seems to have been a breakdown in our publicity services in Paris. I suggest that the Government should take this matter in hand and, by newsletter or by this paper which I understand they are starting, they should publish widely the reasons for the lack of coal for France from the Ruhr. Otherwise, they will find that, whilst setting up industry in Germany and getting it on its feet again, they are imperilling our good relations with the Western European countries.

Finally, I would request the Government to take the lead, both in regard to Germany and the Continent generally, in encouraging the Social Democrats wherever they may be found. Very little has been done in this respect, as we know. After the General Election of July, 1945, there was a general feeling throughout Europe in the Social Democratic ranks that here, at last, was the great friend to whom they could look. Today, I think no one will deny that many of the Social Democrats and the Socialists in Europe are discouraged. I know very well, and I appreciate, the great difficulties of the Foreign Secretary. I know what trouble he has had and what an awkward situation he has had to meet, but I ask him now to give a definite lead from this country to those movements in Europe on which we can rely for help in the future when we might need it, and which now need the help that only we can give.

9.21 p.m.

Major Bramall (Bexley)

I do not wish to deal in any detail with the Hamburg project which the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) introduced as the first subject in the Debate on this question, because he dealt with it so extremely comprehensively. I would merely like to say that I endorse very heartily all that the hon. Member said on that subject, though not all that he said on every subject which he touched upon. One sees quite easily how inconvenient it is at the present time to have the headquarters of the Control Commission, the headquarters of the Army and of other Services in Germany scattered throughout a number of small towns in Westphalia, but to say that it is inconvenient is to put it at its highest. It is no more than that. If we had in Germany a country with its housing even in the comparatively healthy state that we have in this country, it would perhaps be an excellent project to say that we would destroy a certain amount of housing accommodation and set up a single unified headquarters, but we must remember that, while this new headquarters is being built in Hamburg, all the accommodation in all those small towns in Westphalia is occupied, the people who have been turned out of their houses to make way for these headquarters number tens of thousands, and that that housing accommodation which is still being occupied will still be occupied in 1948. It is in that light that we must look at the problem.

When we had an opportunity, before the Recess, of discussing the problem of Germany, I was fortunate enough to be able to make certain observations about the manner in which, in my estimation, we were failing in what I regard as our one single job in Germany—to build up a democracy and make it possible for Germany once more to take her place as a healthy member of international society. I made the point then that I thought our attitude towards Germany was wrong, and that the political liberty and knowledge of the people did not even come up to the policy which the Government had laid down. The policy was not realised and was not carried out. I think that, since that time, there have been numerous improvements in Germany in respect of administration and the carrying out of something like a political policy, but I am very much afraid that these political and administrative reforms have been very largely nullified because the economic situation has immeasurably deteriorated since we last debated this subject two and a half months ago.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a recent speech, drew attention once more to the fact that we, the victims, are virtually in the position of paying reparations to the vanquished in this war, and he made it clear that, far from this tendency to pay reparations diminishing, we were in serious danger of having to increase these payments. He in no way exaggerated the situation. If it were necessary for us to spend this money in order to carry out our object of turning Germany into a decent democratic country, I should not grudge it. But, far from that being the case, we are spending this money and yet the situation in respect to the fulfilment of our goal is daily becoming worse. If it were inevitable that we should spend this money and yet get so little return, then we ought not to begrudge it. But again, I say it is not inevitable.

What is the background of this payment of reparations by the victor to the vanquished? It is that, even after the enormous assaults by bombing and other forms of warfare on Germany, we have still a vast industrial potential in that country. We know that in the past that industrial potential has been used for war, but, after all, we have the Armies of four Allied victor nations on the soil of Germany and if they cannot see that any further industrial potential is used for peace and not for war purposes then they are very much less efficient than I give them credit for being.

We have that vast potential and, at the same time, in practically every other country in the world, with the exception of the United States of America, there is a state of want for every form of commodity almost unparalleled in the world's history. At the present moment this vast industrial potential is not just standing still; it is steadily rotting. That is the truth of the position with regard to the economic life of Germany. Because we are not using it, it is not just standing still. If things could remain as they are, and if we could stop the clock for a couple of years until we had worked out our policy and decided what to do with German industry and economic life, we might, perhaps, be content to let this matter rest. But that is not the position; the machines in those factories are steadily rotting, becoming inefficient and getting nearer to being useless altogether.

The key to the situation is, of course, coal. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) referred to the need of getting our Western Allies to see the position that if we get more coal from the Ruhr, as we hope we shall, we cannot just step up the exports from the Ruhr. We must, by every means in our power, try to bring our Western Allies to regard the coal we are getting at the moment as an investment in German industry. What use are we making of Germany today? We are getting from Germany two things—coal and timber. In my view, that is the height of folly. We are getting from Germany the two raw materials without which it is absolutely impossible to do anything with the rest of Germany. Because we are taking that coal, a vast amount of German industry must remain idle. It is incredible to anyone who has seen the devastation of housing, and who has read about the situation in Germany after the bombing, to realise how much of its industry still stands today. We have that vast industry just going from bad to worse.

