§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. William Whiteley.]
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday made a very extensive and detailed review of the international situation, and it was followed by an interesting Debate. I am quite sure that every hon. Member who listened to that speech will have realised the immensity of the problems which face the world, those problems with which the Foreign Secretary has to grapple. While there are, I am glad to say, areas in the world which offer no immediate problems, there are very many countries today which present disturbed conditions, and in many of them this country's interest is intimately concerned. I think everyone must sympathise with the Foreign Secretary in the magnitude of his task. Quite apart from the major problems of the future of Germany and Japan, there are adjustments in the relationship of the States of Europe. Old quarrels come up again which have" been running for years. Some of these States were fighting for the Allies; some willingly, some of them more or less unwillingly, were the tools of the Nazis. There is in many parts of the world the clash of nationalities, and while perhaps the most urgent problem that faces us is the future of Europe, the disorganisation of which has twice resulted from world war, there is the challenge of Asia, the Far East. India Indonesia, and the Palestine problem, with which we are not dealing today.
My right hon. Friend has given an account of the many difficulties which attend efforts to bring about peace after a long war. I do not suppose that even the most optimistic of us thought that we could have cleared off these problems in 15 months, but we have been having discussions at Paris, and the points of difference between the great Powers have been brought out into the light of day owing to the publicity given to those discussions. After the first world war there were long debates, long discussions, there were differences that had to be adjusted.
But those discussions were mostly held in private. It is a fair matter for argument how far full and public discussion 1671 of these matters is better than the adjustment of differences behind closed doors. For my part, I am certain that despite all the disadvantages of the method employed today, those debates have had an educative effect on the general body of citizens, and I think that the general body of citizens today are far more alive to the issues involved than were their predecessors 27 years ago.
My right hon. Friend, towards the end of his speech, pointed out that what was taking place in Paris was really a preliminary. It was only the discussion of treaties with particular States, and not settling with the two major aggressor States; and he pointed out that beyond these matters lay the wider question of the organisation of the world in order to prevent a future world war. It is with that overriding problem I wish to deal this afternoon. Last week, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill for the memorial to President Roosevelt, I called attention to his prescience in calling the San Francisco Conference, from which has resulted the United Nations organisation. Today, even as we meet, the opening of the second part of the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations is taking place in New York. I am sure the House realises and I hope that everyone in the country realises its importance.
We have been reading week by week of discussions on the boundaries of particular European States, of the South Tyrol, Bratislava, the future status of Trieste. We have read a good many violent speeches. But all these matters, however important to the people most immediately concerned, are really very small issues compared with the major issue that confronts the world, that major task of building peace on sure foundations. It is, after all, to this object that the United Nations organisation is dedicated. We must remove from the peoples of the world this haunting fear of another war. There are many questions that can be settled and should be settled by agreement between neighbouring States. There are minor matters, and even large matters, that can be settled without the intervention of any international authority, but the matters that are to be discussed in New York can only be settled by international action.
1672 Let me call the attention of the House to some of them. The General Assembly will be considering the report of the Economic and Social Council. They will have to deal with a world problem—the shortage of cereals. They will have to deal with the reconstruction of devastated areas. They will have to deal with the baffling problem of the refugees and displaced persons. These problems are quite beyond the scope of any one country to solve, inside or outside its own frontiers. Yet they must be solved if the world is to settle down to peace. My right hon. Friend pointed out in his speech yesterday that the background to the political difficulties of the world is the economic disorganisation resulting from the war. We are all very well aware of the extent to which the economic crisis of the years around 1930 contributed to the rise of Hitlerism and the degeneration of the world situation; and we must, if we are to establish peace, pay as much attention to economic as to political problems.
I thought that this was well brought out in some of the speeches which I either heard delivered yesterday or have read since then. In particular, I thought there was a very well-informed and able maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Elwyn Jones), who brought this out well in dealing with the problem of Germany. It is easy and tempting to attribute all the troubles from which the world is suffering to the policy pursued by particular Powers. The fact remains that the economic conditions on which the statesmen of the world have to work were not created by those States. They were created by the action of the aggressors who plunged the world into war. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity for the existence of a world-wide organisation to furnish means of discussion between nations, so that the solution of these problems can be worked out by a united effort.
I thought that in the speeches yesterday there was at times a note of pessimism. I think this was quite understandable, in view of the trends of the discussions at Paris, but we ought not to lose sight of the progress that has been made in developing common policies to deal with world needs. While public attention has been mainly devoted, perhaps too much devoted, to the discussion of the peace treaties at Paris, there 1673 was an important conference at Copenhagen on food and agriculture. There is a forthcoming conference on world trade and industry. There has been a meeting of the Social and Economic Council that covered an immense range of subjects. There has been going on all the time, in fact, quite apart from political discussions, a steady development, under the United Nations, of many other social, economic and cultural instruments. There is a provisional civil aviation authority; there is an education authority known as U.N.E.S.C.O. There are important consultations dealing with matters such as human rights, transport and many other matters. We must try today to keep a just perspective in these matters. We must accept positive gain against the negations which sometimes seem perhaps to be the most prominent feature of some international gatherings. There is another matter which is coming before the Assembly at its present meeting. Last January, His Majesty's Government took the lead in announcing their intention to place Tanganyika, Togoland, and the Cameroons, at present administered under mandate, under trusteeship Negotiation of the draft terms of trusteeship has been completed, and these draft terms will be submitted to the General Assembly. This is just another instance of the many actions of His Majesty's Government which give the lie to the parrot call of "British Imperialism."
I would call attention this afternoon to another matter which is down for discussion and which is of vital importance to the very existence of the United Nations organisation. That is the question of the veto in the Security Council. It raises the whole question of the value of the Security Council. I have in my mind very vivid recollections of the San Francisco Conference. I attended there with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, and other Members of the Coalition Government. We worked as a team, and much hard work was done. There was a spirit in that meeting of hopefulness and good will. I cannot help expressing a feeling of disappointment at the recent performances in the Security Council. It has undoubtedly given an impression of disunity and ineffectiveness—such as to raise doubts about its value as an instru- 1674 ment for preserving international peace and security. This, I think, is not due to any fault in the machinery which was devised, but ill the use to which it has been put.
After all, the underlying hypothesis that unless the five leading Powers were in general agreement on the policy to be pursued by the Security Council there was little hope for the preservation of peace, was, I think, correct. I think it took account of the realities of the situation. But it all depends on what is meant by "in agreement," what is meant by "unanimity." If the Security Council is only going to be able to decide on a line of action in the case where the five great Powers have all made up their minds in advance, and find themselves in agreement before discussion in the Security Council, the occasions on which the Council can reach positive decision will, I am afraid, be very few.
At San Francisco we agreed to the creation of the veto, but I am quite certain that we all regarded this as something to be used only in the last resort in extreme cases where the five great Powers might be involved in conflict. We never conceived it as a device to be used constantly whenever a particular Power was not in full agreement with the others. Yet that is just what has happened recently. The veto was used for every trifling thing and that is reducing to a nullity the usefulness of the Security Council. What is more, it is leading to disrespect, whereas the Security Council was created in order to create confidence, to command confidence as a quasi-judicial body in matters of differences between States which involved the danger of war.
The use of the Security Council as a propaganda instrument is to be regretted. It is the desire of His Majesty's Government that this body should return to and fulfil its original intention so that the world may feel that there exists an instrument which, when matters cannot be settled by negotiation between countries, stands ready to intervene and bring impartial minds to bear upon the issues involved. Nothing will be so disastrous to the peace of the world as to allow the respect, dignity and power of the Security Council to be brought to nought.
While His Majesty's Government are not at the present time prepared to move that there should be any change in the 1675 Charier, we certainly are of the opinion that there should be a review of the use of the veto with a view to restraining it to its original intent. After all, what was our conception of the Security Council? Our conception was that the meetings of the great Powers and their discussions in Council were for the purpose of exchanging points of view and making concessions where necessary, and of realising that it was more important that the Security Council should reach a corporate decision than that the viewpoint of individuals should be maintained through thick and thin. In fact, if the Security Council is to be worked, it must be worked with a belief in the democratic method of arriving at results. There must be good will. There must be acceptance of the democratic principle of the rights and obligations of the majority and minority. We in this House over many years have worked on that principle. Broadly speaking, the will of the majority prevails, but the majority give full opportunity for the minority to put their views and both sides understand the point beyond which it is unwise to insist.
In the course of the Debate yesterday, I thought the vital principles of democracy were very well brought out in speeches from both sides of the House. I listened with particular interest to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham (Flight-Lieutenant Crawley). I think he showed a just appreciation of this principle. I read the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills). It was, I thought, entirely out of tune with the principles of democratic thought to which the Labour Party is attached. It was in fact not much more than a reproduction of the ordinary propaganda stuff of the Communist Party. I suggest to the hon. Member that he might leave this to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), who are returned as professed Communists.
We reach here, in the consideration of this question, the central question that faces us today. If we are to achieve a peaceful world, States of diverse characters must be prepared to tolerate each other and work together. While we recognise all the difficulties involved, the Government are resolved to bring this about. While His Majesty's Government and the 1676 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 and yet we have every hope and belief that we can work together in seeking to solve some of the grave economic problems which the world has to face. 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. Nevertheless, we believe, that it is not only possible but essential for us to work together, in order to prevent the calamity of another war which would overwhelm everyone, whatever may be their ideologies. We have shown in the British Commonwealth of Nations how Governments of different political views— Liberals, Conservatives, Socialists—can work in the closest harmony for a common end, without in any way relinquishing their individual views.
There is another matter relating to the United Nations organisation to which I would call attention. It was an essential purpose of the Charter that there should be available military sanctions in order that aggression might be halted. To this end, there is a provision in the Charter for the establishment of a Military Staff Committee. It is a matter of great regret that this Committee has not been allowed to function more effectively. Meanwhile, there has been a proposal in the Security Council demanding the return of the numbers of foreign troops in certain countries. This demand has not been accepted, and I think rightly, because there is no provision in the Charter for such return, and, in the form in which it was raised, it savoured of pure propaganda.
The danger to the world does not lie in the use of troops for police purposes. Indeed, they are so placed now in many parts of the world, but, in a very short time, they will be totally removed and the situation needing them will no longer arise, as, for instance, in Venezia Giulia and Greece. In regard to Venezia Giulia, I should like to answer a point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden 1677 (Mr. Butler). I can assure him that British troops will remain on the Morgan line until agreement in this matter has been reached in the peace treaty and the relevant portions of the treaty implemented. The general position abroad will, of course, be affected by a variety of changes in political development going on all over the world. What does constitute a danger is the presence of mobilised forces, and, while these mobilised forces may not be on other people's territory, they may still be a positive danger to peace.
I have seen in recent weeks and have heard sometimes criticism of the fact that a number of Ministers have been out of this country. The fact is, of course, that, if we are to play our part, and our part is a leading part in international affairs, we must provide for adequate representation at these conferences. I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would far rather be here at home than in Paris or New York, but I am sure that everyone will agree that his presence abroad at these conferences is necessary in the interests of the country. In Paris, my right hon. Friend was very ably assisted by the Minister without Portfolio, and by several junior Ministers. As regards the meeting of the United Nations organisation, my right hon. Friend will not be there for part of the time, but the Secretary of State for Air, the Attorney-General and the Minister of State will be among our principal delegates, and some junior Ministers will also be attending for part of the time. Believe me, attendance at these conferences is not just a joy-ride and a holiday—and I have had some.
I would like here to refer to the very distinguished work which was done by Sir Alexander Cadogan in the Security Council. He has made it his endeavour to keep the Council to its proper purpose, namely, an organisation for the preservation of peace and security, and to prevent it from degenerating into a platform for national propaganda. I should like also to call attention to his vigorous defence of British policy and of the British Army in Greece, against quite unwarranted attacks. I hope that, at the forthcoming meetings, we shall see the United Nations organisation put to its proper use. We must, of course, recall that it is still very young, that it is bound to have some teething troubles and that some of those attending it have been almost completely 1678 without experience of the functioning of democratic institutions. We must hope that they will learn. My right hon. Friend and his colleagues will go to New York fortified by this Debate, for I believe that the policy he is pursuing with such patience and ability has the general support of the vast majority of the people of this country.
The criticisms which are made, apart from those which seem to be based on the thesis that Soviet Russia is always right, have not been directed against the general policy of H.M. Government. They have been directed to particular points, on which it is thought by some that other tactics would have produced better results. It is, for instance, suggested that intervention in Spain, or direct action by economic sanctions or by the withdrawal of ambassadors, would bring about the result which we all desire—a change of regime. I suppose I have as much dislike for the Franco regime as anyone in the House, but, in my considered opinion, those views are mistaken. All the evidence at my disposal points to the opposite conclusion, that external intervention will only strengthen General Franco—a very deplorable result.
On the other hand, it is suggested by some that the Government should not have interfered in Greece, and that we have been working deliberately to create and foster reactionary Governments. Nothing could be further from the truth. We had one object and one only—to give the Greek people the opportunity of deciding freely on their own destiny. But it is really idle for anyone recalling the history of Greece in recent years, and with a knowledge of the realities of Greek political life, to suppose that, but for Great Britain, there would be political agreement in that country. There are extremists on both sides who are prepared to resort to methods of violence. There has been little willingness among politicians, even among those whose views did not seem to differ very widely, to sink minor differences and personal considerations in the common interests of their country.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham rightly stressed the fact that the policy of this Government—internal and external policy—is that of democratic Socialism. We believe that men and women must be free, both from the excessive domination of Governments, 1679 and from the abuses of economic power. We do not seek to thrust our views upon other nations. We are seeking to set an example here of how individual freedom and the interests of the community can be harmonised, and, in our international relations, to afford to all peoples the greatest possible freedom to work out their own salvation, consistent with the overriding interests of all in the preservation of peace.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary wished to open this Debate and I may say, merely to safeguard future practice, that it is not quite usual for a two days' Debate to be opened from the Government benches. However, I, naturally, willingly agreed to the right hon. Gentleman making his statement, and we all have been greatly interested in the speech which he has made. Indeed, I think there was a very general measure of agreement in the House with everything, or nearly everything, he said. Where there may be differences, they are not differences on what he said so much as on what, for no doubt very good reasons, the right hon. Gentleman left unsaid. As to the value of what are called the "open discussions" which have been proceeding in Paris, I can only comment that they seem to be bad diplomacy, but, none the less, valuable education. As to the veto, that is a very serious matter. It is well known that Soviet Russia would not have joined the original San Francisco Conference unless they had had what they regarded as the essential security of the veto. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it was never contemplated at any time that the veto should be used in the abrupt, arbitrary and almost continuous manner that we have seen it used, but that it should be reserved as a last assurance to a great Power that they would not be voted down on a matter about which they were prepared to fight. There is, certainly, a great departure from that tradition, and the Foreign Secretary will be supported on this side of the House in endeavouring to secure a modification in the uses of the veto, even if he is not at this time, able to secure a very considerable restriction of its employment.
We all wish the Foreign Secretary a successful mission to the United States. No one complains of his having to be 1680 out of the country. It is his duty to go over and, indeed, I, myself, believe very much that advantage comes from that. Even in the days of the National Coalition, Ministers sometimes left the country for considerable periods, and I, having left the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to carry on affairs, allowed myself all the necessary latitude in these respects. We all, as I say, wish that the right hon. Gentleman may have a successful mission in the United States, and we are confident that, in many respects, he will be upholding, not party but national, and indeed not national, but world issues.
In the Debate yesterday the right hon. Gentleman made considerable references to Germany, and perhaps the most important part of his speech consisted of declarations of policy about Germany, and about the Anglo-American occupied zones in Germany. Agreement on this was expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). We are in full agreement with the modifications and the mitigations of the severity of German life under present conditions, so far as these are physically and economically possible. It is only common sense that the Germans should earn their own living, and I think it is only common sense that they should manage their own affairs, provided, and always provided, that effective disarmament is enforced and maintained over a prolonged period of years. We do not want to have the burden of teaching the Germans how to manage their own affairs, and we do not want to have the burden of earning their living for them. The remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject might be held by captious critics to be a criticism of the policy so far pursued by His Majesty's Government.
However, there is just one point I should like to make on the subject of Germany managing her own affairs. The right hon. Gentleman announced—and I see that it gave great satisfaction at one of the watering places where festivities occasionally take place—that he was proceeding to nationalise the various great German industries and place them under the Commander-in-Chief. All I can tell the House is that experience and looking back on the past show that one may be quite sure that when the Germans have the power of managing their own affairs, 1681 they will not be attracted to a policy, whatever it may be, by the fact that it has been imposed upon them by foreigners. It was exactly what happened after the first world war when we imposed upon Germany, by force, all the blessings of a liberal constitution. All the blessings of freedom from the tyranny of conscription and many benefits fought for by generations of effort in this country were enforced by the victors upon the defeated Germans and were, for that very reason, odious in their eyes. But, as I say, it may be that it will work differently this time.
I must comment first this afternoon upon two or three special questions which are likely to cause trouble and are, indeed, already causes of disquiet. I have nothing to add today to the statements which I have made on previous occasions about Egypt and Palestine. No one can say that His Majesty's Government have not done their best to meet Egyptian wishes. Indeed, many of us thought that they had gone too far and had adopted the wrong methods in stating, at the outset of their negotiations, that they were willing to evacuate the Canal zone, which zone is secure to us for the next few critical years to come by the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936. The result has been what was then predicted, namely, that their maximum offer was taken as the starting point for new discussions, and these discussions now even involve the whole sovereignty and future of the Sudan. I remind the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister of his statement on 7th May, when he said that, obviously, if negotiations break down the original treaty still stands. I hope that His Majesty's Government will act in this sense.
Before we separated for the Autumn Recess, I spoke about Palestine. I must refer to that subject, linked as it is with all other questions of the Middle East. If we are not able to fulfil our pledge to the Jews to create a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine—which is our undoubted pledge—we are entitled and, indeed, bound, in my view—I speak my personal view; there are differences on this subject in all quarters of the House—because it is our duty, and certainly we have a full right, to lay our Mandate at the feet of the United Nations organisation. The burden may yet be too heavy for one single country to bear. 1682 It is not right that the United States, who are so very keen on Jewish immigration into Palestine, should take no share in the task, and should reproach us for our obvious incapacity to cope with the difficulties of the problem.
At present, we have no policy, as far as I can make out, nor have we had one for more than a year. The amount of suffering which this indecision in regard to a question which, I admit, may well be called the "riddle of the Sphinx," and the amount of suffering which this hesitation is causing to all concerned, simply cannot be measured. From the moment when we declare that we will give up the Mandate—giving proper notice, of course—all our difficulties will be considerably lessened, and if other interested Powers wish us to continue, it is for them to make proposals and help us in our work. We have at this moment a large proportion of our overseas Army in Palestine engaged in a horrible, squalid conflict with the Zionist community there. This is a disproportionate exertion for us, a wrong distribution of our limited forces, and the most thankless task ever undertaken by any country. If we stand on the treaty with Egypt about the Canal zone, we have no need to seek a new strategic base of very doubtful usefulness in Palestine, and we can present ourselves to the world organisation as a totally disinterested party. Superior solutions may then, for the first time, become open. I strongly commend this course of action to His Majesty's Government and to the House.
I was very glad yesterday to hear what the Foreign Secretary said about Greece. The result of the Greek plebiscite upon the return of the King fully vindicates the course pursued by the National Coalition Government, by the interim Government of which I was the head, and by His Majesty's present advisers. We have always said it was a question for the Greek people to decide freely for themselves. This they have done under conditions which impartial foreign observers have pronounced not unfair, and which are incomparably more free and valid than anything that has been seen in that part of the world for a very long time. That pronouncement ought to be the end of our special wartime responsibilities towards Greece. I was glad to hear that our troops will be brought home as soon as possible. [An HON. MEMBER: "When 1683 will that be?"] I am not pressing for details. There is a kind of guerrilla warfare on the Northern frontier of Greece which does not arise out of internal Greek affairs. It arises out of very much larger complications. But still I am most anxious that our troops should come home. I am tired of hearing it said that we are in Greece for something which we wish to get out of the country, or for some advantage. I know of no advantage that we gain or seek in Greece except those ordinary advantages enjoyed by all nations, of trade and friendship, which we ourselves enjoyed before the war.
The future safety and independence of Greece, like many other vital matters, lie in the hands of U.N.O. Our ancient friendship with Greece will never flag or die, but here, as elsewhere, we seek no gain or benefit of a selfish character for ourselves and, as I have just said, we have no desire for any advantages which we did not possess before the war. I hope that all Greeks who wish for the survival of their country will help the new regime and Government, and that the Government will be continually broadened to include all who prefer the life and freedom of Greece to its ruin and absorption in a Communist Balkan bloc. I hope fair play will be given to the new regime and the new Government of Greece, and that every step taken will not be the target for sharp arrows of carefully barbed, poisoned propaganda. It is very easy for foreign observers in a position of perfect detachment, to abuse a Government which is struggling against a Communist conspiracy, fermented and supported by outside intrigues. An armed Communist advances upon you, you react against him; therefore, you are a reactionary.
I must now speak about Poland. Here, indeed, an unhappy scene is unfolded to our eyes. In my opinion, the Soviet Government have departed, I am sorry to say, in the spirit and in the letter from many of the agreements and understandings into which we entered with them before Yalta, and at Yalta. It was my firm belief that Marshal Stalin would rest content with the Curzon line, and with a Poland friendly to Russia, and permanently divorced from Germany. On that, I offered on many occasions my counsel 1684 to the House. It was agreed that, on this basis, there should be free elections in Poland and that the Polish Republic should be an independent Power. What has happened now? A Government has been set up in Poland which in no way represents the Polish nation. This Government is incapable of holding free or fair elections. The Peasant Party are to be given no full and free opportunity of voting in accordance with their convictions, and of having their votes counted in accordance with their numbers. We must be very careful to distinguish in our minds between the present Polish Government, and the heart of the Polish nation, to whose sorrows and sufferings there seems never to be an end.
I presume that the most delicate and difficult situation at the moment is that which exists around Trieste, where British and American divisions confront the very much larger forces which Marshal Tito has kept under arms and assembled there. Gratitude does not seem to be the outstanding feature of Marshal Tito's character. I am sure every one here was shocked at the brutal and callous manner in which American aeroplanes and their passengers were shot down by the air force of a country, whose liberation and independence would never have been achieved but for British and American aid and exertion, or without the victorious campaigns fought in Italy and Germany by the Western Allies. The whole attitude of the Yugoslav Communist Government towards this country, and even more towards the United States, is far from friendly. Considering that the United States is the main contributor to U.N.R.R.A., and that scores of millions of pounds of supplies have been poured into Yugoslavia since the end of the German war, the murder of the American airmen and passengers presents itself in a singularly repulsive light.
Conditions in Yugoslavia are sinister and melancholy. The whole country is being converted, as far as possible, into a Communist area. Communism is being taught in the schools, and every effort is being made to create a Soviet Socialist Republic in the closest association with Moscow. It is not for us to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. [Laughter.] Well, I am afraid I make my principle of general application. The Catholic Church and clergy in Croatia are being persecuted with the greatest 1685 severity, and the strictest measures of police government are applied to political dissentients. The circumstances of the trial and condemnation of the Archbishop of Zagreb have created widespread regret. There is growing discontent in Serbia, to whose peasant proprietors Communist doctrines are unwelcome. I am sorry to be embarrassing to the Foreign Secretary—
§ Mr. Churchill
I can assure the hon. Gentleman, I would be at any time that there was a real need. The course followed by His Majesty's Government has, throughout, been wise and correct, and I am glad to see it has been taken in the closest harmony with that of the United States. I earnestly trust that this policy towards Yugoslavia will be pursued by His Majesty's Government with perseverance, and that the great city of Trieste will be preserved as an international port, an outlet upon salt water for the commerce of all the States and peoples in the Danube Basin. I trust, also, that large Italian populations will not be transferred against their own will to Communist rule. I very nearly used another word. However, I trust they will not be transferred against their own will, and contrary to the whole principle of the Atlantic Charter. I was very glad to hear from the Prime Minister today, when he referred to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, that the British troops would not leave the Trieste area until the treaty has been fully signed and accepted by all States who are likely to be party to it.
