HL Deb 11 June 1942 vol 123 cc359-64

My Lords, I ask leave of the House to make a statement, the importance of which I think will be clear to noble Lords. I am glad to be able to inform the House that His Majesty's Government have concluded a Treaty with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which confirms our Alliance with that country during the war against Germany and her associates in Europe. The Treaty provides that after the war our two countries will render each other mutual assistance against any further attack by Germany or her associates. It further provides that we will collaborate with one another and with the other United Nations in the peace settlement and during the ensuing period of reconstruction on the basis of the principles set out in the Atlantic Charter.

The House will remember that Germany invaded Russia on June 22 of last year, and that on the same evening the Prime Minister affirmed that the Russian danger was our danger, and that we should give whatever help we could to Russia and make common cause with the Russian people. Practical effect was given to the Prime Minister's declaration by the signature on July 12 of the Agreement for Joint Action in the War against Germany. In September, Lord Beaverbrook with Mr. Averell Harriman visited Moscow, and negotiated an arrangement for supplying the Soviet Government with the war materials which they urgently needed for the prosecution of the war. This was followed in the political field by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary's visit to Moscow in December of last year. The purpose of his visit, in the words of the joint communiqué which was issued on his return, was "the exchange of views on questions relating to conduct of the war, and to post-war organization of peace and security in Europe."

Since then the conversations begun in Moscow have been continuing. The British Dominions, the United States and other countries most closely concerned have been kept fully informed of the whole course of our negotiations. When my right honourable friend was in Moscow he gave M. Molotov a cordial invitation to visit, us in this country, and when our discussions here had made sufficient progress, His Majesty's Government suggested that M. Molotov should come to London to embody our agreement in a formal Treaty. M. Molotov, meanwhile, had been invited by President Roosevelt to visit him in Washington. It was arranged, accordingly, that M. Molotov should come here and then go on to the United States. He arrived in London on May 21. The treaty was signed on May 26. The next day M. Molotov left for the United States in accordance with his programme. I am glad to be able to tell the House that M. Molotov had a safe journey to the United States and back, and that he had most useful and satisfactory talks with the President in Washington. M. Molotov has now gone back to Moscow.

When I sit down a White Paper will be available to noble Lords in the Printed Paper Office. The White Paper will contain, in addition to the Treaty, an exchange of messages between His Majesty The King and M. Kalinin, as well as the speeches made by M. Molotov and Mr. Eden at me signature. But I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I gave your Lordships now a brief outline of what the Treaty contains. Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics reaffirm their determination to afford one another all possible assistance in the war and not to enter into any negotiations with the Hitlerite Government or any other Government in Germany that does not clearly renounce all aggressive intentions, and not to negotiate or conclude, except by mutual consent, any armistice or peace treaty with Germany or any other State associated with her in acts of aggression in Europe. The two countries also agree that they will, when peace is re-established, work together for the organization of security and economic prosperity in Europe. In doing so they will take into account the interests of the United Nations, and they undertake to be guided by the two principles of not: seeking territorial aggrandisement for themselves and of not interfering in the internal affairs of other States. The two Governments go on to declare their desire to unite with other like-minded States in adopting proposals for common action to preserve peace and resist aggression in the postwar period. Meanwhile, when the war is ended, they will take all the measures in their power to render impossible a repetition of aggression and violation of the peace by Germany or any of the States associated with her in acts of aggression in Europe. There is, of course, bound to be some interval after the victory has been gained before an effective international system can be built up for preserving peace and for the prevention of further aggression. The two Governments, accordingly, have agreed that should one of our countries during the post-war period become involved in hostilities with Germany, or any of her European associates, inconsequence of an attack by any one of these, the two Governments will at once give each other" all the military and other support and assistance ''in their power.

As for the duration of this undertaking, I will quote from the relevant Article of the Treaty: This Article shall remain in force until the High Contracting Parties, by mutual agreement, shall recognize that it is superseded by the adoption of the proposals contemplated in Article III. That is, the long-term system of international security which the Treaty contemplates as our goal which I have already mentioned. The Article then goes on as follows: In default of the adoption of such proposals, it shall remain in force for a period of twenty years, and thereafter until terminated by either High Contracting Party. The Treaty contains a ratification clause. Both Governments are anxious that the Treaty shall come into force as soon as possible; the Treaty accordingly will be laid forthwith on the Table of the House.

