HC Deb 23 May 1947 vol 437 cc2755-76

2.42 p.m.

Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)

We have listened with very great interest to the replies made by representatives from the Ministry of Food and the Board of Trade, and I apologise for intruding on these vitally interesting subjects of perambulators and washing boards. I am afraid my speech will be very factual and dull, on the question of foreign affairs. However, I think it is a matter which concerns this House. We have had the return of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from Moscow, after spending seven weeks there, and this is the time when this question, if it is to be raised at all, must be raised in this House, because it is not merely a question for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but a question for individual Members of the House of Commons.

The first point I desire to establish is that His Majesty's Government cannot divest themselves of responsibility, in view of the incorporation of the three independent Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the Soviet Union. I appeal to three, very important documents. The first, of course, is the Atlantic Charter of 14th August, 1941, which says, in Clause 2: The signatories desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned. In Clause 3 of the Atlantic Charter they respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they live … and they wish to see sovereign rights in self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.

Then again, we have the vitally important treaty of alliance between the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, signed on 26th May, 1942, in Article 5 of which we find: The high contracting parties … will act in accordance with the two principles of not seeking territorial aggrandisement for themselves, and of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States. We can surely all agree that those very important statements have been summarised and amplified in the Charter of the United Nations, because I find in Article 1: The purposes of the United Nations are: … to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace. In Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations I find these words: Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. In the months preceding the pact of non-aggression signed between Germany and Russia on 23rd August, 1939, there were a large number of negotiations carried on between His Majesty's Government on the one hand and the Russian Government on the other, with a view to inducing Russia to join in the guarantee which we had given on 31st March to Poland, and afterwards gave to Rumania. These negotiations were extremely prolonged. In the very interesting life of Mr. Neville Chamberlain recently published, written by that great historian Keith-Feiling, we have had some interesting revelations, which show fully that if the negotiations broke down between His Majesty's Government and the Soviet Union it was on the question of the independence of these three Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

We already knew a good deal, because Lord Halifax had published a very interesting volume of his speeches which gave us a considerable amount of information on this subject. But at Nuremberg we had laid before us the sworn evidence of the legal adviser to the German Foreign Office, Frederick Gauss, giving the full terms of the secret protocol which was signed simultaneously with the published treaty of non-aggression on 23rd August, 1939: Russia and Germany agree that the northern frontier of Lithuania will automatically be established as the boundary of the spheres of interest of Germany and the U.S.S.R. That was a sacrifice to Russia on behalf of Germany who thus agreed to throw to the wolves the two Northern Baltic States of Estonia and Latvia. Subsequently, however, there was a second secret protocol signed between Russia and Germany on 28th September, 1939, from which we see that now Lithuania itself was to be sacrificed as it is stated: The territory of the Lithuanian State is included in the Soviet sphere of influence. So those three Baltic States were finally handed over to the tender mercies of Russia, with the possible exception, however, of a small corner bordering on East Prussia. In exchange, Germany received the whole of the Polish district of Lublin and part of that of Warsaw. Mr. Frederick Gauss, legal adviser to the German Foreign Office, swore at Nuremberg on 15th March, 1946, a statement, only a very few extracts from which I will inflict on the House. He said: Agreement was reached quickly and without difficulty on the text of the German-Russian non-aggression pact, but in the pre. amble which I had prepared, Mr. von Ribbentrop had himself made insertions about the friendly relations between Germany and Russia to which M. Stalin objected with the remark that the Soviet Union, after being covered with buckets of filth— I beg you to excuse this expression, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; it is not mine, it is actually the words of M. Stalin— the Soviet Government, after being covered with buckets of filth by the National Socialist Government of Germany for six years, cannot suddenly come out with assurances of German-Russian friendship. Consequently, Mr. Gauss said: the relevant parts of the preamble were then cancelled or altered. I should like to call the attention of the House to the fact that on the very same day, 28th September, 1938, while Russia was taking over and virtually incorporating—which she finally carried out—these three independent Baltic States, she made a pact of mutual assistance with Estonia. Article 5 of that pact contains these words: The execution of the terms of the present pact shall not affect in any way the sovereign rights of the Contracting, Parties, especially their economic systems and their State organisations Russian troops, under various pretexts, advanced and occupied these three very lovable, very wonderful Baltic States—States with such marvellous history going back for thousands of years, made up of races like the Estonians, akin to the Finns, whose origin is lost in far antiquity, and the two magnificent Nordic races, not Slav, not German but purely Nordic breeds, the Latvians and Lithuanians.