Before I turn to a larger issue, let me first make a short digression. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister explained to us why in this Parliament His Majesty's Government have not kept the leaders of the Opposition—who, after all, represent half, or nearly half, the electorate—in touch with them on matters affecting the security of our country. The Prime Minister has always told us that if I, or my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, asked specifically for information on any topic, he or the Foreign Secretary would be glad to see us. There may well be some occasion 1686 in the future when this process may be invoked. I cannot regard any fitful contacts which may occur, or which have occurred, as being satisfactory. However, I may make a suggestion for a formal conversation between the party representatives in the near future.
§ Mr. Churchill
I said "conversation," formal conversation between the two leaders and those whom they choose to bring with them of the two parties.
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Member is falling under Senator Vandenberg's condemnation of those who always try to bring the word "war" into every discussion we have. However, I cannot pretend that it would be possible to conduct a discussion on foreign affairs with any sense of reality at the present time, without occasional mention of that odious and tragic word.
§ Mr. Churchill
As far as information is concerned, we on this side of the House ask for no favours. We quite recognise that the entire responsibility for the conduct of affairs, and for the safety of the country, rests upon the Government which serves the Crown, and which is supported by a majority in the House of Commons. It is important, however, that this should be recognised and realised by the nation as a whole.
Now I am going to look back a little; in fact, I am going to look back for a year almost to the day, when on 22nd October, 1945, I pressed for more rapid demobilisation. I made the following statement, which I venture to think the House will permit me to read, as I copied it from HANSARD:I must, however, make one very serious reservation. In my calculations and estimates I have definitely excluded the possibility of a major war in the next few years. If His Majesty's Government consider that this is wrong, then it would not be a case of demobilisation at all but of remobilisation, because what has taken place and is going on has already woefully impaired the immediate lighting efficiency of the enormous Forces we still retain. I believe, however, it may be common ground that this possibility of a major war may rightly be excluded, and that 1687 we may have an interlude of grace in which mankind may be able to make better arrangements for this tortured world than we have hitherto achieved. Still, I make that reservation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1696.]On this basis, I also gave the minimum figures to which in my judgment— a judgment without official information— the reduction should be made, and I stated the figures. Those figures were: Royal Navy, 150,000; Army, 1,000,000; Royal Air Force, 400,000; total men, 1,550.000. The figures to which His Majesty's Government announced in February they are working are considerably less than this total, especially in respect of the Army and Air Force; the Navy is a little larger. These are the Government's figures to be obtained by 31st December this year, in the next 10 weeks: Royal Navy, 175,000; Army, 650,000, instead of 1,000,000; Royal Air Force, 275,000, instead of 400,000; total in the Services, taking only the published figures, 1,100,000 as against 1,550,000. I believe there are 100,000 recruits additional in training. The Government, therefore, have gone much further in reducing our military strength, notably in the Army and Air Force, even at a time when I urged we should get down to our minimum figure, whatever it was, as quickly as possible. I am not today treating this issue as controversial, as a matter of quarrel between the Government and the Opposition. The Government have the power and responsibility, and they ought to have the knowledge. I am, however, forced to examine the question whether the situation has deteriorated in the year that has passed.
Eight months ago, I made a speech at Fulton in the United States. It had a mixed reception on both sides of the Atlantic, and quite a number of hon. Members of this House put their names to a Motion condemning me for having made it. As events have moved, what I said at Fulton has been outpaced and overpassed by this movement of events, and by the movement of American opinion. If I were to make that speech at the present time and in the same place, it would attract no particular attention. At that time, I said that I did not believe the Soviet Government wanted war. I said that what they wanted were the fruits of war. I fervently hope and pray that the view which I then expressed is still 1688 correct, and on the whole I believe it is still correct. However, we are dealing with the unknowable. Like everyone else, I welcome the recent declarations of Marshal Stalin, and I always welcome any signs of affability which M. Molotov may display. I know him quite well, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will corroborate, he is not nearly so spiky in private relationship as he appears in his public declarations. In these matters, it is not words that count, it is deeds and facts. This afternoon I am not going to examine the likelihood of another war, which would, of course, be total war.
In the Foreign Secretary's calm, assured and measured review of the world situation yesterday, it was evident that various differences of policy exist between the Soviet Government and what are called, for want of a better name—and it is not a bad name—the Western democracies. There are differences in the Far East; there are disputes about Persia; there are various grave and serious questions connected with the Dardanelles; above all, there is the situation at Trieste, there is Poland and its elections, and there are others. The right hon. Gentleman found it necessary—and he was quite right—to survey the whole far from cheering panorama, and touch upon all those points of view; and though his language was diplomatically correct in every respect, one could not help seeing those points of direct difference emerging as between the great Powers which are involved. It would be most unwise to ignore those differences, and every effort should be made to adjust them. I am sure every effort will be made by patient, friendly and, I hope, occasionally secret discussions between the principal Powers and personalities involved.
It was easier in Hitler's day to feel and forecast the general movement of events than it is now. Now we have to deal not with Hitler and his crude Nazi gang, with anti-Semitism as its principal theme; we are in the presence of something very much more difficult to measure, than what was set out so plainly in the pages of "Mein Kampf." We are in the presence of the collective mind, whose springs of action we cannot define. There are 13 or 14 very able men in the Kremlin who hold all Russia and more than a third of Europe in their control. Many stresses and pressures, internal as well 1689 as external, are working upon them, as upon all human beings. I cannot presume to forecast what decisions they will take, or to observe what decisions they may have already have taken; still less can I attempt to foresee the time factor in their affairs. One of our main difficulties in judging all these matters is that real intercourse and intimacy between our peoples are, to all intents and purposes, very much discouraged and prevented by the Soviet Government. There is none of that free comradely life and mixing, which very soon would bring immense changes in the relationships of these vast communities, and might sweep away suspicion, without relaxing vigilance.
For all these reasons, therefore, I express no opinion this afternoon upon the future, and I will confine myself strictly to asking for information about facts. The facts, or something like them—I cannot pretend to have exact information—are well known to many people in different countries. They are the main preoccupation of the General Staffs in Europe and America. Even before the recent war I was able, in a private situation, to present to the House and to the Government of the day various facts which were denied, but which afterwards proved only too true. In my present position, when I travel abroad, I am able to gather a certain amount of information from persons of high consequence in many countries; which, whenever it is useful or advantageous I should, naturally, convey, if it was worth while, to those who now bear responsibility.
The Prime Minister referred just now in his speech—he used the expression and I noted it down at the time—to "the total mobilised forces which may constitute a positive danger to peace." That is certainly a serious remark, coming as it does from the head of His Majesty's Government. Now, I am going to ask a question —it is all I have to say before I sit down —on which, I feel, the House, the nation and, indeed, the world should be told the truth as far as it is known to His Majesty's Government, and should be reassured, if it is possible, and as far as possible. To make it easier for the Government to give a brief and general answer, to make it possible for them to give an almost monosyllabic answer, I will put my question in a constructive form. Here is the question: Is it or is it 1690 not true that there are today more than 200 Soviet divisions on a war tooting in the occupied territories of Europe from the Baltic to Vienna, and from Vienna to the Black Sea? There is the question which I am asking, and it acquires particular significance in view of the Prime Minister's reference, which I heard only this afternoon in the House, to "total mobilised Forces which may constitute a positive danger to peace." I am not referring to the armies of satellite Powers which, in Poland, are numerous but reluctant, and in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria are less numerous but more ardent.
I shall be very much relieved if I can be told in the course of today's Debate that the figures I have given—which I have not given without prolonged consideration and heart searching, or without discussion with colleagues—are altogether excessive, and if His Majesty's Government can relieve our anxieties in the matter, I am quite ready to accept their statement, but I feel bound to put the question. When we think of all the helpless millions and hundreds of millions struggling to earn their living, toiling along the uphill path, hoping for the future, doing their best, one cannot but feel that they ought to know the main outlines, at least, of what is going on around them, which may so vitally affect them. That is all I wish to say today. We shall have further opportunities of discussing the whole position in the new Session and, of course, during the Debate on the Address.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
Having been fortunate enough to catch your eye so early, Mr. Speaker, I still do not want to take up too much time as so many hon. and right hon. Members wish to address the House I have been able to follow much of the Debate personally, and a great deal of the field has already been covered by various speakers. I do not want to go over much of the general field, but rather to consider a little the position in relation to the Soviet Union. I feel greatly in sympathy with the general criticisms that have been made against the foreign policy—I suppose I must call it the foreign policy—of His Majesty's Government. Most certainly His Majesty's Government are pursuing it, but it is the foreign policy of the Foreign Office and of the Tory Party. That such a policy should be followed by a Socialist Govern- 1691 ment, which we welcomed 15 months ago with such high hopes, and which has satisfied those hopes in a great many directions, is a major disaster. I hoped for a very long time that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary would change it, because I did not think it was natural to him and I knew it was not natural to the party to which he belongs, but it is quite plain that he will not change it; he thinks it is his own, he thinks it is right, and he means to pursue it.
As I said, I want to speak mainly about our relations with the Soviet Union. I have, of course, studied the policy of that country, and its relations to this country, for a great many years, and during the last Recess I spent most of my time there travelling about, meeting a great many people both English and Soviet, and I think I have learned a great many things and confirmed a great many of my opinions.
I have been shocked for a long time by the constant stream of anti-Soviet abuse, both direct and indirect, naked or disguised, that has been poured out in this country. Allowing for difference of language, the style is the style of Goebbels, and the work is the work of Goebbels. It is done not merely by Tories —one would expect it from them—but it is done also by too many people on what should be the Socialist side of the House. It is done in the Press—we expect it from the Press—and it is done in the B.B.C., and we expect it from them. Whilst the Government do not join in it to a very great extent, and join in it with some care and circumspection when they do, it is quite obvious that the many legitimate means the Government have of influencing the Press and the expression of opinion generally in this country are never used to check even the wildest stories of the Press, or the basest insinuations of the B.B.C.
I have been shocked too by another and, I think, more serious consideration. Whenever one attempts to follow the foreign policy of the country, that is, the foreign policy of the Government, the Foreign Office and the Tory Party, one is greatly shocked by the fact that it is nearly always quite easily explicable on the basis that the main object is to weaken and thwart the Soviet Union, while it is not always easy to explain it 1692 on any other footing. Look at countries like Bulgaria, Rumania and Poland, and it will be seen that, often under the guise of the claim to freedom of speech, the worst and most reactionary elements in those countries are consistently supported, and the most progressive elements consistently thwarted, in order to weaken the Soviet Union. Occasionally we learn from Foreign Office officials who do not keep their mouths quite as tightly closed as they should, that this is due to the doctrine of the balance of power, which naturally compels Great Britain to attempt to weaken the greatest Power in Europe, and the greatest Power in Europe, naturally, is always that one which has been in alliance with this country in a victorious war, because victory in war is apt to make countries a little more powerful. That is one explanation, but the other explanation seems to be quite plainly that it is anti-Soviet simply for the sake of being anti-Soviet. It is very difficult, even for the most charitable of us—and I try to include myself in that class—to believe that H.M. Government are actuated solely by a passion for democracy in Bulgaria and Rumania, when we see the way they work out their passion for democracy in Greece.
Oddly enough, the shock is a little greater when one comes back from the Soviet Union, having had the British Press there only at second hand, and having given the Soviet Press more careful attention than one could give it in this country—and having had, of course, the supreme advantage of not hearing the B.B.C. for weeks on end. It is an additional shock because, as one moves about and meets people in the U.S.S.R., and talks and thinks—thinks as hard as one can, with incessant self-criticism—it is really not possible, looking at it with reasonable eyes, to believe that that country is devoting its thought and intention at present to anything in the wide world but reconstruction. Every town you visit, every person you talk to, every street you look at—there is all the time the discussion, "Can we get this place rebuilt in time? Look at the amount of damage we have suffered, look at the amount of damage we have already repaired, look at the amount of further damage we want to repair, look what we are going to spend on education, on the health service, look what we are doing here and doing there." All the time, 1693 quite plainly and obviously, they are simply looking forward constructively, and considering the colossal rebuilding of their country. Just as an example may I say that I went round the relatively undamaged city of Kiev, and we totted up quite roughly the actual amount in terms of roubles of the gratuitous damage done in that city by the Germans before they left, and compared it with the British demand for 75 per cent. reparations for damage to British interests in a great many countries. We came to the conclusion that should Kiev get 100 per cent., there would not be anything left for the British to get at all, but that perhaps is a little by the way.
When I say that the Soviet Union is thinking in terms of reconstruction all the time, I do not mean to suggest that it is not anxious, as everybody is properly anxious, about its own security and does not want to keep its armed forces at whatever figure it thinks is right. I have not the remotest idea whether it has or has not 200 divisions in Europe, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) suggested. It is not a figure I have ever heard before, and perhaps the Government will answer about it. But I note at any rate that the all-pervading impression you get in that country is that they are so busily devoted to the really colossal task of trying to rebuild, that they would not think of war except as an appalling disaster. If the Americans or the British do not want war against them, and I do not think very many people in this country do, the way we are behaving towards them just now does not make sense of any kind. If we wanted war, it would make devilish sense; if we do not want war it does not make sense at all.
The tragedy of it, of course, from any point of view, and particularly from the Socialist point of view, is that this is the policy for which not only the Tories but also the Nazis have been working and propaganding for years and years—"For heaven's sake get the working class parties of Great Britain and Europe and everywhere else divided, for heaven's sake persuade the Labour parties of the world to pay more attention to fighting the Communists than to fighting the reactionaries, and then there will be a chance for the reactionaries." Our foreign policy just simply amounts to that. 1694 The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary said that he did not want to gang up with anyone, but if he is not ganging up with anyone. Wall Street must be ganging up with him without him knowing it. It is the Tory foreign policy. What is much more serious is that it is helping the less responsible and more evil minded of the worst elements in the United States against Soviet Russia. The United States have got capitalistic contradictions so acute that they may well be driven to war. The Soviet Union certainly have no contradictions to drive them to war. The United States are bringing war nearer; I do not say they are bringing war near, but they are bringing it nearer. And here we see a great Socialist party, with a pretty good Government on the whole, following not only Tory policy, but the anti-Soviet policy which the Tories have built up for 29 years, and serving the worst elements of the United States in doing so.
There is one point which I should like to deal with which has not been actually advanced in this Debate. I have read what I have not heard, and I have heard what I have not read, and I do not think it has been raised during the Debate. It has been repeatedly raised, however, as a reason or an excuse for our anti-Soviet policy, that we have to suffer in this country from a constant stream of abuse from the Press of the Soviet Union. Paper shortage alone would make it impossible for the Soviet Union to print more than 10 per cent. in volume of the abuse which the Press of this country prints against the Soviet Union; but I naturally went into this matter very closely to see whether there was any truth in the accusation. If someone tells you here that some Soviet newspapers have brought out streams of abuse of this country, it takes time to investigate it. It was easier therefore to do it when I got to the Soviet Union, and read the papers day by day—I also had the British précis. I think it is fair to say that I found no abuse at all but merely a reasonable amount of steady criticism, but it did not strike me as anything unusual. Almost every word of it was sensible, Socialist criticism of various aspects of our foreign policy, the sort I hear all day in the Lobbies of this House among a large proportion of the Left Wing Members of the Labour Party.
1695 I do not think that we should be so sensitive or petty minded as to excuse, or explain or make any change in our policy because the Soviet Union are doing what, after all, they have a perfect right to do, namely, to utter ordinary, political, Socialist criticism about our behaviour in Greece, our behaviour in Palestine, or our behaviour in the Mediterranean. Surely we need not be so excited that we change our policy in this country because the Soviet Union advances as a serious proposition that the Dardanelles is the only entrance to the Black Sea, and that the only people in the Black Sea who have harbours there are Turkey, Rumania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, and that it really is not necessary to have the United States to take part in controlling the Dardanelles. It is very much the same thing about the Danube. I cannot see why the United States should control the Danube. I have no doubt that the United States would like to control a lot of things, but surely it is not unreasonable that the Danube should be controlled merely by the riparian countries—
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Surely the hon. and learned Member does not suggest that the United States are demanding control of the Danube?
§ Mr. Pritt
They are already one of the controlling Powers of the Danube. Coming back to the question of Soviet abuse, their newspapers do not accuse us of wholesale rape, of abduction of children, or pouring rockets over Sweden which are discovered to be meteors, and then when they prove to be meteors, switch over and accuse us a week later of pouring rockets over Greece. When Mr. Molotov takes the wheel of a ship on the Atlantic every newspaper explains that the ship at once went off its course. The Soviet Union does not say that sort of thing about the right hon. Gentleman. Even with the right hon. Gentleman they confine themselves to criticising his politics. Not very long ago, in Moscow, diplomatic representatives of the United States and Great Britain thought fit to inflict a gross diplomatic insult on the Government of the Soviet Union. At a meeting of the Supreme Soviet there came a moment, after a speech by Mr. Stalin, when the assembled deputies, having heard the speech and thinking it was a very good one got up and applauded for a con- 1696 siderable time. Every single person in the galleries rose as a reasonable courtesy, except alone the diplomatic representatives of Great Britain and the United States. The excuse was advanced afterwards that the United States representatives had direct instructions from the State Department to do this. The fact is that it was done, but what is interesting, on the suggestion that the Soviet Press is always abusing us, is that the Soviet Press kindly passed the incident over in complete silence.
No hostility to the British people can be found in the Soviet Press which I was able to discover. I would make the comparison of how much abuse of this country is poured out daily in the Press of the United States. It is not even generally reprinted in the Press of this country, and the British Government do not alter their policy because of abuse by the Press of the United States. They might say, "Good heavens, what more can we do to please you?" but at any rate they are silent while the Press of the United States pours out hideous abuse upon us. It is sometimes said that the Soviet Press is a Government Press, and therefore the criticism it utters is more serious in weight. I agree that what the Press says there is a little more serious in weight than the Press of most other countries, but there is really no great difference between the control of the Press in that country and in this. There is of course a difference. The Press of every country is controlled by the rulers of that country. In this country—this Parliament has been elected to put a stop to the matter, and no doubt in due course they will go a long way to do it—we are still ruled by industrialists and by big money, and these run the newspapers, just as in France they used to be run by the Comité des Forges. In the Soviet Union the country is ruled by the masses of the people, and consequently so is the Press. One big newspaper belongs to the Communist Party which represents the people, and one belongs to the Government, which belongs to the people —[Laughter.] I do not know whether I like the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) more when he makes a fool of himself by laughing, or when he makes a fool of himself by more serious interruption.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
While thanking the hon. and learned Member 1697 for his courteous terms of reference to myself, may I tell him what I was laughing at? I was wondering whether he was the victim or the agent of Communist propaganda.
§ Mr. Pritt
I will answer that, although the noble Lord has as much to do with the serious life of the country as he has with China. I am a severely self-critical person. I have spent the last 20 years being criticised, not only by fools but also by intelligent persons. I have followed the activities of the Soviet Union, and of this country towards the Soviet Union, for 20 years with the greatest interest, and I think I can claim with the greatest modesty, that I have been right every time in everything that I have said about the Soviet Union, either in this House or outside I am neither an agent nor a victim of propaganda.
But what a tragedy all this is. Here is this Socialist Party, which has come here to form a Government that is not a bad one, and might have been a very good one. It has a good home policy, and a very bad foreign policy. It cannot long combine the two, of course. It could have put itself at the head of every progressive movement in every country in Europe. It could have been one of the three great Powers in the world—it is, of course, that in any case— but it could have been one of the three great Powers, showing an independent line, ganging up with nobody, but making itself the most beloved and most powerful country in Western and Central Europe, working happily with the Soviet Union and still being friends with the United States. But what is it? It is ganging up with the United States until, when the inevitable slump comes in America, it will come to us here and hit us. It is making itself hated by every progressive country in Europe. We are throwing away one of the greatest chances we have ever had, and if the Foreign Secretary does not mend his policy, or the Government do not mend him, we shall have a great tragedy.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I want to draw attention for a few moments to a remote part of the world which has had rather less than its fair share of attention of late, namely, Korea. I have just come back from a visit to Korea, and I must say that I found the 1698 situation there singularly disquieting, even by present-day standards. Korea has been the occasion of at least two wars in the last half century and it is now, in my opinion, well on the way to becoming, once again, a powder magazine which the slightest spark will set off.
It was decided at the Yalta Conference that Korean independence should be restored as soon as possible. At the Moscow Conference, last year, as it appeared that the Koreans were not yet in a position to stand by themselves, it was decided to establish, for a period of five years, a four-Power trusteeship. For the purpose of implementing this, a Soviet-American Commission was established in Korea with the task of bringing into being, in consultation with the democratic parties and organisations of that country, a provisional Korean Government. Meanwhile, the Red Army had occupied Northern Korea as far as the 38th parallel, and the Americans had occupied the rest of the country. Allied troops came, not as conquerors, but as liberators, and immediately representatives of the two High Commands met in order to establish a provisional Government. The Commission, however, ran into difficulties almost immediately on a question which has given a good deal of trouble elsewhere, namely, the definition of "democracy." They were authorised, by their terms of reference, to consult only with democratic parties and organisations. The Russians immediately proceeded to exclude all parties which actively opposed the Moscow decision. As it happened, that covered, with one exception, the whole range of Korean political parties. When the Moscow-decision was announced in Korea there was an immediate and quite understandable outcry—considering that Korea had only just emerged from four years of Japanese domination—against the idea of establishing a trusteeship. They thought that the word "trusteeship" had a rather sinister ring about it, because the Japanese, I understand, had used a similar term.
All over the country very active opposition was organised, and this was led by a party which has had a good deal of experience of opposition—the Communist Party. The opponents of trusteeship made very good progress, but once opposition got under way they suddenly found 1699 themselves deprived of their leaders by one of those sudden inspired revelations to which Communists in every part of the world are subject. The Communists suddenly decided that instead of being 100 per cent. against trusteeship they were 100 per cent. in favour of it. Therefore, by a strange coincidence the only party which were not by the Soviet ban excluded from consultation were the Communist Party, which, on 1st January, 1946, had suddenly seen a great light, indeed, one might almost say, had felt a great heat. The Americans did not accept the Soviet definition of the word "democratic." In their view, any measure restricting the right of self-expression, as this would have done, was thoroughly undemocratic. The result was that in four or five weeks from the time the Commission first met they came to a complete deadlock, and adjourned sine die. Since then, the Russians have retired to their side of the 38th parallel, and the Americans have stayed in the South. There has been a complete iron curtain between them. The two Powers have proceeded with the process of democratisation in their own zones according to their own lights. The Americans have had very considerable trouble with the Communists in Southern Korea. The Communists have organised strikes, opposed the collection and distribution of rice, and have done their very best to upset American attempts to establish a Legislature based on a broad coalition of all parties.
On the Soviet side of parallel 38 things have been easier. The Communist Party, strangely enough, has disappeared altogether. There has appeared, on the other hand, a coalition of Left Wing parties which bears the reassuring name of "Labour Party"—a body which, incidentally, is now completely controlled by the former central executive committee of the Communist Party, risen like the Phoenix from its own ashes. Economically, the division is equally complete, and equally disquieting. All the rice is grown in South Korea, all the fertilisers are produced in North Korea; all the industries are situated in South Korea, while all the coal comes from North Korea, with the result that, economically and politically, there is a complete cleavage between the two halves of the country. The military situation is also very disquieting. The 1700 Americans have some 50,000 troops on their side of parallel 38—parallel 38, incidentally, was one of the things about which the Russian-Japanese war of 1905 was fought—and on the Russian side of parallel 38 there are no fewer than 250,000 troops today. Korea is thus divided into two armed camps.
I should like to ask what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take, as one of the trustees, to remedy this very disquieting situation. Under the Moscow decision of last year, it was laid down that a provisional democratic Government should be established in Korea. Nothing of the kind has been done. It was provided that Korea should be a single State. Korea is now divided into two completely distinct parts. It was laid down that the Soviet-American Commission should permanently coordinate economic and administrative affairs, but the Commission has not met once since last May, and shows no signs of meeting again.
I hope that His Majesty's Government are informed of the situation in Korea. I found, when I got there, that we had only one liaison officer, who, I have every reason to believe, is an extremely competent official. But he has no clerical or other assistants; he is completely alone, and, as far as I can see, he has no proper means of communication with His Majesty's Government. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will look into this situation, will watch it closely, and will do his best to remedy it before things go any further.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Lyne (Burton)
I would first like to offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary on the factual statement which he gave to the House yesterday. I would also like to commend his speech for its great restraint, in spite of the attacks which have been made on the right hon. Gentleman's policy by some sections of the Press of this country, and many sections of the Press outside it. When one looks at the picture and compares it with the report which we had last June on the international situation, one feels that it is the duty of the House to ask what progress has been made since then. I think we can look back at that period with very small consolation. It is admitted that a 1701 number of the comparatively minor difficulties that faced the United Nations previously have been solved during the intervening period, and at the Paris Conference; but the major difficulties have been left for the United Nations, through the Security Council, to face at some future time.
