HL Deb 03 July 1946 vol 142 cc96-115

2.55 p.m.

LORD BARNBY had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government, whether under the terms of recognition of the present non-constitutional Provisional Government of Poland, any requirement as to completely free elections was included, and whether they are able to say how soon such free elections are to be held; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I realize that it may be thought that the subject of my Motion might have been better left until next week when the whole matter of foreign policy is to be dealt with. I realize, also, that it is customary for such matters to be raised on Motion by members of the Front Bench. But the circumstances of the Parliamentary timetable are such that there have been several changes and I regard this matter as of such importance that I think it deserves special attention. Had the Parliamentary timetable not caused changes several other noble Lords who wished to take part in the debate would have been able to speak, notably the noble Earl, Lord Elgin, whose consistent friendship for the cause of Poland is of long standing. Unfortunately the noble Earl is prevented by his public duties in Scotland from being here to-day. It may be contended that to raise this subject now on the grounds of expediency may also lead to a disservice rather than a service, and it may also be said that the time is inopportune.

I have confidence, however, that the subject of free elections will attract the sympathy of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, who is, I understand, to reply. His Liberal principles over so long a period under successive Governments have so consistently led him to light for democracy, for Parliamentary representation and tree expression, that I feel sure he will not be tempted in replying to me to say, as might be said by ethers, that to raise this matter at this moment, in this form, and in tins place, may be considered mischievous. But I repeat again, the situation in several parts of Europe, and in Poland in particular, is such that this denial of the right of free expression at the ballot is a matter of importance to the world at large and to this country in particular. I am aware that the Polish Government includes Mr. Mikolajczyk, whose presence in the Government was insisted upon by the British Government. It must be assumed, therefore, that he carries personally the complete confidence of His Majesty's Government. Further I believe that the British Government and the British Ambassador in Poland are particularly well informed of the situation in Poland. I hope that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will be able to take the House and the country into his confidence and that he will be explicit in conveying to the world at large the information which is unquestionably in their possession.

It is understood that the Opposition to the existing Government in Poland are being treated as enemies of their country. Viscount Addison, at least, would never be one to say that even the Tory Party were enemies of their country although the Daily Herald may make reference to the fact that Lord Woolton has been put at the head of the organization labelled "Tory Party." A statement has recently been made by the Attorney-General on this matter. I would also refer to a statement made in this House on November 28 of last year, when Lord Pethick-Lawrence stated that it was a definite commitment that elections should be held in the first half of 1946, these elections, I understand, to be free and unfettered and on a basis of universal suffrage, with the secret ballot. If that is a commitment, why has it not been more forcibly stressed? I should like to say at once that I recognize, and the country as a whole will recognize, that the Foreign Secretary is equally concerned, and we believe that he is wholeheartedly trying to do his best. I suggest that a further expression of opinion from this House may be of assistance in the general world situation at the present moment.

