HL Deb 07 November 1939 vol 114 cc1721-38

4.49 p.m.

LORD MOTTISTONEhad given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether they will take steps now in consultation with other Governments to diminish the tragedy of suffering and want which now prevails in all parts of Poland and which is going to grow much worse this winter; and move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for detaining your Lordships for a few moments on this matter of the sufferings of the Polish people. The words on the Order Paper are not mine. They are the words spoken by the noble Viscount, the Foreign Secretary, the week before last when I raised this question. He then used the words "the tragedy of suffering and want which now prevails in all parts of Poland and which is going to grow much worse this winter." When I was abroad just before I spoke on that occasion, I heard from neutral and other sources how astonishing were the sufferings to which the Polish people had been subjected owing to the unparalleled things that happened to them through no fault of their own. When the noble Viscount, the Foreign Secretary, was good enough to reply to me, he used the words which are now on the Order Paper. As they were not reported in the Press at the time, it seemed to me most important that we who are so deeply committed to the well-being of the Polish people, as we were to the Belgian people twenty years ago, should try and show to those unfortunate people that we are not unmindful of them.

My noble friend the Foreign Secretary pointed out to me when I sent him the terms of my question, that it would not be possible for him to act in accordance with the suggestion I make. My question asked the Government whether they will take steps now in consultation with other Governments to diminish the tragedy of suffering and want which now prevails in all parts of Poland, because, as he truly says in his letter, neither this nor other Governments can compel those who have invaded Poland—the German and the Soviet Governments—to do anything that we tell them to do; and to invite a rebuff would be worse than useless. Therefore, as he suggested, I will put my question in this form: To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the tragedy of suffering and want which now prevails in all parts of Poland consequent upon the invasion of that country, and which is going to grow much worse this winter, and what steps they and other Governments are taking to relieve the hardship prevailing among the Polish refugees. I have said that I do not apologise for bringing this question forward, because, unless I am misinformed—and indeed I know I am not, because of what the Foreign Secretary has said—the tragedy as he described it is even greater than your Lordships might have thought from the few items that have occurred in the Press.

I have seen those who were there at that terrible moment when that host, fleeing from the wrath of the invaders from the West, were confronted by the Red Army invading from the East. In common with some of your Lordships, at least one of whom I see before me, I saw the flight from invasion in the retreat from Mons. That was the Belgians fleeing; and I saw the further retreat of the French civilian population at the end of August and September, 1914; and it so happens that I am, I think, the only man in this House who saw the even more tragic Via Dolorosa of the refugees coming through Antwerp when the last of the Belgian people attempted to escape from the wrath that was befalling them. The same thing happened in both cases. There were burning villages and farms and the wretched people actually dying of starvation as they moved; children falling under the wheels and crushed to death, for all were so tightly packed in the road that with all the good will in the world the others could do nothing to help those who fell down. It was like the awful catastrophe on the Underground Railway, which perhaps some of your Lordships may remember, at Hampstead, where hundreds of people were killed by people pressing on behind. I saw with my own eyes, not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of persons jammed in a narrow road, subject to bombardment.

I am told, and the Foreign Secretary will correct me if I am wrong, that the horrors which the Belgian people and some of the French suffered in 1914 are as nothing to what these Polish people suffered in this double invasion, first from one side and then from the other. Now it was no fault of the Poles. They have an absolutely clean conscience. Whether they had any reason to suppose that they would have a benevolent neutrality behind them one need not inquire, because, though they had reason to fear attack from the West, from the East they were protected by the very definite terms of a Treaty. This was the Pact of Non-Aggression between Poland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which was made in July, 1932, and was extended to 1945. Article I says: The two contracting parties reciprocally undertake to refrain from taking any aggressive action against or invading the territory of the other party, either alone or in conjunction with other Powers. Article II says: Should one of the contracting parties be attacked by a third State or group of States, the other contracting party undertakes not to give aid or assistance either directly or indirectly to the aggressor State during the whole period of the conflict. And yet these unfortunate people have seen themselves invaded and have suffered all the consequences of invasion.