I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that while Russia was making this unholy bargain with Germany she was still a member of the League of Nations, and was bound by that most solemn pact. In fact, her representative had been present at Geneva on 11th March, 1932, when the Assembly adopted the principles formulated by the French Prime Minister in his declaration of 10th December, 1931: that no encroachment on the territorial Integrity, no attack on the political independence of a Member of the League of Nations committed in contempt of Article 10, could be recognised as valid and effective by the members of the League of Nations. The Assembly proclaimed the obligatory nature of the above-mentioned principles, and declared that the members of the League of Nations were' bound not to recognise any situation, any treaty or any agreement which might De obtained by means contrary to the covenant of the League of Nations. At the time when Russia was making these annexations she was bound by those most solemn declarations made at Geneva on 11th March, 1932. The House will recollect that it was not until December, 1939, that Russia was expelled from the League of Nations on account of her attack—I will not qualify that attack, because I want to remain very moderate in all my statements—on Finland.

It must never be forgotten that after the first great war Russia had most solemnly recognised the complete independence of those Baltic States. She had signed a treaty with Estonia on 2nd Feb- ruary, 1920, a corresponding treaty with Lithuania on 12th July, 1920, and finally with Latvia on 7th August, 1920. I have the text of these treaties, but they are very similar, and I will only just inflict upon the House a short extract from one, which is characteristic of all the others: Treaty between Russia and Lithuania signed at Moscow on 12th July 1920. 'As all peoples have the right of free self-determination, a right which includes complete separation from the State of which they form a part, Russia recognises without any reservation the independence and sovereignty of the Lithuanian State with all the legal consequences resulting from this recognition, and renounces for ever all sovereign rights over the Lithuanian Nation and its territory.' The treaty signed with Estonia on 2nd February, 1920, as I have said, is very similar, but I cannot refrain from reading this short passage: In consequence of the right of all peoples to self determination to the point of seceding completely from the State of which they form a part, a right proclaimed by the Socialist and Federal Russian Republic of the Soviets, Russia unreservedly recognises the independence and sovereignty of the State of Estonia … From the fact that Estonia has belonged to Russia no obligation whatsoever towards Russia shall fall on the Estonian people and on their land. Russian troops entered these three Baltic States in June, 1940. The first thing they did was to dissolve all three Parliaments and hold new elections. How were those elections carried through? We have not to rely upon the reports of newspaper correspondents, because we have the trial which came before our own High Court. We have the judgment delivered in the High Court of Justice in the King's Bench on Friday, 25th January, 1946, by Mr. Justice Atkinson, in a shipping case turning on the question of whether the ships of Estonia had been legally confiscated or not. Sworn evidence was given before the judge which the judge accepted in his judgment in these terms. This is how he described the elections which took place: The candidates were all to be nominated by 9th July. There was one candidate for each constituency on the so-called 'working peoples' list.' There were many other nominations, in some cases three or four candidates were entered. After the time for nomination had expired a new decree was published requiring every candidate to present his political programme by two o'clock on the following day. All but four of the candidates managed to do that, but on the day following the newspapers published the decision of the Electoral Committee that every candidate except the 80 on the working peoples' list was declared disqualified. The consequence was that there were 80 candidates for 80 seats, and those candidates were all declared to be elected by overwhelming majorities. The radio, under threats, exhorted the electors to go and vote, and even those who did not listen to the radio were brought to the polling booths and forcibly made to vote. Now, the Soviet Republic is always to be praised for its marvellous staff work; but, on this occasion, there was an unfortunate hitch because the results of these Baltic elections were published, by an unlucky oversight, in the London Press before the count had been completed. The elections in all three countries took place on 14th July and 15th July, 1940, but the counting of votes was not to take place, and did not take place, until 17th July; however, on 15th July, the British Press reported that, for instance, in the Lithuanian Parliament, 79 deputies had been elected, 80 per cent. of whom belonged to the Communist Party. The elections, therefore, had all been carefully arranged beforehand, and were announced to the British Press. In fact the results were published in the London Press before the counting took place.

