HL Deb 03 October 1944 vol 133 cc269-308

2.5 p.m.

LORD ADDISON rose to call attention to the war situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in bringing the Motion which stands in my name before your Lordships' House I shall, I hope, provide a convenient opportunity for comments upon the situation and first and foremost, for appreciation of the efforts of our gallant Services in bringing about the transformation in the Western theatre of war to which the Prime Minister called attention in another place last week. I feel sure that we should all wish to add our tribute to the skilled direction and elaborate, careful and efficient preparation which must have accompanied these brilliant warlike performances. Never in the history of war, I believe, shall we find a more conspicuous example of careful forethought being justified by the event in the face of immense difficulties than in the landings and the campaign in Normandy. They have, in fact and in truth, transformed the whole situation, and I am sure we should all wish to recognize that in the direction and oversight of those great combined operations General Eisenhower must be possessed in a singular degree of the power of securing co-operation between all branches of service and of securing one-mindedness, which marks him out as a rare leader of men. In Field-Marshal Montgomery and Air-Marshal Tedder and in the United States Commanders we must have had a team of men entirely exceptional in the organization and direction of military operations.

I am sure also that fresh in our minds is what we owe to the brave men who held the bridge at Arnhem for ten days or so. It is very largely owing to them that two vital waterways are in our possession. Whilst every one of us must feel it is our duty to pay tribute—and I do it very inadequately, I know—to these leaders of men, we should not forget those who are behind the scenes, and who are perhaps not always recognized as they ought to be: I mean the forces of the sea, the Navy and the men of the Merchant Marine, and those who have the organization of transport and the protection in a hundred ways of those fleets of ships, large and small. It is an undertaking which is silent and unseen, but there would have been no landing in Normandy and no liberation of France had it not been for the work of the Royal Navy and of the Merchant Marine. I am sure we shall not forget that.

We have at present in front of us two great obstacles with one of which the Prime Minister dealt at some length—namely, the provision of supplies. Every one of us who has any inside acquaintance with what warlike operations involve in supplies must have marvelled not at the breaking out from Normandy, but at the possibility of conducting operations hundreds of miles from Cherbourg. It marks a rapidity in the movement of supplies of which the last war at all events provided no indication whatever, because the tonnage of supplies in this war clearly is far beyond what was required in the war of 1914–18, even in its later stages, when the tonnage of supplies required daily across the Channel was immense. How these supplies can have been moved one can scarcely imagine, and it is right that we should all bear in mind that the provision of port facilities and railway communications is essential before we can make that movement forward into enemy country to which we are all looking forward.

We welcome what the Prime Minister said about the Italian campaign. It has, perhaps, been rather put into the background in our Press by the striking events in France. I have looked up the history of the campaigns in that country from the time of Hannibal, and even before, and I do not find any record of another army having fought its way the full length of Italy up to the valley of the Po in the face of the tremendous obstacles which the character of the country presents. I am sure none of us would fail to hear in mind what we owe to General Alexander and the troops under his command. That brings me to mention another obstacle which no amount of organization can overcome, and that is the weather. It has been an enemy of ours since D-Day, and apparently still is. It certainly was an enemy of those brave men at Arnhem. Some people who have not had an opportunity of judging differently had the impression that the climate of Italy was always sunny and bright. I remember that the first time I ever went to Venice was in the last week of April, when I was greeted by a snowstorm. We are having now, and have had for months past, an appreciation of some of the Italian weather. It seems to me that nothing that Great Britain presents even in its most freakish times is worse than the weather our men of the Eighth Army have experienced.

Since we last met there has been the wonderful campaign of the Russian Armies through Rumania, extinguishing practically two German Armies completely. In connexion with that I should like to say how glad many of us were to find that soft words were not being used towards the Bulgarians. They do not deserve them, and I hope they will never receive any, nor any soft treatment either. They have been some of the worst offenders, not lately only, but for more than this genera- tion. My noble friend Lord Listowel may have something to say in appreciation of the remarkable extension of warlike operations in the Pacific, so I make no further reference to that except that we long all the time that we could be better served with maps so as to have a keener appreciation of the immense distances over which these naval and air operations have extended.

Most of all, I was glad that the Prime Minister emphasized the point that the end of the war is not yet. These remarkable operations in Normandy, and the organization that went behind them and is still required, should be a lesson to many people here, those anxious exponents of a Second Front before we were ready. The climatic difficulties which we all know still exist in the month of October for our Armies in the Low Countries and for the Russians in the East are immense. I hope that the people will be willing, as I am sure they will, to steel themselves to the realization that there is a lot of hard work, hard fighting, and hard organization to be undertaken yet before we have beaten Germany. At all events that is the point of view which I feel we ought to emphasize.

I am sure we were all pleased to notice tile friendly tribute which the Prime Minister paid to the Italian people. It seems to me that what Italy wants most of all, after free criticism and independent judgment have been extinguished for twenty years by a system of terrorism, and the dishonesty which always accompanies terrorism, is to bring out from amongst their citizens a sufficient number of capable, honest, reliable citizens who can be trusted with the conduct of affairs. They will only very gradually emerge. Any help we can give in promoting better government and better administration and the real development of the resources of that country will, I am sure, be willingly given. There is one comment on this matter which I ought to make and which, perhaps, may not be a very pleasant one. We know that the Italian people will be free, or at least so far as we can make them they will be free, to choose their own form of government and we hope that they will choose well. But I think it is right to say that the mention in responsible newspapers of a possibility that Marshal Badoglio may represent Italy in this country has been received with considerable surprise. We do not forget that this was the man who smothered the Abyssinians with gas in the interests of the brutalities of Mussolini. I do not think he would be acceptable in this country and it is right to say so.

Since we met there have been the conferences at Dumbarton Oaks. I know nothing about them except what I have seen in the newspapers and I am not in the least surprised that they have not covered all the ground. It would be a marvel if they had done so. There must still be much to do in connexion with the intricate problems that require agreement and solution before we can decide how and by whom those problems will be dealt with that will arise on the conquest of Germany. It is not surprising that they hive not been dealt with quickly, and I am sure we all sincerely hope that the three great leaders will be able to meet to further agreement in the near future.

We all deplore the Polish quarrels. I have nothing to say about them. They emerge as one of the results of the régime which was established in 1935 or round about that date, and they are the inevitable outcome of an autocratic régime. Let us hope that all efforts will be directed to settling them and that soon a sufficient agreement will have been arrived at. I am quite sure that the British Government in the future, as they have done in the past, will do everything they can to help.

We shall have many discussions, I have no doubt, about the treatment of Germany after the war, and I do not propose to enter into that subject to-day, except to mention two points. The Foreign Secretary, in his speech in the House of Commons, revealed the fact that young Nazis are already being trained in Fifth Column activities, if you can so describe them, and in the means to continue to make trouble after the war. We have also been told that those who embody the military spirit in Germany are already looking forward to preparing for another war with all its terrible effects. I think the greatest difficulty of all that will confront the Allied Nations after the war will be how we are to deal in the long run with the mind of Germany. That is going to be the biggest problem of all in the future, and I confess that in that connexion I read with considerable interest a paper issued by the Committee over which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, presides that dealt with this side of the subject. I can imagine no matter on which international agreement and concerted international action will be more called for over a long period after the war than the methods that are to be adopted to try and secure a better point of view in the youth of Germany because it is on that that future peace depends.

The other matter in this connexion about which I want to say a word is the treatment of war criminals. We should like to elicit, if not now then at an early date, some clearer intimation as to what is likely to be done with regard to this matter. We do not know to what extent the statement that has been made in the newspapers really represents the inner difficulties, and I can well believe that to the legal mind trained to have regard to British traditions there may be presented a mass of difficulties in trying to reach a formula that will be satisfactory to them for dealing with these numerous war criminals. In one of the papers I see it is said that they have not yet been able to formulate a case against even Hitler himself. I find it difficult to credit that. It is true that he himself did not drive the railway train that took thousands of poor Jews to a crematorium, but I have no doubt he sanctioned the railway train and the ghastly operations of which we have had many instances. But whatever may be the difficulties in arriving at a formula under which this man and the multitude of lesser criminals may be dealt with, I am quite sure that not only in this country but in every other Allied country there is a united determination to see that these men are dealt with soon, and if possible quickly. It is felt that if this matter is allowed to drag on for a long time after the war many men who have been responsible for unspeakable crimes will escape. Therefore I do hope that before long we shall hear some more reassuring statements from the Government as to how this matter is to be dealt with.