It has been claimed that, as the Polish State had ceased to exist, this Pact of Non-Aggression lapsed. We can leave that there: it is not an argument which anybody in this country would wish to adopt. The fact that the Poles have been so hardly used by fate makes us, I am sure—and my noble friends here will agree with me—all the more anxious to help these unfortunate people who have lost all that they had—their country, their goods, and in many cases the lives of those they held most clear, not in thousands or tens of thousands, but literally in millions. That being the position, I would venture to ask the Foreign Secretary when he comes to reply to tell us, if it be true that the sufferings are as great as I have endeavoured briefly to describe, what steps can be taken.

Many of my friends have said to me since I put this Motion on the Paper, "But what can England do for the Poles?" I say, first of all, remember that they are there; do not forget them. Secondly, remember what happened 25 years ago. Just the same thing happened to Belgium, only on a less disastrous scale. But we did not sit with folded hands; we proclaimed to all the world that Belgium was our constant care and that we should not forget Belgium. What is more, arrangements were made—and we may hear something of them in this debate—by which great assistance was given to those unfortunate Belgian people. I have no doubt that the Foreign Office—and especially the Foreign Secretary, whose mind, as we all understand, is deeply moved by this suffering, as any suffering must move him especially—are doing what they can, and we should like to know what it is.

I do not propose to go into any controversial matters to-day at all, but I just want to place on record what I believe all your Lordships will agree to be the fact: that the Poles were not in the least to blame. I go further, and say that we British people are not to blame either. We could not prevent it, and we could not say less than we did when we said: "If you are attacked, you whose integrity has been secured by constant treaties, renewed again and again, we will go to war with those who invade you." We could not say less; we took all risks. Not so much has befallen us as might have done, but we took all risks and we were right. Our consciences are clear in that regard. But if we have a right cause and clean hands, as I think we have, and when that right cause—as I am sure it will—in the end prevails, I plead that neither now nor then shall we forget Poland.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has been very wise in not going into details as to what should be done at the end of the war. He has taken to heart the moral of the fable, which applies, I may say, to monsters as well as to lions: that you must not divide up the skin before they are dead. I am sure that in this case, as when you meet a venomous snake or mad dog, you have first of all to concentrate on dealing with it before you consider what you will do with the carcase. But it is not premature to begin considering the case of Poland, and how the weaknesses which have landed her in the present tragedy may be avoided in any future settlement, so that she may emerge stronger and less vulnerable than before.

Germany seems to have given an extraordinarily interesting example in the Baltic as to how weaknesses in these border States can be avoided. She has suggested by her big movements of German population that the interest of the people is much greater in importance than the historical associations of minorities with particular territories. The Germans have shown that they not only specialise in persecuting racial minorities, but they are unwilling themselves ever to live as a peaceful minority under foreign rule. Hitler the other day talked about "racial splinters," and he has taken care for years past to see that those racial splinters were so poisoned that they were bound to cause festering wounds in the bodies politic in which they were planted, and German Colonies have been agents consistently for disorder, and have been made the pretext for German annexation.

The solution, which must as a general principle appeal to a great many of us, is that these German splinters shall be expelled from the surrounding States, and Poland in particular, in exchange for the downtrodden minorities in Germany, such as the 1,500,000 Poles who have been persecuted by the Reich; and, although it is off the point to-day, it is not too early to begin pondering the problem of the Jews, because I have seen in the tropics lately how impossible it is to find suitable territory for these poor people. And there again, surely, the solution is that, since Germany has shown herself unfit to rule them, she should be made to provide suitable territory where they can live under their own laws.

The noble and gallant Lord's Motion in its wording deals with the suffering and want which exist in all parts of Poland. This is a very urgent problem, but it is one which is peculiarly difficult for Great Britain to deal with, now that Poland has been absorbed in a State with which we are at war; and whatever we do after the war—and surely British generosity and the debt that we owe to Poland for her grand resistance against overwhelming odds will ensure that we do our utmost—whatever be the steps that are taken, they can only take place in the way of relief within Poland after peace. The condition of Poland is very like what was to be found in Belgium in the late war, and it will, I think, be dealt with best in the same way through the agency of neutrals. It is reassuring to know that already the United States are active in the field. The Society of Friends have taken a great part in immediate steps to try to mitigate the terrible hardships of the Poles who are left homeless, and without resources under this hated German rule.