I think that there is one factor that stands out without challenge, as a result of the Paris Conference. It has shown clearly to the world that an Eastern bloc in Europe has been established, and, during the proceedings of the Conference, has moved forward along a common policy. On the other hand, we have seen, with differences, the free, democratic nations more or less working in alignment with each other. That, I think, is a very unhealthy situation, even if avoidable. In spite of the fact that we have this complete rift between two sections of the nations, I am loth to think that the major difficulties cannot be tackled, and I hope with success. I think that we ought to realise the immense difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and those representing the other nations at the Conference, were up against.
First, there is the strategic situation which is applicable to those nations in the Near East. The problem of Trieste is not a problem solely of Italy and Yugoslavia, but a problem that is affecting, and is affected by, the whole of the nations in the Danube basin, and beyond. Apart from the difficulty of dealing with the situation on a firm ethnical basis, there is the point of view of the commercial importance of the port, which is difficult of solution. To decide the matter on an ethnical basis would be to do an injustice probably to the nations who desire a free outlet of a great port to the Mediterranean.
In passing, may I say in respect of our Ally, Soviet Russia, that I think that it is well worth consideration by His Majesty's Government, and those who will be responsible for the peace treaty, whether or not Russia has a claim to an outlet to the Mediterranean? When we remember the vastness of Russia, with two of its main outlets frozen up in the winter, one outlet to the Pacific and the other through a neighbouring country, there may be some justification for the claim put forward by the Soviet Union for an outlet to the Mediterranean. After all, in the past 1702 nations whose borders have not touched the Mediterranean have felt that it was essential to their security that they should have bases in that sea. What we and other countries have claimed as a right cannot be disputed when the matter is dealt with from the point of view of the justification of a country wanting commercial outlets at the nearest point. Apart from the strategic considerations which the nations of the Near East are facing, one of their vital difficulties, in finding a solution to their problems, is the question of the amount of reparations which those countries should pay, and the allocation of those reparations. There are few of the defeated nations that will be in a position to pay any reparations whatever for many years to come, if they are to maintain a social standard in their own country.
I believe that the greatest problem facing the United Nations is the question of the future of Germany and Austria. Austria is in a vital position because it is the link between the East and the West, between the Soviet Union, the Danubian States, Yugoslavia and the Mediterranean. I believe that the future of Germany is of more importance because the same essential difficulty which has prevented a settlement of the major issues at the Paris Conference is preventing the members of the Quadripartite Commission from establishing a single economic unit in Germany. I believe that the abolition of zonal conditions in Germany is essential if the future of Europe is to be secured. The abolition of zonal frontiers would have tremendous repercussions on the whole of the international situation and the international difficulties existing today. It is interesting to note the following statement that was made by Mr. Molotov in Paris in July last:The time has come when we should discuss the fate of Germany and the peace treaty with that country. The Soviet Government has always held that the spirit of revenge is a poor counsellor in such affairs. It would be equally incorrect to identify Hitler Germany with the German people, although the German people cannot divest themselves of the responsibility for Germany's aggression, and for its grave consequences.In a speech dealing with the future of Germany, Mr. Molotov went on to say:While still engaged in the war, the Allies declared that they had no intention of destroying the German people. Even at that time when Hitler, with overweening presumption, openly proclaimed that he wanted to destroy Russia, Stalin, head of the Socialist Govern- 1703 ment, ridiculing these boastful stupidities, said, 'It is no more possible to destroy Germany than it is to dastroy Russia, but the Hitler State cart and must be destroyed.'Reading that statement, one wonders what is the obstacle to the creation in Germany of a single economic unit. The sting was in the tail of Mr. Molotov's speech. The attitude of the Soviet Union is that the clauses of the Potsdam Agreement should be carried out in Germany, as for as concerns reparations and the supply of the surplus produce of one zone to another, before Germany becomes a single unit in an economic sense. I claim that it is a sheer impossibility to carry out the terms of the Potsdam Agreement until Germany becomes a single economic unit. I hope the Government will press this position to the utmost when the opportunity occurs at the United Nations Assembly in New York.
I had an opportunity, in July, of visiting Germany, and I was convinced, as have been all hon. Members who have visited Germany, that unless the primary producing part of the country can become part of the general economic scheme in Germany, the possibilities of reconstruction in the West will be simply hopeless, because of the lack of food which should be coming from the zone controlled by Russia. On the other hand, the Soviet Union take the view that for any food which is transferred from the Russian zone to the British and American zones, the surplus manufactured products of the Western zones should be paid into the Russian zone in return. The most vital requirement in the American, French and British zones is sufficient food in order to enable the people to get the industries of the country running again. Until they are in a position to be able to produce their own requirements, it will be utterly impossible for them to be able to pay for food imported from the Russian zone, or from abroad. I have been struck by the folly of the Potsdam Agreement and the Yalta Agreement in their effects up to the present.
I think we can all agree that Germany's economic resources must be so restricted that it will be impossible in the future for her to build up an aggressive force for use against any nation in the world. But the wholesale destruction that has taken place—not only that wreaked by our own bombers on the 1704 great cities and ports of Germany, but that which has been carried out under the Potsdam Agreement—proves this, in my opinion, a fallacious method of attempting to restrict German aggression in the future. We have the invidious situation in the Schleswig-Holstein Province of the destruction of practically the whole of the dockyards in North-West Germany, upon which at least seven million people depended for their existence, and of not being able to introduce any industries in that area to take the place of the ones destroyed. I believe, as I have said, that the international problems and difficulties we are facing are capable of solution if we can find that solution through the Quadripartite Commission, and whether it is carried out by them or by the Foreign Secretaries of the four responsible Powers. Once that solution is found the other matters affecting the surrounding nations in Europe and elsewhere would be simplified. I ask the House to bear in mind that what we do today determines the future not only of this country but of the world, and that it may have tremendous repercussions on history.
There is another point which, I believe, should be brought out on every conceivable occasion. It is that throughout the world during the last seven years' there has been a complete revulsion of the common people against the inequalities and injustices that existed before the war, and a nobler conception of the duties and endeavours of the future. I think it is well to remember that in our dealings round the peace conference table. The great movement represented on this side of the House owes its present strength to the ethical foundations upon which it was based in the brotherhood of man, and if we can carry on those conceptions and show to the world that we are applying them in the attempt to find a solution to the world difficulties we are facing, I am perfectly satisfied that, in the end, the results will justify the confidence that we have in the ultimate goodness of the peoples of the world.
Finally, I should like to refer to a point which has not yet been mentioned in this Debate One of the greatest possible helps that this world can have has come into being during the last few years—the World Trade Union Federation. I believe that, side by side with the responsible Ministers of the various countries, in their endeavours to solve the problems 1705 with which the world is confronted, this great federation of world trade unions can play an important and vital part. We realise that if the workers of the world can be drawn together to discuss the difficulties with which they are confronted from day to day, then the international difficulties between nation and nation will be far more easy to solve and the foundation upon which we shall be building will be firm and will stand us in good stead in the future.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I believe I have the pleasing responsibility of congratulating the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lyne) on his maiden speech. I am sure that all hon. Members who remember their own maiden speeches will envy him his fluency and will also admire his courage in taking part in a discussion on so difficult a subject as foreign affairs on the second day of the Debate. I think that we shall all agree that he has made a most useful contribution to the subject. I would be largely in agreement with what he had to say on the subject of Potsdam because, like himself, I have had the opportunity of going to Germany and I came back with the very firm conviction that unless the Potsdam Agreement is implemented in the spirit and the letter in which it was drawn up there is no hope for the future economic welfare of the German people, and certainly of the people in our own zone in Western Germany.
Yesterday the Foreign Secretary gave us a very comprehensive survey of our foreign policy, and I think it is a striking proof of the complexity of the modern world that this survey had to range from Korea to Syria and from Australia to South America. I was especially glad when the right hon. Gentleman referred to events in the Far East, and I sincerely hope that before long we may have the opportunity in this House of a Debate on foreign affairs which is restricted to the Far East because it is natural, as we have seen in the present Debate up to now, that most hon. Members concentrate on affairs in Europe. There was only one omission in the Foreign Secretary's reference to the Far East, and I am wondering whether the Minister of State, who I believe is to reply, can pay some attention to it. It concerns Siam. We have a long and intimate relationship 1706 with the people of that country and the economic structure of our Far Eastern dependencies is bound up with Siamese rice. I should like to know what is happening in Siam and, even more, what is happening to the rice.
There is only one point which I want to make this afternoon. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary complained—I think quite rightly—of the propaganda which is raging against Great Britain in many parts of the world, and the misunderstanding which appears to have arisen with regard to our motives. Some of this propaganda is, of course, sheer malice, but I am convinced that some of it comes from a genuine misunderstanding of the principles upon which our foreign policy is based. I feel that if the Government are to receive the support not only of the people in this country, but of other democratic countries throughout the world, those principles should be clearly and continuously enunciated.
Foreign policy is not a game, nor is it an academic question, and I am one of those who believe that it is not an ideological question, as some hon. Members opposite suggested yesterday. If we are to go round the world seeking to destroy regimes which we regard as non-democratic, then we shall be at loggerheads, and soon at war, with about nine-tenths of the world, from China to Yugoslavia and from Russia to the Argentine. Foreign policy is in fact a method of protecting our own interests and saving our own people from the threat of another war, and it is against that criterion that the foreign policy of any Government has to be measured. Is it possible for us to define the principles of our foreign policy in a way which other countries would understand and, we hope, appreciate? I think there are three basic principles which must always underlie our foreign policy. The first is that if there is a United Nations organisation throughout the world, we must be unreservedly in it and be prepared to support it with all the forces at our command. We do that not only because we are pledged to the ethical principle of international cooperation, not only because, as a Christian country, we believe in the ultimate triumph of might over right, but for the more practical reason—
§ Mr. Gammans
I am very much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for correcting me. It is, of course, right over might. But for the most practical reason of all, that of all the countries in the world which need a United Nations organisation, we need it the most because we are easily the most vulnerable country in the world today. I wonder whether men of my age and older realise how the security of this island has deteriorated in our lifetime. Forty years ago we could afford to isolate ourselves very largely from the events on the Continent. We were protected by the Royal Navy and the English Channel. However great might be our follies in disarming between wars, we always knew that someone else would take the first knock. In the last war the English Channel was at the best a tank trap. It certainly was not a doodle-bug or rocket trap, and now in this atomic age we go to bed every night with the rather miserable thought that about a couple of dozen well placed atomic bombs could wipe us out as a great people. We could literally cease to exist as a nation between breakfast and lunch time.
This is what worries me. If we study the history of Europe during the past three or four centuries, we find that five times at least it has been this country alone which has stood between some potential aggressor and his ambition to dominate the world. Philip of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser, and Hitler came to grief on the cliffs of Dover and in the gray waters of the English Channel, but any future aggressor who aims at dominating the world knows that he has only to knock out this country— and he could knock it out now at a single blow—and the whole of the British Empire would fall like a ripe plum into his lap, and the central structure of world security would disappear overnight. That is the world in which we are, unfortunately, living today, a world which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the years when I and many other hon. Members were born.
If the first basis of our principles of foreign policy is loyalty to U.N.O., we had better ask ourselves how far U.N.O. 1708 has got. On the credit side we have the great advantage, as compared with the League of Nations, that Russia and the United States are in it from the beginning. What about the debit side? I cannot do better than quote the words of Field-Marshal Smuts, which many hon. Members heard over the radio a couple of weeks ago. This is what he said:Nobody who watches the proceedings of the Security Council with its arbitrary use of the veto, the propaganda nature of its debates and the unsettling effect on public opinion, can feel much confidence in the Council as a guardian of future peace.If we are honest and realistic with ourselves, that summarises very fairly the achievements of U.N.O. to date.
We know the main reason—that the failure of U.N.O. very largely revolves round the attitude of Russia, and the great question mark that hangs over human society today is, What is the real meaning of the Russian attitude? It is undeniable that Russia has blocked every attempt at international cooperation, whether in San Francisco, New York or Paris. Furthermore, today the Russians control the destinies of over 100 million non-Russian people in Eastern Europe. What does it mean? Is this just the bargaining method of a secretive and suspicious people with an Asiatic mentality, or is there something more sinister underlying it? Recently Stalin made a speech in which he proclaimed his peaceful intentions towards the world. It will take more than one speech of Stalin's to destroy the gloom and uncertainty which rest over the world. The sincerity of that speech must be shown by action. What action would we like to see? First of all, is Russia prepared to modify her attitude towards the veto power? Is she prepared seriously to consider the suggestion made by the United States over the control of atomic energy? Will she join the international efforts of the Joint Food and Agriculture Board? Will she call off the campaign of abuse and slander against this country? Will Mr. Molotov say "Yes" just for once?
If our loyalty to U.N.O. is the first principle in our foreign policy, what should be our second? We ought not to rely on U.N.O. alone, nor is it within the spirit of the Charter of U.N.O. that we should rely on U.N.O. alone. Surely the second principle in our foreign policy is that we should try to speak in the councils of the world not merely with the voice 1709 of the United Kingdom, but with the voice of the British Empire as a whole. We are a great Imperial Power or we are nothing at all. We could never be a second-class Power. We are either a first-class Power or a lonely, friendless island in the North Sea. I am very glad to see hon. Gentle-men opposite realising that today the British Empire is nothing of which to be ashamed. We get vague hints from time to time of an Imperial Defence policy. I would like to ask these specific questions. Can we have those vague hints translated into something definite? Have any agreements been reached whatever with the Dominions? What about the dispersal of vital industries throughout the Empire, about which we have had some hints? Has anything been done about the recruitment of an Army from the Colonial Empire, remembering that in our future commitments we may no longer be able to rely on the assistance of the Indian Army? I hope that sometime, if not today, we may have more details on those points.
What is the third and last principle of our foreign policy? It should surely be that we should try to save what remains of Western Europe and to integrate within the framework of U.N.O. some Western European regional organisation. Lately we have had two very powerful speeches advocating a United States of Europe, one from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and one from Field-Marshal Smuts. In the last few days we have had the Berlin elections. I read from the results of the Berlin elections that the Germans, in spite of Russian pressure and intimidation, still think of themselves as Europeans and still look to the West and not to the East. It is a green light for His Majesty's Government to go ahead in trying to get some Western European federation. Is that their object? Is that their policy? Is it realised that we shall never get European federation without British leadership, and, what is more, that the whole of Europe is looking for that leadership?
I have two things to say in conclusion. The first is that we must cease to talk of ourselves as a second-class Power. If we marshal our Empire resources and if, above all, we are given the right leadership, we can still regard ourselves as a first-class Power, whether we reckon it in raw materials, industrial capacity or manpower. Nothing is more despicable, and nothing to any foreigner is more incom- 1710 prehensible than that, with our record, we should go creeping round the world with an inferiority complex. The second thing of which I am absolutely convinced is that if this country is to exercise any influence in the world at all, it must stand for principle and not expediency in international affairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad that hon. Gentlemen agree with me.
§ Mr. Gammans
There is only one hope for mankind, and that is not a paper charter but a restoration of moral values throughout the world, and the restoration of the pledged word in international affairs. When we are considering making peace, can we be satisfied with the principles under which peace is being made at the present time? I know that in the last 20 years it has been the fashion to deride the Treaty of Versailles, very largely as the result of clever German propaganda, but that Treaty is a veritable Sermon on the Mount compared with some of the things that are going on today. The Treaty of Versailles was at least based on the principle of serf-determination, and every effort was made to draw frontiers according to ethnic considerations. Can we rest content with what is going on in Eastern Europe today? The three Baltic Republics were submerged merely on the ground that it is necessary to Russian security. If that argument can be used for the submergence of Lithuania, Latvia and Esthonia, we could use equally strongly that argument for invading Southern Ireland and Iceland.
§ Mr. Gammans
Can we rest content, on moral grounds, with the moving of the Polish frontier miles into Germany, and the deportation of millions of Germans from one part of Germany to the other? I do not know whether the hon. Member for Burton when he was in Germany saw the arrival there every day of 12 trains of these hapless people from Eastern Germany? There were no young or middle-aged men among them, they had been shipped off to Russia. They were old men, women and children, torn up from their homes and dumped into our zone without food and without houses. Can we say that that is making peace on any question of principle? Can anyone 1711 defend on moral grounds the deportation of Germans to Czechoslovakia? It is no good our talking about a democratic Government arising in Germany. No Government in Germany, democratic or otherwise, could hold office for five minutes if they did not protest against the taking away of lands which for hundreds of years have been German.
§ Mr. Gammans
Can anyone defend, except on political grounds, the trial and imprisonment of Archbishop Stepinac, and other things which are happening in Yugoslavia? No peace can come from such events; they bear within themselves the seed of a third world war. Right is right and wrong is wrong, whether it comes from an Ally, a neutral or an enemy country. May I remind some of the hon. Gentlemen who spoke yesterday that there cannot be one test of freedom for Spain and one for Yugoslavia?
§ Mr. Gammans
There cannot be one criterion for democracy for Greece and another one for Hungary. If we are to give a lead to the world, if we are to see the path clearly for ourselves, we must take off our coloured spectacles of any tint.
I believe that if the Foreign Secretary will proclaim the principles of our foreign policy with vigour and conviction, if he will take the trouble to explain to the world the principles on which that policy is based, and if he will always act on moral principles and not on expediency, he may or may not receive the approbation of some of his own back benchers, but he will certainly receive the support not only of the party on this side of the House, but, I believe, also of the whole country and, in time, of the whole civilised world.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
I confess to a feeling of unreality in listening to this Debate, and in reading the discussions in the Press about the so-called ideological conflict between East and West. The nearest that anyone has come to putting his finger on the real issue—only to take it away again quickly—was Field-Marshal 1712 Smuts, and since it seems to be popular to quote him, perhaps I may follow the example of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). On 7th October, Field-Marshal Smuts said:I wish the veto could be imposed on the ideologies and the world just be allowed to settle down to its real business. For in what is really wanted we are all agreed. People want to be fed and housed and clothed, to be secured against unemployment and sickness and all the other miseries of our daily life— to be secured against these fears and against the fear of war. In all this there is no east or west, and no ideologies. There is just simple stark humanity.The Prime Minister this afternoon, quoting the Foreign Secretary, said that our real trouble was the economic disorganisation resulting from the war. I heard that after the first world war, when it was assumed that the only thing wrong with the world was the economic dis-organisation resulting from the war, and reconstruction was based on the assumption that we could go back to the prewar economic system. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), who was at that time Director of the Economic and Financial Section of the League Secretariat, wrote very pungently on that point, and explained in detail that the whole reconstruction effort had gone wrong because it overlooked the fact that it was the very economic and social foundations of our society which had to be rebuilt. If that was true after the first world war, it is a thousand times more true today. The whole point about this ideological conflict is that it is concerned with how people are to get food and houses and be secured against unemployment and against war. We on these benches won the General Election because we told the people of England that these things could only be done by going forward toward Socialism. It is a remarkable fact that in every Debate on foreign affairs in this House our Front Bench has never mentioned the word "Socialism," except this afternoon, when the Prime Minister said that our policy was democratic Socialism. I suppose it is exemplified in Greece?
The issue we have to face is the fact of the social revolution in the world, and what we are going to do about it; what our attitude is towards it. On our decision on that issue, depends whether there will be peace between us and the 1713 Soviet Union, or whether there is to be a third world war. When I speak of the social revolution, I am referring to the same fact as that which was mentioned, in somewhat different words, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), in the coal Debate on 20th May. He used words then which impressed me so much, that I still remember them by heart. He said:The problem of the 20th century is how to create an economic democracy parallel with the political democracy that has come to its full estate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 133.]I believe that is a profoundly true observation. But I think the right hon. Gentleman himself would agree that, in the form in which he has put the issue, it applies only to the old established democracies in Western Europe, to the British Commonwealth and to the United States. In the rest of the world the situation is different. I will leave out Asia because there the issue is complicated by the struggle for national independence and equality of status, and I will deal only with Europe because in Europe we have a special responsibility under the Atlantic Charter and under the Teheran and Potsdam Agreements.
The responsibility under the Atlantic Charter was interpreted by the then Prime Minister, now Leader of the Opposition, on 24th May, 1944, and by the then Minister of State of the Labour Government on 19th December, 1945. According to those interpretations, the Atlantic Charter means that we are to help the ex-enemy peoples to establish democratic forms of government, and allow them to choose any democratic form of government they want. But we are to prevent them restoring any form of Fascist rule. The Teheran agreement binds us to help the liberated peoples, who are our Allies, to get rid of the remains of Fascism in their countries, and to establish a democratic form of rule.
How are we to apply those obligations in the Europe of today? In the Europe of today there is something quite new and unprecedented going on. It is an attempt to establish both economic and political democracy simultaneously, as one combined operation. Nothing like that has ever been done before. There are no precedents for it, and it is not surprising that it is a little puzzling to observers 1714 from this country who, very naturally, tend to look at everything through the spectacles of our own country and our own conditions. I do not think we realise what a very extraordinary and miraculous thing our democratic system and democratic way of life is. It is so ingrained in the blood, and bones, and traditions, of the people of this country, that it is generally assumed now to be part of the order of nature. It is not. It is the result of a very long history, of restraint and commonsense, and of faith in each other's fundamental honesty and good will. These are precious things which do not come of themselves, and cannot be exported, but are the result of a very long evolution.
In Europe things are happening of a very different kind because the background is very different. The only way in which I can give an idea of the difference, perhaps, is by telling the House the story of the Balkan partisan who, when he heard that Labour had won the General Election, said: "Oh, then I suppose the Conservative Party have taken to the hills." How was that rude and unlettered Balkan partisan to know that in our sophisticated democracy, when the Conservative Party is beaten at the polls, all that happens is that its leaders take to the City?
We do not know, because we are used to it, what very strong medicine free elections are. To try to apply that system to people who have gone through years and years of a debilitating system of Fascism, or who have never grown up to democracy, is like giving whisky to a child, or to a patient in a hospital. An American statesman once remarked that the United States in every Presidential election has a sublimated civil war every four years. I know of a case where even a football match between two South American republics caused a rupture in diplomatic relations, and a headache in Geneva. These things put a great strain on the solidarity of communities which are not used to our advanced democracy. As Lord Balfour said:Democracy can exist only in a community where everyone is agreed on fundamentals.The whole point about countries in Europe who have emerged after being overrun by Fascism and dictated to by their own Fascists and quislings, is that 1715 in those countries, there has been a revolution. Fascism is capitalist counterrevolution, and was supported by leading men of the propertied class, the big bankers, big businessmen, and big landowners. Part of the population of those countries went over completely to the Fascists and, as a result, the overthrow of the Fascist régimes meant that the resistance movements, which were based in great part, on the working class and peasantry took over the derelict industries and estates from the big bankers, businessmen and landowners, who had fled after having associated themselves with Fascism. What are they to do in those countries with the people who worked with the enemy, and shot, tortured, and gaoled their own countrymen? They cannot include them in their democracy, because they do not agree on fundamentals. Therefore, these régimes must be coalitions to start with, of those who support the revolution against those who oppose it.
That is what is happening in a large part of Europe today. The disappearance of the landowning and big business classes has meant the rise to the surface of the peasants and working class. The great problem of those countries is how to help those people to come together, and not allow them to fall apart. The way to do that, is through the co-operatives and trade unions. The political dynamo is some kind of political coalition, either of Socialists and Communists, or of Communists alone in nearly all those countries. The supporters of these régimes argue for maintaining a coalition by pointing to the fact that during the war we put off the Election for five years, and that at the end of the war the Conservative Party put forward strong arguments for continuing it here in the difficult circumstances of post-war reconstruction. These people do not understand why the Conservative Party, who are such strong believers in national unity in our country, are so bent upon making them return to party politics, when their problems are incomparably more difficult. Part of their population is still 100 per cent. against the new régimes.