Mr. Stokes

May I interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend to ask him to make it clear to the House that we are not taking any of this coal; it is some of the other Allies who are doing it? No coal is coming from Germany to England.

Major Bramall

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interruption. When I said that we were taking the coal, I did so in the sense that this was the country which has control of the coalmines and that we are, therefore, responsible for sending out the coal. At the same time, it is true that we are not the beneficiaries in any sense.

I was privileged the other day to hear a person who had been a leading and distinguished man of the Government service in Germany talking about the German economic situation. He said that if in August we had had the courage to make this investment of coal in German industry, we might perhaps have done it by a moratorium of three months on the export of coal. I am not an expert on the subject, but I believe that today nothing less than a year of such a moratorium would be reasonable, not to enable German industry to attain anything like her former industrial power or to be in a position to make war with her industry, but to attain a reasonable level. I do not say that such a moratorium would enable Germany to attain the Potsdam level of industry. Hon. Members have quite rightly criticised the level of industry that was laid down in the Potsdam declaration; but the level of industry in the Potsdam declaration is not practical politics today. It is not worth discussing because we cannot come within shouting distance of attaining that level of industry today.

Let us think of something more immediate. Let us think of attaining a level of industry where we can keep the machines in such a state that they will be machines and not become a mass of rusting scrap. More important, let us think of attaining a level of industry where we can keep the workers who will work those machines as workers and not also as rotting masses of scrap. That is the human position in Germany today. We have there a country on poor relief. I am not sufficiently familiar with the mind of the German people, but I believe that if given the chance, they are willing to work their passage home. The only prosperous industry in Germany today is that of working for the Military Government. That is one of the most important industries in the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the black market."] The black market is another important industry, and there is the industry of producing coal for export. We know, and the Germans know too, that they have to work to rebuild other countries, but they cannot rebuild other countries if their own country is steadily becoming less efficient from both the mechanical and the human point of view. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to reconsider this question of coal export, and see whether we and our Western Allies cannot have a moratorium for a limited period and treat this coal as an investment to enable us to put a limited amount of German industry upon its feet. I am not, of course, asking for a cessation of exports. I think if we had such a moratorium we would see a miraculous increase in coal production, because the German miners would feel that they were doing something for their own country, and we know to our own cost how strong an emotion is patriotism in Germany.

If we could bring this industry once again to something like a reasonable state of health, could we not go a step further and use this industry to meet some of the frightful shortages in the world and, perhaps, to meet some of our own shortages? There has been a lot of criticism of the Russian policy in Germany, and with most of it I am in agreement, but one thing for which we should not blame them is the fact that they have used German industry to meet some of the shortages from which they are suffering in Russia. It seems to me to be the most elementary common sense. It may be galling for a German worker—and personally I do not mind particularly whether it is—to have to work for his conquerors rather than for his own countrymen, but it is far more galling and, incidentally, it is hopeless nonsense, not to work for anybody, and that is the position today. Let us make other forms of investments. It has been suggested that the Americans are going to do so. Why should we be behindhand in our policy? Why should we not make an investment in raw materials? All the use we are making of Germany today is to take raw materials out. Let us put some raw materials in. Many of our shortages in this country are caused by an absence of manpower and by our inability to convert various industries from war to peace. Perhaps we could find in Germany just the complement we need. If we could not, there are many stricken countries in Europe which could.

Therefore, surely every possible call of economy, every possible call of our own national self-interest, and every possible call of internationalism and humanitarian-ism, from whatever standpoint it is regarded, seem to demand that we should take the commonsense viewpoint and make this investment in Germany so that we can make Germany useful to herself, to give her a chance of working her passage back into the comity of nations—and, incidentally, show that democracy is not just something which is the equivalent of starvation, but that it can work and bring them back into the comity of nations, at the same time doing ourselves a good turn.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. Grossman (Coventry, East)

When I was listening to this discussion of the Hamburg project, I could not help remembering a conversation I had with a German anti-Fascist who had just been thrown out of his house in Frankfurt when they were forming what the Frankfurt people call the "K.Z. Amerika," the American concentration camp. That was the "American Poona" in the middle of Frankfurt. I wonder whether it is wise for us in this respect to follow the American example in Hamburg. We are not discussing merely a question of housing or rehousing the Germans. We are discussing a symbol of our occupation. I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bexley (Major Bramall), that we want to concentrate our Government in Germany as far as possible, and to avoid any inconvenience. What I am concerned with is the method we are using for giving houses to our people and the sort of social life we expect our people to have. In Frankfurt the Americans expect the Americans to live only with Americans, that they should live with barbed wire around them, cut off from the Germans outside. I wonder whether that is the right way to give our people a feeling of their task in Germany?

