HL Deb 14 December 1944 vol 134 cc325-66

THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the proceedings of the U.N.R.R.A. Conference at Montreal and to the extreme urgency of the problems of relief; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, the war must still be our first priority, but other problems are beginning to loom in Europe, problems that may soon assume gigantic proportions. I do not think the people of this country realize to the full how very immense these problems will be when finally the tide of war has ebbed from the countries now occupied by the enemy. Already the position is serious and, to many people who have thought out these problems, tremendously serious, and we are very much worried by the doubt whether enough machinery and organization has yet been formed to deal with these big problems. We have been told very little about what is being arranged. Obviously, for reasons of security, we have not been informed as to all the materials and goods that will be available. It is for this reason that I have put down my Motion to-day, hoping that the veil of secrecy may be drawn aside by the Minister answering this debate, that we may be told something about what the plans are and what is going to be done in this direction. I am indeed hoping that he will be able to convince us that our fears are groundless and that things are much better than they seem.

The first question which I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention is this: Have we the information yet about what the position in Europe is? What are the real conditions? It seems to me a great pity that fuller reports have not been made available on this subject. For instance, we need medical statistics and full investigations regarding the condition of the peoples of Europe. This could be done both through S.H.A.E.F. and through U.N.R.R.A. Therefore I should like to know whether these investigations are being carried out and whether the information will soon be made available. We have had unofficial reports. These are limited but they do indicate that in Western Europe itself malnutrition and undernourishment constitute a tremendous problem which is affecting all the population, and particularly the children. In fact, among the working classes, who cannot afford black market prices, we hear, for instance, that tuberculosis, rickets and infant mortality are on a tremendous and increasing scale. In Belgium, we are told, at least 40 per cent. of the infantile population is now very much under-weight, and one fears the results of one more winter, with the cold and exhaustion that must come to these wretched children.

It was reported in the Manchester Guardian, that in South Limburg, only one oz. of butter for six weeks was allowed on ration and no other fats at all; that meat for a fortnight was four oz. and this was obtained by slaughtering the milk cows. The result to a country that is forced to kill its milk cows in order to support its population must ultimately be disastrous. Similarly, sugar was 4 oz. a head; but sugar supplies have now completely run out. Milk for children under four, nursing and expectant mothers and invalids was very short, and bread was rationed to four lb. per head weekly. Only apples were plentiful. I think the greatest shortages were in animal products—milk, meat, and fats—and in sugar. The conditions of malnutrition and undernourishment in a hard winter may be fatal, if supplies of food cannot be made available.

A relief organization, U.N.R.R.A. or the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, has been created to deal with these very vast problems. Many countries have sent representatives to it. There have been two large conferences, resolutions have been passed and offers of assistance, both in money and goods, have been made. But I want for a moment to examine how and under what conditions and with what results this organization of U.N.R.R.A. can and should work. For that purpose I should like to take, as examples, two countries of different kinds which I think will show the problems with which we shall be concerned. The first is that of Greece, which is a liberated Allied country; and the second will be Italy, a co-belligerent. Now Greece is a country of very limited resources. Before the war she imported 3o per cent. of her foodstuffs, all her fuel and machinery and a large part of her requirements in raw materials. Greece had to pay for these by exporting various things, such as olive oil, fruit, and so forth. Greece has had to fight three enemies—Bulgaria, Italy and Germany—and during the enemy occupation the Germans seem to have made a deliberate policy of completely ruining the country economically. They seized everything they could lay their hands on, and seem not only to have taken stuff for their own troops but really to have wrecked the whole economy of Greece. That is the situation now.

Let us never forget that in that country the measure of their plight now is also the measure of their resistance to Fascism and to the enemy. Conditions are absolutely appalling. Relief of all kinds is desperately needed, and needed immediately. In spite of the tragic situation which is now reigning in that country, I hope that no relief will be stopped, but that it will be sent to these unfortunate Greek people. All relief measures, I understand, are now in the hands of the military authority. U.N.R.R.A. I think has been called in to advise and to some extent assist. The fundamental problem, I suggest, about Greece is not only to bring relief, food, clothing and medical supplies; it is even more important to rehabilitate her industry and her economy. She needs machinery to replace that which has been destroyed. She needs farming instruments to replace those which have been taken by the Germans. But apparently this is what U.N.R.R.A. cannot do.

I understand that U.N.R.R.A. can bring in food and medical supplies but cannot give anything like machinery or new equipment or the things necessary for Greek economic life. In fact U.N.R.R.A. is allowed to mend a broken machine but she cannot supply a new one nor even a new spare part, however vital this may be. I should like to ask the Minister, if U.N.R.R.A. cannot effect this absolutely necessary rehabilitation, what organization can do so? Has anything been arranged? Are the United Nations going to set up some independent board to make arrangements for supplying these necessary articles? Or are they contemplating importing food and fuel and clothing indefinitely by means of U.N.R.R.A.? This, I suggest, is an uneconomic way of arranging things. Yet these countries must be rebuilt. Surely something else must have been planned and I hope the noble Earl will be able to tell us what it is. I do not for a moment suggest that those things which U.N.R.R.A. can supply, such as food, clothing and medical supplies, are not most urgently needed. Of course they are very urgently needed. But much more is needed. What is needed is not only relief but rehabilitation.

Another concern of U.N.R.R.A: is that of the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. As with that relief this is at first under control of the military authorities. I suggest that a good example of how this works in practice is afforded by Italy and what has been happening there. In Italy, as our troops moved forward, the military authority was responsible, I understand, for everything including the distribution of food, the evacuation of refugees from the battle area, taking them back, feeding them, classifying them and handing them over to the Italian authorities. But in practice, as we so well know, after twenty years of Fascism and the devastation of war, the Italian authorities have neither the organization nor the food and other supplies even to deal with their own people let alone with the refugees brought back from the battle areas. These people are now bands wandering in Italy and the plight of the Italian people in liberated Italy is terrible. It was stated at the U.N.R.R.A. Conference in Montreal that in Rome there were over 300,000 persons who did normally belong there; that the infant mortality rate was 50 per cent.—that is to say, 500 out of every 1000 children die—and that adult mortality was 10 out of every 100; that is to say, one out of every ten men or women you pass in the streets will be a corpse by the end of the year. There are also crowds of homeless and starving refugees wandering about liberated territory. What is going to happen to these people or to the inhabitants of those districts where there is hardly enough food or supplies to maintain them? I should like to know what U.N.R.R.A. is doing or has done in this respect.

I was very glad to see that an official of U.N.R.R.A. has stated that the time for making plans is past and the moment for taking action has arrived. This realization has come none too soon. Food and clothing are urgently required in those parts of Europe already liberated. I should like here to make a plea, though I know it may not have the support it should have, that food and clothing should be sent to the parts of Holland still occupied by the enemy and to Denmark, because I am convinced that this could be done without in any way prejudicing our certainty of victory. The plight of these people is truly desperate. I should also like to pay at this moment a tribute to the great magnanimity shown at the Montreal Conference by the delegates from Ethiopia and from Greece. Although their countries have suffered bitterly from the Italian Armies, they both urged that relief and assistance should be given to the starving Italian people. I think this is one of the greatest examples of human kindness that the world perhaps has ever seen.

From these facts one gathers some idea of the terrible nature of the refugee problem. U.N.R.R.A., I understand, has made plans for the repatriation of these people, but the problem is not a simple one of the assembly and transport of masses of people. The problem is much bigger than that. It is to find places economically capable of supporting these people. It is no good sending thousands of refugees back to the countries from which they came if those countries are perfectly incapable of giving them an economic existence. That is the key to the refugee problem. I should like the noble Earl to tell us a little, if he will, as to how this problem is going to be solved and what steps are to be taken to find out those districts which can support refugees and how the life of the refugees can be organized when they get back to their old homes.

But that is only one side of the problem. There will be many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of refugees who either will not, or cannot return to the countries from which they came. For instance, I wonder how many Jews will be willing to go back to Germany. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what is going to happen to those refugees who cannot go back and whether any arrangements have been made with countries where they are now exiled to give them a home there, or what is going to be the answer to this formidable problem. The psychological treatment and handling of refugees is extremely difficult. It needs great technical knowledge to make good citizens of shocked, homeless and despairing people. I wonder if U.N.R.R.A. has already trained a large enough field force who have experience in this necessary psychological handling of these unfortunate people. It is a matter which will affect the whole of Europe. I wonder if senior officials in U.N.R.R.A. have any experience of actual relief work in the field. I do not want to seem for a moment to be criticizing U.N.R.R.A. or its officials in any way. What I am trying to suggest is that there is a feeling that U.N.R.R.A. has not had the support it should have from the member nations, that it has been working under a terrible handicap in its very important task.