I am particularly interested in the condition of the Poles who have been driven out of Poland, and there the problem is divided into two classes. They are the combatants, who amount to something over 70,000, who have found refuge mainly in the Balkans, and civilians, who amount to between 55,000 and 60,000, according to the latest figures. The way of dealing with these people may rather differ, but they are both alike in their terrible state of destitution and want. The neighbouring Governments have shown great hospitality. They have found roofs to cover these poor people, but they have no resources from which they can substitute for the thin summer clothes in which they fled over the frontier the necessary provision against the Balkan winter, in which the thermometer drops to thirty or forty degrees below zero. There is enormous and pressing need of clothes—greatcoats, blankets, thick underclothes, and suits of clothes in which these people can live through the winter.

The various philanthropic agencies in this country were not slow to do what they could. The Society of Friends, the Save the Children Fund, and various Jewish organisations immediately sent out helpers and assistance in kind, and we have now got, under the lead of the Polish Ambassador, a Central Fund, which is inviting subscriptions, which will be disbursed in money and in kind through the agencies already in the field and, where Governments exist, by special measures. In Hungary the fund which was the origin of the Central Fund, that of the Anglo-Polish Relief Committee, immediately sent out representatives and has made available a large credit, which is being disbursed locally. The needs of Hungary are very great, and it is difficult to get supplies through quickly, owing to the number of frontiers and the length of transport. But we were hoping to send off a large consignment at the end of last week, and I hope that difficulties over frontiers and laissez-passers may be got over very quickly. In Rumania the refugees are being very well cared for in the way of cover and food. The Government are giving them 100 lei a day, which is just over a shilling, but they have not got the necessary covering against the climate. The Save the Children Fund is doing admirable work there in opening orphanages, and it has saved from misery and death a great many children by this wonderful effort, which is infinitely more valuable because it has been so prompt.

The Central Fund have sent out a large supply of serum and vaccine to Bucharest, and they are hoping to send out a unit for treatment and survey of the refugee camps in Hungary as soon as we can get the necessary transport. It will be appreciated that the lot of these unfortunate refugees will be infinitely worse if pestilence is added to famine, because then it will be almost impossible to deal with them. There will necessarily be a sanitary cordon round the camps, and it is all-important to immunise them against such a disaster. Just now there are very many appeals, but I am sure the public will show the generosity to this Polish cause that they always do to such heartrending cases. Incomes have shrunk from war and taxation, and it necessarily is going to be difficult to get money. The Fund has already spent far ahead of its resources. I am told that is common form with charitable appeals, and that hospitals are said never to be efficiently run unless they are in debt. But we hope that the public will quickly come to our rescue and make up our deficit. We feel it is better to spend £1 now in covering the naked than £10 next summer when people will not really feel the climate. We hope that the Government are going to assist in bearing the burden. We should like to hear what is being done for the combatants who are interned. We know that they are in barracks, but we gather that they are very ill-provided with covering. I trust that the Foreign Secretary will be able to hold out some hope that the Government will assist in bearing a burden that may prove too heavy for philanthropic effort to bear unaided.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of this very cogent appeal because I am connected with one of the bodies which has attempted to deal with the overwhelming need—the Save the Children Fund—following an appeal in The Times signed by the most reverend Primate and others some five weeks ago. I should like particularly to support the appeal made by the noble Lord who spoke last that the Government should play their part in diminishing this tragedy. I am very glad that the Foreign Secretary has already shown his interest by the appointment of Sir Francis Humphrys to watch over the organisation of the relief, but I feel it would be very appropriate for the Government to go further. We are familiar with the generous action which was taken by our Government in the case of the sufferings of Czecho-Slovakia. In 1920—perhaps this is a somewhat more comparable case—following on the distresses which succeeded the war, the Government instituted a plan of giving pound for pound of money raised by private effort. In this case the urgency is as extreme as we have ever known, and humane and Christian motives must be keenly aroused by the sufferings which exist, and exist, I feel, in the highest degree. They have been met to some extent by the bodies which the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, has mentioned which exclude from their purview political, religious, or racial bias. I am glad to say that America has already raised very considerable sums as well.

But the Motion proposes that work should be done in Poland itself. One does feel that the German Government ought to allow such efforts as were made in Belgium by the Americans, and on that account we ought in this debate, no doubt, to avoid any political comments upon the situation apart from the urgent need of human relief. Such work as could be done in Poland would have to be done, I suppose, by neutral organisations. I am glad to know that there is some hope of co-operation from international bodies such as the Society of Friends and the Save the Children International Union—of which the Save the Children Fund is a component part—an International Union which has its offices in Geneva. But, at all events, work can be done outside Poland in neutral countries, as we have just heard, and it ought to be done on a much larger scale than has been made possible by the funds already existing.

