§ 4. "That a sum, not exceeding £19,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st clay of March, 1947, for a contribution to the cost of the Greek Armed Forces and for a gift to the Greek Government of certain civilian goods."
§ First, Second and Third Resolutions agreed to.
§ Fourth Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I do not think that anyone, in any quarter of the House, would grudge the £19 million asked for in this Supplementary Estimate, for, if any country deserves assistance in postwar reconstruction, none deserves it more than our ancient Ally, Greece. Among Balkan countries, she alone resisted aggression in 1940, at a time when our chances of defeating Hitler must have seemed to some, at any rate, rather slender. Her reward was the occupation by both Italian and German Forces, devastation, hunger and starvation, and when, finally, those occupation troops withdrew, 85 per cent. of the children of Greece were found to be suffering from tuberculosis, and over 1,000 villages had been laid waste. The withdrawal, or surrender, of those occupying forces was followed, alas, by civil war. As though that were not enough, the civil war has been replaced by a war of nerves, sustained by intense guerrilla activities, so 1767 that the rule of the Greek Government is at best regional, and at worst, local.
In our anxiety to heal this running sore, financial assistance is, I think, the least that we can give. Originally, His Majesty's Government agreed in October, 1945, to provide £11 million for the equipment of the gendarmerie and the Greek Army, and they later undertook to provide further assistance, from 1st January, 1946, until 31st March of this year. Again, in order to assist economic rehabilitation, we undertook to waive payment in respect of consumer goods to the value of £500,000, and we agreed to make available a further £500,000 in the form of surplus stores already in Greece. These sums were included, I think, in the total cost of British aid to Greece, of £87 million, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this House on the 6th of this month.
I think that we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State to break down these figures into a little more detail. In the last Debate which we had on foreign affairs, my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) raised a number of important points about the size of the Greek Army and about the nature of the equipment which we had given, or had promised to give. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in replying to that Debate, gave an assurance that the questions asked by my hon. Friend would be dealt with when the Supplementary Estimates were discussed. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear the answers to those questions from the Minister of State today.
I also want to ask a few questions, in addition to those asked by my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University. We would like to know the cost and the size of the British Military, Economic and Police Missions in Greece, in relation to the value of the equipment supplied to the Greek Army. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the officers of these Missions are satisfied with the results of their labours, and, in particular, on the economic side, could he give us some indication of what progress has been made? For instance, can we be quite certain that such assistance as we have been able to give to Greece will be sufficient to tide her over any intervening period between the date when U.N.R.R.A. 1768 supplies dry up—the House will, of course, remember that 50 per cent. of the population of Greece depend for their food supplies upon U.N.R.R.A. stocks—and the date when any possible assistance from the United States might commence?
These are not easy questions to answer, for economic recovery in Greece is hampered throughout at every turn by the activities of the guerrilla bands. The breakdown of law and order over large areas in the north does not go hand in hand with a successful reconstruction programme. It is clearly the first duty of any Government to maintain law and order within its own territories. But such material resources as Greece possesses today are largely dissipated in the maintenance of over 100,000 men under arms, in an attempt to deal with the guerrilla bands, some of whom are armed and trained in neighbouring countries.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)rose—
§ Mr. Solley (Thurrock)
On a point of Order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has just said is in relation to a matter which is sub judice. As I understand it, the question of whether the guerrillas on the Northern borders of Greece are receiving any aid from adjacent countries, is one which is now being investigated by a committee of the United Nations. I submit, therefore, Sir, that, in those circumstances, the remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite is not in Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Further to that point of Order. The statement which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made is a very serious one. Attention has often been drawn in this House when I have made similar statements to the fact that they should not be made unless there is some evidence to back them up.
§ Mr. Speaker
Hon. Members make statements on their own authority, and they are responsible for them.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
I think, Mr. Speaker, that I am perfectly entitled to make what I believe to be an accurate statement of fact, although hon. Members opposite may not like it. Perhaps they would read, or at least reread, the report of the Parliamentary Mission, composed of hon. Members of all parties, which went out to Greece last year. In one of the paragraphs in that report there is the statement that, in their view, some, though not all, assistance for the guerrillas was derived from resources on the other side of the Greek frontier. The cost of maintaining these men under arms —this Greek army of over 100,000 men—is certainly a heavy burden. How can the Greek Government at the same time devote their attention to economic and physical reconstruction?
In passing, I want to ask the Minister of State about the Greek tobacco crop. I am informed that there are still between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of unsold tobacco lying in Greek warehouses. This stock is the result of an accumulation of the tobacco crops of the last three years, of which we and the United States have so far, taken only 10,000 tons. I should have thought that, in view of our dollar position, we could have purchased rather more than that.
The war of nerves, to which Greece is being subjected—
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
—not by the Americans—is being intensified or diminished according to the wishes of those responsible for organising those disruptive forces. The temperature can be brought to boiling point, or it can be allowed to cool off. Across the frontiers guerrilla bands could infiltrate in numbers in excess of the Greek Army and gendarmerie, for whose maintenance part of. the £18 million in the Supplementary Estimate is earmarked. Moreover, the unfortunate Greeks see on the other side of their borders an army in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia far larger than theirs, and in face of those two large armies, the Greek Government must at least maintain a Greek army adequate not only to deal, as far as they can, with the guerrilla bands within their own territory, but adequate for the defence of their frontiers as well. The leaders of these bands are adopting the well-known technique of forcing the Greek Government to take repressive 1770 measures against them and then complaining of those repressive measures when they are taken.
This state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. The Greeks cannot stand on their own feet if the authority of the Greek Government does not extend from Athens to her frontiers. The aim of the guerrilla bands is clear; it is to prolong a state of chaos in order to wreck any hope of economic recovery, thereby creating conditions favourable for a further attempt to overthrow the present Government and reduce Greece into a state of anarchy which she so narrowly escaped in the winter of 1944–45. To whom has the Greek Government been able to turn for assistance except to ourselves, since the United Nations organisation is as yet unable to bear heavy responsibilities? We are the oldest democracy in the world. We owe much of our civilisation to ancient Greece. I submit that His Majesty's Government are fulfilling their rightful function in assisting, as much as lies within their power, a Greek Government, which is the product of the fairest elections that Greece has ever known, to restore law and order to her gallant citizens.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)
I am sure every hon. Member will support what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) about the debt which we owe to Greece. We owe her that debt not only because of her ancient culture, to which we owe so much, but even more than that, perhaps, because of the part which she played in the war against Italy and Germany. It is because we approve of what Greece has done for us in the past that we want Greece today to be free and independent. I am sure none of us would want Greece to be in the position of a kept country; nor would we want her to be treated as a soiled courtesan who is passed on from one protector to another. Consequently, in considering this Estimate, I am concerned with several things. Does it contribute to the independence of Greece? Does it satisfy our own obligation of honour towards Greece? Does it help Greece to stand on her own feet, and, finally—I believe this is equally important—does it contribute not merely to Greece's security but to our own security as well?
