HL Deb 14 May 1941 vol 119 cc173-92

VISCOUNT STONEHAVEN rose to call attention to the position of Anglo-Portuguese trade, and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, just over a year ago the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, attended a luncheon of the Anglo-Portuguese Society held in connection with the celebration of the octo-centennial anniversary of the freedom of Portugal. In the course of a speech the noble Viscount, referring to the war, used these words: In such a fight, where issues of such moment are at stake, I cannot doubt that we shall find in Portugal a chivalrous sympathy and a loyal understanding of the cause to which we are committed. There is strength in the thought, and it is surely a good augury for the future that through all the crises by which from time to time we have been convulsed, our two nations have been faithful Allies and friends for five centuries and a half, and that there is still to-day no cloud on the horizon. That speech could not be made to-day because there are clouds on the horizon. It is for that reason that I venture to bring this matter before your Lordships, because I firmly believe that all of us desire that the language used by Viscount Halifax last year should be the only language which we should ever use about Portugal.

Our relations with Portugal are unique. Viscount Halifax was not exaggerating when he said that there had never been a cloud on the horizon for five and a half centuries. Our treaty with Portugal goes back to June 16, 1373, and in the first clause you find this language. It is settled that there shall be from this day forward … whatsoever true, faithful, constant, mutual and perpetual friendships, unions, alliances and leagues of sincere affection, and that as true and faithful friends they shall henceforth reciprocally be friends to friends. … I suggest that both on sentimental grounds and on practical grounds those ought to be the relations between us and Portugal to-day. I am sorry to say that those relations have deteriorated. They have deteriorated so much that it was possible for an article to appear in a consistently friendly Portuguese newspaper in February last, from which, with your Lordships' indulgence, I am afraid I must read rather a long extract.

This is what the Seculo said on February 27 last year: We have not been wanting, luckily—and it is agreeable to acknowledge it—in proofs of spiritual solidarity, of sympathy, of kindness and of affection, from several friendly nations, outstanding among whom are the British, who, through their Government and Press … have assured us at this sad time of their share in Portuguese sorrow. That referred to the typhoon which struck Portugal about that time. The article continued: The kind words of those who are with us in misfortune should be gratefully acknow- ledged and noted, but in the meantime it is necessary that words should be matched by effective, practical and useful proofs of this feeling of solidarity, and on this point we do not wish to leave unsaid what we think about English solidarity. England has an opportunity to prove also with deeds her affection and sympathy for her old and faithful Ally. For many months past the plan for Anglo-Portuguese agreement concerning imports and exports between the two countries has been dragging through the appropriate Government Departments in London. We will not be far from the truth in saying that diplomacy acted with all possible and suitable despatch considering the importance of the interests involved. After the conclusion of the diplomatic phase, however, what do we find? That the situation of our country is becoming more and more grave, in consequence of the exasperating slowness of the working of certain English bureaucratic organisations, which seem to delight in creating all sorts of difficulties to prevent the realisation of the agreement, or through other causes unknown to us. This attitude would be very unfortunate but does not surprise us, because, although it may not be very pleasant to face it, we are obliged to recognise that more than once, frequently, these very organisations, by their dilatory methods and even by their lack of under standing of their own interests, and those of others, have created for England and her diplomacy and for other friendly countries, such difficulties and such wounds that decisions tardily adopted have been too late to help or to wipe out recollections. In speaking of England— this is important, my Lords— our motives are above suspicion. The attitude of this newspaper is to-day the same as it has always been. Its position in the present struggle was defined with the utmost clarity in the articles published by the Seculo during the very first days of the war, at the beginning of September, 1939. We are not amongst those whose attitude is at the mercy of the wind, or who vary according to good or ill fortune, of those who are always watching the weathercock to judge from it whether the wind is still favourable or if a change of attitude should be adopted because it has veered. Our policy is to-day what it was yesterday and what it will be tomorrow. For this very reason we assume the authority to tell certain English organisations that the economy and the right to live of a friendly country, let alone an ancient Ally, must not and should not be at the mercy of her dilatory and harmful actions. Decision in men as in organisations employed by them for the administration of the common good is today what it has been at all times, an important factor in the victory of an idea, a cause, and of a great, medium or small undertaking.