One other matter in connexion with this question to which I think it fair to refer concerns our policy with regard to neutral countries in which these people may seek asylum. I believe all of them now, except Portugal, have expressed their determination not to receive war criminals, whatever that phrase may mean, and I am rather surprised that Portugal, which is said to be one of our oldest Allies in Europe, is the exception. But I think that the power and the determination of the Allied Nations ought to be adequate at the end of the war to deal with them, and the Allies should let it be known that wherever these fellows seek refuge, if need be we will go and fetch them. They ought not to have a refuge anywhere, and I hope we shall be very definite about that because I am afraid there is a very widespread misgiving on this subject.

May I in conclusion say that I think anyone who dispassionately reviews the war situation must come to the conclusion that the need for the maintenance of national unity was never greater than it is now? We differ, and shall differ of course, in all sorts of ways as to how this and that detail shall be dealt with, but the necessity for unity of national purpose is evident for the successful prosecution of the war against Germany and Japan and I think it is becoming even more evidently necessary in our determination to secure a successful peace. In this connexion there is one further matter which I think we must keep in our minds. One cannot but think that the attachment of science to machinery for the spreading of destruction as exemplified in the flying bomb is only a beginning. It may only be an illustration of future horrible possibilities. The flying bomb after all is mainly, apparently, an unguided thing with a limited result, but it is significant of what the alliance of science with mechanical invention can possibly devise in the future. It opens up possibilities of destruction by means guided from afar. If there is one thing necessary for the future security of civilized life it is that all the nations should unite and determinedly think out methods of preventing the fashioning of these horrors in the future. The safety of the world depends upon it. These possibilities are so dreadful, and in many ways if given free rein so devastating, that they will require of us and of all friends of peace hereafter a unity of purpose and of action which shall be constantly vigilant and always powerful.

2.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure all of us in this House—certainly all of us in this quarter of the House—desire to associate ourselves with the noble Lord who has just spoken in the tribute he paid at the beginning of his speech to our fighting men and those who led them and those who designed the victory. In this vast sweep of events, unparalleled in many respects in the history of the world, we have swept right over France, liberated Belgium and part of Holland, and are now battering at the gates of Germany herself. I am glad the noble Lord mentioned the part played by the Navy and I would add two thoughts on that. When we swept over France and Belgium and part of Holland we freed this country, almost if not completely, from the greatest of all dangers. We could not be bombed to our knees, but we could be starved out, and so we do not forget in this hour of victory the men who manned the submarines and the men in the little ships. That great peril we have surmounted thanks to their valour and that of our brave soldiers.

The mind of my noble friend and my mind seem to work on parallel lines. I had not the least idea of what he was going to say but he has taken all the points I wished to make. He paid tribute to the Airborne Division. As one who has served in the field as most of your Lordships have at one time or another, I feel that we ought to pay special tribute to them not only because of the remarkable results of their operations but because of the big hazards to which airborne troops are exposed. In modern battle invisibility and air protection seem essential. I suppose it it true to say that at least one hundred times more death - dealing weapons assail the modern soldier than the soldier at Blenheim or Waterloo or in the Crimea had to face. That means that the modern soldier should have invisibility and air protection, but from the nature of his task the man in the Airborne Division knows before he starts that he is going to be bereft of both invisibility and protection. All honour to him that he manages to overcome all difficulties and to nerve his mind to face so great a danger. We do not forget also to express our sympathy to the hundreds of thousands of families who, although not on the actual battlefield or in the manifold hazards of war, have to mourn the loss of those they love best. We must not forget to sympathize with them in acclaiming our brave fighting men.

Beyond the great sweeping advance made by our Armies I think the most interesting fact announced by the Leader of the House and affirmed by the Foreign Secretary is that the Government have in their possession proof that at this moment there are a large number of powerful people in Germany who are planning the next war. What steps can we take to counter that? I suggest there are two. The first is to see that we have a people here as determined, as healthy and as patriotic as the Germans. I would say in the matter of health that when we decide to spend the taxpayers' money on feeding the school children we are doing as much (or more) to overcome this German menace as half a dozen new inventions. I regard it as essential that everyone in this land should understand that we are up against a powerful people numbering eighty millions, who can-not, as an Irishman suggested to me, be cured by total immersion, because nobody would agree to it. I do not want to go back into the controversy about teaching every child the duty to defend his native land—I think that is really settled now—but we cannot afford, even if we wish, to let people fester in unemployment; we cannot afford to let them go down the hill physically. These strong, fierce men, who will ultimately no doubt see reason though it may be generations before they do, will overcome us it we are not as strong as, or stronger than, they are.

I do not always agree with my noble friend Lord Vansittart, but I do agree with him entirely when he says that we must not adopt the attitude we adopted last time that democracy will cure the Germans or that a Weimar Republic will find the way out. It is not so. Democracy, alas, in Germany only spells aggression and majority rule spells brutal rule. The great majority of the people, we know, have been so subverted from Christianity that they take the contrary view. Well, where is it leading us to? Obviously we must be as strong as they physically. "Ah," you will say, "but that is not all. Some military measures must be taken." Yes; and let us look back at what we did last time, and try to reap what advantage we can form considering the past, though, of course, things are very different now. Then we occupied Germany and we disarmed her. Some people say now that we did not disarm Germany. That is a complete delusion. Germany was wholly and completely disarmed except for a few—very few—machine guns or rifles hidden away here and there. History will record—indeed it has recorded already—that Germany was completely disarmed. So disarmament is not enough.

Will occupation do? General Bingham, who was responsible for disarmament, is no longer with us but two of the people who commanded occupying forces, General Godley and General Ducane, are happily now alive, and I have no doubt that they will tell you that the difficulties of occupation were very real. If you have troops in one place they are marked down. The embarrassments of fraternization begin at once to be apparent, and the power of your force is an ever-waning power as its exact location and habits become known to a skilful and cunning foe. I am quite sure that new methods will be needed to cope with the dangers that confront us, and notably with the danger—which my noble friend Lord Addison pointed out towards the close of his speech—of the new inventions which only the other day, in the shape of flying-bombs, nearly smashed us to bits. When I say that I mean it in the sense that had they begun sending these projectiles over a little sooner, and had our air superiority not been so complete, they would have smashed us to bits. Of course that is only just a beginning. Lord Addison and I have both been at the Ministry of Munitions, on the inventions side of which some of the best brains in the country were at our disposal, and, for my part, I do not believe for a moment that there need be anyalarm about any new inventions now that could blast us off the earth. That idea is all nonsense. But Science progresses, and give the Germans, these wicked and subverted people of whom I have been speaking, time and opportunity, and they will find something, some long-range weapon, which we shall be unable to counter.

What is the answer? Surely it is just the same as in this ordinary life of ours. If you have a group of coiners, or counterfeiters, destroying your currency and therefore your livelihood, the only thing to do is to find out where they are working, walk in and say: "Stop it." We must be able to say "Stop it" for years to come. We must be able to walk into Germany, go where we will, go to wherever the best Intelligence Service that we can maintain tells us there is danger. We must be able to walk in and say to that group of scientists, or that General disguised in the garb of some other person, "Stop it." I would not rely, though there may be some who are inclined to do so, upon an international court. The citadel of freedom is here. Geographically we are, and must remain so. And we are the principal target of the enemy. We are the people who have been challenged, and are now challenged, by this threat. Let us accept the challenge and say: "Yes, our people shall be as virile and as strong as yours, and, what is more, we will make sure that we can walk in and end any danger at its inception."

