HL Deb 20 December 1944 vol 134 cc430-60

12.20 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Templewood—namely, to resolve, That the unifying forces of Europe stand in urgent need of strengthening, and in particular that every European citizen should be ensured of certain fundamental rights and liberties without which European civilization cannot continue.


My Lords, I think your Lordships' House owes a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Viscount Templewood for having raised this question and having produced what seems to me a very interesting and valuable debate. We are also delighted to take this opportunity of welcoming him to our discussions and expressing the hope that we may often have the pleasure of hearing him. The subject he has raised is, I entirely agree with him, of the very first importance. He has very rightly said that the evils arising from the aggressive policy of Germany are not confined merely to material destruction, or even to the loss of very valuable lives; they have also produced a very serious degradation of international morals and a throwback to conditions which we had hoped had long passed away. I think it is important that we should inquire how it is that this has happened.

I do not belong to that section of opinion which believes that the Germans are congenitally more wicked than anybody else. I believe they are human beings and can be misled by bad teaching and bad example, but that they are an entirely different kind of creature to ourselves I do not believe. I believe that for many years they have been indulging—particularly the intellectual classes in Germany—in speculation and teaching which were bound to produce most disastrous effects. It is not only during the war that there has been conducted in Germany, as your Lordships are very well aware, a prolonged, elaborate and continued assault on the Christian religion, or at any rate on many of its essential doctrines. That was going on long before the war and had already produced before the war began these utterly indefensible persecutions of Jews and other religious bodies—the Roman Catholic body and others—which had no kind of justification except the very worst it could have. During the war these attacks have gone on and got worse. Something has already been said in this debate about the attacks on Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants. The case of Pastor Niemoller is only one of many similar cases, and one which, though it has not been so bloody as some of the persecutions, has been quite as indefensible as any one of them.

All these things have gone on and have produced the ordinary result. Many people have suffered from them, there have been many martyrs of all sections of religious opinion, and there has been an attempt by the German leaders to substitute for Christianity and Judaism a kind of new religion which consisted in deification of Germany with Hitler as its chief prophet. That seems to me to be the real source of the worst feature of what has happened in the German conduct of the war, and I do not think we shall really succeed, as far as we can do anything, in curing the evil unless we consider what the evil really is, as I have ventured to do in a very few words, and fasten our minds on that as the real cause of the trouble. I listened with great interest to my noble friend's suggestions as to what might be done by creating some kind of international body which could investigate and recommend remedies for the state of things which exists in Germany. I certainly do not want to say a word to discourage any proposals of that kind. I believe that the more the matter is talked of and brought out into public, and the more it becomes quite clear what is really the trouble, the more chance there is of some really effective remedy. But I am bound to admit that I doubt very much whether anything in the nature of political action from outside is likely to produce much effect. I hope my noble friend will not think me unduly discouraging if I say that an attempt to force from the outside on the various countries, including Germany, what he regards, and rightly regards, as elementary human rights, is almost certain to produce very little result.

I was interested the other day to receive a circular from the United Evangelical Alliance—I have no doubt many of your Lordships also received it—in which they complain bitterly of the intolerance, and worse than intolerance, of the present Spanish Government. They cite this rather striking fact, which I think has a considerable bearing on the proposals of my noble friend. After describing what is going on in Spain in that respect, they say: Under the régime of General Franco religious liberty does not exist in Spain although General Franco promised to the present Spanish Ambassador at the Court of St. James, the Duke of Alba, that in the event of a Nationalist victory in the late Spanish war he would grant full religious liberty to all classes and creeds alike in Spain. This promise was given at a conference of representatives of the united Christian Churches of this country in London and was subsequently renewed in a letter in the columns of The Times. The promise, however, has not been fulfilled … That is the difficulty you are in. The forms of government which produce the moral degradation that my noble friend deplores are very difficult to deal with by political action. You will get plenty of verbal assents to the improvement you desire to see established, but when it comes to the effective remedies that ought to be applied you will find it very difficult to induce Governments to do anything, and you really have no remedy if they do not do what they have promised to do.

It is quite evident you could not really take any serious action—at least I think you could not—because they have refused to grant their subjects any of the rights which you think they ought to grant. I do not mean by that that we ought to do nothing, or that we can do nothing. I recognize that the difficulties are very great, and they are quite as great if I am right in thinking that what is required is religious reformation. It is perhaps even more difficult to enforce any improvement in that respect than in matters of political or public conduct. I do not think that much can be done by political action or the action of Governments. I feel very strongly that the great: mass of the work in that direction must be left to the Churches and other religious agencies. I was very much encouraged, and I am sure that your Lordships were also, by the very hopeful attitude which was adopted by the Archbishop of York and the Lord Bishop of Chichester as to the possibility of joint Christian action in this direction. They read a number of extracts, from various documents which have been published, which certainly seemed to support their hopeful attitude.

But although that is what ought to be done and can be done—and it will, I hope, produce great effects—I am afraid that the United Nations and the Governments, the kind of agencies that we in this House can address and stimulate, will be able to do very little directly. I think there are two points on which they may be of use. One is by maintaining peace. So long as it is quite evident that war is the very enemy of all the moral progress that my noble friend desires to see. I think that they can do that. I shall have a word to say in a moment about steps which the Government seem inclined to take in certain matters. The second thing they can do is to preserve in their own conduct in this country and —so far as they can influence it—in the conduct of their Allies, a high standard of international action. I think that that is very important. It is no use setting up a most elaborate organization for improving international affairs, or even creating such a body as my noble friend desires in order to inculcate better conduct on the part of Governments if the Allied Governments who are the authors of these adjurations are carrying on a policy which is very difficult to square with anything like an improved international morale.

My noble friend the Leader of the House in a speech with which I had the honour to be almost wholly in agreement apologized for making any reference to the Greek position. I confess that I thought an apology quite unnecessary. It is quite evident that anything that is thought to militate against the rightness of our conduct in international affairs is directly germane to the objects which my noble friend has in view in his Motion. I am not going to conduct any elaborate inquiry into the Greek situation. This would be a very unfortunate opportunity for me to take for a purpose of that kind. But I do feel that the immense interest it has excited in this country, and the very great fervour with which sides are being taken on that question, are a tribute to the remarkable political instinct of this country. It is not only that there are people who sympathize with the Greeks and think they are being ill-treated, but they feel very deeply that it is an awful blot on the success of our policy that now we should actually be fighting one of our Allies on a matter which they, or some of them, think directly affects the very causes for which we went to war.

