HL Deb 24 January 1946 vol 138 cc1089-110

2.34 p.m.

LORD VANSITTART rose to move to resolve, That for the purposes of peace, prosperity, stability, and the adequate functioning of the United Nations Charter, it is necessary to proceed without further delay to the closer integration of Westen Europe. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this horse has been to the starting gate three times, but the gate would not go up, and so three times I have taken it back to the stable for your Lordships' convenience. I therefore hope that I may count upon your indulgence this afternoon if I take my time and yours, because in the meantime a good many other riders have been over the course, though none of them has told you what the course is and what it is not. I venture in all earnestness and sincerity to say to you this afternoon that this is one of the most important issues which now confronts this country. I am perfectly well aware of certain factors which will preclude the Government from giving me: to-day a very detailed and substantial reply. None the less I have thought it better to bring the whole subject out into the open not only to focus attention on it but also to demonstrate the great volume of support that this Motion already enjoys.

For forty years I did my best to interpret Government policy, without always being quite sure what it was. Here we have a policy that speaks for itself. Only one thing is necessary, and it is contained in the refrain of a hymn: Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to make it known.

This policy is really a glimpse of the obvious, and it arises from sheer necessity and from enlightened self-interest. I am really amazed that it should ever have encountered any hesitation, let alone opposition; for regional agreements were quite clearly foreseen long before the Charter was signed. Thus, Field-Marshal Smuts, speaking well ahead of San Francisco, said: "Regional groups will have to be formed within the scope of the International Organization." Please note the future tense. Moreover, he was certainly right, because it is very hard to see how the Organization can work satisfactorily in any emergency without these arrangements. I would beg you to note, moreover, that he specially mentioned a Western European group. Accordingly and logically the Charter, in Chapter VIII, Articles 52 to 54, specifically provides for regional agreements.

That is extraordinarily wise and statesmanlike, because they already exist, good and plenty, ancient and modern, like the hymn I have quoted. I shall not inflict upon your Lordships, the ancient examples, but amongst the modern I might mention, for instance, the Arab League and still more the Act of Chapultepec, whose t's were well crossed by President Truman when, in launching his Twelve Commandments on October 27, he said: "We shall co-operate with all the American nations to ensure the political independence and territorial integrity of the countries of the Western hemisphere." He said almost the same thing again in his message to Congress on Monday last. What could be more regional than that? Nothing, except the train of protectorates that Russia has now formed in Eastern Europe. It was only towards the end of last year that I gave up counting the number of Slav politicians who had referred to the Slav bloc. Perhaps the most outspoken was the Polish Premier, who testified to its abiding character; but only last Monday the Czech Minister of Information used language in very much the same vein. That language at least has the merit of frankness.

We have nothing like that in the West, and I submit that it is time that we followed the example of our great Allies, though in a more elastic and less onerous form than the Eastern model. I think that imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery. Moreover, Western Europe has always paid a hideous price for lack of that very co-ordination. Twice the whole region has been very nearly destroyed. I believe that I voice the mind of millions when I say that we are not prepared to run that risk again at the behest of any Government, let alone of a Government not our own. This co-ordination will, of course, be ancillary to the Charter, which contemplated the use of regional groups for enforcement action, sometimes even ahead of formal sanction in urgent cases. That, again, is very wise and statesmanlike, because at this stage at least none of us can quite foretell how the new Charter will work, now that the veto has found its way into it. It may work smoothly, as we must all devoutly hope and pray; on the other hand, it may work cumbrously, and in the cases foreseen by the authors of the veto it clearly will not work at all.

In these circumstances, no member of the new order has a right to neglect his defences. That would be a betrayal of the Charter. I beg you to-cast your minds back to the case of the League. Suppose for a moment the League had been able to count on a well-knit Western Europe, that would have made all the difference between failure and success, between war and peace. Now we know that we must be prompt to co-operate with prompt neighbours. If we have not learnt that we have learnt nothing from two cataclysms. There would, indeed, have been no cataclysm in 1940 if the defences of Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway had been not only brought up to date but co-ordinated.

That brings me to my second glimpse of the obvious: you cannot have military co-ordination without political co-ordination. There will have to be, within the framework of the Charter, an agreed policy for these practical and specific purposes, not for all purposes. We in the West would never dream, for instance, of saying that Belgium or the Netherlands should echo all we say. We do not expect that of the Dominions. The pattern of the West would be much less rigid than the pattern imposed on the East. The association would be voluntary and therefore loose. It would contain a variety of Governments, and all of them would enjoy genuine independence, for we meant what we said when' we subscribed to the Moscow Declaration about the sovereign equality of all peace-loving States. Moreover, in the West there would be no prospect or possibility of the domination of one Power; a glance at the map will show your Lordships that not only power but even influence would be much more evenly and fairly distributed.