It has been suggested—and I believe it is practised in certain parts of the French zone—that we might let the Germans keep one room in their house and give the rest to a British officer and his family. Other people have told me that can only produce the wrong relationship between the British and the Germans. Is it really considered that we should treat the Germans as we have treated Indians in the past, as a Colonial people? Is that the relationship we want to engender? If we do not, is not the Hamburg project wrong from the start as a symbol of our Government? I cannot help feeling that many hon. Members of this House, and many of the general public, are still suffering from the propaganda of the war. They move from "Vansittartism" to something which is equally wrong at the moment, an attitude of treating Germans as a potential Colonial people. I sometimes wonder whether some hon. Members do not regard them as potential native troops for fighting some one or other. If we are giving that impression we are not making a unification of Germany possible. I suggest that we must gain the respect of the Germans. We will not do that if we behave as a new Hitler, if we behave as though we were a different sort of people with different standards of living between upper and lower classes of people.

I believe we should demand that those who go to Germany should not only be induced to go there for the highly comfortable life which is offered. Whatever life is going to be offered, I do not believe anyone who goes there because he thinks he has a soft job, or because he thinks he will get a house to himself rather than a house with a German in one room, will be the better for that. I think if it is true that people will not take jobs on the Control Commission without having completely separate houses, and completely separate compounds surrounded by barbed wire, it is much better they should not be there. If we are to offer that sort of inducement we shall get the wrong sort of official I do not think anyone wants to get that sort of official. We have heard about the shortage of staff. The trouble is not shortage of staff in Germany. We have plenty of staff in Germany. The trouble is shortage of policy, and shortage of quality in the staff.

I would like to make one suggestion. It was my impression in Germany that where we have substituted civilian for military Government on the whole we have done worse than before. What has really impressed me, looking back—and I was very critical of the soldiers there—was what an amazing job they did with so very little. They did not live in separate houses. They settled down quickly in the emergency, and did an astonishing job under emergency conditions. I wonder why it is that there is this general German impression that the new Control Commission in replacing the Military Government has not always the same qualities of integrity and soldierliness that the soldiers possessed. The soldiers had integrity which, I feel, some of these carpet-baggers—to be perfectly crude—are lacking. Some people are going there because they feel that that is the place where they can earn more money than they can at home, and where it is easier to get a comfortable, high, senior job. One of the most urgent things to do is not merely to cut down the staff, but to give a different type of incentive to the people being recruited, so that they should not be recruited by bribes of comfort, but with a vocation for the job and for the discomfort they are likely to suffer.

There is one other suggestion on recruitment I should like to make. I wonder if we could not do more if men were recruited for permanent service in the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and if men in the civilian Ministries were seconded to Germany. How much should we save on our military Services, for instance, if we recruited, say, 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. more men than are required in the civilian Ministries and sent them to Germany? Thus, we should recruit men who felt they were entering upon a permanent career in which they went to Germany as one stage in their advance in their careers. We could have men who would replace the military, and who would feel that they were whole time servants, whose life was devoted to the Ministry they had joined. We cannot do that with the 10-year men. That is not the type of men we want for the job.

I was shocked when once again the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech yesterday, made it look as though our major interest in Germany at the moment was the saving of money, and that the only interest there was for us was to cut down the £80 million to £75 million by some means or another. Of course, we want to make sure that the £80 million is well used in preventing a revival of German militarism. I am very concerned lest the Chancellor's work in Germany will be hampered by the public impression that his major job is to save money. His major job is to see that the money is well spent, and I should prefer to see an increase in the amount spent in Germany if the issue is regarded as a long term investment, not only for saving ourselves from militarism, but as a long term economic investment as well. Then we can look forward to the Chancellor carrying out his job; his job is not merely to save now and have a third world war as a result. We have bad administration, because we are getting a bad type of man, and he is not given a chance. He must know that this section of the world is regarded as one of our most important responsibilities. The other day we heard the Prime Minister tell us that £30 million was readily to be spent on atomic research, but surely research on how to solve the German problem is worth while, and I hope that we shall have a clear statement that the Chancellor dissociates himself altogether from the suggestion that mere cheeseparing and the saving of pounds here and there is to be the basic policy for Germany.

9.44 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

I rise, not for the purpose of making a speech, but to make a statement. This Debate arose rather unexpectedly, and it must not be supposed, because no one has risen from these Benches to speak in it, that we do not attach the greatest importance to the subject under discussion. We do, and certainly in the new Session we shall ask for a full day on Germany. The only other observation I want to make is to say that, like other hon. Members in the House, I have been profoundly impressed by the last three speeches we have hard. I should like to make this observation. In my age-long experience of this House I have always thought that an essential part of the fibre of the House of Commons has been its strong sense of moral responsibility, which is a matter which goes quite beyond party. Whether we like it or not, we have an immense moral responsibility, as well as a physical and constitutional responsibility, for British-occupied Germany. We cannot divest ourselves of that responsibility. It is with us day and night, and the sooner we, as a House, realise it, and the sooner the country realises it, the better it will be for the solution of the problems at issue.

