HL Deb 25 October 1945 vol 137 cc499-528

4.16 p.m.

LORD DENMAN rose to call attention to the vital interest of the peoples of Australia and New Zealand in the manner in which the terms of surrender imposed on Japan are carried out; to record the detestation with which the cruel treatment of prisoners of war and civilian captives by the Japanese is regarded by the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have noticed that it has become the custom of recent years when a Peer rises after four o'clock, to apologize for detaining the House "at this late hour." It is impossible to do so this afternoon, but I am glad that arrangements have been come to which I believe meet the requirements of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and at the same time give another day for the sittings of the House. The main object which I had in view when I put down this Motion was to call attention to the splendid contribution of Australia and New Zealand to our war effort and to their claims to be consulted as to the terms of settlement with Japan. I think it is natural that when we are preoccupied with our troubles at home—and there are certainly many of them—we are rather apt to overlook what is taking place on the other side of the world and the great events that are happening in the Far East. There policies are being framed and decisions are being taken that will not only affect those nations whose borders rest on the Pacific Ocean, but will affect also the future of the whole world. In the British Commonwealth of Nations none are so vitally affected as Australia and New Zealand but Canada also, with her outlook on the Pacific, has great interests in the Pacific zone. I am glad to see the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, here this afternoon, and I hope we may hear from him something of the Canadian viewpoint on these Far Eastern questions.

I intend to confine myself to events as they affect Australia and New Zealand. Since I put down this Motion, over six weeks ago, the situation with regard to Japan has altered and I think has improved. It is very much better than it was. Then the principal news that emanated from Tokyo was the proclamation from an American General that the occupation of Japan would last only a very short time and that the Armies occupying that country would be reduced to a very low figure. This statement caused some anxiety at home and considerable indignation in Australia. Things have improved since that time. I gather from The Times of September 22 that General MacArthur, for example, is reported to have said that the occupation would last a long time and that it would take many years to fulfil the terms of surrender. Members of the United States Government have also made statements of a similar kind.

A few days ago came the announcement that a Far Eastern Commission was to be appointed, and I would like to ask the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who, I gather, is to reply, whether he can give us any more information than has already appeared about this Far Eastern Commission. No doubt its main preoccupation will be the future status of Japan. Curiously enough, the only criticism that I have heard came from the other side of the Atlantic in a broadcast given through the B.B.C.'s weekly commentary. The gentleman who made this broadcast was extremely critical of this Far Eastern Commission. He said amongst other things What Washington is willing to do is to preserve appearances by setting up an Advisory Commission, but it will be largely is order to preserve appearances. He emphasized this point several times in hi; broadcast. I have a great respect for broadcasters, whoever they arc, whether they are commentators from Washington or members of the Brains Trust, and I at once rang up the B.B.C. to inquire about this gentleman. His name is Mr. Joseph Harsch. I was told that he was a recognized authority and in the first flight of commentators in America. Therefore I hesitate rather to set my opinion against that of this very gifted gentleman. I think it is possible, however, that the influence which I hope this Commission will exercise will depend perhaps rather on its personnel; and as the representative of this country is to bee that very experienced administrator Lord Halifax, and Australia will be represented by the forceful personality of Dr. Evatt, and Canada will be represented by her Minister at Washington, Mr. Pearson, I have hopes that, in spite of the criticism of this gentleman from Washington, good results may ensure from the' deliberations of the Commission.

Now in any Far Eastern settlement it is, of course, reasonable to expect that the United States, that has done so great a share of the fighting in the Far East, will play a prominent part in settling how the surrender terms shall be carried out. I believe that Australia, like ourselves, is grateful to the American Forces which, under the leadership of those great leaders General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, have won such splendid victories in the Far East. But if Australians are grateful to America, I think Americans should also be grateful to Australia, because, after all, Australia did provide the base from which operations were conducted, and without that base it would have been very difficult indeed for the United States Forces to have got within striking distance of Japan. Australia created a Civil Construction Corps, and by means of this Corps she transformed the face of the northern half of the continent, which before the war was almost untouched, into an effective military base with roads, airfields, camps, wharves and oil depots, from which the offensive against the Pacific Islands was launched. Without this base I think it is most probable that the war would have lasted several years longer than it did.

Then there was the campaign in New Guinea. That was a very difficult military operation and it was undertaken for the first eighteen months entirely by Australian troops. It was the beginning of the turn of the tide against the Japanese Forces in the Southern Pacific. When the Australians fought on the Owen Stanley Range and drove the Japanese back and recaptured Milne Bay, it was the turn of the tide against the enemy. It was a very difficult campaign because there were not only Japanese to fight: there were malaria and mosquitoes, scrub typhus, dysentery and other tropical diseases, and I am told that the Australian Medical Corps did really a splendid job in finding remedies for and in combating these diseases.

There is another campaign which I think has scarcely received the recognition that is its due, and that is the campaign of our own Fourteenth Army in Burma. I regret to observe a tendency in some quarters to minimize the achievement of our Forces in that country. Your Lordships may perhaps have seen or have read of a film called "Objective Burma." I have not seen it myself but I have read descriptions of it. In this film a distinguished American film star, by name Errol Flynn, with the aid of a score or two of American paratroops and a couple of guides, undertakes almost single-handed the conquest of Burma. This film has since been withdrawn after a good deal of protest, but I ask your Lordships to imagine what would be thought supposing the converse were to take place and supposing Tommy Handley, with some of his talented Itma cast, were to be disguised as Royal Marines and portrayed as capturing Wake Island or Okinawa. Think what an outcry there would have been in America. After all, it is not such a very dissimilar proposition, and I am told this is by no means the only film of its kind that has emanated from Hollywood. Therefore it seems to me that the American public are scarcely to blame if they get a rather distorted view of our war effort. The truth is that in this country we have been too busy making war to make imaginary films depicting imaginary wars. But I think we ought to publicize, by every means in our power—by Press, screen, radio and in every other way—the achievements of our Forces in every part of the world. I feel that very strongly; and I hope our Dominions will do the same.