And so I come to my third glimpse of the obvious, the economic aspect. That is a very tangled field, and to-day I can only tread upon its outskirts. At the same time, I do urge the Government very strongly at least to form a Commission which will study these complicated and important matters. There is no reason why we should allow the grass in this field to grow under our feet. I understand that the French, the Belgians and the Dutch have already formed such a Commission which will sit in turn in the different countries concerned. I submit that we might at least be preparing the ground by clearing our own minds so that, when the moment comes, we can link up with those Commissions. Meanwhile, today, I will confine myself to some very simple and, I hope, unchallengeable general propositions.

Our political economic future is closely and inevitably engaged with Western Europe as a whole. I emphasize those words "as a whole." A poor and weak Western Europe may again compromise her security and ours. A strong and prosperous Western Europe is essential to a stable world. My economic case has been very well put for me by a distinguished British economist, Sir Walter Layton, and I hope that his authority will carry sonic weight with noble Lords who sit on the Liberal Benches. He says that our principle should be one of encouraging the maximum of co-operation that any group of States is prepared to accept. I hope your Lordships will note that he stresses the voluntary aspect. Like the Field-Marshal, he goes on to emphasize that this integration would be within the scope of the International Organization. Then he says that groups of neighbouring States combined for economic purposes would be able to enjoy some of the advantages of a common market without sacrificing their identity. That is one of the most important points which I have in mind to stress. He concludes that nations with small internal markets and limited resources cannot hope to keen abreast of modern progress if they shut themselves up behind locked doors.

In other words, what we need is the greatest attainable degree of free trade applied in an area which in any circumstances cannot equal in unity or extent the great free trade areas already enjoyed by Russia and the United States, so that there is no cause whatever for jealousy. If anyone doubts that proposition I beg him to glance at the map of Western Europe and he will see a pattern which is really antiquated and which looks rather like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which do not quite fit. In that shape it cannot ultimately survive—indeed, it has very nearly not survived. If Western Europe as a whole had taken even elementary care of its own interests and resources, including manufacturing capacity, the Germans would never have tried to attack it twice. We cannot be expected to go on turning dangerous corners on one wheel. And there is no reason why we should. It happens that the economic units of Western Europe are very well balanced. Nearly fifty per cent. of their foreign trade is now with each other in the majority of cases.

That lends to the question of What this integration would consist. Obviously that refers to what I said just now in relation to 1940. It would consist, I suggest, in the beginning of a minimum number of those interested, say, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Scandinavia. I feel myself that Switzerland would probably find her ultimate interests in this direction. That, of course, would rest entirely with her. In order to forestall objections and queries, I would say that it might be pointed out to me that the Iberian Peninsula is inevitably part of Western Europe. I think the answer to that is fairly simple. So soon as those regions attain a democratic form of government, and not before, they would, if they so desired, be welcomed as members in their appropriate places. It may be pointed out also that Italy cannot be left out on a limb. Very well, it may be so. Italy, if she so chooses, would also be a welcome member. As to the main economic purpose of this integration, as I said I think that has been well put by Sir Walter Layton; but if one or two further sentences of definition are necessary I would add that one of its purposes would be to provide full employment arid indeed maintenance for forty millions in this country, and that one of the chief requisites for modern large-scale production is a. large and expanding home market.

Years ago Mr. Cordell Hull used to advocate the virtues of the "good neighbour" policy. I would prefer to call it the policy of the intelligent neighbour. It brings benefit to all and detriment to none. As General de Gaulle put it some time ago, a Western organization does no harm to a European organization, and a European organization does no harm to a world organization. I would hasten to add that I do not for one moment conceive it to be necessary or possible that we in the West should go so far, for instance, as the Russian trade treaties with Rumania and Hungary. This is a proposal of tutelage and not of marriage. It is perfectly possible to organize regions of co-operative security without the overshadowing of many small Powers by one great one. I think that those who worked with me in the inter-war period know that my predictions of what was coming to the world were accurate, and with the same sincerity and conviction I venture to predict to-day that the only alternative to the policy I am now propounding will be the eventual decline of the West. Then, and then only, we might become a third-class Power, as Mr. Nehru so prematurely gloated a few weeks ago.

