§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I gave a comprehensive review of the Government's foreign policy on 22nd January, and since then it has been the purpose of the Government to give effect to the announcement made at that date. Today I can only review the progress which has been made and show the objectives which we seek to attain.
The first question to which I would like to direct the attention of the House is the European Recovery Programme, which has been approved by the United States Congress since our last Debate on foreign affairs. There have been many criticisms about the European Recovery programme, and attempts have been made to attribute all sorts of designs and machinations to Mr. Marshall, its author. I have yet to find anyone who is prepared, after considering all the circumstances, and having regard to the situation in which we found ourselves after we had fought from 1939 to 1945, and after we had thrown a great proportion of our national resources into the common war 1106 effort, to get up and say frankly and openly that we should have refused the aid offered by the United States for European recovery; or who is prepared to tell the Government what should be put in its place to enable our own standard of life and the standard of life throughout Europe to be restored and maintained. When we take this great new American contribution to the recovery of Europe and add to it the contribution already made through U.N.R.R.A., it is difficult, for me at least, to understand the criticisms which were made of this, which I regard as a most generous act on the part of the taxpayers of the United States. I do not propose to weary the Hone with too great a detail about the various steps which have been taken since our Debate in January in regard to the European Recovery Programme. I will just mention briefly how it has been handled.
First, I attended a meeting in Paris, together with the Foreign Ministers of 13 other European countries. We agreed at that meeting to set up a working party, which, within one month of its formation, drew up a constitution for a Continuing Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. I regard the establishment of the Continuing Organisation as a very vital decision. The Marshall Plan allows for four years; the principle of the Continuing Organisation represents the decision to continue the co-operation after that period. This was adopted at a further meeting of Ministers in Paris in April. This new organisation came into existence with the adoption of the Convention by Ministers and is already hard at work, both on the wider aspects of economic co-operation and on the preparation and examination of programmes for American aid. We decided that the seat of the organisation should be in Paris.
Hon. Members will have seen the White Paper captaining the constitution of the organisation. I think that the House would agree that it is a simple, businesslike and flexible instrument—an excellent basis on which to build up an increasingly strong and efficient structure of European economic co-operation. I am glad to say that there was displayed at all these meetings an active will on the part of all concerned to succeed in achieving European recovery. In addition, the House will be interested to know that Western Germany is now a full partici- 1107 pant in the work of the organisation for European Economic Co-operation. Representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom and the French zones take part in all its activities, and we regard this as absolutely essential if we are to utilise all the raw materials, all the manufacturing capacity and output, and all the great resources of Western Germany in the interests of European and world recovery.
May I now turn for a moment to another body—the Economic Commission for Europe. The Minister of State is attending a session in Geneva of that Commission at the present moment. It has done some excellent work in the technical field, particularly in connection with the utilisation in Europe of commodities such as coal, which has presented supply difficulties, and also steel. Good work has also been done in the transport field. There is clearly scope for the continuation of this work, although it will be necessary for the Government who are members of both the Economic Commission for Europe and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation to do everything in their power to ensure that there is proper co-ordination and no over-lapping between the two bodies.
I turn now to a question which has excited a good deal of interest throughout the world. That is the question of the Western Union. In my speech on 22nd January, I said:But surely all these developments which I have been describing, point to the conclusion that the free nations of Western Europe must now draw closely together.I also spoke of:the mobilisation of such a moral and material force as will create confidence and energy in the West and inspire respect elsewhere, and this means that Britain cannot stand outside Europe and regard her problems as quite separate from those of her European neighbours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1948; Vol. 446, c. 395 and 397.]I am glad to say that since that speech there has been a steady, methodical and useful progress towards the realisation of the aims which I then laid down. The Five-Power Treaty was signed in Brussels on 17th March. Treaties in recent years may have lost some of their old significance, but the House should recognise that this Treaty marks a notable reversal of policy on the part of its signatories. In particular, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, all of their own volition, have 1108 embarked on an entirely new course which ends the conception of neutrality.
As I pointed out in my speech, it also represents a fresh departure in British policy. It makes us really a part of Europe definitely. For all five of us who signed that Treaty it means sacrificing narrow and national interests—and in some cases very substantial interests—in favour of the common European good. The Treaty provided for the closest co-operation of the partners in economic, financial, social, cultural and military matters; it did not provide for union in the sense of some pooling of sovereignty or the creation of a European federated state. Such a dramatic move might appeal to idealists. But in the world of international politics one is forced to proceed step by step, and it is necessary to be realistic and practical. Any controversy now over theoretical issues of sovereignty would only set back the whole movement which has now begun.
In a speech in this House on 23rd November, 1945, I indicated that what we should aim at as our ultimate goal must be the emergence of a wholly new conception of sovereignty throughout the world. Meanwhile, the only course open to us is to unite voluntarily what can be united, merging national interests so far as possible into the common pool. We have no intention, however, of being diverted from the great practical task to which we have set our hands by any academic discussions about sovereignty. We have resolved that, in order to achieve the real unity which will result from the Five-Power Treaty, it is necessary to organise methodically the machinery established under Article 7, which, in the first instance, provides for a Permanent Consultative Council.
Since the signing of the Treaty in Brussels on 17th March much progress, which has involved a lot of work, has been made towards setting up this very necessary machinery. We all want the Treaty to be a really effective instrument of co-operation in every field, and I believe we have begun on sound lines. I met the Foreign Ministers of the other Treaty Powers in Paris, and we agreed that there should be set up in London a permanent organ of the Consultative Council, which has now been named the Permanent Commission. This body, which has already held several meetings, 1109 should, in our view, act as a central clearing house for the whole consultative machinery, and should be responsible for preparing the agenda for the quarterly meetings of the Consultative Council. In fact, it should act as a general co-ordinating body in connection with all organs which will ultimately be established under the Treaty.
It was also agreed to establish a permanent military committee in London, and to provide for periodic meetings of the responsible Ministers. I pointed out in Paris that, while I accepted the importance of pushing on with the military conversations, I attached equal importance to the other aspects of co-operation for which provision had been made in the Treaty. This view has been generally endorsed, but it was recognised that the most practical course might be to organise meetings dealing with economic, financial, social and cultural matters, at all events in the first instance, on an ad hoc basis.
The House will have seen from the Press that one of the first practical steps taken was to arrange a meeting of the Finance Ministers of the five Brussels Treaty Powers, and their experts. It is imperative, if we are to make progress that a method should be devised whereby we can get stability, free exchange of goods and proper clearing arrangements over as wide an area as possible. This Brussels meeting, following an earlier meeting of the experts at The Hague, was most useful. It provided a valuable opportunity for thrashing out short-term and long-term problems. The issues are, however—and I do not disguise it—extremely complicated. Their solution will need constant thought and action and a good deal of give and take and adjustments in our respective economies and finances. The action taken must not be too sudden or violent. The financial and economic methods of the Western European powers are old and well-established. Great changes cannot be made in a minute, and we do not want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. On the other hand, with careful thought the different approaches can be merged—and I am sure that with constant discussion and action they will be.
The defence Ministers held their first meeting in London on 30th April. Agreement was reached on the organisation and composition of the permanent military committee, and the way is now clear for 1110 the joint examination of our military problems. In this recent meeting and in the realm of defence generally we are concocting nothing aggressive against anyone. The safety of our respective countries must be the first claim upon responsible statesmen and Parliaments. This is a legitimate claim made by others, to which we do not object. Neither can we allow it to be denied to us. It will not lead to war, but the chaotic separation of the Western Powers, if allowed to continue, would leave them open as a tempting prey. The consolidation of the West, in the broad sense I have already mentioned, will put these Powers in a position to negotiate on such an equal footing that agreement will not only be possible but probable. But our liberty, our survival, and the maintenance of the position of the Western European nations in the world must be the subject of continual organisation and vigilance.
Nations find it difficult to cast aside in a moment considerations of national self-interest and habits of thought which have been formed over generations. When we look back on what has been achieved in the past three months, it seems to me that we have solid grounds for encouragement to continue the good work. The consolidation of the Western democracies is now actually taking place before our eyes. Although much remains to be done, I believe that it is a process which will continue to develop during the coming months and years. I am anxious that what may be described as the hard core of Western Union should be firmly organised.
But I told the House on 22nd January that we should subsequently have to consider going beyond the circle of our immediate neighbours. This brings me to even wider conceptions. The organisation of all the Western European democracies, excellent and necessary though it is, in present circumstances can hardly be accomplished save within the framework of some even larger entity. I am not content to confine either propaganda or speeches or action to the assumption that Western Europe alone can save itself. The House will have noticed in this connection a remarkable speech by the Canadian Minister of External Affairs, Mr. St. Laurent. Mr. St. Laurent pointed to the eventual constitution of some worldwide system of regional defence arrangements based essentially on Article 51 of 1111 the Charter of the United Nations. For my part, I agree that nothing could so successfully reinforce the Charter as a world-wide system such as he proposes. For the United Nations might then rest surely on various regional pillars; and, if this fact was clearly recognised by all concerned, it might then be that increased co-operation would result.
Regionalism of this kind might indeed be found to be the very solution for which we have been seeking for so long in the field of collective security. By removing the fear of attack on the part of some smaller powers, it might eventually diminish the threatened division of the world into two hostile halves. In this connection, however, we cannot wait to overcome every opposition. For the part of His Majesty's Government, we must proceed to develop and unite with those with whom and where we can unite. In the end, we hope that others will join in. I am sure that we have started in the right way. I believe that efforts to increase the pace, far from resulting in greater European unity, may result only in greater European friction.
We are dealing with our partners on the basis of complete equality, and anyone who comes into the scheme, either on the Western European basis or ultimately on a regional basis, must be treated on terms of absolute equality. None of them, not even the smallest, is in any sense a satellite to be dominated by others. More drastic methods might, on a short-term view, yield quicker results, but I am afraid that they might be temporary. Experience as a result of the last war has shown that a free association of peoples will hold together in good times and in bad and that on this edifice we can build a structure that will weather the worst of storms. No coup or attempt to use parties or any other means to gain power to make them satellites, will in my opinion ultimately survive. Only a free association, in common recognition of equality great and small, voluntarily coming together and accepting responsibilities, will in the end give the world the security which we desire.
I have always maintained in regard to the expansion of the Western Union, that we must go step by step. I dare say that in the course of this Debate I shall 1112 hear the old-time accusation that I am too cautious. I have had a good deal of experience in amalgamating separate entities—if I may say so without conceit, with some success. I know that in bringing together people who have always been separated and who probably are antagonistic in many ways, two things are needed. The people must have a clear idea of the objectives we seek to attain, and there must be a sound moral foundation. Public opinion is created by different methods but in the end it will come together behind the respective governments if the basic principles are accepted by all. I think it is a good thing that people take different methods and different ways to bring public opinion behind great ventures of this kind.
The second requirement is to translate their general desire for unity—and this is hard to do—into agreements, legislation and a constructive fabric. It cannot be done by the passing of resolutions alone. The resolutions might create the public opinion but, as has to be done with Bills in this House, it has to be translated into workable machinery to give it effect It has to be evolved in a manner that is workable, permanent and sure.
I now turn from the Western Union to the question of Germany. The House is aware of the irritation that has been going on in connection with Berlin and, in a smaller degree, Vienna. I think it is right that I should explain our position in regard to Berlin. The rights of the United Kingdom to be in Berlin are firmly based on agreements which were entered into at the European Advisory Commission and at the time of the unconditional surrender of Germany between the four Allied Governments. They are reinforced by the agreements and understandings reached between the four Commanders-in-Chief since the four-Power occupation. There can be no question that all these agreements and understandings are as equally valid and binding upon all the four Powers concerned today as they were at the time when they were entered into
We are in Berlin as of right. It is our intention to stay there. I trust that the attempts to settle these problems by a war of nerves will be brought to an end Where common sense has prevailed, in the many instances with which we have had to deal recently, solutions have been found. We have kept quite cool and have refused to be irritated. At times there 1113 have been suggestions that because we have not got excited His Majesty's Government have shown weakness; but I take the opposite view, and I have no doubt that the steadiness of our attitude will be clearly shown if put to the test. I trust, however, that discussions will take the place of the recent provocations.
With regard to Western Germany generally, it is well known that the Western Powers have striven very hard to achieve the economic unity of Germany and to rebuild that country on a really democratic basis with a view to bringing it again into the comity of nations. When the Germans have given up all ideas of aggression and have proved their capacity to act as true democrats, we shall be glad to take them into the comity of the European structure. For the moment it is impossible to reach this goal in view of the hitherto irreconcilable differences between the attitude of the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. These differences go very deep. We have been driven, first, to establish the bi-zonal area. A condition was created in which the British taxpayer had to find large sums of money because the original basis was not given effect to.
In addition, we promised a policy of gradually transferring to the Germans such administrative power as we could in accordance with our obligations. Recently we have had long discussions in London in which the position has been carefully examined. During the last two weeks there has been a further examination regarding the next step we must take. A report of these discussions is now being compiled. I hope that it will be ready for the consideration of the Government very soon. Then we must take decisions and in due course we shall make public our intentions.
We still stand for the principle of German unity, but we have got to take facts as we find them and to recognise that we cannot for the moment realise this aim. We have not abandoned hope for the future, but meanwhile we are holding these talks in order to resolve a number of common problems affecting the recovery of Western Germany, an area for which the three Western Powers are responsible. Speaking for His Majesty's Government, I can assure the House that we shall do all that is within our power to restore the Germans to a reasonable 1114 and healthy standard of life, politically and economically.
There has been some speculation about the results of these talks, in particular on the question of the future constitution of Western Germany, but I am not in a position to say anything about these matters until the talks are over, the reports are received and the Cabinet has carefully studied them. All I want to do now is to stress our recognition of the fact that there must be a development in the political life of Germany and that the Germans themselves must play a most important rôle. We hope that at the end of these talks we shall reach agreement and will be able to take decisions over the whole field. In addition, as I have already said, Germany has been brought within the European recovery scheme, and Germany's experts will attend the Executive Committee and help to work out the development of that important area and its contribution to the total European arid world recovery. We are satisfied that keeping Germany in a state of uncertainty is holding back its recovery and prejudicing all its neighbours as well. If a military government has to enter into every detail of the peoples' life, that government cannot be as efficient or as satisfactory as a government created with its roots in the people themselves. It is towards the latter objective that we are now striving and endeavouring to find the right solution.
May I now turn to Austria? Since I last spoke about Austria, the Deputies of the Council of Foreign Ministers have resumed their study of the Austrian Treaty. Although progress has been painfully slow over the past nine weeks, we now seem to be considerably nearer to getting a Treaty. We are prepared to go on being patient, if that is the way to realise our aim, which is the re-establishment of a truly free democratic and sovereign Austria.
Hon. Members may expect me to say a word about Italy. In my view, it is too early after the elections, when the new Italian Government has not yet been settled or their policy declared, for me to make any statement in this House. I recognise that in Italy there are still great obstacles to be surmounted before it is clear exactly what role Italy is to play in the post-war world, and very careful consideration and discussion will be needed. I will, however, mention the question of Trieste, which, in our view, 1115 should now be returned to Italy. We have asked that a conference should take place between the four Powers responsible for the Treaty. It is quite clear now that the antagonism in regard to the International Zone is making it impossible even to set it up and to set up any satisfactory organisation.
I daresay I shall be told in the Debate that we ought to have foreseen that, but, like any other compromise, we tried to produce co-operation between Italy and Yugoslavia and felt that this was the way to achieve it. During the negotiations on the Italian Treaty, I repeatedly said that there was no justification for handing Trieste over to the Yugoslays, nor could I agree to altering the frontier as now drawn at Gorizia. If this Italian territory is returned to Italy, with the Italian population which resides there, it seems to me that there would be a fair frontier, and one which ought to lead to peace and stability in that area. We are very much concerned for Trieste, because, as hon. Members will remember, that was one important city in the area which was liberated by the New Zealand Division.
I should like to make it clear that in all these matters it is our intention and practice to keep the other members of the British Commonwealth fully informed and consulted about our policy. We must take great care in building up the new structure of Western Europe, that we do nothing to jeopardise the already existing solid framework of another union of free nations, that of the British Commonwealth. Nor do we intend to overlook the importance of the overseas territories, to which I referred in my speech on 22nd January, where we shall strive to raise the general standard of life, and whose resources will contribute so much to their own prosperity and to that of the world as a whole. Our object is general reconciliation among nations, and the smoothing out of those difficulties which unfortunately exist at present. We are convinced that the new structure we are building up in Western Europe will be all the stronger if it is closely connected with the great territories and countries overseas with which Western Europe has for long had a close and historical connection.
I desire to make one or two references to the question of the Soviet Union. I 1116 have always felt that if we had to deal only with Russia, and not with Communist ideology, a settlement would be possible. We could reach agreement on territorial and other issues which from time to time may concern us. What is preventing agreement, is the fact that injected into this whole business, is the assumption that any settlement we make must be so designed as to include methods of furthering the Communist objective. In other words, every proposal that is submitted to us has, as its objective, not the settlement of the problem itself on its merits, but the question whether it will serve the Communist conception. So long as this continues the world will be kept in turmoil, because the characteristics, philosophy and conception of life of the rest of the world will not permit us to indulge in compromises which are intended to achieve the objects of Communism. Recent events in Czechoslovakia, following on post-war developments in other countries in Eastern Europe, drive this lesson home.
§ Mr. Bevin
If the hon. Member will wait a minute, I am going to say something about that. Nor, on the other hand, would it be right for us to put forward proposals, the object of which was not the settlement of problems on their merits, but to forward the expansion of our own ideologies in some other form. My suggestion to the hon. Member is: let us drop both and settle these problems. Until we get away from these ideological attitudes on the part of the Kremlin, there will be little chance of a real and lasting settlement.
Another vexed question which His Majesty's Government have constantly before them, is that of the Middle East. At present, it is over-shadowed by the events in Palestine, and it is very difficult to discuss any problem which has for its object the peaceful settlement of that area until the Palestine problem is solved. While this acute stage lasts it is holding up not only political settlements, but large-scale economic developments in which His Majesty's Government have so often expressed their keen interest. But, in view of the misinformation and misrepresentation which has been flying around recently about develop- 1117 ments and our intentions in Palestine, I think it would be useful for me to take this opportunity to make a short statement on our present position. First, we do not depart from our decision to retain the Mandate only until 15th May. We accepted the obligation, within our resources, to maintain law and order and prevent aggression until that date.
We have every intention of using our military resources to that end and after 15th May to cover the withdrawal of our remaining forces. The events in Palestine have called for more military action due to acts of aggression. Jaffa, for instance, is an Arab city, and there have been indiscriminate attacks and firing there by the Jews. Innocent people were suffering. We had, therefore, to use our Forces to compel a truce, and I think this was the correct action to take. In Jerusalem the United Nations, together with all the churches and religious bodies, were pressing for a truce to be established there. But we found that attacks were being made, particularly on one of the Arab quarters. We therefore stepped in and indicated that fighting would have to cease or we should have to take military action. We have also used all our influence to prevent invasion of Palestine by Arab countries. Although the excitement in those countries, owing to the events in Palestine, is causing great difficulties, stories of invasion by them are not borne out by reports from our military representatives. Thus, our attitude has been to give clear warnings to both sides, that while we remain responsible up to 15th May, we cannot tolerate aggression.
It has been our policy not to force a decision, which was unagreed by the two parties, by means of military or oppressive measures. But we have always made it clear that if there was agreement between Jews and Arabs for a cease-fire order or a temporary truce, or some other kind of interim Government working towards a final settlement, and that if we were approached by all concerned to render assistance in conjunction with others—I repeat "in conjunction with others,"—this would create a new situation and we should have to consider it most carefully. But I repeat, there is no question of using our resources after 1118 15th May to enforce any kind of settlement against the wishes of either party. Praiseworthy efforts have been made by the United Nations to avert the worst consequences. We have given support to the idea of a cease-fire, either in Jerusalem itself or for the whole country.
But we feel that things have gone too far for any more theoretical debates on long-term solutions. The vital requirement now is that the shooting should be stopped and some machinery established of which the two parties can make use, and so provide an opportunity for wise counsels to prevail. We are not unmindful of the enormous difficulties facing moderate men at the moment—and there are moderates, both among the Jews and Arabs, who we are satisfied are longing for peace. On the other hand, it is easy for the extremists, particularly for those not in Palestine, to cry out for radical solutions to be achieved by ruthless action. In this conflicting position it is difficult to get cool consideration so as to find the right solution which will meet the real needs of both Arabs and Jews. At this eleventh hour, I say to those working in the direction of a settlement: let them not spare their efforts; with a crisis upon us, there is still time for moderation and reason to win, but in a few days it may be too late.
I have been asked particularly to say a few words about the Far East, but questions which may be put in that regard will be dealt with later by the Under-Secretary. I do not want to weary the House too long, and I shall not therefore be able, within the compass of the present speech, to deal with the whole of the Far-Eastern question. But I do not want the House to suppose for a moment that this apparent concentration on European affairs implies any diminution of His Majesty's Government's interests in the Far East. On the contrary, we are following the development of events there with close interest.
I should, however, like to refer to the great areas in South-East Asia, where we still have great responsibilities and where we are striving to work in close concord with the Commonwealth Governments and with Burma, now an independent State. Our main concern there has been to do all in our power to promote political development and to co-ordinate the production 1119 and resources of that great area, in order to avert famine on a terrifying scale and to allow those parts of the world to resume normal life after the invasions and disturbances of war. We therefore set up in Singapore an organisation to co-ordinate our whole policy and to ensure the fullest liaison between territories in the area. I am sure that the House will wish to join with me in paying tribute to the great energy and skill which our representatives and their staffs have put into this work since the close of the war. As a result of the progress made in the postwar years the time has now come for this organisation, previously headed by Lord Killearn, as Special Commissioner, to be combined with that under the Governor-General, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who will now assume full responsibility as Commissioner-General.
Progress towards the restoration of normal conditions and towards the improvement of the standard of living of the peoples of South-East Asia and of the Far East generally have been made slower by the fact that we have not yet been able to conclude a peace treaty with Japan. On this matter and all other matters we keep in touch with the Commonwealth Governments whose interests are so closely affected. Although we have missed no opportunity of making known to the other Powers concerned our views as to the desirability of settling a peace treaty with Japan, we cannot make progress without a substantial measure of agreement as to the composition and procedure of the peace conference. I can assure the House that meanwhile we shall continue to use our best endeavours to further the progressive social, political and economic development of all the peoples in the Far East, and particularly in South-East Asia, and that we shall make the best contribution we can to that end.
I would like to end upon a different note. Taking a review since the end of the war, I can say that we have been dogged by great difficulties in restoring economic prosperity and in seeing that the peoples of the world have enough to eat. Drought, famine, political disturbances, and changes in Governments and in political systems have held us up since the end of the war. During the last three years we have seen revolutionary changes, with great re- 1120 adaptations in ways of life affecting millions of people in all parts of the world. Perhaps the main difficulty has been shortage of cereals, and above all of wheat and rice, which has affected the Western and the Eastern peoples alike. I do not wish to be over-optimistic, but for the first time since the war prospects seem brighter in this field. All the reports we have received from our representatives abroad indicate that a good harvest is likely in most parts of the world this year.