I cannot improve on the statement which my noble friend the Leader of the House made yesterday on the general policy which the Government desire to pursue. It seemed to me to be an admirable statement of exactly what they ought to be doing, and I was quite happy about it. The same applies to what the Prime Minister said in his remarkable speech on the subject. I am not referring so much to his brilliant fireworks, which were, no doubt, designed for the delectation of the House of Commons but which, perhaps, do not have the same diplomatic value as some other parts of his speech. But his general statement of the principles which the Government desire to pursue seems to me to be admirable. I have no criticism at all to make of it. The only thing I admit which has not yet been explained is this: having these admirable principles and the desire to pursue them, how is it that not only the extremists in Greece but apparently a very large proportion of the relatively indifferent members of that community have taken the very deplorable action which they have taken in this matter? Does not that point to some failure to get over to the Greeks what our policy really is? I do not wish to suggest where the failure may have taken place. But I do think that that is a thing to which the Government ought to devote their attention, and see that the failure, if failure there has been, shall not arise in this case of Greece any more, or in other cases which are certain to come forward before we can hope to get back to anything like general peaceful conditions in Europe.

I would only add this one observation. We have all seen a very interesting and encouraging suggestion that the Archbishop of Athens should be appointed Regent. Certainly, I confess, that seems to me to be an admirable suggestion. I earnestly hope that if it is opposed on any grounds by any individual or Party, however exalted that individual or Party may be, the opposition shall not be allowed to hinder the adoption of what seems to me a most excellent proposal. That is all I desire to say about Greece. I only mention it for the same reason my noble friend mentioned it, that is as a kind of test as to what the spirit is going to be by which we hope to reform, improve and strengthen the morale of Europe.

When I come to Poland, it seems to me to be another case. The policy that is proposed to be pursued in Poland, as I understand it, is, broadly, this: that a certain portion from the south-east of what was Poland before the war is to be transferred to Russia, and that compensation is to be provided for Poland in the north by the transfer to her of what was certainly before the war, and indeed for many centuries, the German province of East Prussia. I have nothing to say at all as to any German grievance in the matter; I fully admit that the Germans cannot be heard on that point at all. I must say, however, that this seems to be a disagreeable reminiscence of the worst type of pre-war diplomacy in its very nature. I do not want to go back to the Atlantic Charter unduly, particularly after the very interesting exposition which the President of the United States has given as to the way in which the Atlantic Charter was constructed; but in point of fact the broad principle that territory should not be transferred from one Government to another except with the consent of its inhabitants is a very sound one. It is not because there is a promise to this person or to that person, but because the consent of the people is the very essence and foundation of democracy. I therefore look with great anxiety on this proposal, and my anxiety is scarcely removed at all by the complementary suggestion that in order to enable this to be done the whole of the German population of East Prussia is to be conveyed to some part of Germany, wherever room can be found for them.

I gather that that is to be done extensively, so that something like five million Germans are to be transfered from the places where they now live, and lived before the war, to some unknown position in Germany, and their places are to be taken by Poles or Russians. I am not concerned with any question of justice or injustice to Germany, because I agree that she has no right to complain, considering what she has done, of any action which may be of use to the peace of the world; but what I am afraid of is that when an attempt is made to carry this proposal out the practical difficulties will turn out to be very great. I have had a little indirect experience of transfers of population, and I know that the difficulties are very great. They produce the greatest possible discomfort; they involve very complicated questions of government and so on. What I am frankly terrified will in fact be the result is that after transferring a certain number of these Germans back to Germany it will be found almost impracticable to go on with the experiment. We cannot adopt the methods which the Germans themselves have tried to adopt—quite unsuccessfully—which consist, roughly, of the murder of anybody who objects to what they do. I hope and trust and believe that we shall not be able to do that; people in this country would not be a party to action of that kind. It will have to be done by persuasion and by moderate means.

The result will be that it will break down, and in this new province to be transferred to Poland the mass of the population will still be hostile to the Government to which they have been transferred. This would seem to me to be the most reckless kind of policy, it that turns out to be the result. It means keeping alive in an important part of Europe a perpetual sore which, sooner or later, is bound to produce disturbance and probably a war similar to that which we are now enduring. I very earnestly beg the Government to consider again whether there is not some way of avoiding this very serious result. I cannot help thinking that in some way or other it ought to be possible to avoid settling anything finally during the progress of the war with regard to transfers of territory. It seems to me a reckless thing to attempt to do. I gather from something which fell from the Prime Minister that he agrees that it would be better to delay action until after the war, when at any rate there will be some prospect of a general cooling of spirits and lessening of irritation. In the meantime, is it not possible to arrive at some kind of modus vivendi which will enable Russians and Poles alike to concentrate on the defeat of Germany, which is the first essential to anything being done, leaving the final settlement and the real settlement to be disposed of after the most careful inquiry and impartial consideration, which can be provided only at the end of the war, and indeed, as I think, only after there has been recreated some kind of international organization which will command at any rate a measure of assent from all the countries of the world?

It is for that reason, among others, that I most heartily support and agree with everything that fell from my noble friend the Leader of the House as to the Dumbarton Oaks scheme. I am sure that that is the way out; and the sooner that that can be brought into being and set to work the better the chance of settling all these international questions, which are bound to arise more and more as the war comes to an end. I very earnestly hope, therefore, that we shall push forward with that scheme to the utmost of our power. I feel that the very foundation on which the scheme rests is that if there is a difference between countries which is in- soluble by free agreement it must be referred to the decision of some third party, some party as impartial as can be devised. That is one of the foundations on which the whole of the Dumbarton Oaks scheme rests. I think that it would be really disastrous if before it came into existence we and other Powers who have been advocating this scheme indulged in a form of diplomacy and territorial resettlement which really belongs to an age which must be definitely put aside if we are to build anything permanent or satisfactory in the world. I am sorry to have detained your Lordships for so long, but I was very anxious to say what I have said.