I want to emphasise the fact that throughout Europe today the trade unions and working classes are playing a far greater part in reconstruction than 1716 they have ever played, and in the trade unions the Communist parties, or Communists and Socialists together, are playing the leading part. In every country in Europe today the trade unions are stronger than they have ever been. In France the Confédération Générate du Travail is over 6 million strong, greater than it has ever been. It has taken a key part in the reconstruction of France after the war, such a powerful part that the Paris correspondents of "The Times," "New York Times" and "Herald Tribune" have testified that it is impossible to reconstruct France without the trade unions and the Communist Party, which is almost in complete control of the French trade unions. The Paris correspondent of "The Economist" on 17th August, wrote:The facts suggest that the French unions are Communist today because the working man has learnt by hard experience to identify Communist leadership with his own betterment. This development is vital to understanding what is now happening in France.The French Communists had five million votes at the last election and have 10 Ministers in the Government. They were only two per cent. behind the M.R.P. last time and may be the strongest party at the next Election. I could go through the whole of Europe, country by country, and come to the same conclusion that the working class, through the trade unions, is playing a key part in reconstruction, and that Communist Parties, or as in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania and Bulgaria, Communist Parties in conjunction with Socialist Parties, are playing a crucial part in reconstruction. The same applies to the Soviet zone in Germany.
In those areas Socialist reconstruction is on the basis of about 80 per cent. nationalisation of industry, a further large cooperative section of industry and trade, and then a sector of private enterprise for light industry, handicraft and petty trading. Those societies are heading for some new social order, and have enlisted the enthusiasm and cooperation of the working class and the peasants, who have now got the land. The amount of political democracy and civil liberty varies very greatly, according to the degree of political democracy that had been attained by those countries before the war, Czechoslovakia being top of the list in that respect, and according to the amount of 1717 suffering they endured during the war, and how severely they were oppressed under some kind of Quisling régime.
Contrast that with what is happening in parts of Europe over which Britain and America have direct responsibility. In Italy there are over two million unemployed. The first thing which the Allied High Command did when they landed in Italy was to apply the rule of "no politics," which meant, in fact, that the Fascists having been overthrown by our victory, the Left were not allowed to take charge. In Northern Italy, where the workers had taken charge and thrown out the Fascist bosses from the factories and got down to it, the Fascist bosses were restored and the factory committees dissolved. In all the other countries I have mentioned trades unions and factory committees are playing a leading part in the actual running of the factories and in actually determining the condition of the workers. In Italy we allowed the Uomo Qualunque party, a neo-Fascist party, to be formed in spite of our pledge not to allow any restoration of Fascism, and Italy is in such a state today that there may be civil war in that country. The Socialist Party is breaking up. Part of it is being pulled by the solicitations of the Allies to line up with the Catholics, others believe that the only hope of salvation lies in alliance with the Communists.
We have heard about the deplorable conditions in the British zone in Germany. I had intended to quote the same passage from the "Observer" which an hon. Gentleman opposite quoted yesterday. I will forbear to do so, but I will draw attention to the resolution of the German Social Democratic Party. The German Social Democrats, in the midst of their election campaign, found the situation so serious as to find it necessary to pass a resolution protesting that they would not cooperate any further with the occupation Forces unless there was a radical change of policy.
The "Manchester Guardian" Cologne correspondent on 27th September said that the reasons why the Social Democratic Party found it necessary to hold such a conference in the middle of an election campaign were twofold:1. The party leaders' realisation that the continuing social and economic deterioration in Germany is reaching such proportions that the credit of any party cooperating in the regional or local government is threatened. 2. The 1718 course taken by the negotiations for the economic fusion of the British and American zones….Delegate after delegate spoke at the meeting of the pitiable condition of the people, the stagnation in industry, the apathy produced by continued hunger.
The resolution stated that:Germany is threatened with the most frightful disaster…. In politics, economics and administration the same forces are in control which brought us to our present pass. In the unification of the British and American zones all the central offices have been handed over to representatives of the capitalist viewpoint.An article in the "Scotsman" of 19th October from their special correspondent, just returned from our zone, said that there was great bitterness about the working of the electoral system. I asked a Question the other day about that system and received an answer which did not satisfy me. I note that these new elections instead of producing a fair result have produced a result in which the Social Democrats, who had 150,000 votes more than the Catholic Democrats, got 1,000 fewer seats than the Catholic Democrats. This was the result of an electoral system against which the leaders of all the German parties protested vehemently and persistently to the British occupation authorities. This correspondent's article comments:That a party with the strongest vote should appear to get far less actual influence on the newly elected municipal bodies than its weaker rival must seem in German eyes to contradict the idea that democratic institutions reflected the will of the people.The article continues:Feeling against the British Occupation authorities is very strong and very bitter, but hatred of Russia is even stronger and more bitter, so that as one prominent German leader said, The British here live entirely on the follies and mistakes committed by the Russians.The only catch about that state of affairs is that the Russians started with the great handicap of the Goebbels terror propaganda against them, further aggravated by the bad behaviour of Russian troops in the first few days or weeks of occupation. It we are to rely upon that, and the Russians as well as I have seen them doing it in their zone, I think there will be a change in the situation.
Against these facts, much as I welcome the Foreign Secretary's announcement 1719 that we propose to socialise heavy industry in our zone, I would like to be certain what it means and what is to happen. I was told in Germany on high British official authority that we are to introduce land reform and that a maximum of 150 hectares was to be possessed by one person. That is about 375 acres. A land reform which allows people to have 375 acres is not my idea of land reform. It is creating a new type of middle sized landed gentry. Can the good intentions of the Foreign Secretary survive his utter dependence on the policy of the United States? The Americans in their zone are rapidly letting American business men buy up the industries in that zone and run them on American credits. The raw materials are being supplied, and the manufactured goods being worked up for export in the American zone of Germany. There is a grave danger that whatever our intentions may be we shall find that in view of the fusion of the two zones, and because of the complete dependence of this country in world affairs on the United States today we shall not be able to carry our policy into effect.
Let me enumerate a few facts which show how complete is our dependence on the United States. First there is the issue of the Danube. The Foreign Secretary made a speech in this House on 5th June, on the occasion of the last foreign affairs Debate, and he made another statement yesterday, in both of which he put the issue of the Danube as though it was concerned wholly with the navigation of the Danube, and as though the only people obstructing the matter were the Russians. In his speech last June he added a peroration full of pathos about the wickedness of the Russians in playing power politics on the hungry bellies of the people. But that account left out two facts of considerable importance. The first is that the Americans have pinched most of the river barges of the Danube, which belong to the Danubian States, including our Allies Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, who are our Allies. When some of us were in Yugoslavia last November we heard bitter complaints, not only from Yugoslavs but from U.N.R.R.A., who said that the confiscation of those barges was holding up supplies and causing difficulties. If anybody is playing power politics on the bellies of the people 1720 it is the Americans. Again, what was left out of the Foreign Secretary's statement is that the issue is not concerned solely with navigation of the Danube. The Americans have made it clear in every statement on the subject, both at the Paris Conference and in the Press, that the issue to them is free trade and non-discrimination throughout the Danube area. They are fighting that as a joint issue with the navigation of the Danube. What that means is brought out pretty clearly in a despatch to "The Times" on 13th September, from its Paris correspondent, which says:In the European Economic Commission this morning, a debate arose over the status to be granted to foreign business interests in Rumania; and from that starting point it developed into an argument between free enterprise and State control. In opposing the British proposal to grant foreign interests the same advantages as they enjoyed before the war, the Russian delegation have been led step by step to an almost open attack on the capitalist system and the defence of controlled economy.One sees what terrible fellows these Russians are.The British, in resisting this attack, found themselves arguing the case of liberalism and free competition. It was clear that the United States and the British delegates were talking the same language. Between them and the Russian group the gap remains unbridged."The Times," of 12th October, in a leading article, spoke of the insistence of what was called the spokesmen of the United States and our Foreign Secretary upon free entry into the Danube Valley and Eastern Europe for the goods and capital of the Western countries. It said that the Russians were resisting this because they were afraid that the consequence of these policies in the impoverished European countries might betheir domination as economic colonies by the immense and unmatched wealth and productive power of the United States.So here we have the Labour Government openly and directly supporting an offensive of American big business against the Socialist economies of Eastern Europe.
Take the case of the Dardanelles. The history of our free entry into the Dardanelles goes right back into the nineteenth century when we commanded the sea and were very anxious to keep that channel open in the case of a war with Russia. It was the Crimean War policy. Today, of course, things have 1721 changed a little—that is, the world has changed, not the Foreign Office tradition. We are repeating this earlier action, but this time, please note, as the "stooges" of American imperialism. Some time ago Walter Lippmann, who is one of the most intelligent publicists in the States— he used to be a Liberal and he is now something between a power politician and a war criminal—wrote very frankly about the fact that the United States were quite ready to come into the Mediterranean and the Middle East and help us to restore the balance of power, but she would do so on her own terms. She wanted to become a Mediterranean Power in her own right. On this issue of the Dardanelles, Walter Lippmann wrote another article on 12th September in the "New York Herald Tribune." He said:Early last winter the United States Government made the momentous decision to take the leading part in repelling the expansion of the Soviet Empire. As a result, we are now engaged in a world wide diplomatic struggle of the utmost gravity. We must realise that it cannot be won and that it may lead to a catastrophic war unless the diplomatic campaign is planned on a correct appraisal of what it is essential to accomplish and of the power and influence we can muster in order to accomplish it…. The direct American policy would be to build up American power at a selected point where, if war comes, the Soviet Union would from the outset be on the defensive. That point is manifestly in the Eastern Mediterranean in the direction of the Black Sea. For at that point American sea and air power can be brought within reach of the vital centres of Russia, and can, therefore, most surely counteract the striking power of the Red Army.That is the reality of this battering at the gates of the Dardanelles by the British and the Americans, and I say that on that issue I am entirely on the side of the Russians. It is very big of Uncle Sam to come all the way across the world to stop Russian expansion at the very frontiers of the Soviet Union. But what about American expansion? Where are the Americans? They have naval and air bases all over the world. They have settled down in Iceland and extorted an air base from the Icelanders who submitted under pressure of the American military occupation. The Americans were assisted by the subservient British Government, who sent Notes to the Icelanders urging them to give in to the Americans lest the Americans should not like their attitude. That is what is happening.
1722 Henry Wallace has, himself, denounced the danger of the warmongers in the United States. President Truman has just "chucked his hand in" after a bitter right with the American profiteers and enemies of the people whom he denounced when surrendering to them and taking all controls off meat. All controls are off American foreign policy as well. The United States is now blundering about the world like a hermit crab that has cast its shell and is looking for a bigger one.
We very often prepare for peace on the basis of the last peace. Today people who are worrying about American isolationism are hopelessly out of date. It is true the Americans helped us to lose the last peace by isolation. But if we lose the next peace it will be not from American isolationism but from American imperialism. I do not intend to go into the question of the Middle East except to say that there too our whole policy is a strategic policy which is based purely on military considerations. It has nothing whatever to do with the welfare of the people. It is all bound up with the attempt to combine the strategy of the Crimean war with the politics of Kipling. That is an anachronism beyond our strength, and it makes no sense in the world of 1946. In Greece, again, we have the contrast between the smooth words of the Foreign Secretary and ugly realities. There I could quote what the same American paper has said about it, but I will not do that because I have too much to say.
To take the case of Poland, there have been a lot of things said about that country which, I think, require an answer. Anders's army is not Poland and it does not consist by any means wholly of people who fought on our side, because that army doubled its numbers after the armistice in Italy. The only authority we have for interfering in Polish affairs is the Teheran Agreement and the subsequent Potsdam Agreement. Those were tripartite agreements between America, Russia and ourselves. I stressed this point on Friday and I got a very unsatisfactory and lame reply from the Government. It is a principle of international law, that unless an international agreement specifies that it could be interpreted and applied by only some of its signatories, all the signatories must agree to apply it jointly. One or two of them cannot rightfully do so unilaterally. 1723 That means we have no legal right whatever, unless we secure the assent of the Soviet Union as well as the United States, to make representations to Poland on this matter. I do not really see that we have any moral right either, if we remember the situation that exists in Greece.
What happened was that the United States sent a Note asking the Soviet Union and ourselves whether we would protest to Poland. The Soviet Union refused and we, of course, obliged, as usual. The United States emphasised what they wanted to do to Poland by holding up the money which they proposed to lend to them. We did not have any money to lend to Poland, but our resourceful Foreign Secretary found a way by pinching the Polish Government's money, which we promised to return, but now said we would not return unless they pleased us about the elections. We have no legal right to interfere in the matter. The situation in Poland is really very serious. On Friday the Under-Secretary, replying for the Government, chose to identify Mikolajczyk's Peasant Party with the Labour Party. He said they stood for practically the same thing. The whole trouble about Mikolajczyk's Party is that its right wing has been heavily infiltrated by members of the Fascist underground. More than a hundred of the captured members of Fascist bands have been found to be members of his party. On 27th September a long list was published of the number of people captured and the amount of the casualties, and it was stated there were nearly 7,000 Poles who had been "bumped off" by the bands in the Fascist underground.
The conclusion is that we must adopt a social engineering rather than a Gallup Poll view of how to make democracy in Europe work again, and how to discharge our responsibilities under the Teheran Agreement and under the Atlantic Charter, as interpreted by this Government and by the previous one. We cannot separate the revival or the establishment of political democracy from the process of Socialist reconstruction. That ought to hold no terrors for the Labour Party. After all, our own policy demands that we should make Socialism the basis of international reconstruction in Europe. This policy, called The International Post-War Settlement, framed by the National Executive and adopted by the annual conference in 1724 December, 1944, states that Socialism is a fundamental necessity for getting rid of the causes of war, for extirpating Fascism, for successful economic reconstruction and for restoring democracy. I would like to ask the Government whether the main lines and principles of this statement of foreign policy still hold good. I asked the Foreign Secretary that question at the Bournemouth Conference during the five minutes which were allotted to me, but in the 70 minutes which he took to reply, he did not find time to give an answer on that point. I wish he would put that card on the table. Does this document, the Post-War International Settlement, in its main lines and fundamental principles, represent the Labour Party's foreign policy?
When the late Mr. Arthur Henderson became Foreign Secretary in the second Labour Government, the first thing he did was to call his officials together and to put into their hands the text of the foreign policy of the Labour Party. He told them to read it because that was now the Government's foreign policy. I would like to know whether anything like that has been done this time. I can answer that question at once by saying that it has not been done and that in point of fact we have not got a foreign policy. All we have got is the tradition of the Foreign Office. The Labour Government are riding on that tradition as a kind of collective Lady Godiva, singing some little ditty about their democratic Socialist foreign policy which is invisible and imaginary. Nobody, at home or abroad, has seen any Socialism in it. If we did have a Socialist foreign policy, I do not imagine that hon. Members opposite would be quite so fond of it. I am not a Vansittartist about the hon. Members opposite. I do not want to see scenes of disorder, violence and carnage when our Front Bench set about the other Front Bench in foreign affairs Debates. But I am getting heartily tired of the amount of fraternisation which is carried on. I see no reason why in every foreign affairs Debate our Foreign Secretary should enter the arena in the spirit of Ferdinand the Bull, while hon. Members opposite bring him flowers in the guise of "Tory adorers."
What I do ask the Government is whether this document, the International Postwar Settlement, is their foreign policy. Do they pay any attention to it and take any responsibility for it? I ask them that question, not only in my 1725 own name but in the name of my electors, who returned me to this House. I fought my campaign as much on foreign affairs as on home affairs. I did not say that, if a Labour Government was returned, they would have their own home policy, but that in foreign affairs they would have a black market under-the-counter coalition with the Tories. I fought my campaign, not only in my own constituency, but in all the surrounding constituencies—[Laughter.] I was asked to do that, and I did it. What I said then is what I am saying now and what I have been saying all the time. This is what I said in my election address, which was approved by Transport House as being in entire conformity with the Labour Party's policy:Only a British Government friendly to Socialism can join effectively in making peace in Europe. Throughout Europe, the overthrow of Fascism has meant the downfall of capitalism because the political parties of the Right and the leaders of trade and industry, with a few exceptions, have been associated with the Fascist and Quisling dictatorships and Hitler's economic system.Throughout Europe, the resistance movements derived their main strength from the workers and their Allies, and are largely under Socialist and Communist leadership. Their reconstruction programmes are based on sweeping advances towards Socialism.Europe can be reconstructed, pacified and united, and democracy can be revived only on the basis of a new social order. To that policy the Soviet Union are already committed, and the French people have given their allegiance in the recent elections. On that basis, a Labour Government can work together with the Soviet Union and with the Popular and Democratic forces in Europe that would be irresistibly encouraged by Labour's coming into power.That combination of States, bound together by such purposes and policies, would be so strong and so successful as to attract the friendship and cooperation of the American and Chinese peoples. On these lines, Labour would put granite foundations under the flimsy scaffolding erected at the San Francisco Conference, and take the lead in building a world organisation capable of guaranteeing peace and promoting the common interests of nations.If we act as Socialists in Europe, we can work with France and the Soviet Union on the basis of our joint obligations under the Anglo-Soviet and the Franco-Soviet Alliances, and these three States together would win the respect of American Tories and the friendship and cooperation of American Liberals and Labour. A Government adopting that policy would be carrying out the Labour Party's own declared policy, instead of 1726 drifting and dithering all over the world as it is doing now.
There are three major factors to consider—American capitalism, European Socialism and Russian Communism. If we go with American capitalism against European Socialism we shall throw the latter into the arms of Soviet Communism. But if we work together with France and the U.S.S.R. we shall have the chance of assisting the renascence of Europe and help the people of Europe to the restoration of democracy and toleration.
I want to finish with some remarks of a personal character. Some courage is required to make an attack on the Labour Government's Tory foreign policy. Those who do so are being called "crypto-Com-munists." This, on the face of it, is silly. It is silly to call anybody "crypto" because he speaks his mind, and it is silly to call him Communist for urging a Labour Government to practise its own policy. So far as I am concerned, this is the fight which I started when I joined up in the first world war, because I believed it was the war to end war and to make the world safe for democracy. As an official of the League of Nations, I fought that fight with everything I had, and I have said all my life the things that I have said now. In foreign affairs, I do not take my opinions or judgments from anybody, but I make up my own mind and I have a right to do that. If I insist in this way and put my own judgment against the mass authority of both Front Benches I am in the recollection of the tradition of this House. If I am a rebel on these matters, I am not the first, and I shall not be the last, to stand on his own conscience for what he believes to be right, in spite of what everybody has said against him. I know I am right in this. I know that, on the lines on which we are going now, there is nothing but disaster ahead of us. But if Labour has the courage to part company with the Tories and apply its own Socialist foreign policy, we shall win the peace.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman in his long trip round Europe and the world, but I would suggest to him that there is such a thing in this House as a time limit for speeches. Before I make my brief speech, may I congratulate the Minister of State on his 1727 first appearance on the Front Bench opposite? I think we are all particularly pleased with the news of his appointment, and I am certain that he will do great credit to his office.
I would like to bring two points to the attention of the Government. I want to ask the Minister of State whether he is really satisfied that the Foreign Office is giving all the necessary support and encouragement to the people in the Consular Service. I should like to be assured, and I am sure the House would be gratified to know, that some change would be made, particularly in regard to the remuneration and pension system of our Consular Service. My second question is whether the Foreign Office shows sufficient support and sympathy in every part of the world where the British Council is operating. It is one of the best institutions for benefiting this country from the point of view of its culture, and very valuable work has been done by it in most countries in the world. I would like to hear from the Minister of State, when he replies to the Debate, that he intends to accord all the sympathy and support he can give for the advancement of this work which these people are doing so well. The work of the British Council in many countries, and particularly in South America, has been of immense service' in showing the British way of 4ife to the people of those communities and in the establishment of a good foundation for successful diplomatic understanding.
The main point with which I wish to deal is the treatment of the Archbishop of Zagreb. It is difficult to discuss this matter in this House, while reflecting with great satisfaction on the comprehensive survey which the Foreign Secretary gave, and feeling, at the same time, that forces are at work in Europe whose disruptive effect ultimately must be the destruction of Western civilisation as we know it. I believe that the Tito Administration is not merely concerned with the trial of archbishops and priests and the sending of them to the gallows, but that it aims at the destruction of Christianity itself.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I am sorry that I cannot give way to the hon. Lady, but I have only a short time at my disposal. The 1728 whole policy of those responsible for the government of Yugoslavia is to drive Christianity out of the land altogether. That applies not merely to the Catholic Church but also to the Orthodox Church. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly. The proceedings of the tribunal which tried the archbishop, priests and other exalted persons of the Church, the method by which evidence was presented and examined, and the propaganda adopted to rouse the people in an endeavour to get a fake petition against the accused was so derogatory of decent administration and government that it makes one feel ashamed that such a state of affairs could prevail in these days even in South-Eastern Europe. The Foreign Secretary has told us today that he is studying all the papers concerned with this tragedy. He could render no greater service to Christianity than to make the decision of His Majesty's Government clear to the Tito Administration—that the Archbishop should be immediately liberated.
My last word concerns our foreign policy in relation to the Consular Service which means so much to the business people of this country. We must try to keep our Dominions as close as possible to the Mother Country. A wise Imperial policy is necessary as the substructure of a sound foreign policy. The more closely we associate with our Dominions, the better and the safer will be the conduct of our foreign policy. I hope that when the Minister of State replies he will take notice of what I have said about the Consular Service and the British Council, and that he will make it clear that something must be done to deal with the tragedy in Zagreb. Finally, I would say to him that the unity of the British Empire and a close contact between all the Governments of this comity of nations are the soundest background for a vigorous foreign policy.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I would like to add a word in support of what the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) has said in so far as it relates to the Archbishop of Zagreb. In view of what the Foreign Secretary said at Question time today, that he would look at all the documents and carefully consider whether any representations could be made to the Yugoslav Administration, I do not propose to go into the details of the charges 1729 or countercharges. However, I would say to my right hon. Friend that he will be earning the gratitude of ail Christian peoples throughout the world if, as a result of his representations, this savage sentence is annulled.
I wish to address a few remarks to the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). We listened to what seemed to me to be a fantastic speech. In talking about the terrible things which this Government have said about the Soviet Union, he pleaded that nothing ever came from the Soviet Union in criticism of this Government and, in fact, that the Soviets had insufficient paper on which to reply. Wherever I have been the evidence has shown that the Russians have a great deal more paper than is good for them. Although I cannot read Russian and, therefore, cannot read their Press, I do read the monitoring reports which are issued every day and which can be found in the Library of this House. If my hon. and learned Friend has any doubt as to whether or not there is any criticism of this Government in Soviet Russia, a half hour spent every day for the next week in studying these monitoring reports would enlighten him. He complains that we are not trying to be friends with Russia. But friendship goes both ways; we cannot be friends with people who will not be friends with us. It may be a ridiculous analogy, but the whole situation reminds me of a rather silly rhyme, which runs something like this:Making love to Hannah in a big armchair, Is like floating through Alaska in your underwear.I think the trouble is very much on the other side. My own conception is that what the Communists fear—I am not talking about the Russians—is that the British Labour Party should be a howling success and should establish a Christian Socialist order in Western Europe. That is the root of the trouble. Having said that, I insist that if the peace of the world is to prevail then, as the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) has said, we must not hitch ourselves to the American bandwagon, but must find a way of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.
Earlier in the Debate, we heard one of the usual mischievous speeches from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I was most entertained by his extract from his speech of last Octo- 1730 ber. He said that he had warned us last year that if certain events happened it would be very important that we should not demobilise too quickly. May I ask hon. Members to carry their minds back to that speech? The whole object of it was to cause mischief to this Government, to make them unpopular with the Forces and to force the rate of demobilisation above what was practicable. But, the right hon. Gentleman always puts in a saving clause. Anybody who studies the right hon. Gentleman, as I do—I have a complete analysis of every speech he made during the war—finds that he always says something which enables him to prove that he was right at the time, whatever happens subsequently. He has done it again today. In a most mischievous manner he asked a question which he knows should not be asked publicly. He could perfectly well have put that question to the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister privately, as any responsible hon. Member would have done, if he had grounds for entertaining such fears. I think he has done mischief. I would point out that it did not surprise me, although I think it is unfortunate that it should have happened just at the time when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is going on this most important mission on which, I am sure, we all wish him success.