Even here Australia's contribution to the war effort has been not very fully realized. I am aware that figures are very dull things, but if your Lordships will bear with me I will give one or two figures to show how great Australia's war effort has been. Out of her population of 7,250,000 over 1000,000 men and women enlisted in the Forces. About 450,000 served overseas. They fought in all the major theatres of war, suffered nearly 93,00o casualties and had over 21,000 killed in action. The personnel of those Forces received nearly 11,000 decorations, including, I may add, 16 awards of the Victoria Cross. Australia placed nearly 37,000 trained air crew men into the flying pool of the United Nations, and 75 per cent. of them were trained in Australia. On VE Day there were over 13,000 Australian airmen serving in Europe.

Before the war Australia was not well equipped for the production of machinery. By the end of the war she had produced, in their entirety, the most modern fighter and bomber aircraft and aircraft engines—aircraft such as Beaufighters, Mustangs, Mosquitoes, Bostons, Boomerangs and Lincolns. Over 3,000 of those machines have been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force; and it is a fact, not generally known I think, that Australian built naval guns were used in the Battle of the Atlantic and Australian bullets were fired by British airmen in the Battle of Britain.

With regard to food production, I would just say a word. When the European war ended, Australia had to feed all the Allied Service men—American, as well as British and Australian—in the South-West Pacific area. She had to meet the demands of the Royal Navy and other forces transferred from Europe, to maintain her exports to Britain, and to help to alleviate the distress in liberated countries. In March, 1944, it is estimated that Australia was feeding the equivalent of nearly twice her own population. With regard to New Zealand, I regret to say I have not the corresponding figure. I had hoped my noble friend Viscount Bledisloe might have been here, but he asked me to say he was sorry not to be able to attend to-day. I believe New Zealand's contribution, per head of population, was no less remarkable than that of Australia; and, when we think of New Zealand, I think we should also remember the great exploits of that gallant New Zealand division which fought right through Alamein, and then through Italy, through the hardest fighting of the war, under that gallant officer General Freyberg.

When we think of these things, and w hen we remember how staunchly these Dominions stood by us in the dark days of the war, is it not right that we should do everything in our power to back them in their claim that they should be consulted on the terms of the Far Eastern settlement with Japan? I think that one of their requirements—and this is vital to their existence—is to ensure, as far as possible, that never again will Japan be able to resume her policy of conquest and aggression in the Pacific.

I now turn to the second part of the Motion, the treatment of our prisoners of war by the Japanese. In the history of modern warfare there has been no record so terrible as this. Your Lordships may recall the thrill of horror felt throughout the country in March, 1942, when. Mr. Eden told the House of Commons what had happened at the massacre of Hong Kong, and how fifty officers and men had been bound together, hand and foot, and bayoneted to death? Then, even worse things and worse news were to come. I have seen the report of Sir William Webb who, your Lordships are doubtless aware, is Chief Justice of Queensland. He was specially invited by the Australian Government to inquire into the atrocities by the Japanese in the South-West Pacific zone. I will read one or two sentences from his report.

Sir William Webb emphasized that the atrocities were worse during the Japanese advance. He said that Japan was winning victories which preceded the fall of Singapore and included the capture of Rabaul, in January, 1942, when a terrible massacre of Australian soldiers and civilians took place, and when, incidentally, two badly wounded Australians were deliberately burned alive. The Japanese Armies were still advancing when, at Guadalcanal, Roman Catholic priests and nuns were bayoneted, and the nuns raped; when two American soldiers, while still alive, were dissected by a Japanese surgeon and their livers removed; when at Tarawa twenty-one Australians, New Zealanders and British civil servants were tied to trees and then, it says, in inverted commas, "after a day or two had Japanese troops let loose on them"—and ore can imagine what happened then.

The Japanese Armies were still advancing across the Owen Stanley Range and at Milne Bay when Australian soldiers and natives were tied up and used for bayonet practice; when two white female Anglican missionaries were bayoneted at Popindetta, and when a party of nine, including two female missionaries, two Anglican priests, a young woman, and a child of six, were decapitated or bayoneted on Buna Beach. I will read no more. These ate only some of the many details which appear in Sir William Webb's report.

I will turn, for a moment, to Malaya. A party of about sixty Australian nurses and some Australian soldiers escaped in a small ship which was wrecked off the coast of Sumatra. Most of them managed to get ashore. They were met by a party of Japanese soldiers. The Australian soldiers were all killed—it is believed they wore bayoneted—but of the Australian nurses, a good many of them (I think there were twenty-one) were driven back into the sea and shot down. The rest were taken into the interior. When the surrender came, twenty-four of this party were found still alive, but so weak and emaciated, and in such a pitiful plight that they had to be rushed off to the nearest base hospital. The day before the capitulation of Singapore, the Japanese went to the main military hospital, the Alexandra Hospital. At least one patient was bayoneted on the operating table, all the medical officers, the chaplain, and seventy R.A.M.C. men were butchered, and the remainder of the patients and staff were killed on the following day. I think there were 330 victims of that particular massacre.

But the blackest chapter in all this record was the construction of the railway from Burma to Bangkok. There, our men were used as slave labour, and they died literally by the thousand, of starvation, disease, neglect and ill-treatment. I cannot give the exact figure of the men that perished, but the figure of 20,000 has been given. I believe the mortality among the native prisoners was far worse. I do not think any estimate has yet been given of that. A few days ago I met a man who had lately returned from one of these prison camps. He told me something about what life there was like. He said the object of the Japanese was to get all the work they possibly could out of these men. Occasionally, they were discontented with the number of men who formed the working parties, and then they would have a sick parade. From the men on sick parade they would choose those who, they thought, had any life and strength in them, and these men were ordered to join the working party. In this way, men suffering from malaria or tropical fever were forced to work, which was, of course, like sentencing them to death. I am told the R.A.M.C. officers did splendid work in these camps. They tried hard to prevent some of these men being taken away for these working parties, and they generally got pretty severely beaten up themselves when they tried to do so.