The case has been put in a nutshell by the Dutch historian, Professor Geyl. The only alternative is tantamount to an eventual disappearance from the international scene and the ultimate loss of the last remnants of independence. That being so, I had really hoped that we might be allowed to mind our own business in conformity with the Charter and our own legitimate needs. Unfortunately—and here it behoves me to speak frankly though amicably—the Russian Press and radio have taken a different view, and for the best part of the last year there has been a regular barrage, in which the Eastern integration has also been enlisted, against all those who are not prepared to see just this part of the world which has made by far the greatest contribution to the cultural well-being and wealth of mankind, sink into ultimate poverty and insignificance.

There is such a thing as the Western heritage, and it is not our whim but our duty to protect it with foresight, and I venture to say to Western Europe that that great heritage is slipping. Unfortunately, when one speaks thus, in all prudence and reason, the Soviet Press and radio say that we wish to form a bloc against them and the United States. Well, I do not know what a bloc is, and I do not believe that anybody else who uses the word does either. But I can tell your Lordships how the word was first launched on its political career. It was first applied long ago to the union of the French Left. In my younger days we used to speak of le bloc des gauches. I hope that that explanation will appeal to the noble Viscount who is to reply. Meanwhile, the word appears to be a monosyllable which acquires a sinister significance by dropping the "k." We shall be blockaded with a "k" if we make no provision for the fulfilment of our duties to ourselves and others.

Moreover, I should have thought the Soviet Press and radio could have left the United States radio and Press to speak for themselves. From personal experience I know they are very well equipped to do so, but since the fantasy has been advanced I will deal with it with every courtesy and humour. Western Europe is expectant of much benefit from the wealth and generosity of the United States. When, therefore, I wish to persuade my banker to an overdraft, my first step is not to form a bloc against him with the doctor, the grocer and a couple of escaped lunatics. Every sane American knows perfectly well that Western Europe has proved itself to be a bastion of American defence in two great wars. Its very interest, as it is our interest, is to see that that bastion is strong and it cannot be strong unless it is prosperous. There is a very general recognition of that fact and out of the sheaf of evidence I have only time for one example: '' A primary objective of American policy should, in my opinion, be the furthering of a Britain strong and living in harmony with her Western neighbours. I should like to see Britain, with our full American support, taking the lead in forming a free association of those neighbours, integrating their defences and abolishing their economic frontiers. Such a move would have an expansive effect on the total of world trade. It would serve an industrious America in the West and an industrious Russia in the East.

So much for the American position. But of course the Russians have opposed this integration for their own reasons and we may well ask what they are. That is a mystery and I think we must try to get to the bottom of it because it certainly rests on a profound misunderstanding. We can only proceed by way of elimination. It stands to reason that the Russians certainly do not object to their own example, for otherwise they would reverse it. Far be it from me to suggest that there is anything in Communism which impairs the sense of humour of its votaries, but apparently no one in Russia, or among her mouthpieces abroad, seems to have heard of the adage, "Do as father says and not as father does." That may be sensible when applied in the family but it is not applicable in the family of nations. I think the Russians would also be surprised to find that their theory works out as follows. So far as the West is concerned the alliances or arrangements are in perfect order so long as they are concluded at long range, something in the neighbourhood of one thousand miles. The crime only begins when we begin to make arrangements with our nearest neighbours. Then becomes a bloc against Russia. What sort of sense does that make? How in the name of common sense does one form blocs against one's allies?. We and the French are profoundly conscious of our alliances with Russia but the Russian argument overlooks that: altogether and it is a rather singular oversight.

It is also argued that Russian objectives and Russian policy as a whole are motivated by fear. That argument is as false and absurd as all the old German hullabaloo about encirclement. In international affairs there is only one worse thing than feeding oneself on false reasons and that is to disseminate them. Surely we shall never do that, although in the inter-war period none of us forgot how Germany traded on the fiction of fear to the extent that in the end she launched a slogan about Czechoslovakia being a pistol pointed at the heart of Germany. when Germany had no heart itself. Those are childish objections like a child saying "I like balloons because I can frighten myself by making them pop." Moreover, we must admit that there has been rather a general tendency, particularly in authoritarian countries, towards the delusion that somehow one fortifies one's position at home by conjuring up imaginary dangers abroad. Those scarecrow tactics only frighten off the doves of peace because hey impair confidence and it would be a very good thing for the world if they were generally abandoned. It would be much more comforting to look at things as they really are, for this is one of the cases where the truth is far more assuring than the fiction I saw in The Times yesterday that the population of Soviet Russia was now 193,000,000. Moreover, by annexation and absorption she has added to her potential man-power another 100 millions. To suggest that 300 millions are shivering in their shoes because considerably less than half their numbers are going about their perfectly innocuous avocations is, if I may coin a word, an "unfairytale." Moreover, it is not the "unfairytale" which is being told to the Soviet people.