During the past year and a half I have thought that our main task in Greece— 1771 and I would say, in parenthesis, that I have always considered the presence of our troops there to be a stabilising factor—was to help the Greeks to restore their economy; for that reason I supported the Estimate which provided a £10 million credit for the Greek people. I recall on that occasion the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—now the Minister of State—saying that, "in view of our own difficulties, the scale of our assistance, particularly, that £10 million credit, must be reckoned as quite generous." I think the right hon. Gentleman was speaking then with his customary understatement, because £10 million, judged by any standard, is a most substantial contribution. But have the Greeks used that money in order to obtain economic stability?
When I was in Greece about 18 months ago, I spoke to M. Varvaressos, who only a few days previously had had to resign his Ministry. He had made a resolute attempt to create economic stability in Greece, primarily by means of taxation; but the fact is that the Greeks refused to pay taxes in the measure of which they were capable. We consequently find ourselves in a position today in which we are asking the British taxpayer to contribute £19 million raised from taxation to which the Greeks themselves seem unwilling to make a fair contribution. I would therefore ask the Minister of State what success, if any, has our economic mission had in Greece? What success has it had in really seeing that the Greek economy is put on a proper basis and that Greece does not require a permanent remittance from her former Allies? Those are questions which require answers before we can fairly ask taxpayers in this country to foot so large a bill.
On the question of the £18 million which we are advancing for the Greek Army, the hon, and gallant Member for Windsor was perfectly right in asking that this sum should be broken down so that we can see how it has been used. I ask the Minister of State how much of that sum has been used for arming the gendarmerie in Greece. I recall that, not long ago, the Foreign Secretary, in reply to a Question, said that no sums would be made available for arming the gendarmerie as M. Tsaldaris had requested. I would like to know whether any of that sum has been, or is to be, advanced for the purpose of arming a 1772 gendarmerie or local militia to prosecute a civil war.
I wish now to emphasise one point in respect of the financial contribution which we are making to the Greek Army. There is a chronic condition of civil war in Greece, which I deplore. I had always hoped that we would be able to have a regime in Greece sympathetic to Great Britain, allied to us through friendship and through the popular will. I had hoped that such a Government would be neither of the extreme Left nor of the extreme Right, but would be a coalition of the Moderate, Left and Centre elements who would come together, win the good will of the Greek people, and not require our arms to bolster them up. Today, there is in Greece an army and military expenditure which is quite disproportionate either to the needs of the country, in my opinion, or to the country's economic budget. We are offering the Greek people a further £11 million—in all, £11 million—for economic reconstruction, whereas the amount which we are advancing to them for military purposes—and it is clearly not the final contribution which will have to be made to Greece—is a sum of £18 million. If that sum were to create a Greek Army which would have the effect of creating peaceful conditions internally and in relation to her neighbours, I would approve of this Estimate; but there is no guarantee, given present conditions, that the creation even of a well-equipped Greek Army will have the effect of creating peaceful and normal conditions in Greece, as long as there are not internally the political conditions by means of which the Army can really be considered to be the instrument of the Greek people as a whole. We hear of mass desertions. Whether they are true I have no means of knowing. But is it true that there have been mass desertions, involving the abstraction of British arms and equipment which we paid for in order to supply the Royal Greek Army?
I deplore any kind of military intervention in a foreign country. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who himself, I believe, before the war, opposed intervention in Spain, would not wish to be associated with any kind of intervention in Greece. I do not think we ought to intervene; I do not 1773 think that the Russians ought to intervene. I say that clearly and definitely. It would be illogical and improper that we should abstain from intervention while the Russians or the Yugoslavs had a clear field. The only way in which we can have peace in Greece, peace in the Balkans and peace in the world is if there is a truly democratic independent Greece. That can only come by a coalition of the Greek people themselves, a coalition from which the extreme elements will be removed, a coalition of moderate men coming together in the interests of Greece.
Finally, I would say this. Bandits can be hired with gold sovereigns; a mercenary army can be bought with dollars and sterling; but the only way in which we can win the sympathy of the people is by carrying out a good policy. I hope that our policy in Greece will be to encourage real democracy and genuine independence. If we do that we may hope with Byron "that Greece may yet be free."
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
There is a great deal in what the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) has said with which we can all agree. When he said in his last sentence that our hope would be that democracy would be maintained in Greece, I presume that he was using the word "democracy" in the sense in which most of us here use it, namely, that the Government which has issued out of impartial elections, the only impartial elections ever held in the Balkans, should be maintained, because it is the Government of democracy.
We must do our utmost to support His Majesty's Government on this Estimate for several reasons. First, because of the immense difficulties with which the Greeks are contending on their frontiers. I noticed that one of my hon. Friends alluded to these guerrilla forces, who are very largely inspired from abroad, and he was told that the matter was now the subject of a U.N.O. Commission of Inquiry. I shall have supreme confidence in these Committees of U.N.O. if they bring in their verdict in accordance with the evidence, and the evidence in this case is so absolutely overwhelming that these guerrilla bands have been supported from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. We can only ask that the Greek Government and its Army shall be given the powers to 1774 resist and to maintain order in its own country.
In view of the fact that the British Army must be withdrawn eventually, it is absolutely essential, from the strategic point of view, that the Greek Government should be able to maintain the independence of the country.
§ Professor Savory
When we think, looking round at the various Baltic States, that Rumania has been lost—we have not even had a reply, as the right hon. Gentleman has repeatedly admitted, to our protests with regard to the falsification of the elections—Bulgaria even insults foreign representatives and lays hands on the French Minister—
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
On a point of Order. I understand that the Estimate we are considering deals with Greece. Is the question of Rumania in order upon this Estimate?
§ Mr. Gallacher
If the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory) is entitled to refer to Rumania as an example, will it be permissible for those of us on this side of the House to refer to Eire as an example?
§ Professor Savory
In view of the fact that British influence has, within the last year or two, declined to such an extent in the Balkans—I was intending to refer to those farcical elections in Yugoslavia, and the refusal to observe the most solemn agreement made between the Allies and Marshal Tito—we must see, above all, that the situation in Greece is maintained. Our whole strategic position in the Mediterranean depends entirely upon it. Surely, if the whole of the rest of Eastern Europe is under the domination of a foreign Power, we are at least entitled to defend Greece, to which we owe so much, that country to which our brave heroes played so large a part in restoring its independence.