I could extend this catalogue almost indefinitely. I have spoken of facts that have been verified, or could be verified, but I would like to mention one rumour I have heard from more than one source and from a high authority which I cannot mention in the House this afternoon. The rumour is that in certain of these jungle camps the Japanese camp commandants had received orders from higher up to liquidate the whole lot of the men. My informant was quite convinced that in the camp in which he was, all of them would have been put to death if the surrender had not come when it did.

The other day I listened to the debate on the atomic bomb. I thought then that it was all very well for a right reverend Prelate to denounce the use of this bomb; but after all, if this rumour is true, it did save the lives of many thousands of our men who were prisoners of war. If the rumour be not true the atomic bomb saved thousands of those who were reaching the end of their tether and who were facing a lingering death from starvation or disease. It may be said that these things were due to the innate cruelty of a barbarous people, but I think these things were also due to a deliberate and studied policy which was to degrade and humiliate white men and women in the eyes of Asiatics.

That, I think, is something which we cannot afford to ignore. I do not for a moment advocate a policy of retribution or revenge; that would certainly be futile; but I do say that the criminals who have committed these atrocities ought to be hunted down and brought to trial. Possibly the noble Viscount who is to reply will be able to say something about what is being done in this direction, and about the form of trial which will be set up. I hope that whatever form of trial is adopted the procedure will be rather quicker than that which is taking place in Germany to-day. In conclusion, I hope that I may be allowed to say that we in this House sincerely sympathize with those who have been prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese, whether British, Australian or Indian, in the terrible ordeal they have undergone, and also with the relatives of those who have lost their lives in these terrible Japanese prison camps. I beg to move for Papers.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Denman, on the most admirable speech which he has just delivered to your Lordships. I am sure it greatly impressed us all. I wish also to say how warmly we who sit on these Benches associate ourselves with the Motion which he has proposed. He has drawn your Lordships' attention to those odious cruelties committed by the Japanese, which have shocked the conscience of the whole world. I think it is very fitting that this House should record its detestation of such acts, which have indelibly stained the name of the Japanese people. No condemnation that any of us could utter could be strong enough for such acts of savagery as those which he has described to your Lordships this afternoon.

The noble Lord has also urged—and I think that this is one of the main purposes of his Motion—that the terms of surrender imposed on Japan should take account in particular of the interests of Australia and of New Zealand, which are indeed also our own interests. Here he is, I hope and think, knocking at an open door. Although His Majesty's Government have as yet made no statement as to their policy towards Japan, and although, as I think the noble Lord himself recognized, we cannot press them unduly to do so in the present delicate situation, I am quite certain that they, as we, share all the preoccupations which have been expressed by Lord Denman this afternoon, and that they will do their utmost to see that not only the terms of surrender but the peace settlement which is to be imposed on Japan will contain adequate safeguards to prevent a repetition of the recent deplorable events in the Far East.

We have suffered too much from this cruel and treacherous nation to run any further risks. Some machinery must be worked out to ensure that enduring peace is maintained in the China Seas. In the old days of the League of Nations—they are now old days—that area was, as your Lordships will remember, the main chink in the armour of the international peace system. It was there that the League suffered its first disastrous reverse. Whether more could have been done to stop Japan in the earlier stages of her career of aggression is a controversial question about which there will always, I suppose, continue to be argument. I do not want to revive such old controversies to-day. But I should like to say this. Personally, I have never believed that the League was alone to blame for the situation which arose there. The fact that the United States was not a member of the League left a gap which it was extremely difficult for other Powers, who had preoccupations in Europe and other parts of the world, entirely to fill.

That, I believe, was one of the main causes of the situation which arose in the Far East before the war. But if there was a gap in the system, it is absolutely essential that we should leave no gap now that this war is over. Nor, to my mind, is there any reason why a completely effective peace system should not be constructed in that part of the world. Happily, the situation now is very different from what it was before the war. Among the United Nations, all those nations who have interests in the Pacific are fully represented. Britain, the United States, China, Russia, France, Holland, Australia and New Zealand are all members of the new Organization, and that, in conjunction, should be a tremendous combination. If those nations are ready and willing to make their full contribution, I believe that it should be possible to ensure peace in the Pacific for many years to come.

For us in this country, although we live far away, the prevention of aggression in the Far East is one of our most vital interests. For on it depend the security and the existence of Australia and New Zealand; and on the security of Australia and New Zealand depends the very existence of the British Commonwealth. The brave and patriotic peoples of those two countries came from the other end of the world to help us in our extremity and, as a result, their own dangers were increased. Lord Denman has described this afternoon how heroically the Australian and New Zealand Forces stood up to and defeated their new perils, and I would echo everything that he has said. I knew something about that, because I was for some portion of the time at the Dominions Office. The extreme dangers and difficulties of the New Guinea campaign cannot be over-estimated, and I do not think they have ever been realized here—an appalling country, a dreadful climate, and a very savage enemy who had to be defeated and was defeated. That is something which should never be forgotten.

We cannot allow such a situation as that to arise again. There is no evidence that I have seen that there has been a change of heart in those responsible for Japanese policy. At any rate I am quite certain that we cannot afford to gamble on such a change. I know that we cannot expect the Government to make a detailed declaration of policy this afternoon. But this debate will in fact be watched with the closest interest in the two Dominions vitally concerned, and I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, who is to reply, will make it abundantly clear in his answer that in this matter our policy is firm and resolute, and that when the peace terms come to be drafted, so far as lies in our power they will be such that never again shall the reckless, responsible rulers of Japan be able to inflict irreparable injury on their peaceful neighbours.