12.49 p.m.


My Lords, I have the greatest sympathy with the ideas put forward by the noble Viscount who moved this Resolution in his eloquent and thought-provoking speech. I should like to add my tribute of praise to those which have already been paid. I shall not pretend to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, into the questions of detail which he has raised regarding Germany, regarding Greece and regarding Poland; but I must say that I most strongly dissent from his views as regards East Prussia. I will explain to your Lordships the reason why I hold so strongly that East Prussia should go to Poland when this war is finished. The noble Viscount quoted in support of what lie said the Atlantic Charter. Yes, I can quote the Atlantic Charter too in support of my views, and that is in the statement that security is the most important factor in the post-war world. I would add that as far as East Prussia goes it must be remembered that there is a very large population of Polish origin, mostly peasants, which is still resident in that province. I would like to make another point. There will have to be a very large transfer of population in any case. The Germans have moved some eight or ten million people and those people must be resettled in their homes, and I cannot believe that the additional problem of placing a considerable number, say two millions or even more, of Germans back in Germany would present a difficulty which cannot be overcome.

Now I am going to leave that Polish problem and go back to the large principles which are embodied in the Motion put forward by the noble Viscount. He very rightly laid great stress on the need for every man, woman and child to feel that in the post-war world they can individually and as a family live out their lives in freedom from fear and freedom from want. In this connexion I would like to lay stress on the importance of the family as the central unit and indeed as the foundation of our European civilization. Sometimes perhaps too much importance is attached to the rights of individuals and the claim of the family tends to be forgotten; yet that claim is fundamental and must be fully recognized and met. It seems to me that the main object of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals is to secure in the international field the first two of the four freedoms enunciated by President Roosevelt—freedom from fear and freedom from want. Freedom from fear—that is, freedom from the terrible disturbance caused by war or the threat of war. Freedom from want. That is admirably expressed in Point 5 of the Atlantic Charter: … the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security. It is true that the Dumbarton Oaks proposals do not specifically deal with the two other great freedoms, the free exercise of religion without fear of any manner of persecution, and freedom of speech. How are these to be assured? Because they must be assured. We can no longer treat these aspects of the basic liberty of the individual as matters of purely domestic jurisdiction. We have experienced the evils and the far-spreading results of such acquiescence. I need only mention—it has already been mentioned—the terrible persecution of the Jews by Hitler. These problems really transcend national boundaries and are of universal concern.

The noble Viscount laid down a rule that we should not interfere in the domestic policy of foreign countries. That is a very good and salutary rule from day to day, but I feel that there must be exceptions. In fact, we have already made one exception; we have definitely said that in liberated territories we would not permit the formation of Fascist Governments. There may be widespread outrages on human individuals which would rouse the conscience of this country, and I hope the conscience of the world, to such a degree that interference may be absolutely necessary. I am speaking in the best Liberal tradition. I have in mind the great campaign against the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria conducted by Mr. Gladstone in 1880. I therefore strongly support the plea of the noble Viscount when he suggested that the United Nations should discuss the question of the establishment of a minimum standard of human rights, and I am glad to note that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House more or less agreed that such an examination should take place.

Whether or not it will be found practicable to set up a permanent organization on the lines of the International Labour Office, as suggested by the noble Viscount, I am frankly rather doubtful, and I am not sure that it would be necessary. For the time I would prefer to suspend judgment. We must remember that after the war there will be no censorship, and the Press and the wireless will report very fully and very widely any serious attacks on the human individual, and action might be taken on those reports. But I do feel that a beginning could certainly be made by ensuring that nations refusing to subscribe to such a minimum charter of human rights should be debarred from entering the new international organization foreshadowed by the Moscow Declaration and defined in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. That organisation is to be open to all peace-loving nations. I very much doubt whether a nation that consistently persecutes its own subjects can be brought into the category of peace-loving.

There is a passage in a joint statement which was made by the Catholic Bishops of the United States which expressed far better than I can the principles which I believe should govern any discussion between the United Nations on these tremendous issues. I should therefore like to read it to your Lordships: We hold that if there is to be genuine and lasting world peace the international organization should demand as a condition of membership that every nation guarantee in law and respect in fact the innate rights of men, families and minority groups in their civil and religious life. Surely our generation should know that tyranny in any nation menaces world peace. A nation which refuses to accord to its own people the full enjoyment of innate human rights cannot be relied upon to co-operate in the international community for the maintenance of peace, which is based on the recognition of national freedom. Such a nation will pursue its own selfish international policies, while paying lip-service to international co-operation. We have it within our power to introduce, a new era, the era for which people have been longing through the centuries, the era in which nations will live together in justice and charity. I could add nothing to those words.


My Lords, I think that it would be convenient to adjourn now for the luncheon interval, but before we do so my noble friend the Leader of the House, who has had to leave on business, has asked me to make a reference to the business for to-morrow. There are three Motions on the Paper in the names of Lord Morris, on B.O.A.C., and of two noble Lords opposite, besides some minor business, and my noble friend thought that, with the concurrence of your Lordships, it would be convenient to meet at twelve o'clock. I think we might now break off until two o'clock.

House adjourned at two minutes past One o'clock and resumed at two o'clock.


My Lords, I will detain your Lordships a very short time only while I deal with one point in the speech of my noble friend Lord Templewood. It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to take part in a debate initiated by my noble friend, an old chief. The point I am referring to is that part of his remarks where he referred to the necessity of a force to ensure peace, having particular regard to the Air Force. He said: Are we, I wonder, moving quickly enough in making air defence arrangements, both in the East and the West, that will make it hopeless for any German to contemplate another military aggression? I have a feeling that we may be losing the present atmosphere of common effort … . I cannot help thinking that unless we are equipped ourselves, unless we have such a force as can keep the peace in the future, after this war, all the speeches that have been made in this debate and in many others will be quite a waste of breath. Therefore the most important point in order to see that peace is kept is to see that we have that force in the background. It is no good having a force that can be brought into being six months after a war has started. It must be ready before war breaks out.