It has been very interesting to listen to Soviet broadcasts in English. They contain valuable résumés of articles in the Soviet Press. A little while ago one said that the Soviet people are free from all fear of the future. That was the Red Star. The next day there was another which said that the "Soviet people may look forward to an era of unprecedented prosperity;" and that was Pravda. Moreover, at he New Year there was quite a spate of articles in the sense of greetings, and a "Happy New Year" meant in Soviet mouths something different from what it meant to less happy breeds, in that they had—I will again give the exact words—"complete confidence in their flourishing future."

Soviet policy is not based on fear. I think it is rather misleading to talk of people's policies being based on any one factor. A nearer definition would be that it was based on the marriage of Communism and Pan-Slavism. Both were full of confidence. Again, it is suggested that part of the Russian objection to this integration is fear that it may somehow contain Germany. Well, there is a very simple answer to that, and that is that Soviet Russia herself is in occupation of well over half of Germany. She is there ensuring Communist predominance. Again, to speak frankly, I think there is a general expectation in Europe that it will eventually form part of the Russian sphere of influence, whereas in the much smaller portion of Germany occupied by, us, I have always taken it for granted that the Ruhr would be internationalized, that is, subjected to permanent inter-allied control, and that, by the very nature of things and the lie of the ground, the bulk of its exportable products would go West and South.

I have always contemplated that there should also be a controlled surplus which might go East for the general benefit. I think that is a very just and generous outlook, particularly if your Lordships will remember that Germany's other former great arsenal, Silesia, is now completely tinder Russian control through Poland, and I do not anticipate for some time to come at any rate that there will be any great export westwards. Yet in this realm of discussion I think the Russians have some ostensible ground for suspicion and possibly grievance, and it is this. Long before VE Day it became apparent that our unteachables had learnt nothing, that they were still possessed by the old sentimental, over-indulgent illusions with regard to Germany. I am not going into these manifestations to-day. Indeed, some of your Lordships may very well think that if you take these manifestations singly they do not amount to very much, but if you add them all up together as the Russians do, and as I do, well, then, the sum total becomes something rather impressive.

Then add that there are in this country a number of eminent people and prominent organs, who should know better, continually harping on the theme that you must rehabilitate German industry to a point far beyond that which the Russians would deem either wise or due; and again add that in the Russian zone they are proceeding rather in the direction of pasturization. You may consider that one extreme, and it is not at all unnatural that that extreme should be suspicious of the opposite extreme represented by the British school. I think the misunderstanding arose very largely from the Russian belief, apparently, that this school is nothing but a minority. I think that probably brings us as near to the heart of the mystery as we can get, and anyhow we must leave it there. Such is the confusion of biased minds, of course, I shall be called a reactionary for advocating a policy to the ultimate benefit of Russia. But this form of abuse is really very stupid, because I belong to no Party, and yet in this matter I enjoy the support of men of all Parties, some of whom by no stretch of the imagination can be called reactionaries. Harold Laski, for example. This is what he says in a letter to me: he wishes to proceed now to what he calls a functional federation in Western Europe comprising currency, tariffs, labour standards, migration, transport, including civil aviation, and above all, the fulfilment of our obligations under the Covenant which are obviously common

Those are the words, and perhaps it may facilitate the task of the noble Viscount who is to reply if I fortify my theme with quotations.

I proceed to mention another very distinguished Socialist, M. Van Aker, the Premier of Belgium. He also talks in rather similar terms of currency and tariffs. Then in France I enjoy the support of possibly the most eminent Socialist of our time, a man who, having passed through much tribulation, now stands at the peak of his reputation as an elder statesman—Leon Blum. These are his words: We only seek in this so-called Western bloc one of the means of preparing and founding the international community. The idea that it could ever be turned against Russia is so absurd that one finds it hard to defend oneself against it.

And if I may interrupt M. Blum for a minute, I would remind your Lordships that another distinguished Socialist leader, M. Mayer, in the recent foreign affairs debate, was saying exactly the same thing. M. Blum went on: Those who are waging against us this curious campaign of the Western bloc are in reality working not only against the Franco-British alliance and Franco-American friendship, but against international organization itself. I beg your Lordships to remember those words.