That article does not stand alone. The Seculo is a very friendly and consistently friendly important newspaper in Lisbon. That article was quoted at great length in the Economist of April 12 by the Lisbon correspondent of the Economist. After quoting what I have read to your Lordships, the Economist says: This is straight speaking, and British commercial opinion in Portugal wholly supports the Seculo's honest criticism. There is grave danger of Anglo-Portuguese relations becoming entangled in a ravelled net of ill-informed, if well-meaning departmentalism …

I venture to suggest that trouble has arisen out of the enforcement of the blockade. It is about the blockade that I should like to ask my noble friend who sits on the Front Bench some questions. It is unnecessary to remind your Lordships that the blockade though a very formidable weapon is a two-edged one, and although you can do great harm to your enemies with it you can also, by clumsy use of the weapon, turn a friend into a foe. And may I remind your Lordships of a passage in one of those admirable articles—it is the third article—by General Wavell, in which he deals with the relations between soldier and statesman? After going down through the ages from Hannibal onwards he comes to the last war, and he says: I have not the time to go into all the controversies and errors of soldiers and statesmen in the long struggle. They were not all on the British side by any means. The German Military Command possibly lost the war by insisting on the unrestricted submarine campaign and thus bringing in America against the advice of the Civil Ministers. And may I call your special attention to this? General Wavell continues: Compare this with Sir Edward Grey's careful handling of the blockade so as not to offend American susceptibilities, in spite of the objections of the sailors. I suggest that it is imperative that the man who directs the blockade should be the Foreign Secretary and no one else.

I understand that that is so, but I should like to know from my noble friend who is to reply for the Government whether I should be right in believing that the relations between the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Economic Warfare are the same as the relations between the captain of a ship and the chief engineer. It is the business of the captain of a ship to control everything on the vessel. He knows where he is going, and if he has got to slacken speed. He may go on a different course according to what he may find to be desirable. The business of the chief engineer is to keep the machinery efficient. It is for the captain to say whether the ship is to go full speed ahead or half speed ahead, or stop, or go astern. Never, on his own account, is the chief engineer to have any say in these matters. I should like to know, for I think that this is very important, whether that is an accurate definition of the relations between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as a member of the Cabinet, as a man fully and constantly in touch with all aspects of foreign questions in relation to the application of the blockade, and the Minister of Economic Warfare.

In the article from which I have ventured to quote, the Economist stated that the views of the Seculo were endorsed by the Anglo-Portuguese commercial community in Lisbon. I am sorry to say that they are equally endorsed to-day by men in this country who are engaged in trade with Portugal. So much is this the case that the Anglo-Portuguese Society have got so nervous and anxious about the conditions which are developing that they found it necessary to set up a Trade Committee. That Trade Committee has sent a memorandum to the Foreign Office. I happen to be a humble member of the Committee. We were received the other day by the permanent Secretary of State. I will not worry or weary your Lordships with details, but I must touch upon them in a general way. I would only say this. I got the impression that the Foreign Office think that matters are improving and I also got the impression that the Ministry of Economic Warfare think that the only thing that matters is to enforce the blockade.

Now the degree to which the blockade must be enforced is solely a matter for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I would remind your Lordships how, during the last war, owing to Sir Edward Grey's intervention, the desire of the sailors was frustrated and hardships which we ought not to have imposed upon America were not imposed. That applies equally to-day, because if Portugal were not a friendly country, quite apart from history or anything else, from the purely tactical and practical point of view we should strain every nerve to make Portugal our friend. Could anything more inconvenient be imagined than that the nation occupying the country of Portugal should be hostile, and that the whole of the coast of Europe right down to the Straits of Gibraltar should be in the hands of enemies? Therefore, we ought to leave no stone unturned to ensure not merely the maintenance of friendly relations but improvement of them, if possible.