9.45 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hynd)

As the noble Lord has rightly pointed out, this Debate was somewhat unexpected, and has spread over quite a wide field which it would be impossible to deal with adequately in the time that is now left to me. The Debate was originally raised on the question of the Hamburg project, and I think it would be well, while reserving what time may be available for dealing with some of the other questions that have been raised, to deal specifically in the first place with this question. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has been denunciatory without qualification of the Hamburg project, but I would like the House to appreciate just what is involved. It is true, as the hon. Member for Ipswich said, that our present zonal executive administration, as distinct from the central administration which is situated in Berlin, is at the present time distributed amongst a number of small towns and villages within the zone, a situation which has arisen from the fact that in the first stages of the occupation the real need was speed in establishing headquarters and the various offices and contacts, and that has been the position up to date. In those towns and villages, however, apart from the quite obvious fact that there must be considerable waste of time, inefficiency and a large amount of unnecessary travel, there do not exist the services necessary to enable an efficient central administration to be carried on. Also, with the development of the devolution of responsibility to German zonal administrations, which themselves have to be concentrated somewhere and with which we have to maintain contact, it has become increasingly necessary that we should look around for a suitable site in which to establish our zonal headquarters.

I would point out in this connection that far from this being, in total, an addition to the burden upon German housing facilities and accommodation, it should in fact economise them, because these distributed sections of our administration all have their services, their buildings for messes and clubs and so on, which could be concentrated in a common centre. The question that is raised by a number of hon. Members is, if this is the case, if it is necessary to concentrate—and the hon. Member for Ipswich has agreed, although he said that we had managed all right until now and could carry on probably for another year that the present situation is inefficient—why should we continue inefficiency, particularly when, as I say, in the total result, in spite of the considerations which exercise the mind of my hon. Friend in particular, the pressure on German housing accommodation will not be relieved by our staying where we are?

We have selected Hamburg for very clear and specific reasons. It was necessary that we should have a substantial town where there are facilities and services to enable an efficient administration to be carried on, with ready contacts with all parts of the zone, telephonic, transport and other. Hamburg presented the most suitable site from that point of view. Hamburg is equally the centre of the political, cultural and commercial life of the British zone. Hamburg also happened to be the town which physically was most suited for this purpose, because all the big towns in the British zone have been very seriously damaged and, in some cases, almost entirely obliterated as a result of the war. In Hamburg it happened that there were a number of suitable buildings still standing, and suitable cleared spaces upon which new buildings could be developed. It meant the rebuilding of quite a large number of flats, the reconstruction of war damaged houses, the completion of houses which had been left unfinished at the beginning of the war, and repairs to a large number of houses which had suffered minor damage.

Those were the reasons which persuaded us to select Hamburg, but in any case we had to look somewhere for a central point for administration, and Hamburg has been selected. It was not selected for the projected scheme without the most careful consultation with the German authorities. They have been consulted at every point, and their reactions will probably interest the House, because they have not been the reactions which one would gather from most of what we have heard here, and from the comments which have been made in the Press. I have discussed this myself with the authorities in Hamburg, and unanimously the public representatives of the Germans there welcomed the choice of Hamburg. Why was this? It was because, in the present conditions in Germany, there is a tremendous amount of rebuilding and reconstruction to be done. We obviously could not do a lot of this work at the same time in every part of the zone, and it is therefore to the advantage of Hamburg that we should have selected it for this purpose, concentrating their manpower and other facilities.

Mr. Stokes

Does the Chancellor mean to represent to the House that responsible Germans in Hamburg welcome this scheme at this moment?

Mr. Hynd


Mr. Stokes

It is contrary to my information.

Mr. Hynd

I could quote from the minutes of meetings I have held in Hamburg. I have the papers here, and I can show them to the hon. Member. He will see that the German representatives have expressed satisfaction.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

Who are these representatives?

Mr. Hynd

They are representatives of the German local authority in Hamburg, and representatives of various political parties and trade unions whom I met in conference on the subject. We have laid down as a first consideration, in regard to this project, that so far as it is admissible German interests should be safeguarded. I think that the House would agree that it was desirable we should do so. It is essential that we should have the accommodation, because as the noble Lord has said, we have a tremendous responsibility in regard to the Germans, both morally and constitutionally. I do not think anyone in the House would quarrel with the fact that the Control Commission is in Germany, or would suggest that it should be brought out entirely. In so far as they require accommodation, we have laid down that there shall be no displacement of Germans, unless and until suitable alternative accommodation is made available. The hon. Member for Ipswich says that there is no equal alternative accommodation available in Hamburg. It is quite true that there is not equal alternative accommodation for everyone. What we have done is to ensure a minimum standard is laid down for those people who have to be removed to make accommodation available, and such standards are not enjoyed by the great majority of people in Germany under present conditions.