One cannot go through the whole catalogue of foreign affairs, and I am going to confine myself to some remarks about Italy and Germany and displaced and persecuted people everywhere. I will take Italy first. The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that due regard had been paid to the services which Italy had rendered to us towards the end of the war when she became a cobelligerent. Of course, I knew that would be the case, but it is important that the consideration which is given in making this peace treaty should be of such a nature that it is recognisable at the other end. I do not propose to talk about Trieste, because it is almost a fait accompli and finished with, but I do not think the House realises the services which Italy rendered after she became a cobelligerent. Take her Navy, for example. The protocol of the Armistice was altered so that she placed her Navy unconditionally at the service of the Allies. It is a little hard and distressing for competent Italian politicians to find now that the Italian 1731 Navy is to be treated as booty. I hope that when my right hon. Friend gets to Washington he will find a way to get the Italian Navy handed over to U.N.O., which would create a good impression in Italy, which has quite a fairly representative democratic Government. I do not think it is realised how the Italian Air Force helped, and how the Italian Armed Forces fought against the Germans in the North and rendered sundry other services up and down the coast at key points. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary realises this, but unless somebody says so, our Italian friends may not realise that we are taking as much interest as we ought. When the Treaty comes to be signed, it must be in a form which can be accepted by a self-respecting democratic leader of the Italian people; otherwise, there will be trouble I end my remarks about Italy by saying that it seems to be contrary to the first and second clauses of the Atlantic Charter that by this Trieste adjustment about 180,000 Italians are, willy-nilly, to be handed over into the power of people with whom they do not wish to live.
We heard a speech from the opposite benches yesterday with which I almost entirely agree. I agree with what was said about the constant reiteration that we must not be "sloppy" in our approach to the German problem. There is no question of "sloppy" sentiment, nor is there any question of being tough. What really matters is that we should be just, that there should be justice which will be recognised in years to come. When tempers are hot and people are hurt and war is just over, we are all inclined to take a jaundiced view. The peace of the world will only last if we bear in mind that what matters is that the peace that is made now should not be an imposed peace, that it must be ultimately an agreed peace, a peace embracing all the peoples in the world, which will be considered just not only today, but in generations to come. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford warned the Foreign Secretary of the danger of imposing any policy or philosophy on a defeated nation, and he referred to what happened after the last war. I agree with the theory that an imposed peace is no use and must eventually break down, but I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman 1732 has not realised that the world has gone on. When the Foreign Secretary told us yesterday for the first time—and we were all glad to hear it—of the Government's policy to socialise the heavy industries in Germany, I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford realised that there has been an election in Berlin and that the Social Democratic forces are in. Incidentally, the hon. Member far Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) was wrong when he referred to the Catholic Democrats. It is called the Christian Democratic Union and is the strongest party in both the British and American zones; together with the Social Democratic Party they swamp all other parties. Those two parties far outnumber any of the other parties, and there is a heavy Left Wing in the Christian Democratic Union. I wish we could get some sort of an alliance between the Social Democratic Party and the Left Wing of the Christian Democratic Union. However, that is by the way.
The Government should realise that what is important is to ascertain what the progressive forces in Germany want. No danger can arise from this at a later date, provided the Government carry on with their same determination. My anxiety in the matter is whether the Americans will "play." I agree with the hon. Member for Gateshead when he said that the Americans are ''playing up" to big business. I cannot persuade myself that Wall Street is anxious to socialise the American zone. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary goes to Washington he will impress upon Wall Street, and whoever represents the Right Wing in America, that the only possible solution to the problem in Germany today is for a Socialist planned economy. I hope that that aim will be achieved, because there is no salvation in any other way.
I have one or two suggestions I would like to make to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which I hope he will bear in mind when he goes abroad. In the first place, we know very well that the whole level of industry at present very largely depends on coal. I do not think it is sufficiently realised how many German miners are kept out of Germany. It is all very well for the French to take coal out of our areas. With 56,000 miners in their mines, they are getting 105 per cent. of what they got before the war. But they are using 135 per cent. manpower. That does 1733 not add up. It ought to be made plain to them that if they want more coal from the Ruhr they must send the miners back. They have no right to use these men as slaves now that the war has come to an end. There is another question which I have put to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster but to which I have not got all the answers I would like. Can the Foreign Secretary, when he goes to Washington, impress upon the other three Powers that the blowing up of plants, factories and housing in Germany is nonsense and must be stopped, and that anything which can be of the slightest use in improving conditions for peacetime purposes must be left? When he referred to the Potsdam level of industry and economy, I am glad he made it quite clear that we are not going on with the Potsdam Agreement unless all four Powers cooperate. I do not like the Potsdam Agreement, anyway. The other Powers do not look like cooperating; there is not much sign of it yet. I would like to know how long we are going on in this state of affairs, with ourselves being forced to do things we do not want to do, while the other Powers are not "playing up" to the Potsdam Declaration. Some definite limit must be set.
Further, the burden of taxation in Germany at present bears most heavily on the working people. The average general worker, a married man with two children, after paying his taxes, has not sufficient money with which to buy the rations even at the 1,100 calory level. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) spoke yesterday of the ration now being up to 1,550 calories. Let us bear in mind, however, that that is nothing very great; that is still what the authorities consider slow starvation level. I would like to have an assurance from the Government—and I hope we can get it—that that level will be maintained. The information I have is that already they are short in the Ruhr, and unless something further is done now it is likely that that ration will have to drop again shortly. If that does happen, it will be an absolute tragedy. I do ask the Government, if possible, to prevent it.
An hon. Member has spoken of the World Trade Union Federation. It is not for me to preach to my trade union brethren, but I want to make a suggestion. It would have a tremendous effect 1734 amongst the workers in Germany if the German trade unions were invited to join the World Trade Union Federation. On my three visits to Germany I was asked many times, "Why cannot we come in? We want your help. The more we can show we are in cooperation with you, the greater our influence in this country will be." I merely throw that out as a suggestion. I also want to ask the Foreign Secretary about the question of de-Nazi-fication. I have just received a telegram, and it really is alarming. A promise was made not very long ago by the Com-mander-in-Chief, that the German youth would be given an amnesty; that is to say, people who joined the Hitler Youth when they were kids would not be examined, but their records would just be wiped clean. Now, by a dictate, Directive No. 38, all who joined before 15th March, 1939, are to be investigated. That is causing absolute consternation amongst the young people. In fact, it is doing more than that. This promise having been put out by the Commander-in-Chief, and, I understand, accepted by my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the latest development is now being quoted as yet another example of our having made a promise and gone back on it. It is having the worst possible effect. I wish that could be denied as early as possible.
I have two more points, the first of which concerns the Foreign Secretary's explanation yesterday about what was planned in regard to the decentralisation scheme which he adumbrated. I am not quite sure I understood what he meant. He said the schemewould avoid the two extremes of a loose confederation of autonomous States and a unitary centralised State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October. 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1518.]I do not see how we are to get a really planned economy in Germany unless we completely avoid loose confederation. If areas are all to be allowed to do things on their own, I do not see how we can get any proper socialised economy there at all. If the confederation is at all loose I can see the whole effort to get a planned economy becoming so chaotic that in the end the people will be shouting, "Let us unite together once more and have another Hitler." That would be absolutely disastrous. I do ask that whatever form this confederation takes it shall not be of such a loose character that planned economy 1735 becomes impossible, or breaks down at its inception.
Then, cannot we stop behaving like Herrenvolk? I do not want to say too much about this. I am thinking, first of all, of the Hamburg "Poona," into which I need not go in detail because I spoke about it the other day. There are all sorts of matters of behaviour like that which are completely un-British. I am afraid it is because the military are too much in control; that is what it comes to.
My final point on this matter is that I wish the Government would really seriously consider having a Minister in Germany, someone who has access to the Cabinet and is resident in the British zone and not in Berlin. At the moment the situation seems to me to be absolutely hopeless. I have been there only for short periods of a fortnight at a time now and then, but even in that short time the number of things which obviously crop up from day to day, which need somebody with political competence to decide, are too numerous to start recounting. It cannot be done from Norfolk House; the atmosphere and background are wrong. I know precisely what happens from my own experience: I return to the House, I am submerged with other work, and I am right out of touch again in two or three days. I do not see how my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, even were he the greatest heaven-sent genius in the world, could do it; if he were the Archangel Gabriel himself he would break down—and he is not the Archangel Gabriel. Everybody to whom I have spoken says the same thing: "Please let us have a responsible political head here to make these decisions on political grounds, and let the Military Government and the military authorities get their instructions from him." My own impression is that unless something is done, and done quickly, to implement the policy which the Foreign Secretary defined yesterday—and here I am talking about the level of industry, because we have got nowhere near the Potsdam level yet; the output of steel at the present time is three million tons a year, whereas Potsdam allows seven million tons, so it is no use arguing about Potsdam, because we are not half way there—unless something is done to revivify industry, I am afraid there will be complete disillusionment amongst the German people about the 1736 working of British democracy. That would be an absolute tragedy, because they do look to us for support and leadership.
I now pass to an entirely different subject. I want to speak about what I call the distressed, the displaced and the persecuted persons. I do not feel that the matter of the displaced persons has really been tackled with the urgency which it should have received. I know I have the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Duchy, the Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary on this matter. I want to support them in their efforts to get the three Western Powers to settle this matter. I think it is an awful mistake to hand it over to the I.R.O. What is the problem? I am speaking of the problem in Germany, not the problem the whole world over because I do not know it. The problem in Germany between ourselves and the Americans is that there are 800,000 displaced persons who will not go back to their own countries. It is a waste of time to argue why; they are determined not to go, and we have promised them that they will not be forced to go. Nothing is being done about it. Surely, if this matter was treated as a question of military urgency it ought to be possible for the United States, France, Great Britain and the British Empire, with our teeming population of about 250 million, to absorb those 800,000 displaced persons. In this country we have never suffered from having foreigners come in; it has done us a lot of good. Cannot we take a lead here? Surely to goodness, if we put our minds to it we could get this problem settled, and settled quickly. Just leaving them, even for another year, which seems likely now, will have a deplorable moral effect on them. I hope that when U.N.R.R.A. finishes they will not be handed over to yet another organisation, but left under the Military Government.
I wish now to speak about a different side of the same question, namely, the appalling slavery that is going on in many countries in the world. I have just been to one country where there are 51 slave camps, on the admission of the authorities; 51 camps where men and women are locked up, herded together, and very often not tried for anything at all, but simply kept under lock and key and starving because they are politically dis- 1737 agreeable to the Government. I want to ask the Foreign Secretary, when he is in Washington, to make representations to the Russians and to all our friends in Europe—for a great number of them are like this, I am sorry to say—and to point out that that is not what we fought for; it is precisely what we all fought against. There is terrible suffering amongst millions of people. If I were to add up all the camps about which I have been told—not merely those I have visited, because that would be absurd—there must be 10 or 12 million people locked up in slave camps. That is absolutely wrong. I do ask the Foreign Secretary to make the strongest representations that the rights of the human being should be respected, and that these slave camps— in Western Europe as well because they are not only in Central Europe and Russia —should be liquidated and the people, in so far as they are not criminals, set free. I make these remarks with no regrets or repentance. You should never condone in your friends what you condemn in your enemies.
My final point is this. It has always seemed to me very odd that at the end of a great war, as far as I can see—I am not blaming the Government at all; I think they have done their best, and, in many ways, done well—the international organisations do not really seem to be doing what they ought to do in the way of providing the people with houses, clothes and food, which is what people want the world over. The first thing we have done in these international organisations is to discuss the control of money. I am not going off on one of my pet themes, but why first of all at the end of a great war, do we discuss how we are going to issue monetary tickets to control the wealth of the world? It seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. It is just as if we decided to run a bus service and, before deciding how many buses we were to have and where they were to run, began to argue about how many tickets ought to be printed. Let Britain and the Empire give a lead. We have enormous natural resources awaiting the service of man. President Roosevelt once said, "Forget the dollar sign. Cut out the financial nonsense." We have in the Empire people capable of producing a prodigious amount of wealth. Could not our approach be to put those natural resources at the disposal of 1738 humanity as a whole? That has not been said anywhere at all except by unimportant back benchers like myself. If it could be said in Washington, and if it could be made plain that the Americans and ourselves, alone if need be, were gathered together and determined that the plenty available should be put into the hands and mouths and on the bodies of all the people who need it, I believe there would be such a resurgence in Europe and the world as everyone would wish to see.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Would the hon. Gentleman clear up one point about which I am sure he did not intend to leave the House in any doubt? He referred to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill) as mischievous, as I understand it, with special reference to the question the right hon. Gentleman asked the Government. If, in fact, the Soviet Union are maintaining at war strength some 200 divisions in the area specified by the right hon. Gentleman, is the hon. Gentleman of the opinion that the public should be kept in ignorance of the fact?
§ Mr. Stokes
Oh. no. I am all for telling the public everything. That is why, despite the shortcomings of the conference in Paris, I think the fact that the debates were in the open was a good thing. We have avoided pitfalls. But I say that a speech like that—not only that point—but a speech like that, coupled with a question of that kind, is mischievous. It should have been dealt with differently.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I want to support the plea made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that Great Britain and the Dominions, the United States and France should each open their doors to some of the 800,000 displaced persons. I think that not only humanity but, also, wise policy demands that. So far as this Government are concerned, if they will give the lead in this matter it will be a most important step towards settling that great, burning question of Palestine.
In my view the whole character of this Debate has been changed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and, in particular, by the question which he asked 1739 at the end of it. I believe that that speech overshadows everything that has been said in this Debate.
There was, unfortunately, a great deal of alarm and despondency and fear of the future in the world before this Debate began. In his speech yesterday the Foreign Secretary was extremely restrained, and if he did not say anything which would allay that anxiety, I do not think he can be accused of having said anything which could possibly add to it. There were matters of controversy in that speech, as those of us know who were present in the House and heard the reception of certain parts of it. But there was nothing which, in my opinion, was vitally controversial, as far as the issue of peace and war is concerned. I think the same is also true of the speech, the extremely wise speech, if I may say so, and the generous speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon.
But then an entirely new situation was created by the latter part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. I want to remind the House of the setting in which that question was put. The right hon. Gentleman has a very strong sense of the dramatic. He began by asking if the promise of consultation by the Government with the Opposition on foreign affairs could now be implemented, as it was the intention of the Opposition in the near future to ask for such consultations. Now, I have myself advocated in this House on previous occasions that such consultations should be a regular matter of procedure so far as foreign affairs are concerned, and that it should not be only when the country is on the verge of war that the leaders of the Opposition are summoned to 10, Downing Street. I would go further. Personally, I regret that the Opposition was not represented in the delegation at the Peace Conference and in the delegation which we are sending to the meetings of U.N.O. But, anyhow, if the right hon. Gentleman wanted these consultations to take place, I submit that, in view of the troubled nature of things at the moment, it would have been wiser to have made that request through the usual channels.
Then, having created a disturbed feeling in the mind of many hon. Members, he puts his question. I ask the Minister of State, when he replies, to give a definite reply to the question which I am about 1740 to put to him, because I believe that this matter will have repercussions right through the world; I believe the right hon. Member's question will strike terror in the hearts of millions of men and women throughout the world. The right hon. Gentleman is a person of consequence. As a result of his speeches before the war, he has been able to establish himself as a prophet so far as the international situation is concerned. He deservedly made a very great reputation as a war leader. When he asks a question like that the whole world will be asking, "What is the purpose behind this question? What is the meaning of it all?" I want the Government to answer this. Will they say if that was a prearranged question? Did they have any advance notice that that question was to be asked? Because it is in the interests of world peace that the Government should make it quite clear that they had no knowledge that that question was going to be asked and in no way associate themselves with it. I should like to ask the Government, also: Do they think that, the international situation being what it is, any useful purpose could possibly be served by that question? In their opinion is it going to, be of advantage to the Foreign Secretary in his task of trying to establish friendly relations between Russia and ourselves, upon which, alone, a durable peace can be built? Or, in their opinion, can no useful purpose be served by it?
I am sure we all wish the Foreign Secretary "Godspeed" in his efforts at the approaching Conference. But I hope we shall not have repeated the unedifying spectacle which we had in Paris, where unseemly squabbles took place in public. I hope there will be a good deal more restraint in what is said, because we all realise that the important issue now is, whether there is to be peace or war. The people were promised that if the war was won there was to be freedom from fear. Alas, that hope has not yet been realised. Let me also remind hon. Members opposite that they gave a pledge at the Election that, if the Members of their party were returned, there would be a greater opportunity of friendship with Russia.
The common man throughout the world is longing for peace. He is not concerned with these questions of power politics, of tactics and strategy, and getting into position for a future war. He is anxious only for a condition of things in which he 1741 and his children can grow up in peace, and live their lives as they want to live them, without being haunted by the fear of war. That is the task which the Foreign Secretary has to achieve, and we all wish him "God-speed" in his efforts.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
I follow with great pleasure the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) because I, as one of the younger Members of this House, have just been doing some arithmetic, and I calculate that 22½ pet cent. of my whole life has been spent in a country involved in a world war. If there is one thing which I believe to be more important than any other factor, it is that my generation should not only realise that basic fact, but should be in a position to do something about it.
Last Saturday, and again yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the credit of this country was very high and was going up. During this summer I went as a delegate from this country to a conference in Luxemburg, where 31 nations got together, not through their Governments, but through their voluntary organisations, to form a world federation of United Nations associations. It was clearly borne in upon me that our prestige has a double aspect. On one side it is going up, and on the other side it is fast tumbling down. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer is talking about the credit of the Government in domestic affairs, it is perfectly true that in the eyes of the world, and in particular of the countries of Western Europe which are looking to us for a lead in their great problems of political and economic reconversion, our stock is steadily rising. Even in the United States of America, which looked a bit askance upon the results of the election of July, 1945, they are amazed to discover that this peculiar party, which now governs the affairs of this country which is the heart of the British Empire, is managing to get over its immediate postwar difficulties with far more smoothness, and far less breakdowns, than the United States themselves, with all their economic and military resources. On the other hand I found, talking to ordinary men and women from these other countries, that there is the feeling, in Europe in particular, that since this Government came into power there has been a pro- 1742 gressive betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of Europe. It seems to me that what this Government have been doing in their foreign affairs has been to spend so much of their time heresy hunting inside their own ranks for those people who are called "crypto-Communists" that they are pursuing a policy which is not crypto at all, but is overt Conservatism.
We have heard a declaration which was very welcome to the House, and particularly to the Socialists in it, on the policy of His Majesty's Government towards Germany, and it was the one aspect of the Foreign Secretary's speech which was greeted with acclamation by the Socialists in the Labour Party that the industries of Germany are to be socialised, and a positive three-phase policy is to be laid down which will encourage the development of democratic institutions in Germany—the right of free association and ultimate self determination for the German people. But even that, in my opinion, is not the statement of a Socialist Foreign Secretary, because it is just over a year late. That policy in fact should have risen automatically in the mind of the Foreign Secretary immediately the war finished in Europe, immediately we saw what the destiny of Europe was now that we had the prospect in this country of a Socialist and democratic lead.
It has struck me that the lack of a policy, or rather the conservatism of the policy—the desire for the status quo, the retention of the same advisers and representatives in the chancelleries of the world —demonstrated itself in the speech made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary, in the Prime Minister's speech today, and in all the Governmental speeches we have heard recently. We have an opportunity now to reframe the relationships between man and man, between nation and nation throughout the world, to make it possible for my children to grow up without spending 22½ per cent. of their first 30 years in a country at war. Yet in the survey—the masterly survey, admittedly —that we had from the Foreign Secretary yesterday, did we get any forward thinking at all? Has there not been, in fact, a retrogression in the utterances of the Foreign Secretary, from the very great speech he made in this Chamber last November, when he talked about his 1743 aspirations for a world in which the world government, the world parliament, derived its authority from the democratic votes of the peoples throughout the world? We have not heard very much during these two days about the United Nations organisation, which for all its defects is the only thing which stands between the peoples of the world and chaos in the very near future. We have not heard what is wrong with it, we have not heard what has got to be done to make it right, but I think that everyone of us should give as much attention as we can to the instrument which is now in existence and do our utmost to make it work.
I was interested to hear the Prime Minister say today that, in the deliberations in San Francisco, the British delegation had a different interpretation of the use of the veto from that which has worked out during the last few months. He made what I thought was the rather naive statement that he hoped that the British delegation, when it met the other delegations in New York, would use its influence and would use pressure to restore the veto clause to what, in July of last year, we hoped it would be. I am convinced that the veto clause was written into the Security Council with the definite and specific intention that that Council— I made a note of what the Prime Minister said—instead of being a place to create confidence, should be such that some nations could preserve for themselves the right, in disputes in which their interests were concerned, to place themselves above international law. That is why we have in the Security Council the veto clause, which makes it possible for any one of the Big Five nations, either by a contrary vote or by an abstention, to nullify the will of the Council even if all the other nations of the world want a decision made against that one Power. It would be naive of the Prime Minister to wish "God-speed" to our delegation, and urge them to bring pressure to bear to limit the use of the veto because, unless one can limit the purpose behind its original inclusion in the constitution of the Security Council, unless one can get at this question of sovereignty and the basic desire of some nations to determine without reference to international authority their relationships with other Powers, no matter what instructions are 1744 given to the British delegation it will not in fact be possible to limit the use of the veto. And I think, as an historical point, it should be put on record that, although the use of the veto during the last few months has been primarily by the Soviet delegation, it was in fact the late President Roosevelt himself who insisted on the insertion of that clause. So Russia, in this instance, is not the only big bad wolf; it was the United States of America which originally initiated that clause because America, as well as Russia, is anxious for the preservation of its own sovereignty.
It therefore appears to me that we have to use our influence as a nation. We have to make our Government use their influence as a delegation in this world assembly, not to limit the number of times the veto can be applied, not even to press for its abolition, because it would be nonsense to put that down on the Order Paper of the General Assembly, but to work on the other two effective councils of the United Nations organisation, the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council and make positive forward steps which will remove the atmosphere of suspicion when every nation insists on its sovereignty. If we as Members of Parliament and public men have no other function, we ought to be spending our energies and our time on trying first to see the other man's point of view, trying to understand the point of view of someone whose ideology is contrary to our own. It is easy for us who are Socialists to understand the ideology of the capitalist, because we have been brought up in the capitalist system, and all we have to do is to go back to our school days and pick up a few history books to brush up our knowledge.
It is very difficult to understand precisely why this veto clause has been welcomed by the Soviet delegation. It is difficult for us to understand why it has been used so often. We cannot make the first overtures of real friendship towards the Russians unless we not only understand what is in their minds, but demonstrate clearly to them that we have such an understanding. I submit that the first thing we have to understand more than anything else is that the Russian diplomats have been striving for time in these last 15 months. They feel that they require time because of contrary actions which 1745 have been taken by the Western democracies. We have heard from the hon. Member for Cheltenham that the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) may cause alarm in the hearts and minds of millions of people throughout the world. Cannot we put ourselves behind the minds, of the millions of Soviet citizens, who ever since July, 1945, knew that their ideological enemies not only had possession of the one great war-making, war-finishing weapon, the greatest ever invented in history, but had said, in words backed up by articles from responsible politicians, in their magazines and newspapers, "We will not let an international authority have it. We will not allow the Soviet Union to know about it"? Irresponsible elements have even said that they will fight a protective war while they have it, because unless they have an early war, Russia will be given time to have this weapon to fight on even terms.
All this talk about fear of the Soviet strikes me as being the most absolute nonsense to anyone who has any knowledge of history. Our Allies lost 7 million killed in the war, which is a greater number than those killed in combat from the rest of the European nations. They have had 87 big towns destroyed, and 1,700 villages, not just "Coventrated," or whatever is the English word, but utterly obliterated. I am convinced that although delaying, M. Molotov and M. Vyshinsky have done excellently from their point of view in the Security Council, in striving for time, because their diplomacy, which I do not personally care for, is that they must have time in order that they can develop their atomic bomb. Paradoxically, peace will come and understanding will come when all sides are equally armed. Only when all sides are equally armed, can suspicion go. Then someone can go to the Conference of the United Nations with a proposal that now all nations have got it, they should put it in an international pool and ban it from any future war and any future settlement of world affairs.