There is a feeling that the whole problem has been put into the hands of the military, whose natural and right consideration is merely one of military expediency, of guarding lines of communication and keeping the population in repose—I think that is the technical expression. This feeling is obviously reflected by the officials of U.N.R.R.A. in a resolution which they passed at the Montreal Conference. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for reading that resolution because I think it has a bearing on the problem. The resolution is as follows: That the attention of the member Governments is called to the fact that on the basis of the agreement and the resolutions of the Council, the activities of the Administration in and by themselves alone are not sufficient for the task of continued rehabilitation, and cannot prevent lack of supplies and services, or large scale unemployment, covering great parts of essential industrial and other production. I think it is clear from the wording of that resolution that the members of U.N.R.R.A. are very worried over their powers and position. In this resolution U.N.R.R.A. delegates confess that it is impossible for them to cope with their gigantic tasks under their present powers. Can these powers be extended? I think it would be of great interest to your Lordships if the Minister could tell us to what extent the Council of U.N.R.R.A. is autonomous. To what extent is it an independent body? Can it decide its own terms of reference, and if not, what are those terms of reference? If it cannot alter them—I hope it can—does every major decision have to be referred back to the Governments of the member States? If that is the case what is the Department in this country responsible for U.N.R.R.A.? Is it the Foreign Office or the Home Office or the War Office? There is a certain confusion in the public mind as to what exactly are the powers of the Council of U.N.R.R.A. and how far U.N.R.R.A. can deal with its own problems.

Another question I should like to put to the Minister is what is the position of the Combined Boards. These I understand have been set up to control supplies and surpluses, but it appears that they are not under the control of the Council of U.N.R.R.A. Is it the real position that these Boards are the final power behind all relief and rehabilitation organization? It is a little confusing and it is difficult for laymen to understand exactly how this machinery works. I should like also to ask the Minister about the finances of U.N.R.R.A. There are obviously all sorts of expenses, administration expenses, expenses in connexion with the distribution of relief and expenses in the purchase of supplies. To meet these various contributions have been promised by various member States and I believe various supplies have been promised by member States. How are these finances regulated? Is there a Central Finance Committee of U.N.R.R.A. which has complete power, or has every big expenditure got to be approved by the various member States concerned? Any infor- mation which the Minister can give on this matter would be very useful and I believe would be gratefully received.

In regard to the financial question, which is a thorny one, I should like also to ask a question about resources. I understand that U.N.R.R.A. has a fund of £500,000,000. That is little more than our expenditure each year on imports of manufactured and raw materials in peace-time. We used to spend annually £400,000,000 on food, drink and tobacco alone. Our contribution of £8o,000,000 to U.N.R.R.A. would not pay for our prewar meat imports, which amounted to £90,000,000. But our population is 45,000,000 while on the Continent our Allies number about 135,000,000. The Combined Food Board has reported that an allocation from 1944 supplies of the United States of America of 100,000,000 lb. of canned meat has been made. This related to 135,000,000 people is under our weekly meat ration, and the report added that it is possible that available world supplies will prove to be lower in 1945. The position is rather frightening if that is the case. Another point regarding supplies is the question of surpluses. It is believed that Denmark as soon as it is liberated may be able to export a surplus of dairy produce. I suggest that we ought to insist that such surpluses should go into the common pool for the relief of these stricken countries. It would be interesting if we could have an assurance from the Government that this is their policy.

I regret having to bother the Minister with all these questions, but it is a subject on which very little has been published in detail. It is a subject about which the public know very little and there is great curiosity and suspicion about what has been happening. It is, moreover, a subject of growing importance and it is a subject which has been shrouded in mystery. For instance, we were told that a delegation of U.N.R.R.A. was going to Moscow to discuss the situation there. Then suddenly we were told it was not going, and no reason was given, Strange things have happened in certain countries which we know to have been very much stricken. We are told that there has been reluctance to apply to U.N.R.R.A. for relief. That is very puzzling. Is it be-because the Government of these countries are frightened that U.N.R.R.A. is going to he used as a cloak for commercial pene- tration, or that U.N.R.R.A. is going to be used as a political weapon as relief was used after the last war? I sincerely hope that there is no danger of that happening, but some reassurance would be very welcome. For instance, it has been said that Yugoslavia showed great reluctance to receive relief from U.N.R.R.A. on account possibly of the fear that it meant military installations coming from Italy, and they did not wish to have military forces moved into their country to distribute relief. That I think is very understandable. Some light on this subject would be very welcome. In the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration we probably are seeing the first peat attempt to establish a world-wide international scheme of co-operation. On such a scheme of world co-operation our future hopes of peace depend. It is of the most vital importance that this first attempt should succeed, that it should have the most whole-hearted support of all the member nations, and I would suggest that this country as one of the greatest and most powerful member nations should set the first example in that regard. I beg to move for Papers.

2.30 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has been responsible for putting down this Motion has surely performed a public service in calling the notice of the House to a question at once so vital, so urgent and so recalcitrant. There is, undoubtedly, a feeling of disquiet in this country and outside it, a suspicion that in the huge U.N.R.R.A. organization there has been created a Colossus on so vast a scale that it has been, from the outset, muscle-bound and paralysed by its own weight. And there is a further suspicion that those who are jointly responsible for its creation have not hitherto made very vehement efforts to stimulate it into activity. In the very recent past, I have seen, for the second time in my life, refugees stricken by the ravages of war, and I did not find that with the lapse of twenty-five years the spectacle had become any less heartrending. I have never been able to make up my mind which was the more poignant sight, those who were fleeing hopelessly before the rising tide of battle, or those who were returning hopefully in the wake of the receding tide to piles of broken rubble and charred timber marking the sites of their treasured homes. And this ultimate destruction is, after all, only the climax of four years of oppression, spoliation and privation imposed by a hated and brutal conqueror.

Those, and millions like them, are the people who are, or should be, U.N.R.R.A.'s first care. Their needs are elementary but instant—food, clothing, shelter and fuel—and it is, however mistakenly, the common belief that these stores are at U.N.R.R.A.'s call. But they are not yet reaching the people for whom they are intended. The outside world wishes, and is entitled, to know where the stoppage is. Belgium is still in the hands of the military authorities, and U.N.R.R.A. may not enter except with the leave and licence of those authorities. In France there is a civil Government in the saddle, but there again U.N.R.R.A. may not function except at the invitation of that Government. What the position may be in Poland I have no information. As to Greece, I have only seen one illuminating sentence published recently in The Times to the effect that "it was hoped that in a short time U.N.R.R.A. would be able to go into action." That was before these recent deplorable outbreaks had necessarily interrupted relief. From the other aspect, it is at least the common opinion that U.N.R.R.A., as a matter of settled policy, is not prepared to send into a country even the most urgently required stores unless, at the same time, it can send in its own agents to supervise their distribution. And there is further that clogging provision which, for some reason, lays it clown that six months must expire after the end of military occupation before U.N.R.R.A. is enabled to function in a country.

If these are the obstacles, they must be broken down. It is indeed a poor augury for the regeneration of the world if national prestige on one side and international rigidity on the other are to be allowed to defeat these first concerted steps in applying first-aid to Europe's wounds. Within the military areas, no doubt, military considerations must be predominant, but one is sometimes tempted to wonder whether in their concentration upon their immediate affairs the military authorities are not led to overlook the needs of the civil population around them, who, after all, cannot be expected to exist indefinitely on a diet of patient gratitude. The Civil Affairs Staff of the Army certainly does its best, but relief is only one of its multitudinous tasks, and it is now only equipped to deal with the matter on short-term lines. These are all matters upon which we hope for some elucidation from the Government.