If nothing untoward happens before the harvest is gathered in, we may expect, in this increase of food supplies, a major contribution to the restoration of more normal, peaceful conditions in the world. More supplies will be available, and I hope that prices will tend to fall; this will in itself provide a fairer prospect for the restoration of economic equilibrium in the world. We must, of course, see that the primary producers, and above all the farmers, do not suffer as they have done in the past, from heavy falls in prices. We must see that there is a reasonable floor for prices just as we have striven to prevent prices being forced too high. If, as a result of the bounty of nature there is some fall in prices in the Western Hemisphere, the value of the aid afforded by the European Recovery Programme will go further and will produce wider and better results. United States aid must not allow us in this country or in Western Europe to relax our efforts in any way.
Generally speaking, throughout the world, and more particularly in this country and in Europe, where we are immediately concerned, one of the biggest contributions that can be made for the restoration of world prosperity is to increase our production, to keep prices down and to go all out with all our will to produce a state of plenty for all. Therefore, it behoves managements, workers and distributors, and all of us, to be seized with the importance of production and distribution, and with the need for restriction of profits and the lowering of prices and general costs of production, if we want to make a contribution to world peace.
Reports on foreign affairs may not usually end on this domestic and economic note, but the restoration of the prosperity of the world as a first step to the success of the European Recovery Programme, is incomparably the most important question 1121 for us today. I make no apology for ending a review of foreign affairs which began with welcoming the approval of the European Recovery Programme by Congress with the reminder to all those whom that programme will benefit, to do all in their power to make it a success. I conclude by saying, that whatever may be done in the diplomatic field, the field, factory, farm and workshop can make an equal contribution to the peace of the world.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
As always in the reviews given to the House by the Foreign Secretary, one finds much with which one can agree. On this occasion there is also much with which one can disagree. I feel that I am fortified by the leading article in "The Times" today which contained these words:Gentle proddings … are always useful, even when delivered against the most self-reliant and imperturbable of Foreign Secretaries.It is our object as an Opposition to see that the self-reliance of the right hon. Gentleman does not degenerate into self-satisfaction and his imperturbability into a majestic calm.
There was lacking from the speech today the sense of urgency which we all feel must be brought to the very complicated issues which we are facing. As I am a Member of the Opposition and am not fully informed on foreign affairs, not having read all the telegrams, I have to buy the latest editions of the newspapers. In coming down to the House I bought the latest evening paper, hoping that there would be some late news which I could use in this Debate. The most exciting news seems to have been that of a boy of 14 who has been interviewed by the psychologist to a London juvenile court. When questioned, the boy had said that our King was St. George, our Queen, Victoria and our Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. I do not know whether that is a prophecy that the right hon. Gentleman is going to join those other legendary figures, or whether it presages further uncertainty in foreign affairs and in other ways in the ranks of the Government. I know that it imposes upon me a very definite need to use no ill-chosen words to make confusion worse confounded.
1122 I gather that it is understood that there is to be a division of the subject as between today and tomorrow and that tomorrow we shall deal particularly with Western Union. Today, we may range over a rather wider field. On the subject of Western Union, I want to say simply that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will pursue this matter in greater detail tomorrow. In the Debate on 4th June, 1946, I said:Such a course, if adopted with far more determination and far more drive than the Government have already given or shown, would be very much to the interests of Great Britain at the present time and very much to the interest of the other countries concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 1860.]That was two years ago. While we welcome the undoubted progress which has recently been made, we would desire to say that there must be even more urgency in pursuing this desirable aim, with which I personally agree and which as I say, will be dealt with in more detail tomorrow.
We feel that there is need for vision, determination and drive, not only in the West, but in the areas of the Middle East and the Far East. The world is a large place and it is important that our foreign policy should be not only far-seeing, but wide-ranging. The Russian land mass which is largely Asiatic, and with a policy of world Communist domination, ultimately at any rate, can and will exert pressure elsewhere. Those of us who attempt to follow the policy of Soviet Imperialism have seen it threading its way more and more over China. We remember the pressures upon Persia and Turkey, which may well at any time be resumed, and we realise that the real danger flash-points today are in the Middle East, in Palestine, in India—to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer—in the Kashmir district and perhaps elsewhere, in the Far East if no settlement is made, and to a less extent in South-East Asia to which the right hon. Gentleman drew our attention.
These areas are of intense importance to the British Commonwealth of Nations. I should like to welcome the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of our own Union. This is our own Union. I cannot help thinking that 1123 the approach to a definite, agreed, Imperial or Commonwealth foreign policy has been somewhat cautious. I agree that it is important that we should all realise and practise what we preach, when we say that the members of the Commonwealth are independent countries. Those of us who have had an opportunity of visiting them and of talking to their statesmen, such as Mr. St. Laurent, to whose speech the right hon. Gentleman made reference, have realised the strength of those countries and the immense value that they have been and will be to us. It is essential in these difficult times that we should not concentrate our attention alone on Western Union but that we should try to cause our own Union to move powerfully as a united force upon the world's chessboard.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the speech of Mr. St. Laurent on the subject of regionalism. After all, regionalism is being practised on the American Continent in the new inter-American attempts towards understanding which developed from the Rio Treaty and were followed at the Bogota Conference. We are perfectly ready for, indeed, we should like to encourage, attempts at regionalism. We believe with the right hon. Gentleman that it is perhaps on those pillars that the future success of the United Nations may be solidly built. Certainly, when I was representing His Majesty's Government at the League of Nations, I felt that had we proceeded by the regional method more thoroughly we might have had much more success with the League. Therefore, we see with pleasure this variety of regionalism being developed in the world.
There is another matter to which I wish to make reference. I noted with regret that at the Bogota Conference certain South American States, despite Mr. Marshall's efforts to eliminate discussion on the point, saw fit to question our title to Colonial possessions in the Western hemisphere. It will probably save a great deal of time and trouble if, at any rate on behalf of the Opposition, I say here and now that we have no intention of giving up our Colonies to any South American State. I hope that the Government, in their reply, will support what I have said, and make their position perfectly clear. There is one slender source 1124 of satisfaction to us in this matter, that is, that all the records of the Conference were, unfortunately, destroyed by fire in the course of the regrettable revolution which took place at Bogota during the period of the Conference.
Now I wish, for a few minutes, to turn the attention of the House to the Far East. I do not apologise for so doing because we seldom get an opportunity to discuss Japan, and we spend a great deal of time discussing Germany. The right hon. Gentleman made a few allusions to the delay over the Japanese peace settlement, but it is now three years since Japanese aggression was crushed. The Treaty still appears to hang fire owing to the obstructive attitude, notably of the Soviet Union, as to who is to sit round the table. I wish to ask the Government whether there is to be any time limit by which this deadlock will be ended, and whether the right hon. Gentleman endorses his own view, expressed in the Debate on 22nd January, that the peace settlement with Japan should be the concern of all the countries which fought their way all through the war against the Japanese, and that this matter should not be reserved simply for the Council of Foreign Ministers?
This is a matter of vital importance to the Commonwealth, particularly to Australia and New Zealand. I feel sure that if we are to move forward on a Commonwealth policy, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, we must be certain upon this point. Apart from the question of the Japanese treaty, I wish to know whether we have any general attitude towards Japan's future. I realise that this matter lies within the general sphere of American responsibility. That alas is only too true when we see how few troops we have there, and alas how little interest we appear to take in this subject or in the part which this once powerful nation, which is now being reeducated and refurbished to a certain degree, shall play. What, for example, is the state of her self-sufficiency? Having been given no information by the Government, I have endeavoured to make some calculations. It appears that by 1953 her population will have increased to something like 85 million people and that she will appear to require something in the neighbourhood of an increase of 415 million dollars' worth of 1125 exports of industrial goods to enable her to buy the food to feed her own population by that date.
Of course, we all know that the Japanese, like the British, depend a great deal upon their fishing grounds. Many of those are not now available to Japan. Her plants in Manchuria, Formosa and Korea are also now not available. It would be very interesting to us to hear what is the design of the American and British Governments, particularly our own Government, which can answer for themselves, on the sort of level of industry which we intend Japan shall have. A matter which very much interests our Lancashire Members—I am sure it interests Lancashire Members on all sides of the House—is the question of the future of the textile industry in Japan. A meeting was held in Manchester on 28th April of leaders of the cotton industry and prominent trade unionists, and it was agreed there that Japan should be limited to a total of 3½ million spindles. Sir Raymond Streat is reported on 29th April, as having said that there should be in Japan an encouragement of economic activities other than cotton and rayon so as to avoid undue concentration thereon, which could only have the most damaging consequences for the textile industries of other nations. This question of the level of industry is therefore a most important one, and if we are to have clear ideas about Germany, which alas have been befogged by the many muddles of policy which have occurred in that unhappy country, let us also at least have some information about what is going on in Japan, and what is the intention of the Government.
What is the policy about demilitarisation? This is a matter which influences and affects the Commonwealth Governments particularly. I understand that something like 679 million dollars' worth of primary war necessities are being or have been removed. I should also like to ask whether it is proposed that further reparations in shipping, for example, are intended, and what is the general design about the demilitarisation of Japan and the part she can play in the future? I trust that when the Government spokesman replies, we may have a little more information about the Far East, that there 1126 may be a little more spotlight put upon that part of the world.
I have not a great deal to say about Korea because it is probably the part of the world which we in this House can influence the least of any. I understand, however, that the elections in the Southern zone are shortly to be held, and I should value any further information on that matter. In regard to China, I am presuming, subject to correction, that the present position about the recognition of the central Government remains as it was. On 10th March the Foreign Secretary gave a somewhat ambiguous answer, to which I feel sure a clearer interpretation could be given by the Under-Secretary when he replies. He said that he was examining the consulate and other positions in the Communist controlled area of China I wish to ask whether this means that there is likely to be any modification in the Treaty undertakings to which he referred, or whether he simply desires to find a compromise method of safeguarding British interests.
There is a great deal of interest in this country in the affairs of China. There are many associations which wish one to put questions and find out further information from the Government. I will sum up what I want to ask on the business side by asking whether it is likely that the just claims for destruction or seizure of British properties will be met, particularly in the case of the incident of the Shameen burnings? Secondly, can we have an assurance that proper priority will be given to the servicing of loans by British investors which were mainly for public services and development communications? I trust that we may receive some information about our representation in the future, and the position in that country of British interests and just claims.
The right hon. Gentleman was on his surest ground when dealing with South-East Asia. Here is an area of immense importance not only to the world, but also to British interests. We have been glad to note the news about the pacification, if one might use that daring word, of the Netherlands East Indies. When we consider the potential wealth of South-East Asia we find that, taking comparative figures based upon the 1938 volume 1127 of foreign trade, South-East Asia was responsible for £417 million worth of such trade in that year, compared with £236 million worth only for India as a whole and £99 million worth for China, taking the year of 1936. It can, therefore, be seen by the House that this rich area, with its rice, its rubber, its tea, coffee, sugar, copra, tin and oils is one which deserves absolutely first-class priority on the part of the British Government and in British policy. I would describe it as an area even more important to the interests of the world and our own personal interests than Africa itself. I was, therefore, very glad to hear of the new appointment of Mr. Malcolm Macdonald who from this side of the House, we should desire to wish well. We should also like to congratulate Lord Killearn on his work for the better distribution of food supplies, which is one of the bright spots of British policy in the Far East.
One is unused to making reference to India or Burma in the course of a foreign affairs Debate, but this is now the position. We should like to congratulate Burma on being elected a member of U.N.O. We should also like to ask whether there are any developments in regard to the Defence Agreement with Burma, to which reference was made when we discussed the affairs of that country previously. In regard to India I should like to say how glad I was to see the notice of the appointment of Mr. Rajagopalachari to the high position which he is to occupy in the future. He is a man of sterling character and one whom we can all admire, and with whom we can sympathise in the great responsibility which he will eventually undertake.
I wish to refer for a moment to the troubles of India and Pakistan before U.N.O., namely, the Kashmir troubles. It is a problem, consisting as it does of the problem of the tribes of the North-West Frontier of India, which one would have thought to be the most difficult possible for U.N.O. to handle. It is so far satisfactory that an arrangement has been made whereby, through a plebiscite, some peaceful solution of the problem can be found. I should value any further information from the Government as to the relations between these two Commonwealth countries and I should like to express our ardent hope that this problem 1128 may be settled without further extension of the war, which would be to the detriment of the interests of India and Pakistan.
Kashmir is not the only frontier trouble with which we are concerned. It appears that in the new Soviet-Afghan trade agreement there is included a clause under which the Afghans recognise Russia's predominant interest in their own Northern provinces. We must remember that the Imperialist dagger of the Soviet Union aided by the microbes of Communist subterranean influence are ever ready to be used where the body is sick. If these is no solution of the Kashmir problem it might well develop into a much larger international blaze than it is at present. One must therefore appeal to all the leaders of Indian opinion, who have shown themselves to have many of the great qualities of statesmanship, to use every opportunity to seek peace and ensure it while there is yet time. While mentioning this, I must say that I have much regretted the rather warlike and I think undesirable language used by Mr. Nehru in India on the subject of Hyderabad. I do not believe that the solution of the Hyderabad question is as simple as has been made out. I do not believe that it can be solved either by war or accession, which were the only two offers made to that unhappy State. Without going further into that matter in the course of a foreign affairs Debate, I would say that we of the Opposition shall take a further opportunity of pressing the just claims of Hyderabad to be independent if she desires to be, and, if possible, if she so desires, to be a member of the Commonwealth herself.
I turn to the Middle East. This is just as vital an area for the British Commonwealth, as those with which I have been dealing, if not more vital. I would like to begin what I have to say about this area with a perfectly simple statement, which I trust the Government will reinforce when they reply to the Debate; namely, that we British are determined to stay in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. That sounds a simple statement, but I think it needs saying quite flatly, because I am convinced that if our island or our Commonwealth intended to leave the Middle East that would be the beginning of the end of the greatness of ourselves as a Great Power and be the beginning of further troubles 1129 for that area, which we ourselves have always tried to help in every way. If we are to stay in the Middle East we must, again to use simple language, have somewhere to stay, and we must exert a good influence.
We approach this problem of the Middle East through the unfortunate experiences of the Foreign Secretary in trying to make treaties with the Arab States. I certainly do not want to make his problem more difficult by any further criticism than that which I have already made. But he is right in saying that any attempt to get closer to the Arab States will be made more difficult if not impossible by the situation in Palestine. I was extremely alarmed, in reading today's papers, to see that there was a "New British policy" in Palestine. That, fortunately, was simply due to reading the headlines. On hearing the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon it has become clear again that our policy is certain, namely, that we end the Mandate and withdraw on 15th May. I am sure that, after the Debates we had on the Palestine Bill, when there was general agreement on that point, there would have been no change in the sentiments of the House since that date. There still remains the extremely difficult period up to 30th August when our troops will not have fully withdrawn.
I cannot help thinking that the reports of the sending of more troops into Palestine causes great confusion of mind and considerable alarm as to what the Government policy really is. Is certainly brings into sharp relief the lack of foresight and the dilatoriness that there has been in the Government policy towards Palestine over the last two years. When the right hon. Gentleman uses the word "praiseworthy" with reference to the United Nations' efforts in regard to Palestine, I am afraid I cannot agree with him. On all sides there has been a lack of foresight. It must have been perfectly obvious that this sort of situation was likely to arise in Palestine. Taking first the question of the troops, it surely should have been possible to keep a sufficiently strong and mobile force in Palestine to cover our withdrawal and to maintain order during the period before our Mandate expired. Why were these things not foreseen at an earlier date?
It is true that this show of force has resulted in a truce in the Katomon suburb 1130 of Jerusalem, and it is our sincere desire that this truce may spread, and that some agreement between the two sides will be reached. But we should like to ask for further elucidation of the phrase used by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in his speech, reported this morning, when he said that there was to be a central authority established with the limited purpose of holding Palestinian assets, furthering mediation and acting as a unifying central authority. If it is to own assets, surely it will be a Government. We should like some elucidation as to what further practical steps will be taken to ensure that that mediation has some result. I should like to ask why this sort of organisation or body was not thought of before, and why it is brought forward by the Colonial Secretary only a few days before our Mandate ends and we retire?
Whether, in the case of the troops, or in the case of the mediating machinery, I consider we are right in saying that there has been a great lack of foresight and that the Government must take their part of the responsibility for the very serious situation which exists in that unhappy country. It only remains for me to say that I trust some arrangement can be arrived at about the Holy Places, and that all the representations made in the course of the Palestine Debates will be listened to by those—whether in the United Nations organisation or the Government—who are responsible, and who must bring a far greater sense of urgency into the handling of this problem than we have experienced hitherto. Palestine is now moving into the sphere of foreign affairs and out of the purely colonial field. It is clear that, out of these disastrous events Great Britain must rebuild her influence and authority in the Middle East areas. We must have a proper regard for the strategic interests of the Commonwealth, and we must have some proper consideration for the oil, which is of first importance to Imperial strategy.
On looking to the future, if I may go rather further than did the Foreign Secretary in his speech, we see that British honour and policy are already engaged by the pledge that was given to the Senussi on 8th January, 1942, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and 1131 Leamington. In expressing his appreciation of what Sayid Idris el Senussi and his followers had done he used these words:His Majesty's Government are determined that, at the end of the war, the Senussis in Cyrenaica will in no circumstances again fall under Italian domination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th January, 1942; Vol. 377, C. 78.]This pledge must be honoured. Obviously, therefore, for the future of Cyrenaica some arrangement must be made which will give the Senussi the free opportunity of enjoying their own rights in their own territories. There must, therefore, be some intervening period during which the Senussi will require our help and guidance. Surely, the lessons we can draw from the problems of the Middle East which we have had to face, and the muddles we have made, are that we must have a secure position, if we are to exert a good influence in Cyrenaica—whatever system of authority is set up in that area—and we must have bases from which to deploy our strength.
I am not going to attempt to give any indication of the sort of authority that could be worked out, because I should indeed be bold if I attempted to give my own solution to the whole problem of the Italian Colonies straight off from this Box this afternoon. There are so many considerations which apply to the future of the Italian Colonies that I think it legitimate to await the report of the four nations' representatives which ought to be delivered, shall we say, in the next two or three months—or preferably earlier. When we have that report, may we take it that the future of the Italian Colonies will be settled, first, with some regard to the wishes of the inhabitants, and, second, with some regard to the undoubted needs of the Italians for emigration and with a proper regard to the prestige of that country, which the Foreign Secretary has done his best to support by the settlement of the Port of Trieste?
It seems that our position in the Middle East can only be held, or restored, or maintained by undertaking what we have the strength to perform, which should be the basis of all good foreign policy. I believe that something else is necessary in the Middle East, as in the rest of our Foreign Policy, and that is a social purpose a sympathy with the new forces rising in many of these countries, particularly in the Arab countries. I ask the Government whether we can have 1132 any information about the progress of the Sudanese towards self-government, of which we have had some vague reports, and about which we should like some precise information. We should like to encourage such attempts by the new Governor and authorities towards self-government. Could we have further information of the great efforts being made by the Iraqi Government to develop their country, with what help we and others can give them? I believe that, by this social progress, as much as by our strength, our prestige in the Middle East will be restored to what it ought to be.
If we are to build a strong position in the Mediterranean both ends must be buttressed. We must work with America in supporting Turkey and Greece. I do not wish at this hour to go in detail into the policy in regard to either of those countries, but in regard to Greece surely the lesson of history has been that, if we are going to act, let us act strongly. I feel sure that the future will be assured by the American administration.
I want to be very daring and say a word about Spain, a subject which most hon. Members prefer to avoid mentioning. I cannot but remind the House that there are 26 million people in Spain, and we must not forget their importance in what is amounting to a balance of power, when we are considering either a Western Union or a Mediterranean settlement. I am second to none in my dislike of the type of government represented by General Franco, but I do not believe that we get full advantage in our dealings with General Franco—particularly those who wish to see him go—if we send him to Coventry. Though he may there have the opportunity of conversations with the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and learn from him the advantages of being out in the wilderness, and the freedom that position gives to one, he would not learn sufficient to be a really profitable member of society.
What I feel is important is that we should try and maintain, in some way, contact with Spain and her people. By contact I feel we shall get much closer to the Spanish people, whose wishes are just as important as the wishes of certain of their leaders, with whose forms of government we disagree. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give us an indication that there are contacts of a normal 1133 character with Spain and that the resources of Spain will be available in the general view of a Western Union or a Mediterranean settlement so that she may not be isolated altogether from the society of nations.
I would sum up in these terms. We must look on British Foreign Policy as a whole. We must first of all have a proper regard for British interests, and when I say that I trust that I am not being old fashioned. I trust that I am being entirely practical. We are very often apt to forget British interests in our desire to serve some ideal which, in fact, does not serve our interests, and renders our influence nugatory. If we serve British interests properly these wit coincide with the existence of an international system, which will in its turn result in a return to the accepted standards of international morality which we, as a small nation, have always sought to establish. It may lead to that most desirable result, a common understanding on international terms, so that we all speak the same sort of international language, the words of which mean the same to all.
There have obviously been grave disappointments in U.N.O., but I believe that the Foreign Secretary is right in saying that the regional approach, under Article 52, perhaps, of the Charter, may prove the salvation of the United Nations organisation. As regards our own salvation, as I have tried to show in my attitude to the Middle East, Britain must ally herself with the new forces in the old world and with the fresh forces in the new world. Of those fresh forces, perhaps the strongest are in our own Commonwealth. I believe that if the British race is strong and farseeing, if it retains its age-long tradition of leadership there is some hope of restoring confidence and moderating the great unwisdom with which large areas of the world appear at the present to be governed.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
It is not suitable, nor is there time in this Debate, for a private Member to traipse all over the globe in the trail of the familiar Front Bench Cook's Tours, so I want to confine myself to saying something about the general framework of foreign policy because I believe that during the last few months the need has arisen for some fresh thinking.
1134 About 18 months ago, in November, 1946, some of my hon. Friends and I tabled an Amendment to the King's Speech. It was an attempt to secure support for a line of policy which we sincerely believed to be of quite vital importance. We believed that there were two sure ways of strengthening and consolidating the Communist parties of Europe. One way was to adopt a blindly pro-Russian line, backing fusion in various forms and degrees and forgetting our basic differences with the Communists. The other no less certain way was to adopt a consistently pro-American or anti-Russian line, leaving the democratic Socialists of Europe with the hopeless conviction that there was no third choice. We argued that a Socialist Britain should not only be independent, but should seem to be independent, yielding neither to capitalism, one one side, nor to political authoritarianism, on the other, continuously and vigorously asserting and illustrating that the British ideology, as demonstrated at the polls in 1945, differed unmistakably both from the Russian and from the American ideologies, and that in the British doctrine alone—as I still believe to be true—lay the salvation of the world.