I would ask the indulgence of the House to quote a recent statement, on June 24, by the Government: The Foreign Secretary is gravely concerned by the delay in holding elections in Poland, and by the signs that this delay is being used to undermine one of the principal parties permitted by Polish law. I quote two other statements of Mr. Bevin: Britain is denounced from the very mouth she is attempting to feed. The acid test is when will she carry out the solemn pledge given at Potsdam to have early and free elections? That certainly seems to be a conclusive statement. Again, I quote Mr. Bevin: I am concerned about reports of recent developments in Poland, which indicate an increasing tendency on the part of the Provisional Government to proceed to extreme methods likely to prejudice in advance the conditions in which the elections will be held. If I may again have the indulgence of the House, I cannot refrain from quoting Mr. Churchill, if he was correctly quoted. Mr. Churchill, after all, has been familiar with all these negotiations in striving to present to the Polish ńation the freedom which the Atlantic Charter intended she should have. Poland desires free expression of her national will. Poland is held in strict control by a Soviet-dominated Government who dare not have a free election under the observation of the representatives of the three four great Powers. I would here interject that I am informed that there is only one British representative of a British newspaper resident in Poland. All the others, including the representative of The Times, are Polish nationals. The Sunday Times is the only newspaper with a British representative. Because that is the only English source of authority we have, I attach particular importance to the despatches which we receive from their correspondent. I quote from the most recent one, namely that of last Sunday: The persecution of the Polish Peasant Party and the numerous arrests still taking place have removed all possibility that Poland's referendum to-day will be free an unfettered. I quote again from the Sunday Times: Mr. Mikolajczyk states that he would never have agreed to the referendum, had he known at the time that his members were to be excluded from the voting commissions. What is holding up those free and unfettered elections?—Soviet policy; Soviet bayonets. We know from despatches, which we all have read, that the Soviet Army and the Soviet Commissars are in complete domination of the whole of the administration of Poland. I will not weary the House in trying to trace the evolution from a Communistic Lublin Government to the existing situation in Poland. But that situation is one of frankly totalitarian militarism. There is no trace of a democratic basis. It is naked and undisguised Communism. Mr. Mikolajczyk's Peasant Party has been subjected to the suppression which has been widely quoted in the Press, to which I have just made reference.

I cannot make any reference to the elections without referring also to the referendum which is now being held. It should be remembered that a referendum is not provided for in the Polish constitution. In my Motion reference is made to the non-constitutional provisional Government of Poland. I suspect that some people may have the opinion that that is an improper manner in which to describe it. But a Government which, by questionable evolution, has attained its present position, and is holding it under the conditions which it is, would not, if it were constitutional, proceed on unconstitutional lines. Again, I must ask the patience of the House to allow me to remind your Lordships that Mr. Mikolajczyk himself has explained that his representatives were excluded from the appropriate local committees. I could quote here the American Press, where it says, without going into great detail, that these votes on this referendum have been carried out in a highly improper manner. I would appeal to the human sympathy of the House to understand the position. When a people are called upon to express in a vote a "Yes" or a "No" to three questions, and it is known that a "Yes" may result in political immunity and that a "No" will unquestionably bring victimization, it is only human to expect that the results of the referendum would not be a free expression of opinion.

It is not my aim to attempt to stir sentiment on this matter, but it is logic to attempt to produce some comforting reassurance to those struggling in Poland. I do not need to remind the House of the Poles' service to the Allied cause, and the strength of the Catholic Church in Poland, but I must refer for a moment to a wider field. This question of free elections is not confined to Poland only. I introduce this other note only in order to strengthen the point I am making. In Rumania, too, the Government has pressed for a statement regarding free elections. The report of the Rumanian Government to His Majesty's Government has been described as unsatisfactory. In a Note the Rumanian Government have been asked to take immediate steps to implement their previous assurances. I hope the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will give some assurance that His Majesty's Government in a similar manner in regard to Poland propose to take steps which they appear already to have taken with regard to Rumania.

Is there any need any longer to exercise discretion or to pull punches? Reticence and subservience seem appropriately a thing of the past. The issue is now this: is it to be an extension of the collectivist system over Europe, or the free or risk-taking enterprise systems? Those two systems just cannot mix. I think it is the duty of this country to expose Soviet aims clearly. They are not backward in indicating to the world their intentions and I respect their realism. I ask your Lordships to reflect for a moment on the ground of self-interest from the British industrialist's point of view. We seek to expand our exports on which we live and from which we eat. If a progressively increasing area of the world's surface is to go under an economic system to which we, subject to tariffs even, are not to have free access, then we are at a great disadvantage industrially. I speak with no hostility to the Soviets. This is a frank expression of my own beliefs, just as the Soviets frankly express their policy. I have always tried to give support to their system, as far as it is concerned internally.