Further, in other respects, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Greece. Nothing could have exceeded the heroism 1775 with which she resisted the Italian invasion, the help she gave to our trooops on their passage through Greece, right up to the unfortunate final issue. Our debt to Greece, and to Greek civilisation, is incalculable. What is this paltry £18 million in comparison with what we owe to our Greek friends? There is a great deal more I should have liked to have said but I wish to be brief as there are so many other hon. Members who desire to speak. I hope that the House will give its unanimous support to the Government in granting this Vote.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
I must confess that I listened with some impatience to the statements which have come from the other side of the House about the guerrillas and about the part which the Greeks played in the late war. There is unanimity in this House about the valour of the Resistance Movement of Greece—[HON. MEMBERS: "And the Greek Army"]—yes, and the Greek Army. It is a tragedy that if this money is voted today it will be going to help a system whereby those who fought the Security Battalions of Hitler in Greece during the war are now suffering. During my recent visit to Greece, I came across a commissioned officer of the Greek Army who was the first one to join the Resistance Movement. He has in his possession a letter from Field-Marshal Alexander, thanking him for saving the lives of 13 English Servicemen. But in order to do it he had to kill the Greek who was betraying them to the Security Battalions. Today, that young man is under sentence of death for killing that Greek traitor during the German occupation. I believe that the good name of Britain is in danger if we say that we will support a system under which this sort of thing can happen.
At the present time the gendarmerie, and I believe that His Majesty's Government cannot be quite unaware of this, contain in their ranks known collaborators with the Hitler regime. During my visit to Athens, I happened to meet a man of 20 years of age, to days out of hospital, who had had his right leg amputated at the knee. The person who had done it was a gendarme, Papageorgou. This man had gone during the German occupation to the young man's house to arrest him on behalf of the Germans. Now he goes in the guise of the gendarmerie, and shoots 1776 this boy on the way home. He is still in the gendarmerie. The facts are known. I brought them to the knowledge of responsible people in Greece, who shrugged their shoulders, and said, "Unfortunately there is this spirit where people have suffered themselves in 1944; they still have resentment, and they will have their own back." I submit to the House that the gendarmerie in Greece today is unworthy of any contribution from this State.
I could give more details of the gendarmerie but I will now refer to the guerrillas. I happen to be the only Member of this House who has talked with the leaders of the guerrillas, as well as the leaders of the present Government in Greece. No one can accuse me of only talking with the Left. I have talked with the Right, and on occasions I have stayed with the Right. I talked with the Centre, and in the Central Party of Mr. Sophoulis I met a former Cabinet Minister who said, "Sir, there is freedom in the central streets of Athens, but in the central streets of Athens alone. If you are seen reading a Left wing paper in the suburbs, you will be beaten up." In the provinces I had to move very carefully myself. I had to wait until dark before I could contact Liberals and Socialists. The regime now in force in Greece makes that of Franco look like a Sunday school party. It is something unworthy of the support of this country. I beg hon. Members opposite to believe me. I am doing my best not to add colour to an already colourful story. I am giving the facts as I know them.
Who are these guerrillas to whom so much reference has been made? I met teachers, lawyers, priests, doctors, a mass of shepherds, and farm labourers. I will not believe that these professional people give up the comfort of their homes, and abandon their friends and take to the hardships of the mountains willingly. They do it because life is made impossible for them in the provincial towns or the capital city. The position is that people can be arrested without a charge. Indeed, they can be sentenced in their absence without knowing that they have been tried. Consequently, the islands around Greece are full of political exiles. Is this the sort of thing for which any hon. Member would wish to stand? I believe that hon. Members opposite, equally with those on my side of the House, must look with dismay and disgust upon a Government which seeks to wipe out political 1777 opposition by removing its political opponents to exile around its shores.
§ Major Mott-Radclyffe
Before the hon. Member finally adorns all these guerrillas with haloes, will he tell us the circumstances in which the wife of one deputy, and a daughter of another, were murdered a few weeks ago?
§ Mr. Thomas
I did not refer to that, but I have had some information about it. I am not trying to say that all guerrillas are saints. I do not believe it is possible in any movement in this country to say that every individual member is born of righteousness and clothed in white. The lady to whom the hon. and gallant Member for Windsor (Major Mott-Radclyffe) referred was killed during the raid. Her husband was the leader of those fighting the guerrillas, and she remained on the scene of battle, according to my information. I give it to the House as I received it. She was found dead after the battle. Unfortunately, civil war in any country is always more fierce and more repellent than any other sort of war.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Do hon. Members recall that when the Black and Tans were fighting, a woman nearly in childbirth was done to death?
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas
The political police force in Greece today has the features of which I have heard the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory) complain so often in other countries. It is a police force which is highly political, and which drags people from their beds, as 500 were dragged last Wednesday morning, and by nightfall they were on their way to the Aegean Islands, without any opportunity of defending themselves. That is, if the information which has been sent to me from Greece is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt it, any more than my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has reason to doubt it. The Greek Government are making no effort at reconstruction but are devoting all their energies to this civil war.
§ M. Thomas
One moment. Last May when the guerrilla movement was not strong in Greece, nothing was done then. It is two years since the end of the war, 1778 and this vote of £18 million for armaments, and £1 million for reconstruction, is indicative of the general attitude adopted out there. It is possible to buy any luxury in Athens. They are importing all sorts of luxuries without any sense of responsibility at all for the restoration of the economic life of that nation. At a time when we receive gladly, and with pride, £11 million from New Zealand, I suggest that it is going a bit far to spend £18 million on armaments to support one side in the civil war in Greece. It may be true that in Greece there are extremes on one side and the other, but what is also true is that it is a bad thing for Britain to be supporting the Right against the Liberals and Socialists.
Our fear of Russia is also entering here, and it is not so much a question of the welfare of the Greeks as that of watching our own position. I recognise the strategic importance of Greece to this country, but I believe the best way for us to keel) Greece friendly towards us is to encourage a happy relationship with its working people, and not with those who are the mountebanks referred to by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) in another Debate this afternoon who, having got into power, are determined to keep it by tyranny of all sorts. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) said this afternoon, the only remedy for Greece is a centre Government, a broad Government. I agree that we must have a broad Government. I would like to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary report which was issued by our colleagues from all sides of the House when they went to Greece, but I believe that we must get E.A.M. into that Government. You may not like it, but you cannot ignore it. There they are, and in strength, and it would be better to give them responsibility.