We urged at that time that our policy should be aimed to rally all those men and women in Europe—yes, and in the New World as well—who believe in freedom from political oppression and privilege, and in freedom from economic oppression and privilege. With the mobilisation of such allies, cutting right across our national frontiers, we believed that our country could feel far more secure than by relying on the shifting vagaries of American goodwill and self-interest. Failing such a policy as this, we feared and predicted that certain things would happen.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Did the hon. Gentleman assume that that very interesting outline would have an economic basis as well?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I think that this is very important. I wanted to know what was the economic basis of this third British foreign policy.
§ Mr. Levy
The economic basis of it would not have been substantially different from the policy we are now pursuing.
I was about to say that we were afraid certain things would happen if such a policy as I have outlined was not adopted. We feared, in the first place, that the democratic Socialists of Europe would be discouraged, enfeebled and divided, and that they would come to believe that the choice before them was to jeopardise their Socialism by alliance with the economic reactionaries of the Right, or jeopardise their democracy by alliance with the political reactionaries of the self-styled Left. The protection of Socialism and democracy has not been a traditional objective of the Foreign Office, but we prayed that it might be that of a Labour Foreign Secretary, because we believed that this was the only escape route from the danger of a divided world, teetering on the edge of a third world war. In that event, we predicted that Great Britain, too, would have to choose between East and West, and jeopardise part of our hopes, prospects and independence, whichever way we chose.
All this has now happened. I sincerely wish that we had been wrong, but the cruel fact is that we were not wrong. I recall it now only because some of my colleagues who took this view at that time are reluctant apparently to face up to the fact that the very things which they predicted would happen, and which I predicted would happen, have now indeed happened. The outlook today is not the outlook of 1945; nor is it even the outlook of November, 1946, and it is no good prescribing the same remedies. Our purpose then was to save our Socialism, our democracy and our national independence. Today our concern must be to save the world from war and our country from devastation. There is no longer a third choice. We must travel the Russian road or the American road. That is the position we have arrived at, and that is the measure of Big Power diplomatic achievement since the war. It does not suit us, it does not suit Russia, and it does not suit Europe. America, confident of our ultimate choice, may 1136 deludedly suppose that it suits her but, in so far as it makes peace precarious, it does not really even suit America. And, most certainly, it does not suit the ordinary men and women of the world.
But if there are only these two choices, which choice are we to make? Are we to choose the American alignment which it is widely feared may jeopardise our Socialism, or the Russian alignment which, with the object lesson of Czechoslovakia in mind, we may reasonably believe would end in the loss of our democracy? For better or worse, the choice is made. We are committed to Western Union in one form or another and that, in so far as it springs from and is a condition of Marshall Aid, means the American alignment. If there was ever any doubt about that, Mr. Molotov removed it when he refused to participate or to allow his family of dependent nations to participate. I do not say that the United States of America were not very glad of that refusal; but the fact remains that Western Europe means, temporarily at least, the American alignment.
That is the choice that we are making and, in my view, it is the right choice. It is tragic that we should be in the position of having to make such a choice, but it is, I believe, the lesser of two evils. I believe that for three reasons. The first is, of course, as the Foreign Secretary mentioned today, that without Marshall Aid we should be facing the prospect of unemployment and near starvation. Everybody except Lord Beaverbrook and Mr. Pollitt is agreed upon that. We have some strong bargaining cards against the American—stronger by far, I believe, than we have often appreciated; but in the last analysis that is the uncomfortable background of all discussion.
The second reason is that the alternative—co-operation with Communism—means in practice co-operation on their terms. The only co-operation that they understand is the kind of co-operation that the cat proffers to the canary. If, like Czechoslovakia, we were ever to forfeit our democracy, it would be generations before we could recover it, for in these days of machine-guns and bomber-planes you cannot overthrow a tyranny with pitchforks and cudgels. In an authoritarian State, heresy of 1137 thought or of speech is ground out, and heresy is the dynamic of progress. To banish heresy is to conserve the status quo indefinitely.
§ Mr. Levy
I hope they will remember it. I should like the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) to remember too that that is why Communism is essentially a Right wing and Conservative creed. The whole point of civil and Parliamentary liberties is that they are a safeguard against the petrifaction of the status quo. That is why throughout the whole of British history the fight for the extension of these liberties has been one long fight against the party opposite. The hon. Member for West Fife is their rightful ally.
My third reason is that I am not persuaded that the American alignment must destroy our Socialist evolution. Admittedly there will be some pressure in that direction but, as long as we can still think and talk and write and vote freely, we can still fight; and we can still defeat the American Tories just as we have defeated our home grown variety. That is the difference and, to my mind, it is a decisive one. Furthermore, the logic of events is with us. The logic of Western Union is towards Socialism whether the Americans like it or not and whether the Tories realise it or not. The hon. Member for West Fife laughs, but a laissez faire economic plan is really a contradiction in terms. That is why I am sceptical of Tory adherence. I cannot believe that the orator of Fulton means by Western Union what I mean by it. If he is attempting to appropriate the phrase as a disarming label for "Fultonism," in the same way that the Communists have sought to appropriate and sour the word "democracy," then it is in my view regrettable that certain hon. Friends of mine should abet this manoeuvre by attending the conference at The Hague.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
What is the suggestion? Is it that we are abetting a manoeuvre about which the hon. Members knows nothing by attending a conference and, quite possibly, voting against certain resolutions? Does my hon. Friend assume that there is an agreement on a matter that has not even been discussed, and that we are supporting a 1138 policy that has not even been adumbrated?
§ Mr. Levy
I would not insult my hon. Friend by assuming that he has agreed. Nobody agrees to be a decoy duck. Nobody agrees to make a mistake. He knows my views on this matter, and I believe that it is a mistake to provide a platform at The Hague for, and to allow the idea behind Western Union to become primarily associated with, a non-Socialist, indeed a strongly anti-Socialist world figure.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
On a point of Order. Is there not a general understanding that Western Union should be discussed tomorrow rather than today?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The main discussion tomorrow will be on Western Union, but there is nothing to prevent any hon. Member dealing with that subject today.
§ Mr. Levy
I realise that there is a certain difficulty. About three-quarters of what I want to say I should be saying today, and about one-quarter I should be saying tomorrow. No doubt a lot of hon. Members will find themselves in that position. It is really impossible to discuss foreign policy without Western Union, or vice versa. What I was about to say, in answer to my hon. Friend, is that I maintain, in respect of Western Union, that our concern should be to ensure that it develops as the right kind of Western Union, that its full Socialist implications are constantly proclaimed and underlined and that it becomes associated in the public mind with Socialist initiative and leadership.
§ Mr. Hale
The point is really important, and I should be glad if my hon. Friend could give me some information on it. How does he hope to get a Socialist Western Union with a Christian Democrat Italy, the Third Force living a precarious existence in France, a Catholic-Socialist alliance in Holland, and with a Belgian Government which looks like falling this afternoon?
§ Mr. Levy
If my hon. Friend had listened to what I said, he would not have come to the conclusion that I thought 1139 that Western Union should be organised exclusively with Socialist parties. I said nothing of the kind. At the beginning of my speech I made it perfectly clear that any possibility of that kind of cooperation had evaporated, largely as a result of the policy which he and I and some of our hon. friends advocated earlier in this Parliament not having been adopted. But I do say that some of the pieces can be picked up if the initiative for Western Union is taken by Socialists and if its essentially Socialist character is perpetually underlined and emphasised, and I do not believe that the way to do that is to support the Hague Conference.
The difference between the Tories and ourselves on this subject is, I admit, largely one of emphasis, but it is none the less important for that. To clarify and bring that difference into the open was the purpose of the Amendment standing in my name and in those of several of my hon. Friends. We were not surprised that no Tory name was appended; and we were not ashamed. We tabled it because we foresaw that the logical conclusion of the Tory concept of Western Union would be precisely what has since been propounded at great length in two issues and on two full pages of "The Observer"—a grotesque proposal that Great Britain, in common with other European countries, should deplete its productive manpower for the purpose of maintaining a vast permanent garrison Army abroad to man a new Maginot line 800 miles long from Stettin to Trieste. That may be good Fultonism, but it is not Western Union; and it is not even good sense.
There is very little health in all this war talk.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Would my hon. Friend allow me? Is the suggestion that Western Union should be defended or should not be defended?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
This Debate seems to be resolving itself into a Debate between 1140 two or three hon. Members. I think a wider discussion is desirable.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I have no need. The hon. Gentleman is cutting his own throat and that of his own party.
§ Mr. Levy
If he will be patient, we will proceed to cut the noble Lord's in due course. If there must be war talk, if we must talk hysterically, at least let us not think hysterically. If there is to be Russian aggression, it would take place either through a Red Army invasion or through Communist infiltration and coups. Russia may win the battle of Europe—that seems to be the general experts' opinion—but I do not believe that either side could win the war.
But are we really to accept that there is no alternative before us except the awful cycle of rearmament, war, occupation and liberation? Is Russia going to invite the atomic bombing of her cities for so inconclusive a result as this? It is quite obvious that it is a hundred times more likely that, if she does really mean mischief, which I do not necessarily assume, she would choose the second method of infiltration and coups, which is cheaper and more promising. But if we wreck our economies and produce misery and chaos at home, in order to build up giant garrison armies abroad, the Communist path would be made easy. Our best defence, in a word, is prosperity. Of that I am firmly convinced. If there is a threat from Russia, only our own prosperity can answer it. And only our own prosperity can restore our independence of America. I say, therefore, that prosperity must be the unqualified and single-minded objective of Western Union.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
Hon. Members sometimes begin their speeches by excusing themselves for not following the previous speech. I want to say, with all humility, that I do not intend so to excuse myself, because I follow the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down with a great deal of pleasure, and I hope to answer most of the points which he was trying to make. I hope also to be able to show why the Foreign Secretary 1141 showed what was called by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) a lack of a sense of urgency. I shall hope to illustrate the extreme difficulty which the Foreign Secretary is in when it is a question of trying to show such a sense of urgency.
It is not the first time that the world has faced a grave situation, but it is the first time that the United States has been a known and assessable factor ha an hour of potential danger before any disastrous blow has fallen, and it is against that background that I would make my speech. It is also against the background of the fact that, so far as Russia is concerned, the air is a good deal clearer than it was before. No longer, for instance, does one listen to speeches made by some hon. Members opposite—and I remember particularly one by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies)—which pose the question: Who are we arming against? Can it be Germany, now defeated? Or Japan, also defeated? So it went on until, in the end, we were expected to fall into the trap and shout "Russia!" It is very much better to face the fact that division is absolute now between West and East. The Foreign Secretary used the phrase "Russia without Communism." I think that is now an unconstructive approach even in terms of debate. So far as I am concerned, I intend to speak of Russia and Communism in one breath.
Russia, we are told so often, does not want war. Well, following my proposition that we cannot divorce Russia and Communism, I submit that Communism may need a war as its only chance of survival, let alone progress, outside Russia. Politically, it may be that it does not much matter for Communism whether the war comes sooner or later, because, in either case the inevitable social upheaval of war and its economic dislocation are the same. They are familiar to us all. I want to say something about the respective merits, in the eyes of the Russian General Staff, of a short-term and a long-term, forcible break-out by Communism. I think the merits of the short-term attack are obvious, and I will not weary the House with them.
Nobody supposes that it will be possible for the United States and ourselves to put 1142 much more than 10 divisions in the field to withstand the Russian attack westwards in time to have much effect in stopping it. The disadvantage to Russia of the short-term attack would be that, immediately, the whole of the free West, and I mean by that every class throughout the whole of the free West, would be united against Russian aggression. In the long-term view, it might not be so. One might suppose, on the long-term view, that Russia's chances are better. Tactically, she would presumably have atomic equality, and she would also have had the time to weaken the fibre of the populations of the West by steadily and consistently planned campaigns of industrial unrest and sabotage.
Against that, she would, of course, risk the military equality, the strategic equality in every way, of the West, and I include, of course, the far superior productive capacity of the West. So far as manpower is concerned, the manpower directed by Russia amounts to something like 280 million, and the manpower at the disposal of the Brussels Powers, the British Commonwealth, excluding India and Pakistan, and the United States, comes to something like 268 million; so that there is not much in it. But added to that, we should have the vastly greater productivity of the West over the long-term period.
A further point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that under the Marshall Plan Western Europe is intended in four years to get back to and beyond its pre-war production of basic materials. In view of that fact and of what I have just said, I think that those who use such phrases as "There is no danger of war for 10 years" are doing no service to the cause of free Europe. It is perfectly clear that Russia may decide that she must strike before that four year deadline of Marshall Aid has expired, unless in the meantime she can work for the longer term breakup by effective industrial sabotage. One thing, at any rate, seems obvious. The Western world cannot expect to enjoy a rising standard of living as well as to maintain a permanent and a growing state of readiness for war. The psychological effect of that necessity alone is something which must be extremely attractive to Communists, but it is something which we have got to face.
1143 Before I turn from the immediate question of Russia I would say this: I am pessimistic about the only ultimately healthy sanction having any effect in Russia—I mean freedom of expression. I want to give one pathetic but, I think, significant example of what I mean. I refer to what the Russian musician Shostakovich, poor man, is reported to have said when he was attacked for writing bourgeois music or something of the sort. He said, "When our party and the entire people condemn my erroneous formalistic tendency, however difficult it is for me to admit it, I see that the party and the people are right." If the temper of the Russian people can be judged by that of their cultural exponents, I fear the worst. I do not think that Ministers of the Crown, and, in particular, the Secretary of State for War, are helping very much by ascribing the evils of Communist Russia to "a hangover from Tsarism." It is much more honest to admit that the orgy began in 1917; I think, for instance, it would be wise for "Tribune" to cease from expressing pained surprise that Prague in 1948 should have succeeded the supreme example of Petrograd in 1917; the succession is inevitable.
Now I come to the other side, the West, led by the United States of America. In a moment I would like to say a word or two from my own experience of what the average American is thinking. Meanwhile, I would say that I deprecate strongly accusations against the United States of acting from selfish motives. The United States of America is up to the neck in the present world situation, and she has a good deal to lose by her active interference. After all, her great asset is her production potential and if, as she must do, she has to withdraw labour from peace-time production to war-time production and into the Armed Services, she is suffering a direct blow against this asset of her production potential. She is, therefore suffering the prospect of increased inflation with its attendant economic paralysis and social dislocation—again, a process which must be viewed with deep satisfaction by Communism. But she has chosen, for better or for worse, to come into this on those terms.
America is giving much. What does she want in return? I would say in one phrase that she wants a Europe united 1144 not in word but in deed. United Europe can hold out if supported by America's firmness and toughness. And America has shown that she can be firm. She showed it in Iran in 1946; she has shown it over Italy; she has shown it in Germany, and also in Austria. I hope she continues to show it and that we will not lag behind her example. The United States of America has got the initiative. Do not let her or anybody else suppose that these checks to the spread of Communism which she has brought about are anything more than checks. The danger of losing by letting the initiative go once one has it arises just as much in diplomacy as it does in the field.
Britain's part in all this is to lead and encourage Western Europe unity. Here we come up against the sad fact of the present political creed of His Majesty's Government. This is what I mean when I say that the Foreign Secretary cannot show a sense of urgency; he belongs to the Labour Party. Hon. Members opposite have been trying all the time to create some mythical half-way house between the United States of America and Soviet Russia. I do not believe it has ever existed. I suggest to the Labour Party that it must make up its mind where it stands so far as the United States of America is concerned. It has got to decide whether the United States is "Uncle Sam" or "Aunt Sally." It cannot be both. The Lord President of the Council seems to take one view of the United States and their generosity, and the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) seems to take another. The Lord President of the Council is reported to have said at Manchester on 17th April:We should be facing big cuts in rations, a million or two people on the dole, if our generous and far-sighted friends and allies in America had not come to the rescue. Their help is not going to put us on easy street. It is going to save us from economic danger right now. It is going to give us a chance to use our own brains and our own energy to get out of the mess.So much for one view. We then come to a speech made by the hon. Member for Gateshead last Saturday, in which he is reported to have referred in uncomplimentary terms to the "blow hard little pigs at Transport House." In so far as that is following the line of his earlier definition of Socialism as "a great wind sweeping across Europe," it is not inconsistent.
1145 The struggle between the "blow hard little pigs" and the hon. Member reminds me of a book written three or four years ago, called "Animal Farm." I wonder whether hon. Members opposite have read it. Those who have will remember that the story concerns a farm on which all the animals rebelled and turned out the humans. The pigs being cleverest, they arranged, organised and incited the rebellion. They made seven commandments. Commandment No. 7 said, "All animals are equal." Then the two chief pigs—"Napoleon" was one, and the other was "Snowball"—they might have been Konni and Herbert—fell out, and in the end Snowball was kicked out by Napoleon. The next day, up on the wall was another commandment, and this was the only one: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." The day after that—and here I quote—the pigs who were supervising the work on the farm all carried whips in their hands.On the whole, I prefer the little pigs in Transport House to the big boar of Gateshead, although not very much.
The dilemma into which the party opposite have got themselves, and inevitably so, has come to a head by its petty and sectional attitude over the Hague Conference, about which I will simply say this: it ill becomes right hon. and hon. Members opposite, who were the first to complain about any strings to Marshall Aid from the West, now to try to attach the strings of Socialism to the ideal of Western Union in Europe. Either this country is with the United States, or she is against the United States. Socialists must really understand that American contempt for Socialism runs right through the economic scale of American society.
I will give an example of what I mean. During a journey which I undertook to America in the Autumn I went through the Middle West, and there I met a regional official of the Congress of Industrial Organisations. He was in the steel trade. Throughout my stay in America, in which I tried to talk to all sorts of people of all kinds of opinion, nothing impressed me more than when this trade union leader said to me, "Don't get me wrong. I am no goddam Socialist." Yesterday I received a letter from him, in which he described why he felt as he did. He refers to his 1146 distaste for Socialism and other patent ideasbecause they do not try to maintain and extend the good things we have, and their followers are naive enough to believe that there is no value in what others have found it necessary to do in order to progress as far as we have.That is what I mean. If hon. Members opposite get the chance, I hope they will go to the United States and see not only the people in the big cities and talk to them, but the people throughout the country in the small towns and scattered hamlets. They will come back under no illusions of what men and women of all sections are thinking. These people are not "shabby moneylenders"—the phrase used by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Nor are they the "Imperialist war mongers" that the hon. Member for Gateshead would have us believe. They are a great, a kind and generous people who are not prepared to see Europe enslaved by totalitarian despotism.
I would remind the House finally that these Americans are in spirit the same people for whom their greatest poet, Walt Whitman, wrote 100 years ago:Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counselling, cautioning.Liberty, let others despair of you, I never despair of you.Is the house shut? Is the master away?Nevertheless be ready, be not weary of watching;He will soon return, his messengers come anon.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
The House cannot fail to have been impressed by the eloquence, and, if I may say so with respect, the wit of the speech of the hon. Member for Northern Midlothian and Peebles (Lord John Hope). I for one listened to all the propositions which he had to make with the keenest interest. I felt throughout—and I say this with all possible respect to his argument—that he was attempting to pose upon hon. Members on this side a false dilemma. He insisted, I think it is fair to say, that we would have to make our choice and determine where we stood as between the United States of America and Russia.
I trust that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who will 1147 not consent to that as being the contemporary dilemma in foreign politics. I was rather disturbed to hear the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) who appeared to feel that there was that dilemma which had to be faced. He spoke of the necessity of our having an American alignment or a Russian alignment. I am one of those—and I think there are a great many on these benches—who think that that dilemma has not yet been reached. I think that it is still possible for this country to pursue what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has defined as the middle way and thereby to provide a solution for the problems of our time. It is quite clear that overshadowing the House in this Debate is the threat of Communism coming from the U.S.S.R. and spreading its way across Europe. In my submission to the House, the reaction of British public opinion to that threat can be fairly and accurately placed into three distinct categories.
There is, first of all, the tiny, and to my mind negligible, minority who are quite glad—I dare say there are some—to see Communism spread across Europe, and who would do nothing to try and check it or restrain it. There is the second category—and in my view the somewhat larger category—who believe that now the cleavage is a fait accompli and that the prospect of eventual international co-operation may be regarded as extinct; they are determined to resist Communism and, therefore, in the present situation are concentrating upon the preparation of strategic defence against the expansion of Russian power.
§ Mr. Gallacher
As a Socialist or an alleged Socialist, is the hon. Member telling this House that the enemy of the working class is Communism and not capitalism?
§ Mr. Irvine
To my mind, with great respect, that is not relevant to the point I am making. I was attempting to suggest that there were three categories into which public opinion in this country could be placed. One of those will make no resistance to the spread of Communist power. The second category would concentrate at this stage entirely on the development of strategic resistance by force against the expansion of Communism. 1148 Into which of these categories the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is to be found I will leave the House to determine.
What I was seeking to show was that there is a far larger and more substantial body of public opinion in this country which, no matter how far we are driven and no matter how much propaganda is directed towards us, will cling to the view that this potential conflict between the Western Powers and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics can be avoided. That is a statement made without emotionalism. As practical men and women we regard the avoidance of that conflict as the primary obligation of our intervention and our controversy in foreign affairs. Of course, it is significant how increasingly those of us who cling to what the Prime Minister has described as the middle way are being accused of confusion of thought and of not being able to make up our minds. In a significant passage in yesterday's "Times" leader reference was made to the followers of the Prime Minister who wishto stave off somehow a final fatal breach between East and West.That describes my position and the position of others on this side of the House very well, but this leading article went out of its way to describe us as being "sadly confused."
It is remarkable that the point has been reached where those of us who seek still to pursue a middle way are considered ex hypothesi to be "sadly confused," and I want to meet that charge and that allegation, if I can, because I have lived long enough to learn that over-simplification of a problem is often mistaken for clarity of thought. I would be inclined to suggest that those who accuse me, and who accuse others who think like me, of confusion in this matter, are probably over-simplifying the issue. Those of us who take up the position which I take up are as keen as anybody can be to resist the infiltration of Communism into our country and across Europe, but what we recognise is that we have to discover some effective resistance to the new technique of infiltration.
The vital characteristic of that new technique of infiltration is that by definition, it does not provide a cases belli. It does not do anything which the 1149 Western Powers can say provides a reasonable ground for resisting its progress by force.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not an infiltrator. I have as much right in this country as the hon. Member has.
§ Mr. Irvine
It is the main characteristic of the hon. Member for West Fife that he has infiltrated longer than anyone else.
§ Mr. Irvine
He has infiltrated with very little effect. We have nonetheless to face up to the new technique of infiltration which does not give rise to a casus belli and makes any preparation for defensive purposes extremely difficult to establish and to commence. That being so, I regard, and those who think with me regard the military aspects of Western union—the military plans in connection with Western union—as being extraordinarily unrealistic. That may be a view which is not widely shared, but it is my view, because we are dealing with a process of infiltration which works in its earlier stages everywhere by what are, after all, democratic methods. It is a technique of attack which is going to be extraordinarily difficult to coalesce against and to defeat. In the view of some of us it tends to make the ordinary military preparations somewhat unreal and unsatisfactory.