Mr. Stokes

May we have some clarity on this point? Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the alternative accommodation now being offered is in any respect equal to the already over-congested accommodation from which these people have been turned out—because it is not?

Mr. Hynd

Accommodation from which they have been turned out varies. The accommodation into which they are being put is good accommodation in relation to the conditions in Germany today. It provides room, air, heating, furnishing and other amenities, which as I say, are not enjoyed by large numbers even in Hamburg. There is quite an amount of misrepresentation and misunderstanding on this matter. There have been stories reported in the Press, and elsewhere, which in no way present the real situation. I am satisfied that casual observers have been misled by the, crowds of refugees pouring into Germany, who are living under very unhappy conditions, and relating that to the Hamburg project. That is entirely erroneous. But we have gone so far as to control the speed of the Hamburg project to the possibilities of providing this alternative accommodation. It is partly because we have insisted on this condition of alternative accommodation, because we have had to switch building materials and labour to the Ruhr, owing to the importance of getting miners' houses restored, and the industry into a swing, that we have already decided to delay the project very considerably. That is the reason why I mentioned, in a reply to a Question the other day, that it will not be completed before the spring of 1948. This will probably have some considerable effect on the size of the project in regard to the accommodation required for the Control Commission.

We have made this further provision in regard to the situation in Hamburg in order to relieve pressure on housing conditions there, that refugees, who have poured into the zone in their hundreds of thousands during recent months, shall be directed away from Hamburg into other parts of the zone. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich says that the fact that we are releasing accommodation at Lubeck and Minden, and other parts where the central administration is distributed at the present time, will make no difference, because the Germans will not go there from Hamburg. But the fact is that accommodation is being released and will be rapidly filled by refugees who would otherwise go to Hamburg. Therefore, pressure on Hamburg will be released to that extent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. A. Edward Davies) asked what was the size of the project. That is something we cannot assess precisely so far ahead as 1948, but we have had to go on with some form of calculation. Originally, the plan was to provide for a total staff, for the central zonal administration of the Commission, of 8,780, of which 2,000 are already in Hamburg. That was the project which was intended for the spring of 1947. As a result of the policy we have been pursuing in the zone, of devolving responsibility on to the German administration, we have already been able to make considerable reductions in our estimates of the anticipated staff. We-have been able to review the project to the point that instead of 8,780 we shall now provide for 4,500 to be housed or accommodated in Hamburg by the spring of 1948.

We cannot foresee what developments will take place in the interval. The total staff estimated was 4,500, by 1948. This will include 2,500 single officers and men, who will be accommodated in 12 blocks of flats which are being built now in the city for that purpose. That is to say, 2,000 of the personnel will require accommodation elsewhere. Of that number 700 are already accommodated in Hamburg, and they will not require further accommodation, so the maximum amount of accommodation required will be for 1,300. That will not be until the spring of 1948 or, late in 1947, and there will be no evictions in connection with the Hamburg project until late in 1947, by which time there is every possibility that there will be still further reductions in staff.

Mr. Medland (Plymouth, Drake)

Will the Minister make it clear whether the 2,500 people are in addition to those already in the Regional Commissioners' quarters, and will the Regional Commissioners continue in office?.

It being 10 o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Joseph Henderson.]

Mr. Hynd

The 2,000 in question will not be in addition to the total staff of the Commission as provided for today, but it certainly will not mean that we shall abolish the Regional Commissioners from their office. They will continue for the regional organisation. If it were the case, and we hope it may be, that by the time this project is completed—assuming that we are in the meantime able to provide the necessary building manpower and materials for the purpose—and assuming that it is completed by the beginning of 1948—and we have, as a result of zonal fusion, or as a result, maybe, of the establishment of a central German administration in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement, a still further devolution of responsibility on to the Germans, and a still greater reduction in the necessary supervisory Control Commission staff—Hamburg will have gained to that extent. The intention is that the building and repair of houses, the reconstruction of badly damaged houses, and the completion of houses that had been begun but not completed before the war, will represent new buildings to Hamburg, and will make more accommodation available for the Germans.

I do not think that the hon Member for Ipswich or the hon. Member for Burslem would suggest that we should stop all building in Germany outside the Ruhr. We are concentrating on the Ruhr necessarily, but we are endeavouring, so far as materials and manpower permit, to develop the building and repairs of houses wherever we can. The fact that we are concentrating on a particular town does not reduce the total amount of building and repair work, and, to that extent, it will be to the advantage of the German people.

The question was raised, I think by the hon. Member for Burslem, about the effect of the movement of families. Some confusion has arisen with regard to the situation in Hamburg today. There has been, and there will be, no requisitioning of houses in connection with the Hamburg project and the concentration of our zone executive staff unless and until alternative accommodation is provided. There has been a certain amount of requisitioning to provide for the families of the personnel who are at present in Hamburg—very little, but some. I do not know whether the criticism that has been made of this development is so strong as to suggest that we should cancel out the decision taken some time ago that families should be allowed to join their men in Germany. That suggestion has been present.