What has been the result of the Russian occupation? In Latvia, alone, the Soviet secret police imprisoned 6,000 people, executed 1,480 and deported 37,500. In Estonia it was worse, for 60,000 people were deported: husbands were separated from their wives, children separated from their parents, and, in the overwhelming number of cases, they have never been heard of since. Germany, on 22nd June, 1941, declared war, drove out the Russians, occupied these Baltic States, and held them for three years. Consequently it was not until 1944 that the Russians again recaptured them, with similar results, except that the people, thoroughly scared and frightened, profiting by the experience of the first war, fled across the border, and that is why it is necessary to deal with this difficult question of displaced persons.

I would appeal to His Majesty's Government to show the utmost humanity in regard to the treatment of these people. I heard the other day of an authentic case. His Majesty's Government have fixed the age limit at 50. If one is over 50 one is supposed not to be a desirable person in this country. Now, a woman arrived here. She said, "I am 49 and my husband is 52, but I am in a far worse state of health, having suffered from the first Bolshevik invasion, than my husband, but because my husband is over 50 he is not allowed to join me." This unfortunate separation of husband and wife is very painful and very distressing. I admit that there must be a rule, but I would appeal to His Majesty's Government to deal in the most humane way they possibly can with these magnificent people. I heard from Manchester that 1,000 fine girls are working like slaves washing out and cleaning hospitals, and relieving the nurses who otherwise would have had to do this work, which is really not part of their job. Now, His Majesty's Government, in accordance with the reply given to me by the Under-Secretary of State here on 10th February, 1947, recognise that the Baltic States have de facto been absorbed into the Soviet Union, but they do not recognise this de jure. That is the position contained in the answer I have received from the Under-Secretary.

I appeal to His Majesty's Government to contrast their attitude with the attitude adopted by the United States of America. The United States have recognised this annexation neither de facto nor de jure. The diplomatic representatives of these States are enjoying in America all the privileges that His Majesty's Ambassador or any other diplomatic representative enjoys in America.

This is what Mr. Sumner Welles said on 23rd July, 1940, when he was acting-Secretary of State: During these past few days the devious processes whereunder the political independence and territorial integrity of the three small Baltic Republics—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—were to be deliberately annihilated by one of their more powerful neighbours have been rapidly drawing to their conclusion. From the day when the peoples of these republics first gained their independence and democratic form of Government the people of the United States have watched their admirable progress in self-government with deep and sympathetic interest. The policy of this Government is universally known. The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities no matter whether they are carried on by the use of force or by the threat of force. They are likewise opposed, to any form of intervention on the part of one state, however powerful, in the domestic concerns of any other sovereign State, however weak. I would ask the representative of the Foreign Office to explain this difference between the noble attitude adopted by the United States Government and—I will not call it ignoble, because I do not s ant to say anything offensive—the less noble attitude followed by His Majesty's Government.

I have followed minutely all the references which have appeared in our papers to what has taken place in Moscow, and I have not heard—I may be wrong and I hope I am wrong—that this question was raised at all in Moscow. If it was not raised in Moscow surely it is our duty herein the House of Commons to raise it and to let our views be known. We may not be able to do very much. We may be compelled by physical force to accept a fait accompli, but I do feel it is a point of honour with us Members of the free British House of Commons to raise our protest on this very important matter.

In conclusion, I only want to say that I wish my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) were here, because I have a quotation from Lenin with which I desire to conclude my few remarks. This is taken from Lenin's collected works, Volume 22, page 13, where he says: If a small or weak nation is not accorded the right to decide the form of its political existence by a free vote—implying the complete withdrawal of the troops of the incorporating or merely strong nation—then the incorporation is an annexation, that is, an arbitrary appropriation of a foreign country, an act of violence … No words better than those of Lenin himself can be used to characterise the annexation of these three independent Baltic States.

I wish to conclude on a personal note. I have been attacked by the Moscow radio and I want to say, therefore, that I have never said, either in this House or outside, single word against Russia. On the contrary, I am an immense admirer of Russian literature and of the Russian people and have always gone out of my way to express our gratitude for the magnificent victories of the Russian Armies. Nevertheless, I am denounced by the Moscow radio as a Fascist, a reactionary and—can you believe it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—as a warmonger—I, the most peaceable and peace-loving Member of this House.

Several Hon. Members rose.

Mr. Deputy·Speaker (Major Milner)

Mr. Mayhew.