I seek to emphasise, however, the crucial feature of the situation which is, and it cannot be too often repeated, that the only way to resist infiltration by a bad idea is to counter-infiltrate with a better idea. We believe that we have got in our social democracy, operating in a free Parliament, a better idea than the Communist idea. It can be just as contagious as Communism. We can spread it by concentrating upon our policy of social and economic reconstruction, and we can thus create the only effective defence which exists against the Soviet technique of infiltration. I realise that to speak about social and economic reconstruction as a defence against the infiltration of Communism is easier than to carry it out. But I only speak of it because it is my confident belief that it is the only form of effective defence, and I say that the whole of the energy of our country should, therefore, be directed and concentrated upon building up our 1150 economic and social system so as to establish a system of society which countries at present under Soviet influence will recognise as better than their system.
I bear in mind how fallow for this purpose is much of the ground in Europe. I believe there are many countries in Middle and Eastern Europe which are fallow to the influence of an effective and successful social democracy in action. The last part of my Army service was in Greece and I was in Greece during the civil war of 1944–45. I witnessed in the streets of Athens, even after the shooting incident in Constitution Square which marked the commencement of the civil war, even at that late date, the clearest possible signs of the good will which was felt towards the British people by the Left, by the forces of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. in Athens. It is true that a few days afterwards, in one of the great classic tragedies of recent history, we were at war with those people—we were shooting each other up. That is true, but it does not alter the fact that even after the day on which the shooting incident in Constitution Square took place, the E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. processions in Athens demonstrated in the clearest manner—I saw them with my own eyes—their good will towards the British Army and towards the British way of life.
They called themselves Communists but, of course, they were not wedded to the Marxist or any other creed. I believe they called themselves Communist to a large extent because it was the furthest they could get away from the hated Fascist and Nazi names. They could have been won over and assimilated to the methods of social democracy if the situation which then existed had been handled right. Be that as it may, my experience there, and the experience of friends of mine in Italy, people with whom I have discussed the matter—have satisfied me that Eastern and Mid-Eastern Europe are not so obscurantist and darkened by the Communist shadow as some people make out, that there are great populations which are still fundamentally well disposed towards us, and which will respond in a very distinctive and important way to the spectacle of effective social and economic reconstruction in this country.
Having said what I have said about the necessity of concentrating, as the first, second and third lines of defence against Communist infiltration, upon social and economic reconstruction, I think it my 1151 duty to add that it is my view, and the view of many others, I believe, on these benches, that while we do that we must still avoid unnecessary and unfruitful aggravation of the situation in matters of detail. Time and again it strikes many of us that actions are taken and things said which seem to have no other purpose than to be carefully calculated to arouse suspicion among the peoples of Eastern Europe and of the U.S.S.R. and my recommendation would be that while we concentrate upon this work of social and economic reconstruction we should concentrate also, during that period of reconstruction, upon avoiding these unnecessary and fruitless aggravations—and they are very considerable in number, and they occur in many fields.
I would say that the concentration recently upon the military as distinct from the economic aspects of Western Union has amounted to an unnecessary and fruitless aggravation. Since one's observations in this regard are not confined to governmental action I would give, as another example of the kind of thing we want to avoid, the attitude of the British universities towards the jubilee celebrations of the Charles University at Prague. What on earth was gained by the attitude of the British universities in dissociating themselves from those jubilee celebrations? I speak as a devoted son of Oxford; and I still think that it was a wrong and mistaken decision to make. How much better it would have been if the British universities had not drawn in their academic skirts and come away from the situation that was developing in Czechoslovakia. How much better if they had stood their ground. How much better if they had taken the opportunity—they would, I believe, have been free to take it—of proclaiming at those jubilee celebrations the relative advantages and merits of Parliamentary democracy over the Communist system.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the very rector of Charles University who invited the British universities had been deposed for purely political reasons, which had nothing to do with his academic career? Would it not have been a very grave act of condonation, if, in spite of that, the British universities had accepted the invitation of his successors?
§ Mr. Irvine
In answer to that I would only wish to repeat my own view—that 1152 even despite the considerations to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, the opportunity as well as the duty of the British universities was not to disassociate themselves from what after all remains a great historic foundation, but to go over there and to take advantage of the opportunity which existed of preaching and proclaiming the advantages of our democratic and Parliamentary system.
I do not wish to weary the House with this, but I should like to refer to one other example of what I think is the unnecessary aggravation and unnecessary irritation in British policy which afflicts our relations with the U.S.S.R. I think it was on Friday, 16th April, that an hon. and gallant Member on the other side, in a Debate on the Adjournment, made the suggestion, and made it very forcibly indeed, that a joint force of three divisions from the British and American forces in Greece with air support should proceed to the north of Greece in order to seal off the frontier and stop the infiltration of arms. That was a very interesting and important proposal. Some of us on this side, however, regarded it as a quite monstrous proposal, as an inflammatory proposal. We awaited with some confidence—at least, I did—a clear and instant repudiation of any such suggestion from the Minister of State when he rose to reply. After all, this suggestion that a force with air support should intervene to seal off the northern frontier of Greece would be read with interest in the Kremlin by the leaders of the Soviet Union. [Interruption.] It certainly would. If they have unfounded suspicions of our aggressive intentions, how much a proposal of that kind would seem to confirm them and justify them, and how important it would seem in the development of our foreign policy for our Government to make it abundantly clear that we would not think of doing anything of the kind.
§ Mr. Cecil Poole (Lichfield)
Surely, my hon. Friend will agree that the Soviet Union, as partners in the Balkan Boundary Commission themselves, should have seen that the frontier was adequately sealed. If they are not prepared to participate in something to which they are a party, surely they cannot complain that some of us are prepared to honour our obligations as parties in the Commission?
§ Mr. Irvine
My point is that the suggestion was made in this House that an armed force with air support should intervene in northern Greece. I should be astounded if the position had now been reached where there was not a majority of Members to say that that was an absurdly inflammatory and irresponsible proposition. But what I regard as most significant was the answer of the Minister of State, which, so far from repudiating any such proposal, emphasised that, according to his information the force suggested would not be sufficiently strong to carry out the task. Was that not an aggravation? Was that not providing quite gratuitously and to no useful purpose some ground for suspicion as regards our intentions? I submit that, while we concentrate upon the social and economic reconstruction of our country as the first and second and third lines of defence against the infiltration of Communism, we must while doing so, refrain from these constant processes of aggravation, of which I have tried to give examples, which have characterised so many British utterances and so much of British policy.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Is the hon. Member maintaining now that there has been no aggravation whatever on the part of the Soviet Union?
§ Mr. Irvine
I have not said anything of the kind. I have made my argument abundantly clear. I have referred to the importance of clear thinking in this matter. The hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will grant that when I suggest that there may have been unnecessary aggravations from the British side it does not follow that I am suggesting there have been no unnecessary aggravations from the other side. That having been said, it seems to me that the policy of economic reconstruction is the only effective answer to the Communist infiltration, and that we should meanwhile avoid unnecessarily aggravating international relations. I am attempting to put forward a constructive policy for which it is possible to develop general support in public opinion in this country. It may be wrong or it may be right; at least, I claim that there is no confused thinking in it. It is the imputation of confusion of thought amongst those of us who still attempt to pursue the middle way in foreign policy that I, for one, most resent.
1154 Nothing is gained for clarity of thought or for any other purpose by talk about "fellow-travellers" and "cryptos." That is the supreme manifestation of confusion of thought. Our aim on this side, with the exception of the hon. Member for West Fife and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), and it may be another one or so—our aim on this side is to restrict, by the most effective means we can discover, the infiltration and further expansion of Communism and the Communist power; but we desire, more than words can say, successfully to resist that movement by methods short of war if that can possibly be done. If the Labour Party will persist and continue in its attempt to pursue the middle way in this matter, all may yet be well. We may in that way check the infiltration of Communism, preserve the peace, and maintain and safeguard as best we can the values of our Western civilisation and culture.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am glad I am able to follow the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) for the reason that I disagree very profoundly with most of what he said; and in the course of my remarks I shall of necessity follow him very closely. In his speech he made it clear that it was his belief that the best way to meet the threat of Communist ideas was to meet them with even better ideas. I am one who stands here and unrepentently maintains that when ideas are backed by large and mobilised forces, ideas alone have been shown to us, in two expensive wars, to be a very poor substitute for adequate military preparation. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) also touched on this subject. He said that the best way to meet this threat was by economic and financial recovery. Suppose Russia did start to move, I should not wish to be there between the two hon. Gentlemen holding the bridge against the Russians, one shouting ideas at them and the other throwing sterling at them. I do not think that is any answer to that kind of threat.
§ Brigadier Head
I am not suggesting that we should have people clutching hands all the way from Stettin to Trieste. I shall touch on that in my speech and take a good deal of time over it. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to open his mind on this matter because it is possible that he is wrong, and if he reads up the history before the last two wars that may shake him slightly. I ask him however to give serious consideration to this question.
The response which there has been since recent events in Czechoslovakia must have been to almost everyone in this House very gratifying because the speeding-up of Marshall aid, the signing of the Brussels Treaty, the setting up of the Western Union and the appointment of it's military Committee are signs that a realistic approach to a very dangerous situation is beginning; but however well one may start, it is important to know what direction we are likely to follow in the future. A good start does not necessarily mean a good finish, especially where democracies are concerned in peacetime. I have a fear lest after this good start we may fall back into what has become a chronic habit of democracies in peacetime, namely, erecting a kind of cardboard structure of alliances, unions and pacts together with a tough foreign policy but with nothing to support it—without that adequate military preparedness which gives it reality. That kind of structure without adequate military preparedness is not only useless but extremely dangerous.
Hon. Members may say that we have got adequate military preparations and that we must not have a rearmament race. They may say the Western powers and America have aeroplanes, atomic bombs and many bases. I would say to that: Are we sure that we know what we do want? What is the standard of adequate military preparation today? That can only be arrived at if we analyse our foreign policy and find it's ultimate aim. The main object of our foreign policy today is, as I see it, to preserve a way of life; that, independent of political colour within the structure, we shall preserve a free and democratic civilization. If that is what we want to preserve we must think very carefully before we put ourselves in a position whereby, if the ultimate sanction arises, namely war, we 1156 may find at the end of it all that we have lost the very thing for which we were fighting. There is nothing more useless than to fight a war and at the end to find that the thing for which you fought has disappeared.
In order to implement our foreign policy, surely we have to ensure in peace that, so far as possible the things we are fighting for will still exist at the end of war if it comes. If we had blundered into war over the Berlin squabble the other day I do not think any hon. Member would deny that Western Europe would have been overrun; nor could anyone deny that it would probably have been a long war in order to recapture Western Europe with all the inevitable damage done, all the fierce reprisals of Communist occupation, and all the appalling loss that would have happened to our own islands. At the end of that war, America might still be independent, but I believe the chaos in Europe would eventually drag down America.
It seems to me that the preservation of the integrity of Western Europe is really the ultimate and primary aim of our foreign policy, and therefore that is the standard against which we have to measure adequate military preparation. If hon. Members agree with me so far, I would say this: Let no hon. Member be convinced that today the safety and integrity of Western Europe are being guaranteed by anything other than the possession of the atomic bomb. That is at present the guarantee of the integrity of Western Europe. Hon. Members may say that we have a big lead in the inventive sphere and that it will last. Will they consider a hypothetical position? In 10 years' time the gap in our lead with the atomic bomb will probably be very much diminished and Russian inventiveness and production will have lessened that gap in our superiority and American superiority. They may have fewer and less good bombs but they will have some. Imagine that in 10 years we blunder into war and that the Russian General Staff go to those in the Kremlin and say, "We are behind in atomic warfare and therefore we advise you not to initiate an atomic war."
Let hon. Members imagine that as Prime Minister of this country they are 1157 discussing this matter with the Americans. The Americans say, "We think that we ought to initiate atomic war." Are they going to agree to initiate this form of war when these small islands, which are so vulnerable, with their very great density of population and concentrated centres of production would lie open to this form of attack? Let them bear in mind that Russian bombers will probably be based on Prague and that the distance from this country to Prague is roughly equivalent to the length of these islands. I suggest that it is more than possible that the answer may be "No" and, therefore, I would say to hon. Members that if we rely for continuing safety and the protection of Western Europe upon the atomic bomb we are relying on something which, like gas in the last war, may never be used. That is I think pertinent to my remarks regarding the standard by which we should judge an adequate state of military preparedness.
I am assuming that some hon. Members have followed what I have said whether they agree with it or not. Assuming then that our aim is indeed the preservation of the integrity of Western Europe. How can that be done? It is my absolute belief—and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough has gone again—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, he is here."] I apologise, it is difficult to follow the hon. Member. I hope he finds it easier to follow me.
It seems to me that if what I have said is accepted so far, we are forced to the conclusion that the only way to guarantee the integrity of Western Europe, which I believe to be the primary aim of our foreign policy, is that gradually, hand in hand with the economic recovery of Western Europe, we must fill the power vacuum that now exists in that area. I believe that in time that will be essential and that gradually it must be achieved. I believe that unless that is achieved we shall eventually get into trouble. Supposing that it were achieved, let us consider the change it would make in the situation, past, present and future. Let us consider, for instance, the pressure which has recently been exerted by Russia. Let us, for instance, take the case of Czechoslovakia. Hon. Members will say that it was done by infiltration and the political domination of a minority. I say that the power and effectiveness of 1158 that technique is far greater when backed by 100 Russian divisions on the Eastern frontier and by nothing on the West.
Supposing that when President Benes was asked to accept the proposals of the Communists there had been adequate military preparedness in Europe, I maintain that the eventual answer would have probably been different. I would ask hon. Members also to consider the difference which would be made on the morale of those who support the free way of life and who have the courage, either in private or in public, to get up and state their antagonism to the Communist way of life. Those who do so in Central Europe today and who are near to its Eastern frontier are indeed brave men. It might so easily happen that Russia would push the button and there would be little or no prospect of anyone preventing their particular country from being overrun. Surely, if they knew that the Western democracies were taking realistic steps to ensure that the remainder of Europe could not be overrun then both their morale and the quality of their resistance would be immensely improved.
Lastly, I would ask hon. Members to consider the effect of adequate military preparedness on the maintenance of peace. We all want peace, and so indeed does Russia as well; but Russia wants world Communism and it is my belief that in attaining that aim Russia is less intent on the maintenance of peace than are the Western democracies. If that is so then there is in effect only one possibility which Russia must avoid like the plague and that is the possibility of a quick defeat. An inconclusive, long drawn-out war would, it seems to me, have the general result of favouring the spread of world Communism. The real danger to Russia is a knock-out blow in a short war. There is nothing that can make that more likely than the certainty that eventually we can hold Central and Western Europe.
Hon. Members will say that we have to concentrate on economic recovery. That is the first priority. I agree, but if we succeed in that and neglect Defence we shall have built in vain. I maintain that if Western Europe puts its trust in alliances and tough foreign policy unsupported by adequate force then either Western Europe will gradually be nibbled away or we shall eventually be forced 1159 to fight and initiate a war in the process of which we will inevitably lose the very principle for which we were fighting. Hon. Members will say: "How can this be done?" I would suggest that the start is already there in the machinery that has been set up within the Western Union. But I do not believe that adequate preparedness can be achieved without American aid, and I am equally certain that no American aid will be forthcoming unless the Western Union face up to these requirements realistically and prove themselves willing to make a genuine contribution in achieving that end.
I believe that the initiative in this respect will have to come from this country. We are suspect in this matter and for many reasons the initiative must come from us, and the Minister of Defence and the Foreign Secretary have a great responsibility on their shoulders. Hon. Members opposite must be aware that the Cabinet is bound to be sensitive to their opinions and the Minister of Defence recently demonstrated that in no uncertain manner. Unless hon. Members agree with the Government on the importance of initiating a gradually increased preparedness we shall be starting a situation which may well eventually bring a third world war and, in my opinion, be the downfall of civilisation.
I know all the arguments regarding the importance of economic recovery which are so ably and freely employed by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I know that there is not a single vote in advocating this policy, but I ask hon. Members to consider it closely. If they do not do so, we shall in all probability have a cardboard front of alliances, unions and a tough foreign policy. The right hon. Gentleman is very good at being tough, but I am sure that no one would want him to have to repeat the humiliating rôle of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) of protesting against continued aggression by brandishing a revolver in the face of the aggressor—a revolver which everybody knew contained a rather damp blank cartridge.
I have spoken for quite long enough, and I will not say anything about the Middle East. I believe that a great burden of responsibility rests on the Govern- 1160 ment and on hon. Members opposite in this matter. I believe seriously, even desperately, that this is the best way—and, indeed, possibly the only way of preserving peace. I entreat hon. Members opposite, however firm and bigoted in their views, to really consider this matter. If we plan and give the lead I believe that America will come in. About America I will say only this. Events and their own native genius have put upon them the leadership of the free world. With that task goes the fact that they are the major partner as custodians of liberty and freedom in the world. They cannot fulfil that second rôle merely by material and money; it means taking the hard way and making sacrifices, either by preparing men or even sending men. I would say to America: "In the long run all your E.R.P. and financial aid may go unless this sacrifice is made." So far, in peace every democracy has failed to make it. If America can rise to the occasion now they will be defying precedent, providing a safeguard for freedom, and, in my opinion, they will probably preserve the peace of the world.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
It is very depressing that at this stage in human history we should be discussing in this House, in a realistic manner, the possibility of war. I listened to the hon. Member for the Edge Hill Division of Liverpool (Mr. Irvine), and I thought that, not only was he confused, but he was guilty of the very thing against which he warned others—over-simplification. The essence of the struggle that is going on today is that in 1945, Britain and the democratic allies tried to establish peace and to prevent any form of aggression, but Russia has continued that aggression and continued her war in a new form ever since. Hon. Members speak of democracy and of establishing some form of prosperity in this country and throughout the world, and, I agree, that is essential. But I want not only to hear this talk of establishing democracy, but to be convinced that those who speak of democracy are democrats in their own minds, in their own actions, and in their own propaganda in this country.
Something else is lacking in this struggle today. We talk of establishing prosperity and maintaining democracy, but we see that aggression going on from external and internal sources. We must realistically face 1161 up to these alternatives: either we allow the world to be blackmailed into complete submission, or the world will defend itself, in the last analysis, against that totalitarian menace. I ask hon. Members to make up their minds where they stand in this, because if democracy is to be maintained, and if prosperity is to be established, there must be not only the atmosphere in which to do it, but a continuation of peaceful means to enable the world to settle its problems, and to get rid of the nightmare of aggression that has gone on since 1945.
I am amazed that the people who in 1939 said to me, "No matter what our point of view, we are all in this struggle against Hitler and his totalitarian blackmail," today say, "We are not in this struggle together. If there is a struggle"—as they admit—"then we must cease acting as a united force, and must act as parties and countries against this menace." Where will that take us? People assert that there must be some form of Western Union, and that the democratic Powers must come together. Come together for what purpose? For the purpose of defending democracy? Are they so simple? Or are they cunning enough to try to make the world believe that democracy can be defended by some form of passive resistance, about which they used to speak in the old days—when I was always told by others that aggression had to be met with force?
If this threat of aggression is met by saying, "Well, America is a financial, capitalist Power; France is between the two extremes; Italy is a Catholic, clerical country," and if similar assertions are made about all the Western Powers, it must be concluded that we cannot establish any form of co-operation, because we will end by saying, "They do not all see eye to eye, and do not act as we do." If those within the Labour Movement are really internationalists and realists they must accept the inevitable development inside each country. As man's mind changes and makes progress, we cannot make totalitarian demands and say that America must become Socialistic before we can co-operate with her. The question is: Have we something in common worth defending? If not, then let us be blackmailed into complete surrender and allow the Stalinists to have their way.
1162 I hate to hear the word "Communism"; there is no such thing as Communism in Russia, or in any of her satellite countries. If Russia's totalitarian Nazi leaders are prepared to extend their field of operations throughout the world, if they are prepared to use their internal quislings in each country for coups, and if hon. Members are prepared to allow that to go on, to wink an eye at it and have no policy and no plan to counter it, and have no force with which to meet it, then I say that we are inviting complete democratic disaster to the Western world, and no form of co-operation or passive resistance will be of any consequence.
Who in the Socialist Movement ever dreamed that we should ever talk of the possibility of war between an alleged Communist country and a country that was brutally feeling its way towards the light, and throwing up some form of progressive Socialist theories in this country? Who in the Socialist movement ever dreamed that we should be considering whether or not we could take our stand with Russia or with the Western world—even though only on the march towards Socialism? I have made my choice. Other hon. Members must speak for themselves. My choice is that I value what the Western Powers have, and, therefore, I am prepared realistically to face up to the results of that approach. The Western Powers must be prepared to defend themselves against this aggression. Remember, Hitler never had the quisling army that Joe Stalin has in every country in the world; he never had the power in the industrial workshops that the Russians have; he never had the slavish obedience from industrial workers that we find in this country; he never had a movement that was completely up to the neck in loyalty and allegiance to some foreign Power which we find at present in this country and throughout the world.
If hon. Members value democratic force and democratic power let them begin to talk as democrats. Do not let us see hon. Members appealing to the masses of the people at election time as democrats, coming to the House through the democratic machine, and afterwards telling the people that they must side with those who are prepared to use the maximum amount of brutal force against people who disagree with them in every country. Those 1163 two approaches cannot be held simultaneously, because democracy can be destroyed, not only by Russia and its aggression but by alleged democrats from within.
Today, at this vital time in human history, when democracy is either being accepted or destroyed, we see a large number of people becoming the spokesmen of totalitarian aggression in this country, and seeking to destroy the internal democratic power that we have here. We must adopt a more tolerant attitude if we are to unite to defend ourselves and to prepare a force. I believe Western Union to be essential, and that the various Powers must come together, because united they can make a defence but individually they will be wiped out by the plans of internal and external aggression which are going on. If we are to form that force we cannot afford to say, "We cannot co-operate with America because she is a capitalist Power; we cannot co-operate with France or Italy."
Last October, I spent five weeks in Spain, where I, as opposed to other hon. Members who have been there, found tremendous antagonism to General Franco from everybody I met—even newspaper proprietors. Let me first clear the air lest any other suggestion be made regarding the form of my visit. When I went I notified the Spanish Ambassador that I was going. I said that I was opposed to their regime; and I did not know whether they would allow me in or not. When they suggested that I should go under their aegis I said, "You've got me all wrong. I am going at my own expense, and will be responsible for my visit. I intend to place myself in the hands of the British authorities in Barcelona and in Madrid, and I am not being toured round by internal associations of Franco."
I made contacts in Spain with over 70 people, sometimes for 10 or 11 hours a day. I met representatives of every party in Spain. I even went to the Carcel Modela prison in Barcelona, where they tried to pull a fast one over me. They showed me 700 prisoners of the petty criminal type, but kept locked away 1,500 prisoners of the political type. When I asked to see the latter I was repeatedly told by the Civil Governor of Barcelona, the Governor of the prison and the medical men, "Oh, these are dangerous 1164 people. They use bombs and machine guns. It would not be safe." I pointed out that I assumed they had no machine guns then, while they were in prison; but I was told that I could not see them. Eventually, in a statement I made at the British Consulate, I had to reveal that I had not been allowed to see any political prisoners. The point of that in relation to foreign affairs is that in Spain I discovered a tremendous change in feeling. The person who is keeping General Franco in power is Joe Stalin: fear of Russia and of Communism provides the necessary defence for General Franco in Spain. Nobody wanted him but people asked who would follow if he were to be removed.