Portugal depends largely on the produce of her Colonies. In the words of Dr. Salazar, in regard to the Colonies: It is a fundamental principle of the economic system that the Mother Country and the Colonies are complementary and the Colonies are regarded as overseas Provinces. We enforce the blockade entirely in our own interests, and surely it is our business to see that in doing so we cause the least possible inconvenience to Portugal. Two things arise. In the first place Portugal is a small country of some 6,000,000 inhabitants. Her imports arc very small in relation to the total body of world trade, but there are certain things she must import, and she can only import them in the present circumstances with our assent. Navicerts have to be obtained, and in order to obtain Navicerts in some cases the authorisation not merely of the Ministry of Economic Warfare, but also of the Ministry of Supply, has to be obtained. I suggest very emphatically that it is our business to foresee difficulties which may arise in that connection, and not to allow the Portuguese, when they eventually make their application, to find themselves confronted with all kinds of official red tape and official obstacles.

If the ordinary business man goes to one of these Ministries to obtain a Navicert or permission, he does not see the Minister; in the ordinary course he sees some junior official, whose authority is necessarily circumscribed, and who is not in a position to say, "You can have so much tin" or "You can have so much copper." Tin is obviously something which must not be allowed to reach the enemy. The quantity of tin required by the Portuguese is almost infinitesimal, but it is essential that they should have it in order to make the tin boxes in which they export their sardines. If they cannot get it, those who live by catching the fish are thrown out of work and are at once a gift to the German agents, who not merely individually and personally, but daily through the wireless, are bringing home to the Portuguese that our friendship is not really worth much, since the net result of it is to throw a great many Portuguese out of work.

The same thing applies in the case of sugar. Sugar comes from the Portuguese Colonies, and an arrangement has been reached which limits the amount of sugar which may be exported from these Colonies to the amount which is consumed in Portugal. The sugar is imported into Portugal and refined and consumed in that country. Any excess over the amount required for the Portuguese market has to be disposed of by the growers in the Colonies as best they can. The problem being so simple, it is almost unbelievable that the delays in obtaining Navicerts were so formidable that during two months no sugar was refined in Portugal, because no sugar could be obtained; and, during those two months, the people who normally would have been employed in refining the sugar were out of work. Just think what a gift that is to the Germans! Why do it?

I have suggested the importance of laying down definitely who it is that controls the policy of the blockade. Only second in importance is an examination of the machinery—that is to say, the individuals—through which the blockade is imposed; and here I want to draw attention to what appear to me to be some very serious defects. It is unfortunate that the Ambassador and the Minister in Lisbon were appointed only last year and had no previous experience of Portugal. They have to learn the language and to establish themselves if they can. That is perhaps the fortune of war, and I do not wish to emphasize it, although it is a factor in the situation. It means that we have not in Portugal a body of men with an established position who could, in an informal way, get into touch with the different Ministries. In that connection, I venture to suggest that it is we who have created these complications so far as the Portuguese are concerned, and that it will not do for us to say that the Portuguese have been dilatory, that they did not apply soon enough, and so on. Bearing in mind what our relations have been and ought to be with Portugal, we ought to take every possible step to ensure that any difficulties are forestalled, and that when the Portuguese want to import sugar, copper, tin or whatever it may be, the difficulties shall have been foreseen, so that the normal amount which we know, or ought to know, to be the annual consumption of Portugal, is made available to them without any difficulty at all. That is not much to ask, and it is what we should normally expect from our representatives overseas in time of war.

I have referred to the fact that our Ambassador and our Minister in Portugal do not know the Portuguese language and do not know the country. I should like to make it clear at once that I do so in an entirely impersonal manner, because I am sure that both the Ambassador and the Minister are the best men that we could possibly find. We have, however, one man in Portugal who is a thorough expert, and that is the Consul-General, Consul-General King, whose reports everyone who is interested in Portugal has read for many years with the greatest possible interest. As far as I can make out, he does not come into the operation of the blockade; he is marooned in his position as Consul-General. I cannot help thinking that better use could be made of his personal position in the country and of the confidence which he has acquired.