An hon. Member made reference to a letter, which was recently published in "The Times," from a number of well-known ladies who were concerned about the situation arising from the arrival of the families, and the suggestion was unfortunately made, without any sound basis whatever, that these families were living in the height of luxury in Germany. Reference was made to that letter as evidence of the fact that this was a mistake. There have been other letters in "The Times" since, and, without reading them here, I would suggest that hon. Members who are concerned with the real conditions in which families are having to live in Germany should refer to those letters for more information of the facts.

Mr. Stokes

Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many persons have been displaced? I think mention has been made of 30,000.

Mr. Hynd

I do not suppose for a moment that there will be anything like 30,000. The maximum estimate we have at the moment, assuming that in 1948 we still have the same amount of staff and there has not been sufficient rebuilding, would be 13,000 Germans at the outside; but let me point out that we are repairing and rebuilding houses for no fewer than 8,000 in Hamburg for the transfer of these families, and that, in addition, there is accommodation for at least 5,000 being released in the zone, making a total of 13,000. This is being done in order to ensure that, as far as the Germans are evacuated from their present accommodation for the purposes of this move, they shall be guaranteed alternative accommodation before the move is made. That is a condition of the move. I might say that already in Herford and other parts of the zone where sections of the administration are housed at the present time, we have derequisitioned no fewer than 214 houses in recent months, and that at a time when families are going out. That, of course, is a net gain in these areas. I do not believe that even the most ardent critics of the Hamburg scheme—and I think the criticism is based largely on a failure to appreciate precisely what is being done—would suggest that there would be any advantage whatever in abandoning this scheme and in stopping the plans for the rebuilding of Hamburg, which have been received with such a welcome by responsible Germans in Hamburg, and would suggest that we have anything whatever to gain from retaining the present dispersed staff, with the waste of manpower, time and efficiency which necessarily go with the present situation.

With regard to the Ruhr, to which the hon. Member for Ipswich referred, while we have had to suspend a certain amount of the operations in connection with the Hamburg project in order to transfer the men and materials to the Ruhr, that is only one very small part of what we have been doing lately in order to boost coal production. I do not think we require the injunctions, although we welcome the support, of hon. Members behind me in regard to necessity for intensifying coal production and maintaining a very close watch upon coal policy, because we realise fully that the coal question is the key to the whole of the economic situation in Germany, and for that matter in the whole of Europe. We have suspended and sacrificed part of the Hamburg project for this purpose. We have also concentrated the greater part of the available part of commodity goods in the Ruhr for the miners and their families. We have a very concentrated plan for rehousing and rehabilitating the Ruhr generally. We have provided the miners with special amenities in the form of cigarettes and even schnapps. We have provided every possible incentive to higher production. I am satisfied that we are at the point of realising an improved production in coal as a result of these measures. The latest figures suggest that that is already on the way. Here we come to the very wide question that has been raised by a number of hon. Members concerning the general coal policy. The hon. and gallant Member for Bexley (Major Bramall) criticised the policy that we have been pursuing in regard to coal, and said that we have been exporting too much. Another hon. Member referred to the fact that we are losing caste with our French Allies and others because we are not exporting enough coal to France.

Mr. Rees-Williams

What I said was that French politicians and trade unionists do not understand the reason we are not able to export more, and that unless the Government explain the reason to the French there will be a cause of friction. I did not ask for more coal to be exported.

Mr. Hynd

I do not think there is any reason why the French Government and politicians should be unaware of the reasons we are unable to export more coal to France, because I have held a series of conferences with French Ministers and coal experts for the purpose of going into these facts. We have discussed them very fully both here and in Germany and I think the French are well aware of the situation because in addition to these conferences we have just recently completed a quadripartite examination of the production and allocation of coal in Germany in which the French participated. In addition the French also take part in the tripartite Coal Committee in Germany which makes the total allocation for export month by month.

While I can sympathise with the point of view of hon. Members who have criticised the policy of exports, I should like to remind them that there have been more considerations than just German economy or even our own budgetary considerations involved in this question as a whole. At the beginning of the occupation we were faced with devastated countries to the West of Germany as well as the East. But French transport and industrial activity, as well as those of Holland, Denmark and other countries, were practically at a standstill for lack of the Ruhr coal upon which they were dependent before the war. We therefore decided, rightly or wrongly, that these Allies must come first, whatever might be the inconvenience to ourselves or to the German economy, and that whatever might be the difficulties which we might create for ourselves immediately we must make our contribution of Ruhr coal for the reconstruction of those countries. I think that the work that has been done in those countries on the basis of the allocation of coal, steel and other materials, has justified that policy.