I would like to say now that the proposals I am making must be carried out in agreement and in combination with our two great Allies, the United States of America and Russia and with a central organization. In that connexion the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, if I understood him correctly, said with regard to the question of a defence organization: Personally I think—I am only giving a personal view—it is in such machinery, operating directly under the international organization, rather than in any sectional agreements, that we must find our best hope of enduring freedom from the fear of aggression. I do not say that sectional agreements are themselves a bad thing, but I feel certain that there must also be a central machinery. I thoroughly subscribe to that and the remarks which I am about to make are put forward in that sense. But there is one point to remember in this connexion that has not been mentioned by any noble Lords who have spoken unless I have missed it, and that is that neutrality is dead. There will be no such thing as neutrality in future wars. I think that is a point which ought to be remembered in these days in order to facilitate the work of the great Powers in maintaining peace.

Each of those great Powers can help by making local arrangements to ensure the immediate provision of the forces available. By that I mean that these islands can come to some arrangement with the Western Powers of Europe which will facilitate such a force being available instantaneously with regard to that most important weapon mentioned by the noble Viscount who introduced this debate—namely, air. Surely we can arrange that the Air Forces of those Western Powers and our own Air Force are organized on similar lines instead of their being all different. In other words, the countries of Europe like Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, must organize their Air Forces on similar lines. In this war we have seen squadrons of the Royal Air Force composed of Dutch, French, Belgian, Norwegian and Dominion airmen working together in this country as if they were one, sometimes under a British Commander, sometimes under a foreign Commander. I am not asking that we should go as far as that in peace-time because I am one of those who think it would be a great mistake to try and have an International Air Force. What I am suggesting is that these Air Forces should be similar to each other, that they should be international in their character and organization. We can surely go as far as that and agree on there being some similarity between the Air Forces of the nations I have referred to without interfering with any sovereign rights.

I am suggesting that the Western Powers of Europe should organize their Air Forces on the lines of our Royal Air Force with which they are now thoroughly conversant. Should not we all try to use the same type of equipment—not the same equipment, but the same type of equipment in the various , types of machines: fighter bomber, intermediate bomber and so on? I do not suggest that all the machines should be identical, but they should, for instance, have the same type of guns. Surely we can do that. What we want in a scheme of that kind for security is that the Forces should know each other.

Again, and most important of all, can we not have more or less the same sort of training, the same sort of organization in radio, wireless and training? The aerodromes, too, should be organized on the same lines. They all know our organization and I suggest that theirs should be on the same lines as our own. Training is most important. Is it too much to ask of all these nations that a certain number of squadrons in each of the countries I have mentioned on our western fringe, should be able to go to certain selected and certified aerodromes of each country, being allowed in the course of their training to come down upon those aerodromes without having to communicate with the Foreign Office and other organizations? I suggest that as a matter of course they should be allowed to land on certain training aerodromes so that all the Forces can get to know each other, learn one another's ways and keep to them. They should train together. Surely we can do that. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility? It would help to maintain the friendship we have had in war if they go backwards and forwards to selected aerodromes. I feel that it would help if this question could be discussed between Governments now when the atmosphere, as the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said, is suitable. Do not let us lose the atmosphere. Would it not be a unifying force in the treatment of this matter in Western Europe? Might not Russia also in the East do something in unifying methods? The United States of America, that other great English-speaking race, already works on similar lines with us and so they would be ready to join in without delay. I repeat that this would not interfere with sovereignty or political questions but it would enable us to keep in touch with each other and therefore prevent another war.

2.11 p.m.


My Lords, I will not attempt to follow the noble Viscount who has just spoken, because in his sphere I am ignorant and he is omniscient. With regard to the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, I feel that he has raised a subject of such magnitude and complexity that it is really impossible to follow him over the whole. I should, however, like to say how emphatically I agree with what he said about the importance of nomenclature. We talk about Democracy and others talk about Fascism, but in other countries these words have very different meanings. In particular the word democracy with us means an orderly form of Parliamentary government which is quite compatible with monarchy, but in other countries—I should think perhaps in Spain, certainly in Italy—it has a connotation of Jacobin Revolution. Therefore it is most necessary that in these matters our position should be better defined than it has been. Again, not in your Lordships' House but outside it, those apparently are thought the best democrats who are furthest to the Left. Logically that means that the advocates of the dictatorship of the proletariat would appear to be the best democrats, which is absurd, as our old friend Euclides used to say.

With regard to the main question, some of the difficulties of sanctions have already been stated. You can have, as far as I can see, on the organization my noble friend suggests only moral sanctions. It may be that they will be useful but they cannot be substitutes for the physical sanctions which may emerge under the Dumbarton Oaks plan whatever form they may take; certainly not for what has just been advocated by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. For all that, I wish well to the noble Viscount. I am not at all sure that even without those sanctions what he suggests setting up as a standard may not do great good. I am not certain that they might not possibly be combined with some kind of economic advantage to those who remain in the organization and with some economic dis- advantage to those who are forced to leave. Be that as it may, I trust my noble friend will go on with his plan, and I say this with more cordiality because I spent the best part of two years in opposing him with every device of procrastination. I am firmly convinced that in that controversy I was completely in the right and he was completely in the wrong, but on this matter I wish him heartily God-speed.

I should like to say just a word about what the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, said. I do not think it was open to a wrong interpretation, but I do think it was a little unfortunate. Referring to the matter of Greece he said we were fighting our Allies. I am sure that is not true. What we are doing is to try to help an Allied Government to suppress a wholly unjustified and treacherous conspiracy, and I do not think the noble Viscount would really deny that. I am sorry he is not here at this moment. I think the actual expression he used was unfortunate.