I hope, too, that those terms will take full account, as Lord Denman has said, of the essential interests of Australia and New Zealand. Lord Denman said that he hoped the two Dominions were being kept in consultation. I know that, if the position is the same as it was in the days of the last Government, they are continually consulted. But that consultation cannot be too close or too constant, because on the settlement of the Far Eastern aspect of the peace treaties will really depend the whole future of the Empire. This is a matter of vital importance both to Australia and to New Zealand, and any weakness on our part would not easily be forgiven.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords. I understood that we were to have the benefit of some remarks from my noble friend Lord Bennett, but I shall be very brief and will not stand between him and the House if we are to have that privilege. This, I understand, is not a hostile Motion, and I believe that my noble friend will be able to accept it. Certainly there is nothing to which exception could be taken in the speech of the noble Lord who introduced it. I was a little surprised at what was twice repeated in the speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, that no statement of Government policy on Japan had been made. I thought that our policy with regard to Japan was abundantly clear, both before the surrender and afterwards. Certainly at the General Election all the speakers for the Labour Party made our policy perfectly clear. We were determined to do what the noble Lord has suggested that we should do—see to it that never again should Japan become a menace to her peaceful neighbours, and that those men who had led her into these wicked courses should be removed. There has been no shifting from that since we came into office.


That broad statement, with which we are all in agreement, has been made, but I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, will agree that the time will come when there must be a more detailed statement as to how the policy will be put into effect. I do not believe the time has yet come for putting it into effect, but I do not think I was wrong in saying what I said.


I do not think it is any use the noble Viscount calling my noble friend Lord Addison to his aid. This is a question of Allied policy. Japan was defeated by a combination of great Allies. It is for ourselves and our Allies to decide upon the peace settlement—


I do not need to be lectured on foreign policy by the noble Lord.


I am afraid that the noble Lord will have to be lectured if he makes remarks like that, and he will have to learn to like it. I would now draw his attention to some very detailed directives, which he must have seen, which were published from the White House on September 23 to the Commanders of the Occupying Forces in Japan. These directives, I suggest, are quite unexceptionable, and they must, of course, have been approved by the representatives of His Majesty's Government in Washington. They are in very great detail and they give the whole programme in advance. There is no other detailed statement needed until we are ready to sign a peace treaty. Certainly there is no divergence of opinion in the country on this matter, and I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, is not trying to stir up trouble.

Now I am not here to criticize His Majesty's Government on this matter and still less the American Government. General MacArthur is one of the great captains of this war. The occupation of Japan is one of the greatest operations of its kind of all time, and the name of General MacArthur, who has been responsible for directing it, and for the campaign preceding it, will always occupy a great position in the history of war. These directives, as I say, are very detailed and very full; they leave no doubt whatever about the policy which is to be pursued. Undoubtedly much has been done already in Japan to alter the forms of the government and the social and commercial structure of the country. At the same time, it must be recognized that this is going to be a very difficult and delicate task. I notice that one very well-known journalist, Mr. Gordon Walker, cabling from Tokyo on October 20 to the Sunday newspaper the Observer, used these rather alarming words: After six weeks of watching General MacArthur's handling of the occupation of Japan, the observer here is struck by one vividly clear trend. The same leaders who ruled Japan before and during the war are not only still in power but are now getting a firm foothold on a post-war basis. There is a great deal more in the dispatch in the same strain, and I think that probably that is the sort of thing that is alarming the people of Australia and New Zealand and also many people in this country.

My noble friend Lord Denman was quite right to draw the attention of your Lordships to Australian and New Zealand apprehensions, for I believe that reports of this kind from Japan have alarmed a great many people in those countries. That does not mean to say that we are in any way criticizing General MacArthur and his advisers upon the manner in which so far they are carrying out their very intricate task. The Japanese are a most difficult people to deal with; but already in a few weeks of occupation several important things have been done. The Japanese General Staff has been broken up and immense forces, which had not been defeated in actual fighting, have been demobilized and disarmed. Generally speaking, the occupation of the country was an extraordinary military feat, and it was accomplished with hardly a casualty in face of a very large unbeaten army. A start has been made in putting the institutions of the country on a democratic basis and in rallying and revitalizing the trade unions. Measures—which I am sure will afford great gratification to noble Lords on the opposite side of the House—have been taken to liquidate and break up the great Japanese financial combines. We know that those noble Lords are sympathetic towards us in our efforts to break up cartels and combines, and this particular menace had developed in Japan in such a way that it became a great danger to the peace of the Pacific.

All that has been done; but still a lot of the old Japanese structure remains, and I venture to put before your Lordships, and particularly before the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, who will reply to the debate, a suggestion of which I have given him previous notice. Let me explain exactly what I am going to suggest. Residents who have been longest in Japan—I know gentlemen who have lived there for forty years—are most insistent that it is practically impossible for a European to understand the Japanese mind. The Japanese are extraordinarily good actors; they can pretend to adopt a facade of democracy and to throw over their war lords and their feudal leaders, and yet underneath they may remain unchanged. But at the same time they are capable of very great changes. I suggest that the only people who really understand them are not ourselves, or the Americans, or the Australians, or the New Zealanders, but the Chinese. My suggestion to His Majesty's Government is that, in the usual manner in which these suggestions are put forward, they should do all they can to influence our Allies to employ more Chinese advisers. General MacArthur and the other Commanders in Japan would be very wise, I suggest, if they relied so far as they can on Chinese advisers in the future in their dealings with the Japanese.

I am making no complaint as to what has been done in a remarkably Short space of time. I think that the whole organization of the occupation has been extraordinarily fine, and that the policy which has been carried out up to the present is all that we can expect. But with regard to the future, the prospects of which alarm Lord Denman and many people in the Empire and in this country, I think that in influencing the future political system in Japan the Chinese can be of extraordinarily great assistance.