I would only in a word like to testify to the good work which is already being done by these several bodies. Speaking from my own personal experience, in Hungary the Save the Children Fund at once sent one of its Hungarian administrators to the districts where the refugees are found near the Polish frontier. Being herself a great educational expert, she has not only done direct relief work in the provision of food and clothing, but is already doing something to establish emergency schools for the great numbers of children who are in need of education if they are to be there for any time, as unhappily they must be. In Rumania, the national Children Fund has been working mainly at Czernowitz, where the largest masses of refugees are found. Here is one striking and compelling fact. Not only are there masses of children, but 500 children have been separated from their parents and are virtually orphans, without a friend, and require, therefore, very special help.

It is deplorably true, as we have just heard, that these children, and adults too, came out of Poland in clothing utterly unfitted for cold weather—very large numbers of them in cotton clothes. Balkan cold is something unknown in this country. If any of your Lordships have not experienced the cold of winter in the Balkans, you do not know what cold is. I would never have imagined, until I experienced it, what cold could be in the East of Europe. It is a very terrible situation with which we are dealing. What can be done about it? Every humane person who can afford to subscribe ought to do so. But I would submit that it is not merely a question of humanity, but to some extent also of national honour and reputation. In 1920 Government help was given in the way I have described. Although we were at that time suffering from the exhaustion of a long war, yet the Government on a very generous scale gave the equivalent pound for pound of what was privately subscribed. I hope that the Government may at least be willing to act as generously in this case.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I rise for a very few moments to associate the Labour Party in this House with the Motion that has been moved by the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, and to endorse his plea, and the plea repeated by the noble Lord who is Chairman of the Polish Relief Fund and, after him, by the noble Lord who is President of the Save the Children Fund, for effective assistance for the Polish refugees. The point I should like, if I may, to emphasize is one that was made towards the end of the speech of my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton—namely, that this is not a purely humanitarian problem. Most noble Lords would doubtless agree that it would be unfair to ask our Government, in war-time, to respond with the same generosity to appeals for assistance from abroad as they may have shown in peacetime, if the appeals were on purely humanitarian grounds. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, that we have a special obligation and responsibility towards the Polish victims of the war, which arises directly out of our alliance with that country and the tremendous events which this alliance has occasioned.

Casting our minds back for a few moments, we remember that, fortified by the promise of help from Great Britain as well as from France, the Poles boldly rejected the German demands and, when they were attacked for doing so, defended their country with the utmost gallantry for as long as they were able to do so. Owing mainly to their geographical circumstances, the military assistance we rendered our Polish ally did not save it from defeat, at any rate in the first stages of the war. Whether we could have done more is a matter that the historian alone, with a full knowledge of the facts, can decide. I am convinced that the Government believed at the time, and no doubt still believe, that they were doing everything in their power to hamper the German offensive against Poland. But surely the very fact that the military contribution we made to our Ally's cause was necessarily so meagre renders it incumbent on us to give the maximum of humanitarian assistance. There is, indeed, a very interesting parallel that has been drawn by several noble Lords between the plight of Poland at the present time and the plight of Belgium in 1914. I am sure the Government would find support from all sections of British public opinion if they decided to respond immediately to the appeal that has been voiced on behalf of Polish refugees.

I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, recast his original Motion, because I think it is now in a form in which it will receive universal support. As has been pointed out by the last two speakers, there are at the present moment thousands of destitute refugees in Rumania and Hungary who require immediate assistance from abroad if they are to survive the rigours of the continental winter without heavy loss of life and without serious damage to their health. I should like—because I heard this report myself last week from the headquarters of the Society of Friends, which sent out an exploratory expedition to Rumania—to endorse the plea that has been made by the two last speakers for ways and means of providing warm clothing and blankets for the refugees, at any rate in Rumania and probably also in Hungary, during the coming months. My information coincides with that of the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, when he said that the Rumanian Government had responded exceedingly generously and were doing all they could to provide food and shelter, but that there was still a very severe dearth in the matter of protective clothing that will be so sorely needed during the coming months.