Now for a practical suggestion. It is one which has been put to me by many distinguished soldiers, and it has always seemed to me to be right. What we should have is a mobile column, an august body that can move through Germany when and where it will. I believe that such a mobile column should be found by this island and by no one else. We have in our Empire a grand body of men which I imagine would serve as an excellent model—it used to be known as the Royal North-West Mounted Police. The comparison of such a force with a mobile column is the comparison of a small thing with a great one, but anybody who knows, or knew Canada in days gone by, will tell you that that force was indeed a most extraordinary body of men. There were only a few thousand of them, but they managed to keep order, and to find out the dangers that were assailing the people of those days and to swoop down suddenly upon evil-doors. They maintained law and order in a way no other force could have done, and up to this day they are policing a great country as big as the whole of Europe. Let us have this mobile column, a very highly trained, organized and highly paid body, and let us look for examples for it in the history of the great regiments of the past.

I was reading again only to-day of the great march up the Rhine to Blenheim by Marlborough's troops—the Army of Deliverance they were called. They were acclaimed because they were so strong, so well-equipped. It will interest the present Secretary of State for War to know—he must be concerned to know—that those responsible for their equipment even went to the length of providing new pairs of boots for the troops after half the march was completed—that was when the men got to Frankfurt. Yes, they were given two pairs of boots instead of being asked to surrender what they had for the benefit of anybody else. Such a force, in that day, had a miraculous effect on Europe. It is not fantastic, I think, to imagine that we should plan now to have such a force all ready for when it is needed, to have it all ready for the time when the enemy lays down his arms. Have this mobile column to march through Germany, to go wherever there is danger and say "Stop it." And seeing that they are, I suggest, to be modelled on the Army of the Rhine which won the victory of Blenheim, and, so we are told, saved Europe, and in view of the fact that the present bearer of the family name of their leader has been in a high degree the architect of victory, I would boldly call this force "Churchill's Patrol." This patrol should march about Germany until Germany decides to abandon all these accursed thoughts of indiscriminate slaughter by scientific means. I present that to the Government, and I hope that they will not altogether dismiss it from their minds.

One last word. The danger of the present situation is so great, and a false step would be so fatal, that I cannot help thinking that we ought now to decide that we will not go to the hazard of a General Election, in which demobilization and post-war plans would of necessity form the chief subjects of the election, until our present advisers have decided, at least on broad lines, on their plans for demobilization and for immediate postwar action on the military side, and, it may be, have secured acceptance for them from both Houses of Parliament. Democracy is a splendid thing, and the people are always right in the end; but democracy is not fitted to decide on the intricate military problems which are involved in demobilization and the occupation of Germany. I agree with my noble friend that the need for national unity is great, and I submit to the Government, with infinite respect, that they should try to solve these problems before they appeal to the country and put us to the hazard of a General Election.

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I shall make only a very brief and very modest contribution to this debate, and I do so only because I think that a word needs saying on a particular point. I propose to speak of nothing else, because I should like to focus some attention upon it. Last week there was in the House of Commons a debate which reached a very high level, and speaker, after speaker in the debate referred to Russo-Polish relations in a way which showed the anxiety felt on that subject in all our minds. I do not propose to say anything on Russo-Polish relations, but I think that there is a word which needs saying on Polish-Polish relations.

For a long time past there has been an insistent demand from the Polish Committee in Moscow for the resignation or dismissal of General Sosnkowski. In due course, at the end of last week, that step was taken. I am sure that a great many of us hoped that this would form a fresh starting point for the achievement of the settlement which we so much desire, and that attitude was reflected in almost the entire Press. It was therefore with some disappointment, and indeed almost consternation, that we found that the appointment of his successor was greened with a veritable outcry by the Polish Committee in Moscow. He was accused of being a criminal for his share in the Warsaw rising, and they even went so far as to intimate that they would try him if he fell into their hands.

In the first place, I do not think that language of that sort comes very well from the Polish Committee in Moscow, who through their radio station Kosciuszko undoubtedly gave some encouragement at least to the rising, but I do not wish to make anything of that point for the moment. Let us pass it over and make every allowance for, and be as generous as possible to, the Committee in Moscow. To the world at large, however, it will seem at least disconcerting that Poles in Russia should be incriminating Poles in Poland, the Poles of the resistance, the Poles of the underground movement, who have borne the heat and burden of the day, because they have fought against Germany, which is, after all, the duty and profession of all the Allies. Nor do I think it a very righteous charge that they should be incriminated because after five years of mortal agony and immortal endurance they failed to synchronize their actions and reactions, their pulses and impulses, with a stopwatch. Again let us make every possible allowance, and assume that these people do feel disposed so to charge each other; I still feel that it was wrong to do so in language so intemperate that only the Germans could have derived any pleasure from it.

I am a straightforward Anti-German, and as such I am only one of millions all over the world; but as one of those millions I should like to take this opportunity of saying to the Polish Committee in Moscow that I am sure that the general cause would be greatly enhanced, and that the course of restraint so admirably observed both in another place and always in this House on this topic would be immensely furthered, if they in their turn would exercise a similar and corresponding restraint.

2.56 p.m.


My Lords, at the end of the debate the Leader of the House will, of course, be making a general reply to the discussion and a statement of Government policy. He has, however, asked me to intervene—I shall do so for a few moments only—to say a word which should be said on one specific matter which was mentioned in the course of the speech of the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition. He made some observations about war criminals and expressed the hope, which many of us share, that a more definite statement on some aspects of that matter might be made at an early date. I hope so too.

I cannot, of course, anticipate what must be an Allied decision, but I should like to take the opportunity of assuring your Lordships most confidently and solemnly that there is no ground for thinking that Allied policy in regard to the lesser war criminals will allow the arch-criminals, who have inspired and directed the endless infamies of this war, to escape their proper fate. I think that perhaps a little anxiety was caused, and perhaps a little confusion created, by the report of some observations made recently in the United States; but your Lordships may have observed, I think in yesterday's newspapers, that the position was made entirely clear by an observation of Mr. Cordell Hull. He was talking about the anxiety as to whether A or B—I shall use harmless initials—was "on the list," and he said that that question was without any significance whatever from the point of view of what the Allied Powers had in mind in regard to Hitler and other Nazi leaders. My noble friend Lord Addison indulged for one moment in a form of reference not uncommon and always taken in good part when he spoke as though in this matter we were all bogged and clogged by the technicalities and intricacies of lawyers. Let me tell him that lawyers, or at any rate good lawyers, are not nearly so technical as some laymen suppose. To my mind—and I think that this is the view of all of us—the public conscience would be outraged if we devoted ourselves to the punishment of those who perpetrated outrages as servants of the master criminals and did not concern ourselves with appropriate steps to be taken against the master criminals themselves.

I shall take this opportunity of making one other observation on a matter which I know causes concern in some quarters. The defence of superior orders—the defence "I was ordered to do it"—is no excuse for those who perpetrate crimes which they must know to be wicked and unjustified. But while that is undoubtedly good law, and I think good sense, the fact remains that it is those who give the orders who are even more deserving of punishment than those who carry them out. And I think really, if for one moment I may take your minds back, that the true position is very clearly indicated in the famous Moscow Declaration, the Tripartite Declaration, the declaration of the Prime Minister, of President Roosevelt, and of Mr. Stalin, of November 1, 1943, on this subject of war criminals. It divided the subject into two parts. There is the war crime which we hope to be able to trace by identification and evidence to those who did the deed or directly ordered and supervised the deed, a definite war crime committed in particular circumstances in a particular area at a particular time. That is the main topic, I apprehend, of the inquiries being made by the War Crimes Commission. It is obvious, when you come to think of it, that you will not get anywhere with prosecuting a man for a war crime unless you can prove that it was he who did it, and can produce the evidence which shows what happened. It is not enough to denounce generally: you have to bring the thing in some way reasonably home to the individual. That is not easy to do, and I know that the Commission are putting their utmost endeavours into the matter.