Those who talk of the unchanging East cannot be aware that there have been more changes of a completely revolutionary character in Japan than in any other country in Asia. Let me remind your Lordships of what has happened there. In the seventh century the Japanese suddenly decided to borrow the entire culture of China, as far as they could, and they adopted her writing, art, social customs, religion and much of the language. That is one reason why the Chinese to a far greater extent than ourselves can understand the Japanese to-day. It was a complete reversal of the whole Japanese system of life and thought and culture. Then in the sixteenth century the Japanese admitted and welcomed Western traders and missioners and there were many thousands of converts to Christianity. A great wave of civilizing Western influence swept over the country. Then after a hundred years there was another complete reversal. The feudal chiefs took alarm, all foreigners were expelled, Christianity was forcibly suppressed and the same feudal aristocracy ruled unchallenged for two more centuries. Once again, in the middle of the last century, the Shogunate was abolished, the Emperor restored to his full powers and the country was "Westernized", at any rate in the material sense. Industrialization followed, the latest methods of industry developed n the Western countries being adopted. The attempt, in fact, was made to create Japan into the likeness of an American or Western European modern State.

These were extraordinary changes for that country to make and it is to be hoped that we are about to see another of these extraordinary reversals in Japan, that Japan will finally throw off the feudal and autocratic influence which has been its undoing, and that we shall really see the beginnings of genuine democracy. In that connexion may I quote only one sentence from President Truman's directive to General MacArthur? In this long and complete document, which has been approved by all the Governments concerned, he says: Changes in the form of Government initiated by the Japanese people or Government in the direction of modifying its feudal and authoritarian tendencies are to be permitted and favoured. If the American forces and the leaders of the other Allied token forces which are to be sent out, or are already in Japan, follow out these directives, then we may see another of those tremendous reversals in Japan and there will be hope for future generations of Japanese to play their part as peaceful citizens of the world.

I would only make one further suggestion to my noble friend Lord Addison, and to your Lordships. A great deal will depend on whether the old trade unions, which are what the Americans call company unions, give way to genuine trade unions in which the leaders and officials are elected by the Japanese workers. I think a great deal of the future of Japanese society will depend on whether the trade unions are successfully established as they are in this country and in other civilized States. I am going to suggest to my noble friend—I do not want an answer now—that the idea might be explored of sending a trade union delegation to Japan consisting of experienced trade union officials, from this country, China, the United States and Australia, to advise and observe and, if possible, to help the Japanese working classes themselves in creating the unions which I suggest may play a great part in the future reconstruction of Japanese society.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but there are one or two things which I am anxious to say on this occasion. I was very glad when I saw the Motion, which my noble friend Lord Denman has moved, on the Order Paper. For my part I only wish it had been there before and I have a very special reason for thinking that something of the sort was urgently necessary. When the Japanese declared war upon the Allies and made their treacherous attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, the position of this country as we now know—it was not fully disclosed at the time—was of a very serious and dangerous character indeed. In fact, among the Allied countries, I think you may say without exaggeration, there was not a single spot which was really cheerful to the ordinary outsider, except a place or two in Number 10, Downing Street.

I do not believe that any country showed any signs of an Allied revival at that time. Everything was going wrong. We had tremendous troubles in North Africa and we had suffered some terrible reverses. Egypt was hanging in the balance. In Russia, the Russians were having the very greatest difficulty. They had lost a large number of cities and many millions of acres of land, and had shown, up to the date of Pearl Harbour, no such power of recuperation as they subsequently manifested. It was not until later, in the month of February, that the tide began to turn. In the meantime, the Australians—I am talking of the man in the street and not of those at the top, the eminent statesmen with wide knowledge much of which could not be communicated to the people—were all saying that the only country they could look to was the United States. They were all thinking in their hearts that Britain could do more than she was actually doing to protect Australia from a threatened invasion, and to some extent the same remarks apply to New Zealand. I do not think that anybody who is at all far-minded, who realizes the distances in Australia and the lack of knowledge which many of us have on the subject and on which we have obtained more or less verbal information, can blame those people from taking this very critical view of the action of the Mother Country in the last days of 1941 and the early days of 1942.

Our power of sending troops or a fleet of any magnitude to Australia and New Zealand did not exist until very much later in the war. In the meantime, the United States, with their unequalled powers of recuperation and their enormous resources, were able to create and to send to the South Pacific the biggest and most powerful Navy, complete with every conceivable assistance in the way of auxiliary ships, that the world has ever seen. I do not want to cavil at the descriptions which have been given of the assistance rendered by the Australians and the New Zealanders in defending their own country and in capturing the islands to the north of Australia which were so vital for the efforts of the United States. Considering the size of those countries, that assistance was not only most valuable but it was exceedingly fine and creditable to Australia and New Zealand. Nevertheless, the fact remains, if we are quite frank about it and care to read the whole of the account now available from American sources, that the great fights, the great naval battles in the South Pacific and the Central Pacific were the results of the unrivalled power of the United States of America. Our countries in the Antipodes may well be justified in recognizing that and in saying: "Well, we do not know; perhaps Great Britain could not do more, but there it is. The United States of America have saved us." I do not believe that is an unfair view, and it is for that reason that I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Denman, supported by Lord Cranborne, has spoken some admirable words of praise for the Australian and New Zealand effort. I wish that someone with greater historical powers than I possess would write a little book or pamphlet, or an article, to show how desperate our position was when Japan came into the war against the British Commonwealth and the United States of America.

The lesson which I think has to be learnt from that very brief résumé of the subject, is that anything we can do to help Australians and New Zealanders in reference to the post-war problems in that distant part of the globe, should be done. We owe them a great debt and it is up to us to help them in every possible way in connexion with the matters that have to be done after the war. Some of your Lordships have been horrified, and. I confess that I too was horrified, at the list of the dreadful things of which the Japanese have been guilty in this war, particularly against people who were fighting in that part of the world. They murdered Australians and New Zealanders and members of the United States Forces in the most horrible way and acted with a total disregard of every feeling of humanity against men, women and children. One thing which sticks in everybody's mind is that we must do all we can to help our people in the vast countries of New Zealand and Australia to bring to justice the war criminals in that part of the world, though nobody know s better than I how difficult it will be to punish them for the awful crimes of which they have been guilty.