I rose to say that the prestige of this country is rising as far as our domestic affairs are concerned. Our prestige is still great throughout the world, and it can become so much greater if we go in for a far-seeing Socialist policy, and if the representatives of this Government see to 1746 it that the representatives of other nations never forget that we are a democratic Socialist Government and proud of it. Our prestige is still such in the eyes of the small nations that although we have not the manpower resources, the military power, the atomic bomb and the latest barbarous developments of bacterial warfare, although we came out of this war economically poorer in relation to other countries than we have ever been, we still have the prestige to go to the small people with positive forward-looking proposals for international collaboration. We shall have not only the Dominions and the great Commonwealth of Nations, but we can lead the ordinary peoples of Europe to the only hope of world cooperation in the United Nations organisation.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Wing-Commander Millington) has such a fine war record that he is entitled to be listened to with toleration, if not with respect for the opinions he has expressed today. His opinions seem to me to show that he is more sensitive to, and more interested in, the welfare of another country than that for which he fought so gallantly. I think that the Foreign Secretary's speech will be recognised throughout the country to be as impressive as it was certainly massive. I am particularly glad he has stressed so much the inherent danger of the position in Germany today. It is about the economic conditions of that unhappy country that I want to confine my remarks tonight.
It seems to me that if we have learned anything, it is that widespread poverty cannot long exist in the midst of plenty without poisoning it. For that reason I believe that upon the fate of that country depends not only the future of Germany, but the future of Western civilisation. As Field-Marshal Smuts has said, it may well become a centre of infection which will poison the whole continent. For that reason I was very disappointed that the Foreign Secretary gave us no indication of any alteration in the policy or in the organisation of the administration of the Control Commission that might improve conditions in that country. However guilty that country may be, and however much suffering they have inflicted on the world, it does not alter the fact that starving and hopeless people are not 1747 going to build a democratic State on which so much depends for Europe. The right hon. Gentleman warned us to avoid sloppy sentimentality but I suggest that this is hard, realistic, thinking, which is sometimes more difficult to digest.
I would like to speak briefly about the present deplorable conditions in Germany. In the summer, there was a series of articles in the "Daily Mail," written by a distinguished journalist who had been visiting Germany, and I would like to quote one sentence which, I think, rather vividly, perhaps dramatically, describes the conditions there. The writer said:Slowly, quietly and hygienically, the Germans are moving towards death. Belsen is quiet and deserted now, but, outside its gates, you find a new Belsen, hygienic, slow-motion Belsen, organised by us.On the same day an article in the "Manchester Guardian," which is not always an unreliable paper, described the conditions in a mental home in Germany in the British zone. It stated that it was too awful to relate in full detail, but it described the condition of one woman:Normally, she weighs 136½ lbs; now, she is 83½ lbs. She is little more than a skeleton, except for her swollen waterlogged belly, and bloated feet and ankles. Cases such as this can be seen in many other places in Germany today. What has happened in this hospital is a sample of what has been happening to Germans as a whole; but a concentrated sample and one constantly under observation by scientists qualified to observe but helpless to arrest.I was in the British zone in the spring of this year, and although I realise that that was six months ago, and that I was not there long enough to form anything but a superficial view, all I saw then, and all I have heard since, bears out the accuracy of those two newspaper reports. I remember seeing on the trains in Germany literally hundreds of women climbing on the roofs, and swarming on the iron rails between the coaches—I suppose that, inevitably, many must have fallen off—in a desperate hope that they might pick up some food in the country. I was taken to see housing conditions in Dusseldorf by the British medical officer of health. He took me, for example, into an air raid shelter and showed me the conditions there. In one place which was more like a cell than a room, little bigger than an English first-class sleeper, there was no fresh air or daylight, yet in it 1748 two people lived, slept, washed, cooked, and ate. The military governor of one great town of 500,000 inhabitants told me that they were living in one-eighth of their prewar capacity. Many Members have been to Germany, and have seen these incredible conditions. Mile after mile of houses are flat, and people are living in cellars amidst rubble. Another notable thing which is an indication of the sort of hopelessness of the situation, is that apart from food shops always to be noted by their queues none are open in the Ruhr. There is nothing to sell. There is a complete feeling of hopelessness throughout the country. I see that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is here now. and perhaps I may say that I have long tried to catch your predecessor's eye, Sir, after his speeches, which are always courageous, often brilliantly amusing, and frequently have in them a germ of truth, though sometimes it is hidden very deep.
§ Mr. Spearman
Today that germ blossomed out to full flower. At least every quarter of an hour, I heard him saying something with which I was in full agreement. Perhaps, I may say, particularly, how much I agree with what he said, and with what was so well said by the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) yesterday—that in our long-term policy, we ought to do what is right because it is right, and not think, and say, so much about doing what is easy and convenient.
If I may again refer to the conditions in Germany, I would say there may be many people who think that the Germans have only got all that they deserved, but I think that no one can possibly challenge the fact that they are quite tragic now, and, perhaps, on the verge of much worse to come. The Foreign Secretary cannot be accused of over-stating his case, when he said, yesterday, that the workers in Germany are disturbed by lack of certainty about their future. Do these things matter? I think that they do, on two grounds—on the ground of expediency and on the ground of humanity. First, it seems to me clear that 70 million Germans, whatever their defects, are people of energy and intelligence, and they cannot be a negative force. They may be a force for good or for ill; and I feel that we are driving them into being a force for ill.
1749 I agree, again, with what my hon. Friend the Member tor Flint said yesterday, that it is not now but in 20 or 30 years time that we may have to coerce the Germans, to maintain the peace of the world. There can be no possible danger for many years to come of Germany being an active aggressor. I think that any one who has seen the devastation, and the entirely different position now in Germany from what it was after the last war, will agree with that. Let us remember that the more harsh we are now, the more certain there is to be a reaction and softening in the years to come, just when it may be most unwise. I think that our national characteristic of being possessed of greater kindliness of heart than imagination is illustrated by the story of a noble lord, who was entertaining a party to dinner at his house in the country. He was reviling the Germans, and saying that there was no torture which was too bad for them. In the midst of his remarks, the butler came into the room, and said, "A German aeroplane has crashed on the park and I think that a man is badly hurt." At once, the noble lord instructed one man to send for an ambulance, another to get a doctor, another to prepare the best room, while he rushed out himself, with a glass of brandy, saying, "Poor chap, let us do all we can." That is typical of us, and an indication of what may occur in the years to come.
I think that any one who read carefully HANSARD in the 1930's would be rather surprised at the statements there made, advocating softer treatment for Germany. The right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I think, a better record than most of his colleague? in the prewar period, of being realistic with regard to armaments. May I quote what he said in this House:It is only right to say bluntly and frankly that public opinion in this country would not support, and certainly the Labour party would not support, the taking of military sanctions or even economic sanctions against Germany at this time, in order to put German troops out of the German Rhine-land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1936; Vol. 310, c. 1454.]That, I suggest, is an indication of the softening that may come, and which may, perhaps, be very dangerous in the future. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been saying a good deal lately about the expense to this country of £80 million a year. It he could 1750 induce some other countries to join in the liability, I think we would all welcome it. I have never yet understood why it should be that this country should have to bear the entire burden of all these obligations. It is true we were not invaded by land, but we were invaded by air, and indeed, we have suffered greater economic consequences than many other nations on the Continent. Why should not they bear their share of these liabilities? But if they cannot be induced to do so, I suggest it would be a very false economy to try to save a few million pounds here and there, and so prolong poverty, and perhaps create a permanently depressed area and conditions of pestilence, in Central Europe. What we want to see in Germany, what will suit us from the standpoint of expediency, can be summed up in three words: we would like to see Germany fat but impotent.
§ Mr. W. D. Griffiths (Manchester, Moss Side)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that this newly-found solicitude for the German people expressed by him tonight, and by the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) yesterday, is an expression of the Tory Party's desire to recreate Germany as a possible spearhead in the future against the Soviet Union?
§ Mr. Spearman
I am afraid I have failed in my attempt to make myself plain to the hon. Member. I have been saying all through that, on grounds of sheer expediency—not on account of the Germans themselves, but for the sake of this country —I do not think we can have prolonged poverty in the midst of plenty, and that if there is pestilence in Europe anywhere, it is bound to spread. I come now to the point about humanity. I say without shame that there are in that country, I suppose, millions of men, women and children who were not born, or who were only small children, when Hitler came into power, and they were faced with that position when they came of age. Those people are suffering. I do not think that is right. At any rate, are many of us so perfect that we can say, "Let them take it, they deserve it"? I do not think we are. It has often been the fate of this country to have to knock another country down; it has, perhaps, sometimes been our unwisdom to let them rise up too quickly and too far, but it has never been our practice to kick a man when he is down, and that is what we are in danger of doing 1751 now. I would like briefly to quote what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said on 18th January, 1945. When he spoke on that date, I think he committed this country to a policy of humanity. He was not then speaking as a Party leader, but as head of the National Government. He was speaking as one— I think perhaps we can claim not the least—of the three great world statesmen. He said:I … have repeatedly declared that the enforcement of unconditional surrender upon the enemy in no way relieves the victorious Powers of their obligations to humanity, or of their duties as civilised and Christian nations. I read somewhere that when the ancient Athenians, on one occasion, overpowered a tribe in the Peloponnesus which had wrought them great injury by base, treacherous means, and when they had the hostile army herded on a beach naked for slaughter, they forgave them and set them free, and they said: 'This was not done because they were men; it was done because of the nature of Man.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1945; Vol. 407, c. 424.]"I come to the last point, which is this: Are the Government at fault for these conditions? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply three questions. First, have the Government a clear and objective policy; second, are they satisfied that they have a satisfactory organisation in the zone; and thirdly, have they the right people? I believe that throughout the country there is a growing feeling of anxiety that things are not right in Germany and that a disaster which could be avoided is imminent—a disaster which will have repercussions in this country. It may well be that His Majesty's Government can give reassuring replies to those three questions, but I say that without any shadow of doubt they have not done so yet, and that they have not made their case. Until they do, I am bound to be critical and to believe that the present position in Germany is the fault of His Majesty's Government. I should like to take each of those three points in turn. First, on general policy, it sems to me that there is a condition of drift. We know that originally it was anticipated that Germany would be one economic unit, and we know now that in the British zone we are continually frustrated by the shortage of necessary articles which come from other zones. It may be that the right course is to continue to try to work with the other Powers economically, and 1752 that by improving the machinery for quadripartite policy—which I suggest is very clumsy and quite ineffective at the moment—maintain that position; or it may be that it would be a lesser evil to cut our losses and to have, after all, a divided rather than a ruined Europe, and to ignore the Potsdam Agreement.
I am obviously not qualified to judge which of those two courses is right, but I can surely say with some confidence that after His Majesty's Government have been in office for 15 months the time has arrived when they should know which is the right policy and should not drift between the two. Secondly, I suggest that in the British zone itself there is a conflict between those who are trying to pull down Germany in order to prevent the aggressive military power of German industry being revived, or in order to provide reparations for other countries, and those who are trying to rehabilitate and reconstruct the country. The administration itself seems to me to be ineffective. "Remote control" hardly describes, to my mind, the extraordinary hotch potch of authorities which appear to constitute the government of the British zone in Germany. There appears to be a division of authority between Norfolk House and the Foreign Office, between London and Berlin, and between Berlin and the British zone. Perhaps that explains why one policy is sometimes pursued in Berlin while quite a different policy is pursued in the British zone. I am told that decisions for the zone are often slow to come and conflicting when they arrive. There seems to me to be no overriding authority responsible for seeing that these decisions form part of a consistent policy.
Finally, I come to the more delicate point of the personnel I hope that no perhaps clumsy word of mine will be taken as a reflection on the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because I appreciate his good will, sincerity, and tireless energy. At the same time, while realising that he may be a very good member of a team of Ministers, I suggest that he must share some responsibility for present conditions. I realise the difficult task he has; after all, he is trying to do in Germany what is done in this country by many Ministers—the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Education, and so on.
Here the Ministers have their own Civil Service. He has not even got the House 1753 of Commons, which I am sure every hon. Member will agree is a help in their labours. The hon. Gentleman, so far as I know, has had no previous administrative experience and it is quite certain that he has held no great office before. He has not got that degree of prestige which might have made the job much easier. I wonder whether his appointment by the Government is not an indication that the Government have not quite realised that this is a most momentous task. They should have had someone of great prestige and experience.
The position in regard to coal in the British zone might be taken as an example of the criticisms I have been trying to make. Coal is all important. Without more coal in the British zone, steel production will fall. Without more steel available in the mines, coal production will fall. Thereby, two things will follow—less goods and less chance of recovery. One would therefore have thought that coal would have been given complete priority over everything. What happened? Miners' rations were cut. Would not it have been more economical in the long run to obtain fish from Scandinavia or Dutch vegetables in order to produce better results? Would it not have been possible to do something to improve the miners' houses in order to give them some inducement to work? Instead, builders were taken away to work on Government buildings. That moment was chosen—with coal production falling—to make a cut in the miners' pensions. Would it not have been more expedient to make some cut in their taxation rather than their pensions?
We therefore find that food policy, Government buildings and budget equilibrium have been given preference over coal because nobody has been responsible for coordinating policy. Is not all this evidence of amateurs at play? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked a great deal about planning. Shouting is no substitute for action. What we want to see is more planning, if it can be well devised.
There is one thing upon which we can all agree to whatever party we belong, and that is that we should attack suffering wherever it exists and however it comes about. There is the most acute suffering in the British zone now. When this Government came into office a year and a quarter ago they received a great 1754 inheritance. However exhausted we might have been by the war, we could claim to have had the unchallenged moral leadership of the world. We were in a tremendous position to make a contribution to conditions of security, plenty, freedom and equality between the nations. Do hon. Members on both sides of the House think we still hold that leadership today after a year and a quarter of the Government being in office? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite if they are quite confident that, when the time comes, they are going to hand on that great inheritance intact.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)
During the past 12 months there have been many occasions when we marched through the Division Lobbies feeling that we were laying the foundations of a new system of society in this country. Time after time we went through those Division Lobbies in exaltation, singing "The Red Flag" and thinking of the pioneers who paved the way in order that we could carry through the work. Time after time we felt that we were doing a worthwhile job in our own country, and much of the work done during the past 12 months has received the wholehearted support of hon. Members on these benches.
But when we cease to look at the policy we have been conducting at home and look at affairs in foreign fields, our hearts begin to drop a little, and we wonder where abroad is the Socialism that we are practising at home. More often does it appear to be the case when one looks at the situation in Greece. Actually there is nothing remarkable about the fact that we have not made a success in Greece when it is recognised that the policy we have carried out there is the policy that was initiated by the National Government; the policy that, as was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill) this afternoon, was carried on by the Caretaker Government, and even he stated today that we are continuing that policy. As a matter of fact, speaking in this House last June the Leader of the Opposition said:In Greece the course of events has vindicated the policy of the National Coalition Government. This policy in the main has been followed by the present Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1946; Vol. 423 c. 2015.]1755 In the eyes of the Tories there may have been vindication but in the eyes of many Socialists there is definitely accusation and not vindication. In Greece we have had a policy that has resulted in the destruction of many of the liberties of the trade unions and in tortures of the people, whilst many of the liberties for which we were supposed to fight in the last war are disappearing, and Acts passed under the Metaxas dictatorship are being reimposed once again on the Greek people.
Let us cast back our minds to practically 12 months ago and see the policy that was initiated at that time by our own Foreign Secretary; a policy to which I myself, to a large extent, gave full support, for it raised my hopes that if it were carried out in Greece we should have some hope eventually of a more peaceful situation in that country than there is at present. What did the Foreign Secretary say in this House, speaking in the foreign affairs Debate last November? He made this statement:The Regent informed me that he had decided to tell the political leaders in Greece that, in the interests of Greek unity, the plebiscite must, in his view, be postponed for three years. …Then the Foreign Secretary went on to say:I, therefore, suggested to the Regent that instead of adopting his proposal, which dealt only with the date of the plebiscite, he should lay before the Greek politicians the following programme and stick to it. …Here you have a remarkable fact, that when Greece is mentioned nowadays we are told that we have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country; yet here is the Foreign Secretary himself interfering in the affairs of. Greece, instructing the Regent that the plebiscite should not be postponed for three years but that "the following programme" should operate, and that the political leaders should "stick to it."
What was that programme? This is how the Foreign Secretary stated it:First, elections to be held at the latest by the end of March, 1946;Secondly, the plebiscite to be held in March, 1948;'That was the programme which the Foreign Secretary of this country told the Regent to stick to. That programme has not been carried out, particularly the second part. Why? Why did the Foreign 1756 Secretary ask that the plebiscite should be held in March, 1948? A little later in his speech he said:… I was told that it I forced this issue of the institutional question before I got tranquillity in the country, I should run the danger of civil war, disturbances and economic disaster, and, God knows, Greece has had enough of that.Surely every hon. Member on these benches supported the Foreign Secretary when he stated that that was the reason for demanding that the plebiscite should not take place until 1948. Every one of us agreed that the sentiments he expressed of the dangers and difficulties in which Greece found itself were sufficient to show that the plebiscite should be delayed for two years. I am convinced that every one of us on this bench gave our support to the Foreign Secretary when he made that statement. He went on:When the head of a State is to be elected, a country ought to be in such a tranquil state, and as prosperous as possible, that judgment, and not prejudice and starvation, should be the guide. I have by this decision tried to get Greece on to a basis where the question of the monarchy could be decided on its merits, without any influence at all either way. …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November. 1945: Vol. 416, c. 768, 773 and 774.]Remember the conditions in which the plebiscite was carried out. Was it carried out under the conditions which he laid down in that speech? Was the country in "a tranquil state" and "as prosperous as possible," and was "judgment and not prejudice" applied in the selection when the plebiscite took place?
Let us look at the events leading up to that matter. I am reminded of the statement made by the ex-Prime Minister of Greece, a Liberal, M. Sofianopoulos, when he told me that because he did not support the Royalists, he, like others of the Centre Parties and of the Left, was being termed a Communist. In Athens he told us:I informed your Foreign Secretary that it he compelled me to push through the election in March of this year, that the ultimate result, the undeniable result, of that election would be a return of the Right Wing forces, the return of a Right Wing Government, and that the first thing that Government would demand would be the return of the King. I informed your Foreign Secretary of this situation. Your Foreign Secretary replied, I must push ahead with the elections and under no consideration would the plebiscite be taken until 1948. Because of that agreement, in spite of the statements made by my colleagues in the Cabinet, because I had that assurance 1757 from your Foreign Secretary, I pushed forward with the elections knowing full well that the result would be the return of a Right Wing Government. I know your Foreign Secretary is a man of honour. When you return to your country, ask him it he remembers me. It he does not remember me, ask him if he remembers the agreement we arrived at that a plebiscite should not be held until 1948, and if he has any love for my country of Greece, ask him if he will stick to that agreement made with me.We know the agreement was not kept and that statement made in this House in November last year by the Foreign Secretary has not been kept but was departed from. As a result of the departure from that policy we have seen the position in Greece deterioriate day by day.
I was remarkably struck yesterday by an interjection by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) when an hon. Member on this side was speaking about the action of Sir Charles Wickham in the Police Mission. The hon. and learned Member asked who had made the statement that we were responsible for a gendarmerie and police in Greece. I have before me a written answer given on 10th October by our Foreign Secretary and this is what he stated in relation to the Police Mission—and remember what applies to the Police Mission applies also to the Economic Mission and the Military Mission. The Foreign Secretary said—
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
Before the hon. Member goes further, we should know exactly what was said when the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) interrupted. In the OFFICIAL REPORT of yesterday's Debate, we read:Mr. MAUDE (Exeter): Is the hon. Gentleman telling the House that Sir Charles Wickham has been recruiting members of the Greek gendarmerie?Mr. WILKES: That is exactly what I do say.Mr. MAUDE: On what authority?Mr. WILKES: On the authority of two Members of this House.HON. MEMBERS: Who?Mr. WILKES: On the authority of two Members of the House and of officers with whom I served for nearly a year in Greece, and who later became members of the police mission in Greece. I am not making political propaganda, or retailing newspaper reports. I had a year in Greece. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd Oct, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1603.]I suggest to the hon. Member that it is important to remember the actual words of the question.
§ Mr. Tiffany
It is exactly to that point I am referring. I will further emphasise the statement that was then made by the written reply that was given by the Foreign Secretary on 10th October, 1945. He said:By agreement with the Greek Government, the British Police Mission have full powers of organisation and administration in the Greek Police Force and Gendarmerie, including such questions as appointments, promotions and transfers. …Is there anything more definite than that? Then, however, the Foreign Secretary begins to give himself a loophole by stating that the ultimate responsibility—I take it the ultimate responsibility for what happens as a result of the organisation we have given to the police force—rests with the Greek Government."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 239.]I suggest quite clearly that the ultimate responsibility for Greece rests with the Government of this country.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
Is the "natural deduction of all this that the hon. Member is calling for the resignation of the Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Tiffany
What I am calling for is for the operation of a Socialist policy, and not a Tory policy. If the hon. Member had listened to what I said at the outset, he would have realised that I pointed out that the policy being carried out in Greece is a Tory policy, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition. I am asking that we should depart from that policy and institute one of our own.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Young)
There are two or three hon. Members who wish to speak. These interruptions are not assisting to give them an opportunity in the time left for discussion.
§ Mr. Tiffany
I do not mind the interjections, except that I have not a great deal of time. We have seen the result of the British Police Mission in Greece. We have seen a gendarmerie and a police force set up that was Royalist and partisan in character, that was absolutely biassed against any Centre parties or against any Left Wing parties. As a result, we have seen members of the Centre and Left parties being beaten and maltreated by the gendarmerie of Greece. 1759 That is the result of the British Police Mission. There have been similar results in relation to the Military Mission.
Let us see what has happened generally in this situation. We have seen the introduction of Acts which were in operation in the days of the Metaxas Government. We have seen the introduction of the "Extraordinary Measures" under which many trade unionists have been tried, and where, by a single deposition by one gendarme is sufficient to cause the imprisonment or deportation of any member of a trade union. As a result of that we have seen that how many officials of trades councils particularly in the North of Greece, have been deported to the Islands. We have also seen that nearly one-third of the total who have been banished as the result of the Security Committees have been women and children. It is an acknowledged fact that the conditions are far from satisfactory on these Islands, where these trade unionists and women and children are and that even a Red Cross official has stated that they are not satisfactory, but that, unfortunately, he can do nothing whatever about it
Let us look a little further in relation to the fact that our troops are situated in Greece. I sometimes wonder if there are no strategic reasons why we are in Greece. I suggest, and the right hon. Member for Woodford has suggested, that there were no strategic reasons why we were in Greece. They said it was merely because of friendship for that country. I doubt that very much. If it is that there are no strategic reasons, I would like to ask why our troops are situated there. This question has been asked in this House time after time. Why are British troops stationed there? Let us consider one answer which was given on 27th March. It was that the British troops would be withdrawn as soon after the election as conditions allowed, but there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled. We have never yet learned what those conditions are. Are those conditions to be found in the statement made by the Minister of Health on 19th January, 1945, when he said that we sent British troops to Greece to satisfy the political ambitions of the Tory Party. Was the Minister of Health on that occasion incorrect? If his statement was correct is the situation that those troops 1760 must remain in Greece until we can satisfy the ambitions of the party opposite? We are now at a stage where civil war is rampant in Northern Greece. I have here a cutting from the "New York Herald Tribune" of 9th October or a report sent from London by a reporter named Ned Russell. It states:Greeks ask Britain for more arms. Greece has asked Britain for more arms to equip Government forces battling the so-called 'Communist bands' in what is officially described as 'a small scale civil war,' the Foreign Office disclosed today. At the same time "—And this is rather remarkable—the Foreign Office spokesman reaffirmed that British troops in Greece, estimated at about 15,000, might intervene in the struggle on the side of the Greek Government 'in the last resort' and if the Greek Government requested their aid.If that is the situation in Greece, that our boys are going to be asked to intervene in a struggle which is undoubtedly taking place, then I suggest we have gone quite far enough. The majority of people, particularly those whose husbands and sons are with the Forces in Greece, will be the first to demand that the blood of the British soldier should not be spilt on Greek battlefields as a result of the civil war there. They will be the first to demand that they should be withdrawn. I ask that we break away from this policy which we have been pursuing. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), speaking in the House on 20th February, said:On Greece, my friends "—That was a reference to hon. Members on the Opposition Benches—are equally in agreement with the position taken by the Foreign Secretary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February. 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1160.]I want to see a breakaway from this agreement. I want the Government to change their policy instead of supporting the Right, as we are supporting the Right, and, as a result, seeing the destruction of the Centre and the Social Democrat forces in Greece. It might be argued that it is fear of Communism which is driving us along the path we have taken. Because of the fact that the majority of the peasants in Greece already own their own land and their house, such as it is, I suggest that Communism has no great appeal under normal circumstances; nor is Communism very strong in the industrial cities except where there are a number of 1761 factories. It is undoubtedly true that they have their sympathisers and that they are very energetic, as they are in this country, but Communism, as such, would never have been a great force inside Greece. Nor are the Greek people Slavs. Their outlook was not towards the Soviet Union. It was not in that direction; their outlook was always, not towards Russia, but towards our own country.