At the Montreal Conference Mr. Dean Acheson, the representative of the United States, said this: U.N.R.R.A. cannot act in any territory without the consent of the Government. Whether that consent needs to be given by military authorities or by administrative authorities, in territories of Governments whose help and co-operation are needed, it must be given. Those are clear and forceful words, but they will not prevail unless they are accompanied by clear, forceful and combined action by the Governments responsible for the establishment of U.N.R.R.A. That was said some time ago. One is entitled to ask the Government whether they are satisfied that, in the interval since those words were spoken, adequate progress has been made, and, if not, we are surely entitled to ask for a precise statement of policy as to what is intended and what steps are being taken to given some momentum to the work. At Montreal, the Minister of State, Mr. Law, who represented this country, was plainly not satisfied. He said that the success of U.N.R.R.A. is not mainly a matter for U.N.R.R.A. itself; it is much more a matter for the Governments which are represented therein. Unless we play our part there is really very little that Governor Lehman and his staff can do about it. It is up to us, it is up to the Governments of the United Nations. If we fail Governor Lehman will fail, and if Governor Lehman fails the outlook is black indeed for all of us. In the three months which have passed since then, how great an advance has been made? How many harriers have been broken down? How many people have been fed, clothed, housed or healed? Or are liberation and starvation to move across Europe hand in hand?

For my part, and I think that noble Lords who sit on these Benches will agree, I believe that we should feel easier about the situation if we were satisfied that the entire matter was in the hands of the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government and his Department; but we very much doubt whether that is the case. Too many people and too many Government offices have an interest in this matter. So many fingers appear to be in the pie that the contents of the pie are not reaching those who are hungering for them. Before the meeting in Atlantic City, the first Conference of U.N.R.R.A., there was an historic ceremony at Washington, at which representatives of forty-four nations placed their signatures to an agreement. The preamble to that agreement said this: The Governments or Authorities whose duly authorized representatives have subscribed hereto, being United Nations or being associated with the United Nations in this war— these are the words to which I wish to call particular attention— Being determined that immediately upon the liberation of any area by the armed forces of the United Nations or as a consequence of retreat of the enemy the population thereof shall receive aid and relief from their sufferings, food, clothing and shelter, aid in the prevention of pestilence and in the recovery of the health of the people… The whole emphasis of that preamble is, and is rightly, upon the immediacy of the problem. And that was thirteen months ago!

What is wanted, surely, is more sense of urgency, more contact with reality, less red tape and more white heat. That leads me to ask a question, and I ask it bear-in mind what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, yesterday in deprecation of what he calls "stock criticism" of the Civil Service. Is not a very cardinal mistake being made in recruiting the staff of U.N.R.R.A. so largely from the ranks of civil servants? As regards the European Section of U.N.R.R.A., many of the highest places are held by representatives of this country. The Government of this country have correspondingly the greater interest in, and greater responsibility for, its success, and particularly for seeing that it is staffed from the best possible available sources. Admirable public servants though they are, the qualities normally asked for from civil servants, those qualities which they are by training, temperament and experience best qualified to display, are not skill at improvisation, the taking of urgent decisions, the assumption of wide responsibilities, and the exercise of driving power; yet those are exactly the qualities which are wanted in the people who are conducting the affairs of U.N.R.R.A., and they could be supplied by chosen business men and by representatives from that great force of experienced philanthropic workers which this country is happy in possessing. It may be that U.N.R.R.A. is being used as a sort of forcing ground for an International Civil Service for use later on, that it is becoming a sort of Dumbarton acorn. If so, it is planted in singularly unsuitable soil. What we want for this work are people with a flaming vocation for the task, not people prised reluctantly out of Whitehall.

There seems also a curious reluctance to use the services of nationals of the countries concerned. I can understand that they may not be thought suitable for work in the field team. Experience has shown that people who have found sanctuary in this country during the last few years have not been universally popular on their return. But surely in the directorate of U.N.R.R.A., in the headquarters staff, those who have expert knowledge of a country extending over many years, whose own country it is, are of more value than the best intentions of some Englishman or American who may not ever have visited the country, speak a word of its language, or know one relevant fact about it at first hand.

It would be tragic if, with the great hopes formed about it in the beginning, U.N.R.R.A. were to be found to lag behind the need, to fall short of the expectation, to earn in the minds of the public at large, however unjustly, the title of "U.N.R.R.A. the Unready." But our hopes will not be fulfilled unless these shackles on the freedom of action of U.N.R.R.A are struck off, and rapidly, and unless the actual working of U.N.R.R.A. is put into the hands of people who have wide experience of the work and a burning desire to carry it on. The hopes which were founded upon U.N.R.R.A. are not the exclusive or indeed the primary possession of the Governments or the peoples of countries which have never known occupation by the enemy; they are hopes which have been cherished in the hearts of millions of people for four years of darkness, who have never lost faith in the dawn, and who believed that when that dawn broke again it would be accompanied if not by plenty at least by a bare sufficiency.

I have one last point which has a wider application than the four corners of U.R.R.A. It should surely be a solemn obligation upon Governments not to raise false hopes in the minds of people who have suffered as these people have suffered. But have not Governments, and His Majesty's Government amongst them, by leaflets, broadcasts, speeches and messages, been alike too prompt and too prodigal in their promises? It is more than unfair, it is bitterly cruel to offer as an incentive to co-operation food and clothing and the rest if, when that co-operation is given, the food and the clothing are not there. What is needed is speed in these matters, and speed at the very earliest moment. It is not always necessary to build a new 10-ton lorry in order to deliver a stale loaf of bread. Let us not promise what we cannot perform; at the same time let us see to it that we can both promise and perform much. U.N.R.R.A. is so great an experiment in humanity, by humanity, for humanity that it cannot be suffered to fail. Like the Minister of State at Montreal and the noble Earl who moved this Motion to-day, I believe that the success of this work of relief is vital to the future of mankind. Upon it largely depends whether in the post-war world there shall be disillusionment and discord among rival national units, or confidence and concord among truly United Nations.

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I would add my voice to those of the two noble Lords who have so eloquently described the tragic urgency of this whole question of relief and rehabilitation. The first meeting of the Council of U.N.R.R.A. was held in November, 1943, at Atlantic City. At that time the volume of suffering was vast, and I think all the areas were waiting to be delivered. I am very glad that the noble Marquess has given the text of the preamble of the agreement which points out the character and the urgency of the triple task of providing relief in food and so forth, providing repatriation for the displaced persons, and providing rehabilitation of public services and so on. The second meeting of the Council was held last September at Montreal. By that date the liberation had begun and the volume of suffering facing the United Nations was far greater; and the Montreal resolutions were specifically framed with that increase in the volume of suffering well in view. The Montreal meeting reaffirmed the determination of U.N.R.R.A. to bring relief immediately upon the liberation of any area by the armed forces of the United Nations.

The volume of suffering increases every day; there is a great hunger—lack of food; a great cold—lack of clothing. When the needs of Belgium and Greece and other countries were brought before your Lordships and the public previous to D-day by myself and others we took great care not to exaggerate and the evidence on which we appealed to the Minister was weighed. The late Archbishop of Canterbury was careful, I was careful, and Lord Horder, who would have been here this afternoon to add his voice were he not obliged to be elsewhere, has told me again that he only appealed in this House and elsewhere on the basis of authentic reports. The situation is deteriorating now. There is the result of the prolonged malnutrition in Belgium to which the noble Earl has called attention, and it is calculated from a reliable Belgian source that at least twenty-five years will be required to restore public health in that country. The Prime Minister of Holland, Dr. Gerbrandy, has only this week described the situation in Holland, both in the liberated parts where the needs are grave though the situation is improving, and in the German occupied parts. Mr. Wold, of Norway, has recently described the very grave situation in North Norway, a territory which I believe is hardly accessible to any of the United Nations for relief purposes except ourselves. In France there is prolonged malnutrition. Very bad reports have just been received from Le Havre. In Italy, Rome is a city undestroyed but a bankrupt city in the full tide of inflation and a city half starved. In Greece the situation is what all the world knows.

This volume of suffering has been increased, as the noble Earl has pointed out, by the deliberate German policy of destruction—vindictive plunder and destruction of live stock, food and transport—by the intensification of the ruthless Nazi cruelty against the Jews and political resisters everywhere, and by the great shortage of transport. Military necessities must have the first call on shipping: that must be accepted and is fully acknowledged by those who plead this case. And, like the two noble Lords who have spoken, I do not under-estimate the difficulties. I am well aware that U.N.R.R.A. can only offer its help on the invitation of the Government con- cerned. But I also take account of the fact that the potential needs and sufferings in all the occupied and liberated countries are still graver and, with the encouragement of the Allied Governments during these last twelve months, it is to U.N.R.R.A. that the suffering countries and the world have been bidden to look for help.