The question is now becoming more acute so far as we and Germany are concerned, and as hon. Members will be aware exports for October were cut by 150,000 tons. It is quite evident that so long as the present situation in Germany continues, and so long as we are not in a position to turn out the coal we require in order to maintain the present exports, plus the total amount we require in Germany, the coal question must be closely watched month by month by His Majesty's Government.

Earl Winterton

May I ask the hon. Gentleman a question on that point? The question has been raised on the other side of the House of the doubts which exist in the minds of our French Allies and others about the position. Could they not be resolved by the publication, say once a quarter, of a White Paper or some other official document, available in this House and dealing with all these most important matters which go to the very root of the economic position of Germany? So far as I know, information is only released through the Press at present so that there is no official document on the subject.

Mr. Hynd

Official reports are, of course, issued by the various committees in Germany dealing with these different questions. The Quadripartite Coal Commission publishes its own report which is circulated among its members who report back to their Governments. The Control Commissions of the respective Governments publish their own papers through their Governments and, as the noble Lord has said, Press reports are published from time to time. Whether or not any useful purpose would be served to justify our publishing a special White Paper with regard to the coal output and allocations, or other economic subjects in this connection, is a question I would not like to answer offhand at the present moment. I do not want to go much further into the question of the Hamburg project. I think I have dealt with most of the points raised but I should now like to deal with some of those which remain.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams) referred to tales that are coming out of Germany which he classified as, first, the lack of a clearcut policy on the part, presumably, of the British authorities, or of the Allied Control Council generally. I do not mind which it is. Secondly, he referred to tales of administrative weaknesses. In regard to the lack of a clearcut policy, I do not think there is justification for repeating that tale. It has been repeated often. The policy that has been enunciated is surely sufficiently clear. The difficulties have arisen from the fact that that very clearcut policy has not been fully implemented by all the parties to that policy. The clearcut policy was laid down in the Potsdam Declaration. It provided for certain fundamental things to be done in Germany, and included the recognition of Germany as a single economic unit. Germany may have been recognised as a single economic unit, but it has not yet been worked as such.

The Potsdam Declaration also lays down the establishment of a central German administration. Neither of those things have been realised, but that is not a matter which can be laid at the door of His Majesty's Government. We have consistently pressed for those things to be established. Indeed, our very persistence in following that policy and in demanding its full implementation can fairly be said to be the cause of quite a large amount of our troubles. It is because of the fact that we are not realising that objective that the Foreign Secretary upon the Council of Foreign Ministers in Paris made his statement last July with regard to the necessity for the implementation of those clauses of the Potsdam Agreement, or for the linking up of those zones which were prepared to take that step then and there. The American zone and the British zone have accepted the principle. We are still hoping that the French and Russian zones will come in and join us, and therefore secure the implementation of those very important aspects of the Potsdam policy.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon asked me what were the effects of this fusion. In the very limited time at my disposal I will try to give at least some indication. In the very short space of time that has elapsed, we have already set up certain German executive administrations, bi-zonal administrations, covering economics, transport, agriculture, telegraphs and postal communications. These German executive bodies will operate bi-zonally. They will be under the control of the British and American authorities in Berlin, for purposes of policy. As speedily as we can safely permit, we propose to hand over full executive powers to those administrations, retaining for ourselves control of policy.

My hon. Friend is perturbed in case this might mean that the operation of the fusion arrangements, and the establishment of these bi-zonal economies might modify or endanger the policy which he assumes the British Government would like to follow in the British zone, namely, a policy of socialisation of the basic industries. I do not think he need have any fear. We have already nationalised, in so far as that is possible to an occupying Power in parts of a country which has no native Government for that part or for the whole of the country. We have nationalised the coal industry in the Ruhr. We shall continue to take into our control other key industries pending the establishment of German administrations.

It is no use asking us to nationalise, in German terms, any industry or to municipalise any industry, if there is no municipal or national authority. We have gone as far as we can, until German authorities are established, to take control of these industries into our own hands.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

What does the Minister mean by "nationalising"? I am not trying to be pernickety. Does he mean nationalisation as we understand it in this country, or does he mean operation as opposed to ownership?

Mr. Hynd

What I have been trying to explain, probably in rather a confused way, is that so far as we can nationalise a concern where there is no native national authority, we have done it. We have dispossessed previous owners of these industries and taken them under our custody, and their final disposal will depend upon the establishment of democratic German administration capable of dealing with economic policy for themselves and upon the type of German administration and the representations they may make to us. It has been our consistent policy all along in these matters not to support the S.D.P. in particular or any particular parties, but to make possible the development of democratic political parties, trade unions and other organisations and finally democratic administrations which themselves will represent the political feeling of the German people in the zone with whom we can consult, without necessarily committing ourselves in advance to accepting everything they may care to advance. But it must be the German administrations who will have to make their policies and be responsible for the implementation of whatever policies they make. It is not our purpose to tie them down to any policy—

Mr. Stokes

What about the link-up with the American policy?