In moving around with all these people I discovered men who had gone through the "machine." I say this remembering statements which I have seen from other hon. Members. I had the most careful check and investigation and the best contacts it was possible to have, including some with people who had been in Barcelona prison in 1937, when I was in Spain. Many of them had been through the hands of the Franco secret police and I was staggered at the brutality that had been imposed upon many of these people. Whilst there, I saw the French Consul and also the American Consul. On one occasion I saw a suit of clothes which was soaked in blood from the pounding which had been given to its owner in Franco's prison. The man who is in charge of the secret police in Barcelona is known as "the friend of everybody." He meets the man who is taken into prison after, perhaps, distributing leaflets. Mr. Pola tells the man to take a seat and have a cigarette and that he knows all about him. He would say, "We know your whole history; you are a decent fellow, your family are quite decent people, but I just want to check up. You won't be able to get out tonight. Arrangements have to be made and you can get out tomorrow. Just sit down and make yourself comfortable. Here are two sheets of paper. Write down what you know of this episode and I will be back in an hour."
In an hour Pola comes back and the man says that he knows nothing of the incident. Pola then says, "I am sorry you cannot be more helpful than that. You see, it is important. I have asked 1165 our people not to interfere or touch you, but do try to help us—please give us some information." The man replies that he cannot because he knows nothing of the incident. He is then taken downstairs, is put in a chair after being stripped, and then begins the tremendous process of brutality. A clamp is placed into his kidneys; it is tightened gradually and he screams. A steel plate is put round his chest and back and is electrified; it is pushed from side to side. He is beaten across the face and head; rifles are sometimes dropped on his feet and his toes are broken. The most excruciating brutality, details of which I could not disclose in public, is continued in the Franco prisons and in Barcelona. They are known to the British authorities, with whom I have consulted. I have consulted also the Monarchists, the Social Democrats, the Catalan Nationalists, the Basque Nationalists and every form of political thought in that country; they are all aware that these terrible things are occurring.
There is the feeling in Spain that Communism—Russian totalitarian Communism—is not to be thought of. Out of over 70 people I met, nobody would co-operate with the Communist Party. They remember that when the Russians went out of Spain, as did the Communist Party, at the end of the Civil War, the streets were literally packed with their dead political opponents whom they had assassinated before clearing out on the orders of Joseph Stalin, when he made his deal with Mussolini and Hitler and ended the Spanish Civil War in order to clear the way in the Mediterranean. Spanish people ask how they can get rid of General Franco. They have paid and are paying a great price during the period that Franco has been in office. I have come to this conclusion: a more realistic approach should have been made to the Spanish question instead of dealing with refugees who ran away from Spain There should have been an attempt to tell the people of Spain that we were prepared to see that they got raw materials, the necessary machinery and so forth to assist them in their industrial and commercial life; that we would even provide a seat on U.N.O. and give them Marshall aid; and we should have made a public proclamation to Spain that all this help would be applied to them on condition that they got rid of Franco.
1166 I believe that there are forces in Spain amongst the commercial, and even the military, people who would have been interested in such a proposal in order to bring prosperity to their country. They would have done something on their own behalf if they had been offered that generous treatment as an incentive to get rid of this monster who has held power there. There are seven different forces in Spain of armed men marching through the streets. Even the boys in the workshops have to attend the Falange Rally. I have seen the process through which they have gone. They are fined for not being present at these evening rallies; the employer has to pay the money through the bank to the Falange headquarters because of the boys' non-attendance. It is all similar to the Nazi youth process.
We cannot sit down and allow the condition of the world to worsen. We must be prepared to do something of a realistic character. There are these two approaches: either we must be prepared to allow ourselves to be blackmailed into surrender or we must be prepared to offset that force with some bigger force. The case for democracy, if put over, is well worth while. To establish prosperity is an essential part of the plan to bring about peace and progress in Europe.
I must refer to all the talk we have heard about American aid, with its strings and so forth, and to all the attacks which are made upon America, even by people in the Socialist movement. One would think that every American inside the U.S.A. was an arch-imperialist or an arch-conspirator and that no co-operation could take place with them. Let us take all the aid we can; let the world get all the aid it can; let us get gradually on to our feet. I admit that we cannot maintain independence, but we cannot get prosperity unless those who gave the Government power also give them economic power in the factories, the workshops and the mines. It is essential that the worker, who hopes to get something out of the pool which he creates, should create a bigger pool so that he can get more out of it. We must get rid of this narrow attitude against America and France and Italy and remember that we are all in this struggle. There is no voice in any of the countries where Russia holds power; freedom has been extinguished. As one hon. Member said, if we hope to keep our friends or 1167 our support, we should not apply too great a test to their patience, their endurance and their courage. Unless they see that we will back up democracy in Central Europe and the Continent and throughout the world with some greater force than is used against us, we might as well admit that we have come to the end of our tether.
There has been a great deal of talk about the atomic bomb. If Russia had the atomic bomb she would use it; she would blackmail the world into submission by fear of that bomb. I believe, as one speaker has said, that the atomic bomb is the power that is today keeping Russia from sweeping right through Europe and seizing, externally and internally, power for her quislings and placing under heel every person who disagrees with them. I have made my choice, and it is this. With the changed attitude in this country, with a Labour Government struggling towards the realisation of that plan, we should assist them in creating that force, because only by the use of that supreme force can we say to Russia that we are determined that if they go on with their aggression they will have a united democratic world in opposition to them.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) supporting my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) in asking for some action to be taken in regard to Spain. Many of us have felt over the last two or three years that the moment was near when we should find ourselves in a position when such an approach would be made. I remember that in 1943 the Spanish leaders in North Africa, who were all Left wing, were unanimous about one thing; that whatever else happened, there should not be another civil war. They believed that, once external assistance to Franco was got rid of, the system would adjust itself, and there would be a return to a democratic form of Government. I believe that the greatest single factor keeping Franco in the saddle today is fear of Communism and the actions being taken by Communists elsewhere. If that fear were 1168 removed, there would be a return, probably sooner than later, to a democratic way of life in Spain. In the meantime, I hope that the Government will make every effort to get closer to the Spanish—that does not mean to Franco—on such matters as supplies, because there are considerable supplies in Spain and in her territories overseas of which we and Western Europe could make very good use.
Much has been said about Western Europe and Russia in this Debate. I wish to confine my remarks to the Mediterranean, particularly in regard to a settlement with Italy. The overwhelming majority of us on both sides of the House have welcomed the demonstration by Italy in the past two or three weeks which has resulted in a considerable democratic majority being returned at the elections. Many of us would like to pay a tribute to the Italian Democratic leaders, and in particular to Count Sforza. It seems a long time ago since he so gallantly landed, across the beaches at Salerno, in support of the Allies in September, 1943. The great majority of us are delighted that there should have been this swing back to a more democratic form of government in Italy. As a token of that change which has taken place, I believe that we in Britain should make some gesture by taking some positive action to help the Italians on their forward path. The United States have made a tremendous gesture and more by E.R.P.
We for our part have it in our hands to take action to help over the fundamental problem of Italy, the question of overpopulation. It is not for me to argue why the United States put a quota on Italian immigration in 1920. Something like one million Italians had migrated in 1913, and that figure was cut down to 5,000 a year. I think it was Mussolini, on opening the Pontine Marshes scheme, who declared that the introduction of electric light leads to a fall in the birth rate. But, whatever may have been his views on the subject, he did not introduce electricity fast enough to stop the Italian population from increasing at a high rate. In certain sub-tropical territories in the Commonwealth and Empire, where the Anglo-Saxon population finds it difficult to settle, there could be a considerable outlet for Italian migration. We should make a gesture of that type in order to relieve 1169 this internal pressure in Italy. We must, of course, make it clear that we could not allow them to settle under their own flag, but that they must learn English and join in the life of the community as a whole. I believe that there are great opportunities for a considerable number of skilled and hard working Italians in these territories, among others in Southern Africa.
That brings me to the decision which must be taken fairly soon in regard to the future of the Italian colonies. Among complex problems in the Eastern Mediterranean and in North-East Africa, we shall have to think very hard about this decision. I know that the Government are overwhelmed with the problem of Palestine, but, setting that problem aside, it is essential that we should be farsighted over this question of the future of the Italian colonies. There is now a public opinion throughout the Middle East which will not allow the return to the old "colonialism." A new approach is expected from us in the final decision on the Italian colonies. The economic reasons for the return of the Italian colonies to Italy are generally overstressed in this country. In 1934, at the time when Italy started preparations for her invasion of Abyssinia, there were only 54 settlers in Eritrea, and not many more in Somaliland. The colonies in North-East Africa have never been an ecomonic outlet for this pressure of population. A time will come when there will be a cry from Italy that they should be allowed, for economic reasons, the return of their colonies. When that time comes, the Government must have investigated the matter far more carefully than has hitherto been the case, about the real possibilities for an outlet in this direction for the Italians.
There is a new political spirit abroad in the Middle East. Many of us who served in that part of the world have tried to point this out in this House and elsewhere. As the Foreign Secretary has admitted, one of the things about which the Government have been misled in the past was the strength of Arab reaction to putting an over-supply of Zionists into Palestine. I hope that the Government will not make the same mistake about these former Italian colonies, because there is likely to be a similar reaction if it is suggested that the Italians should return in political domination over their former colonies. We 1170 have to make up our minds what we are aiming at in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean. Obviously, Gibraltar and Malta will remain British so long as there is any threat to peace in the world.
We must also make up our minds that it is essential, after our withdrawal from Palestine, to find another base in the Eastern Mediterranean. I hope the Government will make it quite clear that we must remain, for as far as we can look ahead, in Libya, and that we will honour our pledge to the Senussi and work out an agreement or treaty in that territory to our mutual benefit. I am unashamed that the British remained in this part of the world in the 1930's, to protect Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. I believe that these people would have suffered something far worse had there been no British occupation. We hear rumours which are not entirely encouraging about the Four Power Commission's investigations. I hope that the Under-Secretary will make it quite clear that we shall remain for the present in Libya.
So far as the other Italian territories are concerned, I believe that there is a chance to reorganise Eritrea and Somaliland along ethnological lines rather than the lines of the 19th century power politics. I maintain that we should divide Eritrea, giving part to the Sudan and part to Ethiopia—provided that Ethiopia agrees to her part of Somaliland being joined to Italian and British Somaliland, to form a united Somalia. Such a territory could remain under British overall administration or be put under the trusteeship of the Western Union. Such re-arrangement would do the greatest good and be most generally welcomed, I believe. I would like to pay a tribute, if it is within my power to do so, to the British military government which has very adequately carried on the administration through the last seven very difficult years. They have never had an opportunity of offering good terms of service to those individuals who have joined since those early days in March, 1941, when the first occupied enemy territory administration officers moved into Eritrea and into Libya. Ever since those days they have done a first-class job of administration.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will take this opportunity of making clear what our policy is to be, because I believe 1171 that there is much more attention being paid, in the Arab-Muslim-African world, to the medium and long-run aspects of these problems than possibly many of us are aware. I have tried to show how there is is fact a far better economic solution to the Italian problem than that of Italy going back to reoccupy those deserts which Mussolini once said he was tired of collecting. I ask the Under-Secretary to give us some information of the policy of this Government, and thereby set at rest the minds of not only a considerable number of people in this country but of a very large number of good friends of this country in the Middle East and North-East Africa.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It has been my privilege since I first came to this House as a Member in 1935 to listen to quite a few Foreign Secretaries making speeches on foreign affairs. Almost invariably they have used a large canvas, as indeed they must do, to paint their pictures. Today the Foreign Secretary has followed precedent. There have, of course, been occasions when particular incidents have been debated on days when foreign affairs have been discussed, as, for example, at the time of Munich, etc. Today the Foreign Secretary has, I imagine, like most of his predecessors, to keep an eye on all parts of the world. I do not think that one can say today that the highlights are concentrated in any one part of the world. It is true that as one surveys the canvas one can see definite features emerging, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has today touched upon some of them.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) was perhaps a little unfair to my right hon. Friend when he accused him this afternoon of a lack of a sense of urgency in his direction of foreign affairs. Having had some considerable experience behind the scenes, which the right hon. Gentleman admitted that he had not—he told us that he got most of his information from the newspapers—I am bound to say that ever since my right hon. Friend took office he has been kept pretty busy not only surveying the scene but attempting to evolve some policy which he hoped would be a United Nations policy. I am also bound to say that my right hon. Friend has often been 1172 thwarted in his efforts to achieve what one might call a world-wide policy. Being a man of great common sense he realised long ago—I do not think any of us would blame him for the patience he has so far maintained—that owing to the use of the veto and certain other factors of that nature, the time has come when if he cannot get the whole loaf of bread, he has to get the biggest portion he can.
What has my right hon. Friend to achieve? He has to achieve peace, because without that this country cannot prosper. The standard of living which has been built up in this country over a large number of years cannot be maintained unless we can have peace and reconstruction and rehabilitation in the world. I wish to devote the largest portion of my remarks to what I would call one of those highlight features which stand out on the canvas painted for us today by the Foreign Secretary. Whether we like it or not—and history goes to show that this is true—Europe, that war-scarred Continent, is once again, as it always really was, the focal point of all the trouble that seems to be going on, and there is a good deal at the present time.
It is a truism, but it must be said that unless Germany is reconstructed for peace and prosperity our own nation and all those other nations in the Western Union cannot really get going. I understand that the House will be concentrating tomorrow on one particular aspect of European policy, namely Western Union. Therefore, I do not want to talk on that tonight, although one or two hon. Members who have preceeded me concentrated their remarks on that subject. I would only say that all that will be said tomorrow will be said in vain unless those remarks include Germany as well as some of the more Western nations of Europe. Over 20 million inhabitants—hard-working inhabitants if they are given the chance—reside in the British zone. I forget how many there are in the American and French zones but it is a considerable number. The population of the three zones is almost equivalent in total to the population of these islands.
Germany has, in the past, contributed considerably to the civilisation of the world, although some of their actions and thought in the past few years have run counter to all the invention and thought which emanated from Germany in the century or two which preceeded this war.
1173 The factor which remains constant is that there are 40 million people in the Western zones of Germany with whom we have to do something. We cannot merely write them off or treat them as a nation of lepers, however bad some of their actions and thoughts may have been in the past. Indeed, it is inherent in the United Nations Charter that defeated nations like Germany should be given an opportunity, once they have shown their adhesion to democracy, to play their part in what we hope will be a united world.
I am not going to say that Germany has gone all the distance that we would like towards democracy, but I know one thing, and I speak from considerable experience over a number of years, with knowledge of the ordinary German man and woman. Like the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) who went to Spain and talked to all classes of people, I have, on a considerable number of occasions been to Germany. In the, main, there is very little difference between the ordinary Germans and us. One thing they have in common with us is that they are great fighters, but not always for the right cause. When we are considering questions of the defence of Europe against possible aggression—we have no need to name or to specify from whom—we are bound to take into account not only the five nations of Benelux but the Power that is there in Central Europe for good or for ill.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am not advocating rearmament of any country, not even of my own country. I am saying that, so far as measures for collective security are taken, they have to include Germany, whether we like it or not. They are a nation in Central Europe which can just as easily go East as West. Let the House not forget the days of Rapallo in 1922, when it was the Russian nation who helped to re-arm the German general staff. So long as Germany shows signs of adhering to Western ideas of democracy and freedom, she is entitled to take her place with all the other nations who approve of those admirable principles. When the hon. Member for Cheltenham poses that question he over-simplifies the matter. In too many of the things we say, we reduce problems to their lowest common 1174 denominator. Germany could not be rearmed even by Russia except in a considerable space of time. The physical conditions prevailing in Germany today do not permit it. I do not want to rearm the Germans, unless it be a re-armament of the mind in respect to moral factors. That is the burthen of my argument this afternoon.
I would like to pay a tribute to the Foreign Secretary. I think that his intentions have been entirely honest. An hon. Friend of mine, I think it was the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine), talked about aggravation; I was struck with the aggravation that my right hon. Friend has had to contend with, both from the East and from the West. I wonder whether it is aggravation or not when British sailors are sunk by a mine in the Adriatic? Or when, suddenly, the military trains on which our population in Berlin depend for their existence are suddenly stopped? Is that aggravation? I say that aggravation has not been on our side. Our Foreign Secretary has perhaps for too long, been too patient. I would urge him to try to continue in that vein, but he would be very foolish and we would be very unrealistic, if we thought that that was the only answer to the aggravation that we have had from a certain country.
I would mention in my general remarks one matter about Trieste. I have visited that area. Only those who see these places on the ground can form an accurate estimate of the situation. During the war, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) will know, it was necessary for generals not only to sit behind the lines at their headquarters and get an appreciation of the position from some of their staff officers, but for the general himself to go to where the battle was taking place, or was likely to take place, and to be on the actual scene of action. I will say in relation to Trieste and the surrounding country that I have never seen a more fantastic line of demarcation of frontiers than I saw between Italy and Yugoslavia, particularly the so-called free territory surrounding Trieste and the hinterland behind.
I can well understand what happened the other day when two British officers were behind the Yugoslav lines. It is quite an easy thing to occur. All that the line consists of, in this wild country, is just 1175 a few pegs placed in the ground to indicate that that is a frontier. Let any hon. Member who has not had the opportunity of going to the spot and seeing for himself, read the report of the commission on which the boundary was set up. They would agree that the situation is fantastic. In the circumstances, His Majesty's Government have done quite right to say that the city of Trieste and its splendid port, which has no life whatever unless it can get trade from the hinterland, should go back to Italy. In Italian hands there is a greater chance of prosperity for it than is ever likely to arise if it is handed over to Yugoslavia.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the 20 years between the wars Trieste languished economically precisely because it was cut off from its hinterland, when it was part of Italy?
§ Mr. Bellenger
That may very well be, but I am advocating that it should go back to Italy because that is its only chance of prosperity, things being what they are. We must not talk in a vacuum. We must take facts as they are presented to us. We know what the facts are in that area.
I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend say that there must be co-operation among the Western Powers. I regret, and I am sure the House regrets, that that co-operation must take place at the moment on so limited a scale. It would have been preferable to extend it over a wider area, if possible, but my right hon. Friend is right to make a start somewhere. Even Rome, when it was built, had to start from some foundation. My right hon. Friend and His Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on having achieved such success on that limited scale.
On one point I was not clear, and perhaps the House was not clear, when my right hon. Friend was speaking of the Western zone being part of the European Recovery Programme. Perhaps the Under-Secretary might be able to clear up this point. The Foreign Secretary spoke of Western Germany taking its part with the other nations—the 16 nations, I presume—in the E.R.P. Do I understand that the representatives of the Western zones will be in the nature of a trinity, namely, representatives of Ger- 1176 man civilian authority or of the British, American and French Control Commissions? Will there be three separate entities, as it were, in the collaboration with the 16 nations in trying to evolve some programme for Marshall aid, as applied to Germany? If that is so, it will not lead to the unity which must be achieved in Germany, either in whole or in part, if we are to make the most of the German economy.
Again, my right hon. Friend spoke ct the conversations dealing with the question of the future of Germany. Are they only on a three-Power basis, America, Britain and France, or do they include also the smaller nations of the West who also have a vital interest in the settlement, whatever it may be, that is reached with Germany? I should have liked to take part in a Debate later on, on Germany alone. There are many problems of administration which have to be settled before Germany can be reconstructed to the advantage not only of herself but of the Western Powers.
That is why I posed my question to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House today as to whether representation has been made to him, through the usual channels, for a special Debate on Germany. He replied that no representations had been made. I understand from the Leader of the House that there will be no Government time available in which to discuss it. I would, therefore, throw out this suggestion to the Opposition, that they might be able to use one of their Supply days for such a Debate, particularly after the Foreign Secretary has made the report which he has promised when the present negotiations on Germany have been concluded.
That would be the appropriate time to show in the right perspective just what is to be the solution in Europe, because without Germany, as I have said earlier, we cannot get the trade flowing, without which Europe cannot be prosperous. Unless I have the assurance—which obviously I cannot have tonight—that such a Debate will take place, I would conclude by referring very briefly to some of the things which are happening, or are not happening, in Germany, which in many respects presents a picture of confusion, and sometimes of chaos. I had the opportunity, while I was Secretary of State for War, to see Germany 1177 at first hand, and to observe the military government and the Control Commission government of Germany. I say that any military government is much too rigid for reconstruction purposes.
Military government has done an excellent job in Germany, and other countries where it has been in occupation, but it is essentially of a provisional nature. It has to get communications going, and clear the rubble away after the bombers have been over—there is a lot of rubble in Germany—and to set up some form of civil government. Today we have at least three zones in Germany, the French, the British and the American, each governed, autonomously almost, by their own authorities, except where they come together in some quadripartite Control Commission, when we know the disagreement that is constantly occurring.
What is the situation? It takes at least six days for a letter to come from Germany, to this country. Railway communications in Germany—and I am not under-estimating the physical difficulties, even today—in spite of what we and America have done to improve them, are not able to carry the civilian traffic, let alone the freight which must roll along that highway, if we are going to get the trade passing backward and forward between Germany and this country, with which she was an important customer before the war, and thus conduce to our own prosperity.
The censorship has been lifted, but still the post and the communications, which are essential in any ordered system of society in these days, are lacking in many things. As to physical reconstruction, very little is going on. It is a tremendous and terrible problem, but it will have to be tackled, and I say that neither military government nor Control Commission are the right authorities to do it. Their powers should be used in the background. The only people who can do that job properly are the Germans themselves. I hope that they will be given powers to do it, because, at the present moment, Germany is a festering sore in the centre of Europe, and it is under those conditions that some creeds or dogmas are bred.
Take the question of foreign exchange. Today, the military rate is 40 marks to the pound, and 15 marks to the pound is the rate on which all trade, whether import 1178 or export, is based in Germany. That is entirely fantastic. The 15 marks rate to the pound bears no more relation to reality than does the 40 marks rate, and currency revaluation has to be got on with quickly, otherwise it is impossible to reconstruct Germany.
I have merely injected into this Debate on foreign affairs something which I consider to be of such importance that I think a day ought to be devoted to this subject alone. We have, at an early date, to get some sort of unity, even if it is not complete unity, on a civilian basis in Germany. Without it, all these deeply laid plans to which the Foreign Secretary has set his hand, and on which some of my hon. Friends will speak tomorrow, will be merely words on paper.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am sure that we should all like to see a satisfactory solution to the problem of Germany, but it is really much easier to say what is wrong there than to come to some agreement on what we ought to do to put things right. Certainly I would view with great concern any proposal that might lead in the near future to anything in the nature of the re-arming of Germany. I think that the people of this country, after their experience with Germany in the last generation, would like to have more evidence that Germany was really converted to the democratic way of life. Although, of course, we hope that everything that is possible will be done to restore German economy, and that I believe is the first step, the question of military strength is one that should be deferred for a long time.