I believe the attitude of the United States as clearly expressed is what ours should be, and they have already expressed their anxieties on the present position. I see in the Paris issue of the New York Tribune on Sunday Mr. Mikolajczyk is quoted as saying in regard to the referendum that if similar suppressions were employed in the elections when they are held he would regard it as a breach of the Yalta Agreements in which America, Britain and Soviet Russia were committed to ensuring to the Poles a free and unfettered election. It is on those grounds that I urge the Government to be more explicit in their statements than they have hitherto been. If condemnation of the situation in Poland today is justified there should be more resolution in the pronouncements. I suggest that moral issues are involved. Posterity will judge this generation by its behaviour towards a loyal Ally and will unquestionably condemn a shirking of our responsibilities. I beg to move for Papers.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, The noble Lord who moved this Motion said, and I think rightly, that it was a good thing that we should consider this particular problem of Poland apart from the general scope of foreign policy which your Lordships will discuss next wéek. I do not think it can be held that this Motion is either mischievous or inopportune, but having gone so far with the noble Lord, I feel bound to dissociate myself with the attacks—indirect attacks I agree—which he has made in connexion with this Polish problem on the Government of the Soviets and above all I disagree with what he said about Soviet bayonets. What I do feel is that the Soviet Republics are in this matter because they were a party to the Yalta Agreement. If your Lordships will allow me for one moment, I would like to remind you that on 1st March, 1945, there was a debate in your Lordships' House on the decisions taken at Yalta, and the Polish problem featured very largely in those discussions.

I need not bring to your Lordships' recollection that the basis of the Yalta Agreement as regards Poland was that the then Provisional Government, which was at that time known as the Lublin Committee, should be reorganized by the admission from inside and outside Poland of democratic and anti-Nazi elements; that when that Provisional Government was formed it should be pledged to hold free elections on the basis of universal suffrage and a secret ballot, and that at those elections all parties which were democratic and anti-Nazi would have the right of putting forward their Cabinets. In that debate I ventured to point out that while the declaration and the principles laid down at the Yalta Conference were admirable, the touchstone would lie in their execution. I think it is in that light we have got to consider the problem to-day. I suppose in March, 1945, all your. Lordships, and I include the noble Viscount who at that time was the Leader of the House, thought that after some six or nine months, not only would the new Provisional Government be formed, but the free elections would have been held, and therefore Poland would have a Government representing the freely expressed wishes of its people. Alas, those elections have not taken place.

It is true that the Provisional Government has been established, but I would remind your Lordships that in spite of most solemn pledges which were given, not only to this country but also to the United States and the Soviet Republic, at the Yalta Conference, the elections have not yet taken place. We are now assured by the Polish Government that they will materialize in the autumn. Personally I fail completely to understand the reason for the delay. It may be the case that our expectations that they would be held about six or nine months after the Yalta, Conference were over-optimistic. There had to be time allowed for a more normal situation to prevail in Poland and for those Poles who wanted to return to their country to be able to do so. But I would remind your Lordships that the Provisional Government has thought that conditions were sufficiently stable for a referendum to be held, and if a referendum could be held, surely elections could be held too. There was no reason therefore to postpone the execution of the pledges which were given to us, and I have come to the conclusion that in the background of the minds of the members of the Provisional Government there must be some unavowed motives. I fear that they desire to make certain of the success of some Parties which are favoured by the majority of the members of the Provisional Government and to secure by methods, not of peaceful persuasion but of intimidation, the gradual or even the total disappearance of any Party which opposes them.