M. Blum was soon followed by M. Bidault, who, in a manly speech, upheld the right of France as an independent country to follow her bent in this respect. He was succeeded by Mr. Bevin's two masterly speeches on November 7 and November 23, when he spoke very much in the same vein. I would also remind your Lordships that in April, 1945, Marshal Stalin made a speech from which it was clear that at that time he expected a Western integration as complementary to the Eastern. I have long been advocating this Western integration with my pen, though now for the first time with my tongue in your Lordships' House, and I am glad indeed to see that it has recruited such authoritative support. So here we are, all reactionaries together, the framers of the Charter, including, of course, the Russians themselves, Field-Marshal Smuts, Sir Walter Layton, Professor Laski, M. Van Aker, M. Blum, M. Bidault, Mr. Bevin and Marshal Stalin, and Uncle Torn Cobley and all.

I am reminded of a comedy recently produced by those considerable artists, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine, in which Mr. Lunt said to the rather prickly young Progressive about to become his step-son, "Tell me exactly what is a deviationist?" And the young man replied, "A deviationist is what I call people when I do not know what else to say." Believe me, my Lords, if one does not like someone, it is very much safer to stick to monosyllables. I, personally, have considerable respect for words which have raised us above the beast, and therefore it grieves me when I see them robbed by violence of their meaning in that new crime wave of the vocabulary, when I see them lying senselessly in the glitter. I hope your Lordships will rise above all that, and allow me to conclude on a note of deadly earnest. For years the Continent has been looking to us and looking in vain, has been waiting on us, and waiting in vain, for the lead that has not come. Please dc not delay any longer, because "none of us pass this way again, and our chances, too, are passers-by," and if we let this one pass, our children and indeed all Western Europe will live to regret it. And please do not fob me off with any generalizations about our loyalty to the Charter. We know that already. We take it for granted, and it is not enough. We starved on such expectations during the inter-war period. Have a heart, and have a policy, dare to have a purpose firm, and dare to make it known. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That for the purposes of peace prosperity, stability, and the adequate functioning of the United Nations Charter, it is necessary to proceed without further delay to the closer integration of Western Europe.— (Lord Vansiltart.)

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I apologize in advance if what I have to say this afternoon appears at first glance rather to cut across bath today's Motions, but as it is both particular and general I express the hope that I shall be forgiven. In contradistinction to the noble Lord—if I may venture to differ from him—I have rather had the impression lately that the subject of his Motion has been going through what, if one may dare to tinge with humour something so fundamentally serious, one might call a slightly Cheshire Cat phase. Having originally taken form and been at one moment given a full-blooded corporeal shape by certain utterances on the part of the Foreign Secretary and other considerable authorities, it has recently appeared to fade somewhat and now sits in the background of more immediate general activities enskied in the branches of international politics, rather dim but still smiling tantalisingly and, I cannot help thinking at the moment, rather ironically.

But, in spite of this dreamlike aspect it has assumed, possibly out of a supreme tactfulness in order not to offend by its existence the all too raw susceptibilities of certain potential rivals, it remains, as I say, serious and even vital to us as much as to anyone, since we are after all (geography having willed it so, and some having duties thrust upon them that they might normally not be willing to shoulder), one of the Western bastions of the European fortress, or, to put it less Germanically, one of the Western outposts of that fine and precious entity, European civilization. This being so, it is perhaps hardly astonishing that the smile now and then becomes a body again. Mr. Robert Boothby, for instance, speaking the other day in his constituency, went so far as to suggest that it would serve the general good if the consolidation of the British Empire were accompanied by a federation of Western Europe under the leadership of Britain and France, both political and economic. He went on to suggest that ' the British zone in Germany might be incorporated in the British Empire and the King be restored to the throne of Hanover —a most attractive piece of political romanticism. He concluded by giving his opinion that there is everything to be said for running the industries of the Ruhr under a Franco-British-German consortium—though exactly where the other Western European countries come into this or why they should be left out of it, I am not quite clear.

This, in any case, brings me to the core of what I should like to ask His Majesty's Government to-day—by which I mean that I hope that in answering the noble Lord they will throw some light on this aspect of the question. France is, as we can all see, going through one of the most thorny periods of her political history. The French seem, in my opinion, to have every quality but a political sense; the bad fairy at their christening, perhaps envious of all that had been conferred on them, seems to have wished that on to them, and, no more than in the case of the Greeks, there is nothing to be done about it. The moral confusion into which their rather peculiar fate during the war has thrown them has intensified this, and an acute inferiority complex is always an embarrassing thing to contemplate. Personally, with all their faults, I love them still; but that is not the point. The point is that France is not only vitally necessary to us; she has a prime and permanent interest in the fate of Western Europe.