3.11 p.m.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I point out to you with great respect that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) has raised a matter of vital importance and interest? May I ask you if we are to be allowed to have no Debate on that subject at all and, if so, under whose Ruling and on what authority?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

By agreement Mr. Speaker has allotted appropriate times for these Adjournment subjects The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast has certainly exceeded his allotted time.

Mr. Boothby

You said just now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that there had been an agreement. The Adjournment is one of the occasions upon which Private Members have an opportunity of ventilating their views. We are not conscious of any such agreement, and if it exists, I should like to know who made it, and upon what authority.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

May I point out that no agreement has been made by the Opposition Front Bench in this matter?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not suggest there was any formal agreement, but quite obviously when one hon. Member takes an excessive time, other hon. Members are precluded from speaking, which is a thing that happens every day. I much regret the fact, but I have to look at the matter from the point of view of the House as a whole.

Professor Savory

May I point out that this particular Debate started very late?

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

A quarter of an hour late.

Major Legge-Bourke (Ise of Ely)

It is obviously the desire of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this Debate should continue. I have been allotted the next Adjournment and in view of the desire of the House I am perfectly prepared to forgo it if that would meet with the agreement of the Minister, who has been kind enough to attend for the purpose of replying.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

In that event, if the House is in general agreement, and no objection is raised from any quarter, I, of course, have no personal objection. Mr. Hollis.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

I am sure the, House will not wish me to take up too much time so I will not attempt to repeat the sad and pathetic story which my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) has just told. It is one of the saddest stories in the world and these three republics are almost symbols of the kind of countries for which we fought the recent war. Their peoples have been crucified between two thieves. Russian-German friendship, a German victory or a Russian victory—each has led to greater suffering for them. The only practical question with which I will deal is whether we can do anything about it, and in this connection I would make three points. In the first place I would reinforce my hon. Friend's contention, and express the hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to reiterate the pledge which was previously given that there will be no de jure recognition of the Russian annexation of these territories. The reasons for that are two. First and most important, the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government should not be based upon a lie. To recognise this thing as de jure would be to recognise something which was not so in fact. The second reason is that at present Europe is divided into two parts. The picture of Europe is very different from that of the United Nations to which we look forward. We hope that one day there will be a chance of a better Europe. I hope that these differences will not be ironed out by a policy of appeasement, and that we shall reserve our right to bring up these points in the future.

I would also reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast that if we cannot do anything more at the moment for, the citizens of these countries, we should treat them with the greatest consideration in connection with all questions concerning displaced persons. I have heard from the mouths of most responsible people that the position of the displaced persons from these Baltic countries is most unsatisfactory. I hope that there is still something the Government can do. I ask the Under-Secretary to explain just what is the meaning of the statement made by the Minister of State, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon). My hon. Friend asked: Is the Minister aware of the immense contribution which this country made to the liberty of these three republics in days gone by and the number of institutions started there by the munificent help of this country, and is anything being done to preserve the condition of these institutions? The Minister stated in reply: The answer to all three parts of the question is, "Yes, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, '947; Vol. 433, c. 5.] Apparently something is being done at the moment to preserve the condition of the institutions in the Baltic countries which have been started under British patronage. If that is so, it is most welcome. It is very important that the House should be told what the Government are finding it possible to do now, and with what success.

3.19 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I do not think the long and highly contentious historical review by the hon. Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) has been very useful, or has made any decent contribution to the business of this House. Everything he said happened before we accepted the Russians as our Allies. We accepted them as our Allies with full knowledge of everything which had happened, and in these circumstances it is surely rather indecent to dig up these ancient grievances. Heaven knows, we have sufficient reasons for quarrelling with the Russians today. I believe there are substantial grounds for taking a very strong line with the Russians, and I have never concealed my opinion on that, but we do not strengthen our case by digging up from the past things we have so clearly condoned. It seems to me to be far too like the tactics of Hitler, when wishing to pick a quarrel with someone with whom he had been on the most friendly terms for a considerable time.

Having said that in regard to the historical background, I think we owe a debt of humanity to the displaced people in Europe. They are human material of the very highest quality. Everyone who has been to those camps has come back and said it is unbelievable how these people, in their appalling circumstances, have maintained not only decency, but a cultural life. Surely, these are the people who should be a beneficial addition to our population. I do not feel that any of us should be divided on that, but to bring these Baits to this country, with the idea of showing the Russians what cads they are, is wrong. That is no good reason for doing it. The good reason for doing it is that the Baits are decent people whom we want here, and who can make a contribution to our civilisation.