I have been waiting to hear—but of course one does not hear everything in the world as it is now—that we had agree d upon a form of joint military tribunal, among the leading members of which must be representatives of the United States of America, because there have been many crimes against them as well as against the people of Australia and New Zealand. I do not know if our Dominions would want us to nominate a member of it, because the horrors inflicted upon ordinary British subjects are small compared with those inflicted on the peoples I have mentioned.


NO, no.


I may be wrong about that, and if so I am sorry and I withdraw. I did not think there were many British subjects in Malaya and so far as Australia is concerned the efforts of the Japanese were mainly devoted to bombing. I admit, however, that some of your Lordships know more than I do, and I am willing to withdraw that part of my observations. I was only dealing with the question of whether it is desirable that there should be an English member of the tribunal, and having regard to what your Lordships have just indicated it would seem that there should be such a member. What I am concerned to call attention to is the very great desirability of acting quickly. There is no question that it will be very difficult to get the war criminals in Japan after the expiration of a certain number of months, and I am anxious that every single day which can be saved before the tribunal begins its work should be saved.

I would only add one observation as to the people to be tried. Your Lordships have heard on more than one occasion from me and from others of the great difficulty that arises in the case of men of humble class who acted under superior orders in the horrible crimes they committed. I would venture to suggest that we shall not be able to bring the superior officers to justice unless the people who were under orders to commit crimes are told that they will be charged if they do not give full information about the people from whom they received orders to commit the atrocities in question. They might, I think, be persuaded that it would be better for them if they did make a clear and frank statement. I have always been of opinion that to punish superior officers is far more important to us than to punish those who merely acted upon orders. For these reasons I support this Motion and I hope your Lordships will give it your unanimous approval.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not trespass upon your Lordships' time for any long period. I thank the noble Lord who introduced this Resolution for the terms in which he referred to the British Dominions, including Canada. We cannot forget what was said a few moments ago about the basis of our consideration of this problem—namely, that it is a problem of Allies and not of this country alone. So far as the British Dominions are concerned there must be a common policy. It is regrettable, I think, that Australia and New Zealand should be singled out as vitally concerned in view of the fact that the Pacific Ocean washes the shores of Canada for a very considerable distance. The trade between Canada and the Far East before the war was of vast dimensions.

I found not long since, in talking to representative Canadians, that they were greatly concerned, firstly, about the carrying into effect of the terms of surrender. By that I mean the punishment of criminals. The names of the people who were responsible for the atrocities and the barbarisms that characterized Japanese conduct are known, and those people should be apprehended and brought before a proper court and punished. We cannot do that alone, but the Allies as a whole can do it, and, if I understand public opinion in Australia and New Zealand, people there are very vitally concerned that this should be done without delay. There are, however, other matters in connexion with the terms of surrender that must be considered. The terms of surrender involve that we as Allies should prevent a recurrence of this sort of thing. It is vital, as was pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, that we should recognize at once the necessity for taking such action as will ensure that end—namely, the destruction of Japan as a Power that can effect the purposes it has effected during the years that are past.

I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said as to the democracy of Japan. Have we realized that the word of one man brought about the termination of the war with Japan, that by his request undefeated armies of millions of men laid down their arms? It sounds incredible, but it is so. Millions of men, undefeated, laid down their arms and surrendered to the Allies on the word of the Emperor. It is true that other matters such as the atomic bomb had some influence, but it was the Emperor's voice which terminated the war. I happened to be in Montreal that night and I travelled west as far as Vancouver. I was amazed to find everywhere amongst Canadians of all classes that there were in their minds these two questions to which I have referred: first, the rendering of Japan incapable of further acts of this kind; and secondly, the adequate punishment of those who have committed these terrible atrocities. Canadians were concerned about that. Their case has been presented, of course, in a proper way by the proper authorities and I will not attempt at all to deal with it. I submit to your Lordships, however, that the large, broad principle which should be kept in mind is that we must destroy Japan as a Power capable of inflicting the injuries she has done on the world. I believe that firmly. If we do not do so I cannot see that any good purpose will have been served by the enormous sacrifices we have made.

One point further. I said a moment ago that one man had been able to bring about certain ends. It is quite true, as Lord Strabolgi said, that the democratic front is being maintained. Their Constitution provides for two Houses and for elections, and for every sign and symbol of a democratic front, but behind it all there rests a single clause that confers upon one man the power to do what the Emperor of Japan recently did. In those circumstances it is idle for us to talk about there being a democratic form of government in Japan. It is merely a deception which is being practised upon the world; and the perfidy—I will not use a stronger word—of the Japanese should become known to the world. I had something personally to do with the Japanese Government on one occasion that involved matters of good faith in the largest sense, and I learnt two things. The first was the supremacy of the voice of the Emperor. The point was that they had issued a decree which they realized they should not have issued, a decree which affected Canada, and the representative Minister came to me and said: "We cannot repeal that decree now because the face of the Emperor must be saved. We will have to let a few days or weeks go by without any action being taken, in order that his face may be saved." That, and matters that arose out of it, taught me a great deal about dealing with the Japanese.

I found among many Canadians a firm determination that the ends we have in mind should be achieved, but equally a fear—and a very considerable fear too—that the Allies were not pressing home against the Japanese with vigour, as they should, the results of their own victory. That is what was being said. The point was that the Emperor was still there, exercising his authority, that the Government was still functioning and that Japanese officials were still in office. Complaints of that sort were being made steadily. Although, as has been well said, you cannot expect the Allies to change the whole situation in a single day, the fact of the matter is, I believe, that it is quite as important that courts should be set up in Japan as that they should be set up in Germany. I believe that military courts of a proper type, dealing with these criminals who are known, would have a most desirable effect upon the further discussion of terms of surrender. Because I think we are being deceived and I think the Allies are being deceived. I hope I am wrong, but I cannot help thinking that, from the actions that are reported to us from time to time in the Press.