She has lately put forward a variety of suggestions with regard to it; in other words, she has that now fashionable thing, a plan. I should like His Majesty's Government to come a little more out into the open and tell us this afternoon, if it is possible, in what way her plan is unacceptable to us and in what way ours, if We have one—and I may say, in passing, that I think the French rather have the impression that we have not one—differs from theirs. So far as 1 can see and as your Lordships may have noticed, the facts were set out with reasonable clarity in a recent article by the Paris correspondent of The Times. The French suggest that the Rhineland and the Ruhr should be transformed into two separate. states, the former to be militarily and permanently run by France, and the latter militarily and permanently run by an international force. The industrial potential of the Ruhr would be organized for the benefit and profit not only of Western Europe as a whole but of Germany itself as a whole, which could receive materials on a sort of lease-lend basis. Russia, and the United States would be granted a right of inspection. The Russians themselves not only have Silesia, the corresponding industrial centre in the East, to look after, but they have plenty to do at home and in Eastern Europe, and the Americans would be relieved of a great part, if not of all, of their occupational burdens — though whether the Americans really desire this at the moment it is difficult to ascertain from the variety of variety that crops up on the subject; at present my impression is that they are intending to replace their military functionaries by civilian ones and that they are not intending to retire from the scene.

The Times article states that the British suggestion is that the internationalization of the Ruhr should not be political but purely economic, in case the Ruhr should one day be an undercutting competitor and the rump of Germany created by these proposals become a nation which would be entirely unable to end economically for itself. The French plan seems to me to have provided for this emergency. But it is for two main reasons that I feel we are entitled to a clearing of the air on the part of His Majesty's Government concerning these matters. One is that I feel that the French fear of the whole of Germany being governed and managed from Berlin is a natural and eminently justifiable one, in view of recent history. The other is that disquieting rumours are already abroad that the City is pressing hard for trade with Germany as a whole. Let me quickly say that the fact that export trade is all-important to us everyone admits. But if that is to entail the resuscitation of anything resembling the old Germany, that seems to be not only scandalous but quite crazy.

The Ruhr nexus of industries is one of the greatest in the world, and it is high time we knew what it is intended we should do about it. An expert writing recently in La France Libre has put the thing in a nutshell: The peace settlement must not only resolve the German problem but above all lay the foundations of a new order, a new structure of Western Europe. From the practical point of view, these two propositions form one; the success or failure of the settlement to be arrived at will depend very largely on the fate that will be reserved for German industry, that is to say the Rhenish-Westphalian area. There is even a further argument, which is the last I should be inclined to use, and that is that if atomic power is to be all-important in the future, such power cannot be provided without an adequate industrial source of supply. I prefer to consider this project as The Times writer considers it—namely, as potentially the "first experiment in internationalization in Europe," in which Germany is the fairly treated dependant, not the mad, tyrannical dictator. I say "fairly treated" in the sense not of Delenda est Carthago but Delenda est antiqua Carthago—that is to say the old is to be destroyed, and it is a question of building up the new. I earnestly beg His Majesty's Government, therefore, as I say, to lighten our darkness a little on this score and to insert something in this afternoon's answer which will show exactly what divides us from the French on this problem, since it seems to me definitely that "divided we fall."

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose the object of this debate is the maintenance of peace in Europe, and, by that, the maintenance of peace in the world. I am not competent to follow the speech of the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, or that of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am not competent to deal with all the points of policy with which they dealt; non am I able to quote any of the great statesmen mentioned by the noble Lord at the end of his speech. I am talking on a much lower level, but it is, I feel, the level on which a large number of people in this country, and certainly in the Services, approach these problems. There has previously been a debate on practically this same subject. It took place in December, 1944, and was initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. It was called, in Hansard, Unifying Forces of Europe. This debate will, I suppose, be called Integrating Forces. I think we shall go too far if we think we can make progress simply by integration; we must first get unity amongst the countries.