Inevitably this Motion leads one to the question, how does Germany come in? When may it be possible to apply some of the benefits as well as the disadvantages of this setting up of a standard to be accepted in all countries? One's mind goes back to a recent debate the protagonists in which are not here to-day, On the one hand the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and on the other the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester who was supported to some degree yesterday by the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang. I think the differences are not really so great as might be thought. I think everyone agrees on security, the absolute necessity of security whatever the conditions may be. I think everyone agrees on the punishment of war criminals. That I think is common ground and has been supported by all manner of ecclesiastical pronouncements up to and including his Holiness the Pope, but there are different conceptions of what may come about in the future according to the various views of German mentality.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester was optimistic that a change of heart would come. The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, was pessimistic. According to him, as I read his words, he thought that any kind of co-operation or assistance, of a change of heart or of the education of the Germans, was impossible, if not perhaps in perpetuity yet, in legal words which I seem to remember, "during the longest life of any now living descendant of Queen Victoria," which was used by lawyers to avoid the Statute of Perpetuity. What is the right mean I will not pretend to say. Whatever it may be, we must not relax, I think most people here will agree, in the slightest degree our necessary measures of security because of any hope of a change of heart in Germany. There are persons, I will not say a school but a large number of persons, who go far beyond the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and seem to think the necessity of the case is to make all Germans personally suffer. I have not seen that in the report of any speech here or in another place but it is the common theme of some who write letters to newspapers. I am not going to discuss the ethics of that: noble Lords can form their own judgment as well as I can. I have never taken a degree in moral theology but I would look at it for the moment as simply a question of shortening the war, and, on that ground, I do say that such a notion is unnecessary, impracticable and dangerous.

It is unnecessary because the plans for security will certainly be unpleasant enough for all who are pervious to argument at all to realize that aggressive war does not pay. It is impracticable because it would require us to organize a new Gestapo, and that we are, happily, quite incapable of doing. Yet that is what it would mean. And, when you come to think about it, you can hardly say that really you wish every German, individually and personally to suffer. I will not quote the case of Cardinal Faulhauber; I might be thought to have a natural bias in that matter. But reference has been made already to Pastor Niemoller, and I am sure no one really wishes him to suffer personally more than he has already done. Then, if you come nearer to it, take some Hausfrau in the middle of the Black Forest. What is really her moral and corporate responsibility for the crimes of her Government? The idea simply would not work. What I think would happen is that our men will no sooner find themselves in billets in Germany than they will be found carrying slop pails about for German housewives. That is what they did before, and if there is danger in that that will be the danger in the future.

Lastly, and this I submit is a most important matter, this notion if not corrected by some official pronouncement will encourage resistance. I will now go back if your Lordships will pardon me a moment to a debate in which I ventured to raise this matter on June 3, 1943. I said this with reference to Goebbels: He twisted with some skill our declaration about unconditional surrender. We, of course, meant the unconditional surrender of the forces controlled by the Axis, but he endeavoured to persuade his country that it meant the total annihilation of Germany and the reduction of the German people to the same system of helotry to which they have reduced others. If he can put it to them that unconditional surrender means this, and means surrender to foreign Communism, there will be a very much harder struggle that we shall have to face. It needs no imagination to see how resistance will be strengthened and the war prolonged if he is successful in this effort. That was eighteen months ago, and all that my noble friend the Leader of the House could say as to that was that, while we adhered generally to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, no further pronouncement could be made without seeing what view our Allies would take about it, and before drawing up something in common with them.

I cannot help thinking that—to use an expression of the Prime Minister—it is high time that such a declaration should be made. I blame no one, but I feel most strongly that unless such a declaration is made enemy propaganda will have a far easier time than it need have. Of course it will be said nothing you can do will convince them. Well I am not so sure. Truth has a way of percolating, it may be very slowly, and I very much doubt whether even Goebbels could persuade all the people, even the credulous German people, all the time. Now this is pertinent to matters to which Viscount Templewood's Motion refers. We might surely be able to say that after perhaps a necessary purgatorial period the enemy might be assured of such things as personal freedom, open courts, and the reign of law. I just throw this out and I will not go further now. I know some of the difficulties, and I know, too, that I may not be conscious of all of them. But I do suggest that so long as no such proclamation is made our propaganda and our efforts will be at a disadvantage.

I return now for one moment to the question of security. I confess that I do not believe that it will be possible or advisable to carve up enemy territory into separate sovereign States, and though it may be a political necessity, I do not myself like absolute alienation of territory. It may be the lesser of two evils, but if it has to be done, whether in the West or in the East, and a population has to be moved, I hope that it will be done by some disinterested party and not by any party that is to profit by it. I think that something might be done in the nature of a federation, a federation with the largest powers possible to the separate States and the least power practicable to the Central Government. If you had, say, one State of Hanover, another of Westphalia, another of the Rhineland with Hesse Darmstadt—unless the western part of the Rhineland is to be cut off—another, of course, with the existing States of Baden, Wurttemberg and Bavaria, another Thuringia and of course the Hanse towns, and another possibly of Lower Silesia, although that might go to Saxony. I think that, first of all, the dominating Prussian element would be very much weakened. I do think and hope, also, that a regional patriotism might develop which would not be influenced by Prussian traditions and philosophy. I think also that the federal capital might be transferred to Leipzig, where the Supreme Court has long been.

I notice that of late there has been a feeling of disappointment over the progress of the war. I think it is wholly unjustified, but many people have apparently come to think that because of the miracle of the invasion and the liberation of France such miracles might be normal. One can but remember the last stages of the last war when the enemy were not only checking us but were gaining successes within four months of the end. And at the end of the Napoleonic Wars—I mean the Long War not the Hundred Days—Napoleon was winning successes, certainly within a month, and I think within a fortnight, of his capitulation. It is from that point of view that I want to argue. Our indignation at the crimes of the enemy is both natural and justified, but I feel that we must concentrate on everything consistent with honour and our essential aims to shorten the conflict and save the lives of our men. It is in that spirit that I have ventured to address your Lordships.

2.30 p.m.


My Lords, after hearing the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, give examples of the part played by Nazi agents in Spain, I should like to give one further example, not from Spain, a country with enemy armies ' standing on its doorstep, but from England, from London, and in peacetime. This took place in 1938 in the German Embassy, and it happened to a couple of friends of mine. I can quote, if the House wishes me to do so, names and dates and other information on the subject. At the time when my story opens this couple were not married. He was a Labour candidate for Parliament, and she was an Austrian baroness serving as a secretary in the then Austrian Embassy. At the time of the Anschluss, when Austria was seized, the Germans gave her the alternative either of going back to Germany, to the hell which it had then become, or else of staying on as a secretary in the German Embassy. Rather than leave this country and her future husband, she decided to stay. Shortly after becoming a secretary in the German Embassy, she announced her engagement. This at once created a storm. She was brought in front of the Ambassador and was threatened that unless she broke off her engagement at once she would be either then and there murdered or else be drugged and her body smuggled out of the country in the diplomatic baggage.