What are we doing as the result of the policy which we are carrying out? We are throwing the people of Greece into the hands of the Communists. We are failing them and disappointing them in our own foreign policy, and the only alternative left to them, in their efforts against their present form of government, is to look towards the Soviet Union. We are doing the very thing which the Foreign Secretary has always tried to avoid—driving them further and further East. If we took a policy which was more in line with the policy of the Labour Party in this country, and built and worked on Socialist democratic lines to build up trade unions, instead of smashing them, if we were working on the lines on which the Foreign Secretary has so often worked in the past, I am convinced that we should overcome the troubles facing us there at the present time.
After listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he made his call to the Government Benches for discussion on the question of the number of divisions of the Red Army—I think the number was 200—I felt enormously depressed. I began to feel that, after all, the only thing we seem to be able to look forward to in this country, and, indeed, in other countries, is preparation for war, and that, just ahead of us, there is another war looming, while deep suspicion exists between three great nations. Let us not hide the fact that there is suspicion with which we are all regarding ourselves while we are building up defences against the next war. Personally, I do not believe that there will be another war for 10 or 15 years, but I do know this—that what we are doing now will decide whether there will be a war or not at the end of 10 or 15 years. If we can get the democratic and Socialist forces in Europe to align themselves with us, if we can build up and work out a Socialist foreign policy, just as we have been able to build up and are working out a Socialist policy in this 1762 country, we shall then lay the foundations, not only of the prosperity of our own country, but of future peace throughout the world.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)
I have listened, I think, to every speech made in this House today, and I am hoping that we, in this country, have got as good friends in the Soviet Union as Soviet Russia has in this House. I would like to say to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany), who referred to the present suspicion between nations, that he himself, throughout the whole of his speech, threw suspicion on the Foreign Secretary and the way he was carrying out his policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] I am not going to attack anybody, hon. Members opposite or the Foreign Minister or any other country, but I would like, if there is time, to say a few words about Austria.
I was very much in agreement with the remarks of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), regarding displaced persons. When I was in Austria, I was very much struck with the problem that faces Foreign Ministers over these displaced persons. I could not for the life of me see what the solution of that great problem could be. It seemed almost insoluble, and I sympathise very much with the Foreign Ministers of this and other countries who must, somehow or other deal with this very difficult situation. I was also pleased to hear, in the course of the Foreign Minister's speech yesterday, the views of His Majesty's Government on the necessity of removing all foreign troops from Austria. Until all foreign troops and the quadripartite organisation are moved out of Austria, I cannot see that that country is ever going to recover to any extent. That organisation, necessary as it may have been at the end of the war, should now come to an end, and if the Foreign Minister could only persuade the other members of the quadripartite arrangement to move out of Austria, I am sure it would be a great benefit to that country and to everybody else.
For a few minutes I wish to focus the attention of this House on another part of the world. I am disappointed that time did not permit of the Foreign Secretary expanding his speech on the Middle East. Nobody will dispute the assertion that the Middle East is the sheet anchor of our 1763 Commonwealth communications, and, indeed, of our whole position in the world I was very glad that he assured us that His Majesty's Government are going to continue our traditional friendship with the Arabs. I do not know that the Arabs particularly like us, hut they trust us and recognise our integrity of purpose, our toleration and obvious desire for their well being and prosperity.
I know that the Foreign Minister was rather tied in talking about Egypt in view of the consultations now taking place in London, but I wish to impress upon the House that, although Egypt has been making a lot of trouble and that riots have taken place, we should not allow that situation to weigh with us too much. The riots are really of a political nature, not so much against us as against their own Government. It may seem curious to us in this country that, when the Egyptians have an election, they do not seem to worry very much about the domestic policy of the different parties, but rather to concentrate on foreign affairs and, particularly, on the question of the occupying Power, as we were a few years ago. Having got rid of the occupying Power and regained their independence, they now turn to another stick with which to beat the Government—the question of the Sudan. The Egyptians recognise all that we have done for them and how we brought them back from bankruptcy to prosperity under those great pro-Consuls, Lord Cromer and Lord Kitchener. Indeed, they are very grateful for the marvellous irrigation system instituted in that country thanks largely to the engineering genius of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) when he was responsible for the irrigation service in Egypt.
But this cry for unity of the Nile and for the suzerainty of the Sudan is entirely political, in order to bring worry and trouble to the present Government. It is a parrot cry. The Egyptians do not want the Sudan for themselves. They do not like the Sudan or service in it. In fact, when it was proposed to colonise parts of the Sudan by sending up Egyptian peasants, that proposal did not meet with much success. When the peasants concerned arrived at the Wadi Haifa, which is the frontier town, a train full of wild animals, destined for some zoo or other, happened to be coming down 1764 at that time. The peasants asked where the animals came from, and when they were informed that they came from the Sudan, they said, "That is no place for us," and the whole scheme fell through. That may sound a fantastic tale, but it is quite true. These facts are not known generally, and I commend them to those people who talk about the "poor Egyptians" and ask why they should not be allowed to go to the Sudan.
I would like to reinforce the appeal made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) that whatever happens, the question of the Sudan will not be raised during the negotiations. The Sudan will never tolerate any domination by Egypt. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury said he did not believe that one per cent. of the Sudanese would like to renew connections with Egypt. I will go so far as to say that not .001 per cent. of the Sudanese would agree to the Egyptians returning to the Sudan. There is no doubt that much of the agitation in the Sudan, including those so-called deputations who went to Cairo, which suggested they were anxious that the Egyptians should return to the Sudan, were actuated by only one desire, namely, to turn us out, if possible, and to have the country for themselves. They do not wish to have the Egyptians there. They may welcome the assistance of the Egyptians, but they would turn them out when the Egyptians had served their purpose. I would urge hon. Members not to listen to those few people, the intelligentsia, who have been talking about self-determination, because the first thing that would happen would be that the Arab tribes in the distant parts of the country would soon come into the centre of the Sudan—to Khartoum, for instance—and would drive out these young intelligentsia who think they are able to run the Sudan.
I do not wish to detain the House any longer, but I could continue for some time explaining the difficulties of the Sudan. We are dealing with a country which is as big as Europe, less Russia, and it is not populated all over, but large parts are desert and so forth. It is no use thinking that the country has any attraction for the Egyptians. They have only one excuse for asking for some control in the Sudan, and that is the question of water. It is obvious that as long as we are in the Sudan they will have no 1765 difficulty in getting water. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, to give us a definite assurance that he will not appease any of the Egyptian negotiators by allowing the question of the alteration of the status of the Sudan to be raised, with a view to facilitating the negotiations.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
Never in the long, creditable history of our nation has any British statesman been faced with such a plethora of problems, and such a depleted armoury with which to meet them, as the present Foreign Secretary. As we have for the second time in 30 years poured out our blood and treasure in a common cause this is not surprising, of course. We shall come again, but meanwhile there is a difficult transition period of recuperation. In this period there will have to be a long-term strategy and short-term tactics. I support the tactics employed for the last 15 months. Peeping into the future, however, were my French less deplorable I might be tempted to hazard the comment Autres temps, autres mœurs. During the Debate much has been said about Greece, and I can well understand misgivings. But foreign policy is a diamond with many facets, and in a period of power politics unparalleled in our time— and that is what we are living through— you cannot consider any one facet, as it were, in a vacuum.
Much has been said also about the continuity of British foreign policy. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) went so far as to say that the Government's policy is a Tory foreign policy, that we are ganging up against the Soviet, and that as a result we are becoming the most hated nation in Europe. That, of course, is just plain hysterical nonsense. Anyone who has been in Europe, and in Russian occupied South-Eastern Europe, will know that Britain's prestige was never higher than at this moment. All Europe is watching this British Socialist Government, and looking to the time when the Russians will get out, and enable them to emulate the policies which are being pursued in this country by this Government. If anybody has any doubts about that, let them study the evidence of the elections. Make no mistake about it, free elections will not be held in Poland, 1766 because everybody knows that Miko-lajczyk's party would "walk it": that is why free elections are not being held, and that is why they will not be held. The seed of British democracy in Europe, falls on very fertile ground. The peasants and the workers, far from being immature, as they have been described, have a very lively political consciousness. With regard to this continuity of British foreign policy, the basic needs of the British people do not change every time there is a transference of political power. Whatever the political colour of the Government of the day, their prime concern must be the security, feeding and clothing of the 47 million people who live in these islands.
Turning to our relations with America, let me say, quite bluntly, that when I am convalescing I do not fall out with the fellow who provides the beef tea. Because there is no glamour attached to it, this economic side of foreign affairs is very seldom looked at. Yet it has to be pointed out, that whereas Russia and the United States have coal, wheat, cotton, copper, timber, manganese—all they need to clothe and feed themselves and to furnish their industries—this country's only raw material is coal; and because of that all other commodities have to come from abroad. In these circumstances the sea lanes between the nations of the Commonwealth and Empire become of paramount importance, and when the Foreign Secretary speaks of a nation getting across the throat of the British people, he is speaking no empty rhetoric but making a plain statement of fact.
In the field of foreign relations the outstanding phenomena of the last 15 months have been threefold. The first outstanding thing is the continuing and implacable hostility of the Politbureau to the British Socialist Government; the second is the progressive decline in European good will for the Soviet Union; and the third is the growth of Catholic influence on the Continent of Europe. They are related. There is not much time, otherwise I should like to touch on all three of those matters. No one in his right mind can doubt the desirability of amity and collaboration between the British people and the Soviet Union, but amity and cooperation are a two-way, not a one-way street: and ever since this Government came to power there has been 1767 nothing but undisguised hostility shown. The Soviet Press and radio—[Interruption.] Oh, let hon. Members enjoy themselves.
§ Mr. Evans
By Press and radio and by other means a constant stream of vilification, invective and abuse has been hurled at the heads of the elected representatives of the British people. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith says that the Soviet Press is moderate and reasonable; he says that there is no abuse of Britain in Russia. But "Pravda" on Monday, speaking of India and of the religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims, said:Behind the fierce religious conflict is the sinister shadow of British imperialism, banking on a deadlock arising that would make a dead letter of all British plans to withdraw from India.That is what it said and it is a wicked lie. It is a malicious invention designed to deceive the Russian people—
§ Mr. Evans
—as to the aims and objects of the British Government in regard to India. As it is well known that every time Stalin sneezes the Polish Government catches cold, what M. Jacob Berman, a Communist member of that administration, says is not without significance:We must fight with all the means at our disposal for a workers' and peasants' republic in Palestine.That explains a lot. To get a correct perspective in this matter of foreign affairs, it is necessary to examine the motives actuating the Politbureau. Quite obviously they do not like this Government. They do not like it because its policies provide a rival ideology, a competitor, for the hearts and minds of 250 million Europeans, workers and peasants, who, far from being immature, have, as I have said, a very lively political consciousness. After all, what is it we are trying to do here? At the same time as we maintain our political democracy, the right to meet in our pubs and clubs and at the street corner, there to criticise anybody and everybody from the Prime Minister downwards without let or hindrance, without fear of a Gestapo, Ogpu or any other infernal instrument of 1768 repression; at the same time as we maintain a free Press and the secret ballot with a choice of candidates; at the same time as we preserve this priceless heritage we are seeking to evolve in this country an economic system that will ensure the means of life to all willing to work, and their dependants irrespective of whether work is available or not irrespective of whether they are incapacitated from work by illness injury or old age. That is what we are trying to do—the greatest social experiment the world has ever seen. It is a formidable competitor let us be quite frank about it but it is a pity that the gentlemen of the Politbureau look at it in that light.
The decline of Russian prestige and influence in Europe, which is very considerable as all know who have been there, is due very largely to the policy defended by Marshal Stalin in March of this year, when he said:The Germans made their invasion of Russia through Finland, Poland, Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Soviet Union, anxious for its safety, is trying to see to it that governments loyal in their attitude to the Soviet Union should exist in those countries.This is naked power politics and nothing else, but, for the same reasons, since the Nazis came within 20 miles of Dover, are we not entitled to demand in Norway, Belgium, France and Holland Governments subservient to us? If the argument is a logical one, I suggest that we are. But this is the road to nowhere. Cromwell imposed a régime on Ireland 300 years ago, and the Irish were a thorn in our side for the whole of those 300 years. It may well be that the Soviet Union, far from placing a security belt around itself, is in fact creating a series of Irelands right on its doorstep—and if anyone doubts that, let him watch events in Poland very closely
I am sorry it is so late because there are many things I feel I would like to say. In these days of atomic bombs, bacteriological warfare with clouds of germs dropping from the sky, rocket explosives and airborne armies, security cannot be found by imposing stooge régimes on countries adjacent to Russia, nor by some harmonious arrangement of frontiers based on rivers and the like. It can only be found in good neighbourliness, by conceding freedom and equality to all the nations around by full and equal partnership. It must be said that 1769 many who fought in the resistance movements now find that freedom means freedom for a very small minority, but for the politically articulate remainder, silence—or else. A Litvinov foreign policy since the armistice would have brought the Russians the moral leadership of the world.
It is a tragedy for Europe that such a policy has not been followed. As long as this icy blast continues to arrive from the steppes, no one must be surprised if I seek shelter. If the shelter turns out to be a Church, and its name is St. Peter s, that is still all right with me. In this period of storm, rain and thunder, when thunderbolts are hurtling down, if someone comes along with an umbrella and says "Get underneath," I am not bothered if the umbrella is made in Wall Street. When this icy blast abates I shall come out of the shelter, and I shall not feel obligated for the rest of my life to the proprietors of the church or the umbrella [AN HON. MEMBER: "Political morality"?]. Meanwhile it is a very hard world, friend. The British people are fine people who have made a greater contribution to the progress of mankind than any other people. That being so I believe it to be in the interests of the common people everywhere that Britain should continue to wield influence, second to none, in matters of world social and economic import. It is because I believe that the policy being pursued by the British Foreign Secretary and the British Socialist Government will lead to that end, that it has my support.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
For a few moments I should like to follow what has been said by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) I do not think there is any disagreement on any side with his final remarks. The British people are a fine people. On the whole, I think, the overwhelming majority of this House is in favour of the general line being pursued by the right hon. Gentleman, and would also agree that any attempts made by Members of this House, from any side, when they go overseas to denigrate the Foreign Secretary's stature and undermine his prestige are attempts to undermine the prestige of the British people in the world today. I believe that the whole country look with very little respect on those very few unfortunate Members of this House who 1770 allow their opinions and personal feelings to carry them away in their criticism of the man who speaks for the country and has to take a strong line at the present time for the country. I must refer to what has been said in the course of the Debate on the policy of the Government as regards Greece. Over and over again, we have heard it said that the right hon. Gentleman is merely carrying on the policy of previous Governments, and that he is applying a Tory mentality to these matters.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am not in support of those who sit on the Government Front Bench, but I must say that I do not care who initiated that policy, because it is essentially a British policy, based essentially on a very fundamental British point of view. That is, that we are out to see fair play done, and that anybody who stands in the way of any attempts we make to see that done is not acting in the British sense. I do not think we need go further than that.
One other point. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary spoke about the problem of publicity attaching to the recent Conference in Paris. Quite obviously, the publicity attached to any international conference carries with it, to my mind, very grave danger. But, equally, there are many great advantages that can accrue if that publicity is fair and if, as a result of it, we encourage more people to think in commonsense terms about our foreign policy. In the past, I have felt many times that there was far too much mumbo-jumbo about foreign difficulties and international affairs, and that the more we could explode the idea that there was some sort of trick which Governments, in turn, could apply, which they could produce out of some secret box, the better it would be for all people. On the other hand, one cannot help feeling that if there is to be publicity, direct and immediate—and in a matter of minutes a speech can be reported over the air in this country—that publicity must also be followed up by explanations as to what exactly is the meaning of the statements which have been made. I do not think that at the present stage, either in this country or elsewhere, the bulk of the population is yet in a sufficient state of understanding to realise the meaning and true implication of some of the statements made at 1771 these conferences, unless they are explained to them. Without an explanation, I think we are positively heading towards a very dangerous state of affairs.
I would have liked to enlarge on that point, but I merely ask those who are handling those matters, and who have to decide how much should be said in public and how much in private, how much can be done in private and in secret, with no dirty implication in the term "Secret," to bear in mind that all the peoples of the world are not fully instructed in these matters, which must be explained if they are to understand them.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
We are coming now towards the close of what has been a long and interesting, and important, Debate. One of the most striking features of the Debate has been the number of speeches which have been made by Members who have had recent personal experience of the particular country about which they were speaking. I cannot help feeling that that must be of benefit to our discussions in this House. I must confess that I have not had myself, recently, that advantage, and that it will be impossible for me to enliven my speech by references to the last time I was in Belgrade, or what the Minister of the Interior said to me, or, as has been more usual, what I said to the Minister of the Interior.
The Debate was opened by a long and careful review by the Foreign Secretary, in which he visited nearly every part of the world and, I think, exposed, as fully as everyone in the House desired, both our aims and his actions in all the problems that he has to meet. I believe that that speech—that review—met with a great amount of support from both sides of the House. He has had, of course, his critics, but the criticisms have come largely from the benches behind him. It is not for me to estimate either their quantity or quality, and it would certainly be advisable for me to leave the reply to them to the Minister of State. We have already been warned of the damage which has been done to Ferdinand the Bull, as the Foreign Secretary was described by Members of this House, by continually offering him flowers.
There was one point which was rather interesting to me in the speech made 1772 yesterday by the hon. Member for Fins-bury (Mr. Platts-Mills). I think something on the same lines was said later by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). The hon. Member for Finsbury made the accusation which we, on this side of the House, have heard so often. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary was, we were told, in the grip of Wall Street and the City of London. The hon. Member said that he could see standing behind the Foreign Secretary—although how anyone could see anyone standing behind the Foreign Secretary, I do not know—the sinister forms of Mr. Morgan and Mr. Dupont. I leave that to hon. Members on the other side of the House, who have known the Foreign Secretary and his record for a very long time. If that sort of thing is said about him, as it was said about us, then it is time that the people of the country understood that that means, in the jargon of certain political people, that they do not agree with the man who is taking action.
I certainly feel that the Foreign Secretary exposed with great sincerity the key of his foreign policy—the key of the national foreign policy, which one could call a Socialist foreign policy OF a Tory foreign policy. But it is the key, I think, with which most of us would agree, and that is, that we want to allow, and want other people to allow, countries to adopt their own form and their own institutions; that we want no opposition to the adoption in any country of any ideology or any form of institution. What we are opposed to is the imposition of these ideologies, or these forms, by someone outside.
If the right hon. Gentleman, in his review, gave us every reason to support him for his past actions, I must confess that he did little to excite our hopes for the future. In almost every part of the world he had to point to grave problems which were still unsolved—Persia, the Dardanelles, Greece, the Balkans, the Danube, Austria and Germany—all with the same story. Wherever we look, we find division on these problems—problems of a wholly different character—yet the division is on exactly the same lines.[...] could not help feeling that, taking those problems one by one, each of them might, by itself, be capable of solution, but that the position was that those problems to which the right hon. Gentleman referred 1773 were not the disease but merely the symptoms of the disease; they were the temperature, the feverishness, the sore throat, the ache in the limbs, and one could not cure those symptoms unless one could attack the disease itself. Every hon. Member who has taken part in this Debate has admitted and deplored the real disease, which is the suspicion and the misunderstanding that exist between the great Powers.
We believe that in the past six months the Foreign Secretary has stood up for not only the interests of this country but also for its beliefs, and we believe he was right to do so. We do not believe we would have gained anything, we do not believe we would have got nearer permanent peace, by a mere policy of surrender. Such a policy of surrender would merely have encouraged further demands which, in their turn, would have necessitated further concessions. Indeed, we think that on many occasions, under great provocation, the Foreign Secretary has shown considerable dignity and restraint. But when all that is said, all of us must be asking ourselves the question, Where, with all that, are we getting? For weeks and months the public of this country, on opening their newspapers in the morning, have seen as headline news the account of some international conference in some international capital. Whether it has been the meeting of the Foreign Ministers, whether it has been the Security Council, whether it has been the recent Conference on the Peace Treaties, whether in New York or Paris, we have read day after day the same speeches made by more or less the same people on the same topics, and always with more or less the same results. The effect is that the people of this country have been, I will not say lulled, but stunned almost, into a sense of false security, of feeling that this has. always been going on, and that it always can go on, that somehow or other the world can stagger on in this fashion, with a great deal of asperity, but without the risk of catastrophe.
The question we have all to put to our-selves is: Can that happen? Is not this like the disease with which I compared it before? It cannot remain static: unless it gets better it is almost bound to get worse, and we have got to a position where, if it is to get worse, it is difficult to see how it can end except in some final tragedy. The Prime Minister this after- 1774 noon, in his grave statement, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), in his equally gave question, did at any rate force the people of this country to face the background of sombre and urgent reality before which this dialectical drama has been played out for so many weeks. It is, indeed, a tragic situation. Every statesman in the world is proclaiming his desire for peace, and yet at the same time the world as a whole is in a vicious spiral, going on down the rungs of misunderstanding and quarrels to end none of us knows where, and indeed, there seems, unless we can break it, no alternative to catastrophe, which all of us must dread.
Of course, the consideration of how it may be possible to break this spiral must have been, and clearly is, the constant preoccupation of the Foreign Secretary. Many suggestions have been made as to how it might be done. Several hon. Gentlemen on the Benches opposite have said that it will come with an increase of the flowing tide of Socialism. That is what they look forward to—this flowing tide gradually becoming a sea which stretches from pole to pole. Then the whole world will be very peaceful and very wet—at least very wet. It would appear to an outsider, who looks only at the Socialist Party from without, that one fatal obstacle to this optimistic theory is the difference that exists as to what Socialism means. What is this Socialism which is going to spread from pole to pole? It does alter in different places and in different minds. There is the Lord President of the Council, for example; I do not doubt that in this country and in his own estimation he is really quite a Red, but if he went to Moscow—
§ Mr. Stanley
Not only a corpse, but a bourgeois capitalist corpse. Another suggestion I saw emanated from the right hon. and learned Attorney-General who, the newspapers have informed us, has recently been on this celebrated trip with the "Queen Elizabeth"—a sort of modern "Mayflower." He explained his plan to the Press and it was the simple one of asking Mr. Molotov to have a drink. That entertainment was going to lead to the establishment in future of firm and cordial relations. What a pity that that was not thought of before. It does seem 1775 so simple. It can only be the well known —if I may so call it—crypto-Crippsian austerity of the Foreign Secretary which has prevented him from thinking of it himself.
I am not going to make any suggestions to the Foreign Secretary. He bears the responsibility and he cannot be ignorant of the need. He must have turned and returned his mind to every expedient. I only intend to ask him a question. Does he think that in these conditions anything would be gained by a meeting of, say, the Big Four? We do remember times during the war, where the situation was difficult or relations were strained, when meetings of that kind did result in success, and at any rate it would give him the opportunity which has been denied to him for a considerable time of a discussion of these matters in private. All of us believe in open diplomacy and in the countries of the world knowing to what they are committed and what the problems are, but there do seem to be defects in this public, or indeed, publicised diplomacy, where every speech which, in any ordinary negotiation, would be merely a preliminary to be toned down and altered afterwards, becomes a sort of standard which has to be nailed to the mast and stuck to through thick and thin, and where plain speaking, which has to take place in international as well as in personal relationships, and which in the privacy of a conference room would be forgotten the next day, goes on permanent record to the perpetual poisoning of the relations of the two countries. I make no suggestions because I feel that to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman as to his method of conducting these affairs would be in the nature of a censure on one whom we believe to be doing his best. I therefore put it merely in the form of a question.