Coming to the export trade, I should like to say that all these details are in the possession of the Foreign Office, and I shall not worry your Lordships with them at any length. I have referred to sugar, tin and sardines, but another matter of importance is copper. I have an uncomfortable feeling that when the import of copper came on to the tapis there occurred once more something on the lines of what happened in Constantinople when on a famous occasion the Embassy there had the idea of giving a representation of "The Pirates of Penzance" and wired for fifty copies of that work. The Turks, no doubt having vivid recollections of the pirates in the old days, forgot about Penzance and remembered only the pirates; and there was a tremendous amount of trouble because of this terrible attempt to import, as they thought, pirates from Great Britain. I cannot help thinking that the copper situation is somewhat analogous. Copper is obviously a very important material for making shells and so on, but the copper which is important to the Portuguese is of quite a different kind; it is raw copper which is manufactured by one single manufacturer in Portugal into copper sulphate. Copper sulphate is an insecticide which is absolutely indispensable for the health of the vines at a certain time of the year.

I can hardly believe the story which I wish to tell your Lordships, but it came to me from a very authoritative source. It is that the man who converts the raw copper into copper sulphate was allowed by us to purchase a shipload of copper which was available, but it was then decided to use that ship to export refugees, so that the ship disappeared, leaving the purchaser of the copper in tears on the quayside, and went to somewhere in Spain, never appearing again so far as he was concerned. I should like that story cleared up, because it seems to me almost incredible. The sequel was that a very energetic business man in this country, knowing the vital importance of copper sulphate, took a tremendous amount of trouble in going to the Departments concerned and to a certain town in the Midlands, where there are individuals engaged in dealing with copper. Eventually he settled the difficulty, but only with immense trouble. That kind of difficulty ought not to happen. It seems to me to show a certain ineptitude on the part of the organisation. I have detained your Lordships at great length over a matter which I venture to think is of vital importance. We have not got too many friends in Europe. The Portuguese have beer our friends, and are anxious to be our friends. It is inadmissable that we should antagonise any of our friends if we have done so, as I fear is the case by the kind of action that has been taken.

The complaint of the business men is two-fold. Firstly, there is the complaint that those who deal with Portuguese matters both in London and in Portugal are not sufficiently acquainted with Portuguese conditions or with the Portuguese language. There was one great difficulty—I believe it has been remedied—and that was that the very able man who, I understand, is the economic adviser regarding Portugal is equally the economic adviser regarding Madrid. We all know that it would be a mistake to appoint the same man to do the same job in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, possibly because of the elementary fact that he might be badly wanted in both places at the same time and could not be there. At any rate, it does seem to me inexcusable that we should not find a man thoroughly conversant with Portuguese affairs—I do not suggest that the present man is not, because I understand he is extremely conversant—and assign him entirely and solely to Portugal. It should be his business to deal with Portuguese affairs, and every Portuguese merchant engaged in the trade should know where to find him and not be told "He has gone to Madrid this week." The Portuguese and Spaniards are fully aware of the fact that they differ in character just as much as they differ in language, and it is very important that we should not confuse them.

The second thing is that there is a British Chamber of Commerce in Lisbon and an Anglo-Portuguese Society in London. As far as I can make out, quite inadequate use has been made of these bodies. So far as the Anglo-Portuguese Society in London is concerned, we did, as I mentioned earlier, set up a Committee and put at the head of it Sir Francis Lindley, who was one of the ablest and most successful Ambassadors we had. My noble friend Lord Wolmer, who delighted us with his maiden speech the other day, just as much as he delighted the House of Commons with his maiden speech many years ago, advised us, with great truth, not to indulge in criticism unless we had some constructive suggestions to make. I hope I have convinced my noble friend that if I am pointing out what I consider to be defects, I am not doing it in any hostile spirit but because I want to be helpful.