There was nothing that she could do about it; she was in their hands. Probably there was only one thing that saved her—her fiancé. They made an arrangement by which he visited her frequently at all hours of the day and night, just to see that she was there and well, in order that if she should fail to put in an appearance steps might be taken to complain and if possible interrupt the diplomatic baggage. I think that this is one of the most amazing cases of which I have heard, that such a thing should happen in a civilized country in peacetime. The worst part of it was that they could not complain to the police; however murderous the inhabitants of the German Embassy were, they were technically not in England. In fact these murderers were not only tolerated but protected by the police. I hope that I have not wearied your Lordships with this little story. I only tell it in order to show what can go on under the umbrella of law and order, and to support the noble Viscount who has moved this Resolution.


My Lords, as this debate has spread over two days, my noble friend the Leader of the House asked me to take part in it at the end, though I must say that for myself I think that the speech made at the close of the debate yesterday by the Leader of the House was a very complete, well-balanced and wise summing up of the matter, with which I should be well content. I am glad to intervene, however, because it gives me the opportunity of tendering to my old friend and colleague, Lord Templewood, my sincere congratulations on the most important entry which he has made into this House, in introducing a debate which I think will go on and not merely terminate to-day. My noble friend and I, in the days when we were in the House of Commons together, often had occasion to observe that when a speech was made by a member who was able to address the House from absolutely first-hand knowledge, and inform it of that which he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears, there was at once a universal recognition that his contribution was of a specially valuable character. Parliament always likes to listen to the man who knows. I was struck by the way in which my noble friend so quickly seized the attention, and indeed the strained attention, of this House by his most striking recital of some of his experiences when he served this country in so valuable a way in Spain.

I should like, without occupying your attention too long, to bring back the discussion more precisely to the actual question which my noble friend raised, and to the proposals which he boldly outlined. He has deeply impressed us all by his account of what he called the moral devastation, the lowering of civic standards, which has resulted on the Continent of Europe from Nazi domination and from this horrible oppression by the Gestapo. It was very striking to find, as one followed the illustrations he gave and the arguments he used, that even outside the boundaries of the countries which are or have been actually occupied by Nazi Germany, this state of things is to be found and is likely to continue. One of the virtues of liberty in the State is that it introduces healthy draughts of fresh air and keeps thought and action sane and sweet. Undoubtedly we are in the presence of a situation where, because of this oppressive, tyrannous hand which has been laid upon men and women so cruelly, even when they are delivered from it they are no longer capable of themselves maintaining the same standards that might have appealed to them before.

My noble friend insisted on the necessity of re-establishing these moral standards and of recognizing these common human rights, in the place of tyranny and oppression, and I am sure that so far the whole House will agree with him. We agree with him also as to the prerequisite to reform on which he insisted—namely, the complete overthrow of the system which has brought these evils upon the world, and real security that such a system shall never have an opportunity of raising its head again. So far I think we are all in agreement. I venture, in a sentence, to refer to the speech made just now by my noble friend Lord Rankeillour. I wholly agree, and I am confident that the entire Government wholly agree, with him that we are not seeking the punishment of every German. What we are determined to secure is the overthrow of the Nazi system, security that it shall not revive, and, as far as ever we can, the punishment of war criminals who are proved to be guilty of the hideous wickedness and barbarity which has been perpetrated in this war. If I have in the least degree relieved his anxiety on the point he has mentioned I am very glad indeed to join with him in proclaiming that view.

My noble friend Lord Templewood's speech has, I think, performed a particularly valuable service because it has brought home to us afresh and very clearly that the attainment of final victory in the war will be very far from the end of the troubles and problems of Europe. Release from domination by Germany leaves unsolved the tremendous problem of European recovery and, as he pointed out, that recovery is not merely a question of food, trade, or employment, but it must include, before it can be declared to have been attained, the re-erection of decent civic standards and the re-establishment and effective development of individual rights throughout Europe. Then my noble friend took a course which is always to be admired, though it has its risks, in descending from the general to the particular, and very usefully, as I thought, he developed his scheme by putting forward certain concrete proposals. He made it quite plain that he was not committed to them in precision, but you can best test these proposals if you adopt the valuable method of putting forward concrete suggestions and asking for criticism; and that is what he has done. Being myself strongly moved in agreement with his general thesis, I have the less hesitation in mentioning two or three possible criticisms, and I know very well that that is what he himself would desire as the result of this debate.

There have been several important speeches made in the debate in which it has been indicated that the speaker warmly approves his diagnosis, applauds his search for a remedy, but expresses some doubt as to the suggested cure. I extract from his speech a single sentence, so that I may remind your Lordships before we bring this debate to a conclusion as to what it is he suggests. He wants a guarantee of certain liberties for every European that would enable him or her to develop his or her personality in accordance with the very principles of European civilization, and he gave us instances—equality before the law, the establishment of a unified system of justice, the abolition of arbitrary arrest, freedom of speech and opinion, freedom of the Press—matters which he called the "basic liberties"; and his proposal was that those basic liberties should be "guaranteed." I will return to that in a moment. My noble friend went on to say that he does not want a mere paper assurance, and he would therefore like to see a United Nations body formed at any rate to watch over the fulfilment of those guarantees and to help to sustain these standards.