As the noble Lord pointed out, in another place His Majesty's Government have expressed grave concern at what has happened in Poland. I think (and I hope your Lordships will agree with me) that it is fitting that we should give to His Majesty's Government the fullest support in any representations they may make to ensure the speedy fulfilment of those solemn undertakings which the Provisional Government renewed in January last. I do not attach too much importance to the enormous amount of propaganda which I suppose the majority of your Lordships receive on this question, but I do not think there can be any doubt at all that great efforts are being made by the Provisional Government, by intimidation and even by resort to terrorism, to diminish the numbers of, and to eliminate, if possible, before the elections the Party of Mr. Mikolajczyk. Yet Mr. Mikolajczyk is a great Polish patriot who is in favour of large social reforms and who also has expressed himself as supporting to the fullest extent the most friendly relations between Poland and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. But he is not a Communist, and hence, I fear, these efforts to which I have referred and which are a distinct, though an indirect, breach of pledges already given.

I want to emphasize that because I am convinced that many of the troubles in Europe to-day arise from the fact that Governments enter into agreements and give pledges in order to secure temporary advantages when they have in reality little, if any, intention of carrying them out once those advantages are obtained. Action of such a character can only be disastrous in international affairs, where good faith and adherence to the plighted word are essential if we are to have a decent world order. This brings me to a secondary point to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention in passing, namely, the recent visit of the Attorney-General to Poland. I know, because it has been said in another place, that that visit took place with the approval of the Prime Minister, but nevertheless I cannot but doubt whether it was wise. The Provisional Government is refusing to execute its obligation towards this country and towards others; yet a distinguished member of His Majesty's Government visits Poland. I am sure his intentions were excellent, but I am equally convinced (and here I really do speak from experience) that such a visit lends itself to serious misrepresentation.

It will be said in Poland and elsewhere that the British Government cannot attach very much importance to the execution of pledges because one of their important members has visited Poland, and if they did, such a visit would not have taken place. I fear very much that what the Attorney-General is reported in the Press to have said will only add to that misrepresentation. It is stated in the Press that he said the British Government had not the slightest desire to interfere in the internal affairs of Poland. Of course, that is quite true in one sense, but I would like to ask the Government whether they do not desire that the intimidation of the Peasant Party should cease. That is, I am sorry to say, interference in the internal affairs of Poland, but I want to ensure that the elections, whenever they may take place, will be free and independent. In my view, the assurances given by the Attorney-General are not easily reconcilable, even in our minds (and certainly not in the minds of many Poles), with the admirable policy which has been laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

I want to make one last point. In the debate on the Yalta Agreement I asked the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, whether there would be some outside supervision to see that there was real liberty at the elections and that no coercion was used. The noble Viscount replied, on behalf of the Government, that one of the duties of the three Ambassadors to the new Provisional Government would be to report to their respective Governments that the Provisional Government was not abusing its authority either at the time of the elections or at any other time, and further that the Ambassadors would keep an eye on the elections. I doubt whether this in fact will prove to be a sufficient safeguard, but it is something. I should be very glad to be assured that the promise then made still holds good. I want to emphasize this point, because I am very much disturbed at what has been happening as regards the voting at the referendum. Representatives of the Parties are not admitted to the Election Commission, and only those individuals who have been nominated by the administrative authorities take care of the voting. The Peasant Party requested that they should be given representation On the Election Commission but that request was refused. What I fear is that that is really a very had augury for the voting at the elections themselves, and therefore I trust that His Majesty's Government will do all in their power to see that when the elections are held in the autumn (and I hope they will not be again delayed) they are fairly held and that the results are properly recorded. As a final request, I would ask that ultimately a report from His Majesty's Ambassador should be published as to the holding of the elections, the methods and the results.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know what the reply of my noble friend the Leader of the House will be, but, whatever he says, I expect I shall agree with it, and even if I do not agree with it he will persuade me to agree. However, I would not like it to appear that the sentiments we have heard expressed in the two speeches which have so interested your Lordships represent the view of all quarters of this House. It is very easy for my noble friend Lord Barnby and the noble Earl to criticize events in Poland, but think they might at least make some allowance for the tremendous difficulties which that gallant country has gone through. It has been twice fought over in the most devastating war of history; many of its most distinguished and experienced citizens are abroad and refuse to return; it is notoriously short of trained civil servants; it has been mutilated, so to speak, and an immense stretch of formerly German territory has been added to it. The extraordinary transference of population which has taken place is, I suppose, one of the greatest migrations of all history. Over 2,000,000 Poles from east of what used to be called the Curzon Line (the part that has gone to Russia) have been moved to the new territory bounded on the west by the Oder and the Neisse, formerly occupied by 8,000,000 Germans. I suppose that is the greatest migration in the shortest time that has ever taken place, and one which dwarfs the remarkable exchange of population between the Greeks and the Turks which took place after the last war. These things, taken in conjunction with a devastated countryside, a wrecked transport system, and with practically all the harbours along the Baltic not yet working, have produced the most extraordinary difficulties. I think a word of sympathy should go out to the Provisional Government of Poland which, from the information I have received, on the economic side (I leave the political side alone for the moment) is doing an extraordinarily courageous job of reconstruction.