I do not know whether I may make another and quite definite suggestion. I suggest that the situation wants looking into thoroughly. If it were a business proposition, we should choose the best man we could find and send him out to Portugal to investigate the situation. I suggest to the Government that the situation is sufficiently urgent and sufficiently serious for that plan to be adopted. I suggest to them, with great respect, that they would be well advised to ask Sir Francis Lindley to go out to Portugal and report fully on the situation, to let them know what is wrong, what can be done to remedy it, and so on. Sir Francis Lindley is a very experienced diplomatist, and although considered too old for the Diplomatic Service—that is another point that might be raised on another occasion—he has been found very valuable by various commercial enterprises since his retirement. If you send him to Portugal he will give you a full and sensible report on the situation and plenty of suggestion as to how to deal with it. The Government, I am sure, would be well advised if they took that plan. If that is too revolutionary and not sufficiently in accordance with the orthodox procedure, I would re mind them that it is war-time, and that we have to do all kinds of things in wartime that we should not do in ordinary times. Failing that, they should make far more use of the knowledge, experience; and good will of the organised bodies that exist both in Portugal and here—the Chamber of Commerce in Portugal and the Anglo-Portuguese Society here. In doing that I believe they would make up for some of the deficiencies which arise purely from lack of knowledge of the situation. This is no time for amateurs. The interests involved are far too serious for that.

I hope that my noble friend when he replies will be able to satisfy me first of all on the relations between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Economic Warfare—and incidentally it is very regrettable that they should have half London between them and are not living, as in the last war, under the same roof. I hope he can assure us that in spite of this physical separation they are united spiritually, and united very definitely, with the Secretary of State on top in control of the concern and the Minister in a subordinate position, charged with the duty of carrying out the different business that has to be done. Equally I suggest it is very necessary to overhaul the situation so that the next time the Secretary of State refers to Portugal he may be able to say truly that there are no clouds on the horizon. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, before the Government reply is given I feel impelled to intervene quite briefly. The fact that my noble friend has brought forward his Motion is evidence enough of the intensity of his feeling in the matter, and the preparation of his case shows that he is a master of the subject. As one who, quite recently, had occasion to cover several hundred miles in Portugal in addition to being in Lisbon, when I took the opportunity to deal with certain commercial matters, I wish to endorse the importance of the general question on which my noble friend has made so good a case. In raising this question of Portugal as he has done, my noble friend has given one the feeling, as I am sure it will be the feeling also of many other noble Lords present, that his criticism would apply with equal force to other countries. The suggestion he made primarily was that in this case the policy of the Government towards Portugal is not friendly enough. That point doubtless will be dealt with by the noble Lord who replies, though there are many English exporters who have the suspicion that a policy of conservatism in the matter of commerce with that country has been deliberately followed.

The next point he made concerned the machinery whereby the decisions come to are implemented, and it is on that that I wish particularly to support him. The policy will be decided undoubtedly by the Foreign Office and that will be interpreted through the Ministry of Economic Warfare. The real trouble is that there is an absence of co-ordination between the Government Departments concerned in it. You have the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and you have the Board of Trade Licences Department, and then probably you have the Ministry of Supply which controls the material from which the matter under discussion is manufactured. The points which my noble friend made suggest that these imports will be confined either to raw materials or to consumer goods. Obviously the exports to Portugal which we would control would not be for any other purpose in so far as they are seaborne. There, if I may presume to say so, my noble friend has given a picture which applies with equal force to a large part of the world trade that is done under this necessary and proper control during war-time.

My noble friend instanced several war materials. There was one to which he did not refer, much to my surprise, in view of his knowledge of Australia. I happen to have had brought to my attention certain raw material, the property of His Majesty's Government, which it was desirable to be disposed of to Portugal which was in need of it. As my noble friend emphasized, mills were standing idle in Portugal for want of this material. Agreement was indicated by the Ministry of Economic Warfare on February 10, but the actual permit for the movement of the material was not issued from the Department concerned till April 23. That is a typical example of what is occurring through ineffective co-ordination between the Government Departments concerned. Primarily, this subject must be dealt with by the Licence Department of the Board of Trade, but the President of the Board of Trade has emphasized that it is controlled by the Industrial and Export Council. It would seem that there is ample scope for more effective business methods to be introduced. That Council has upon it many able business men, whose intention and ability to direct will be unquestioned, but there must be circumstances, as mentioned by my noble friend, which either do not come within their particular knowledge or are dealt with by subordinates who are not properly directed from a technical angle.