May I be allowed just to mention two or three undoubted matters of difficulty in this method of proceeding, warmly as I approve of it on the whole. The first point to which I would briefly draw the attention of the House is this, that of course such declarations as those, declarations of fundamental liberties, have been common form in the Continental Constitutions for a long time. I should not be at all surprised to find that the written Constitution of Spain at this moment contains the lot. It has been the Continental method, when adopting a written Constitution, to write down that the right of individual liberty, the right of free speech, the freedom of the Press, and so forth, are "guaranteed"; and the misfortune is that in the past that has not proved to be a very effectual security, because those in authority, when they found things were going badly, had the unfortunate habit of suspending the constitutional guarantees, and when you had suspended them, there you were! I venture to remind my noble friend of an experience he has probably not forgotten when he was engaged in the framing of a Constitution for India. I remember very well that at the Round-Table Conference proposals were put forward by some very distinguished people, Indian and British, that there should be included in the Constitution and put into the Government of India Act a declaration that, for instance, personal liberty was guaranteed and that other large matters of that sort should be assured by Act of Parliament. But this proposal was not included in the Bill. The difficulty hitherto has been not to make such declarations but to enforce them effectively when the time came. And that has to be looked at, I think, very firmly and fairly, as he would wish, before one could be sure that this particular solution is the best.

There is a second point which was mentioned, I think, by my noble friend Lord Samuel. Really and truly these declarations, which are so full blooded and absolute, cannot apply without modification. The right of public meeting must exist side-by-side with the right to disperse a seditious assembly. The right of printing cannot be used to cover the publication of treasonable pamphlets or manifestos directly urging crime. The inviolability of the home—and I was very much interested to learn from Lord Templewood that in the new Constitution of Russia domiciliary visits were expressly prohibited—the inviolability of the home in this country has got to live with the right of the policeman to come into your house if he is backed by a magistrate's warrant and is in search of stolen goods. And the right of personal liberty, the greatest of all these generalizations, after all is consistent with the existence of prisons and mental homes and various circumstances in which individuals may be lawfully detained. I must say that I think there is a great deal of force in my noble friend Lord Samuel's query—how is an international body really to test the cases where these broad propositions are set at naught by the Government rightly, and the cases where they are grossly defied?

There is a third point which at least to an Englishman is of great importance in this connexion. How do we do it? I am not for an instant suggesting that we ought to go about the Continent of Europe and teach them our particular methods and require them to adopt them. That would be perfectly hopeless and quite wrong. We must recognize the equal right of every country to construct its Constitution, subject to certain fundamental objections, as it pleases. But how do we do it? I am not sure that your Lordships have all had your attention called to this point, though it is very familiar to constitutional lawyers. In this country 'we do not rely on any of these declarations at all. There is not, as far as I know, anywhere to be found in our Constitution a declaration of a right of public meeting, or a right of public speaking, or most of these other things. Even the right of combination is only partly secured by Statute; it is mainly by Common Law. How do we do it? We secure what every free citizen wants and ought to have by recognizing that the only thing that really matters is an effective procedure, an effective machine which will vindicate this right in the case of a person who is injured. If you live in a country where any man, however unpopular, however simple, however misguided, has a perfectly equal opportunity of going to the courts and suing for damages the man who imprisons him, you will stop unlawful imprisonment very quickly, and it is by the adoption of these practical measures that we in this country have succeeded.

It is a commonplace in such debates to talk about Magna Charta. That is very important, no doubt, but I doubt whether really the bargain between King John and his Barons is the most effective instrument for this purpose. The most effective instrument for this purpose is habeas corpus, and that is available for all and sundry. We have provided, by Statute, that a Judge must grant the writ even though on vacation. Before now a Judge has been interrupted in the midst of a.most important putt on the golf links in order to issue habeas corpus. And quite right, too! These are matters of machinery, and it is because machinery has been devised in this country for these rights that they really exist. If you will forgive me delaying you on this point, I would like to give you an illustration. You will remember how, as a young man, Voltaire was so unfortunate as to find himself in a lively difference with a noble family in France; and thereupon he was seized and beaten and thrown into the Bastille. He remained there, if I remember rightly, for a couple of years and he ultimately got Out of the Bastille merely because a number of highly placed gentlemen in France used their necessary influence to secure his release. Now when Professor Dicey wrote his book about the Law of the Constitution, and explained how we really secured these results in England—and in Scotland too —he took the instance of Voltaire, and I will presume on the patience of the House to read an extract.

What Professor Dicey said was this: Suppose that in 1725 Voltaire, at the instigation of an English lord, had been treated in London as he was treated in Paris. He would not have needed to depend for redress upon the good will of his friends or upon the favour of the Ministry. He could have pursued one of two courses. He could, by taking the proper steps, have caused all his assailants to be brought to trial as criminals. He could, it he preferred it, have brought an action against each and all of them. He could have sued the nobleman who caused him to be thrashed, the footman who thrashed him, the policeman who threw him into gaol and the gaoler or lieutenant who kept him there. Such an action can and has been brought against Governors of Colonies, against Secretaries of State, against officers who have tried by court martial persons not subject to military law, against every kind of official, high or low. No one of Voltaire's enemies would, if he had been injured in England, have been able to escape from responsibility on the plea of acting in an official character or in obedience to his official superiors. Nor would any one of them have been able to say that the degree of his guilt could in any way whatever be determined by any more or less official court. Voltaire, to keep to our example, would have been able in England to have brought each and all of his assailants, including the officials who kept him in prison, before an ordinary court, and therefore before Judges and jurymen who were not at all likely to think that official zeal or the orders of official superiors were either a legal or a moral excuse for breaking the law. It is the existence in this country of these effective, practical remedies of procedure which have secured these important rights, and not any general declaration at all. I remember, some years ago, an illustration which impressed me at the time, though it is quite commonplace. It was the case of an avowed Communist, an extremist of the most advanced type, who had been arrested and brought before the magistrate for some breach of the law—not for being a Communist; that is not a breach of the law; but for something else which I do not remember. When he was arrested the police visited his domicile and took possession of some of the papers and letters in his lodging. He was dealt with by the magistrate—fined, I think—and resumed his place as a citizen. But the police did not give him back his documents as soon as he thought they should have done so, and what did he do? He simply brought an ordinary action in the/court—it was in Glasgow, I think—alleging.that the policeman who had acted perfectly lawfully under a warrant in everything he had done, had none the less done him an injury because he had retained some of his papers and letters longer than he need have done, and the man got damages. Well, you show me another country where that can happen, and then I shall believe these things can be secured by a general declaration.