I am told that the way in which the country has again been brought under cultivation is highly satisfactory. Poland to-day is the only country in Europe which has an exportable surplus of coal. I think that is a very remarkable thing, considering all the difficulties through which that country has gone. I dare say there are legitimate grounds for complaint that the elections may have been delayed, but I think there is some excuse for that too. After all, the Conservative Party, so strong in your Lordships' House, was against having elections in this country until after the period of resettlement in Europe. As for referendums, which are now apparently out of favour by noble Lords opposite, it was the leader of the Conservative Party himself who made the suggestion that we should have a referendum in this country after the war, although it was certainly not part of our Constitution.


The noble Lord has misunderstood my point. If you can hold a referendum you have got the machine and you could hold elections to which you are solemnly pledged by treaty.


I entirely understood the noble Earl's point, and I entirely disagree with him. A referendum is a series of questions, and it is only a matter of circularising papers. When you hold an election you have to hold meetings and have election addresses, and it is a far more complicated and long-drawn out affair. It is easy to hold a referendum in any country where ordinary normal administration has been re-established, but to hold a fair election—which we all want to see in Poland—does need settled conditions, a restored transport system, and above all, reliable civil servants functioning. The latter is one of their great difficulties in Poland, I understand. All that takes time.

I am glad the noble Earl rebuked the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, for his left-handed attack on the U.S.S.R. I do beg your Lordships, if we possibly can, to refrain from this continual pin-pricking, whether it is against a Government some of us do not like, say in Poland or Rumania or wherever it may be, or, whether it is, above all, against our great Ally, one of the Big Four, the U.S.S.R. It does no good, and every one of your Lordships with experience will agree. If you want to take action, and you feel you cannot tolerate a policy being pursued by a friendly country, then you can break off diplomatic relations and go to even greater extremes. Just to nag, pin-prick and scold, carries us nowhere at all. The fact is, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, recognizes, Poland is very much under the influence of the Government in Moscow, because it is a neighbour of Russia and because the Russians are extremely nervous of having unfriendly Governments along their borders. We all know that, and there is no dispute about it. In the same way it is suggested that a good deal goes on behind the so-called iron curtain. It is not an iron curtain, and its impenetrability has been greatly exaggerated. Sir Hartley Shawcross managed to get through it all right, and we are told that newspaper correspondents are functioning there.

I was amazed to hear the noble Earl, Lord Perth, complaining that the Attorney-General should go to Warsaw. I think that the more Ministers travel about the better, and the more that goodwill missions could go to these struggling peoples, so recently liberated from the worst tyranny in history, the better. I was astonished that the noble Earl, with his great experience and most distinguished record in the past, should complain because one of His Majesty's Ministers went to the capital of a friendly Government—and I expect him to receive a rebuke from my noble friend the Leader of the House.