But the Moscow Declaration went on, in a second part, to make a further announcement which has been much overlooked. It is very short and I will venture to read it: The above Declaration"— that is the declaration about what we call ordinary war-criminals— is without prejudice to the case of the major criminals whose offences have no particular geographical localization, and who will be punished by the joint decision of the Governments of the Allies. It is very important to remember that that has stood as part of the Moscow Declaration ever since it was first made. As that sentence indicates, the matter is of course for the Allies and not for any single Government. I think I have observed in this House before, when we have debated this subject, that when you consider the supreme criminals their fate is quite as much a political as a juridical question. And the Moscow Declaration thus contemplates the punishment of the major war criminals as well as the lesser ones.

As regards the risk to which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, referred, of the leaders attempting to find refuge in neutral countries, your Lordships will have noticed in recent weeks the series of assurances which have been coming to hand from various neutral countries. The Allies have addressed the sternest warnings to neutrals and assurances have been given by one after the other that they will not receive Axis war criminals. Perhaps the latest case, the one which is of immediate interest, is the case of Argentina. His Majesty's Government have made no secret of their resolve to neglect no means of ensuring that the Nazi leaders and their accomplices and all Germans accused of war crimes shall not be permitted to find refuge in neutral territory from the consequences of their crimes; and they have made it clear that they will regard any shelter given to such criminals as a violation of the principles for which we are fighting.

As regards the Argentine Government, that Government, who are well aware of the attitude of His Majesty's Government in this matter, recently gave to His Majesty's Government definite assurances that in no event will persons accused of war crimes be allowed in Argentine territory, and that such persons will not be allowed to create capital deposits or to acquire property of any kind in their country. His Majesty's Government have welcomed these assurances and I think they have now appeared in the Press. Nevertheless His Majesty's Government are continuing to use every means in their power to satisfy themselves that the guilty Nazis and their loot shall not be able to reach Argentina or any other destination outside Europe. All measures of control at our disposal are being used to keep a check on the movements of such persons and their property and use is being made of our system of passenger crew control to ensure that they shall not succeed in escaping overseas.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, my excuse for taking part in this debate is that I have recently returned from a Parliamentary visit to Australia and New Zealand where I had the alarming .responsibility of being the sole representative of your Lordships' House. During our travels we had an opportunity to observe the war situation from a number of different and interesting angles, rather different from those described by any of the noble Lords who have preceded me, who were dealing almost exclusively with the European war. Finding ourselves stranded in New York on our journey out we gladly accepted an invitation to visit Washington. We had been asked by a Convening Committee of Congress, established for the express purpose of contacting British Parliamentarians passing through or staying in the United States, to address a meeting of Congressmen and Senators assembled in a Committee room in the Capitol. Senator Tom Connally, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, did us the honour of acting as our Chairman, and we spoke to a representative gathering of Democrats and Republicans from both Chambers about the war effort at home. The next morning we were all invited on to the floor of the Senate—a compliment I rather wish we could reciprocate here—where we witnessed proceedings conducted in an atmosphere of friendly informality pleasantly reminiscent of your Lordships' House. I think the very existence of this Convening Committee of Congress, the first of its kind on record, under whose auspices our meeting had been held, is something of an event in Congressional history and may well be regarded as a high-water mark in happy relations between the two greatest democratic Legislatures.

What impressed us particularly was that whether we were talking to a Democrat like Mr. Sol Bloom, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, or to Mr. Eaton, the Republican leader on the Committee, there was only one view about the part for which the United States was cast in relation to the prosecution of the war and to the maintenance of world order afterwards. For the United States, we were given to understand, will not only adhere to an international security organization, such as has recently been under discussion at Dumbarton Oaks, but it will use its immense resources to give whatever instrument may finally emerge effective teeth. This common outlook on foreign policy and the conduct of the war has been voiced more recently in the speeches of the rival candidates in the forthcoming Presidential election. There is no better omen for the future than the revulsion against isolationism amongst all sections of the American public. I feel sure that lasting good will between the three Great Powers—Great Britain, Russia, and the United States of America—will be the cornerstone of any edifice for keeping the peace. We should therefore continue to do whatever we can to remove all possible sources of misunderstanding and mistrust between our country and the United States. My impression from this short visit is that those barriers not yet entirely broken down are mainly due to ignorance of the real facts about our life as a nation and as a family of nations. The plain, unvarnished story of our Imperial war effort, and of our daring plans for domestic reconstruction when the war is over, is to my mind the best and safest bridge across the Atlantic.

We reached Sydney at the beginning of June, and thanks entirely to the Douglas transport plane which our hosts kindly placed at our disposal we were able, inside five weeks, to visit Canberra and the capitals of all the six States. We were immensely impressed by the rapidity and efficiency with which Australian industry has been switched over to the production of war supplies. The backbone of this remarkable achievement has been the capacious steel plant at Newcastle in New South Wales, where we went over the second largest steel works, I believe, in the British Empire. The Commonwealth Government are indeed fortunate to have secured the services of the business genius behind this organization, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, to act as their Controller-General of munitions and aircraft production. Mr. Essington Lewis is probably the only person in Australia who could have undertaken this key job, and he has made an outstanding success of it.

Australia is now manufacturing sufficient quantities of artillery, munitions, and small arms to equip the entire Australian Army without any help from outside. Their new factories turn out everything from the 25-pounder short howitzer and the 3.7 anti-aircraft gun to the Owen and Austin sub-machine guns, and many of their weapon types are remarkable for the ingenuity they show in the adaptation of British design to the requirements of jungle warfare. Perhaps their most breath-taking improvisation has been in the field of aircraft production. Before the war there was not one single Australian fighter or bomber type in existence. Without giving away any secrets, I can at least say that during the current year they will have turned out a number of different types, running into double figures, and that these will include a fighter whose performance would not disgrace the latest Spitfire and a long-range bomber comparable to our own Lancaster.

The high light of our trip round Australia was a visit to the Darwin area in the northern territory, the last operational theatre on the Australia mainland. This gave us a chance of appreciating the splendid quality of officers and men in all three branches of the Fighting Services. The Air Command was doing a fine job by neutralizing Japanese airfields in the Pacific during General MacArthur's advance northwards from New Guinea, and it had destroyed so many of these island air strips that there had been no raids on Australian soil since November, 1943. The smoothness and intimacy of the teamwork in what was in fact an international as well as an inter-Imperial Force was a really impressive experience. As we went round the different wings of this Air Com- mand we met Dutch, British, American, and Australian personnel who were all acting together under an Australian A.O.C. In certain squadrons the air crews were Dutch and American while the maintenance of the aircraft was in the charge of Australian ground staffs. We spent one evening, a very memorable evening, with some British Spitfire pilots recently arrived, some of whom had fought in the Battle of Britain. Their one grievance—and it was a vocal grievance—was that they had been sent overseas just before the Second Front opened in Normandy and they had not yet had any operational flying in Australia. It is pleasant to know that the remarkable engineering feats which have given the Darwin area its operational value, such as the driving of a broad highway nearly a thousand miles from Alice Springs to Darwin, and the construction of an aerodrome near Darwin suitable for the largest type of long-range bomber, will be first-rate economic assets to Australia when peace returns.

Shortly before leaving Australia we were privileged to spend an afternoon at Canberra with Mr. Curtin. His inspiring leadership has united and concentrated the energies of the Australian people behind the war as I believe no one else could have done. He had just returned from the London Conference of Empire Prime Ministers and was thoroughly satisfied with its results. He seemed to me to visualize the future of Imperial relations as a gradual but steady growth of co-operative activity, constantly amplified by new agencies and instruments for achieving our common purposes and always sustained and nurtured by mutual interests, affinities, and aversions. He no longer favoured—an interesting change—a drastic overhaul of existing machinery for political co-operation, for he seemed to have grasped the danger to Imperial unity of any factitious Empire Council or Imperial Secretariat. He saw the Empire as an increasingly complex system of free co-operation in the wider context of world affairs. He insisted that Australia would participate to the hilt in any world-wide organization to safeguard peace, and that her voice would be heard for the first time in the shaping of European as well as Pacific policy. But what pleased him best was the assurance of our Prime Minister that as soon as the war in Europe had ended we would send substantial military, naval, and air reinforcements to help to finish off Japan. This assurance was repeated in public by the Prime Minister only last week, and it is indeed pleasing to know that we are doing our utmost to pay off the debt we owe to those who have stood beside us, in shadow as well as in sunshine, from the beginning.