I would pay a tribute to the great administration of U.N.R.R.A., to the Director and to the staff, of different nationalities. I wish it success in fulfilling the preamble of the provisional agreement of November, 1943. I should like, following the noble Marquess, to quote one or two other statements made in prospect of what U.N.R.R.A. was expected and charged to do. Our own Minister of Food, Colonel Llewellin, last year described the work of the Atlantic City Council in this way: A crusade to bring food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, clothing to those who are in rags; a crusade against the scourge of epidemics, and to help the return to their homes of many millions who are prisoners or who are being treated as slaves. And I should like to quote the Director, Governor Lehman, speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives: If U.N.R.R.A. succeeds, the world will know that international co-operation is possible; that common interests can be stronger than separate differences. Having done it once the United Nations will have confidence that they can do it again. The Montreal meeting took a good step further. On the one hand it extended the categories of displaced persons to be repatriated or helped to resettlement so as to include persons not possessing United Nations nationality—stateless persons displaced as a result of the war by the action of the enemy, because of their race, religion or activities in favour of the United Nations—and also groups of displaced persons in Italy and intruded persons; and I myself hope that this extension will he courageously sustained. On the other hand, the Montreal meeting explicitly re-emphasized the determination of U.N.R.R.A. that the populations of the occupied territories should receive relief immediately upon liberation. I appreciate—and I emphasize my appreciation of—the difficulty of transport and military requirements; that nothing can be done by U.N.R.R.A. without agreement with S.H.A.E.F and nothing can be done by U.N.R.R.A. without the invitation of the Allied Government concerned. But the United Nations go to the Continent as liberators, bringing the enslaved people three things: freedom, order and food. Armies bring the beginning of freedom and order; U.N.R.R.A. should bring food.

It is impossible to forget, with the examples before us, how political bitterness is fostered by hunger and enforced idleness. It is impossible not to foresee the effects of a continuance of hunger and cold on the morale of the liberated countries, on the prestige of the United Nations and on the security and health of Europe. U.N.R.R.A., like the League of Nations, is the creation of the Governments. The supply of food is ultimately the responsibility of the Governments of the United Nations, including our own, and the Governments must view this matter as an issue of humanity and of policy—proper international and British policy. I hold no brief for U.N.R.R.A. as such. If it were to be decided that S.H.A.E.F., rather than U.N.R.R.A., has to operate for relief purposes during the first six months after liberation, so long as the food and the medicine are supplied in sufficient quantities the question as to who delivers them to the hungry and the sick is a secondary matter.

My appeal to His Majesty's Government then, is this. In the liberation of Europe, freedom, order and food must be linked together as closely as possible. The military administration and the relief administration must work on the common task with the smallest possible interval between them. Therefore it is a most urgent need that the Governments should secure, in whatever way they please, an accord between U.N.R.R.A. and S.H.A.E.F. for the feeding of the liberated populations immediately on liberation. One would have thought the agreement would be with U.N.R.R.A. for its collaboration immediately, but that is a secondary matter, a question of detail. The accord should be as to the ways in which the provisions available in and through, or apart from, U.N.R.R.A. can be secured—the co-operation of U.N.R.R.A. or its equivalent securing, with personnel and supplies, European relief, including repatriation and resettlement of displaced persons. Unless U.N.R.R.A. or its equivalent is in a position to deliver some goods and services soon, the hard-hit Governments of the liberated countries will be compelled to write it off as an effective agent of the United Nations. This will be harmful to Europe's recovery and fatal to U.N.R.R.A.'s growth as an effective agency in relief and rehabilitation.

I close by quoting the most recent words of President Roosevelt. In speaking, on December 5, to the United States Congress in the American Parliament on American participation in U.N.R.A.A., these were his words: All the world owes a debt to the heroic peoples who fought the Nazis from the beginning—fought them even after their homelands were occupied and against overwhelming odds—and who are continuing the fight once again as free people, to assist in the task of crushing Nazi and Japanese tyranny and aggression.' It is natural that U.N.R.R.A. should be the agent used, but whether it be U.N.R.R.A. or S.H.A.E.F. that is used now, that debt must be paid and there is no time to be lost.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will be very grateful to the noble Earl who has tabled this Motion as the first Motion on U.N.R.R.A., which I do not doubt will be followed by other Motions, since the subject is, as other noble Lords have said, one of absolutely vital importance at the present moment in the saving of suffering and in providing some form of rehabilitation in liberated countries, not to put it more highly than that. But the subject, not having been raised before, can, it seems to me, only be dealt with in rather general terms in this—I think I am right in saying—the first debate in your Lordships' House.

Before going into other points, I would like to put rather differently one or two of the questions asked by the noble Earl who opened the debate. The answers to these, if they are forthcoming, would at least clarify in my own mind some of the obscurities which surround the present position of U.N.R.A.A. and its workings. I am not clear in my mind—I hope it is clear in the minds of those who are in or associated with U.N.R.R.A.—precisely what U.N.R.R.A. is. That may sound rather a curious question to ask, but to put it in a legal form: Is U.N.R.R.A. a corporate body? Does U.N.R.R.A. exist as a person who can do things, or is the Council of U.N.R.R.A. only an associa- tion of the representatives of the Governments who have agreed to participate?

There is a vast difference there, as there must also be in the transaction of whatever business U.N.R.R.A. has to do. If U.N.R.R.A. is a corporate body presumably U.N.R.R.A. can buy and have things. I am speaking, of course, of supplies of foodstuffs, medicines, and so on. In other words, is U.N.R.R.A. a principal in a transaction or is it only an agent acting on behalf of the Governments associated with U.N.R.R.A.? Until that point is cleared up it is a little difficult to say that U.N.R.R.A. should have done this or has not done that, for if it is only an association of Governments and is not a being on its own, it is not U.N.R.R.A. which is at fault in not having done what it should have done but the associated Governments. Perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply will be in a position to answer that question.

Secondly, and arising out of it, are the parts of U.N.R.R.A.—that is to say the commissions into which it is divided—all of the same sort? If that part which deals with displaced persons is of one sort and consists only of delegates or representatives of the Governments, does that also apply to the other part of U.N.R.R.A. which is engaged in actual relief work? In other words, when U.N.R.R.A. goes into a country—and I will come to that in a minute—does it go in as U.N.R.R.A. or does it go in as an association of the Governments that are participating? A matter connected very closely with that is the participation and support of His Majesty's Government in U.N.R.R.A. The position, as I understand it, is that it has been accepted as part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to further and participate in the activities of U.N.R.R.A. in rehabilitating liberated countries. For that purpose this country has agreed to provide its contributions, calculated, I think I am right in saying, on the basis of 1 per cent. of the national income or a figure of something of the order of £90,000,000. Is that a donation to a body which can spend that money as it chooses subject to the board of directors, as it were, agreeing among themselves how it should be spent, or is that a sum of money which is only available if the British representatives on the Council of U.N.R.R.A. agree?

There is a distinction, I think, in the position of U.N.R.R.A. in regard to financial matters as compared with the League of Nations. In the case of the League of Nations, His Majesty's Government contributed a quota to pay for the cost of administration, including salaries, maintenance charges and so forth of the League. In the case of U.N.R.R.A., on the other hand, the contribution which has been announced is presumably available not only to pay for the cost of administration but also to buy those things which the countries that are being relieved will require in the form of food. If that is so, His Majesty's Government, through an appropriate Department, are contributing to general expenses and also contributing to the purchases, under contract, which U.N.R.R.A. is making. I would like at this point to ask what is the Department of His Majesty's Government which will be answerable for the expenditure of that money? If that Department is the Foreign Office, the Foreign Office is placed in the position of becoming a spending Department, which it has not hitherto been. If it is not the Foreign Office, what Department is it? I presume it must be a Department which is used to spending; in other words, which is used to buying things. Until those questions are answered I think it is a little difficult to say exactly why U.N.R.R.A. has not hitherto worked.

But to come to the points which have been made both by the noble Earl who opened the debate and the noble Marquess, I must say that I feel a good deal of sympathy with what they have said about the attitude of Government Departments and Governments generally toward U.N.R.R.A. There must be some reason for this, as there must be also some reason for Governments who obviously will not ask U.N.R.R.A. to provide that help. It certainly is very peculiar that countries which are in urgent need of relief in food, medical stores and so forth, and in want of assistance, should have been so reluctant to come forward and ask for that help from U.N.R.R.A. At the back of my mind are some things that I have heard occasioning a feeling that there must be a reason why, though U.N.R.R.A. has been supported by this Government, and though His Majesty's Government have accepted the necessity of U.N.R.R.A., His Majesty's Government, through the Departments concerned, and also other Governments, have rather taken this line with U.N.R.R.A.: "Oh, yes, we have participated in this and promise our support to it. Come back and talk about it in three 'months' time; we are not quite ready." There has also undoubtedly been a feeling abroad, and this is shared by many people in U.N.R.R.A., that they have been put off by excuses, by reasons which may be valid but which have seemed to them to be excuses, so that U.N.R.R.A. was not yet equipped to do that which it had been set up to do. There may be something in that.