With regard to the Russian influence in Poland, of course it exists, and we know it exists in other countries along the Russian borders, and also along their borders in Asia. All the border countries are subject to all the influence that the Moscow Government can bring to bear upon them, just as we use all the influence we can in certain spheres of the world where we consider we have highly strategic or economic interests. Let us face facts. The Russians claim an interest along the borders of their Western frontiers, and they are not prepared to see established there Governments which they consider may be unfriendly. We can only hope that in time these fears and suspicions will be moderated, and I believe they will be. It is a matter which will require great patience, great tolerance, and great forbearance, and it will not be helped by pin-pricking, insults and criticism all the time, whether it is on the wireless, in the newspapers, or in your Lordships' House.

What we might recognize is that the Russians could have something corresponding to the American Monroe Doctrine, and their intention to enforce it if they possibly can. At the time of the Monroe Doctrine, the new-born Republican Government in America was regarded with great suspicion by the old monarchies in Europe, and with great distaste by the majority of people in this country who had not forgiven our former American Colonies for breaking away. That doctrine was regarded with great suspicion at the time, but we now know, after 140 years, that it has been one of the great stabilizing forces for peace in the world. The "hands off" policy with regard to the Latin Americas declared by the then newly-born Union of the United States, has helped the peace and stability of the world for nearly 150 years. Everyone knows that now. Is it not possible to explore the possibility of a policy of recognizing that Russia has a sphere of interest in the Border States from which she has been twice invaded in the lifetime of most of us, and that a Monroe Doctrine there, recognized by the other Powers, might be one of the ways in which this suspicion and hostility that is so delaying the resettlement of Europe could gradually be eliminated?

I throw this idea out to those of your Lordships who are good enough to listen to me. I am certain that the present policy, the present meetings of the representatives of the so-called Big Four, ending in deadlock and trouble and no conclusions, will not solve our present difficulties at all. By some new departure along the lines I have suggested, which are not in any way, and need not be, in conflict with the far greater conception of the United Nations Organization, I believe we will find a more fruitful policy which might bring peace and happiness to these unfortunate States like Poland, who have suffered so much in the past and whose prosperity and friendliness we should all try to cultivate.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, may I just say a few words on this subject, because I think we are suffering from a misunderstanding, and we are going to suffer from it more and more unless it is cleared up. We rightly think we have made an agreement, and we are seeing that it is carried out. Do we realize the incredibly different meanings which are given by Russia to democratic elections and to free elections? There was an account given lately of an election in Russia, and I read a report by a very enthusiastic member of the near-Communists in this country, who believes that everything Russia does is perfect, explaining that it was marvellous. None of us would dream of calling it free, but that is what the Russians mean by free elections. None of us—at least I hope not—would dream of calling the Government of Russia democratic. And, therefore, I quite honestly think that there was a frightful misunderstanding on this whole business at Yalta. No matter how much we explain what we mean by democracy and what we mean by free elections, I do not believe that noble Lords will ever, by any representations, get what we should call free elections or what we should call democracy in Poland, or in any of the countries under the influence of Russia. It does not follow, though, that it may not be a good kind of Government for a country in that kind of social condition. But it is nonsense to suppose that conditions are going to be what we should call democratic, or that there are going to be what we should call free elections.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, this debate has developed into an interesting and thoughtful discussion on the conception of free elections held by different nations. In that respect, I do not know that I differ from the philosophy of my noble friend who has just spoken. Quite often, in different parts of the word different meanings are attributed to the same word. I should like to associate myself with what the noble Earl and my noble friend sitting behind me said as to the undesirability of discussing a subject of this kind in such a way as to make it an occasion for a general attack on the policy of another Power, especially one of our Allies. I cannot conceive that that would serve any useful purpose. In what I am going to say, I will confine myself to the statement which has been furnished to me of the actual facts of the situation, and the action taken by His Majesty's Government in regard to the matter which is now before us.