I am not a believer—and I have said so several times in this House—of great plans and great ideas being attempted to be worked out in full, for that, it seems to me, always leads to more friction. After centuries of friction, I would like to see a small start made with the idea of planting a few seeds that will grow. I do not think we should try to plant a whole oak tree, with all its branches, which has to be propped up and which then dies. In this war what did we see, anyhow in the Royal Air Force? We saw Czechs, Poles, Greeks, Norwegians, Dutch and French all in the same squadron. That is integration. We cannot go as far as that in peace, but surely we can keep in being that unifying force which has come into the world—namely, the Air Force, by encouraging visits between American squadrons and squadrons in England, Norway and all the countries in the West of Europe. I am coming to Russia in a moment. Instead of having a passport, as you have to have now to go abroad when you are a civilian, the passport is your uniform and you go simply on the signature of a commanding officer of sufficient seniority. Let us go and visit Russia or Norway, and let them know there are certain aerodromes in this country and America at which they are welcome. Let us ask them over for a dance, or for sport, or simply for a visit, or for practice on a long distance flight. Then they will meet each other and each other's relatives and friends. They will get to know each other all over the world by those visits, because, after all, the air forces of the world are very large and in that way will be helped forward the idea of peace in Europe.

3.23 P.m.


My Lords, I should like, first of all, very cordially to thank Lord Vansittart for his infinite patience and his genial kindness in postponing this Motion twice. I feel deeply grateful to him for doing that, but, having said that, I should like to add that I cannot think that the introduction of this matter in the form in which he has put it and the character of the criticism which he has made can do very much to assist in the dissipation of the suspicions which are one of the main difficulties in world affairs to-day. I cannot however touch on Anglo-Russian relations to-day.

The noble Lord's plan is one which appeals to a great many people; it has a great many features on which we can all agree. The cultural unity of Western Europe is a very real thing. I am not a scholar, but I am well aware that centuries ago people were divided more by class than by nations. The Emperor Charlemagne appointed an Englishman to a high and influential post at his court, a sort of Minister of Education. If you were a knight or a gentleman, you could travel through Europe in perfect safety without a passport. Right up to the end of the eighteenth century there was the Grand Tour; there was a form of international freedom. That is a thing which. is very, real and we are conscious of it as we look back at history. On the economic side, we all realize the advantages of the removal of trading restrictions and barriers over a wide area. What the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, said about the wide tariff-free areas of Soviet Union and the United States is, of course, very true, and if something of the same kind could exist in Europe it would be to the advantage, not only of ourselves and our nearest neighbours, but also of the other areas to which I have referred. On the military side, from our own recent experiences, our interest in Western Europe was certainly stimulated by the fact that it was from there that the VI and V2 were launched.

The war has left a great many links between the Services, and they were referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. As I am in charge of the Air Ministry I should like to say a word about the reality of those links. In the war, in the same formations, and quite often under the same command, we had Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians and French, and from Central and Eastern Europe, Czechs, Yugoslav partisans, and so on. In that way great bonds of friendship were formed which still exist, because, I suppose, no comradeship lasts like the comradeship of a shared danger. We are doing all we can to keep those links in existence. I sympathize entirely with what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said about the desirability of keeping these associations in existence. At a dinner of Coastal Command the other day there were Norwegian pilots present who had flown over to attend the function. I myself went to Bordeaux about a month ago in order to hand over some Halifax squadrons which the French have taken over. On Sunday I have to go to Paris in connexion with the handing over of a Lysander, one of the machines which were used by the Special Operations Executive, which was, so to speak, the iron lung of the French Resistance movement. It was Lysanders which picked up the Maquis and the members of the Resistance and brought them back under the most romantic and heroic circumstances. On one occasion flare paths were formed by men lying down and holding torches in the air.

All these things are very real links, and we intend to maintain them. We trained a great many of these Air Forces; their formations and methods are our own. It is also a remarkable thing that now, in the post-war period, not only in France, Belgium and Holland but in Denmark and Norway and Prague and Warsaw, very successful exhibitions have been held, asked for by the people themselves, to remind them of what this branch of the Services—and I can speak only for this branch—did in the war. These are links which are real, and which may be very useful in any future organization.

I listened with some care to what Lord Vansittart said about the political construction of his Western bloc, but he spoke very vaguely. His eye raced over the map, and he named this country and that but did not enlighten us very much—and in this debate the Government hoped to get a good deal of enlightenment from the speakers—as to the circumstances in these countries, whether they would wish to join, and on what terms, and what their own views were on how it should be done. It would have been helpful if Lord Vansittart, with his immense and unparalleled experience of European affairs, had given us a little help in that direction. The only specific reference was by Lord Derwent to Mr. Boothby's speech. That was a good, forthright speech about incorporating Germany in the British Empire and having done with all future wars. To reinstate His Majesty on the throne of Hanover would give the constitutional lawyers a great deal to think about, and would be a most interesting development!