3.22 p.m.

Sit Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I would like to support, briefly, the case which my hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) has put to the House. During the long time I have been here I do not think that I have ever heard a case, put forward in such touching terms. I happen to have had some association with the Baltic States in the early stages of their evolution after the first world war. I visited them repeatedly, and I took a modest interest in the development of their ecnomic schemes, in negotiating loans, and in assisting them in the development of their local interests and the agricultural methods which they introduced into their Tural life. Before these States were absorbed in merciless fashion by the Russian Government I entertained for them the greatest respect. These three little States retained, in spite of the Russian tyranny exercised over them for centuries, a tradition, language, and patriotism which are rarely to be found in any other people. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) seems to disregard lessons of history.

I remember making an appeal, in conjunction with a distinguished lady, Lady Muriel Paget, for books for the university of Dorpat in Estonia. The people of this country responded generously. Indicative of the way in which these three little States tried to re-establish their national culture, was the vigour with which their universities showed enthusiasm for the introduction of Western methods of research and vocational training. I think it is the most pitiful thing in modern history that the British Government, which is based on principles of humanity, justice, and decency, should be associated with the de facto recognition of the absorption of these three States by Russia. It is one of the tragedies of our time. It is all the more pitiful when we realise what these three little States have accomplished in raising their national culture and economy to such a high level in the years between the two wars. I associate myself with the observation that there should be generous sympathy and understanding for these people who, are scattered throughout Europe. But, at the same time, we who have stood for freedom for all these years cannot but acknowledge the tragedy which has been committed against these three States. We have an obligation to continue such representations as may be within the diplomatic opportunities of our time.

3.25 p.m.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

I want, in a few words, to endorse very strongly the appeal which has been made in regard to the treatment of these Baits among the displaced persons in our zone of Germany. I have visited them in their camps, and I cannot overstate the impression which was made on me as to the quality of these men and women. With nothing but tragedy in their past and, at the time when I went there, nothing but blank uncertainty for the future, they maintained their moral in a perfectly marvellous way. They had trained a first-class choir, were teaching their children without the aid of books or paper, and had built a place of worship. They maintained their moral with great skill, and an obvious desire to take any reasonable form of work which was allowed them. I make this appeal particularly because my impression was confirmed by everyone with whom I talked, and who had experience for years in Germany. It is particularly relevant at this moment, because we have a scheme for bringing some of them over here. It is a matter of taking more or less and of interpreting the arrangements and rules we have made. We want a little more elasticity, and I appeal to the Government to take more rather than less, particularly in such cases as the pathetic case quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory).

3.27 p.m.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)

The historical survey by the hon. Member for Queen's University (Pro- fessor Savory) was one-sided and inaccurate. It endeavoured to convey the impression that these three Baltic republics, prior to 1939, were independent little Western democracies. Of course, they were nothing of the sort. Between the years 1920 and 1933, they perhaps bore some resemblance, though entirely superficial, to the democracies of the West. They had elections, and there was a certain amount of free criticism. In 1933 that vanished in all three republics, and historians may reflect why it was that all in the same year—the fateful year of 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany—there was a coup d'état in each of these republics. Democracy was destroyed, and there was certainly no democracy there in 1939 or 1940. In each of these countries there was an immense gaol population of political prisoners. In Latvia, which I visited last summer, there were in 1940 somewhere about 2,000 or 3,000 political prisoners out of a total population of 2,500,000.

Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)

How many are there now?

Mr. Silverman

About the same

Major Beamish

And how many are there in Siberia?

Mr. Silverman

According to the accounts of the hon. Member, the whole of the population have been sent to Siberia, or have fled. Believe me, Riga, and the cities of Latvia are full—

Professor Savory: Of

Russian Mongols.

Mr. Silverman

I will deal with the point if hon. Members will allow me. I have had the disadvantage of having been to these countries, and of having seen. Probably I cannot speak with the same authority as hon. Members surveying the country from a thousand miles away.