However, I am not going to detain your Lordships longer. Indeed I had not intended to speak at the length I have. But I desired to associate myself with what was said by Lord Denman and other members of the House upon the necessity for passing this Resolution. I rather regret that it is limited to Australia and New Zealand, because it does occur to me that all the members of the Commonwealth should have a common policy and that anything that affects one affects them all. It might well be that the Commonwealth as a whole should be asked to press forward the terms of the surrender along the lines that I have indicated—namely, the proper subduing of the Japanese people. I do not think the Japanese realize that they are conquered yet—that is my own personal view, from what I have read and from what has been said as to Japanese arrogance by some of our men who have returned. You will remember that that was our first trouble in connexion with Germany after the other war. The Germans never believed they were defeated in that war, and I fear that may be said of Japan in this. In thanking the noble Lord for introducing this topic at this time, I will only add that I can only trust that vigorous action will be taken by the Allies, and that His Majesty's Government in Great Britain, representing as they will, after consultation, the members of the Commonwealth, will press for a vigorous and immediate setting up of courts to bring about the trial and, I trust, conviction of those whose very well-known conduct merits their being, in the language of one of the distinguished potentates of some years ago, "liquidated" without further delay.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, as this debate on such an important subject has not Listed for much more than an hour, I hope the Leader of the House will forgive me if I intervene for five minutes and not longer. There are two points I wish to make. One is that I think we are rather inclined, in looking at this great Eastern story, to forget that this war was really one war. I agree with my noble friend Lord Bennett when he wishes us to speak with the united voice of the Commonwealth and Empire. I agree that we must all the time remember that we could not have achieved in Europe or in the Far East the remarkable results we have achieved but for the fact that we had the common effort of Great Britain and the Dominions, and the common effort of our Allies. I feel also that we have never quite appreciated the really tremendous part that the Australasian Dominions took, having regard to their population and resources, and that is why I am so grateful to my noble relative for moving this Motion to-day.

I was watching the fate of those Australian and New Zealand formations every day for more than five years with profound interest, sympathy and admiration, and I would remind your Lordships of the fact, which I think ought to be realized, that they took a tremendous part in helping to prevent the division of the whole Commonwealth and Empire by their remarkable fighting achievements in the Middle East, along with the British, Indian, and South African troops who were there. It is sometimes forgotten that the Australians and New Zealanders were in the fight right from the very first moment, and had General Wavell, at that time, not 'had those wonderful formations so speedily to hand, it is inconceivable that he could have won those original victories, which stopped the onrush of the enemy to the Suez Canal which might have altered the whole fortunes of the war.

We ought to remember the tremendous part the Australian and New Zealand troops took, along with British troops, in Greece and Crete, when, undoubtedly, that operation—which looked like being unfortunate, and was unfortunate at the time—affected the whole rhythm of the German attack and delayed the great assault upon Russia. These are the sacrifices which were made in those areas of conflict, and which played the great part referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Denman, in the Far East by Australian forces, not only in defence of the jumping off base, but also in the great victories of New Guinea, and later on. These combined facts surely make it clear that, although all the Dominions ought to be in this picture, it is Australia and New Zealand, above everyone else, certainly for their size and potentialities, who deserve to be in. the very closest consulta- tion. To them, the Japanese menace has been far closer than to us, and I feel quite confident that if we want our fellow citizens in these Dominions to understand what we all stand for, unitedly, it is imperative that they should realize that we appreciate how great the menace was to them, and how vast was the contribution they made to the common victory.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, this Motion has received, from every part of your Lordships' House, hearty support. I think that we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Denman, for bringing it before us so opportunely. It has given an opportunity, which I think it was desirable should be afforded, for the expressions of appreciation, such as the noble Lord who has just spoken uttered, to our fellow-citizens in the great Dominions of the South Pacific. I am sure we all agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, when he reminded us that, in recognizing their efforts, we do not in any way forget or under-estimate what the other members of the great family have done on their part. But, of course die Motion refers to specific matters, and I am quite sure that there is not one of us who does not appreciate the vital service which the Australian and New Zealand forces rendered in helping to stem the tide of the Japanese invasion.

It was in fact, as we know, the Australian forces which brought them, shall we say, to a halt in that horrible country in which they were then fighting. The New Zealanders, in the Solomon Islands, in the same way, rendered a great service. I think it is impossible to exaggerate the difficulties, horrors almost, of the campaign in New Guinea to which the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, referred. It is right, too, that we should take occasion to remind ourselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Croft, did very eloquently, of the services which the Australians and New Zealanders rendered to us in North Africa, in Crete and Greece. We are quite sure that our Canadian friends would join with us in this, with all heartiness, and without in any way depreciating the remarkable contribution which they themselves made. We were in fact, all of us, partners in the war, and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, insisted, we must be partners in the peace—in the shaping of the peace and in the making of it.

In that connexion, I can say, very definitely, that ever since it has been my privilege to occupy the office which I now hold I have been in very close—in fact, I think I can say, in daily—consultation with representatives of our great Dominions. I would like to pay a tribute here to the practice which the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, himself pursued—I do not know whether he instituted it—in the Office for Dominion Affairs, whereby he had practically daily consultations with the High Commissioners, a practice which I have, of course, continued. During the meeting of the Foreign Ministers, it is true to say that all the representatives of our Dominions in London were kept in the closest possible touch with all that was going on. They constantly met in my room, and, on many occasions, the Foreign Secretary himself joined in our conferences. I would like to pay a tribute, too, to what we owe to the timely visit of Dr. Hyatt at that time. He was, if I may say so, extraordinarily helpful in many matters in which that great Dominion was specially concerned. As your Lordships know, difficulties are always arising in a most unexpected way, difficulties which have to be dealt with on the spur of the moment, as best we can. It was very fortunate, in respect of some of them—for example, those connected with the Island of Timor—that we had Dr. Hyatt in London to negotiate with the Portuguese representatives in matters affecting Australian interests. This week, I am glad to say, we have in London Mr. Hofmeyr from South Africa, and it has been my privilege to have enjoyed long conferences with Mr. Mackenzie King.