It is quite arguable and quite conceivable that in any militarily occupied territory, the military authorities might feel that U.N.R.R.A. was not yet equipped in personnel to undertake the responsibility for which it was formed. But it is also equally true that until these responsibilities are given to U.N.R.R.A. that organization will never get the personnel to undertake them. Therefore we are, in some respects, I suspect from what I have heard, in a rather vicious circle of trying to find the explanation of something which is in itself the reason. It is quite clear that if you have not the personnel to do something you cannot be given the job to do. It is equally clear that if you are not going to be given the job to do you will not find the personnel. I think we are very much in that state, and that that is at the back of the complaint voiced to-day by the noble Earl who opened the debate and also by the right reverend Prelate.

Thirteen months have now passed and what exactly has U.N.R.R.A.'s responsibility been up to date? It has, so far as I know, taken over the British organization in the Middle East for dealing with refugees which was already in existence, and it is doing something in Greece, or beginning to do something. We would very much like to know what. But that has only begun within the last few weeks. So far as my knowledge goes, the activities of U.N.R.R.A. in Italy are limited to dealing at the present moment with child welfare and maternity. It is not engaged in nor charged with doing general relief. If that is all that U.N.R.R.A. has assumed or has been given as respon- sibility it is certainly very little. It may not be the fault of U.N.R.R.A. by any manner of means that the personnel available to it is not greater, because the people of whom the noble Marquess spoke, the people who are necessary, the people who have a passionate desire to do something, to get something done and to assist the countries that are being liberated to rehabilitate themselves, will not go into an organization until they are certain that they can be usefully employed. Until that is certain they will stay in other occupations. Therefore in addition to an answer to the questions which the noble Earl asked, and which I have tried to amplify, there must also be some explanation, which I trust we shall hear, of these other great difficulties to which I have referred.

The noble Marquess referred to the danger and in a sense the inhumanity also of raising false hopes. The noble Earl who is to reply I think shook his head at that point. But false hopes have been raised on a very considerable scale and very great disappointments have been suffered in the last year within my own personal experience. Not only have things been promised in the early stages of military occupation which have not been done and in many cases—but not in all cases—could not be done, but also in the case of U.N.R.R.A. false hopes have been raised by the publicity which has been given to meetings and councils and statements about what Governments were going to do. These hopes were very real things in certain countries that have been liberated. I myself in certain liberated villages have seen people who have come to ask me when the convoys were coming in which the Allied Nations had promised on the radio. When I asked what convoys, they replied, "Oh, the food and clothes which you said would come as soon as we were liberated." That is not an isolated example. If that sort of thing is encountered it is solely due to the propaganda and publicity given on the radio, by leaflets and in other ways about what the United Nations were going to do and have not done.

In the early stages of an occupation it is not possible to do more than the minimum. The military administrations which have been set up by the Allied Armies have done what they could do but they would be the first themselves to realize that they could not provide a permanent solution, that they could not provide anything more than a temporary and very transient solution which would bridge the gap between the entry of an Allied Army and the re-establishment of a civil Government of its own in the country concerned. That military administration was not intended to do more than provide immediate relief. It has done what it has done in stress of military circumstances and difficulties of transport, but even here the realization of what ought to be done has not always been very present on the military side. After that, a permanent long-term organization must be put in either by the Government of the country or by the Allied Nations if that Government are not capable of doing it; but if such a breakdown occurs to which I referred on another occasion and the Government of a liberated country are not themselves in a position to do and have no personnel to do what they would like to do, then there must be the assistance of such an organization as U.N.R.R.A. That is why U.N.R.R.A. was formed and that is why Governments have contributed generously or have promised contributions. What I think we all wish to see is that these promises should be implemented, not by statements that this is our policy, but by carrying that policy into execution either through or, if necessary, over the heads of the Departments concerned. It is necessary that U.N.R.R A. should go in at the earliest possible moment.

3.26 p.m


My Lords, this has been a most remarkable debate with speeches on a very high level. I think your Lordships will agree that apart from military operations there can be no subject which it is more important to discuss in your Lordships' House. The conclusion I am driven to—I had not reached it before I heard the speeches this afternoon—is that if this immense sum of money, 11½ billion dollars, had been handed over to the Society of Friends—


11½ thousand—


11½ thousand million dollars—I apologize for introducing a transatlantic expression. If this sum had been handed over to the Society of Friends they could have done the job better than the immense bureaucratic organization which has been set up, judging from what happened after the last war. Then they did most excellent work quietly and most efficiently.

Your Lordships, I think, will also agree with me that my noble friend the Earl of Huntingdon is to be thanked for bringing this subject before your Lordships and also for his most admirable speech—if I may say so of a colleague of mine—and for his insistence on bringing the matter forward after months of frustration due to the state of business in your Lordships' House. I am sure that none of us would wish to say anything that appears to reflect on that most distinguished American, Governor Lehman, the Director-General of the organization. Those of your Lordships who have met him, as I have had the privilege of meeting him and discussing with him the difficulties of the problem, will agree that he is a man of great distinction, great nobility of mind, great patience and great persistence. I am sure nobody better could have been found for the task. He has encountered great difficulties and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, is not unmindful of those difficulties that have been inseparable from the military operations of a total war.

It probably is true as the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, said—although he did not use this expression—that there has been too much bally-hoo about it. These unfortunate people were led to believe that as soon as the Germans had been driven back food and clothing and medicine and other things they needed would be immediately available. Of course, that could not be. The Armies were following hot foot after the Germans and there were great difficulties of supply. The Armies of Montgomery, Patton and Dempsey would have been right in Germany if they could have carried their supplies forward. They were held up by transport difficulties, by the bad state of the roads and by broken bridges. Moreover, the immediate provision of food for the starving and clothes for the naked is not the function of U.N.R.R.A. I am not sure whether my noble friend realizes that. U.N.R.R.A. can only act if invited by the military authority or by the civil Government, as in France, if a civil Government exists. They can only go in as advisers and helpers. The function of U.N.R.R.A. is to help Governments to help themselves, provide technical assistance and that sort of thing, and of course they have great supplies which can be handed over to Governments if they can pay for them, or, if not, on Lend-Lease or some such basis.

Moreover, U.N.R.R.A. has been hampered—I do not know who was responsible for that terrible blunder—by the six months' rule referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon. They cannot go in for six months after a country has been liberated. Nevertheless U.N.R.R.A. have a personnel of 1,700 people. They are handpicked people. I know one case of a man of great wealth who wanted to throw his great weight into the work but was turned down because he belonged to my Party. U.N.R.R.A. has two billion dollars to spend this year and 11½ billion dollars earmarked. Now, presumably, they will be able to get going, and I suggest, very respectfully, that certain changes in organization are required, especially in this country—for we can only speak of this country. May I also reecho what my noble friend the Earl of Huntingdon said as to what an excellent thing it is that, in spite of all that has happened, all the nations concerned, Yugoslavia, Greece and Abyssinia among them, have agreed that fifty million dollars shall be made available for the relief of children and expectant mothers in Italy? That is indeed an action which augurs well for the future.

I am very sorry that I did not give notice of two detailed matters which I am going to raise to the noble Earl who is to reply, I understand, on behalf of the Government. The reason is that my noble friend Lord Faringdon was to have spoken, and as I stepped into the breach rather late, I did not have time to send notice of these matters to the noble Earl. The things to which I am going to allude are the sort of things which a really live organization, unhampered by the inhibitions and shackles which have been spoken of by the right reverend Prelate this afternoon, would get on with. In Italy, textile mills which are modern and efficient are absolutely idle because they cannot get wool. Now in Sardinia, which is situated just across the gulf, no great distance away, there is a great quantity of wool. Sardinia is one of the great wool producing countries of Europe. The reason that this wool cannot be taken to Italy is that there are no ships available for the purpose. One of the great troubles of U.N.R.R.A. has been a shortage of shipping. I should have thought that it would have been possible, in view of the naval situation—and I would like to draw the attention of the noble Earl who is going to reply especially to this—to send a warship, one of the Italian warships, perhaps, to bring the wool from Sardinia to the textile mills at Naples and other industrial centres. I am informed that this matter has been pending for months and months. The wool is lying in Sardinia and textile workers in Italy are idle, and, being idle, they are making mischief, as one would naturally expect.