It is true that there is not democracy there in the sense that we know it in the West—we cannot expect that after a revolution there would be liberal and democratic rights such as we appreciate in this country—but those countries are very far from being assimilated economically to the rest of the Soviet Union. I was interested to notice that it was the one place in the Soviet Union that I visited where there were still private shopkeepers. Somewhere about 30 per cent. of the trade in Riga was done by small shopkeepers. The countryside is still run by individual farmers. There has been a land distribution. The land of Germans and collaborators has been distributed among the population there, and that has gained considerable support for the Government from the local peasantry. Not only that. There is another interesting point. A Latvian division fought with the Red Army during the war, a division about 30,000 strong. A large number of those men, of course, perished. That division is being built up at the present moment to an army corps of four divisions consisting entirely of Latvians. I suggest to hon. Members that a very good test of whether a country has got the support of its people is whether you can trust the people with arms. When this army corps is created the purely Russian part of the army will leave the country.

I am not suggesting that in a few days' visit to a country like Latvia it is possible for me or anybody else to get the political atmosphere, and find out exactly what the strength of the opposition is. Opposition there is. It is not allowed to express itself. I cannot say how strong it is. But my impression was that the majority of the population, certainly the overwhelming part of the industrial population, the workers, were behind the Government. I would remind the House that in 1905, the workers of Tallinn and Riga rose with the workers of Moscow and Leningrad in the revolution; and that applied in 1917. The Soviet republics of those States in 1919 were crushed, not by the resources of their own people but by the resources of German arms, and, General von Goltz marched into the country with, I believe, 11,000 German soldiers.

Sir P. Hannon

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me? Will he recollect that at the same time a British army saved the republic from extinction at that time?

Mr. Silverman

Yes, but the point about it is that von Goltz's troops crushed the Soviet revolution in that country. What is the position today so far as the state of those countries is concerned? It has been said by the hon Member for Queen's University that the Americans have not recognised, de facto, the incorporation of those countries. I venture to disagree. I would refer him, not to what was said at Moscow, but to what was said at Potsdam, because at Potsdam there was an agreement which throws a great deal of light on the subject. It is in relation to the incorporation of the city of Konigsberg and the adjacent area into the Soviet Union. At the Conference, which included the Americans as well as the British, the proposal of. the Soviet Government was agreed concerning the ultimate transfer to the Soviet Union of the City of Konigsberg and the area adjacent to it, subject to examination of the actual frontier.

Professor Savory

I would point out that Konigsberg was the capital of East Prussia. Konigsberg has nothing whatever to do with these Baltic States. At Potsdam it certainly was agreed that Konigsberg should be handed over.

Mr. Silverman

Really, I am not entirely ignorant of the elementary facts of geography. What I am pointing out is that it clearly could not be intended that this little area of East Prussia should be delivered over as a disembodied entity to the territory of the U.S.S.R. without any contiguity to any other part of Soviet territory. The implication is inescapable. As this particular territory is adjacent to the Soviet territory of Lithuania, it implies the recognition of the Baltic States being Soviet. I do not see how one can escape that conclusion. It is true that the Soviet Union did not raise this point at the Peace Conference, for two reasons; in the first place, it said that these territories had been part of the Soviet Union before the Soviet Union came into the war. It was not prepared to discuss this territory and its being a part of the Soviet Union any more than we are prepared to discuss the status of India, or the Americans the status of the Philippines. In the second place, I suspect that the Soviet Union considered that this point should not be used as a bargaining counter against her in the sort of way that happens in these negotiations. None the less, I think she would have been wiser to come to this country and to America and to say frankly, "We want you to recognise that these territories are a part of the Soviet Union." There is no doubt, in view of what has happened, that at that time this country would have been prepared to do that.

There are some other things which: found about Latvians. Latvians in all Government positions, Latvian journalists and those in charge of factories want to know why the former Baltic diplomats are given diplomatic privileges. That is a very small matter, but it creates a certain amount of friction and concern. Latvians want to know whether it is possible for them to have greater access to tell their D.P.'s what are the conditions in Latvia at present. Those are small points with which I hope the Under-Secretary will deal.

3.38 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)

In the short time at my disposal I will do my best to reply to the numerous questions which have been raised.

Mr. Boothby

It is not a short time. We have three quarters of an hour.