It was evident to us that New Zealand's main contribution towards supplies was corning from her wonderful grassland. By putting every ounce of skill and energy into the production of meat, butter, and cheese for consumption in this country mainly, the New Zealanders have made it possible for us to keep our scanty rations at their present level. They have accepted a severe rationing of farm products for themselves in order that we may not go short. The enthusiasm and public spirit of all connected with the agricultural industry, whether on the farming or the manufacturing side, left an indelible impression on our minds. There is a story in the Waikato that a meeting of farmers was summoned a short while ago to decide what to do about a request from the New Zealand Government that there should be a switch-over from the production of butter to the production of cheese for the United Kingdom. Transport and technical difficulties meant that this would involve a severe financial loss to many farmers. The discussion went this way and that way until at last an old farmer got up and said: "It is Winston Churchill who is asking for more cheese for the folks in the Old Country." That clinched the argument. At Wellington we spent an evening with Mr. Fraser and his Cabinet. The Prime Minister seemed in good heart after the London Conference. He was particularly pleased that Mr. Churchill has now arranged to meet the High Commissioners in London regularly once a month for a full discussion of current events. We felt on leaving that New Zealand was no less fortunate than Australia in finding, at the most critical moment in her history as a Dominion, a wise and resolute war leader.

I am convinced that it is impossible without visiting Australia and New Zealand for people here to realize how warm a place they have in the hearts of their kinsmen overseas. We were left in no doubt on this point by the overwhelming kindness and hospitality that greeted us wherever we went. This current of family feeling has undoubtedly been strengthened by war-time comradeship in the Services and in civilian occupations. Everywhere we heard high praise for the exploits of our fighting men and intense admiration for the steadfastness of our civilian population after Dunkirk and again during the grim weeks of the "Blitz" and the flying bomb attacks on South-East England. The way we have acquitted ourselves as a nation during the most searching test to which our fortitude and statesmanship have ever been submitted has given the Australians and New Zealanders a new pride in the people of the Old Country and a fresh confidence in the vitality and adaptability of their old slow-moving institutions. Our sister nations in the Pacific are united with us in the determination to finish off both wars as quickly and as conclusively as possible, and they will help us to the utmost of their ability in the no less difficult task of restoring tranquillity and plenty to a shattered and chaotic world.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I want to detain your Lordships for one brief moment only to express the hope that the Leader of the House may elucidate one point which arose in the course of the Prime Minister's speech and that is on the subject of Italy—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Addison, made but which I think requires a little more comment. We have been told that conditions in Italy are such as to require the provision of a very substantial quantity of foodstuffs and medical stores lest a disaster befall. I have no doubt that there is distress and that there will be a great deal more distress, especially in Northern Italy, when we get there. But one of the reasons put forward for requiring this help, and also for the other announcement which was made that our representative in Italy would shortly become our Ambassador and that an Italian representative here would come as an Ambassador, was, if I remember rightly, the necessity of propping up the present Government. That is a very dangerous doctrine to get abroad. The present Government in Italy and any other Government that may be formed to take its place will surely not survive the conquest of Northern Italy when the more energetic and advanced political thinkers and leaders are free to express their views. It will be a coincidence which is almost inconceivable if the present Government in Italy looks anything like what a Government in Italy will look like after the populations of Lombardy and Piedmont have been liberated. It is therefore no good reason, I submit, for proffering assistance and favours to the present Italian Government to keep them in office.

There may be other reasons and we are very glad in particular to know that the Italians have "worked their passage," as the Prime Minister said. I venture myself to doubt whether that remark should have been couched in that tense. I hope they are working their passage, I very much doubt whether it can be properly said that they have yet worked their passage so that they, are entitled to the status of quasi-Allies after four years of activity on the other side. The doctrine is very dangerous that the Italian Government needs favours to survive, because I think it will be found that every Italian Government for the next few years will allege that it requires favours in order to survive lest worse befall. I feel that whatever the Italians do it must be made clear that the assistance which they get is for the purpose of enabling them to organize themselves as a hard-working, humble people without international ambition and I think that must be the policy which our Allied Commissions—I regret that they should no longer be called Controls—should have in mind for many years to come. It is absolutely essential in my view that the Italian Government's policy on economic and other matters should be guided, to put it mildly, for a long time to come, and that we should not have to suffer again from shipping subsidies and competition of that sort to our detriment and to the detriment of other of the United Nations who have fought against the Italians.

I plead therefore that the noble Viscount who will close this debate will reassure us on that point and perhaps at the same time explain or lead us to hope that we may receive an explanation of the somewhat complicated machinery by which it is expected or hoped to control and guide not only the Italian people and Government but other Governments. There is, if I may say so, a perhaps undue complexity, for example in the Ambassador, the Resident Minister, and the Chairman of the Commission of Control in Italy and their exact relations to each other which leave me with a certain feeling of disquiet that they may not perhaps always speak with precisely the same voice. It has been found that there can only be one representative of this country in one country at one time, and if there are more than one there must be a danger that they will not always in their conversations with individuals in those countries speak with precisely the same voice. It is therefore to express a hope arising out of the first point that we may have some elucidation of what the present machinery of control is and, if it is as complicated as I suspect, that it may be simplified in the near future.

3.29 p.m.


(Lord Cecil): My Lords, this is the first time that we have had a full-dress war debate in your Lordships' House for over six months, though of course we have had many discussions upon limited aspects of the military and diplomatic situation. I am very happy to find this afternoon such a general support of the policy of the Government in the international sphere. These six months have been months crucial in the history of the world. When I last spoke to your Lordships Germany was still in occupation of the larger part of her conquests. A breach indeed had already been made in the citadel of Europe. The Allies had landed in Italy, Naples had been captured, the advance continued to Cassino, the Allied bridge-head had been established at Anzio, and in the East already the Russians were advancing relentlessly. But they had only lately passed the Dneiper and their penetration beyond the 1939 frontiers of Poland was extremely small. These were in fact only the first crumblings of the outworks of Hitler's citadel. From the Eastern border of Poland to the Atlantic Coast, from the Ægean to Petsamo in Northern Finland, German power remained unchallenged. What a change has come over the scene since then. Within a few short months the whole grandiose fabric of Hitler's Europe has come crashing about his ears. France and Belgium have been liberated, Rumania, Bulgaria and Finland are out of the war, Hungary is quaking. Allied forces are already stretching out their hands over Yugoslavia, over Greece and over Holland, the Siegfried Line has been pierced in some places, and, in some places, the Germans are fighting for their lives on German soil itself.

I suppose that never before in the whole of history has there been so rapid a transformation in the fortunes of war. What is the reason for it? How has this great change come about? First of all, there is the courage of our troops and of the troops of our fellow United Nations, to which such glowing tributes have been paid this afternoon, tributes with which of course I associate myself most fully. Next there is the colossal machine of war which, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Addison, said, has been built up, of infinite complexity and ingenuity, which has given us mastery in the three elements of land, sea and air. But last, and perhaps I think in some ways most important of all in achieving our successes, has been the personality of Hitler himself. It is very largely his overwhelming ambition that has destroyed him. It is that which has given us our chance. Had Hitler rested content when he had defeated France in 1940, our task might well have been almost insuperable. We, the British Commonwealth of Nations, would of course have continued to fight; but at that time we stood alone. Russia was not in the war: the United States were not in the war. The task of landing troops on the Continent of Europe and of driving the German Army, as it then was in its fullest strength, from the conquered countries, while maintaining our position in the Middle and Far East—we can now see how formidable a proposition that would have been. Even with the great flow of munitions of war already coming in, through the friendly generosity of the United States, it might well have been a task beyond our powers.