I believe that the House ought to be aware—and these are my concluding words—that even on the part of those who are asking us to stop this help to the right wing in Greece there is a deep friendship towards Great Britain. The names of that great Parliamentarian of the past. William Ewart Gladstone, and, of the poet Byron, are still honoured and regarded with affection by those people. They cannot believe that we who believe in liberty and freedom of speech for ourselves can support a system which denies them to the Greeks, a system which 1779 means that to be a progressive at all is to be unable to go out after dark. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) smiles and shakes his head, but I am convinced that if he made the trip which I made, living with the peasants and sharing their hardships, if he went without their knowing who he was and just moved about, he would be disturbed to see honest citizens afraid to speak, unable to buy a paper of their own political opinion because the gendarmerie denied it. There is one law in Athens and another law in the provinces, and I ask my right hon. Friend if he cannot bring pressure to bear, or use the good offices of the Government, to bring more toleration and more justice in Greece, and to give to the ordinary people the liberty for which they fought so hard, a fight to which all parts of this House have paid tribute.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I had not intended to refer to the relations between the parties and factions in Greece, but since there has been so much reference to that subject I think that there ought to be something said from this side of the House. I have not had the advantage of recent direct experience myself and therefore I shall couch most of what I have to say on that side of the subject n the form of questions; because I do think, after the speeches we have heard and most particularly after the speeches we have just heard, that it is most incumbent upon the Foreign Office spokesman to confirm or correct whatever has been said.
It really is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite twitting us for, not producing evidence for everything we may say on this matter. Evidence, in any strict sense of the word, is really not producible, and with respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member. for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), he did not himself produce any evidence in the strict sense of the word. [Interruption.] In the strict sense of the word—it is not evidence how a woman was killed to say someone wrote and told him all about it. I also have been a recipient of some sort of evidence about those two murders—and there were two. When hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us that what is wanted in Greece is a Coalition Government going the whole way, excluding what they call the extreme Right, and what they call the extreme Left but otherwise going the whole way round, I would ask them to consider 1780 this. Coalition in this country has not always been easy, nor have its effects been wholly beneficial. At the particular moment I have nothing but respect, and n cases some slight affection, for the present ornaments of the Treasury Bench. There are some others who might be there but who do not happen to be here this afternoon—perhaps they did not know I was going to speak—for whom I have less regard. I do not think it would be very helpful to suppose that I and any hon. Friends that I may have would be able easily to coalesce with them, if perhaps my daughter had been murdered by one of them and the wife of the hon. Gentleman who sits beside me by another.
I ask the Foreign Office to tell us what information they have about these two murders, for murders I believe them to have been, or if they were unfortunate accidents in the course of civil war, what information they have to that effect. In pursuance of that, I would like to ask them whether it is true, as I am informed, that there really has been a great difference between the killings on the one side and on the other side in this matter. I claim no recent direct knowledge but know Greece a little bit, I know a little of Thessaly and Macedonia, and I know something of the history of the country from books as well, and I well know that this is not the beginning of faction, vendetta, even assassination, in Greece. That is true enough. But there is more than one way of doing even these things, and I would ask the Foreign Office to tell us whether it is true that on one side there have been many massacres, many killings of women and children, and on the other side there has not been nearly so much that could not fairly be described as fair fighting, so far as any fighting is ever fair in a civil war. I wish the Foreign Office would give us information about that, and in particular—if I may have the right hon. Gentleman's attention—in particular the massacres at Skra in November and at Mandalo at a date of which I am not quite sure.
The next thing, as we are on this question of parties and factions—I would not have brought it up but we have had it two or three times already and I think now it should be gone into—the next thing I should like to ask is this: What evidence has the Foreign Office of collaboration by E.L.A.S. and E.A.M., not only with persons beyond their borders in recent 1781 months, but with the enemy long ago? It is not true, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central, said, that we are all unanimous in our opinion of the gallantry and good services of Greece. I have many reserves to make on that matter, very many reserves, and in particular I should like the Foreign Secretary to tell us whether he knows—because this I can assure him is true—that E.L.A.S., up in the North, through the commander there, Kitsos, did on 1st September, 1944, sign a treaty with the Germans that the Germans should not be interfered with in their withdrawal and that those people should be supplied with arms. It must not be assumed—it is a common assumption, too frequently made in this House, sometimes in ignorance and sometimes in malice—that the Left in this matter has always been patriotic, and especially, by some curious fallacy, has always been patriotic from the British point of view. That assumption should not continue to be made, and the Foreign Office should give us any evidence about it which is now in their possession.
I was somewhat surprised at the derision with which an hon. Gentleman on this side was greeted when he spoke of the strategic importance of Greece to us. I do not think this matter ought to be put on the basis of gratitude to Greece. There is reason enough for gratitude to Greece but the business of Governments is to look after their own interests. The hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G, Thomas) both spoke of the strategic importance and the necessity of Greece to British interests, and I was a little surprised that they had not sufficiently well tutored their hon. Friends so that they should not deride that argument as they did when it was put from this side.
I want to ask one or two other small and exact questions. What sort of arms have we been giving? We ought to know. Suppose we were inquiring now into the spending of £18 million upon a bridge across the Severn. We should, I think, make sure that the bridge had reached the other side and, if not, probably we should move a reduction in the Vote. These arms must have been given to meet an exact situation, existing and prospective, as explained by technicians, and I wish the Foreign Office to tell us what sort of arms 1782 have been given, in what sort of numbers, whether our deliveries have always been up to the advice of our technicians and of promises, explicit or implicit, made to the Greeks. And then, about maintenance, I should invite some explanation. If the hon. Gentleman looks on page 16, about the eighth line down, in small type, he will see:…. undertook later to provide further assistance, mainly in the way of maintenance, towards the equipment of the Greek Armed Forces….I am bound to say I am baffled by that. When I first read it I thought we guaranteed to give them certain arms and found finally that they were even harder up than we expected, largely as the result of the guerrilla which made it very difficult to get on with their economic reconstruction, and that then, finding them harder up than we expected, we agreed to give them more money for maintenance—clothes, rationing, and so on. But it does not seem to mean that, but goes on to say:…mainly in the way of maintenance, towards the equipment of the Greek Armed Forces.I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain to us what is "maintenance towards equipment," because it has me absolutely defeated. I can quite see what either of them is but I cannot see what the two are together.
This is my very last sentence. The hon. Gentleman opposite who is so anxious about direct evidence told us that the Greek Government have done nothing at all about economic reconstruction. I do not think that is an exaggeration of what he said. If he will look at HANSARD for 27th February, he will find in a speech made by the Foreign Secretary about a fortnight ago the following words:I would not like the Committee to underestimate all that has been accomplished in Greece in the work of reconstruction. Miles of roads and railways have been constructed … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1947; Vol. 433, C. 2298.]and so on.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Perhaps the Foreign Secretary was wrong on this matter, but in view of the assertions and innuendos we have suffered on this subject the Foreign Office should now come out and tell us boldly and plainly as much as ever they can.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Brentford and Chiswick)
This is a subject on which I speak with very great feeling; partly because my family has been associated with Greece ever since the time of the Greek War of Independence. In passing, I would like to correct the misapprehension of one of my hon. Friends who surprised me the other day by suggesting that I was partly Greek. In fact, I come from a philhellenic family but not a Hellenic family. A great part of my childhood was spent in Greece, and much of my war service was spent with Greeks. I am going to speak very briefly, having listened with great attention and sympathy to some of the speeches which have been made, particularly the very moving and sincere speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas). I want to try to put what I believe to be a strictly practical and constructive proposal. I beg my right hon. Friend to give it his attention.