Mr. Hynd

The zonal fusion, as it has been called, is purely economic. The German executive bi-zonal committees are purely concerned with the execution of the policy which is laid down either by the Joint Anglo-American Committee in Berlin or, where there is no agreement, by the Control Commission for the particular zone. In other words, we will be free to carry on our own policy within our own zone so far as we consider it desirable to do so and where we can find no compromise with our colleagues on the American side.

I should like to say a few words about the administrative weaknesses to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon referred. Here again is the old question about the short-term contracts of the Control Commission. I have never denied that this is a difficult question. It is a difficulty that is inherent in the type of administration we have to manage in Germany. It is not the kind of administration that we can say will last for any particular time. Certainly we cannot say that any particular branch of activity within that administration is likely to last for 10, 12, or 15 years or less. We can only judge as events develop how long the administration in a particular direction will be necessary. Therefore, we cannot say at the beginning that everybody taken on in the Control Commission will have a 10, 12, 15 or 20 year contract with a pension at the end. We are conscious of the difficulty and the deterrent effect it has on recruitment of staff. We are therefore examining it very closely in conjunction with the Exchequer and with the Civil Service Commission in order to try to find a solution.

I rather resent the implications that have been made by some hon. Members who have suggested that we are getting no men of quality in the Control Commission, that there is no satisfactory standard being maintained, and that since the establishment of the Control Commission and the development of the civilian side as against the military side there has been a constant deterioration. The facts and the evidence are all to the contrary. Since the establishment of the Control Commission, and since we have developed the civilian side of it, we have at the same time been able to develop a much closer and careful screening of the personnel who apply for the jobs in Germany. That position was not possible 12 months ago when the staff were recruited almost entirely from the Army. There is no shortage of candidates. On the contrary, we find it difficult to cope with the number of candidates coming forward, in many cases of very high quality.

There is no evidence at all which would bear out the allegation made by my hon. Friend, and I would like to point out this to him and others who make these charges: that this is not very fair on the people who are carrying out this very difficult job. It does not add to British prestige; it does not add to the confidence of the Germans, or any one else, in our representatives who are working in these very difficult conditions. It is extremely discouraging, and it is not only discouraging to those on the job, but it is discouraging to the best type of person we would like to get on the job if they feel they are going into a service from which they cannot expect to get any credit when they come back. Therefore, I would ask hon. Members to be very careful in making allegations of that kind without being very sure of the facts.

I would like to wind up by returning to the main subject of the Debate, namely, the establishment of the headquarters of the Control Commission in Hamburg, the effects upon the housing situation in Germany, and the complaints that have been made in that connection. I would ask the hon. Member for Ipswich to remember that the logic of his argument is either that we should leave Germany altogether or that, in so far as we remain in Germany, we ask our men to remain there, men who have probably been six years in the Army and may have another six or ten years' contract, apart from their families or that they and their families should come out of the houses or barracks they occupy and live in tents or air raid shelters.

Mr. Stokes


Mr. Hynd

That obviously is not admissible, and if that is not admissible then the only thing that is admissible is that they have accommodation in something as near as possible to what we would expect them to have if they were at home. We have to balance carefully the humanitarian aspect, the effect upon the German people, and the necessity for our own people being there. I think I am on sure ground because I have discussed these matters with Germans of many political complexions in many parts of the zone and they appreciate the necessity for our own men being there at the present time. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich said we were doing the same as the "Beast," meaning the Nazi occupiers of other territories during the war. Is that really fair? What are we doing? The Social Democrat Party in the British zone have publicly announced that the British administration has saved millions of lives during the past year through the contribution we have made because, without our contribution and without our control and our influence, Germany could not possibly have lived during the past winter.

Mr. Stokes

May I interrupt my hon. Friend? Really, I said nothing of the sort. I was speaking on the question of the Hamburg project. I am the first to have the greatest regard for the contributions made by the British Army.

Mr. Hynd

My point is that we could not have done these things if we had not the staff there, and if we had the staff there and had not provided them with accommodation, they could not possibly have done that work. The hon. Member for Burslem referred to the growth of tuberculosis, but the fact is that tuberculosis and pestilence of all kinds would no doubt have swept the western areas of Germany and the whole of Europe if it had not been for the miraculous work done by our personnel there.

May I describe what has been done in Brunswick? There you had thousands of refugees pouring in from the East during the past 12 months, ridden with disease in many cases, with very few clothes, no blankets, very little food, very little personal belongings of any kind. Yet there has been no epidemic in the Brunswick area or anywhere else. That, where there has been a shortage of medical equipment and supplies such as is probably unprecedented in Europe. I have been in these transit hospitals where they have not had a bandage, and I asked one nurse what she would do if she had somebody to bandage? She said, "I would tear a piece off my dress and make the best of it." There has been no epidemic because of our personnel in Germany, and I suggest that men doing work of that kind require to have their families there if they stay for a prolonged period, and require as reasonable accommodation as we can provide after giving the maximum consideration to German interests.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes past Ten o'Clock.