But as we now know—and are happy to know—Hitler's appetite was insatiable. He wanted to conquer Britain; he wanted to conquer Russia; he wanted to dominate the world. First, he attacked Russia and brought her into the war. But with every mile that he advanced over the vast Russian plains he increased the area which his Armies had to control. With every man he lost in that campaign, he decreased the numbers available to hold the ground he had already gained. At the same time, he embarked quite gratuitously on a costly campaign to conquer North Africa. Finally he completed his folly by declaring war on the United States and bringing her, with her power, into the fight in Europe. Subsequent events we all remember. The flowing tide of German victory reached its full and began to ebb; and finally a situation was reached when the Axis Powers were holding a shrinking perimeter with a hard crust of seasoned veterans, while inside there was nothing at all.

That was the position when the Anglo-American Army invaded Normandy. There is no doubt that the enemy expected that invasion. They had been told about it perhaps too vociferously from here. But they had calculated that the Panzer divisions collected in France would be sufficient to drive us back into the sea and that then having battered us into immobility they could turn and rend the Russians. That was no doubt the intention of German strategy; but it was a dangerous miscalculation. So far from the Allied expedition, as we have been told to-day, being hurled back into the sea, it steadily and implacably established itself and began to move forward. Your Lordships heard from the Prime Minister's speech last week that within twenty-four hours 250,000 men had been landed and that within twenty days a million men were ashore, with all the paraphernalia of a modern army, tanks, armoured vehicles, all kinds of new instruments of war which had been produced for this very operation.

The noble Lord, Lord Addison, spoke of another aspect of the invasion, the contribution that had been made by the Navy and the Merchant Marine. I should like to associate myself, as I am sure all your Lordships will, with the tribute he paid. Their part in that invasion was perhaps not so spectacular, but it was just as dangerous as it was just as important. The rapidity with which stores could be landed entirely governed the speed at which the Allied Armies could advance, and in spite of a most formidable storm—an unprecedented storm in the Channel at that time of year—these stores were landed. It was, I imagine, one of the greatest of feats of modern history. By their heroic efforts at that time the Royal Navy and the Merchant Marine added only one more to the innumerable debts which we owe them for their unrivalled courage throughout the whole course of this war.

To return to the position in Normandy, as your Lordships will remember, for eight weeks after D-Day the crust of German resistance held and at one moment some of us may have been forgiven for thinking that we were going to return to a period of static warfare, on the lines of the last war. But the strain on the German Armies proved too great. And then, in the first days of August, the Americans broke through at Avranches into the open plains of Normandy and Brittany. The subsequent events in that already historic battle are familiar to us all. We all remember how the British and Canadians doggedly and relentlessly held the German armour in an iron vice, while General Patton's Army like a flashing sickle swept across the fields of Normandy and gathered in a harvest which was beyond all our hopes and expectations. From that moment, the German Armies in France were beaten. They could bring no troops from the Eastern Front, where they were pinned down by the Russians, and they had no other reserves. They were driven into a headlong retreat and only turned to bay, within the last few weeks, on the borders of Germany itself. I feel it must be a melancholy thought for any thinking German to-day to remember that the vast Armies of the United States and Russia, which are now, if I may use the phrase coined this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, battling so valiantly at the gates of Germany, were put there by Hitler himself, through his insensate folly in gratuitously declaring war on the world.

And now, my Lords, I may be asked: "What is the immediate future going to bring?" He would be a very rash man who attempted to prophesy. The Prime Minister did not attempt it, and I am certainly not going to try this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Addison said, in his speech, that in his view the war was by no means over. I think that that is probably a correct assessment of the position. At this moment, great battles are raging all down the Western frontier of Germany, and the last few days have, I think, witnessed—it has been referred to several times this afternoon—perhaps the most inspiring of all inspiring episodes of this war—the airborne assault on the Rhine bridges. If that assault did not accomplish, as it did not, all that was, conceivably, hoped for, there is no doubt that it did achieve a very real measure of success, and it was, of course, illuminated by a supreme exhibition of courage and fortitude on the part of our airborne troops at Arnhem. Most noble Lords will have read in the newspapers to-day the account of this heroic operation by General Urquhart, the Commander of the Division. Those men fought and they died, but their names will undoubtedly live for ever in the annals of our country. As the Prime Minister said, they have not died in vain. There is no doubt that the ground they gained by their efforts will be invaluable in helping us to turn the flank of the Siegfried Line.

While these great events were taking place in France, Belgium and Holland, the Allied Armies have met with equal success in the Italian peninsula. I do not propose to say very much about that campaign this afternoon, because the Prime Minister spoke in very great detail of the military position in that country. But there is no doubt that that campaign will fill, and is filling, an essential place in the strategic pattern. The breaking of the Gothic Line, which was strengthened by every barrier that nature and military art could provide, is not the least of the feats of the present campaign. To-day, to borrow the vivid phrase which, I think, was used by General Clark in Italy, "we are over the hump." We are descending into the northern Italian plain and we are directly threatening the strategic centre of Bologna. I believe, profoundly, that when the full story of General Alexander's campaign comes to be told, he and his polyglot Army—if I may so describe it—will be found to have played no small part in the final destruction of the enemy.

While we and our American Allies, and the other Allied Nations fighting with us, have been breaking the crust of resistance in the West and the South, the Russians have continued to hammer the enemy on his eastern borders. Both in the North, in Latvia and Estonia, and down in the south of that immensely long line, where the Russian Armies have advanced through Rumania to the borders of Hungary, the noose is being drawn tighter all the time around Germany. Here there is an aspect which I think we should all recognize. If we have—and undoubtedly we have—achieved such notable successes in the West, that is materially due to the fact that the great bulk of the German Armies have been held by Russia in the East. It is right that, in this moment of our success, we should bear in mind that fact, and place on record the debt which we owe to our Russian Allies.

Time does not allow me to dilate any further on the actual war situation except to say this. I have said nothing up to now about the progress of the campaign in the Far East. That is not because I do not recognize the primary importance of that theatre, but, again, it has been dealt with so fully by the Prime Minister that nothing I could say would add to the knowledge which is already in possession of this House. As your Lordships know, the campaign in the Pacific, in which Australia and New Zealand as well as the United States are playing so notable a part, is proceeding with ever-increasing success. Lord Listowel paid a most eloquent tribute, from his personal experience, to the war effort of Australia and New Zealand. I would echo, from my own experience at the Dominions Office, everything he said.

It has been a magnificent example of national vitality on the part of those two countries. I would add these few general words. I do not believe that there is any nobler record than that of Australia and New Zealand in this war. We ought never to forget, and we never shall forget, how the men of those countries, as of the other Dominions, crossed the world and came to our aid in 1939, although they themselves were not at that time directly threatened. Although they had a whole world between them and the enemy, they never hesitated, but leapt into the fray from the first moment. Since then, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, sailors and airmen have fought, I believe, in every theatre of war. They have fought in the deserts of North Africa, in the skies above Germany, in the tropical jungles of New Guinea, and in the U-boat-haunted oceans. Everywhere that they have fought they have won renown and a name of which Australia and New Zealand may well be proud. We are all happy to think that we, too, who have, ourselves, so great a score to pay off against Japan, will have the opportunity, as a result of the Quebec Conference, of joining our Australian and New Zealand brothers in the Pacific, and making our full contribution to the final defeat of the Japanese enemy.

I will now turn from the military to the diplomatic aspect of the international situation, with which I think the greater part of the debate has been concerned. As your Lordships know, the change in our military fortunes has made possible a considerable change also in the character of British foreign policy. I do not mean a change in the fundamental aims of British foreign policy—they are unchanging—but in the immediate objective of that policy. In the early years of the war, for obvious reasons, it was impossible for us to take a long view. We were struggling for our lives. Nearly the whole world, in fact, thought that we were already beaten. It was not possible for us to look ahead. All our efforts had to be devoted to desperate attempts to convince the world that there was life in the old dog yet, and to give the more weak-kneed neutrals no excuse for joining the enemy. During that phase we had, undoubtedly, to acquiesce in actions by certain nations of which we did not approve, and which, in some cases, we very greatly resented. I remember that, in this House, there was a considerable measure of criticism of the attitude of His Majesty's Government, which some noble Lords regarded as lamentably supine. And, indeed, I must confess that I sometimes had very considerable sympathy with the resentment expressed by the critics. At the same time I felt then, and I am quite certain now, that the wise and patient policy of the Foreign Secretary was right; indeed, I think we shall all agree that it has been entirely justified by events.