The object, therefore, of ray presuming to ask the indulgence of the House for these few minutes was to emphasize the picture that my noble friend has painted of Portugal. Importers who are concerned not only with Portugal but with other countries with which we have business relations would most emphatically endorse the picture which my noble friend has given. I hope my noble friend who will reply for the Government may be able to enlighten us on the question of co-ordination, and will see that the remarks of my noble friend are conveyed to the persons concerned so that there may be some acceleration of the procedure. I may recall the remarks of a very distinguished engineer with whom I was in personal contact last week. He told me that he had had occasion to go to the Board of Trade upon important business, and to see a gentleman who was responsible for the administration of matters arising from the war. My friend said: "I came away thoroughly frightened." I asked him what was the matter, and he said: "It was the outlook of the professor who had been brought in to deal with this matter." I asked what was the matter with him. My friend replied: "He is one of those long-haired gentleman who did not give you a nice feeling, and, in addition to that, I do not like his mind; in fact it reminded me of what I have always said about professors—those who can, do, and those who cannot, teach."


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, has this afternoon raised the question of Anglo-Portuguese trade, which, as he rightly said, is a matter of the very first importance, and I should like to thank him on behalf of the Government for the very constructive spirit in which he spoke. He made certain inquiries of a detailed character to which he asked for an answer, and he drew attention to certain aspects of this question on which he required reassurance. The situation to which he has drawn attention arises to a considerable extent, as I am sure he will agree, and in fact almost entirely, from the exigencies of the war and from the operation of the blockade. So far as the blockade is concerned noble Lords will appreciate that I, in a middle of a war, must speak with considerable discretion, for it is not desirable to explain to the enemy the details of the machinery which we employ, though I can assure the noble Viscount that the Government will take full account of the detailed points he has raised, and those which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby.

The noble Viscount spoke of one particular story about copper, and perhaps he will allow me to make inquiries with regard to that story and communicate with him direct. The main burden of his complaint as I understood it was that the operation of the blockade was unduly rigid. He had dark suspicions that this was the fault, not of the Foreign Office but of the Ministry of Economic Warfare, which enforced the blockade with indiscriminating energy and without consideration of the wider requirements of foreign policy. That, as I understood it, was his main point. As a result, he suggested, there was caused a maximum of inconvenience and irritation between us and a friendly country. He asked us what part was played by the Foreign Office in all this policy. Who had the last word? Who was the senior partner? I fully appreciate the noble Lord's preoccupations, and I know that he speaks with a very special knowledge of these questions, but I think I can reassure him that His Majesty's Government fully realise that any limited considerations of any kind must be subordinated to those of general policy. Clearly, that must be the most important factor for us. The idea that the Ministry of Economic Warfare—an idea which I think he had—is acting independently, or in conflict with the Foreign Office, to the detriment of general foreign policy is, I can assure him, without foundation. There is in fact a successful, and I hope a happy marriage, between the two Departments.

I think this is the answer to the point made by the noble Viscount: the policy which is followed is the policy of His Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount said it was a policy for the Foreign Office alone. That of course is not so. It is the policy of the Government as a whole. No doubt there must be consultation between the Ministry of Economic Warfare and other interested Departments—the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. Those consultations in the majority of cases of course lead to agreement, but if there was disagreement that would be a matter for the decision of the Cabinet in the ordinary way. The policy which is applied is, I believe, not unduly rigid in the very difficult circumstances in which we are placed, and His Majesty's Government fully appreciate the necessity for elasticity in the application of restrictions to mutual trade.