As a matter of fact, ours is the strangest and, I should think, the most illogical association that was ever devised, which calls itself a Commonwealth. In it, we have independent States—and everybody knows that their independence is not absent from their minds at any time during our conferences—but, for all that, independent States conferring freely with us and with one another, and thus enabling us to arrive, as we do, thank God, at a common point of view. It is the most remarkable association that the world has ever seen, and I can assure noble Lords that this association is no Party matter here. Every Party has say in this. It will be our endeavour to consolidate and cement this association by every means in our power, and by taking advantage of any and every opportunity that presents itself.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, very aptly reminded us of certain characteristics of the Japanese, and I should to assure him that they arc, not absent from our minds. The noble Viscount and others asked me something about the Far Eastern Commission which has been set up in Washington. Dr. Evatt left only the other day to take part in its deliberations as representing Australia. That Commission, which will consider policy in Japan and make recommendations as to any action which should be taken, has on it representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands, and, my noble friend Lord Strabolgi will be glad to know, of China also. I share the hope expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, that this Conmisiion, having these Dominion and British representatives on it, will not hesitate to speak its mind, and will make recommendations which will lead to the pursuit of a policy in Japan which will effectively deprive Japan of any power in the future to commit these abominations. I think we can feel confident of that.

There is no doubt at all, as has been said over and over again in this debate, that the achievement of the termination of Japan's power to make aggressive war in the Pacific and to perpetrate the cruelties of which the world has had experience during the last three years is vital to the well-being and even to the continuance of the British Commonwealth. It has been kept before us, and we shall continue to keep it before us. All the time that I have been in office it has been a subject of daily communication and consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth. I Well remember—and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, will support me in this—that I had not been an hour in the office before he handed over to me the duty of continuing certain consultations of that kind on which he was himself at that moment engaged. I can assure him that they continued.

As to war crimes, the hope is expressed that His Majesty's Government will spare no effort to bring to trial and punishment those Japanese responsible for cruelties and atrocities. As to that, I can give a complete assurance. I, too, hope that we shall have speedy proceedings; many of us share the hope expressed by the noble and learned Viscount. I sometimes wonder whether the legal profession is as deeply impressed with the necessity of speed as they are with the niceties of legal procedure.


I suggested a military tribunal in the hope that the legal gentlemen would be spared!


I am coming to that. We are witnessing in Europe at the present time what I would call an efflorescence of legal procedure, and I do not think that it is impressing the world at all favourably. At all events, it is a fact—and I remember saying this when I was on the other side of the House—that if the long-drawn-out procedures which the world is at present witnessing are to be applied to all German criminals, it will be many years before the trials are finished. I sincerely hope—and in saying this I am sure that I speak for everybody in the country—that at all events in this area we shall have something speedier.

I can at least say that instructions have already been issued to the South East Asia Command, which includes Burma, Malaya, Indo-China and other countries, in concert with our Dominion representatives, to collect evidence and to apprehend criminals and suspects. Those instructions have already been issued, and I sincerely hope that they have been acted on. A great mass of evidence is coming in from prisoners of war and from civilian internees who have been liberated, and instructions have been issued to set up a Military Court which will contain representatives of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and Allied nations. What the precise constitution of that Military Court is, I am afraid that I cannot say at the moment. Arrangements are now being made to set it up. At all events I share entirely, as do His Majesty's Government, the hope expressed by more than one noble Lord that the procedure will move as rapidly as possible. As I have said, there is a mass of evidence now available, and it seems, so I am told, to be increasing every day as prisoners of war and others are liberated and return to this country.

We should like to share in the expression of sympathy which has come from all parts of the House with these prisoners of war who have suffered so much, and with their friends who have also suffered so much from the agonies of separation and of the unknown, which is the worst of all. We ought not to omit, in thanking those to whom we are indebted, apart from the Forces of our great Dominions in all parts of the world and in all theatres of war, to thank a large number of our fellow-citizens in India and Ceylon and other places who have given refuge and assistance to prisoners of war and internees, and also to thank the local inhabitants of these places, who have given them much hospitality.

It is not necessary for me, I think, to elaborate further the points which the noble Lord raised. I do not think he raised a single one which we have not already had before us and which was not already causing us anxiety and with which we were not trying, in concert with the Dominions—I lay emphasis on that; in concert with the Dominions from start to finish, every day—to deal. I have no hesitation at all in accepting the Motion, and I am glad that we have had this opportunity of discussing it.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful indeed for the support which I have received from all quarters of the House, and especially from the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and from Lord Cranborne, the Leader of the Opposition. I understand that the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, is ready to accept the Motion, but I am told that there is some difficulty about that, because the Motion is a Motion for Papers. Perhaps the House will give me leave to withdraw it, and to move it in the form of a Resolution, so that it may conveniently be placed on the Journals of the House.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I now beg to move what I had on the Paper in the following form: To move to resolve, That the manner in which the terms of surrender imposed on Japan are carried out is of vital interest to the peoples of Australia and New Zealand; and that this House records the detestation with which the cruel treatment of prisoners of war and civilian captives by the Japanese is regarded by the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire. If I may have your Lordships' permission, I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That the manner in which the terms of surrender imposed on Japan are carried out is of vital interest to the peoples of Australia and News Zealand; and that this House records the detestation with which the cruel treatment of prisoners of war and civilian captives by the Japanese is regarded by the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire."—(Lord Denman.)


My Lords, I had not been previously warned of this verbal distinction, but I am quite happy to accept the Motion in this form.

On Question, Resolution agreed to.