As I think every speaker has suggested, the primary need is for the money that can purchase these necessities of health and life. I, having a certain amount of experience of voluntary work for refugees, am sadly of the opinion that it will be impossible for voluntary effort to raise the required amount in time. And if, before this war broke out, the Government admitted, as they did, that voluntary effort could not cope with the influx of refugees from Germany and Czecho-Slovakia, how much more readily should they admit now that private purses, drained by war-time demands, cannot cope with the fresh influx of refugees who are victims of the war in Eastern Europe. I should like to support the very practical proposal made by my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton, that the Government might encourage private effort by offering one pound for every pound subscribed. It is clearly undesirable to do anything to damp the humanitarian enthusiasm of the public. At the same time, I think an offer of that kind would have the effect of stimulating all those whose sympathies were aroused or who felt a keen sense of obligation to give as much as they could possibly afford. That is all I have to say. My excuse for speaking at all is that my Party is very keenly anxious to associate itself with anything that is being done in the way of active assistance for the Poles.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, it is I think in the nature of things that all your Lordships should have listened with a very wide measure of sympathy to the speeches that have been made in the course of this debate, and not least to the speech of the noble Lord who introduced the subject to our thought and who, I hope, will feel that his Motion has served a useful purpose by giving occasion for the several speeches that followed to be delivered. Every one of those who have taken part in the debate has, I think, had direct special knowledge in one form or another of the problem with which the Motion deals, and I am sure that what has fallen from them will be of real value and assistance to those who have this exceedingly difficult problem to deal with in the first instance. The noble Lord who moved was wise—I naturally think that, because he agreed with me in doing so—to alter the wording of his Motion. But, in whatever form the Motion stands, we can all, I think, welcome it as giving an opportunity to the House to show sympathy with and to commend the cause of unhappy Poland, and also to restate the unshakeable determination of His Majesty's Government to do everything that they can to prosecute the cause of the Allies, of whom Poland is one, to a victorious conclusion.

On the actual conditions in Poland, of course, as the noble Lord said, His Majesty's Government have no representatives of their own there, and they have no other direct and reliable means of obtaining information. Therefore, whatever can be done in Poland does fall, as I think my noble friend Lord Moyne said, naturally on to the shoulders of well-disposed neutrals and those who can work under their auspices. But, of course, it is common knowledge that, as a result of the invasion, wide disorganisation and destruction and great unhappiness have been caused. It is not necessary to imagine deliberate cruelty—though, I am afraid, unhappy experience does not permit us to dismiss that wholly from our minds—but even without that there is plenty of material for wholesale destitution and suffering. However, as I say, with that immediate problem it is obviously impossible for His Majesty's Government to deal, and one can only hope that some knowledge and consciousness of what the problem involves in terms of human suffering may be present to the minds of the forces now in occupation of Poland.

I am quite sure that neither His Majesty's Government nor the British people are in any danger of being indifferent to the lot of the refugees now living chiefly, as we have been told, in Rumania, in Hungary, in Latvia and in Lithuania. That, naturally enough, was a problem which, as it came into being and was appreciated here, made direct and immediate appeal to many forms of private charity and many organisations dealing with private charity in this country; and it was very soon seen that there was a certain danger of all those manifold agencies that were interesting themselves in the problem falling into a certain discordance and overlapping. It was accordingly with the object of avoiding that danger, if in fact it was a real one, and of ensuring better co-operation between His Majesty's Government, for there are directions in which we can perhaps help directly, and the various private organisations, that Sir Francis Humphrys, to whom reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, was asked to undertake the work of general counsellor, as it were, to the Polish cause, and to act somewhat as a channel of communication between the Polish Ambassador and those working with him in London and the other organisations and the Government Departments, or whoever it might be, and to try to pull the whole thing as much as possible together.

With great public spirit Sir Francis Humphrys at once accepted this obligation, and through him all organisations and individuals who wish to take any hand in this work of refugee relief can obtain easy and ready access to the various Departments of Government who may in any direction be affected. I am glad to say that he is already in close and, I think, regular touch with a great many of the workers in this cause. I also note (and I dare say my noble friend Lord Moyne will support this) that he has been able to facilitate their work in a variety of ways. It is, of course, obvious that in making money and supplies available for refugee purposes in several of these foreign countries under conditions that are quite exceptional, a good many problems political, financial and economic are bound to make their presence felt, and it is with the object of trying in part to smooth out those difficulties that we thought it well to enlist the assistance of Sir Francis Humphrys.