Before doing so, however, I will promise the noble Earl that I will convey to my right honourable friend the Attorney-General his admonitions, and I will draw his attention to the statements of the noble Earl which are, of course, on these matters, made with a due sense of high responsibility. With regard to his last point, I did not have notice of it until shortly before the debate to-day, but I may say that I feel sure that such a report will be published in due time. I hope that my noble friend will not take my pledges as going beyond that, at the moment, because I have not had an opportunity to consult my right honourable friend.

It is true that at the Crimea Conference the three major Powers agreed that the Provisional Polish Government formed at Lublin should be reorganized on a broader democratic basis, and it was laid down that the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity thus formed would hold free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot. It was also understood that all democratic and anti-Nazi Parties should have the right to participate. It was further agreed that when such a Government had been properly formed in conformity with these provisions, it would be recognized by His Majesty's Government.

The formation of such a Government was announced in July, 1945, and His Majesty's Government recognized it. In doing so they recalled the provisions of the Yalta Agreement relating to free elections, and the Polish Provisional Government gave an assurance that they accepted those provisions. At Potsdam, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had conversations with M. Bierut, the Chairman of the Praesidium of the Polish National Council, who gave an assurance that it was hoped that elections would be held as provided in the Potsdam Agreement not later than the early part of 1946, and that the electoral procedure would be based upon the rules laid down under the Constitution of 1921. No date, however, has yet been announced for the holding of these elections, and His Majesty's Government have frequently made inquiry as to the reasons for the delay. They have been informed—reference has been made to this in the debate to-day—of the difficulties in Poland which the Government have, quite naturally, to contend with. I can say that the Polish Provisional Government has now given an assurance that the elections will be held in the autumn.

Meanwhile, a referendum has been held in which the electorate have been asked to express their opinion upon the Provisional Government's policy as regards nationalization and land reform, the establishment of Poland's western frontiers, and the question of the abolition of the Senate. In this matter, His Majesty's Government have made it clear that they do not regard the referendum as constituting in any way a substitute for the elections provided for in the Potsdam Agreement. Meanwhile, there have been in recent months many indications, particularly in connexion with the preparations for the recent referendum, that not all the recognized Parties in Poland are allowed to enjoy equal facilities for presenting their case to the electorate. In particular, the Polish Peasant Party, to which reference has been made by all the speakers to-day, the leader of which is M. Mikolajczyk, who joined, as we know, the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity before it was recognized by His Majesty's Government, has been denied the facilities enjoyed by other Parties to publish their views in the Press, to hire halls for political meetings, and in other ways to carry on what we regard as a normal electoral campaign. In addition, a considerable number of members of that Party have been arrested in various parts of Poland, and some of the Party's branch offices have been closed on the ground that they have been in touch with terrorists conducting subversive activities. Similar measures have been taken against the small Christian Labour Party, led by M. Popiel, which, though a recognized Party, is not represented in the present Government. His Majesty's Government have made it plain that they attach importance to the maintenance, pending the holding of free elections, of the original balance of Parties in the Provisional Government. It was on this basis that our recognition was accorded.

The Minister of State, in reply to a question in the House of Commons on June 24, made a statement recalling the undertakings of the Polish Provisional Government, and said that the Secretary of State was gravely concerned at the delay in holding elections in Poland, and at the signs that this delay was being used to undermine one of the principal Parties permitted by Polish law. His Majesty's Government, as one of the parties to the Yalta Agreement, feel bound to take all steps open to them to ensure that the Polish Provisional Government which they recognized on the basis of that Agreement carry out the international obligations which they assumed under it. His Majesty's Government have no intention of interfering unwarrantably in Polish internal affairs, nor are they interested in supporting any one particular political Party against any other. They will, however, continue to do all they can to ensure that all political Parties enjoy equal rights so that the elections may be carried out in conformity with the Potsdam Agreement.