The other matter, in respect of which I have made my apology for not mentioning it in advance, relates to Yugoslavia. Canadians of Yugoslav descent, of whom there are a great number, and who are very admirable citizens in Canada, have collected large quantities of comforts of all kinds, food, clothing, medicine, and so on for the land of their ancestors. Now from the beginning of the war the Yugoslav Mercantile Marine has been put at the disposal of the United Nations, and the Yugoslav sailors from the Dalmatian coast have performed wonderful service in the Allied cause. The real Yugoslav Government here and its annexe in Yugoslavia have been asking for months for the loan of one of their own ships to take these comforts and other badly needed goods from Canada to Yugoslavia. That matter, I understand, is still under consideration. I do hope that the noble Earl, who does get things done when he puts his mind to it, will see whether anything can be done in connexion with these two matters—the transport of wool from Sardinia to Italy, and of comforts from Canada to Yugoslavia.

I am very glad to see that, so far as the intentions and policy of this organization go up to the present, it is specially laid down that there is to be no discrimination. This is very important, and I hope that the rule will be maintained. There must be no discrimination on account of race, creed, politics or anything else. One of the blackest chapters in international history is that which records the crime of Hoover, former President of the United States. In the last war, when he was put in a position to buy food for starving peoples in Europe, just because he did not like the Hungarian Government of the day he cut off supplies of food to Hungary. Afterwards he boasted that he had brought the Hungarian Government down. At the present moment we have a Hungarian Government that has been our mortal enemy from the moment the Germans invaded Russia and that is fighting us now. But there is to be absolutely no discrimination, I understand. I think that is excellent.

May I now suggest what I am afraid is a cause of trouble? It is the old story of an immense machine being—as I think my noble friend the Marquess of Reading put it—muscle-bound by reason of its size and complexity. I have before me here the minutes of the last meeting. They are not confidential; they have been published, and they were much publicized. The meeting was held on the 22nd November last. Now one or two noble Lords have asked who is responsible in His Majesty's Government for U.N.R.R.A. Somebody must be because we are committed to a very large expenditure—up to £90,000,000–and also because we have great political and humanitarian interests involved. I have heard a dreadful rumour—it really appals me—that the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is to be responsible. I have known the Right Honourable Ernest Brown for many years. I have the greatest affection for him, and the greatest sympathy with him, but to put him in charge of this would really be asking for a breakdown. With regard to Governor Lehman, I am sure your Lordships will agree with the very high esteem in which he is held abroad. The British representative of the bureaucracy, so to speak, is generally a very distinguished person. I understand that in this case he is Sir George Rendel. I did not know who he was, but one of my friends has informed me that he is a diplomatic official of the Foreign Office. As I say I, personally, know nothing about him.

And now, if your Lordships will bear with me, I would like to read you some extracts from the minutes to which I have referred. What I am going to read will, no doubt, have a very familiar ring to some of your Lordships, especially to my noble friend Lord Latham, who has managed to short-circuit a good deal of this sort of machinery on the London County Council since the old days when they sat on this side of the river. I start with this passage: Item 8. Consideration of Memorandum by the Chairman"— the Chairman being the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster— on the action to be taken by the Committee regarding the production and interchange of surplus supplies. Then we come to paragraph 24: The Chairman asked whether the Committee wished a sub-committee to be appointed or not. Some discussion then followed during which Sir George Rendel (U.K.) pointed out that this subject raised far-reaching issues which would need to be very carefully considered. That relates, no doubt, to the question whether there should be a committee or a sub-committee. The minute goes on: A number of Departments of State were involved, and complications and difficulties presented themselves. The matter under consideration, I would remind your Lordships, was the production and interchange of surplus supplies. The minute proceeds: In view of this"— and I would ask your Lordships especially to note this— His Majesty's Government had instructed him to ask that further consideration of this item should be postponed. Then follow pages and pages of argument as to whether they should postpone it or not, and eventually, several pages further on, it is recorded that Sir George Rendel proposed that further consideration of this item should be postponed and Mr. Lamping, of the Netherlands, seconded. Sir George Rendel then proposed that the matter should come up for consideration at the next meeting of the Committee of Council for Europe. I am leaving out a great deal which occupies many pages of foolscap, a great deal of circumlocution and speaking round the point and all the rest of it. Eventually nothing whatever was done, but Governor Lehman, that hard-headed American lawyer and famous Governor, expressed the hope that the proposals would he given very careful consideration by the Governments. So far as he was concerned it did not make a great deal of difference whether the investigation of the question was made by U.N.R.R.A. staff or by the Governments themselves, but it should certainly be made. The matter was of outstanding importance and we should have the facts and get whatever machinery might be necessary. Sir Frederick Leith-Ross said he would take note of what had been said regarding an analysis of requirements and supplies. There you have it. They cannot take any decisions themselves; they have to refer everything to the Governments concerned. There are forty-four Governments concerned, and they all have to be consulted; everything has to be referred back, and no action is possible.

What is to be done? Obviously we must put some suitable person in a position of authority and responsibility. If he is only in a position to give power and responsibility to Governor Lehman it will be something. I am going to make a personal suggestion which I hope will not be taken amiss. I should like to see the noble Earl who is to reply put in charge of this. It would be poetic justice. He has helped to build up a great organization for blockading Germany and German-occupied territory—and quite right too; he and his officials have contributed immensely to the downfall and discomfiture of our enemy. Let that same machinery be used in reverse. He has the staff. He has the right people to do the work. He has co-opted business men, men in executive positions who know how to get things done and who would not put up with the sort of bureaucratic nonsense that I have read out to your Lordships. As regards the British end of this—which is Europe, because I understand that we are responsible for all Europe under U.N.R.R.A.—let all this be put under the responsibility of the noble Earl. Let us call him the Minister for the Relief of Europe and put him and his staff in charge, and cut out all this referring back and "passing the buck," which I think is the reason for the complaints made by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and others.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, I must first thank the noble Lord who has just sat down for the compliment which he has paid to me and to my Department in suggesting that this terrifically difficult and important task should be handed over to us. I am afraid that I cannot agree with him, because I think that this work is already in very competent hands in being entrusted to Governor Lehman and his assistants. It is clear from this debate, however, that there is a great deal of misapprehension, even among some of your Lordships who have been able to study the matter, as to the facts of the case and as to the true position. I think that I can best endeavour to answer as many of the important and interesting questions which have been addressed to me as possible within the time at my disposal if I pass the machinery under review and deal with the points raised by noble Lords and by the right reverend Prelate at the appropriate moments.

Passing at once, therefore, to the question raised by the noble Earl who opened the debate and by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, I would endeavour to explain exactly what U.N.R.R.A. is. The terms of reference of U.N.R.R.A. are set out in Cmd. 6491, which embodies the U.N.R.R.A. agreement, and also in some of the resolutions passed at Atlantic City, which will be found in Cmd. 6497. They are, briefly, to help to set the liberated countries on their feet if invited to do so by their Governments. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, appeared to think that there was something to be criticized in that; but really he would not suggest that any body should endeavour to go and administer relief or anything else in, let us say, France, except at the invitation of the French Government.


My Lords, if I may interrupt, the point of my criticism was that these countries needed relief but for some reason seemed to be taking no steps to apply for it. That requires some explanation.


My Lords, I think that the explanation was really given by the right reverend Prelate and by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. Who administers the relief is a matter, as the right reverend Prelate put it, of secondary importance; the important thing is that the most appropriate machinery in the circumstances of each country should he employed. The great obstacle to relief is the practical one which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, described in his speech. It is not, I think, in any sense wrong that U.N.R.R.A. should function only when invited to do so by the Government of the country concerned. No one could possibly criticize that, and I gather from what he has said that the noble Marquess does not criticize it. Having received the invitation of the Government of the country, its function is to send relief supplies, food, clothes, medicines, fuel and so on, to provide health services, to repatriate displaced persons and to provide rehabilitation supplies—seeds, fertilizers and machinery. The noble Earl who introduced this Motion is entirely mistaken on that point. He seemed to think that it was beyond the powers or terms of reference of U.N.R.R.A. to introduce machinery, seeds, fertilizers and the like. He is entirely mistaken; that is one of the specific functions with which U.N.R.R.A. is charged. It has also to restore public utilities and services.