I find it impossible to contemplate the international scene without a feeling of humiliation and shame. It seems to me that in many parts of the world today, men are behaving as if they had lost their senses. In Palestine, in Greece and in China they are engaged in bitter civil strife, as though they had not had enough of bloodshed and murder during the past few years. The whole world seems, as it were, to be quite bankrupt of statesmanship. The ordinary masses of the world, the common man, who was promised freedom from fear must be feeling strongly today that he is being let down. He is tired, after six years of war and three years of post-war austerity, and all the 1179 talk on every side is of another world war.
That is a position which must cause everybody very great concern. I feel that we should consider if some way out cannot be found from this impasse into which we seem to have arrived. Where are we heading to? It seems to be that, if we go on as we are, another world war is inevitable. If it is true, as I believe it is, that war starts in the mind of man it already does exist in the minds of many people, far more in the United States than in this country. Everywhere men and women are going about in a state of fear of another war. There is very great danger that an atmosphere is being created everywhere which will make another world war bound to happen.
I am not advocating a policy of saying that, in no circumstances, would we be prepared to face another world war. It is a dreadful possibility to which to have to look forward, but we all know that, if there is a would-be aggressor in the world, it would be a temptation to him to know that he could carry on as he wanted to without any fear of being pulled up by the eventuality of war. That was the position which Hitler thought he occupied. He thought that he would be able to accomplish all he intended without war, and that probably led him to go further than otherwise he would have gone. There is always that danger. Leaving that aside, and being prepared to take that risk, we ought to face the present situation and ask ourselves whether there is anything that we can do to create a better atmosphere and a more helpful spirit in international relations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) complained that the speech of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon had shown a lack of urgency. That was not my reading of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I thought that it was a sober, restrained, factual picture of the situation.
In point of fact, when one considers what the Foreign Secretary has been able to accomplish within the last three months, it is obvious that whether or not his speech showed a lack of urgency, his actions have not. He has taken the initiative and very great progress has been made in preparing plans so that all the 16 nations who are to benefit from the European Recovery Programme should be able 1180 to play their part adequately in order to get the best out of it. He has brought about the Brussels Treaty, which has secured the co-operation of five nations. He is actively pursuing the policy—and he has taken very important steps towards it—of Western Union.
That is a great contribution to have made within a short space of time. Like the overwhelming majority of the people in this country, I welcome the European Recovery Programme. To those who are critical of this plan, I would say that during the war not only this country, but also Soviet Russia was most willing to benefit from Lend-Lease. As I understand it, Marshall aid is really a continuance of the policy of Lend-Lease. If Lend-Lease had been continued after the war, we should have been in a much stronger position economically today. Opposition to the European Recovery Programme is ill-advised and short-sighted. The best way to bring about the recovery of Europe is to arrange that the nations which benefit should be able to make the most of the very generous offer which the American people have made.
I also agree with the proposal to establish Western Union. That again will assist the economic recovery of the countries concerned. In my view it is the best way of dealing with what is called the menace of Communism. The majority of our people do not like Communism. Certainly they do not like Communism in practice—the Communism of the police State, the Communism which has no regard for the liberty of the individual.
§ Mr. Lipson
We all regret that the activities of M.I.5 are necessary, but it is not those who are opposed to Communism who are responsible for the activities of M.I.5. In any case, the measures taken as a result of the investigations of M.I.5, regrettable as they are, are far less heavy than those which would be taken by the Communists against anybody who was responsible for comparable action in Communist Russia.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that it is only a matter of degree and not a matter of principle?
§ Mr. Lipson
The activities of M.I.5 are inevitable in wartime but we regret that they are now necessary in peacetime. One of the evils of the sort of things happening in countries under Communist control is that they result in our having to resort in peacetime to M.I.5. We have been forced into it. One effect of another world war would be the spread of Communism and the increase in the number of Communistic Governments. I do not believe that another world war could possibly be a short one. It would certainly be a long one. Just as there are more Communist Governments today than there were before the second world war, so I believe that after another war there would be even more.
§ Mr. Lipson
Communism thrives on the conditions created by modern war. For that reason, it is all the more necessary to prevent a third world war. But we will not prevent it if we give the impression to a would-be aggressor that we are weak or not prepared to resist and to stand up against him. I hope that some way will be found by which we can localise some of the conflicts which are threatening the peace of the world. I wish that the great Powers could agree among themselves to cease intervening in countries such as Greece and China. The danger of the situation where the great Powers are intervening, either directly or indirectly is that the trouble in those countries instead of being localised might easily become the cause of another world war.
It would be a move in the right direction if the great Powers could all agree that there should be an end to their intervention. We should try to bring that about. If we do not, it is inevitable that the world is set for a state of things too terrible to contemplate. We all hope that it may be given to our Foreign Secretary to find a way out of our present troubles. We realise the great provocation to which he has been exposed from time to time. He has shown great restraint. I do not interpret that restraint as a sign of weakness but rather as a proof of his determination to do everything he can to bring 1182 about a better relationship between the great Powers.
We are often told that Russia does not want war. We have been told by the Foreign Secretary today that the territorial problems between the Soviet Union and ourselves could be settled, but that the real trouble is over the ideological problem of world Communism, Just as in the 17th century the so-called religious wars were the most bitter of all, so in these days is the conflict between ideologies and, therefore, if both sides could agree, as the Foreign Secretary said he was prepared to do, there might be more hope for the world. The Foreign Secretary said he did not wish to see Russia using her power to spread Communism throughout the world, but that he was equally opposed to the Western Powers using their influence to spread their political ideas around the world. I think that, if, on the basis of that statement, we could come to some understanding with the Soviet Union, and could also localise the present danger points, there might be a better hope for the nations of the world. It seems to me that otherwise the outlook is pretty grim, and, because of the promise that was made to the nations of the world during the war—that, if they endured war and won victory, they would be given the four freedoms—including freedom from fear of war, there is a special obligation upon us to do everything we can to see that that very solemn pledge is implemented.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
I want to say something about the Marshall Plan on which the last speaker said a few words, to consider it in all its implications, and to put one or two questions to the Under-Secretary who is to reply. Most people, and I think certainly most Socialists, would say about aid from the United States, "Well, certainly, let us take it if there are no dangerous strings to it. After all, we and the Soviet Union and a good many other countries paid a great price in losses to enable the United States to build up its present enormous wealth, and we need not be ashamed of accepting help from the United States when we have that moral claim. Indeed, it is useful to the United States to give us that aid, because it is, in the strange 1183 economics of today, helpful to her to give it, and she would have been in a worse mess than she is now if she had not arranged to do so."
I want to consider whether there are any strings, and, if so, of what sort. At the moment, on the face of anything which has been said either in the United States or in this country, the true answer to the question whether there are any strings is, "Nobody knows." But we can say that there is a great deal of evidence upon which we can make up our minds what sort of strings there are likely to be. By strings, I mean: firstly, prospects as to what sort of goods are likely to be sent to us; secondly, prospects as to the length of time during which we shall get aid as a first step, and as to what will come after this first short run. It is rather like a man starting a business in a shop with a short lease. Thirdly, there are conditions that may be imposed, by agreement or otherwise, by the United States about the terms on which we are to get the goods.
On the question of what sort of goods we are likely to get, the Foreign Assistance Act makes no allocation of commodities or funds to be divided between the various countries. We are told that there is to be a series of agreements between Mr. Hoffman, the Administrator, and the various countries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer put it very clearly on 13th April, ten days after the Act was passed, when he said:There is left, of course, the uncertainty of the European Recovery Programme, which we have not been able to incorporate into the Economic Survey because its terms at present are wholly uncertain. Until the Administrator gets into his office and into his stride we shall not know precisely how it is going to be applied."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1948; Vol. 449, C. 913.]On the question of how long we are to get aid, it is pretty clear, for the moment, that we and Europe in general are to get aid up to April, 1949—inside of a year hence. What is going to happen the year after that, will depend on our behaviour, and I think mainly, but not solely, on our political behaviour. Meanwhile, it is "cat and mouse," and it is rather important to study the nature of the cat. If I may quote "The Economist" for 10th April, this is what it says: 1184When in a year's time, and two years' time and three years' time, the further appropriations come to be voted by Congress, it should be assumed that the spur of Communist menace may be less sharp than it is today. Under such conditions, will Congress find the Plan a sufficiently worth while end in itself?Thus "The Economist" thinks we may lose Marshall Aid if the Communist menace with which so many Americans are obsessed should recede. Many other people fear a different result; that if it does not recede, and the American ruling class thinks we are not fighting it hard enough for them, they will refuse us further aid.
The third point, concerning what sort of conditions are to be imposed, is extremely uncertain, and one may take as an illustration the reply given by the President of the Board of Trade to a question put to him on 29th April in regard to the effect of Marshall Aid applied to Europe. He said:The problem of what effects, if any, the provisions of the Economic Co-operation Act might have on trade between countries participating in the European Recovery Programme and non-participating European countries is one which will need clarification in discussions with the United States authorities concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1948; Vol. 450, C. 585.]At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman—young as he is—already knows how to stall, as well as how to run his office, though, of course, he would not have stalled if he had had any answer to give.
I want to examine a little more closely the sort of things we are likely to get and the conditions to be imposed, and to get as much certainty into the picture as it allows. I think that, to do that at all satisfactory, we must first consider what the United States, by its nature, is likely, or almost certain, to be doing in selecting what goods we are to have and what conditions to impose, and, secondly, what positive evidence there is of what they are actually contemplating in that direction. One of the more foolish supporters of the plan has said that it was the greatest act of generosity in history. Well, whose act is it really? I certainly agree with a number of hon. Members who have already spoken, including several on the other side of the House, that the American people are a people who are capable of impulses of great generosity. I believe that is true. I believe that they are about as good at it as we are, by 1185 which I mean that we are both very good at it. But what is the good of talking about generous impulses when one cannot follow with generous actions?
Nobody, I suppose, imagines that the American people have very much to do with ruling their country. It is their ruling class who rule their country, and it is the function of a ruling class to rule. It is the ruling class of America which has originated this Marshall Plan. What is that American ruling class? First, it is extremely backward politically. Then it is probably more ruthless in relation to foreign competitors than any other, and it is more ruthless in its relations with its own working classes than the rulers of any other nation in history. It adds to those important qualities the fact that it is absolutely terrified of the coming slump. It is far more obsessed with Communism than even the most unhappy Member of this House. It does not require much knowledge of politics to recognise that no ruling class, especially a ruling class like that, will do anything except consider its own interests. I do not blame it for that any more than I blame a dog for snarling. It is the nature of the beast.
If one wants a very typical illustration of what they have already done to us—because one always remembers better what is done to oneself—there was the sudden cutting off of Lend-Lease at extremely short notice in the belief that we had a Socialist Government in this country. That is a typical illustration of what the American ruling class would actually do. It was not very long after that when they made us a loan on fairly stringent terms, and then let their prices rip within a week, thus reducing the value of the loan to approximately two-thirds of what we thought it was. Now, of course, a Government may be affected by its public opinion, and some of us may have had hopes that the United States Government would be sufficiently imbued with the sense of responsibility by its own public opinion, to be not nearly as bad as the ruling class that had put it there. That may be a very unscientific idea, but it is a thing which could happen in a very short time perhaps. But they are not even going to be allowed to get as far as that. Last week, Mr. Truman announced that: 1186private trade channels will be used to the greatest possible extent in the procurement of supplies.I wonder why the American ruling class do not sub-let their wars to private contract.
What, in fact, will the various Capitalist component forces of the United States ruling class want to do in the matter of Marshall Aid for us, and insist on doing? The first thing is that they will not want to sell to us what we most need. They will want to sell to us what they have the most desire to get rid of, and what is most difficult for them to sell at home. To quote again "The Economist," which is not published by the "Daily Worker":What we are going to get in the main is any product which fails to find a domestic market in the United States.They will want to get their own industries going, and that is the sort of thing which will happen to us. The next thing they will want to do will be to make sure that their principal competitors in the export markets of the world—and we are still a great enough country to be one of their principal competitors—do not grow too strong. They will naturally want to consolidate their own economic domination of the world. Ask any intelligent and historical minded member of the British ruling class, and he will say that his class did it very well for 200 years, and he will agree that that is what the Americans will want to do.
The third thing the United States will want to do will be to build up an opposition in Europe to the U.S.S.R. which they are so anxious to "contain." They become almost incontinent in their hysterical desire to "contain" the U.S.S.R. The "Daily Telegraph" described the position during the last week in these words:The purpose of foreign aid is to form part of the United States foreign policy of containing Communism.I want to take one or two practical tests under those three heads to see the sort of thing that is likely to happen. The Americans want to sell the goods which they possess and cannot use at home. Will they let us say to them, "We are very sorry, but we do not want a lot of tobacco; we want much less tobacco; we want much less tobacco and more machinery"? The answer will be that the strong tobacco-growing interests will say, "We have got hundreds of square miles of tobacco which, owing to the difference in flavour, only the British 1187 will smoke. Do you think we are going to let E.R.P."—or any of the other initials by which it is called—"be used to devastate the fields in which the so-called Virginia tobacco is grown?" That is why for a moment the provisional allocations of tobacco to Europe are considerably more than twice the allocations of the coalmining machinery, and one expects that we shall get several times as much tobacco as we shall get coalmining machinery. After all, coalmining machinery is required largely to build up the Ruhr against us.
Let me take one more test. We want a good deal of raw steel—steel ingots and the like. Shall we get that? The Americans, who want to fabricate that into finished steel products to sell to us at a profit to themselves, will say that we are not to have steel ingots. I think it will prove—all the documents make it appear likely—that we will get no raw steel at all. The Herter Committee on Foreign Aid of the United States House of Representatives has put it in nice round American in these words:Specific determination should be made"—that is a short way of saying "We will decide"—of the point at which United States steel production should be stopped and semi-finished steel shipped to Europe for final processing.In other words, they will do the final processing.
One more question about steel. Will they let us have any of the 10 million tons of scrap steel in Germany? That is very important. Our steel industry needs it. We have not got more than 200 cwts. of it up to now, and the prospects of our getting any of it are poor. If it goes into the Ruhr, the United States controlled German industry in the Ruhr will be making steel and helping to limit, contain and even destroy our steel industry in this country, and all the more so if they are afraid that we are going to nationalise it. Again the Herter Committee puts it better in these words:The utmost effort should be made to maximise Western Germany's steel contribution to the relief of Western European steel shortages.My first specific question to the Under-Secretary of State is: Will he tell me as best he can why we are not getting, and 1188 whether we are likely to get, any of this scrap?
Another test, and another point about which the Americans have been talking, is whether we are going to get mostly relief goods or mostly capital goods. That is to say, are we going to get mostly things which will help us along, so long as we are good boys and do not try to expand, or mostly things which will enable us really to build up the great industries which were bombed to bits in the course of the fight to make the United States as well as our own country safe for civilisation? If they give us more relief, we will go along slowly; we will be all right; we will be a nice little semi-colonial country and we shall be a good market for their finished products. If we get a lot of capital goods, we shall be stronger, richer, and a better and more formidable competitor to them in the next slump, which they are sure is coming. What is the simple answer—I will not trouble the Under-Secretary to answer this question; I will leave it to the House—to the question, "What is the manufacturing ruling class of the United States more likely to select of those two courses?"
To give a test on the third point—their natural desire to build up a European opposition to the U.S.S.R.; the only possible country for that, of course, is Germany. We have got all sorts of agreements between ourselves and the U.S.S.R. as to how we should treat Germany. It is just possible they will be overlooked in the enthusiasm. Germany is to get a great deal of Marshall Aid direct. Germany will probably get all the 10 million tons of scrap, and she is to get the excellent Swedish ore while we go short of ore. In effect, the United States want to make the Ruhr under their control an arsenal of Western democracy. If hon. Members think I am exaggerating, let me quote the Under-Secretary for the State Department last year:Push ahead with the reconstruction of those two great workshops of Europe and Asia—Germany and Japan—upon which the ultimate recovery of the two continents so largely depends.We can turn from that test of the likelihood of how they will behave, to examine a little evidence as to what they are positively contemplating. Like a lot of other people they talk, and they write. They have a love of appointing committees and committees make reports. The first 1189 thing that becomes pretty plain from these matters is that at any rate some restrictions are to be placed on our trade with the U.S.S.R. and other Eastern European countries. That is quite natural. The United States does not want these countries to have certain things, and they will not like to refuse to supply these things themselves and then see us supply them. They have the whip hand and that is what they are bound to do. What exactly is proposed on these lines?
A day or two ago the "Daily Telegraph" from Washington said it was expected they would prohibit—quite politely under agreement—"anything with potential war value" going Eastwards. The "Daily Telegraph" pointed out that "anything with potential war value" would cover pretty well everything on earth, and would seriously affect our trade and barter agreements. The readers of the "Daily Telegraph" are interested in trade and barter agreements, quite naturally. Other commentators suggest with varying degrees of plausibility that they will prevent anything going from this country to the U.S.S.R. which is going to be prohibited to go from the United States. That makes difficulties of trade for us, because we shall not know what is going to be prohibited from day to day; but it is quite natural.
Take a test on one point—timber-cutting machinery. A thing which the U.S.S.R. wants very badly is timber-cutting machinery and we want to supply it. If we supply it, we get more timber, and if we get more timber we get more houses. The United States is going to send certain timber-cutting machinery to Europe, but it is pretty certain to see that it does not go to the U.S.S.R. We shall not be allowed to send any, therefore, and we shall get less wood and, therefore, we shall get fewer houses. Alternatively, we shall have to buy timber from Canada or Newfoundland with dollars at higher prices, quite apart from the difficulty of the currency. It is quite inevitable.
§ Mr. Pritt
Scandinavia has not been able to send much timber yet. We always needed to buy immense quantities from the U.S.S.R. as well as from Scandinavia. All the timber available in Scandinavia would 1190 not make an appreciable difference to the housing problem of this country, and Sweden, after all, is a hard currency country. It would not help a great deal. If the Under-Secretary can give the House any information of what sort of prohibitions are proposed to be applied to trade between this country and Eastern Europe as part of the Marshall Plan I would be very interested.
Take another test. It deems pretty plain that the United States is aiming at some measure of control over currency in the sterling area, or at any rate some measure of interference with our predominant position in that area. The "Chicago Sun," which has a very distinguished correspondent in this country, says plainly that they are demanding the transfer to Hoffman of controls over all dollar expenditure by Great Britain in the sterling area. I shall be glad to be told whether this is true. It is natural enough, but I would like to know.
Milder reports from Washington suggest that the State Department is insisting that there should be a veto on all British capital investments in the sterling area. After all, the sterling area includes all the Crown Colonies and a good deal besides. Some people in Washington say they propose to break up the sterling area as a currency area entirely. Can we be surprised at that? Reflecting on banking power, we realise that banking power is very important. I think I am right in saying that British banking skill still stands very high and the relative success which this country has achieved in running the sterling area under very great difficulties for many years has been an outstanding achievement and has increased our powers. What does the American banker think of our increasing our powers? It is their power that they are worried about. We are not just their beloved cousins. Something of the sort—currency changes—is in the wind, because the Assistant Secretary of State said in Washington on 26th April:European nations will also have to develop sound currencies that are freely convertible to assist in their own recovery.When we thought we had nationalised the Bank of England we then find they are going to take it over:
It is not a long step from the sterling area to Colonies, and what are the Americans saying about our Colonies? 1191 The Select Committee of the House of Representatives on foreign aid has a subcommittee on the United Kingdom. They demand that our Colonial Empire must be brought into the scheme of development for Western Europe—I do not want to say much about Western Europe, but I must say this much—and that our Colonial Empire must be brought in as part of what is called the "kitty." They are also demanding, quite naturally, that we should abandon "colonial exclusiveness" as incompatible with the basic interests of the United States. That is one way of saying that Colonial Preference is to go and is to go at once.
A very similar demand in relation to the Colonies is the Herter Committee's recommendation that,In general each basic agreement between the United States and the individual recipients contain a commitment that American investment shall l subject to the same rules and regulations as are applied to local investment. This provision … is a pre-requisite to the success of any programme attempting to encourage U.S. private investment.It sounds perfectly fair that they should come in on the same terms as everybody else, but if they come in on those terms with ten times as much money as anybody else it will be rather like the elephant who attended the chicken's dance on terms of complete equality.
I would ask the Under-Secretary whether any discussions have taken place on these lines, and whether it is true; as has been said in Washington, that the United States is demanding a guarantee from us that United States' private capital investment shall have full and free access to our dependencies and Colonies. It is rather interesting to see, because there are different views about this in the United States, that Walter Lippman has been writing a little about this in the last few days and he said—and I shall be very glad to have comfort from the Under-Secretary about this—we are now in this dilemma, that if we go into the Western European Federation we break up the British Empire; and yet we cannot afford not to go in. What is to happen? Mr. Lippman even discusses what is to happen to the non-European parts of the Empire. In the "New York Herald Tribune"—I think it is—he openly discusses the difficulties that confront the United States, when the question is asked what they 1192 will do if they take over the fragmentary bits of what he thinks will be left of the British Empire. For he does not think they are able to do it.
Is this or is this not the price of Marshall Aid? We should square up to it now, and we had better make up our minds whether there are or whether there are not any such strings. The subcommittee which I have mentioned earlier has returned rather to this problem of whether we are going to have relief or capital goods. They go a little further. They are not merely saying that they should not give us too much capital goods. They are saying that they should call upon the British Government now to slow up in its own capital investment rata in order to need less relief. That is a string. I am not suggesting for one moment that the American ruling class it unreasonable in this. I think it is behaving perfectly like a ruling class. I do not like ruling classes unless they are the working class.
That is a thing on which, I say, we should be clear. It is very right and very fair that we, who lost a great deal of our powerful position in the world fighting their battles—I am not suggesting that they were not fighting too—at greater cost to ourselves than to them, are all now hoping that they will rebuild us as a competitor to themselves. But is there the faintest chance that their ruling class will allow that to be done? To my mind, to expect that is as naive as it was for the people in this country to think that we could socialise the Ruhr and get away with it without the Americans interfering.
Then the proposal has been clearly made that in one form or another, we are to establish immense pools of accounts in sterling in this country to correspond with dollar aid. Every time we get a hundred dollars worth of something we are to pay £25 into a blocked account. Anybody can see that that is unreasonable. But what will the result be when there is blocked sterling of several hundreds of millions of pounds in this country? If the United States have the power to decide when that money shall be thrown into the market and when it shall not, they will make a fine old mess of our economy, at any moment when they want to make a fine old mess of our economy. Is that string present? If so, what are we doing about it?