But our conversations with M. Molotov were not, of course, confined to Treaty matters. The war in all its aspects was reviewed. I will now give the House a quotation from the communiqué which is being issued this afternoon: Full understanding was reached between the two Parties with regard to the urgent tasks of creating a Second Front in Europe in 1942. Discussions also took place on the question of further improving the supplies of aeroplanes, tanks, and other war material to be sent from Great Britain to the Soviet Union. Both sides were gratified to note the identity of their views on all the above questions. I am sure that the House will join with me in welcoming the signature of this Treaty and the prospect which it opens of active and fruitful co-operation in war and peace. From our long and friendly exchange of views with M. Molotov, we are assured that it expresses exactly the common desire of the two Governments. We have been enabled to arrive at this happy result through the establishment, by our contact with M. Stalin and M. Molotov, of complete mutual confidence. This is the time to mention the valuable contribusion to Anglo-Russian understanding made by M. Maisky over a long period of years.

The signature of this Treaty not only formalizes and emphasizes the closeness of the collaboration between our two countries during the war. It affords also an indispensable basis for European reconstruction. This does not mean that our two countries alone will be responsible for the peace of Europe when the war is won; that is a burden which will be shared by all the United Nations. It means that without the closest understanding between the Soviet Union and Great Britain there can be no security and stability in Europe, either for ourselves or for any of our Allies. The problems of peace are not, of course, for Europe alone, and I hope with assured confidence that the good work which our two Governments have accomplished will be welcomed by the President and people of the United States, and will enable our three great countries to work together in the years of peace, as now in the hard times of war.


My Lords, I think it is the feeling of every one of us who has listened to the statement of the noble Viscount that it is one the importance of which cannot be over-estimated. I was aware, through his courtesy, of the nature of the statement which he was about to make, but I am quite sure that, having heard it for the first time, there is not one of your Lordships who would desire now to do more than express appreciation of its immense significance, both now and for the years to come, and to express, as I do most heartily, congratulations to the Government. I desire also to congratulate the Foreign. Secretary on the very important share which I have no doubt he must have had in bringing this about. It must have involved a most intricate and difficult series of negotiations. I am sure that the country is much indebted to the Government and to the Foreign Secretary for what has been done.

We note, too, with unmixed relief the statement of the noble Viscount that the United States of America and the Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations have been kept fully informed of all that was taking place. We are glad to be able to hope that M. Molotov is now safely home, because he on his part, I am sure, has contributed greatly to the successful issue of these negotiations. I was glad that the noble Viscount paid a tribute to the patient and exceedingly difficult work which M. Maisky has undertaken for many years past in London. This is too vast and too enormously important a subject to be a matter of impromptu discussion, and I will conclude by saying how much we appreciate the fact that the Leader of the House has been able to make this statement, and how much we value the opportunity of having heard it. I am quite sure that this marks an occasion of immense importance in history.


My Lords, whilst associating my noble friends and myself with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, and agreeing that this is not an occasion on which a considered judgment can be delivered on steps so momentous, at the same time I feel sure that I can express the most cordial welcome to the statement which has been made and to the conclusion of this more closely-knit Alliance with Soviet Russia. The principles which underlie this agreement are of profound importance, and the fact that these two great Powers have been able to agree on all points, and publicly to declare their close union in peace and war, and their agreement on the policies to be carried out afterwards, is a fact of supreme importance.

The visit of M. Molotov to this country is a secret which has been well kept. We are grateful to him for having visited us, and rejoice that he should afterwards have proceeded to the United States of America. We are happy to know that he is now safely home again. We associate ourselves with what has been said about the great services rendered by M. Maisky. I feel certain that the Treaty as a whole and the policy which it embraces will be received throughout the nation and throughout the Dominions with the most cordial approval.