I am convinced that the ordinary Greek citizen is sick and tired of the continuing civil war. He wants to be left in peace by the extremes of both sides. He is sick and tired of having his villages attacked, his houses burnt down and his families beaten up, one day by left wing bands, another day by right wing bands, and another day by police patrols. He wants to get back at last to conditions of stability. Great parts of the country, especially the North, have been living in war conditions ever since 1940—for seven long years. In parts, the liberation only meant a continuance of civil war, and it is still going on. Two of my hon. Friends have referred to the possibility of putting in power, or suggesting to the Greeks that they should put into power, a Coalition Government. There is a great deal to be said for that, but I do not believe any purely political arrangement, however produced, can solve the problems of Greece today. Greek economy, politics and security have been so broken up and smashed by the war, the civil war and the occupation, that she is unable at the present time to stand on her own feet. She cannot put her economy in order, end the civil war, or rebuild, without some outside help. We have made very sincere attempts to help her economically, and we have tried to help with advice, by Missions and in other ways, to put her back on her feet. It might have been said it would be a good thing if Greece 1784 became a member of the British Commonwealth. I would condemn that, although some Greeks have thought, quite seriously, that it would have been in their interests, and there was sincere feeling on the subject in the country at one time. Clearly, that is not possible at the present moment. We have earned a good deal of international by our efforts to help Greece, and with our many commitments, domestic and foreign, we cannot even continue to give the help we have given up till now.
What are the alternatives? One alternative is to withdraw and let the forces from the North walk in—let Greece be absorbed, as other nations have been absorbed, into the sphere of the Soviet Union. I believe that to be a worse alternative.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
There is another alternative, and this has recently been brought into prominence by the speech of President Truman. It is that Greece should be taken over lock, stock and barrel by the United States, and that what some of my hon. Friends have called "American dollar imperialism" should be the power in Greece. I believe that that would be a great tragedy from our point of view, and from the point of view of the Greeks. We are faced with this dilemma, that Greece cannot stand on her own feet today. Anyone who has been in that country will have been surprised at the assertion of the Foreign Secretary that recovery is going on quickly. Whatever you may think about political conditions in Yugoslavia, when you cross the frontier by road, you cannot help but be struck by the terrible contrast. It may be that they have a totalitarian Government, but they are rebuilding their villages, roads and houses. In Greece, alas, almost nothing is being done. Then there is the shadow of international stress. Some Greeks even believe they are within hours of the outbreak of another world war. Reconstruction has not got moving, because of the uncertainty of the national and of the international situation. So far as security and politics are concerned, Greece cannot stand on her own feet. It would be a disaster if any one major Power took the country over.
I believe there is a solution to this problem, and it is this: I want Greece to become a commitment of the United 1785 Nations as a whole. I want United Nations financial assistance, and United Nations control of that financial assistance in Greece. One of the reasons why our own efforts have been nullified is that although, as mentioned in the Estimate, part of the assistance to Greece was dependent on the agreement negotiated with the Greek Government, which provided for measures to be taken by them for reconstruction, and so on, the Anglo-Greek Financial Agreement of 1946 has, in fact, remained a dead letter. Therefore, whoever gives economic assistance to Greece, it is extremely important that, in return, the Greeks should undertake to use that assistance under proper supervision and control.
There is no hope of ending the civil war by leaving the Greek Army to fight it out with the rebels. They have been doing that for a whole year. I ask myself why we are spending £18 million in building up the Greek Army. I do not want to be controversial about this, but I am tempted to ask what is the purpose of having a Greek Army. Is it for internal stability? From that point of view, it has proved absolutely worthless. Is it to save the Greeks from invasion? Does anyone seriously believe that her tiny-Army could prevent Greece being invaded, in the event of a third world war? I think it is vitally important that the civil war there should be brought to an end, and that whatever complications there may be on the frontier should be stopped. The only way in which that can be done is by having a permanent, or semi-permanent, corps of United Nations observers established along that frontier and, if necessary, in other parts of Greece.
I beg my right hon. Friend to look into the implications of this—of Greece being not a British, American, or Russian commitment, but a United Nations commitment. I am sure that His Majesty's Government would get any Greek Government to accept that, because they know what the alternatives are. I believe that it would be the way not only to solve Greece's internal problems, but to deal with what one of the factors which is poisoning our international relations at present. If this could be put forward at the Conference of Foreign Ministers at Moscow it might be one way of relieving the acute tension that must arise from the 1786 way in which President Truman has announced his intention to take over British commitments in Greece. In view of the obligations which we have to the Greek people, and the terrible things which have been happening since the civil war in 1944, I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the question, and see what can be done.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I think that the whole House will feel that every speech which has been made in this Debate, from whatever angle, has shown a sincere desire to contribute something towards an improvement in the situation in Greece at the present time. That is the mood in which the House should approach this problem, for there is, on all sides, a feeling of true friendship for the people of Greece. There is, from us all, a warm and affectionate regard for a gay and gallant people. Certainly, they have at all times stood by us, no matter how difficult the conditions were, and we should approach this difficult subject—as I wish to do—in an attempt to provide a sympathetic and understanding view of the problems of Greece.
May I say, at the outset, without impertinence, that I was impressed by the report which was prepared by several Members of this House who recently went to Greece? That delegation was composed of Members of all parties, and they certainly set the Greeks an example in that they produced a virtually unanimous report. That, at any rate, is a very rare event in connection with Greek policy. Their conclusions were pretty near the mark. First, let me say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman). He said that the Greeks wanted a broader Government. I think his advocacy was for a Coalition. It may be that we think a Coalition would be good for Greece, but the Greeks do not happen to think that it is good for them. That is just too bad; but it has to be faced [Interruption]. I am saying that there is probably no country in the world in which it is more difficult to have a Coalition than in Greece. "Compromise" is not a Greek word. I was a little taken aback when I heard an hon. Gentleman opposite tell us just now that, two years after this Government in Greece had been elected, they ought to be looking about to broaden their basis. Please do not let the hon. Gentlemen opposite think that I am 1787 suggesting that the Government here should follow the advice given to the Government in Greece. God forbid.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to be correct. What I said was that, two years after the war, there was no reconstruction. I was not speaking of the Government.