1193 A somewhat similar proposal has been made too, that immense masses of raw materials, convertible perhaps for use in war as all raw materials are, should be handed over to the United States in what is called "stock piling" in the U.S.A. in payment for Marshall Aid. I notice that one newspaper today—not one to which I always agree—published by a very distinguished Member of another place, like most newspapers, said, with reference to the question of making an agreement for Marshall Aid, that agreement in principle has been reached in Washington under which the British undertake toincrease their currency stabilisation to reduce trade barriers and to transfer raw materials to the United States.The newspaper goes on to suggest that these arrangements include an "iron-bound agreement"—we are going to get some iron anyway—on where Britain's exports shall go, and the "ultimate disappearance of Empire preferences." Of course, this newspaper may say tomorrow it did not happen, but I should like the Under-Secretary of State to tell us what is the position about this agreement which has apparently been negotiated in Washington.
I had wanted to say something about the military aspect, but the House has listened to me with great patience, and I have talked rather long, and I will try to cut that out, in an effort to save the interests of others—at any rate, the desire of others to speak, which may not be the same thing. I will say this in conclusion. Had we started to keep our independence and kept it, and had we started to reduce our Armed Forces to help our economy, and kept friends not only with the United States but also with Eastern Europe and built up trade with Eastern Europe we should now be in the position in which the United States would be pressing on us offers of Marshall Aid; because if they do not impose Marshall Aid on somebody the slump will reach them quickly; and it will be catastrophic; then we could have said to the United States, "Let your money come, but since you are offering it to us, there will not be any strings to it." I want to know—I think I do know a great deal about it, but I want to know a great deal more—about what there is in the way of strings in the American plan.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, I would remind him that he made the remarkable statement that when the British Government decided to nationalise the Ruhr industries the Americans told us we must not do it; and I would ask him on what authority he makes that statement.
§ Mr. Pritt
It was announced in every newspaper in the United Kingdom. If that is not enough, remember that we did make the announcement; that no one now supposes for one moment that this is going to happen; that no one doubts for one moment that the United States are going to control the Ruhr; and that no one doubts for one moment that the United States asked us to change our plan.
§ 8.35 P.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
I think I am voicing the opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House, and probably of many of those on the other side, when I say that in the three years I have been a Member of the House, I have never heard such a disgraceful speech as that of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). It was not helpful, and I only hope that it will not be reported in the American newspapers. It is quite amazing that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is a well-known barrister, should make some of the statements he has made. He talked of the Americans being ruthless about the stopping of Lend-Lease. One would imagine that we had paid for Lend-Lease. It was all for nothing. The Americans were concerned about the aftermath of the war. The slump which the hon. and learned Gentleman predicted has been predicted for the last two years, and it has not arrived yet. The American taxpayers are paying for this aid to Europe themselves, and it amounts to something like £25 per head per year.
It is quite obvious that the Americans are not going to say that we can have Marshall Aid for four or five years straight off. Of course, there are one or two strings. Naturally, they want to see that the goods supplied are used properly, that the European countries get together, and that there is a reasonable life for the people of those countries. It is quite obvious that there are going to be certain strings. 1195 The Americans would be very stupid if they did not propose, at least some of them. Even right hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that had it not been for this Marshall Aid there would have been a great many unemployed in this country, increasing in numbers next winter. Does the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith want to see unemployment in his constituency? Will he and his constituents refuse to eat the food sent over from America? Of course, they will not. I do not intend to devote any more of my time to the speech of the hon. and learned Member.
I propose to address my remarks to matters relating to the Far East. I am particularly disappointed that the Secretary of State did not refer once today to China. Of course, I can understand the difficulty of covering the whole world, and it is not easy to specify every country. However, China has a population of 400 million.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Ever since the Manchus were overthrown in 1911, China has been in the throes of civil war. Up to 1937, all the time, they have had war either in the north or in central China or in the south—or in more than one part of the country at a time. In my view there is no indication of an immediate commercial revival in China. Very few people in this country realise that in 1932 the Yangtse floods carried away 2,500,000 people who lost their lives in those floods. That news was given about two inches of space in the newspapers of Great Britain, and very few people realised what happened.
China has the most difficult problems to face. In the last decade there has always been, in my view, an unwarranted optimism in Europe, particularly in this country, about the revival of China. People have ignored the real problems of raising the standard of living in that vast country. Most people who go to the Far East and write books about it go to Peking, to Shanghai, perhaps go a few hundred miles up the Yangtse, to Hong Kong and Canton, and then start writing their books, and very few people go to the trouble of living in the uncomfortable conditions in the interior of China where 1196 the real Chinese live. We are going to find it quite difficult to trade with Eastern Europe for various reasons well known to hon. Members; and so I suggest we want to do everything in our power to improve trading conditions with the Far East, and with China in particular. It takes a long time to negotiate business in that country. They are a people who do not make up their minds in a hurry. I remember when I was living in Manchuria it took me six months to see the man living in the same town whom I wanted to see. We have to encourage trade with China.
I want to ask the Under-Secretary about another matter of extreme importance. Are we strengthening our diplomatic consular service in China? In my view, they are overworked and understaffed. Are those British officials in China really thinking in terms of trade? I do not think that they are. I think that there is the old attitude of living in their compounds in the Consulates and not thinking enough of matters relating to trade, whereas the Americans are ahead of us in that country. They have trade commissioners covering various fields of industry. They show films up in the interior and there is sound propaganda. If we are to compete with the Americans we have to spend more money and efforts in trading to get our orders out there.
Is the Under-Secretary making arrangements with the Americans to improve travel conditions in Japan and Korea? British businessmen in the Far East are suffering great inconvenience in trying to travel freely in those parts. We have many good friends to this country in China. I believe that of all white people, the Chinese prefer the people of this country to any other. They have traded with us and have found they can trust the British. I believe we have a great opportunity of getting numbers of Chinese students over to this country. I know of instances where Chinese airmen were taught here or in Hong Kong by British instructors before the war, and, as a result, appreciable orders for aircraft and equipment were placed with this country. I would ask the Government to stress that point and try to get more Chinese students to come to our universities. The shipping industry on the China Coast, built up by British sub- 1197 jects over a great many years, in spite of many difficulties, and up the Yangtse Valley and the West River, is up against real difficulties, and I hope that the Government can do something to clarify the position with the Chinese Government.
Another point is the question of British property, in Shanghai in particular—property which has been requisitioned and not yet returned to British subjects. They have received no compensation, and many of them are up against it. People who have lived there for 30 or 40 years cannot get their property back from the officials. I hope that this will be put right. We want to see a free and independent China. That is the aim of every hon. Member of this House. Economic aid is not enough. We have to give the Chinese military aid. We have done it in the case of the Navy to some extent, and I suggest that we should do the same thing in the Chinese Air Force. Much of the equipment distributed in Western countries should go out to China.
It is no use opposing Communism in Europe if we are to let it have a free hand in the Far East. There is considerable Communism in China. I would add one word of criticism about the Chinese. In Formosa they have not come out too well in the way in which they have administered the island. I think that we should confer with the Chinese on this point and tell them that if they take over an island like Formosa, we want to see it properly governed. We must take active steps to see that the legal Government as it is in China, remains in power.
I want to refer to Korea where the Soviet has great ambitions. Undoubtedly those ambitions will be stepped up if they fail to expand Communism in Western Europe. The Russian refusal to allow the United Nations Commission to enter North Korea is not an isolated act of obstructionism. This country contains 30 million people. They value their independence and they were glad to get away from Japan, but they certainly have their problems at the moment. The United States are occupying the south and Soviet Russia is occupying Northern Korea. Northern Korea has the minerals and coal and electric power so the people in the south are having a pretty bad time. The Communists have built up an Army in the north, trained by Soviet Russia and 1198 supplied with equipment. If the United States drew out their occupation forces in the south, the Communists will walk in. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite need not laugh, because that is a fact. Can any hon. Member deny that?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman telling this House that it requires arms to keep back Communist ideas?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Not Communist ideas, but Communist trained troops, who are in Northern Korea. It is estimated that two million of the people who were living in Northern Korea have fled to the south. I hope that in the south the elections will be proceeded with and that the representatives will do what they can to negotiate with those in the north. The same applies in Manchuria. It is a very rich country and it belongs to the Chinese. The Japanese had it for a long time, and it should go back to the Chinese. I ask the Government to do all that they can to support the policy of expansion of trade with China. Nothing but good can come of doing that. If we get going in that direction, we shall give more employment to our people at home, and our foreign policy will benefit greatly.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)
I cannot follow the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) over to the Far East because I do not know it and I want to talk about a country quite near home which I do know and which is vitally important for all of us. Germany has not been very much referred to today except by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) who pointed out some of the problems and the necessity of Germany being reconstructed if we are to have European recovery. Another hon. Member said that it was easier to see what was wrong with Germany than to know how to put it right. No one seems to have appreciated the fact that the Foreign Minister in his speech this afternoon made certain tremendously important announcements about Germany and when the arrangements he told us about are carried out, they will go a long way towards helping Germany to play its part in the Economic Recovery Programme. My right hon. Friend said that we were in 1199 Berlin by right and we meant to stay there. He stated that categorically, and it is a statement that every German has been longing to hear.
In Germany where I was last week and the week before, every German I talked to said, "We do not believe that the British are going to remain in Berlin." As my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, there is a war of nerves going on in Berlin. I got to Berlin in the very middle of the so-called crisis, and I want to state now that the position in Germany was not at all helped by various organs of the British Press who played up the so-called crisis so that it looked as if there was an urgently serious and dangerous situation. After reading the newspapers here I expected, when I got to Berlin, to see the barricades up. I was met by Pressmen who asked, "What do you think of the crisis?" I said, "Show me the crisis and I'll tell you what I think about it." As a matter of fact, there was not a crisis at all in the sense in which we had been given to understand.
I drove all over Berlin, and at one point I was told that we were in the Russian sector, but I never saw a policeman or anything of that sort. There was no crisis in that sense; but there was a crisis in the sense that a very real war of nerves was being fought in Berlin by the Russians. There is no doubt that the Germans—not only those in Berlin, but those in all the places which I visited in the British zone—were absolutely terrified that the British would not remain in Berlin. I only hope that the statement made by my right hon. Friend this afternoon will reach the ears of every German, because it will put great heart into them.
Another thing the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon which will help the Germans is that Germany is to be a full participant in European economic recovery. That means that they will themselves be working and taking part in the recovery plan, and in return be receiving Marshall Aid. In order to carry that out effectively it is necessary—and my right hon. Friend said it would happen—that the German people themselves through the German Administration, should play a much larger part in the civilian government of the country. The Foreign Secretary pointed out that mili- 1200 tary occupation was not a good form of government when it interfered with the private lives of the people. Again and again in Germany I heard that said. I was told how they could not start to build because they were continually being interfered with by the Occupation Forces.
If the rebuilding of Germany which we all agree is essential to European recovery is to take place, there are two things, which I think my right hon. Friend implied would happen but which we should like to know definitely will happen in our zone. First, there must be currency reform. Currency reform is essential, because the present position in Germany is quite ridiculous. Ten cigarettes of any sort, kind or description—even Woodbines—are worth more than a skilled worker's weekly wage. Also, the rations and the whole scale of consumption are pitifully low, so that practically every German is somehow or another involved in the black market; they must be in order to live.
It must be remembered that on top of something like the pre-war population in the Western zones there are 12 million refugees from Eastern Germany who have to be maintained—and maintained in a zone where something like four-fifths of the buildings in most towns have been either completely destroyed or else made uninhabitable—with the consequence that large numbers of people are living in what might almost be described as caves dug under rubble or else in bunkers, because there are no other buildings available. They are forced to live in the most appalling conditions—conditions such as we know nothing about over here, and did not even know anything about during the war.
People have said to me, "Well, it is the Germans' own fault." Maybe it is their own fault; but it must be emphasised that Europe cannot recover unless we do build up Germany. In order to build up Germany, the Germans must be given some heart themselves to help to rebuild their country, and they cannot get the heart until their money has some real value. Since returning to this country I met a German who is a lecturer on English in Hamburg University. He told me that his salary is 350 marks a term, and that he can get 400 marks for a pound of coffee—if he can get a pound of coffee to sell. The whole position is impossible. 1201 Money has ceased to mean anything; and as long as it does not mean anything, the situation will remain so unnatural that it will he impossible to achieve any real recovery. I hope and believe that currency reform will come into operation quite soon, so that the Germans can begin to build. The second essential is a statute of occupation which will define and lay down in the Western zones the precise functions of the Occupying Forces, leaving the whole of the civilian government to the Germans themselves.
I do not think that anybody is taking sufficiently seriously the position of the German women. In the Western zones the proportion of women electors to men electors is as two is to one; that means that two-thirds of the electors are women. Therefore, it is vitally important that, when there is an election it should be on a really democratic basis, not only because the Occupying Forces ensure that it is a properly run election, as an English election would be, but also because the people want to vote on a democratic basis. There is a serious danger that that may not happen, because a large number of the German women are completely apathetic politically. For 15 years they have been told that their place was in the home, and that their only function was motherhood. Since the war they have had to live in such appalling conditions that the great mass of the women are able to think only of food, clothes and shelter: they are completely uninterested in anything political, whether democratic or otherwise.
Meanwhile, an insidious form of infiltration is going on. There is being built up, in a number of places in the Western zone, an organisation called the Demokratisch Frauenbund Deutschlands—the Democratic Women's Organisation of Germany. Their slogan is "A united Germany." We know perfectly well that since there is an "iron curtain," and since the Eastern zone—and, indeed, the Eastern sector of Berlin—will not come into E.R.P. or accept Marshall Aid, which is essential for the rebuilding of Germany, a united Germany is not now possible. The Demokratisch Frauenbund Deutschlands—and there is a corresponding male organisation, although I have not seen anything of it—is supposed to be completely non-political. At present it is weak because it has only begun to grow during the last six 1202 months, but it may become a very strong organisation. When the elections take place the only candidates who can ask for a United Germany will be the Communist candidates. The result will be that large numbers of women may vote for them since the women will not be sufficiently politically conscious to realise the danger and every German passionately desires to see a United Germany. The danger is therefore that there may be a political coup such as there was in Czechoslovakia under the very noses of the Occupation Forces through the misleading cry of the Dernokratischi Frauenbund. I would like to pay tribute to the work that is being done by the women in the British Control who are working on the educational side. It is a really fine achievement. All those I saw agreed—as we here all agree—that unless we can help the Germans by giving them more consumer goods and provide more comfortable—or perhaps it would be better to say less hideously uncomfortable—conditions for the people, there is a real danger of a serious set back at the next election. Because all that my right hon. Friend said this afternoon about Germany goes towards making it possible for the build-up which will give the people better conditions, I welcome his statement about Germany. I hope it will be possible to put his plans into operation very soon and that we shall be able to allow the Germans their full responsibility of civil Government and so help them to secure the improved social and material conditions which will bring about a better political outlook.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I do not think any fair-minded person can accuse the Conservative Party of irresponsible opposition regarding either home affairs or, still less, foreign affairs. In fact, our support of the Foreign Secretary and his policy has been ungrudging and sincere, although at times critical; it has even been an embarrassment to the right hon. Gentleman on more than one occasion. All of us on this side would like to see questions of defence and foreign affairs kept as much as possible above Party. That makes a strange comparison with the activities of the Socialist Party when it was in opposition between the wars, with its constant screaming for unilateral disarmament at a time when we 1203 were faced by ever growing and ever more obvious threats of a Nazi Germany. I see the Minister shaking his head, and I would add that that irresponsibility was highlighted when hon. Members opposite were in opposition, by the vote against conscription after Hitler had invaded Prague.
A good many of my hon. Friends believe that our support of the Foreign Secretary has been, if anything overgenerous. I intend, without mincing my words, to point out what are, in my opinion, some of the grave mistakes that have been made in the conduct of our foreign affairs during the last two and a half years. I will relate my remarks as far as possible to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, who seemed to be steering an extremely unsteady course in very troubled Socialist waters in an attempt not to bump into any of the pressure groups which he knows only too well exist behind him. It was really a long attempt to pour oil on the troubled waters of his own Party. Just how troubled those waters really are is exampled by the fact that every time the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy) referred to "ourselves," he was interrupted by one of his colleagues or comrades.
When the Foreign Secretary referred to E.R.P., he spoke of attempts to attribute all sorts of designs and machinations to Mr. Marshall. I suppose that he had in mind a phrase of the hon. Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. S. Silverman) who referred to our American friends as "shabby moneylenders." He may even have been looking into the future to the speech by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), which was referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) as one of the most disgraceful speeches he had ever heard in the House. I had a feeling, when listening to it, that I had heard' it all before. I then recollected that the Soviet radio English broadcasts and realised that it was a paraphrase of the sort of propaganda we hear every day from Moscow. I could not help noticing, when the Foreign Secretary referred to the American assistance, which we are getting without stint, as a generous act, that the cheers from this side of the House were extremely loud, and I was unable to de- 1204 tect one Member opposite raising his voice in support.
On the subject of Western Union, I cannot help recalling the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at Zurich and Fulton, and the fact that something like 200 Members opposite put down what might be called a censure Motion against my right hon. Friend. I maintain that the Foreign Secretary has lost two years, the value of which cannot be exaggerated, in trying to organise a Western Europe of any kind. He has told us that as long ago as the 1920's, he advocated such a union, but what a contrast that makes with the fact that the chairman of the Socialist Party is officially discouraging Members opposite from going to the Hague to take part in that Conference. The Foreign Secretary also spoke of sacrificing substantial national interests, but he has still not told us what he means by Western Union, nor has he told us what he means when he speaks of a "new conception of sovereignty." I really feel that this House is entitled to know what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind when he speaks in these terms. He spoke also of keeping the Dominions fully informed and consulted.
There is a Motion on the Order Paper—which is to be discussed tomorrow but not called—in the names of a number of my hon. Friends, including myself on the subject of Western Union and this is an Amendment to substitute the words "in agreement with the Dominions" for "in consultation with the Dominions." I am not at all happy that there is sufficient consultation, let alone agreement, with the Dominions so far as Western Union is concerned. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister should stress so strongly the difficulties in calling a Dominions' Conference, when it is easy to call together 16 nations, all of whom speak a different language, and reach agreement on an economic policy for Western Europe. Many major and important questions ought to be discussed with the nations of the Commonwealth, and the sooner they are discussed the better.
I was very sorry that the Foreign Secretary made no specific mention of any approach to the Scandinavian countries, to Portugal or to, Italy. I believe that the time has come when all free countries in Western Europe are ready and anxious for a lead. I think that public opinion 1205 in all those countries and particularly in this country, is ahead of their Governments. When hon. Members opposite speak of the United Nations organisation, I wonder whether it has ever struck them how illogical it is for any country to be a member of the United Nations organisation at the same time as it is a member of the Cominform. The latter is an organisation—and if anyone doubts my word he has only to read the speech made by M. Zhdanov in Warsaw just before the organisation was formed—which is sworn to destroy by all means in its power the free institution in which we in the West believe. On the other hand, the United Nations organisation has sworn to preserve those free institutions. It is completely contradictory for any country to be a member of both organisations.
The Foreign Secretary made some reference to treaties. He said—I think these were his words—that treaties "might have lost some of their significance." He did not explain exactly what he meant when he used those words. I believe that the fundamental error which has been made, in Western Germany for example, has been the refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to accept the fact that the Potsdam Agreement has been a dead letter since V-E Day. The same applies to the Yalta Agreement. I hold in my hand here an account of the conference at Yalta. If there were time I would like to read a brief extract from it. It would well repay reading, if only to show to what the Soviet Union subscribed on 11th February, 1945. I am thinking of such things as free elections, the right of all peoples to choose the governments under which they wish to live, and the four freedoms. All those things are mentioned in here, but they have been denied to the peoples of Eastern Europe. I hope that hon. Members opposite are beginning to see the extent to which the Communists had their tongues in their cheeks at the time when they signed those agreements.
The time has come when we should accept the fact that the unilateral and cynical disregard of their treaty obligations by the Soviet Union relieves us of our obligations under those same treaties. An example of what I have in mind—incidentally in a part of the world about which it is time His Majesty's Government told us what their policy is—can be 1206 found in Silesia. This large part of Eastern Germany was given to Poland specifically for administration, in part compensation for the loss of 48 per cent. of their pre-1939 territory including 80 per cent. of their old supply.
I do not think there is any Pole who will ever agree happily to the loss of their Eastern Territories. Nor is there any Pole who would ever agree happily and willingly to return to the Germans the German Eastern territories which they have received by way of compensation. Nor is there any German, of any political party, who would agree readily or happily to the loss of their Eastern territories in Silesia. That is the vicious circle in which His Majesty's Government find themselves. There is no clear statement of policy on this matter, just as there was no proper protest made when the mass of cruel expulsions were going on, although the attention of His Majesty's Government was frequently drawn to them by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I cite that as one example of the lack of policy of His Majesty's Government.
The territorial adjustments of pre-1939 Soviet boundaries made since the war were made, I am sure, in good faith. All those territorial adjustments should be declared as being null and void, in view of the fact that the Soviet Union has cynically disregarded all aspects of the treaties to which she is a party, so far as they did not fit in with her preconceived plans. I have in mind, in speaking of the pre-1939 Soviet boundaries, not only those areas which were given to the Soviet by treaty, but also the Baltic States where again His Majesty's Government have failed completely to make clear what their policy is. They have only told us in the vaguest terms that they recognise the de facto occupation of those three small democracies while not recognising the occupation de jure. As regards sending any message of hope to the peoples of those countries, there has not been a whisper of it.
I wish to say a word about the treaties of peace with Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary. I had the opportunity in the autumn of visiting all three countries. I spent a week or ten days in each of them.
§ Major Beamish
When I was there I was able to find out for myself the way in which many aspects of the peace treaties were being disregarded by the governments of those countries, with the active connivance, or should I say the orders of the 14 men of the Kremlin. The military clauses have been completely disregarded. What is worse is that His Majesty's Government are trying to conceal from the House the extent to which these treaties are being broken. I know perfectly well, and so do the Government, as does everyone who knows what is going on in those parts of the world, that the secret police forces are as great as or greater than the armed forces themselves, and are, in respect of military training, as good as or better than military trained armed forces. Yet the Government say that they have not the power under these treaties to inquire into those police forces. They have the power under these treaties, and the sooner they make an inquiry the sooner shall we know the truth.
I know perfectly well, as do the Government, that the Soviet Union are not only training a considerable number of Germans in Field Marshal von Paulus's group; but that they are training considerable numbers of Roumanians, Bulgarians and Hungarians. These figures have to be added to the total armed strength of those countries. Yet the Government say they know nothing about it. One has only to go to those countries to be able to find out with the greatest ease from returning prisoners of war what is happening. Why should we not be told?
There is the case—there are many which I could mention—of the Bulgarian-Greek frontier. We have a duty to inspect that area to see that it is properly demilitarised, but because the Soviet Union do not want to inspect the area we have not insisted on our right. Yet that is the very area from which the United Nations Commission in Macedonia and Salonika has reported that General Markos's rebels are being provisioned, equipped and supported. What is to stop us from inspecting that area? We have a right to do so under that treaty. Why cannot orders be given for it to be inspected? That is one more example of the way in which the Bulgarian treaty has been completely disregarded.