To-day our situation is very different from what it was at that time. I do not suppose that there is any danger now of a neutral joining the enemy. Almost all of them, except those who no doubt consider that their geographical position renders it impossible, are now in the ranks of the United Nations, and even the satellites, the jackals who hoped to get some portion of the carcase after the killing by the tiger, are coming over to our side.


Even Italy.


I shall deal with Italy later. To-day we can afford to look further ahead, and in this present improved situation there are, as I see it—and I put this with all deference before your Lordships—three main aims of British foreign policy. The first is to foster good relations between ourselves and our Allies and between our Allies and each other, to ensure that the United Nations are in fact what their name implies, united nations. The second aim of British foreign policy is to help to put the occupied countries on their feet, and to encourage national unity in countries which have been distracted by the strains which they have undergone. The third and last aim is to assist in preparations for ending this war and for building the post-war world. I should like very briefly—if I am not unduly detaining your Lordships—to discuss these aims, with reference to the particular countries concerned.

With regard to the first aim, that of fostering good relations between the Allies, fortunately our problems are very few. Our own relations with all our Allies are good. They have our confidence, and I believe that we have theirs. In particular, the relations between the three main Allies—the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America and Soviet Russia—are excellent. If I may digress for a moment to speak of the United States, I thought that the story which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, told us this afternoon of the cordial reception which had been given to the Parliamentary delegates by Congress in Washington was remarkable evidence of the good feeling which exists to-day between the United States and ourselves. I am certain that that story will have greatly moved your Lordships, and that we should all wish to express our deep appreciation of the friendly action of the United States Congress. I do not suggest that those three great Allied Governments—the United Kingdom Government, the United States Government and the Soviet Government—always agree on every point. Indeed, in my view, that would indicate a lack of frankness which would be definitely unhealthy. But there does exist a close and growing spirit of collaboration, both as regards war problems and as regards postwar problems.

The main difficulty in this sphere still remains, of course, the Polish question, to which Lord Vansittart referred this afternoon. I do not want to go to-day into the points of detail which were raised by the noble Lord, in the very powerful contribution which he made, but I would say this: to this problem, as the House knows, the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary have devoted an immense amount of work. I am quite certain that the House will agree with them that no trouble can be too great to find a solution of the Polish problem; for, as the Foreign Secretary himself said on Friday last, without a solution of that problem we can have no certain guarantee that Great Britain, the United States and Russia will be able to work together in complete harmony; and on collaboration between these three Powers the hopes of world peace in the future must depend.

In that particular sense the Polish problem is not merely a problem affecting the war with Germany, as was said by Lord Vansittart this afternoon. It is more than that; it is a world problem of the first importance. The Prime Minister, in the speech which he delivered in another place last Thursday, expressed the confident hope that a solution would be found, and that Mr. Mikolajczyk would return to Moscow and continue the conversations which had been interrupted. I am sure that we all share that hope, and share it most warmly; and I am certain, too, that this House will support the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in any contribution which they can make to achieving a successful outcome of the present difficulties.

I now come to the second aim of British foreign policy,—to help to set the liberated countries on their feet. Here too I think that the situation is encouraging. There are striking signs, which your Lordships will have noted, that in the countries which have been liberated up to now four years of German occupation have not destroyed the spirit of liberty, and that constitutional government is being rapidly resumed—more rapidly than perhaps we might have expected would be possible. In Belgium Parliament has already met, and we may be quite certain that the same will be the position in Holland as soon as the Germans are expelled. So firmly rooted are their ancient institutions in the hearts of those courageous peoples. Equally in France there are signs of a rapid recovery. General de Gaulle, whose leadership seems unquestioned throughout the country, has already set up an administration in Paris on a wider and more representative basis than existed before, and I understand that to fill the gap until the French prisoners of war return from Germany and elections can be held, he intends, in accordance with decrees already passed at Algiers, to set up a consultative representative body as an interim measure.

At that moment, as I understand it, the question of the recognition of the French Provisional Government can come up for consideration. I know it is the wish of us all that that moment will not be long delayed The Prime Minister said in the House of Commons last Thursday: I have repeatedly stated that it is the aim, policy and interest of His Majesty's Government, of this country of Great Britain, and of the Commonwealth and Empire to see erected once more, at the earliest moment, a strong, independent and friendly France. I have every hope that this will soon be achieved. I am sure that we all share his hope.

I should now like to turn for a moment to Italy, which has already been mentioned in the debate both by Lord Addison and by Lord Rennell. Both these noble Lords, I thought, felt a certain measure of anxiety as to the policy of the Allies towards Italy. I would emphasize that it is not merely the policy of the United Kingdom which is concerned, but the policy of the Allies. I have the impression from Lord Addison's speech that he thought we were going too fast in bringing Italy into what might be called the circle of respectable nations. Of course, the pace at which one should go in a situation of this kind is always a matter on which differing views may be held; that is inevitable. But it will be remembered that at the time of the Italian Armistice the Prime Minister said—Lord Rennell himself referred to the phrase— "The Italian people mast work their passage." I understand it to be the view of the Prime Minister and of the President, with all their knowledge of the facts, that the Italian people are at present working their passage. As the Prime Minister indicated in the House of Commons, the Italian Government—which is formed, I would say to Lord Rennell, on the widest Anti-Fascist basis which is at present attainable—has shown a cordial desire to assist the Allies. Moreover, the Italian people—and this will be borne out, I think, by any soldier who is serving in Italy—have shown extraordinary evidence of cordiality to the Allied cause. Finally the Italian Army—or contingents of the Italian Army—are at present fighting with courage and determination to free their country from the German yoke.

Therefore it may surely be argued that Italy is working her passage; and in the view of the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, and with the full agreement, I understand, of the War Cabinet, there is recognition that the time has come when there should be a further improvement and mitigation in our relationship with the Italian Government. Nobody, I suppose, in this country would seek to defend the action of Italy in entering this war on the side of Germany, and I imagine that very few people would attempt to defend the policy of the Italian Government in the years which preceded the war. But these, it must be remembered, were the deeds of Mussolini and the Fascist Grand Council. To-day Mussolini is Hitler's pensioner, and the Fascist Grand Council are either dead or scattered to the four winds. I would ask the noble Lords who have mentioned this subject whether they would in fact dispute the view of the Prime Minister and the President that democracy in Italy must be given a chance to establish itself fairly in the hearts of the people. It is not a question—this is a point which was made, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell—of propping up the present Government; it is a question of giving a chance for democratic government to survive. When the Germans are driven from North Italy, which we all hope will be soon, no doubt the basis of the Government will be further widened; but to have chaos now would not in any way assist the objects which we all have in view. As for the machinery of the Allied control, I am not going to attempt to explain that to the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, or to the House this afternoon. I quite agree it is extremely complicated, and that is inevitable in what is an interim phase. But I will not attempt to pursue that matter further.

The noble Lord, Lord Addison, asked me a specific question as to whether Marshal Badoglio is to be the new Ambassador in London. I have made inquiries, and so far as I have been able to find out, nothing is known about it here. I can only advise the noble Lord not to believe everything that he sees in the Press. In any case, I can assure him that what he has said this afternoon will be noted.



Well, I said that all inquiries I have made show that there is nothing known about it here; I cannot say anything more than that.

I now turn to the third and last objective of British foreign policy, the making of preparations for the immediate postwar period and the rebuilding of the postwar world. In discussing this I do not propose to say anything about war criminals, because my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has dealt with that very much better than I could ever hope to do. Nor do I propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, very far, except to say that I cordially agree with what he and the noble Lord, Lord Addison, said as to the danger of allowing ourselves to be caught napping again. Indeed, I think I have already expressed myself in no uncertain terms on this subject last week. I am sure that we in this House should all agree that German militarism, whether it is the militarism of the General Staff or the militarism of the Nazi Party, is the one constant danger to European peace. We must never allow it to raise its ugly head again; we must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent that. If we do not take those steps we shall richly deserve the fate which will assuredly come upon us.