Lord Vansittart was evidently aware that there were difficulties in his plan, and that his plan, looked at from afar, had many attractions yet some dangers. He remembers quite well that in May last, when this was discussed at San Francisco, there were long pauses, and the reason for those pauses was that it was feared that regionalism might become an enemy of world unity. As Mr. Bevin said in his address to the United Nations, what is required is that the great Powers should grow together with confidence. That is surely the essence of the whole situation. I cannot think that the purpose of growing together with confidence would be very much assisted by the tone and temper of some of the remarks made by Lord Vansittart. So far as any such bloc was directed against Germany, no doubt it would command universal respect. Whether it is now necessary to have a bloc so directed or not I do not profess to say; but it would in fact be in a permanent form what was often asked for in the war—a Second Front. Furthermore, another element of unity—because I look for elements of unity, and not to try to correct criticisms made by other people —is undoubtedly the existence in Western Europe of Governments controlled by Parties many of whom have been from the start friends of the Soviet Union. That is an element making for what is needed—world unity.

His Majesty's Government are not averse from many of the suggestions made by Lord Vansittart in speaking to his Motion. But the foreign policy of the Government is based upon the United Nations Organization. This, as the Prime Minister has said, is the overriding factor in foreign policy. The United Nations themselves are only now getting into shape and creating their machinery. When that machinery is ready and the plans are made, then will be the moment for His Majesty's Government to make the decisions which would make it possible to give a definite answer to the question raised by the noble Lord.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I said at the outset that I was not going to press the Government unduly to-day, because I knew that for a variety of reasons they were not in a position to give me any very definite answer. One of the reasons that I had in mind is the confusion that at present—I hope only temporarily—reigns in France. I think from his speech that Lord Derwent may be rather overemphasizing that; I have considerable hope that it will not be of long duration. With reference to what Lord Derwent said about the plan attributed to Mr. Boothby for running the Ruhr by an Anglo-Franco-Germano condominium or consortium, that would not, of course, satisfy me, because I am a strong advocate of the rights of the smaller Powers. I notice that in the Motion which is to follow mine there is reference not only to the United Kingdom and to France, but to other countries adjacent to the Western boundaries of Germany. I think that they must certainly be included in any consortium, and they would take very strong and legitimate offence at any suggestion that they should not be. For the rest of the noble Lord's speech, which I heartily welcomed, I think certain portions of it belong to the Motion which follows rather than to my own.

That brings me to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I welcomed a great deal of what he said, but we have heard in the past, and on pathetic authority, that patriotism is not enough. I would also say that fun and games are not enough. I welcome them very much as part and parcel of something larger, but I am out for a practical working arrangement in the nature of alliances and commercial agreements which will be gradually expanded.

The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, in his kindly speech, rather blamed me for not going into more detail about the reception that these proposals might encounter in the countries to which they are addressed. I accept that criticism, but I did not go into much detail for the very purpose of easing his own position. I did not want to drive him too far into a corner. If it is a question of what the reception would be in those countries, I would point out to the Government, with great deference, that in my opinion it is their business to find out. I assure them that they will meet in some quarters with a very ready response. In any case, the purpose of my Motion is to see that these negotiations are begun as soon as we have cleared our minds on the subject. That is why I proposed, and still propose, that there should he formed here a Commission or Committee to study these matters horn our own angle and to prepare us to link up with Commissions already in existence elsewhere. I wish to press that suggestion very strongly.

I have always sought, however, to ease the Government's path as much as possible. I feel that I have already taken up too much of your Lordships' time, particularly as there is another Motion to follow mine, and a vast number of questions. I shall therefore trespass on your time no longer. If I have taken up too much of your time, I would merely remind you that I have not trespassed on your indulgence since October last, and I do not think that I am over-doing it. This is a matter which I have very keenly at heart. The noble Viscount who replied for the Government was perhaps a little ruffled by some of my explanations, but I did say at the beginning that I was going to bring this thing right out into the open, and that the dissipation of a misunderstanding is the shortest route to understanding, and so I do not regret any of the frankness with which I spoke. This is one of the most vital subjects which now confronts us. While I have no desire to embarrass anybody, I shall feel compelled to bring a Motion of this kind before the House again at some later stage, when there will have been ample time for preparation and exploration, and then I shall reserve the liberty of pressing it further than I do to-day. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.