It would not be right, and indeed it would not be possible, for me to endeavour to particularise between the various voluntary organisations which have been good enough to interest themselves in this work. I think it is true that almost from the beginning British workers have been on the spot trying to help the refugees, and that has been no small task, as may be measured from the fact that the total number of refugees, including all sorts, amounted to something like 120,000. I think a great many people would say that there were more, and it is quite true, as more than one of those who have spoken have stressed, that as things are it is only too likely that a great many of these will be in dire need as the winter advances. Charitable organisations in the several countries have been doing their best, and I think it is true to say that in general the situation as regards actual food does not give rise to any great measure of anxiety. The real anxiety, I am advised, is in regard to clothing, because these unhappy people had to leave their country during what was, I believe, something like a heat wave—at all events what we should call a heat wave, and what we did think a heat wave at the time—and, accordingly, they left insufficiently clad to meet any more severe weather. I can well believe that the need for suitable clothing may prove itself to be beyond the capacity of even the most generous local effort.

The unified Polish Relief Fund Appeal, with which my noble friend Lord Moyne has been good enough to associate himself, has, I am told, made a promising beginning, but, as he emphasized from his greater knowledge, both expansion of that beginning and speed of the expansion of it are essential, and I hope that his words and the words of all your Lordships and my own will go far beyond your Lordships' House and reach a great many generous hearts outside it. It is indeed fully in accord with our tradition that such help as this to needy people beyond our borders should come primarily from the generosity of private individuals and organisations, and I certainly think it is true that no more deserving cause than this has ever been placed before the consideration of the British public. For all the reasons that have been given, there is no cause that should make a more direct appeal to the British people at this time than this appeal on behalf of the Poles.

The noble Lord who moved the Motion made a reference to other Governments. I have not the exact details before me, but I know the French Government have done in various ways a great deal to help the Polish cause, and, as more than one of your Lordships who spoke said, both the Rumanian Government and the Rumanian people are doing a great deal. Indeed, as I have said, the need is very great, and in regard to this business of warm clothing, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say it is desperate. It is accordingly for that reason that His Majesty's Government have felt—their minds moving much on the lines of those who have spoken this afternoon—that they also, in view of the emergency of it, ought to take some immediate share in the business and make their contribution also to the effort that philanthropy is so widely making. Accordingly, His Majesty's Government have decided to offer an immediate sum of £100,000 to meet this immediate necessity of clothing and medical supplies, which I understand are the most urgent. It is proposed, I am advised by those who deal with these things, that these materials should be purchased forthwith in this country and sent with all possible speed to the refugees in Hungary and in Rumania. In taking that emergency decision the Government, I am quite sure, will have the approval of your Lordships' House and of the great mass of British opinion generally.

So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, they confidently trust that it will be realised that this advance for urgent needs is an exceptional contribution. I have seen the suggestion, which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, repeated this afternoon, that any contribution from His Majesty's Government should be on the basis of pound for pound. There are things to be said in favour of that course, and there are things to be said on the other side. I do not know what view the noble Lord will finally take, but I think he will not be disposed to feel that His Majesty's Government have failed to respond to the main purpose that he and others have principally in mind. But although that be done, the call for private charity will still remain and I am sure British people will not be unmindful, although we all well know the difficulties, of the special appeal that is made to them now by the tragic plight of these tragic people. It is, of course, really a problem that can only be dealt with by international co-operation, and we must endeavour to secure as large a measure of international co-operation in its treatment as we can. But for ourselves and immediately, it is, as I ventured to say at the beginning of my few remarks, at once an obligation of humanity and an evidence of the feeling that this country has for the country from which these unhappy people have been evicted.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, before we leave this subject and before I withdraw my Motion, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for the sympathetic reference he has made to the Polish people; but I think it falls to be said also that it is still true that for every one of these poor refugees, mothers and children, suffering the extremity of cold and hunger, there must be twenty within Poland itself. While I have accepted the view put forward by the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary that we cannot ask His Majesty's Government and the French Government to expose themselves to a rebuff by inviting the invading Powers to act in the same way as we are acting, the British and French Governments, I think, might urge the great neutral Powers like the United States of America and Italy, to say the kind of things to the invading Powers that the noble Viscount has so eloquently said in the cause of humanity, in order to save these poor people from the disaster which has fallen upon them through no fault of their own, and to save not only the refugees but those still in Poland from disaster and death. I beg leave to withdraw.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter before six o'clock.