Mr. Mayhew

I will leave aside the question of the next subject to be raised on the Adjournment. This is hard Debate to which to give a reply. As the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory) said, he was registering a protest. He said that we may not be able to do very much about it, and that we may have to accept the fait accompli. He was not at all specific in his speech about where this Government were at fault or what he expected us to do. Adjournment Debates are mainly for the purpose of enabling a Minister to reply to criticisms of his work, to accept suggestions about what he ought to do, and to accept blame for what he has done. It is very hard for a British Minister, particularly a Minister of this Government of two years' duration, to reply to a very large proportion of what has been said in this Debate.

Perhaps I can explain our position best if I give an entirely un-coloured and unvarnished brief history of the events since 1940. At the beginning of that year these States were independent neutral countries. During the year they were accused by the Soviet Press of conspiring with certain other countries against the security of the U.S.S.R. In June of that year Soviet armed forces occupied the three countries. The existing Governments fell. Provisional Governments took their place to draw up new electoral rolls and hold fresh elections. This was done. At the elections a single block of candidates fought. There were no opposition candidates, The result was therefore a fore- gone conclusion. The new Governments elected made it their first task to send an appeal to Soviet Russia requesting incorporation—

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)

Is this an unvarnished account?

Mr. Mayhew

This is an entirely colour-less, unvarnished account of events since 1940. These requests were granted in August, 1940. The arrangements for incorporation were carried out under the supervision of -high Soviet officials, Marshal Zhdanov for Estonia, Mr. Vyshinsky for Latvia and Mr. Dekanozov for Lithuania, and the administrative pattern of these Baltic States was brought into relation with the administrative pattern of Soviet Russia. Widespread nationalisation measures were passed which had the incidental effect of eliminating British and foreign interests. His Majesty's Government subsequently made a general reservation of their right to claim compensation for damage to the British interests concerned.

Then, in 1941, the Germans launched their attack on Soviet Russia. They swept through the Baltic States and occupied them. It was not until 1944 that they were expelled and the Russian administration took over. It was restored over practically the whole area. Since those times the Soviet administration have done their utmost to remove all traces of German occupation and to make those countries normally functioning constituent republics of Soviet Russia. That is a bald, un-coloured picture of a dramatic story which has many tragic features. The Soviet Press since then has contained statements by responsible Soviet authorities to the effect that the Baltic States are now incorporated permanently in Soviet Russia. They have made their views quite plain that this is a permanent matter, and that these States form part of the Soviet Union for ever. Similarly, they have established effective administrative control over these countries. No one on the other side has questioned that. No one has suggested that there is not effective administrative control over these States. That was begun seven years ago, and, with an interval, it has lasted seven years. There is no prospect at present of any change in that arrangement.

Therefore His Majesty's Government have recognised Soviet administration de facto. There is no other sensible course for us to take. We have simply got to take the facts as they are It is no good thinking wishfully about it, as hon. Members opposite do. It is no good hiding our heads in the sand. The hon. Member for Queen's University constantly has his head in the sand. If I may say so, the deeper his head is in the sand, the louder, longer and better his speeches are.

Mr. Boothby

It is very good sand—better than Margate sand.

Mr. Mayhew

It is necessary for us to deal with these facts as we find them. We have not however recognised these countries de jure. I cannot, give the undertaking asked for by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) that we will never recognise these countries de jure. No responsible Government would give an undertaking of that kind. But to go further than merely to ask for an assurance of no de jure recognition, and to suggest, as quixotic hon. Members do, including the hon. Member for the Queen's University, that we should, somehow, enforce the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and somehow restore independence to these countries as they formerly enjoyed it, seems to me a totally fantastic, unrealistic approach. Individuals like that cannot seriously have considered this matter in an ordinary, serious, responsible way, or else they have never been faced with the job of trying to build up and maintain peaceable working relations between sovereign States in the 20th century. Is it seriously suggested that we should make an attempt to restore the independence of these countries, contrary to the wishes of Soviet Russia? Is that seriously intended?

Professor Savory

If the hon. Gentleman is addressing the question to me, I should say it is a question of honour not to acquiesce in what is going on there at the present time.

Mr. Mayhew

That is an answer to a question I did not put. The question I put was, What does the hon. Member actually intend us to do about it? He has made a speech in his familiar tone of indignation, but indignation does not make a foreign policy; however sincere you are, you need more than indignation if you are to face the facts of this problem, and I have not heard one single, sensible, responsible, constructive suggestion as to what His Majesty's Government are supposed to do about this problem.