In the case of Portugal, with whom we have a long history of friendly co-operation based on treaties of alliance to which the noble Viscount has referred, His Majesty's Government desire to take every step to secure that as far as possible, consistent with the application of the blockade to Germany, there is a minimum of disturbance to the Portuguese economic system. The two Departments to which the noble Viscount referred, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Economic Warfare, collaborate as closely as possible with two main objects. The first is that of winning the war, which is the main object of all of us; and the second is to reduce so far as possible inconvenience to Portugal, with whom we are bound by ancient ties of friendship and alliance over 600 years. I do not pretend that there have not been difficulties—the noble Viscount mentioned some—but in present circumstances difficulties are inevitable. In time of war, trade between nations, however closely they may be associated, is bound to suffer; but as a matter of fact I would suggest to the noble Viscount that trade between Great Britain and Portugal is not quite so bad as the gloomy account which he gave. The position is really not so desperate as he seemed to indicate. It is impossible to expect that Portugal should be completely unaffected by the war—no country can be completely unaffected—but trade between our two countries has kept up.

I can give your Lordships some general figures. It is significant that the figures of Portugal's foreign trade during the year 1940 show a marked increase over 1939. The value of imports rose by 25 per cent.; the value of exports rose by a somewhat smaller percentage, while the value of the re-exports of Portuguese Colonial produce, which is of particular importance for the prosperity of the Portuguese Empire, rose by almost 100 per cent. Therefore I do not think the noble Viscount was justified in taking the exceedingly gloomy view which he did take. Your Lordships and Portugal can be certain of this, that His Majesty's Government do not desire to restrict our trade with her. It is our wish that it shall be expanded to the utmost extent that is possible and that the delays to which the noble Viscount referred shall be reduced to a minimum. We have every reason to wish this. First of all, it is to the mutual interest of both of us; and secondly, it is in accordance with the feelings of deep affection and esteem which exist between the two countries. The real truth is—it is no good any of us blinking it—that in modern times when trade is organised on an intricate international basis, you cannot operate a blockade without causing inconvenience not only to those against whom it is directed but to neutrals and even to old friends. The best one can hope for is to limit these inconveniences as much as possible. This we try to do. We hope and believe that the Portuguese Government under the wise and statesmanlike guidance of Dr. Salazar understand the difficulties of the situation and do not expect the impossible. But I can assure your Lordships' House that all we can do to ease the situation for Portugal, so far as is compatible with the paramount necessity of winning the war, we shall do. The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, said that this was a case where we should leave no stone unturned. We intend to do so.


My Lords, I intervene for one moment only because all that has been said as regards the difficulties of the position has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, in an admirable speech, if I may say so, and he has made constructive suggestions. I am certainly not going to reopen the old vexed question of whether the Foreign Office should control the Ministry of Economic Warfare. I may have my own views as to what is the best system, but when you have started a system it is not very easy to change it in the middle of a war. You have to balance up the risks. I think myself that you do get greater authority and greater unity of action when the relationship is that of parental control, as it used to be exercised in the last war by the Foreign Secretary over the Ministry of Blockade, as it was called then, than you can get when you have the more conciliatory relationship of husband and wife. But whatever is done do let decisions be taken quickly. I have had some little experience of administration, and of the need for speed, and of the need for giving the men lower down the right, and indeed the duty, to exercise their discretion and take decisions. Once a decision on policy has been taken, let us see that that decision is sent out as a clear direction to people who, to use an Array metaphor, are in the position of G.S.O. 1. Leave it to those men to carry the decision into action. It is better that the G.S.O is should make a mistake rather than that they should feel lack of confidence in themselves which would result in delays.

In the matter of blockade you must be an awful nuisance to your enemies, and unfortunately you must cause a good deal of annoyance, and sometimes perhaps injustice, to friends. But if you let them have what goods you can allow them as quickly as possible you will halve the annoyance. The old motto that what is given quickly is given twice applies tremendously in a matter like this. The blockade is bound to bear upon friendly countries, allied countries and neutral countries, but I believe you will get their co-operation and their collaboration—I know that is the desire of the Government—if when you have to put restrictions upon them you approach them in the spirit that you want to give them all the help you can.