In execution of this policy the Polish Provisional Government were recently informed that before ratifying the financial agreement for settling the outstanding issues over inter-Governmental debts and other questions His Majesty's Government will wish to assure themselves that elections will in fact be held at a given date, and that the electoral law and all other conditions in which the elections will be held, will be such as to fulfil the Crimea Declaration. His Majesty's Government could not consider those conditions to have been complied with if there were indications that measures had been taken to suppress any of the existing political Parties, to hamper their activities, or to place any one or more of those Parties in an unfavourable position by comparison with others as regards freedom of organization or facilities for assembly and public expression. In conclusion, may I say that the text of the agreement to which I have just referred will be laid before Parliament shortly.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I appreciate the consideration that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has shown, as he always does in matters raised in this House. I appreciate and recognize the attempt which he has made to convey a good deal to the House but I must say that I feel it very insufficient, and am disappointed that the statement could not have given more encouragement to those who have anxiety about Poland. Before returning to his speech may I deal with the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, in which he took exception to my reference to Polish armed force. I must ask indulgence to remind your Lordships that it is widely reported that the Polish Army is in a dominant position in Poland. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for his emphasis on Mr. Mikolajczyk as a great patriot. His safety is at this moment in great danger because of that, and because he is the nominee of the British Government in the present Government of Poland. I had hoped that the Leader of the House would be a little more resolute in his statement. Lord Strabolgi emphasized the difficulties of holding elections in Poland. I am fully aware of those difficulties. My long intimaey with Poland permits me to visualize distances there, but I venture to think that that is no reason why Government-mobilized transport should be used for some Parties and not for others. In his reproof of myself for being critical of the Soviets I look back with pleasure to the days in the 'twenties when he and I in another place were actively associated in support of the Soviets—to my own disadvantage in my constituency, where I was freely criticized for being pro-Bolshevic.


Neither of us was supporting the Soviet Government. We were against intervention.


I must take a different view. My memory may be at fault but my recollection of it is that we then recommended all support to the Soviet Government. The noble Lord suggested that I was insulting to the Soviet Government. That was far from my intention. I say frankly that the Soviets are realists, very clear-cut in their policy to impose the Collectivist system on as large a surface as possible, and they tell the world that they intend to prosecute it. I respect them for it, but I am permitted to differ from it. I cannot let pass the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi's suggestion that there should be a Soviet Monroe Doctrine extending over a vast area of the surface of the world, over countries contiguous in Asia as well as Europe to the Soviets, with an economy closed to our trade in manner conventional with the rest of the world. The noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, commented on the fact that Soviet understanding of free elections is quite different from ours. Of course it is. Have we heard anything about free elections and secret ballots in Soviet Russia? Certainly we will not criticize their policy in their own territory, but the whole object of this Motion is to emphasize that we do disagree with Soviet action in territory outside their own.

The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, emphasized that His Majesty's Government had no intention of interfering with the internal affairs of Poland, but objection is made to another country interfering with the internal affairs of Poland. He stated that free elections would be held—that is, that His Majesty's Government had received an assurance to this effect—and that all Parties would participate. On his own admission we have this evidence that in the referendum which has just been held certain Parties were suppressed. I suggest that had those elections been held under the supervision of the United States, for instance, they would not have been held in the way they were. I cannot assume that the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, will be good enough to reply at once to the question that I shall now put, but I hope he will do so a week hence, when he deals with the Motion of my noble friend, the Leader of the Opposition. If these elections (to quote the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Addison) "to be held at a given date" are not held within measurable distance, how long will the recognition of the present Government continue? That recognition, the noble Viscount told the House, was given conditionally upon free unfettered elections with secret ballot being held. I welcome the statement that the referendum is not a substitute for any commitments that the present Polish Government had entered into. From that it follows that when elections are held His Majesty's Government will receive assurances that no Parties will be suppressed. I hope they will achieve this.

I thank your Lordships for your indulgence in listening to these rather extended comments on points in respect of which I seek elucidation from the Leader of the House. I conclude with the hope that there will be full details given with regard to this matter, if not to-day, then next week. On that footing I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.