§ Mr. Eden
If I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, I, of course, withdraw. I think that we have to be careful in advising these foreign countries on what they should do. Sometimes our advice may seem a little strange in view of our own practices. An hon. Gentleman said, "Why do they want an army in Greece?" It is all very well for us to say that. Bulgaria has a very large army and there are very large forces of the Soviet Union in Bulgaria. It is not surprising, therefore, that Greece, who fought on our side in the war, should feel that she should be entitled to have an army, if Bulgaria, who fought against us, has one. Although, in terms of modern warfare and strategy, the Greek Army may not be of a size for European warfare, it is a natural approach that, with a large Russian army in Bulgaria, and with Yugoslavia with an army, they should wish to have a national army too.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker
The point is that an enormous proportion of international help to Greece is being spent on this army, when almost nothing is being spent on reconstruction. The figures are 18 to one.
§ Mr. Eden
They gave a great deal to the Allied cause. If there is anything that nauseates me it is the suggestion that Bulgaria, whose behaviour was utterly treacherous throughout the war, should be allowed to have an army, without a word of protest from hon. Gentlemen opposite, while they immediately protest if Greece has an army. Nothing, in my judgment, can defend that. I have said to the chief men of the Russian State myself, and I 1788 say it again, that their friends in Bulgaria are unworthy of the friendship of any country. How many thousands of Greeks have been slain by the Bulgarians? Never will I listen peacefully to apologies for the behaviour of the Bulgarians. Our desire to help the Greeks in their very difficult situation is based in part on their record and their loyalty to us as an Ally. There are many things in this Greek business in which I was a good deal mixed up myself, but nothing impressed me more than the attitude of the Greek population when our troops eventually withdrew. That is a memory which will be fresh with us all, always.
What about the problem of economic reconstruction, upon which the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) so rightly touched? That is the heart of the whole matter. Greece has always been poor, and years of occupation have brought her to the very verge of ruin. Before the war Greece lived very largely upon her Mediterranean carrying trade but that has been virtually destroyed. She lost well over one million tons of the shipping which was the lifeblood of Greek trade before the war. We have not been able to replace that shipping, although I should have thought we might well try to help her in that respect. That might be cheaper, in the long run, even than giving this grant. Her few ports, harbours and railways were demolished when the Germans withdrew. That created a problem which it is difficult for us fully to visualise. It was a blow much more severe than it would be for us, with our many ports, harbours and roads. Greece had so few. Greece was stripped of such livestock as she had, and her harvests were confiscated. All those blows were in addition to the human casualties to which I have already referred.
Before the war, Greece had to import—I think I am right—about half her coal and nearly all her machinery and her raw materials. I shall not say anything about the elections, except that they have had the elections and that I am quite prepared to rest on the report of the Members of this House who went out there. Their government is there, elected, whether we like it or not, and we have to be careful to approve of democratic governments, even if we cannot agree with their party politics. It is a temptation which I have, as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite, but 1789 it is a temptation which we have to resist. Anyhow, there they are. The problem is, how can we give them economic help. I would make a suggestion to the Government. The one prime export of Greece before the war was tobacco, but nearly 40 per cent. of the crop went to Germany. I would ask the Government to look at this question of tobacco. As I understand the position, we are giving to the Greek Government £500,000 in the shape of consumer goods and £500,000—or I think it is £2,500,000—for the cancellation of what we should have been repaid in respect of U.N.R.R.A. I make no complaint about that, but that is what the Government propose. Cannot we see whether we can do something about the tobacco?
I am told that at the moment there is a surplus tobacco crop in Greece of between 60,000 and 70,000 tons. I would ask the Minister whether he has any information on that point. My suggestion is that we should see whether we can take a large proportion of that tobacco. Before the war America took 17 per cent. of the tobacco crop, we took 8 per cent. and Germany 40 per cent. It is no secret that that 40 per cent. which was sent to Germany gave Germany a certain hold upon Greek economy. Since tobacco represents about half of what Greece can export, can we not take a large proportion of that from her? The advantages are obvious. We shall help Greece more effectively than even by this Vote perhaps—which I support—and we shall also help ourselves because we shall be expending less of our dollar resources upon tobacco. Personally, I think Greek cigarettes are rather good.
Therefore, I commend this to the Government from the Greek point of view, from our national point of view, and from the point of view of my personal taste. I ask them to consider whether something cannot be done. I know what the tobacco companies will say to the Government, because they said it to me before the war They will say that the British public do not like the taste of Greek tobacco. The British public, under the present beneficent Administration, has to put up with many things, including doubtful Derbys and uncertain test matches. In contrast to that, I think a little Greek tobacco in their cigarettes would not be altogether amiss. I conclude on this practical note. I think we would 1790 do perhaps the best thing in present conditions not to seek to influence Greek Governments or to give them instruction about their politics, but to try to build up their economy. The best way to build up that economy is to take their tobacco and give them a chance to pay their way and live their life as a free and independent State.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
I think the House will want to recall that this sum of £18 million that they are asked to contribute to the Greek Army represents only the culmination of a very long process of expenditure involving something over £100, million of the British taxpayers' money. I think it is the duty of the House to consider what return we are getting for that money. What benefit is the British taxpayer deriving from this very large expenditure from our very slender resources? Are we getting, as a result, a happy and prosperous Greece, a friendly Greece, and are we reinforcing and reaffirming the ancient friendship which existed between the two people? As I see it, what we have got as a result of the policy pursued during the last two years is a Greece in which not only the Left but also the Centre, and indeed practically all the democratic forces, have become more and more hostile towards us.
The only friends that remain to us in Greece today are ex-quislings, former supporters of the Metaxas dictatorship, and hangers-on of the most discredited Monarchy in Europe after the late unlamented House of Savoy. It may be said that we are doing this to carry out a debt of honour to help the Greek people. What benefit are the Greek people getting out of this vast expenditure? Is it resulting in the re-establishment of law and order in Greece, in the re-establishment of the peace and tranquility of civil liberty and the liberty of the subject?
Hon. Members opposite have referred to the alleged murders of two women in Greece. Certainly, those deaths should be investigated and we should know the real cause, but there are affairs on the other side which are even more discreditable. I take the case, for example, of the most horrible massacre that took place last November at the village of Xirovrissi, near Kikis, in Central Macedonia. That was an occasion on which 45 persons—men, women and girls—were killed, 50 1791 were wounded, and 45 houses were burnt down. On the admission of the Greek Government, that massacre was carried out by a body of so-called nationally minded citizens. The Greek Government issued a communique on the subject in which they said that this had resulted from the attacks on Left Wing residents of this village by residents of other surrounding villages, because one of the residents of Xirovrissi had killed a nationally-minded citizen of one of the other villages. One person was killed by the Left, and 45 were killed and 50 wounded and 45 houses were burnt down by the Right. The Greek Government went on to say:It is not known, therefore, why the Left Wing Press makes such a bother about this. These people brought these murders upon them' elves.3.30 p.m.