I would not, on that account, wish at all to challenge my noble friend Lord Templewood's general proposition. I do not think that individual rights will be found to be effectively secured by these general propositions, but that is a very different thing from saying that we may not look forward in future to some organization which might at any rate help internationally to promote the preservation of certain standards of civic right. I doubt myself whether you make a complete account of the matter when you say that you are concerned to preserve individual "rights." That is very important, of course, but there is another side of it which you may call "duty." I think myself that one of the great weaknesses which has developed as a result of the pressure of this 'horrible Gestapo system is that a man is so terribly preoccupied by his own safety or by protecting his wife or child from awful cruelty, that he ceases to have, in many cases, a sufficient consciousness of the duty which attaches to every free citizen—the duty of tolerance, the duty of neighbourliness, the duty of standing up for what you know to be the only decent course for the State or the community to take. Those are the things which really hold up the whole temple of liberty. My noble friend beside me (Viscount Samuel) made a reference in his speech to Mr. Gladstone. Whether that statesman was right or wrong in a particular policy it is not for us to discuss to-day, but there was something very fundamentally English in the denunciation which I recall Mr. Gladstone thundered against King Bomba, when he declared him to be "the negation of God erected into a system of government."

While of course we cannot go about like a lot of Don Quixotes trying to rescue distressed maidens in all parts of the world, I think it is a very fine thing in our English character and our English outlook that our strong attachment to a number of these civic rights is not limited to our desire to enjoy them ourselves but is part and parcel of the duty which rests on us, and which most of us feel, to do our very utmost to secure them for others. I think it is that reflection, perhaps not expressly stated in Lord Templewood's speech, which makes the strongest appeal to us. He says, is it not possible to devise some international organization or association which would invite the signatures of European States to a recognition, at any rate, of a standard of minimum civic rights and duties, and having done so, is it not possible that such an international organization should watch over the fulfilment of those assurances and, where it could, should be bold enough at least to report to the world even though it could not itself intervene: I doubt the possibility of intervention. In the modern world war inflicts such horrible hardships upon people that it takes a very strong cause before a people which is disinterested will go into a war for the sake of other people's rights. But a great deal of good can be done short of that.

There is an example to be found in an international agreement at Geneva in which I have always taken the greatest interest—the Slavery Convention. The Slavery Convention was drawn up at the instigation of a British subject at Geneva some time ago; it gradually secured the signatures and approval of every State, or practically every State, in the world. One or two of them I am afraid did not necessarily practice what they preached, but at least it was a great thing to have this simple declaration against slavery, and in favour of individual freedom from slavery, made a document of world-wide significance. We owe a great deal to my noble friend Viscount Cecil and others for being present at Geneva and supporting it on every occasion. I am sure that the result of that Convention was enormously to strengthen both the interest and the conscience of the world in respect of this abominable system of enslaving human flesh and blood.

Therefore, for my part, I do not by any means reject the main proposition which my noble friend is advancing. As I have said, I think it will come up again, in what form I do not know, but it does seem to me that in the world we hope to see much would be gained if those elementary rights were declared solemnly by the peace-loving nations of the world to be the essential condition for future civilization. White it may be, as far as we see at present, that we could not expect to see Armies tramping or Air Forces assembling because of some reported departure from it, still I think such a document, with such a declaration, might well prove a most valuable first step towards a better condition of things. I therefore take the opportunity of congratulating my noble friend most sincerely on having raised this important Subject in the House. He has had a first experience of how, when you raise one subject here, the debate is likely to embrace quite a number of other things as well. That is our practice but in the end we come back to the specific subject raised. And for raising it we thank him very much.

3.5 P.m.


My Lords, I should be very ungrateful if, having made your Lordships listen to an unduly long speech yesterday, I took more than a few minutes of your time to-day. None the less I think your Lordships would feel that I was very discourteous if I did not make one or two short observations on the debate that has taken place. First of all, for instance, I should indeed be discourteous if I did not thank those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate for the very kind way in which they have alluded to myself. I am particularly grateful to those other noble Lords who have made kind references to myself in the debate yesterday and to-day, and especially grateful to my old friend Lord Trenchard for having reminded me this afternoon of our long work together at the Air Ministry.

I am very conscious of the fact that my Resolution raises a very awkward dilemma. A guarantee of the rights to which I alluded might, on the one hand, be one of those many paper guarantees that in the past have meant very little, or it might, on the other hand, be a lever used by unscrupulous people for starting subversive movements in other countries and interfering in other people's affairs. I am very conscious of both those possibilities. None the less, coming so freshly back from facing problems of this kind actually on the spot, I still believe that it is necessary to do something more than was suggested in one or two of the speeches during this debate—namely, of leaving these questions simply upon a moral basis to be dealt with by religious leaders and by moral influences in the various countries. I believe myself, without dogmatizing as to the exact methods, it would be found that something more than that is needed, that something is needed to keep these questions constantly before the public mind of Europe.

I contemplate that when the war ends with a decisive Allied victory, the United Nations will find themselves in a position of unprecedented strength in the world. I think it will be very difficult for countries to remain outside the interests of the United Nations and outside the standards that the United Nations will wish to set up in the world. I believe that if it is made clear that co-operation with the United Nations is conditional upon a certain standard of moral conduct, it will be very difficult for delinquent countries not to alter their method of behaviour and not to conform with the general line that I ventured to suggest to your Lordships yesterday. On that account, without as I say dogmatizing about methods, without disagreeing with many of the suggestions and some of the criticism made in the course of the debate, I believe that there is a great opportunity for the United Nations to raise the moral standard of European countries generally. It that be so, I think they will find it useful to have some organization on lines that I yesterday suggested, under the orbit or in direct control of the agreement that I hope will be ratified as a result of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference for the purpose of keeping those countries that have hitherto been delinquent countries up to the mark.

I do not wish to take up more time this afternoon. I would rather thank your Lordships most sincerely for the patience with which you have listened to me. So far as I myself am concerned the debate has been of the greatest value to me. It has emphasized difficulties—I realize them very fully—but it has shown further that there is an enormous body of support behind my main contention—namely, that the central problem of Europe for the future is once again to recreate the standards of moral conduct. Having made these observations I think it would be probably your wish, now that we have had this very free and useful debate, that I should ask leave to withdraw my Resolution.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.