I should like to ask the noble Earl one question. Does that include machinery? Is U.N.R.R.A. allowed to introduce, for instance, part of a cotton-spinning machine?


Yes, if it is necessary to make the machine work. If the machine has had a part broken, then certainly U.N.R.R.A. would be able to supply that part; it would be within its terms of reference to do so.

The noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, asked how far U.N.R.R.A. is autonomous. I think Lord Rennell said "Is U.N.R.R.A. a principal, or is it merely an agent?" The answer is that U.N.R.R.A. is an autonomous international body; that is to say, it is a principal. It is a body which can do things. Its Council decides the policy. All member Governments are represented on the Council. The executive authority lies in the Director-General. In one part of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, advocated that executive authority should be given to Governor Lehman. In the latter part of his speech he seemed to change his mind and thought it should be given to me, for which, as I have already said, I feel flattered. But I can assure the noble Lord that his first idea was the right one. It had also occurred to other people, and executive authority has been given to Governor Lehman and resides in him.

Then noble Lords asked, if decisions are referred back to the Governments, what Department in this country answers. I think I have already answered that question: decisions are not referred back. U.N.R.R.A. has full authority to act within its terms of reference and within the means at its disposal; but if it wishes to address any question to His Majesty's Government on any matter—and of course communications are frequent—the channel through which those communications are addressed is the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office passes them on, or refers the matters to the appropriate Government Department or Departments who are concerned with a particular question. I think noble Lords will agree that it is necessary to have a single channel by which all these communications come.


Do I understand that that is true of the whole of U.N.R.R.A. and that no part of it acts as a standing conference?


I am not sure that I follow the noble Lord.


In the case, for instance, of the Displaced Persons Sub-commission, is it not acting, as it were, by a conference of delegates of the Governments, who require the decision of their Government in each case at a lower level than the Council before that sub-commission can come to a decision?


The authority, as I have said, rests with U.N.R.R.A. within its terms of reference. It might be found desirable by U.N.R.R.A. to consult a conference of the Governments to get their advice and guidance, but the last word in all these matters rests with U.N.R.R.A. within its terms of reference and within the means at its disposal. I hope I have answered the questions of the noble Lord. Then noble Lords asked whether U.N.R.R.A. had been charged with reconstruction, and the answer to that question is in the negative. Rehabilitation may, in some cases, have a narrow borderline with reconstruction, but U.N.R.R.A. stops at rehabilitation, and in reconstruction you get on to other machinery and other problems, such as were discussed at Bretton Woods. Then the noble Earl asked me a question about the position of the Combined Boards, and that is a matter on which it is very important to have a clear idea. The Combined Boards are American, United Kingdom and Canadian organizations for allocating the resources of the world, and U.N.R.R.A. is in the closest touch with the Combined Boards. But it is with the Combined Boards that the last word rests in regard to the allocation of any commodity; and that of course is a limiting factor on U.N.R.R.A., as it is on everybody else.

When I said just now that the last word rests with U.N.R.R.A. within its terms of reference, I was in part referring to the fact that U.N.R.R.A. can only deal with such supplies as are allotted to it by the Combined Boards. Now the Combined Boards have to take full account of the needs of U.N.R.R.A., but they also have to take into account the needs of countries not within U.N.R.R.A.'s sphere. For instance, the Combined Boards decide how much food shall be allotted for the United Kingdom, how much food shall remain in the United Slates, how much food or what supplies will be available for the Armies in the East and the Armies in Europe. They deal with global problems, and therefore the needs of U.N.R.R.A. are only one of the problems with which the Combined Boards have to deal.

Then the noble Lord asked me about finance. U.N.R.R.A. is financed by contributions from member Governments whose home territory has not been occupied by the enemy, and the rate of contribution was fixed at 1 per cent. of the national income for the year ending the 30th June, 1943. That gives a total of £500,000,000, of which £300,000,000 have already been appropriated in the Budgets of seven member countries, and the contribution from the United Kingdom is £80,000,000. The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, raised this question. He said: "Is that enough? The amounts involved are little more than was spent by the United Kingdom alone in feeding itself before the war, and whereas the population of the United Kingdom is 45,000,000 the population of our European Allies is 135,000,000." That reveals, if I may say so, a misconception of the functions of U.N.R.R.A. The functions of U.N.R.R.A. are not to feed countries that do not require the food but to feed those countries that do require the food.

In the noble Earl's 135,000,000, for instance, there is the population of France. Now the population of France, generally speaking, is self-supporting in food: France is a great food-producing country; and the food shortages that exist in France at the present moment are confined to one or two items such as, let us say, milk or sugar, but do not by any means extend to the whole range of the country's consumption. In France as in other countries the real problem is not the total amount of food in the country but its distribution. The shortages are in the cities, as they always have been, and not in the country districts. That is a problem of railways and not of food, and the noble Earl must bear that in mind when he compares the total food budgets of this country with the financial means at the disposal of U.N.R.R.A. to help the food deficiencies of Europe. In addition to this money at the disposal of U.N.R.R.A. there is a separate fund for administrative expenses; that amounts to about 11,500,000 dollars, and our contribution to that is about 1,000,000 dollars. I have given these facts in order to try to put in its proper perspective the machine called U.N.R.R.A. which has to deal with this terrible European problem.

I strongly subscribe to what the noble Lords have said about the gravity of the problem. It is one of the most serious with which we have ever been confronted. I would like here to say that for over two and a half years it has been my very unpleasant duty to administer the blockade of Europe, involving as it did our friends as well as our enemies. During that time I told your Lordships and other audiences on a number of occasions that while there undoubtedly had been famine in Greece—terrible famine—which had necessitated the rupture of the blockade, in the rest of occupied Europe there was no famine; there was very serious distress and there was malnutrition, but nothing that could be properly called famine conditions.

I would like to take this occasion to endorse the claim of the right reverend Prelate that in his representations he never exaggerated the situation, any more than did the late Archbishop of Canterbury. But there were a large number of, I will not say his friends or even his colleagues, but his supporters in an agitation for an extension of the relief, who went very much further. There was an organization called the Famine Relief Committee which had branches up and down the country, and there were similar organizations in America who denounced my statements as being untrue and, in thousands of communications and speeches, accused the British Government of starving the people of occupied Europe. I would like now to say that the facts, as we have been able to ascertain them since the liberation of a large part of Europe, have proved that the information supplied to me by my Department was correct, that the information which came to us from secret sources through the enemy's outposts was correct, and that the situation was as I described it. The noble Earl asked whether we were pursuing investigations now as to the condition of Europe. I can assure him that that is the case; they are being pursued very thoroughly.


May I interrupt for one moment? I appreciate what the noble Earl has said about the fairness of my representations, but I am a little troubled about his criticism of the Famine Relief Committee with which I am closely associated. I am wondering whether he is not thinking of another organization which was quite unconnected with myself and with the officers of the Famine Relief Committee, and which certainly did conduct an agitation of a far more extensive kind, to which, I know, he had reason to attribute very considerable blame from time to time. I hope he is not attributing much blame to the Famine Relief Committee. I should be sorry to be dissociated in praise from the Famine Relief Committee.


If the right reverend Prelate will assure me that the Famine Relief Committee never made themselves responsible for any statement to which he was unable to subscribe, I will certainly withdraw my censure of them. But there were, as I have said, thousands of philanthropists all over this country and in America who said a great many things for which they ought to apologize, but I am afraid experience in public life does not lead me to expect that I shall receive the apologies that are my due.


That is not a function of U.N.R.R.A., is it?


When the liberation took place and British and American newspaper correspondents were once inure able to get into France and Belgium, the newspaper reports went to the other extreme. A few luxuries in the shops, like toys and scent, appear to have given the impression that there had been no privation, no hunger, and that there was no urgent need for relief in Europe. My Lords, there could not have been a greater mistake than that. The point that these Press correspondents appear to have missed was that these countries were not mobilized and organized in the way which Great Britain is. In this country, owing to the efficient administration of His Majesty's Government, everybody has enough food, and hardly anybody has too much food. In Europe, on the other hand, a great many people did not have enough food and a few people were enjoying a standard of living in excess of anything known in this country; but they were very few. It was an entire mistake to think that the great bulk of the people in occupied Europe were not hungry.