That is an official statement of the Greek Government. It shows the kind of Greek Government with which we have to deal and to which we are voting this money today. These so-called "nationally minded" people were private Greek citizens armed by the Greek Army with money supplied to them by the British taxpayers. In other words, the money we have voted and are asked to vote today is being used to help carry on these private massacres in Greece. It is also helping to carry on what everybody has admitted is a civil war in Greece, a civil war which, whatever one may say about one side or the other, has certainly resulted from the fact—as was declared by all Members of the Parliamentary Delegation who went to Greece—that many Left Wing followers have had to flee to the mountains in order to escape from the persecution of the Right. That is the situation in Greece today.
Now this Greek Government is preparing, with the money we are voting them, to carry out its spring offensive against the Greek resistance movement. I ask the Minister of State if he will give us some information when he replies about the report that appears in the "News Chronicle" today from their Athens correspondent, Stephen Barber. He writes that thoughts in Greece are today taming towards the spring and towards battle. He says:Recently, in the Athens presidency, the biggest martial conference since the end of the war sat. Service chiefs, heads of police 1792 and gendarmerie, staff officers and Ministers assembled. Through french windows floated the scent of lilac blossoms."—He goes on:British Mission chiefs, ramrod Sir Charles Wickham, of the police and gendarmerie; General Rawlings, of the Army, were there too. The purpose of this conference was to decide what to do about the spring.I want to ask the Minister of State whether in fact the British Military Mission is participating in these councils of war, whether it is advising the Greek Government and the Greek Army on the conduct of the operations against the guerrillas, and whether we are actively taking sides not only by our money and our arms but also by our advice and strategic guidance in the conduct of this civil war in Greece. Remember that this civil war is a war which has been said to be unlike any civilised or normal type of warfare. It is a warfare in which horrible private vendettas are carried out, and whatever may be said of the atrocities committed by the Left Wing, we are not being asked to provide money for arms for the Left, but money for arms for the Right—
§ Mr. Warbey
I have not the time. We are being asked to provide arms for a Government which, with the authority of law and order and the authority of the State behind it, ought to be maintaining a standard of behaviour far above that of the rebel bands in the mountains. Yet in fact its standard of behaviour is at the least as low as the worst behaviour of the rebel bands. There was a civil war in Spain, and in 1936 when there was a Left Wing Republican Government struggling for its life against the legionaries of a rebel Fascist general, we placed an embargo on arms to that Government, and today, instead of placing an embargo on arms to the Greek Government, as we ought to be doing, we are actually voting the British taxpayer's hard-earned money in order to enable them to prosecute their war. I say it is a disgrace that we should be doing that.
This is my last word. After the last war, one of the disgraceful things, which I think we all abhorred, was the fact that, in the troubles in Ireland, we had the 1793 "Black and Tans" carrying out certain very unpleasant operations on our behalf. But it is one thing to supply money for the purpose of arming our own "Black and Tans," and quite another to be called upon today to vote money to arm the "Black and Tans" of a foreign State. I regard that as a disgrace and a dishonour to the good name of this country. I cannot find it consistent with my conscience to vote money for such a purpose, and I hope that my hon. Friends also will not vote for it.
The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)
No one doubts the sincerity of such speakers as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey). But it is not their sincerity that is at stake here; it is their ability to think clearly. This House is not being asked to vote money for foreign "Black and Tans." This House is not even being asked to vote money for any one Greek Government. This House is being asked to vote certain funds to meet the sterling cost of Greek Forces from 1st January of last year to 31st March this year. My hon. Friend ought to remember that, up till March of last year, this Government had no existence.
§ Mr. Warbey
If my right hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt him, is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary of State came to this House only last October and told us that this Greek Government had asked for considerable additional sums, far beyond those we had previously voted?
Again, my hon. Friend is badly confused. It is quite true that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary came to the House in October—and this will answer one of the questions put to me by the hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)—and that he was asked if it was true that we were being requested to provide equipment for an extension of the Greek Forces to 130,000 men. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary then made it plain—and I repeat it for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Cambridge University—that we did not agree to that extension. There was an agreement under which we were carrying the costs until the end of last year. At the same time, we made available certain equipment. At the end of the year, however, when the Greek exchange position was examined, it was quite clear that the 1794 Greek Government could not be asked to carry these sterling costs which they had promised to face, and about which the previous Greek Government had been informed. A choice was offered to us. We could force a cut down on the size of the Greek Forces; we might have faced up to continuing a larger British Force in Greece than we had planned to do, or to keeping the men we had there longer than was originally intended, or we could promise to meet the additional sterling cost. It is that additional sterling cost which this Supplementary Estimate today proposes to meet, plus the £1 million for non-military costs. It is quite clear that any Greek Government, Left or Right, must have Forces to maintain order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton asked how much benefit the British taxpayer would derive from the Greek people spending this money. The benefit is not that law and order has been established; no one can pretend that that is so. But no one can ever pretend that there has been law and order in modern Greece.
To try to narrow the area of public disorder. That is why the money has been spent. I was asked several detailed questions about the nature of this equipment. I must apologise to the House, as I am not in possession of that detailed information. What I had better say is that the equipment is after the fashion of British infantry equipment. I ought also to confess that we made promises about vehicles which we have not been completely able to meet. I ought also to say that the infantry equipment is not up to what we would call grade one standard, because, of course, it had to be made available from what was dispensable to us. I was also asked if the British Military Mission was taking part in these conferences of war. I did not know that there had been conferences of war.
I say I did not know. I have read the "News Chronicle," as my hon. Friend has, but I cannot accept that. Although I am not in any way suggesting that the "News Chronicle" is not a reputable journal, the House of Commons does not expect me to come here and 1795 make assertions based on the report in the "News Chronicle." If my hon. Friend wishes to put down a Question later—and he does not seem diffident about questioning me, and should not be—I will endeavour to extract the information. But, it would be nonsense for me to say anything about the newspaper report on such a matter. My hon. Friend may make comments in that way, but it is not for me to do so.
The Foreign Office does not know, but the Foreign Office will find out.
Several references were made to the lack of reconstruction. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), in a most helpful speech, was joined by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), in saying, "Look at this, 18 to one in favour of military expenditure, as against reconstruction expenditure." But, of course, that is not the picture at all. The degree of reconstruction in Greece is not as extensive as any of us want it to be, for two reasons. The first is because economic essentials have not been present, and, secondly, it is because there has been continued political and social disturbance. But there has been a substantial degree of reconstruction. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said earlier, it is true that roads, and to some degree railway travel, has been substantially restored. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]. Within the last 12 months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Hon. Members should remember that 18 months ago there was not a single locomotive moving in Greece. We have one line fully reopened, only one line as far as I know, but that is a very big contribution.