This afternoon I am concerned rather with the machinery of international collaboration on which general world peace, we hope, is to be built. The preparations for the immediate post-war period, as your Lordships know, are largely a matter for the European Advisory Committee, that body which was set up under the Moscow Agreement and has so amply justified our expectations. The main function of the European Advisory Committee was to work out Armistice terms for Germany; but it has tackled many other problems too, and agreement has been and is being reached on many of the main problems that face us in the immediate post-war period. I do not pretend that they have all been solved, but good progress is being made, and there is an evident desire among all concerned to reach agreed solutions.

At the same time, as your Lordships have already heard, talks on future world organization are going on at Dumbarton Oaks. It is, I think, necessary to be quite clear about the nature of these talks, because there has been a certain amount of confusion and misunderstanding about them. Their function is not to reach final agreement between the Governments concerned as to the nature of a World Organization. They are talks at the official level only. They do not bind Governments. But much thinking has been going on in the various capitals as to the character of the organization which was to be instituted after the war, and the purpose of this meeting was to find out how much common ground in fact existed between the three great Powers represented at the talks. The result, I think I can say, has been eminently satisfactory. The Foreign Secretary, indeed, has said that the meeting has been "90 per cent. successful." That is not too bad for a first effort. We now know that the United Kingdom, the United States and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics are thinking along the same line. I do not say that all the differences have been ironed out—that would be too much to hope—but they have undoubtedly been whittled down to a few outstanding points. The next step will be discussions at the same level between the United States, ourselves and China. Those talks, I believe, are already beginning. Then the results will be submitted for consideration of the other United Nations, with a view to later conferences between representatives of Governments.


After the further official conferences, including China, will the results be submitted to the others Allied Nations informally before the Heads of the States have met?


I think I am right in saying that they will, but I would not like to give the noble Lord an absolute assurance on that point. It may not be quite decided yet; I am not sure. But I understand that the intention is that as soon as the present talks have been concluded the documents which represent the results wilt be submitted to all the other Governments. It is a lengthy procedure which I have sketched, but I believe it to be the only way by which a strong, stable and enduring structure can be built up. That can only be done by the proposals being constantly hammered and battered into shape until all the weaknesses have been exposed and removed.

I would, however, make one point with regard to the World Organization. However effective the machinery which may be drawn up, it will only achieve its purpose if all the members of the organization truly desire its success and are prepared to make the sacrifices involved. Machinery in itself is nothing. It was raid of the last war, and I think it has been said of the present war, that it was being fought to make the world safe for democracy. That object was achieved on that occasion, and I believe it will be achieved again. But when victory is won, we shall be faced with what, to my mind, is a yet more difficult task—a task in which we failed on the last occasion: namely, to make democracy safe for the world. That requires a greater measure or wisdom, foresight, and self-dedication on the part of the peoples concerned. It means subordinating one's national interest to the general good. It may well mean denying ourselves certain measures of social advancement which are admirable in themselves in order that international organization may be provided with the means of preserving peace. It may well mean, too, the taking by Governments themselves of difficult and dangerous decisions on foreign policy in order to prevent a yet greater peril developing later on. All these things—and we must face the facts—are extremely difficult for democratic countries Yet, on the capacity of democratic countries to face unpleasant facts, the survival of democracy as a form of government will undoubtedly depend.

It is here that the British Commonwealth, and above all the United Kingdom, has a very great part to play. We may not be quite so large as some other nations, but we are the oldest and, I believe, the most experienced of all democracies. Our roots go very deep indeed. This has been shown in no uncertain fashion in the last few trying years. In this war we have suffered in some ways as much as any other nation. We have fought longer. We have not merely been bombed and blasted, but we have submitted to an entire disruption of our national life. We have surrendered, temporarily, the hard-won liberties of many centuries, and we have done this not at the behest of an invader or the compulsion of a dictator: we have done it of our own free will, expressed through the elected representatives of the people. Moreover, we belong both to the Old' World and to the New World. We are indissolubly linked to the countries of Western Europe, and yet the territories of His Majesty the King extend over every Continent and ocean. In that respect our situation is almost unique among the nations of the world. The British people have a long experience, and they have an unrivalled instinct for public affairs. If we show ourselves bold in defence of those principles in which we believe, if we wed example to precept—a very difficult thing to do—I cannot doubt that this country will make no less a contribution to the future peace and prosperity of the world than our fathers have always made in the past.

But of course—and this is the last thing I wish to say—our first and most immediate task is to win the war. That may seem a truism; but it appears to be, even now, not universally recognized. I do not know whether any of your Lordships read the leading article on Social Security in a very well-known newspaper this morning. I could not find in that article any mention of the war. The war might never have been going on at all so far as the writer of that article was concerned. After a severe rebuke of His Majesty's Government for their dilatoriness in proceeding with plans for social security, the writer ended his castigation with these words: But, if it is recalled that in September, 1943, Sir William Jowitt also promised the present White Papers 'within the next few months,' it may well be asked whether the Government have not spent a great part of the past year marking time. I would ask: Have the Government spent the greater part of the past year marking time?

I have spoken this afternoon of the transformation of the military and diplomatic situation during the last few months. France has been liberated, Belgium has been liberated. Half Italy has been freed of the enemy. Our rela- tions have been cemented with the United States and Russia. Agreements have been reached with Turkey and Spain. The U-boat menace has been quelled. This and much more has been accomplished, and in all these events our country has played, not indeed the only part, but a prominent part. If these events had not taken place, His Majesty's Government would have certainly been blamed, and they can surely claim a certain measure of credit for the results achieved. Moreover, during the same period at home, the Government have produced an Education Bill, a White Paper on Health Services, a White Paper on Employment, a Demobilization Scheme, all of which have been warmly welcomed, and now a White Paper on Social Security. They have also tackled the very thorny and difficult subject of Town and Country Planning. I ask again: "Have His Majesty's Government been marking time during the last year?" I am bold enough to suggest that the answer which will be given by your Lordships and the country will be: "Not entirely."

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that every one of your Lordships who heard this debate will agree that it has been worth while, if only for the speech to which we have just listened. I should like to congratulate the Leader of the House upon his almost superb description of the part the British people are playing, or may play, in the fashioning of the future world order. I have rarely heard a more interesting and attractive analysis of the kind of contribution we may make, or can make, to that great task. If we had heard nothing else his speech would have made the debate worth while, and I congratulate my noble friend on it. I am interested in what emerged as to the procedure which is being adopted in regard to fashioning the future world order. It appears that first we have an official laboratory like Dumbarton Oaks and then the discussions are repeated in the Allied countries before the proposals are submitted to the decisions of the Heads of States. I gather that that is the procedure. If so, it is the right procedure, otherwise judgment on details might be prejudiced by decisions taken too soon.


No final decision will in any case be taken before the Governments of the United Nations have had an opportunity of considering the proposals.


That is what I gather the procedure to be. The proposals come in the form of recommendations, but not until they have all had a go at them will they come before the Heads of States. I feel strongly, myself, that that is the right way to set about it. I cannot see that it was quite so necessary for the noble Viscount to give us that recital of the good works of the Government with which he concluded his speech. It did not seem to emerge from the Motion on the Paper, and I am quite sure it did not emerge from anything that I said in moving. There was no kind of challenge or criticism in anything that I said, though he is quite entitled, if he likes, to take the opportunity of displaying all the good things which the Government have done, omitting of course, quite naturally, those they have not done. If the noble Viscount likes to recite them I do not see why he should not take the opportunity of doing so, but I do not think they particularly arise out of the Motion on the Paper. I do not in the least challenge the accuracy of his statement. I am glad we have had the debate because it has given us the opportunity of hearing the other part of his speech.

I should also like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for the reply he gave on the point about war prisoners. The statement he made will relieve anxiety to a very great extent and we shall all look forward to the further statements that may be made on the subject at which he hinted in what he said. I think the country as a whole will be glad to read what the noble and learned Viscount has said and it will very considerably reassure the public. We thank him for saying it. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.