Might I turn for a few minutes to some of the more specific points which have been raised in the course of the Debate? First of all, I would like to ask the Minister of State two minor questions which, if he cannot answer immediately, perhaps he would communicate to me at some future time. I can at least claim for these two questions that I shall be doing what I think most hon. Members in the House would consider impossible—I shall be referring to two parts of the world not yet 1776 touched upon in this Debate. The first is the question of Southern Schleswig. This is an obscure problem of which I -must confess I have not followed the details, but I was rather alarmed to meet some Danish friends the other day and to be told that as the result of this issue or problem or whatever we may call it, this country has gained a considerable amount of unpopularity in Denmark. All of us must have seen in this morning's papers a Danish Note on the subject which, though courteous in tone, would appear to be in fact a slight snub. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell the House how the situation actually stands.
The second question I want to ask is with regard to the "Trucial Sheiks." Hon. Members in all parts of the House know who the "Trucial Sheiks" are. They are the two Emirs of Koweit and Bahrein and the Sultan of Muscat, in the Persian Gulf. Up to now these territories have been administered by the Government of India. The effect, we imagine, of the new arrangements in India will be to terminate that situation, and we suppose that the responsibilities for these territories will be transferred to His Majesty's Government, possibly to the Foreign Office. We should be glad to know if that, in fact, is the case?
Several speakers have referred to Egypt, and I only want to reinforce the plea which has been made by many hon. Members that if, as would appear to be the case, the future of the Sudan is now forming part of these negotiations, the only consideration that His Majesty's Government should have in mind is the wishes and advantages of the Sudan people themselves and that nothing should be done in the course of negotiations to gain some other end which would prejudice their future and their interests.
The Foreign Secretary in his speech did not refer to Palestine, and I agree that this is not an occasion for a long discussion of that problem, but there are one or two things that I should like to say to His Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford in his speech this afternoon, foresaw the possibility that that mandate would have to be surrendered. I do not deny that that possibility exists, difficult as the course would be, but what we have to face at the moment is at any rate a 1777 last attempt to make the existing situation work. On this I have considerable sympathy with the Government. Anybody who has been Colonial Secretary and had any responsibility for Palestine must have considerable sympathy for anybody who succeeds him in that task. For the whole of this period the policy of the Government towards Palestine has been based upon a belief that it might be possible to secure American cooperation. All of us admit the immense advantage which would accrue if it were possible, without damping the generous desires of the United States, to make them at the same time realise the practical difficulties—
§ Mr. Stanley
I am speaking to a very strict limit, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman would excuse me. If we could get them to cooperate in a solution which, while it could not pretend to meet in full the demands of any, might at any rate represent the fairest solution for all concerned. It appears to many of us that that hope, upon which the Government have acted for the past year, is now doomed to disappointment. We do not blame the Government in any way for that. It is no good entering into recriminations; it would do no good either to the Palestine problem or to our relations with America. Again I say that we do not feel the Government can be blamed for any breakdown there has been. I only want to make this point. We discussed this subject last at the beginning of August. At that time appeals were made to the Government from every side of the House for speed in this problem. It was impressed on them that the longer the solution was delayed the more difficult it would become, the more definite would be the reactions against any solution proposed. Here we are in the middle of October, still nothing settled, still a prospect of further delay. We beg the Government, with all their difficulties, to come to a decision of their own as soon as possible, to announce it, and to give this House a chance of supporting it.
A great part of this Debate has been devoted to the question of Germany. It has been obvious, both from Debates and from Questions in this House, that for a long time the position in the British zone 1778 has been creating more and more anxiety among hon. Members in all parts of the House, and certainly that anxiety was crystallized in the speech made recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was speaking, I suppose as usual, with a song in his heart but, as he was speaking at a bankers' dinner, he presumably had something more substantial in other parts of his anatomy. The right hon. Gentleman made a rather curious speech. He set out all the difficulties, all the grievances from which our taxpayers suffer, all that there is to be put right. He left out only one thing, and that was what remedy he proposed. I must confess that had I been in the audience, I should have been tempted at the end to ask, "And so what"?—although, of course, a banking audience is accustomed to a rather more dignified diction than that. To some extent that omission has been repaired by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I was glad to hear the part of his speech which was devoted to the future of Germany. It seemed to me that we had to face up, and face up quickly, to three questions.
The first one was, What was our objective in Germany? The second, What methods were we to adopt? The third was, Is our machine properly adapted to the objective and to the method?' I think that the right hon. Gentleman has given an answer to the first question— that of objective. We know it is not the policy, as some thought and as some might have suspected, to seek our security in the future by keeping the people of Germany in such a state of physical starvation and mental hopelessness that they would present no danger, and that we look for our security, which we must have, in more specific and more selective control rather than mass deprivations of that character. That I think is our great aim, and we are glad to hear it. But to answer that question without answering the other two, will merely be to express a pious hope. It is no good saying that that is our objective in Germany unless we have the methods and machine by which to carry it out.
There is clearly not time this evening to go into the details of these questions. I would only make this one point. In regard to the methods, I understand that in the days of the war when candidates for the military Government of Germany were in training, the thesis before them 1779 was that it was an accepted fact that we could never have enough trained personnel necessary to administer the British zone in Germany, nor could such personnel have the local knowledge. Therefore, it was a cardinal point of their policy that we should concentrate on indirect control and leave direct administration to the Germans. I think we have departed, from all I hear, a long way from those early principles during 'the last few months. Our control is descending into administrative details such as the allocation of supplies to individual factories which tested this country when we had an immense number of people we could call upon to carry out a detailed administration of this kind. I hope that we can get back to the original idea of exercising an indirect control and allowing the Germans to run the administrative details for themselves.
The third question is just as important, that of machinery. We have these new objectives and new methods, and must have the machinery to deal with them. I am not satisfied that the present machinery, at any rate on the economic side, does answer those requirements. Is it so flexible that it can in fact give a definite answer quickly to matters of economic policy? On the economic side, whatever may be the case on the administrative and security side, we might just as well have a bad decision or no decision at all, as have a decision which takes a long time to arrive at. I hope we shall have further opportunities of discussing these points, and that we shall get to my three questions as satisfactory an answer from the Government on the last two as I think they have already given on the first.
In conclusion, all of us know that the Foreign Secretary will in a few days be off on his travels again. During the course of his speech, in which, as I say, he touched on many parts of the world, he referred once to "New Britain." I was a little confused at the moment because that rather small country in the Pacific did not seem to fit in to his argument. But, I realised he was not talking in geographical language, but political jargon. The right hon. Gentleman must sometimes sigh for the old Britain when a Foreign Secretary was occasionally left in his own office and given an opportunity to think out the problems 1780 which pressed in on him from all sides. Certainly when the Foreign Secretary goes in a few days he will go with our good wishes and with the hope of the whole of this country that this new series of meetings on which he embarks will prove less and in their consequences than those of the past and that something may emerge from them which will lighten the deep shadow which now darkens over our heads.
§ 9.44 p.m.
The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)
There has been a large range of questions addressed to me, and the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who wound up for the other side, proved himself no exception to the rule of the Debate in this respect. I wish to deal with his main questions, but before doing so, may I say that I will take time to find out the answer to the question about the three Sheiks, which I do not know offhand. As to the South Schleswig question, I am on much firmer ground, and would like to dispose of any suggestion that the Danish reply is in any way a snub. Some considerable time ago we addressed, after discussion, a perfectly friendly Note to that Government suggesting that if they wanted frontier rectification we should quickly know about it, and it would be quickly agreed upon. They have replied saying that they do not wish for a rectification of the frontier. Therefore, it was not meant as a snub. The worst difficulties of the other main question, that is, of the Danish speaking minority there, have been got over.
The second question addressed to me was on Palestine. I frankly welcome the tact and delicacy of the House in not developing this subject, or the subject of Egypt, while both are under negotiation. Perhaps I might answer the two points, one raised by the right hon. Gentleman on Palestine, and the other raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. First, my right hon. Friend is not yet persuaded that the possibility of American cooperation in this area has receded completely. Secondly, though as I indicated, I do not want to discuss the subject in detail, my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for the Colonies are not as pessimistic as the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition. They will continue their task as we have 1781 planned; they will exert every care, as they have done all along, and they will continue to hope and try so that an accommodation upon this question may yet be reached.
The other two questions addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman on Germany can both be shortly answered. It is true that there has been a shortage of personnel, but the House must appreciate that we have had a constant conflict —people saying, "Let the Germans themselves do the job," and other people saying at the same time, "Make sure that no one is left with even the most trivial charge, if they have a Nazi background." We have, therefore, had to try to achieve a middle way on this point. The other point about the flexibility of the economic machinery is, I agree, one which is most important, and it is enjoying the study of the Government just now. Such modifications as we conclude are necessary to meet the objections will be made.
I am, of course, cheered to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he hoped there would be answers on these two points, as acceptable as that given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the other. The right hon. Gentleman's joy at that answer of my right hon. Friend was not quite shared by all other Members on his own side of the House. There seemed to be some objection to the socialisation of the heavy industries. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested that that was being forced upon the German people. I suggest that that is not quite accurate. First of all, such consultations as are possible, will be taken; and, secondly, if we may make any deductions from the election results in Germany it is quite clear that the people are not altogether unacquainted with the doctrines of social democracy, nor do they find them unpalatable. Moreover, if anyone on the other side of the House objects to this procedure of vesting these heavy industries temporarily in our Command, and eventually in the German people, let them be frank about the alternative method they offer. The alternative method is to let these industries revert to Krupp and his successors, the people who forged the weapons of war for Hitler, and before that for Hitler's predecessors. I make no apology, nor would the Government, of 1782 course, for this proposal to socialise. History and, apparently, the wishes of the German people upon this point, are both on our side.
I turn to another question which seemed to excite a good deal of attention and has been of sustained delicacy in this House for some time, and that is the question of Greece. I want to make it plan that we are not for one second completely and thoroughly happy about conditions in Greece and also that in my view the critics of Greece, like the critics of Spain, fall into two broad categories. There are the people who are sincerely, passionately, and disinterestedly concerned about Greece—and they are the huge majority in this House and in our party—but there is also, in my opinion, a vociferous minority who have a vested interest in creating trouble in both those countries. I think I ought also to make it plain that in my opinion and experience the hon. Member for Central Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Wilkes), who was jeered at from the other side of the House last night, falls into the first category. That, of course, is not to say that I accept as right all that he has to say. I should, however, like to make it plain to this House, and to the supporters of the Government particularly, that what he did say about the labour situation in Greece is substantially true and it has greatly concerned my right hon. Friend. But a Greek court did declare these elections invalid. We cannot get past that unless it is solemnly proposed that we should step in and set aside the decisions of this and any other Greek court. There could not be any justice; there could not be any security of trial if that is going to happen.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs immediately addressed himself to this problem of the unions in Greece when the decision that the elections were invalid was made known. He sent to Greece, with the agreement of the Greek Government, the best man that we could discover for the job, a man whose work in Italy I have already heard praised in this House by people familiar with it. He has produced a device, a formula, which, in substance, means that the Greek Government should, for the purpose of holding valid elections, reappoint the people who were invalidly elected. It is proposed that five others should be added, but it would mean that the people who, so far as we know, are 1783 acceptable to all shades of trade union opinion in Greece, should supervise the elections quickly for their own trade union office, and we hope that will be done.
I am afraid that I cannot accept the burden of the speech by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany), and the rest of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle. It is true that, in Greece, our Police and Military Missions have a very high advisory status but it is true also, however unpalatable it may be to the hon. Member for Peterborough, that the Greek Government must be ultimately responsible for decisions taken in either of these Forces. I should say, in passing, and I think this information has already been given in answer to a Question in this House, that many of the appointments to which exception was taken, were made before the British Military Mission went out to Greece. But, whether that was true or not, the decision for appointment, the decision for operation and the decisions upon the constitution of these forces must rest with the Greek Government. Of course, I sympathise with much of the worry of which we have heard from hon. Members behind upon this subject, but my hon. Friends must face up to this question—Are they really asking His Majesty's Government to step into Greece and say, "Do that, do this; take our orders on this and on every other subject"? Is that what we are being asked to do? If so, let us have it in plain, simple words.
I would say in reply to the hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted that we have not given any orders. We are not in a position to give orders, and I say most emphatically that to be asked to step in and create, in Greece, in the words of the "Manchester Guardian" this morning, "another Fatherland front," is something with which I am not in agreement, nor is the Government.
One other thing I would like to say on this subject. A request has been addressed to us, and reference was made to this, by the Greek Government for light arms to arm what they called their Home 1784 Guard. My right hon. Friend, after consideration, has decided that this should not be done, and he is conveying that decision to the Greek Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] I am glad that my hon. Friends approve, but I hope, equally, that they will see the reason for this decision. It is that, upon the evidence available to us, and in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, there was no reason to conclude that this would help to restore public order in Greece, and that is the criterion to which we must address ourselves upon this subject. This Greek Government, and any Greek Government—and hon. Members who are so certain now that this is a wrong Greek Government should reflect back and consider what their attitude was in March, when we were anxious that all parties should take part in the elections in Greece to produce a representative government —this Greek Government, whatever its constitution, has a primary obligation to maintain law and order in the country, and we, as their Allies and friends, must be prepared to uphold them in that aim.
Let no one assume—and I plead with my hon. Friends who, I know, are anxious to understand the situation, to try and get hold of all the facts—that the only disrupters of public order in Greece just now are Right wing people. They are not. There is sustained activity from Left wing irregulars, and this Greek Government, like any other responsible Government, must proceed against Right and Left without prejudice or party bias. No one in this House has submitted any evidence to show that the attempt to create public order in Greece is directed against only one wing. It is not.
§ It being Ten 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."— [Captain Michael Stewart.]
I should now like to turn to one other part of the Balkans, about which there were some strong speeches, and to say a word about Rumania and Bulgaria. We had hoped that, when the German forces withdrew from these countries and when the Fascist Governments in power during the, war were overthrown, the people of Rumania and Bulgaria would be free to choose the form of government they desired. In order to make sure that 1785 they should not be deprived of such a chance, the Government of this country undertook, in the course of the Crimea Conference in May with the Governments of the United States and the Soviet Union, to guarantee free elections. Therefore, to put it at its lowest and most moderate, it is disappointing to find that the conditions in these two countries are such that there is no prospect of the Opposition having a fair chance in the elections which are being held tomorrow in Bulgaria and on 19th November in Rumania. In Bulgaria, which is subject—I am using careful words —to what must be described as a reign of terror exercised by the Government-controlled militia, the Opposition enjoy few of those liberties which are characteristic of a democratic State.
Not long ago a member of the Bulgarian Government admitted that as many as 40,000 people were in political imprisonment at one time. [An HON. MEMBER: "All Left wing?"] I am not able to supply that information, but the House is entitled to make its own inquiries. I must say that even Socialist politicians have been, and are being, sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for uttering criticisms of their Government which seem like billing and cooing compared with the attacks we have had from some hon. Members on the Government benches. In Rumania, also, the Opposition are far from enjoying their political liberty on the Press and radio which we normally assume as a right. It is also clear that in preparing for these November elections, the Rumanian Government are permitting local authorities to adopt fraudulent methods relating to the electoral roll. It is no excuse that that was a past Rumanian practice. I want to deal with two other points which were made, I think, unfairly. My hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) made an attack upon the economic clauses of the Balkan treaties. Surely, it is normal international practice that if a country freely decides to enter a war, it must be prepared to compensate the holders of property which is damaged as the result of the decision of that country to enter the war. I thought also that my hon. Friend was either exceedingly badly misinformed, which I am sure must be the case, or was most deceitful in the argument he offered to the House. In discussing the problems of British oil companies in Rumania, my hon. Friend made 1786 what I thought was the incredible Suggestion that the British and American flyers were sent on a dangerous operation to bomb the oil fields at Ploesti in order to stop them falling into the hands of the Russians. He gave a date. He said these fields were first bombed in May, 1944. The heaviest and most successful raid on the oil installations was made on 1st August, 1943. Even earlier raids had been made in 1941 by our Soviet Allies with British technical assistance. I think it is reasonable, therefore, that the Rumanians should be prepared to meet the modest claims that we make in accordance with the treaty. I say more than that. I say that the working class constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury have a right to such benefits as the legitimate foreign holdings of this country can afford them, and, of course, these claims in Rumania will make some minor changes in their dietary and, perhaps, even in their clothes.
One other sharp, direct speech came from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus). No one attempts to deny the knowledge which he brings to this subject, but I suggest that tonight he was verging on the irresponsible. We were told that we were battering at the gates of the Dardanelles. Are we asking for a fresh status in relation to the Dardanelles? Are we asking for further privileges or new benefits? Of course we are not. We were told of the American economic onslaught on the Balkans, but we were not told about what America has already spent in the Balkans without hope of reward. Let us be fair upon this point. I do not know offhand the American contribution to U.N.R.R.A. I think it is rather more than four times the amount of our contribution. No one, not even the man to whose income tax it has meant an additional 1s, 4d., is grumbling about the extent of our contribution, but it should not be forgotten that we poured £155 million mainly into the Balkans and Poland.
Again, the hon. Gentleman came back to this question. He tried to insist that, since there was a specific agreement, interpretation should be taken bilaterally, and we had no right to insist upon free elections in Poland. I suggest—and I am sure I am circled by clever international lawyers—that we are not here discussing a matter of interpretation. We 1787 are discussing a matter of execution which was put beyond doubt, which was not forced in any way upon the Polish Government which voluntarily accepted that contract to which we are partners—and we as partners have our obligations too.
In developing his argument the hon. Member said that in Poland, and in countries like Poland, there was a necessity for a coalition, a coalition such as we had during the war. I am very certain that that argument is accurate but not appropriate, because the essence of our coalition was that it was achieved by consent. The coalitions of which we are afraid in Poland and in the Balkans are the negation of consent. It is not a parallel argument at all. Apart altogether from the political immorality of such arrangements, there is this inescapable criticism, that they will only work temporarily, because one can secure a Government by suppression for some of the time but not for all the time. Certainly, these coalitions carry nothing of the ideas of freedom of expression, of organisation and of representation, which have been the heart and soul of the party of which these gentlemen claim to be members—the heart and soul of our party and of this Government. I share neither the certainty of the hon. Gentleman nor the pessimism of the right hon. Gentleman about the road upon which he apparently concludes we are moving.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of my unworthy self, will he state whether the Labour Government consider that this document, "International Postwar Settlement," in its main lines and general principles is binding on the Labour Government as constituting the Labour Government's foreign policy? I am asking that, because a lot of us put that to our electors and were elected on the understanding that that was the Labour Party's policy.
I understand I am being offered a lawyer's trick. I am being asked to say that our policy shall be determined by reference back to 1944. In saying, what I have said, however, I do not in any way subtract from the assertion that this is a Labour Government, that our policy at home and abroad is social democratic government.
I should like to have spent some time attempting to answer one of the questions 1788 put to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), when he asked me if we had anything further to say about the federation of Europe. I only want to say that, whatever attraction it has, this conception must be weighed most carefully in relation to the Charter and the development of the United Nations. It is not quite easy and clear, but it does fall inside the conception of regional development. If it means that there should be an extension of close relations between Britain and France and the Netherlands and Belgium and so on, that is excellent, and that has been the practice as well as the policy of this Government. But if I am to judge by the grave, and, I am sure, most responsible speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, that is not the exclusive idea behind this conception of European federalism.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) asked me a very heavy question. He asked me if there were more than 200 divisions of Soviet troops on a war footing between the Baltic and the Black Seas. I must, of course, reply in measured terms. I am unable to say whether his information about the number of Russian divisions in occupied countries between the Baltic and the Black Seas is correct, or what proportion of those divisions is on a war footing; but it is, of course, well known that there are very considerable Russian forces in these countries.
When I have said that, I repeat that I cannot share the pessimism—if I do not misinterpret the right hon. Gentleman— which he offered to the House by inference in his speech this afternoon. The Governments of the United States, of the Soviet Union and of this country have recently made it plain that they all want peace. Yes, so did Hitler; and when my party—like the right hon. Gentleman, I must say quite frankly and warmly—had information which belied his words we said so. But until we have that information we must assume that responsible Governments mean what they say in public. I will admit that what gives cause for alarm is that the Soviet seem to continue to build up areas which one might construe as areas of defence; and certainly they are areas in which the Soviet seek to be exclusively powerful. Yet I think 1789 that that is possible of explanation. There is an historical confusion repeated again and again in the minds of men and in the minds of nations, between the conditions of peace and the conditions of national security. It is, perhaps, expressed in the old cliché that a rifle is a weapon of defence when you look at it from the butt, and a weapon of attack when you look at it from the muzzle. It may also be true, I expect, that our activities and the activities of the United States look to be muzzle-ended from the Soviet point of view.
But I must add this: This confusion has been seen. The confusion of these two ideas has been seen from the beginning by this Government, and that is one of the reasons why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and my other right hon. Friends, have continued to insist that the basis of our foreign policy must rest upon the United Nations, and that the instruments of the United Nations must be upheld. Because, as yet, the differences between us and the Soviet are, I venture to suggest, of a technical kind and not yet of a political kind, although if further deterioration takes place that might be true.
The problem is the technical one of finding an instrument by which any reasonable demands from the Soviet can be met, and equally reasonable demands by this country or by any other European Power may be met. That is why it is essential that the Security Council must be upheld. If, for example—to choose an example so absurd that no one will suspect us—we occupied outer Mongolia, it might be true that that would contribute to our defence, but equally it could certainly be maintained that it was a threat against the Soviet. In such a situation His Majesty's Government would be willing to go to arbitration immediately. But, of course, for arbitration you must have an arbiter. We started with one, but as the Prime Minister has already said this afternoon, we are in great danger of losing it.
§ Mr. Churchill
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that subject may I say that I ventured to ask a very plain and simple question—a heavy question. Is there going to be any answer to it? I would like to make it quite plain: Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to relieve us of any anxiety which may have 1790 been caused by my statement that there are more than 200 mobilised Soviet divisions on the line from the Baltic to the Black Sea? I should like to know if any answer can be made. [HON. MEMBERS": "It has been answered."] If the right hon. Gentleman has answered it, we have not understood the answer, and do not imagine that this point can be covered up by evasion. We ought to know the truth. We will have the truth out of him.
—but I would have been a very poor student of the right hon. Gentleman, when I sat on the benches where he now is, if I had been trapped into elaborating an answer which I did not want to elaborate. I have given an answer. The answer is the one I have already given. If the right hon. Gentleman wants me to read it again I will do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol asked, at the end of his speech, if the right hon. Gentleman would consider reconvening or attending—
I will repeat it. I am unable to say whether the information of the right hon. Gentleman about the number of Russian divisions in occupied countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea is correct, or what proportion of these divisions is on a war footing; but it is, of course, well known that there are very considerable Russian forces in these countries. That is the answer
§ Mr. Churchill
I am much obliged for the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in repeating the statement.
Perhaps, when I have intricate and comprehensive replies to make in future, I will take the trouble to circulate them to the Opposition Front Bench The right hon. Gentleman asked if my right hon. Friend would attend or convene a further meeting of the Big Three or the Big Four. The reply to that is, that there is the Council of Ministers, and when the right hon. Gentleman says, 1791 perhaps with force, that diplomacy sometimes succeeds in private—not in secret— as distinct from public, then, of course, I must say that too has been the view of my right hon. Friend. If there are any private informal conversations that can take place, and if the meeting of the Big Three or the Big Four would help re-create or further better conditions between us, then my right hon. Friend is willing at any time to do that, because it is the policy of the Government that we should bend ourselves to sustain any kind of international consideration. There is no reason to believe that unilateral action by any country, no matter what banners it carries or what slogans it has, will make conditions of peace. It needs international action, and we will use any and every instrument for that purpose, although we still believe the instrument will be found inside the Charter of the United Nations.
I want to say one word as I close, which is not made any easier because of the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. 1792 There have been three statements made about him during these two days which I very much resent. I want to say that when people are without an argument upon a policy, then it is not unusual to try to traduce and besmirch the men who seem handiest. This foreign policy is not the foreign policy of any one man; it is the foreign policy of this Government. If someone tries to separate any one from the Government, then it will be a confession of weakness that they have no argument. The whispering we have heard information about in Europe and capitals in the Balkans can bear only that interpretation. This Government will continue to pursue a foreign policy based upon the establishment and extension of social democracy, and for that purpose, politically and economically, we will utilise all the instruments available inside the Charter of the United Nations
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-eight Minutes past Ten o' Clock.