§ Mr. Solley
President Truman has said that the present political chaos has made economic recovery impossible. Does my right hon. Friend disagree with that statement?
I have said that economic reconstruction has been hampered by two factors; one, the absence of economic essentials, and two, the continued political and social disturbance. The most superficial examination has made that clear.
1796 However, I wish to address myself to one point which was put sharply to me by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—this question of tobacco. Like anyone else who has ever been mildly interested in Greek politics, I was, almost the first month I was in the Foreign Office, pursuing this nightmare of "Why could not Britain buy more Greek tobacco?" I received every assistance from the appropriate Departments here represented on the Front Bench. I even got a friend to make privately a cigarette which had only two per cent. of Greek tobacco in it, and I met the prejudice to which the right hon. Gentleman referred by handing round the cigarette, and saying to people, "What do you think of this Virginian cigarette?" They said "It is a lovely cigarette." I went to the tobacco people in this country, and with the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade and his Parliamentary Secretary, I met the Tobacco Controller, we pushed down these nicotine bulwarks, overcame all their prejudice, and the Controller himself, Mr. Maxwell, went out to Greece, and was authorised to buy ten million pounds of Greek tobacco. That offer still stands. I regret to have to inform the House and the right hon. Gentleman that, so far, the Greeks have only produced one-tenth of that tobacco. There are difficulties. Transport is one of them. Packing is another. But probably the biggest single factor is the inflationary situation. The growers will only part with such of their crop as they need cash for, and they hold on to the rest against better prices.
I doubt very much, though I am being drawn rather beyond my brief, whether this inflationary situation will be held until there is, as well as an improvement in the economic situation, a substantial improvement in the political situation. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff spoke with restraint, and obviously with emotion, but I suggest once more, that he did not see both sides of the picture either. I was questioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge University about these two murders. I cannot give him details—
I am sorry, but I cannot give him details, not because I have not looked into this matter but because our investigations are not completed. I say firmly that he was on sound ground when 1797 he referred to one fact. It is undoubtedly beyond dispute that the daughter of the second Deputy was taken outside the village where the fight had occurred and shot—an absolutely and completely unjustifiable situation. But do not let us think it ends there. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton referred to a massacre committed by Rightists which is undoubtedly beyond dispute. My hon. Friend is correct in that picture. He read a reference from a newspaper. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff is now quite an authority on Greek newspapers, but any hon. Member who has any acquaintance with the situation knows that if one wants to quote any opinion to support Right, Left, Centre and non-starters, one can get it from a Greek newspaper, so that my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Warbey
I am sorry to interrupt again, but it was not from a Greek newspaper but from a Greek Government communiqué.
No, Sir. The hon. Member quoted part of a Greek Government communiqué extracted by a newspaper which wanted to extract that part.
The hon. Member quoted part of a Government communiqué from a Greek newspaper, but the hon. Gentleman was right when he said that what we all want to see is this situation resolved. The right hon. Gentleman was right when he said, in referring to our particular experience with a coalition, that the hardest thing to form in Greece is a coalition. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman's life is going to be utterly ruined because the Derby is to be held on a Saturday and the Test Match postponed, but even those events could scarcely produce an extensive coalition in Greece. I have had some little experience in attempting to form a coalition in Greece. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should we?"] However, I hope that some of the advice given today may be heeded, particularly outside, and I hope some of the advice offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick about the activities of the United Nations will be listened to. Although there are many difficulties, there is great weight in 1798 what he said, and His Majesty's Government hope that the development of the Economic Commission for Europe may lead us towards that kind of activity.
I should like to say one further word before I leave the Estimate, and that is in relation to our Forces here, which are strictly not covered by the Estimate but are complementary to it. One of the things in which I find great pleasure is that the opinion of the ordinary Greek pers6n is much more likely to be formed by his acquaintance with the British soldiers who have been there than with the speeches made in this House. That is not a criticism of the House, it is rather a criticism of the Greek newspapers. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Greek girls?"] I am glad to be informed that the Greek girls are quite understanding. There has not been one single untoward incident in the relationships between these men and the Greek population, at a time when trouble has been present and life has been exceedingly difficult. I was extremely glad that our Parliamentary colleagues, in returning their report, made particular mention of the exemplary part played by the British Forces in Greece.
Perhaps I should say one other thing. The hon. Member for Luton confined his remarks to Greek Governments, but we should occasionally think of the ordinary Greek people, of the fishermen, the shepherds and the peasants of Greece. This £18 million has been spent for their benefit. It is quite true, as hon. Gentlemen on this side have said so often, and as the hon. Member for Central Cardiff has said again today, that there are processes taking place in Greece under this Government, which have taken place under previous Governments, but which His Majesty's Government would never condone, such as the removal of 500 people without trial. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) suggested that we should withhold the money, but if we did what guarantee is there that would stop? What guarantee is there that it would not extend?
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), with that gross oversimplification which we hear over and over again, says the Government has not 1799 the support of the people. What Government in Greece has ever commanded that support?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I said, we are continually told that this Government has the support of the people; if it had the support of the people, a guerrilla movement could not live.
This Government has not the support of the people, because the hon. Gentleman, along with other misguided people, last March spent his time urging a section of the people not to take part in the elections. What I was going to say was this. I am sure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Cardiff is wrong in saying that Liberals could only meet him after dark. I am sure he is wrong. There are Liberals in the Government.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but are there any supporters of Mr. Sophoulis, who is a Liberal leader in that country?
No, but I believe there are five Liberal parties in this country; there are many more in Greece.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a Liberal ex-Cabinet Minister informed me that although he was safe in Athens, if he went outside he would be shot? He was a Liberal ex-Cabinet Minister.
Perhaps in my rather hurried remark about the Liberal Party I did a great injustice to the hon. Lady opposite, which I should never want to do. The bulk of Greek opinion is of a Liberal type. The bulk of the people are outside the disorder which has overtaken the country, and it is for the benefit of those people that this Supplementary Estimate has been spent. [Interruption.] Yes, for the benefit of the ordinary people, whose necessity is being met by the Supplementary Estimate. There have been injustices, of course we know there have been injustices, but that does not mean that the whole of Greece has been consumed in disorder Much more of it has been in disorder than any person would attempt to justify, much more than any of us like to see, but normal life has been possible for many, indeed, for the great majority, and Greece is still a recognisable State 1800 with a Government, and with a force, and it is for that reason, and for the Greek people, that this Estimate is presented today, and I hope the House will support it.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker
Could my right hon. Friend say a word about the Possibility of an international commission to supervise the Greek frontier?
There are many points I would have liked to touch upon, but I need only say that His Majesty's Government are most anxious that the United Nations Commission which is there should make some recommendations of a permanent or semi-permanent kind. Such a recommendation would have the support of His Majesty's Government.
§ Question put, and agreed to.