The noble Viscount spoke about the position of the business community in this matter. Very often when it is complained that people are not doing their job the truth is that a great many people have too much to do. Nearly everybody in the machine of Government is overworked to-day. That is all the more reason for using business people to advise in matters of export trade. I know that in connection with our own United Kingdom Commercial Corporation one of the most useful things we have been able to do to assist trade in the Mediterranean—and we have done it in the case of millions of pounds worth of goods—is to collect for exporters the licences which have to come from this or that Department. The trader really does not know where to go to-day. I know that he could find out by looking in books, but what I say is that we should give him all the help we can. Let these traders have the use of the machinery of our Government Corporation if you like. We will gladly give them all the assistance in our power, but do let them have some means by which their trade can be maintained.

Not only His Majesty's Government but the Portuguese Government also are anxious that what is possible should be done to get into operation some liaison system by which the necessary departments in provincial towns can be dealt with. A liaison system between the different shipping interests and the authorities is also desirable. I know from personal knowledge some of the difficulties which now arise and which might be overcome. I realise, of course, that you cannot hold up a ship for a couple of days to put cargo into cargo space which is still unfilled if the convoy is ready to sail, but a little elasticity of management might work wonders. If the trader is warned in advance, he can have his cargo ready at the port and it is extraordinary how much cargo you can get into a ship if the trader has had one or two days' notice in advance. It is like the scheme which my noble friend and I are operating in America. All these things are means to an end. Bring in the intelligent people, the commercial community, and make them your partners so that the machine works to the best mutual advantage of all.


My Lords, in thanking my noble friend most warmly for his very courteous answer, I cannot refrain from expressing a certain amount of disappointment. Indeed I was shocked to hear of such a terrible mésalliance as the marriage between the Foreign Office, whose head is a member of the Cabinet, and such an inferior being as the Ministry of Economic Warfare. I am speaking in general terms, of course, but I really was appalled by some things in my noble friend's statement. I am afraid that it confirms some of my fears because, in my view, the fact that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is a member of the Cabinet, and his companion is not, puts him in a position which, however you describe it, is a position of control. I do not want this collaboration at all. I want orders to be given by the Foreign Office to the Ministry of Economic Warfare. I am sorry that my noble friend in his answer had to state such a position as that which exists. I think it is very unfortunate and dangerous.

With regard to another part of my noble friend's reply, I was glad to hear that our trade with Portugal is being maintained. That does not apply, I am sorry to say, to the general foreign trade of Portugal. This is seriously down and it is down as regards imports in the matter of raw material—coal in particular. What I particularly stressed and wished to draw attention to—and I think my noble friend appreciated it—was the interior condition of Portugal resulting from unemployment which is due to what seems to me the unwise and unnecessarily inconsiderate manner in which the blockade is enforced. My Lords, we were right to send a very important deputation to attend the celebration of the Centenary last summer. We were right to invite the Prime Minister, Dr. Salazar, here, and confer a great degree upon him. Incidentally I think he conferred just as big an honour on Oxford as Oxford conferred on him, for after all he is, I suppose, the greatest living statesman in Europe today. All that, however, does not affect thousands of poor people who earn their living by tending vines, by catching sardines, by working in sugar refineries, and by working in all those industries to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention. I think it is vitally important that we should take every possible step to see that those industries are not driven to turn away their employees and that we should do everything in our power, even at the cost of running some risk—and it is only a small risk—to see that they are provided with the raw materials which they require.

There is another point which I did not deal with in my speech; that is the question of the port wine industry. Port wine drinkers are not so much affected by this as the producers. There is unfortunately an embargo on the import of port wine. The effect of that is not so great so far as people here are concerned, because the port wine which is consumed here has been in the country a long time, but it does affect the people who produce the port wine. Perhaps my noble friend will look into this and see whether something can be done to remove the embargo.


My Lords, as my noble friend has only raised this point now it was of course impossible for me to deal with it in my original answer. The fact is that we have not only been obliged to put an embargo on wine from Portugal, but we have done the same thing with regard to our own Dominions. We have been obliged to limit our imports because of considerations of shipping space. We have had to consider first of all what is necessary to this country during the war. We regret very much, from the point of view of the port wine drinker and of the producer, that it is necessary to put this embargo on wine from Portugal, but it is necessary, and I hope it may soon be possible to withdraw it.


There is another alternative and that is to buy port in Portugal and leave it there to mature. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.