There was reference to the deportations from the Baltic States. This is a good illustration. We were urged, somehow or other, to get the Soviet Union to stop deportations from the Baltic States or to return to the Baltic States those deported. I have not sufficient reliable evidence on this point, but even if the reports that came into London were all true, Soviet Russia would unquestionably regard it as a problem entirely for their own internal jurisdiction; they would unquestionably say that we had no right whatever for any official intervention, and I cannot conceive that making any kind of representations on this subject would have the slightest beneficial effect whatsoever. No one should or need or does think that the British Government are indifferent where questions of civil liberties are at stake. We care deeply about civil liberties, and in the conduct of foreign affairs in the past two years we have consistently acted in accordance with democratic principles and have shown our respect for civil liberties. We have to regard not only the truth of these reports about deportations, not only the justice and propriety of making representations about them, but what effect, if any, such representations would have if we made them, Might they not have just the reverse effect of what we want? My own view is that they would have no effect whatever, but if they had any, it would be a bad effect. It is easy enough to play the game of Palmerston from the Opposition benches, but a, responsible Government has to deal with this in a, responsible way.

The question of the displaced persons was also touched upon by the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) and the hon. Member for Devizes. I associate myself entirely with everything that the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University has said. Like him, I have been to see for myself the Baltic displaced persons' camps in Germany. I bear out entirely what he says about the fine spirit and courage of the Baltic displaced persons in the camps. Also I pay tribute to the great work done in the camps by the British and U.N.R.R.A. officials there. I think we should realise the importance of the work that we have done and that we are still doing. He mentioned education and wel- fare. He did not mention the Baltic University at Hamburg for which we have given facilities. We agree that those people, who cannot go back to the Baltic States, should have what hope we can give. We want to help them to return to the Baltic States if they want to go; but in the past, and today, we have said that we shall not force them back contrary to their wishes.

In conclusion, I say we do realise that this is not only a political, but also a human problem. If I may say so, perhaps an enemy might say that the speech of the hon. Member for Queen's University contained some signs of political prejudice; but I should say that when that had been subtracted there was a real sympathy for the people of the Baltic States. We share that sympathy for the people of those states, and we are anxious and want to do all we can to help them. There are two ways of showing sympathy. There are the practical way and the utterly unpractical way. We say we are going about it in the best possible way in the circumstances, and that to adopt the indignant, vigorous, protesting, I might almost say irresponsible, attitude of the hon. Member for Queen's University does no good to the Baltic people, no good to British interests in the Baltic States, and no good to British interests in Soviet Russia.

Mr. Hollis

What is the meaning of the very important statement which was made about everything being done to preserve the condition of these institutions?

Mr. Mayhew

Up to 1940 there were British institutions in the Baltic States. When the occupation took place they were taken over by the Soviet Government; the institutions were then run by British officials, who have since left. I understand they are now being cared for by the Soviet Government, but I cannot give any very specific assurance, other than that, without notice.

3.52 p.m.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

I should like an opportunity of asking the hon. Gentleman a question of some importance, and of making some comment on his speech, although I do not wish to hold up the following Debate. He assured us that 'it was not the intention of His Majesty's Government to alter their present views As I understood it, he said His Majesty's Government would not give de jure recognition to the annexation of the three Baltic republics. May I have an assurance that they have no intention of changing that view, and that they would not change that view without some prior consultation with the House of Commons, or without some prior announcement to the House of Commons?

Mr. Mayhew

I think I stated the position in my speech; if not, I meant to. We have taken no decision about de jure recognition.

Mr. Macmillan

May we have an assurance that no decision will be taken without some prior announcement to the House of Commons?

Major Beamish

And an opportunity for Debate?

Mr. Mayhew

I think I am right in saying a decision has to be taken, first, in consultation with the Dominions, and then by the Government.

Mr. Macmillan

Whether it is taken in consultation with the Dominions or the Government, may I have an assurance that the House of Commons will be given some prior opportunity, by means of Debate, before so great a change of policy is made?

Mr. Mayhew

I am inclined to think that in this matter the Government have the right to take a decision first.

Mr. Macmillan

They certainly have the right, but I am not asking about the legal right—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker rose

Mr. Macmillan

Are we to have no answer to the Debate?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Minister gives what answer he thinks proper. I have no authority over him. The right hon. Member has addressed certain questions to the Minister, and I think we must now proceed. Mr. Skinnard.