The situation has deteriorated and is considerably worse than it was when I last addressed your Lordships on the subject. It has worsened considerably since June 6, and if you ask the reason it has already been given by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—that the ravages of war have immensely complicated the problem. When your ports are smashed up, your bridges broken down, your locomotives destroyed, your trucks burnt and your junctions obliterated by bombing, the problems of feeding hungry people in the towns are magnified many times over. And that is the answer, I think, to a number of points that have been alluded to this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, said that there is profound disappointment in Europe that the promised help has not come earlier. He charged His Majesty's Government with having raised false hopes. I listened very carefully for any evidence that he could give of any statement made by any authoritive person that help would be immediately available to the people of Europe, but he did not quote anything of that nature and I am certainly not aware of it.

The right reverend Prelate in his very interesting speech did quote a statement by the present Minister of Food which seemed to me to be a very wise, judicious and carefully balanced statement and not one that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to be a reason for false hopes. I think on the contrary His Majesty's Ministers, and especially the Prime Minister, have warned the public that the process of rehabilitation in Europe after the war would be a very difficult one and that the vast amount of distress caused by the war could not be remedied quickly.

I would ask your Lordships to visualize the situation I have just described also in connexion with the criticisms that U.N.R.R.A. is not functioning. When the Allied Armies liberate a country they immediately bring food to the starving people and they are bringing food at the present moment to the people of Holland and Belgium, and if in any part of France it was necessary they would be bringing food there too. They have done the same in Italy. That is a necessary function of the liberating Armies. U.N.R.R.A. only comes in after the Armies have passed on. The idea that there is a necessary gap of six months is an entirely mistaken one. I cannot think where any noble Lord got the idea about six months. U.N.R.R.A. can follow the Army instantaneously if it is invited to do so by the military authorities and by the Government of the country. That is exactly what has happened in Greece. In Greece you have U.N.R.R.A. functioning to-day because it has been invited by General Scobie and by the Greek Government, and U.N.R.R.A. is functioning in Greece as the agent of the military. As the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, the label of the machine is a secondary matter.


Will the noble Earl say whether Greece is the only country which has invited U.N.R.R.A. to function?


I think so except in the case of Italy, which I will deal with in a few moments. Neither Belgium nor France has asked for it and I think the reason is that the Governments of those countries feel they can handle the problem quite adequately themselves. That is a perfectly right position. They have a certain amount of food in their own countries, they are in command of all the available resources, they know what the deficiencies are and they can make direct application to the Combined Boards. When you get a Government like the French Government or the Belgian Government which is in every way as well organized as the Government of any other country, there is probably no reason why they should not make a direct application to the Combined Boards for any materials that have to be imported rather than avail themselves of the machinery of U.N.R.R.A.

I think we are all agreed as to the seriousness of the position which now exists in Greece, Belgium, Holland and Poland. The deterioration in the position is clue primarily to the ravages of war and the destruction of communications. Some noble Lords have talked about bottle-necks and cutting red tape and the like. The real bottle-neck is transport. If the ships, the railway trains, the railway bridges, the harbours could be made available immediately, then food would flow immediately. The real problems arise in connexion with transport. I am thankful to say there are comparatively few world shortages of food. No doubt there are some. There is a world shortage of milk, there is a world shortage in boot leather and there are one or two other commodities in which there is unfortunately a world shortage, but I am thankful to say there are ample supplies of wheat and other cereals and if only the transport problems can be overcome there is no reason why any portion of the world should starve. I mentioned that in Greece U.N.R.R.A. was already functioning on behalf of the military and the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, asked me whether the lamentable occurrences of the last few days had resulted in relief being stopped. I am thankful to say that is not the case. The merciful work has gone on, in some cases under the hail of bullets. The food has been disembarked at the ports and is being taken to the population. The fighting and rioting has no doubt hindered the supply of food but the food supply has gone on, and will go on, as far as can be managed.

Other steps noble Lords might care to know about are that refugee camps are being established in all liberated territories and all preparations are being made for work in Eastern Europe, in Poland, and in Czechoslovakia. I think it was the noble Earl who asked whether there had been any hitch in regard to a mission from U.N.R.R.A. going to Moscow. My information is that there has been no hitch. The mission has been arranged but the date has not actually been fixed. Some of your Lordships have alluded to the great problem of displaced persons. That is one of the most complicated and difficult international problems. This terrible problem has been caused by the ruthless methods of our enemy. It has produced a state of affairs which takes us back to the days of Sennacherib. U.N.R.R.A. is a very suitable body to deal with an international problem of this nature. The Montreal Conference, as noble Lords probably know, extended the authority of U.N.R.R.A. in this respect and decided that U.N.R.R.A. should look after displaced United Nations' nationals such as French deportees in Germany and also persons displaced because of race, religion or political activities, as for instance German Jews found in any part of Europe. This is indeed a terrible problem. Some 14,000,000 people have got to be taken back to their proper homes, but as the noble Earl pointed out the problem .does not end when they have returned to their homes. Means to enable them to earn a livelihood must be as far as possible provided. Let us make no mistake. The economic problems that are going to confront Europe during the next few years will be as grave as anything ever known in history. It is only by collaboration and the co-operation of all nations that we can hope to solve them.

I ought to say a word about Italy about which certain noble Lords have spoken. I am glad that it has been recognized this afternoon that the action of the Ethiopian, Greek and Yugoslav representatives on U.N.R.R.A. in voting for the extension of relief to Italy, has been a noble and inspiring act of Christian charity which ought to be recognized all over the world. U.N.R.R.A. has now been authorized to carry out certain limited operations in Italy in respect of displaced persons, medical assistance and care of children. The expenses in lira are to be borne by Italy and in foreign exchange by U.N.R.R.A. up to 50,000,000 dollars. The question whether Italy can repay any or all of this is to be considered later.

I have endeavoured to answer your Lordships' questions by giving a picture of the problem and of the machinery that is being created to deal with it. The problem is not so much shortage of supplies but shortage of transport, including European land transport.


May I ask a question? Will U.N.R.R.A. be allowed to supply railway trucks and engines?


Yes, certainly; that comes under the heading of missing or broken machinery. The problem is transport and U.N.R.R.A. is ready to step in and help as soon as military authorities nave moved away and the Government of a country thinks it can make a useful contribution. His Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to the work of U.N.R.R.A., not only because we feel it is the proper instrument to bring relief and rehabilitation to many nations that are not so well organized as France and Belgium, but also because it is the first great practical experiment in international co-operation. The success or failure of U.N.R.R.A. may do a great deal to make or mar the future of international co-operation in the years that lie before us. Any help that His Majesty's Government can give to U.N.R.R.A. we shall give. We attach the highest importance to its work and we are satisfied that it is fitting in, as was intended, with the other machinery that exists. If there are people who are disappointed it is because they misunderstood the official statements that were made or because things which have been read in the Press or heard on the wireless have had a meaning put upon them which was never intended.

It is impossible to repair the ravages of the war in a few weeks, just as it was impossible to establish a Second Front in Europe in 1941. When you are confronted by major world problems such as we are confronted with now their solution cannot be achieved in a day. We believe that the machinery which has been designed to deal with the problem is the right machinery. It has the whole-hearted support of His Majesty's Government and anything we can do to assist U.N.R.R.A. by releasing what labour can be released from the war effort, by the supply of goods which can be made in this country without damage to the war effort and by the release of shipping for the purpose of carrying these materials—anything that we can do to help His Majesty's Government will do. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the evil which now threatens us, and everyone must do what he can to bring relief to these sorely stricken nations who are being liberated.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for the exceedingly full statement he has made about U.N.R.R.A. and to say how grateful I am that he has taken the trouble to answer so many of the questions put to him this afternoon. At the same time I cannot help feeling that U.N.R.R.A. as at present constituted is not sufficient to deal with this gigantic problem. I have always found difficulty in understanding the dividing line between rehabilitation and reconstruction. The fact that U.N.R.R.A. is in practice only functioning in Greece, and as the noble Earl said on a small scale in Italy, and has not been asked by France or Belgium or even Yugoslavia to function in those countries, leaves one with rather a feeling of dissatisfaction. However, I am very grateful for the information we have got—information which we badly needed—and I hope I shall have the agreement of other noble Lords when I say that I would like to raise this problem again in the future in the hope that we may get even more information. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at half past four o'clock.