1208 As regards the political clauses, all have been violated and the protests which the Government have very properly made have been largely nullified by the organised, almost inspired disloyalty of their own so-called supporters. There are many aspects of these treaties to which I would like to refer, but they alone would have provided a whole speech. I will refer only to one aspect which is of particular interest, the Danube Clauses. The Foreign Secretary told us a great deal at the time about the diplomatic triumph of the insertion of those clauses. Now it is perfectly obvious they are largely, if not completely, meaningless. It was M. Rakosi, the Communist leader in Hungary, who told me that for all practical purposes, that particular clause of the treaty was worthless.
The Foreign Secretary complained in his speech that he had to deal with Communist ideology. He went on to say how much easier it would be if he had to deal with the Soviet people, and that in those circumstances he could adjust all the territorial difficulties between the Soviet Union and ourselves. Surely it is no use complaining about this. It is simply a fact which has been staring us in the face since V.E. Day. I hate to be patronising, but I would strongly recommend to hon. Members opposite and the Foreign Secretary a short course of reading in order that they should see for themselves just exactly what power the Communists plan. I would recommend them to read Stalin's "Problems of Leninism," particularly the chapter on strategy and tactics. I also recommend them to read "Blue Print for World Conquest," published in America, with a foreword by Mr. William Henry Chamberlin and I would also recommend "A Short History of the Communist Party (Bolshevists)" If these books, written in the Communists' own words, fail to convince hon. Members opposite the true aims of international Communism, then nothing will ever convince them.
I can only refer shortly to some other mistakes which I think have been made in the conduct of our foreign affairs during the last two and a half years. We have this absurd claim by hon. Members opposite, which has been supported by the Foreign Secretary on two occasions at his most recent party conferences, that European union can only be built on a 1209 Socialist foundation. Yet in the whole of Europe there are only two countries, apart from this country, in which the Socialists have an absolute parliamentary majority. Out of 29 countries there are only two—Norway and Sweden. The suggestion is perfectly absurd. I would say, with reference to the Nenni telegram, that it was just as reprehensible for the Socialist Party, as such, to send a telegram wishing well to Signor Saragat as it was for the "Nenni goats" to send their telegram. It is no part of British foreign policy to interfere in that way with purely party politics inside another country. It is leading our foreign policy gravely astray. I would add that we cannot conceal the presence of 40 or 50 "Nenni goats" by producing one scapegoat. I see that the right hon. Gentleman, or the hon. Gentleman as he now is, the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I beg his pardon, the right hon. Gentle man, I am very sorry. I see he has been working fast and furious in Paris to sabotage—yes sabotage—European recovery, just as he retarded the recovery of this country when he was in office.
I am greatly concerned at our military unpreparedness. I have not the time to go into details, but no one who knows the figures can fail to be concerned that in the Soviet Union there are over 4 million men under arms, and in the satellite countries there are about 800,000. These figures have been confirmed recently by General Bradley. In America, in comparison, there are about one and one-third million which may rise to about two million if conscription goes through Congress for the first time in peace time in American history. I have many other figures which should cause us all the gravest concern. In that connection I cannot but mention the staggering irresponsibility of the political decision to reduce the period of conscription from 18 months to 12 months which was taken in the absence of the Foreign Secretary, and in my belief, against the advice of all three chiefs of staff. For that, the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) must bear a heavy responsibility. I am glad to see him in his place and thinking of him, it strikes me how disappointed he must be that he was not born a centipede so that he could have had a foot in every Socialist camp or at any rate a toe in every Socialist pie which is the policy he 1210 has constantly pursued since he has been in the House.
With regard to the Far East my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield dealt very interestingly and adequately with the situation in China. I will not touch on that, but I was disappointed that the Foreign Secretary was unable to make any mention of it at all. My time is running out. I had hoped to say a few words about the situation in Palestine and the Middle East. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) remarked upon the Foreign Secretary's extraordinary phrase when he referred to U.N.O.'s handling of the situation as praiseworthy.
In reference to the situation in Palestine, I would say to the Zionists that there are two alternatives. One is to live in Palestine in concord with the Arabs. The other, speaking frankly, is to be annihilated. The Arabs have been generous and moderate. In all the Arab countries round about there several hundred thousand Jews living in peace, as their forebears have done for many centuries. The national home which has been provided for the Jews in Palestine can easily exist there side by side with the Arabs. The policy of His Majesty's Government in Palestine and the Middle East has been "too little and too late," because again they have failed to take the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he strongly advocated leaving Palestine some two years ago. At the last minute His Majesty's Government decide to scuffle out of Palestine: hence the grave deterioration in the situation.
Then there is the failure of His Majesty's Government to appreciate the value of the B.B.C. as an instrument of our foreign policy, and the refusal to accept that there is any difference between peoples and governments of countries when making these broadcasts. Also there is the failure to re-establish the political warfare executive which did such valuable work during the war. Then there is the failure to take proper action against their own disloyal elements, a matter to which I have already referred. Lastly—[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."]—I did not expect hon. Members opposite to like this. There is plenty more that I could say. Lastly, there is 1211 the hypocrisy of His Majesty's Government in using words which they know perfectly well have a different meaning for ourselves and for the Communists. As one example of that I would cite the forcible repatriation of Yugoslavs after a prima facie case had been established against them by some sort of tribunal which I think was appointed by the Foreign Office. I am happy to be able to agree that the utmost trouble is taken in establishing these prima facie cases. What annoys me beyond words though is the pretence—[Interruption.] It is not at all funny. The lives of men and women are at stake; but if hon. Members opposite want to giggle about it then they can. What annoys me more than I can say is the pretence that when these men go back to Yugoslavia they are to be tried. If His Majesty's Government would admit that they were going back to a country where there is no justice at all—and that is something which, incidentally, they have admitted already, but not in this connection—it would not be hypocritical. However, the situation at present is one of clear hypocrisy.
§ Major Beamish
I am not sure to which agreement the right hon. Gentleman is referring. Earlier I made it clear that the unilateral repudiation of these agreements by the other parties to them gives His Majesty's Government a perfectly good excuse for not being bound by them. The recent Bled Agreement has been one example. It has now been torn up by Marshal Tito. If the right hon. Gentleman would make clear to which agreement he refers, I might be able to answer his question. He seems to forget that there was a civil war going on in Yugoslavia and that every patriotic Yugoslav who did not want to see his country dominated by the Soviet Union was fighting under General Mihailovitch. Is that to be taken as active and wilful collaboration with the enemy?
In conclusion, may I say that what I find intolerable is the pretence that all is well, or comparatively well, when in 1212 fact, things could hardly be worse. I feel that the Government, for reasons best known to themselves, have been deliberately misleading the public, and I would like to quote to the Foreign Secretary, whose sincerity I have never doubted and with whom I sympathise more than I can say because of the disloyalty of his own colleagues, something which was said by Edmund Burke;There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.I hope he will give a little careful consideration to that quotation. We have allowed ourselves to be put on the defensive when we ought to have been on the offensive. We have sacrificed a great many of the principles for which we have fought two terrible wars in order to try to reach an impossible accord with ideological Communism, and, as a result, our enemies have been jubilant and our best friends left in the lurch.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I rise to take part in this Debate which has been largely clouded with pessimism. Hon. Members have talked about conditions at the end of the next war, and of the chaos that will probably result. There were a number of other extremely pessimistic statements, including one from the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) who drew a terrible picture of the effects of Marshall Aid which must have drawn tears into the eyes of all supporters of the Government.
What we are discussing tonight is the foreign policy of the Government, and I want to ask the Foreign Secretary whether, by a change in this policy, there is a way out of the serious difficulties which the House has been considering. Is our foreign policy strong enough to meet the threats to the world which are envisaged in the present world situation? And I put it to the House that our policy, if it is to be strong enough for that task, must be the policy of the British Commonwealth as a whole and not the policy of the United Kingdom only. I emphasise that because we have been talking a great deal today about Western Union, which is very important, and about economic co-operation in Europe, which is also very important. But that is only one of a number of regional arrangements that will have to 1213 be made in the world by the British Commonwealth of Nations in order that our foreign policy may be implemented.
I want to ask the Foreign Secretary to amplify the statement he made in his speech when he said that we keep the Commonwealth fully informed and consulted on foreign affairs. That seems to be a rather inadequate way of dealing with the co-relation of foreign policy. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) also seemed to approach the foreign policy of the Government from the same point of view. I have not the time to display various facts about the situation which I wanted to bring before the House, but I want to ask the Government bluntly whether they are now prepared to call a conference of all the Members of the Commonwealth to discuss what our Commonwealth foreign policy should be. If we do that, we are on equal terms with the Soviet Union and the United States. Without it, we are a European country making a regional arrangement in Europe and by no means equal to either of those two great nations. That is the fact of the situation.
Let me now put it from the point of view of defence. If we were in a war, it would he the whole Commonwealth in that war, if we were to have any chance at all. I trust that we shall not he so destitute of political wisdom as to allow ourselves to be involved in a war, but, if we were, the whole Commonwealth would come in, or we should be certain to fail. The whole Commonwealth were in the first world war; they were in the second world war, and if they had not been we should certainly have been overwhelmed. If we are to make defence plans—and they are an essential part of foreign policy—they must be defence plans for the whole of the Commonwealth and not for the United Kingdom alone. That is another reason why I think it is essential to call a Commonwealth conference now—it is an urgent matter—in order that these questions of foreign policy may be discussed from the point of view of the whole Commonwealth.
Our foreign policy must also take account of the economic and political needs of all the Dominions. However good the present means of consultation may be—by wireless, correspondence, interchange of visits, representations by 1214 High Commissioners and so on—they cannot replace a conference which gives full opportunity for exchange of views and opinions by personal contact. Here in the United Kingdom much of our Debate tomorrow is to be on Western Union—only a regional economic organisation—but for the purposes of defence we shall need a whole Commonwealth organisation. We ought to be getting on with that organisation now, because I would remind the House that if we had gone into the last war at the time of Munich, South Africa would not have come in. If we are to be in another war, it is very essential that the whole Commonwealth does come in. That means prior consultations and the overcoming of whatever difficulties there are in the way of a whole Commonwealth foreign policy.
There may be—in fact, there are—difficulties in the way, but they can 'be overcome if we call a conference in advance. Not only the regional problems of Western Europe should be considered, but the regional problem of the Pacific strategy by Australia and New Zealand, the regional problem of Eastern security by India, Pakistan and Ceylon, the regional problem of Canada and Newfoundland and the regional problem of the Union of South Africa in Africa itself. One of the basic features of our foreign policy, as the Prime Minister has often reminded us, is our support of the United Nations. How immeasurably will this be strengthened if the policy is not that of the United Kingdom alone, but a policy agreed by the whole British Commonwealth of Nations, and supported by our representatives at the United Nations. This, in itself, would be a great step forward towards the United Nations guarantee of world peace, which is the only stable foundation for such guarantee.
I shall not deal tonight, because there is no time, with the questions of the international military force, plans for which, by the way, have already been drawn up by the Military Staff Committee of the Security Council. There is not complete agreement in that report but the difficulties and divergences are not very great, and could be bridged if there was the will to bridge them. If we as a Commonwealth stand together politically, economically and militarily we can become one of the three great Powers of the world. We can make the peace of the world a 1215 reality, and the only way to get out of the difficulties and the horrors of another war which have been forecast tonight—and they have not in the least been understated—is to have this immediate and urgent conference of all the nations of the Commonwealth. The horrors of another war would be, practically speaking, beyond the conception of any but those who have gone into the matter in the very greatest detail in relation to the destructive power of what are now called absolute weapons, of which, by the way, the atomic bomb is only one. Bacteriological warfare is probably worse than that, and much more easily applied even by nations without great resources.
The only way to avoid a war is to have this conference of all the Commonwealths, the formulation of a foreign policy which will involve the full support of the United Nations, of the Security Council and the International military force with all that that implies, and if we do that we shall have a method of leading the world to peace. If we do not do that, we shall then very probably blunder on from one condition to another and from one disaster to another. We may finally escape a war, but at any rate we shall indefinitely prolong the condition of industrial disequilibrium and of suffering and the pain by many people all over the world, whereas if we call this conference, if we take a big lead and have a Commonwealth foreign policy which stands as a world policy—for only a world policy can deal with world events—I believe we can lead the world to peace and take that leadership which ought to be ours and has been ours and should be ours again, if we have the capacity to stretch out our hands to take it.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
There have been very many interesting speeches today, and I believe I shall carry some hon. Members at any rate with me, if I single out particularly the impressive survey of the military situation given by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) earlier this afternoon. I am not qualified for a moment to follow him into the details of that discussion and I will only say this. In the present condition of 1216 the world it is obviously essential that every nation should see to its defences. If we are content to see to them individually, without consulting with other nations, we shall fall prey one by one to the destroyer. The only hope is the military understanding which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has begun to build up through the union of the five Benelux Powers.
I think that understanding should be extended as far and as fast as is possible. I hope Italy will be brought in at an early date and I hope, also, that Portugal and Spain will be brought in at as early a date as possible, because I agree to the full with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) in what he said about Spain. We need Spain economically and we need her co-operation strategically. As to Spanish politics, Spain has never been able to make a success of her own politics since the day of Philip 11, and external influences can have no good effect upon her. I hope we shall extend our trade with Spain and that if Spain offers military co-operation we shall accept that co-operation.
For that reason I could not agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) in his interesting speech, when he thought undue stress had been laid on military co-operation. Obviously we cannot ignore or neglect it in the present state of the world. But there was one observation made by the hon. Member for Edge Hill with which I strongly agreed, and that is that we must find a middle way through which some kind of understanding with the Soviet Union can be achieved. I do not know how it is to be done. The time will no doubt come sooner or later when the Foreign Secretary will have to resume contact with M. Molotov. Whether this is the time, or when the time will be, is not for me to say. The right hon. Gentleman knows far better than any other Member of the House what is practicable in that direction.
There was one other observation of interest in the speech of the hon. Member for Edge Hill. He laid stress on the danger of Communist infiltration in Europe No one can deny that that danger exists, but I think there is some fear of our exaggerating it and being unduly discouraged by it. It was not infiltration that led to the downfall of Bulgaria, it was Russian troops. It was not infiltration but Russian troops that 1217 led to the fall of Hungary. It was not infiltration in Czechoslovakia. The Communist vote in Czechoslovakia was certain to drop at the coming elections, and it was on account of that fact that we had a threat of force, and a display of force, of marching armies through the streets of Prague, the formation of action committees in the factories, and so on. In Italy the Communist vote has fallen, and there is reason to believe that Communist strength has diminished in France. While I take full account of the effect of infiltration, I do not think we should regard it as the only danger, or necessarily as the chief danger.
The Foreign Secretary at the beginning of this Debate delivered a speech as weighty as himself—and I could not put it much higher than that. I am sure that it will gather authority as it is read and considered at leisure tomorrow in this country and in all other countries in Europe. It may be said that the Foreign Secretary had nothing new to tell the House. But it seems to me that if a Foreign Secretary gives an account of his stewardship for the four months which have elapsed since he last addressed us, and adds a survey of the existing situation as he sees it, he gives us the best start that could be desired to a Debate on the whole field of foreign policy.
What appeared to me to be the most valuable feature of his speech was, his insistence that action taken should be realistic and practical, and that we should advance step by step, instead of taking a flying leap into a mirage as so many hon. Members of the House appear to want to do. I shall not venture into the particular field of tomorrow's Debate, but I am astonished at the fantasies of so many federal unionists. It is easy enough to take a pencil and paper and sketch schemes for federal union in Europe or Western Europe or the world; several schemes I have seen in the last few days resemble nothing so much as children building houses with toy bricks on the nursery floor. These things are all castles in the air. What we have to deal with is realities; and the merit of the Foreign Secretary's speech was that he insisted on a realistic approach.
We need not, I think, be altogether discouraged by a survey of the world today. In the last five months we have passed from what seemed—though it was not 1218 entirely so—a period of drift and frustration to a period of definite construction. The Marshall Aid plan, the discussions on co-operation between the 16 European States—17 States, if we include Western Germany, as I am glad we can—and the Benelux Agreement with its possibilities of extension—all that means that most valuable constructive work has been accomplished, and the construction throughout is built on solid ground.
As I see it, there is one problem still to be solved. The Foreign Secretary touched on it. After each of the two great wars every man who considered foreign affairs seriously realised the importance of creating some international organisation. We had the League of Nations after the first world war. It did not entirely fulfil expectations. We have the United Nations now after the last war. That, in itself, as it is, does not suffice. The American States have come to the conclusion that it does not suffice, and they have made their own agreement covering the continents of America. Had I more time I should have liked to put some questions to the right hon. Gentleman about the United Nations, but I shall not do that tonight.
I shall only say that the frustration of constructive efforts at Lake Success through the use of the veto by the Soviet Union has shown that it becomes essential, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and as the Minister for External Affairs said in Canada a day or two ago, to build up some association of nations within the compass of the Charter, inspired with all the ideals of the United Nations, pledged to work together without the exercise of any veto. We have something like that in Western Europe. It may be the nucleus from which everything will grow. But it is vital that the United Nations shall not be rendered impotent by the use of a veto, and yet we cannot be content to go on without any international organisation and international co-operation at all. Therefore I welcome the statement of the determination of the Foreign Secretary to advance step by step. I mistrust the plunges into intimacy which are recommended in some quarters. Intimacy can as easily lead to mutual irritation as to mutual admiration, and more mutual irritation in the world at this time could be a public danger.
1219 I recognise, with, I suppose, all hon. Members, the supreme importance of an understanding with Russia. Our recognition of the difficulties Russia has put in our way, our acknowledgment of the fact of the existence of the iron curtain or the brick wall, that we have not ourselves done anything to raise does not at all diminish the need for us somehow to come to terms with Russia and establish co-operation with her. That is the Foreign Secretary's business and any one else's business who can make any practical suggestion in regard to it. After the speech which we have heard today, I myself am perfectly content to trust the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will continue to keep his feet on the course that he has marked out, and avoid turning aside into any of those courses which he himself has said will lead us into morasses and bypaths instead of towards the goal which we all of us seek.
§ 9.50 p.m.
Mr. Gallather (Fife, West)
I am not going to say anything about the typical anti-Soviet warmongering speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). Those who have read his speeches against the Labour leaders during the war years—scandalous speeches—or who have cared to read the report of the 31st Annual Conference of the Labour Party and the case which Willie Shaw made against him when he was expelled from the Labour Party, will know how much confidence to place on anything which the hon. Member says in this House. I do not want to discuss the question of infiltration. I was fortunate, or unfortunate, as the case may be—to be born in this country. I do not know whether that was infiltration or not. I have been in a trade union since I was a lad. I do not know whether that is infiltration in trade unions. When I was an infant my mother joined the Co-operative movement and I was brought up in support of it. I do not know whether that is infiltration. But I know I have the right to be a member of the trade union and the Co-operative and to have my own ideas, and the Foreign Secretary knows I had these ideas before there was any Soviet Revolution.
I think that in this question of foreign policy we should get down to one or two fundamentals. I have been asked outside 1220 and inside the House if the Labour leaders actually believe what they say or are they conscious of the fact that they are betraying the great movement which they represent. The Prime Minister in 1937 wrote a book, "The Labour Party in Perspective." It was published as a Left Book. Here is what he says on page 15 concerning foreign policy:In every country in the world where modern capitalism has. developed there is to be found in some form or another a revolt of those who suffer from its condition and rejects its assumptions. … The evils that capitalism brings differ in intensity in different countries, but the root cause of the trouble once discerned, the remedy is seen to be the same by thoughtful men and women. The cause is the private ownership of the means of life, the remedy is public ownership.Why do not we hear something about that? On page 220 we also read:The Fascist danger in this country does not come from the crude activities of Sir Oswald Mosley, but from the clever propaganda which is being actively disseminated ever since the formation of the National Government in favour of, what is called national unity"—Are we not hearing plenty about that now?There have been deliberate attempts made to suggest that after all there are no real politicial differences in this country and that every one is in reality in agreement. The increasing danger of the international situation affords an opportunity for pressing this point. The speeches of Mr. Ramsey Macdonald are full of Fascist ideas and even Fascist phraseology.I would like to know what difference in principle there is between some of the speeches made here on this side of the House and the other side with the speeches that were made by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when the Prime Minister wrote that. Then take this extract from page 226:First, it must be perfectly clear that the Labour Party rejects altogether the theory that foreign policy is something that must be kept out of party politics. It does not agree that there is some policy to be pursued by this country irrespective of what party is in power. A policy which is National and so transcends party differences. There is a deep difference of opinion between the Labour Party and the capitalists parties on foreign as well as in home policy, because the two cannot be separated.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
On a point of Order. If we must have a speech read to us may we know what it comes from?
§ Mr. Gallacher
This is from a book written by the Prime Minister, published by the Left Book Club, and entitled "Labour in Perspective." It goes on:The foreign policy of a government is a reflection of its internal policy. Imperialism is the form which capitalism takes in relation to other nations.Now, all that seems pretty clear; but what is it that we are getting here? Have we heard from the Foreign Secretary, or from any hon. Member on this side of the House supporting him, one word in condemnation of capitalism or the evils of capitalism? That is what the Socialist movement was brought into existence to destroy—to destroy capitalism. In the years before the war, had there been a threat of war any Socialist—the Foreign Secretary or any other Front Bench man would have said that the menace came from capitalism and its search after markets and spheres of influence for investment. We have attacks on the Communists and on others on this side of the House who do not conform to everything presented by the Front Bench, but the Prime Minister says in his book, at page 9:I should not like to see a Labour Party on the pattern of those which exist in corporate states, where exact obedience and loyalty to a leader stifle thought and destroy individual initiative. In a Party of the Left there should always be room for differences of opinion and emphasis.Again, on page 30 he says:It naturally follows, however, from the heterogeniety of the sources from which the Movement drew its inspiration, that the Labour Party has always comprised people of very various outlooks, and that it has always been one of comprehensiveness. The natural British tendency to heresy and dissent has prevented the formation of a code of rigid Socialist orthodoxy.'I hope the Government will take that into account when considering the 21 Members who are described, quite erroneously, as Communists. If any of them were hidden Communists they are hidden so very, very deeply that I have never been able to discover them.
I am sorry that time is so limited. I did, however, want to make one or two points clear. I would observe that in Greece the maintenance of a reactionary Royalist Fascist group against the masses of the people has nothing whatever to do with Labour policy. I should have liked to deal with the betrayal in Palestine, 1222 for Labour leaders, one after another, and Labour Party conferences, made pledges to the Zionists, which have been definitely betrayed. There is no question about that at all. The responsibility rests upon the Labour leaders for the suffering that is taking place at the present time. I should have liked to present, as strongly as I could, the feelings of the workers of this country, of the mothers of this country and of our young people. One thing they desire above all else is peace, and anyone who has any respect for the working class of this country—or for the working class movement, should make peace his goal and to ensure that, whatever happens this country will strive with all progressive forces in Europe and all progressive forces in America to maintain peace, and on that foundation build economic prosperity for all.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]